Free Online Bible Library | Lecture 7: Paul's First Missionary Journey - Part 1

Lecture 7: Paul's First Missionary Journey - Part 1

Course: New Testament Overview, by Dr. Carl Laney

Lesson 7: Paul’s First Missionary Journey – Part 1, Chapters 13-14

Hi, I’m Carl Laney, Professor here at Western Seminary and it is my privilege to share with you an introduction to the New Testament and today we are going to be focusing on Paul’s first missionary journey. The Book of Acts traces the advance and the development of the Kingdom of God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the Apostles and early believers. Jesus told his disciples that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and even to the remotest parts of the earth. The early chapter of Acts record the apostles witness in Jerusalem, Chapters 2-7. After the stoning of the witness Stephen many of the early believers fled to other regions and they carried the Gospel with them into the region of Judea and Samaria. Philip was the witness that God used to carry the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection to Samaria in Acts 8. The Apostle Peter was the witness who carried the Gospel north to Caesarea, to Cornelius, a gentile centurion in the Roman Army and he came to faith Acts 11. Then God did an amazing work in the life of Saul of Tarsus bringing him to faith in the risen Messiah and turning him from a persecuted of the church to a proclaimer of the Gospel. That’s recorded in Acts 9. Saul eventually was called to the church at Antioch to share in the teaching ministry there along with his mentor Barnabas. And it was while Saul was ministering and teaching God’s Word in Antioch that the Holy Spirit led the church to inaugurate the third phase of missions taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Let’s have a word of prayer and then we’ll look at Paul’s first missionary journey.

Father we are thankful for the life and the witness of the Apostle Paul. We would pray you would give us a good insight into this mission that Paul left Antioch and carried into the area Galatia. Thank you for his life and teaching may your Holy Spirit guide us as we open your Word today. In Jesus name, Amen.


So, we are in Acts 13 in our Bibles, and Acts 13 is a key turning point in the Book of Acts. Chapters 1-12 in the Book of Acts we see the Gospel of God’s Kingdom spread from Jerusalem to Antioch, missions are taking place. But then in Chapters 13-28 we see the movement goes from Antioch to Rome in fulfillment of the third part of Christ’s Commission in Acts 1:8. Peter took the message to Judea and Samaria, now Paul will take it to the ultimate parts of the earth.

Well Antioch quickly became the New Center for witness and outreach of the early church.

A. Characteristics of the Church

There was an active gentile congregation there at Antioch and we note in Acts 13:1-3 the characteristics of this congregation. There were some good teachers there and some hungry students and a significant teaching ministry was going on. Prophets and teachers were carrying out their ministry serving the Lord. There were people involved in prayer and fasting and fasting is basically taking a time aside from preparing and eating food to devote time to prayer.

B. Appointment by the Holy Spirit 1-2

As they were praying they were listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It was a church that was integrated; there were blacks and browns and whites. There were people of royal background and commoners and they were all blended together in a very integrated church at Antioch. It was while they were praying that the Spirit led the church at Antioch to set aside Barnabas and Saul for their mission. John Mark was going to accompany them on this first missionary journey.

C. Dedication by the Church 3

We read in Acts 13:3, “Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” What is this laying on of hands? Well the laying on of hands is merely a means of public identification. The church at Antioch was saying in effect, “You represent us. We can’t go to the regions where you will be ministering but you will represent us in your ministry there, and we identify ourselves with you by this ritual of laying on of hands.” The laying on of hands is practiced today as we send out missionaries or sometimes when we appoint a new pastor or elder, it’s an identification ritual. It’s saying that you represent us in the ministry that you are going to be performing.

And so, Paul and Barnabas and John Mark left for their first journey. They left in the spring of 48 and returned in the fall of 49 and you can see on the map here they left from Syrian Antioch and went to the island of Cyprus. And then from Cyprus they went north into the area that we know as Galatia and they ministered there at Antioch and then at Lystra and Iconium and Derbe, and then backtracked and returned to the Port City of Perga and then headed back to Antioch on the Orontes. This was their first missionary journey.


A. At Salamis 4-5

So, it began in the spring of AD48 and Paul and Barnabas headed to Cyprus. Now Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s about 140 miles east and west by about 60 miles north and south. It is situated about 80 miles from the Port of Antioch, Seleucia. We wonder why did they go to Cyprus? Well, as you recall Cyprus was the home island of Barnabas and so he knew that region well and he wanted to go back to that region and let his kinsmen know that Jesus the Messiah had come and died for our sins and risen from the grave. So, your first mission trip might be your own people, your own family, your own home town. Salamis was a port and commercial center for the island. It boasted the largest Roman market, or agora in the Roman colonial world. Paul and Barnabas begin proclaiming a message there, a message to the Jews in the synagogue. Paul wanted to go to the Jews first because they were the ones who were anticipating the coming Messiah. They had all the Hebrew scriptures and prophecies telling of the coming of the Messiah and Paul and Barnabas wanted to go these Jewish people, let them know that the Messiah had come. He had died for their sins, he risen and ascended to Heaven. These folks were living outside of Israel and they might not know of the Good News of the Gospel and the coming of Jesus.

B. In Paphos

1. Confrontation With Elymas, 6-11

Having traveled through the Island of Cyprus they came to the Capital in Roman times and this was the Capital at Paphos. Paphos was also the worship center for Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love and it was here as the Gospel begin to penetrate the spiritual darkness of Cyprus that Satan sent his special agents to hinder the preaching of the Gospel. You know when we begin a ministry for the Lord, Satan doesn’t like it and Satan often sends opposition when we begin to take new steps in proclaiming the gospel or witnessing for him. When God’s people begin a strategic work, Satan is going to be there to oppose it. So, don’t be surprised if you step out in faith for the Lord that there’s going to be some opposition. That’s what Paul and Barnabas experienced there at Paphos.

