‘The governor invited Barnabas and Saul in, wanting to hear God’s Word first-hand from them. But Dr Know-It-All (that’s the wizard’s name in plain English), stirred up a ruckus, trying to divert the governor from becoming a believer. But Saul (or Paul), full of the Holy Spirit and looking him straight in the eye, said, ‘You bag of wind, you parody of a devil — why, you stay up nights inventing schemes to cheat people out of God. But now you’ve come up against God Himself, and your game is up. You’re about to go blind — no sunlight for you for a good long stretch.’ He was plunged immediately into a shadowy mist and stumbled around, begging people to take him by the hand and show him the way.

“When the governor saw what had happened, he became a believer, full of enthusiasm over what they were saying about the Master.” Acts 13:7-12 (The Message).

What a story! This was a David-and-Goliath scenario in the spiritual realm, not “spiritual warfare” but simply taking the spoils of Jesus’ victory. Paul did not engage in a stand-off with the magician. He passed sentence on a verdict already given by the man himself. Since he was already spiritually blind and trying desperately to keep the governor in the dark, his physical blindness was a fitting sentence for his crime.

God, through His faithful missionaries, was giving Sergius Paulus an opportunity to weigh up the evidence, after hearing what they had to say, and reach his own conclusion about Jesus. This is God’s way. He forces no one to believe. He honours His gift of choice, regardless of which way it goes.

The magician was a servant of Satan, operating under Satan’s power; force and control. The devil held this man captive by his lies and used him to ensnare others.  While Paul and Barnabas were speaking about Jesus, he tried to distract the governor and stop him from hearing and believing the truth.

This was a clash of two kingdoms and Paul immediately recognised its source. Like David, he was not put off by the size of the enemy. He understood both his authority and his victory and took action in the name of his Master.

This is what Jesus was speaking about when He was with His disciples at Caesarea Philippi. In spite of the terrible things people were doing there in the name of their god, Pan, holding sexual orgies with goats in public to “honour” him, Jesus assured His disciples that not even that would stand in the way of His church. Everything built on lies has no substance and will eventually collapse.

This little stand-off was a parable in action. The sorcerer was spiritually blind but he was trying to force the governor to follow him. Jesus told what the outcome would be. If the blind try to lead the blind, they will both fall into the ditch. Paul simply confirmed his blindness by speaking physical blindness on him. Now he had no option but to rely on someone else to lead him.

Peterson’s interpretation in The Message puts an intriguing slant on the outcome. “He was plunged immediately into a shadowy mist and stumbled around, begging people to take his hand and show him the way.” What a pity he had not recognised his spiritual blindness instead of relying on lies and asked someone to lead him, like the governor was doing. Had he listened to Paul and Barnabas instead of opposing them, they would have taken him by the hand and shown him the Way.

Instead of humbling himself, he was humiliated through his own actions. It takes humility to own one’s blindness and ask for help. One wonders whether he ever saw the light, both physical and spiritual. He would have had plenty of time to think about it, seeing that he was now dependent on others to lead him.

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Luella Campbell

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