When Barnabas and Saul arrived in Paphos, they would have gone to the local synagogue, as they had throughout the entire journey, to preach the Good News. Their message was often well received by more than a few members of the congregation.
The conversions outraged the highly placed Elymas, who ordered Saul to be tied to a pillar at the synagogue and given the 39 lashes, perhaps the first of the five mentioned in Paul’s letters.
“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.“
[Corinthians 2 11:24]
News of this particular event would have reached Sergius Paulus, the Roman Proconsul because he was informed of all that happened not only in Paphos but throughout the whole of Cyprus.
More than a little intrigued, not only by these developments within his realm, but also by the revolutionary nature of the Christian message, the Proconsul sent for Barnabas and Saul, who arrived closely followed by the irate Elymas.
Elymas being admitted to the chamber of the proconsul, shows that he could have held some civil office in the Roman government as many Jews did.
As Saul began to relate the message of Christ to Sergius Paulus, Elymas renounced him, most likely once again accusing him of sinning against Jewish law, and maybe even accusing him of blasphemy in an attempt to draw a punitive response from the Proconsul. Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, turned on Elymas and exclaimed:
In an instant, Elymas lost his sight and fumbled around before being led from the chamber by another attendant.
“It is needless to say that the pagan Sergius Paulus was more than a little taken aback by this miracle performed before his very eyes. In fact, so taken aback was he by the Lord’s power, that he converted to the Faith.”
Mathew Henry continues with a major consideration regarding this particular occasion, when he says “Sergius Paulus himself gave him the name Paulus in token of his favour and respect to him, as Vespasian gave his name Flavius to Josephus the Jew.”
On all previous occasions in the New Testament, he had been exclusively referred to as Saul or Saul of Tarsus, but from this miracle in Sergius Paulus’ audience chamber in Paphos onward he is exclusively referred to as Paul.
That conflict spectacularly culminated in Paul’s first recorded miracle and the conversion to the Faith of a high Roman official. One can easily see that by the time they left Paphos for Perga, their journey across Cyprus, which incidentally was Barnabas’ original home, had readied them for the difficulties that lay ahead as they spread the Word across the lands that Christ is Messiah.