Could you explain Paul’s first miracle?


by Shawn Brasseaux

The Apostle Paul’s first miracle recorded in Scripture is in Acts chapter 13. We would do well if we surveyed that account and explained its elements. In doing so, we will better understand what Paul’s ministry is all about.

We read in Acts 13:1-12: “[1] Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. [2] As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. [3] And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. [4] So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. [5] And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister. [6] And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: [7] Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. [8] But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. [9] Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him. [10] And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? [11] And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. [12] Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.”

Notice how, when Saul (Paul) and Barnabas began their first apostolic journey, a Jew involved with Satan worship, attempted to hinder them from ministering to a Gentile political leader. Led by the Holy Ghost, Paul supernaturally blinded Elymas because Elymas, a Jewish sorcerer, attempted to prevent this Gentile from hearing God’s Word and trusting Christ. What is the significance of this miracle?

Remember, as per the Abrahamic Covenant, God formed Israel so He could utilize them in a kingdom to send His salvation to the Gentiles (non-Jews). The LORD God had told Abraham, “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). When God sent Israel’s Messiah-King, Jesus, the Jews demanded His crucifixion. Even after Jesus was resurrected, they still rejected Him: Israel refused the apostles’ ministry (technically, the Holy Spirit’s ministry) in the early Acts period. Until all of Israel was saved, her kingdom could not be established, keeping the Gentiles from receiving salvation. But God had a plan to circumvent this rebellion!

Elymas symbolizes lost national Israel that prevents Gentiles from hearing God’s Word. Paul writes, “the Jews…[forbid] us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway…” (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). Elymas’ other name is “Bar-Jesus,” meaning “son of Jesus,” and “Jesus” means “Saviour.” The Jews should have been God’s spiritual people so they could reach Gentiles, and yet, most were lost in Satan worship as the Gentiles were (works-religion, pagan idolatry).

Note what Paul wrote in Romans 11:11-13,25-29: “[11] I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. [12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? [13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: … [25] For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. [26] And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: [27] For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. [28] As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes. [29] For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”

As Paul begins his apostolic journeys, God signifies, through the blinding of Elymas, that He will temporarily spiritually blind Israel and send salvation to the Gentiles through Paul’s ministry, without Israel (Romans 11:11-13). In our dispensation, Israel is “[blinded]…until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Romans 11:25). When our dispensation ends (the Rapture), God will return to Israel (verses 26-29). Just as Elymas was blinded “for a season” (Acts 13:11)—not eternally—Israel is temporarily blinded. God is not finished with Israel.

(If you have not already read it, please see our companion study below about Peter’s first miracle. The other two studies below are also supplemental, so please consult them for more information. Our study on Paul’s name change is also very beneficial in this regard.)

Also see:
» Can you explain Peter’s first miracle?
» Why was Saul’s name changed to Paul?
» Is God finished with the nation Israel?