In Acts 13:4-12… it is recorded that at the start of the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas…beginning in the island of Cyprus…a sorcerer named Elymas sought to dissuade the deputy of one of the cities Paphos in Cyprus…from receiving a presentation by Paul and Barnabas of the Christian gospel message.
Acts 13:9-12 records the response of Paul to this sorcerer:
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 subtlety 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.
We observe in the remainder of the missionary evangelical ministry of Paul as recorded in Acts and in his letters to the early churches…that the Holy Spirit does not re-introduce this overwhelmingly persuasive technique of temporary physical blindness…for skeptics and critics…as part of the tool-kit to spread the good news of the Christian gospel message.
In the many ups and downs of his ministry…even though God uses supernatural signs and wonders to confirm the divine origin of Paul’s preaching (Acts 14:8-18, 16:16-18, 19:6-7, 19:11-12)…the method of conversion of new converts to Christianity was mostly by persuasion through preaching and teaching…producing a reasoned and heart-felt response of saving faith in those who accepted Jesus Christ into their lives as the Savior and Son of God…rather than through the means of an observationally induced faith by visually seeing signs and wonders performed by Paul and Barnabas…such as causing temporary physical blindness in skeptics and opponents:
“And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.” (Acts 13:48-49).
“And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.” (Acts 14:1).
“And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures.” (Acts 17:2).
“And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.” (Acts 28:23).
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.” (Rom. 10:14-15).
One similar, supernatural account is given in Luke 1:5-22 of the angel Gabriel announcing to Zacharias in the Temple of the upcoming pregnancy of his wife Elisabeth and the birth of a son to be named John…Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth both being elderly…with the angel saying to Zacharias that he will be dumb and unable to speak for a period of time because of his unbelief regarding this very unusual, divine revelation.
In terms of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…on Tuesday or Wednesday of the first week after His resurrection Jesus did not only…not…openly walk down Main Street and straight into the Temple…showing Himself to the general public and to the religious leaders in His new resurrected body…but Jesus the Son of God on several occasions during His ministry could have used the supernatural technique of causing temporary blindness…or like the case with Gabriel and Zacharias the temporary inability to speak…as a tool to generate a forced, coerced quality of faith.
Imagine if Jesus said to the Pharisees and scribes during His night trial in the house of the high priest Caiaphas: “You shall all be blind for three days…because of your unbelief”…and then walk out the door and out of the courtyard…collecting Peter and John along the way…and then connecting-up with the other scattered disciples the next day to freely continue His ministry.
Imagine if Jesus had said to Pilate, to the Roman rulers in attendance, to the religious leaders, and to the general populace…at His Friday morning public hearing…moments before His condemnation and crucifixion: “You shall all be dumb and unable to speak for an entire month…because of your unbelief”…and then disengage Himself from their custody and walk freely out of Jerusalem and back to Galilee with His disciples.
Yet Jesus does none of these things.
God does not want to upset the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…because developing faith and trust in God is the key underlying reason for the existence of our universe.
Love can never be obtained through coercion. Love must be freely accepted and freely given.
Again, in terms of the apologetic argument for the divine origin of the Bible and its narrative stories of faith…it is not so much that we can see a moderated balance of the supernatural signs and wonders blended with the persuasion of truth and reason applied through preaching and teaching…but also that something as complex and premeditated as the existence of a delicate balance between belief and unbelief even exists…and is functionally operative over the thousands of years of human redemptive history.
From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.