2. Invitation to the proconsul, 6-7

Now Cyprus was ruled by a proconsul, and the proconsuls were chosen by the senate to rule in the senatorial provinces and they had a one-year appointment. Well the proconsul on the Island of Cyprus invited Paul and Barnabas to share with him the message they were proclaiming. Sergius Paulus, this proconsul, wanted to know what these people were proclaiming through his island.

3. Opposition by the magician 8,

Well, Satan’s agent was also there to oppose the ministry and the witness of Paul and Barnabas. Satan’s agent, a man by the name of Bar Jesus, Elymas in Greek tried to persuade Sergius Paulus from believing in Jesus, he was interested in the Gospel and was inclined to believe. But this message was being opposed by Bar Jesus.

4. Authentication by Paul 9-11

So, Paul did a miracle. These miracles we find in the New Testament are not just intended to entertain or attract attention they are designed to authenticate a messenger and to authenticate the message they are proclaiming. We find this pattern in the Old Testament, we find this pattern in the live of Jesus, miracles are intended to authenticate a message and the messenger. And so, Paul has a message and that message is authenticated by the blindness of Elymas, or Bar Jesus. He is blinded in authentication of the Gospel message.

What lessons do we learn about how Satan works from the confrontation that Paul and Barnabas had with Elymas? Well, that’s an interesting question to relate to. I think we see that Satan works when people are witnessing, when people are proclaiming the Good News, Satan is active and opposing it, Satan opposes God’s messengers, he doesn’t want the Good News to be shared with the unbelieving world and he seeks to turn people from the faith. That’s exactly what was going on here at Paphos. Satan’s agents are characterized by deceit, by fraud, by unrighteousness and perversion. That’s how Paul responds to Elymas, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?” That’s quite a rebuke there in Acts 13:10.

5. Conversion of the proconsul

Well, the physical blindness of the magician brought belief to the heart of the procouncil, Sergius Paulus and as I reflect on what happened there, at Paphos, I wonder how God had worked. It seems to me that one of the ways that God was working through the lives of this missionary team was through the prayers of the people at Antioch who didn’t just send Paul and Barnabas out, but they prayed for Paul and Barnabas and John Mark. The victory that took place at Paphos was undoubtedly due in part to the prayers of the people back at Antioch praying for this missionary team.


A. Ministry in Pisidian Antioch 13:13-52

They apparently came to shore at Perga, which was 12 miles inland, but had access to the sea through a river channel.

1. Return of John Mark 13

Well, the team left Cyprus and they sailed north from Paphos to Asia Minor and apparently landed at Perga which is about 12 miles inland and had access to the city by a river. They apparently sailed up the river to Perga. At this point as they were now in the area of Asia Minor John Mark, the nephew of Barnabas, deserted the missionary team and returned to Jerusalem. Luke doesn’t tell us why, he probably knew but he doesn’t tell us why. It may have been tough terrain that they were going to have to pass through in order to get to Antioch of Pisidian. It was about a 3,600-foot climb from the coastal plain up into the plateau where they were headed. It may have been the robbers in this area, this was known as an area where there was a lot of treachery and robbers along the road and there may have been some fear. It could have been that John Mark was simply homesick for Jerusalem and wanted to leave the missionary party and maybe he came to the conclusion that he was really not cut out for this job as a missionary. You know John Mark had a rough start on the beginning of his ministry. But it’s encouraging that that’s not the end of the story and in 2 Tim. 4:11 we discover the rest of the story about John Mark. We found that Paul concluded, later on, that John Mark had become useful and while Paul was in prison in Rome he wanted John Mark to come with Timothy to meet him in Rome. For Paul says, “I’ve found John Mark to be useful for the ministry.” God gave John Mark a second chance and perhaps he’s giving you a second chance and me a second chance even thought we’ve had early failures in our lives and ministry. John Mark is a living testimony to the fact that God is the God of a second chance.

2. Arrival in Antioch 14a

Well, John Mark left the missionary team, Paul and Barnabas continued on north to Antioch. This was a different Antioch, this was Antioch of Pisidian, the Antioch that had sent the missionary team out was Antioch on the Orontes in Syria. This was an important commercial center and a religious center as well. It was the main stop on the eastern trade route from Ephesus to the area of the Euphrates. If you were going east from Ephesus, you would go right through Antioch. If you were coming from the area of the Euphrates Harran and wanted to reach the Aegean Sea you would go through Antioch. It was the worship center for the supreme Anatolian god Dionysus, a god of wine. Antioch was strategically located as a spring board for the spread of the Gospel through this important Galatian region. Now, just a historical note, Antioch was actually in the Provence of Phrygia rather than Pisidia, but Luke mentions it and refers to it as Pisidian Antioch. It’s been confirmed by two inscriptions that although the city was near Pisidia and known by that prominent region even though it was physically in the area of Phrygia. And so, it was called Pisidian Antioch and this has been confirmed by several inscriptions that have been found.

3. Preaching in Antioch 14b-41

a. The coming of the Messiah 17-25

Here we come to Paul’s sermon in the synagogue at Antioch. Paul had the custom to go to the Jewish people and preach I the synagogue and that’s what he did at Antioch. This is Paul’s longest recorded sermon. It’s quite similar as you compare it in Acts 13:14 to Stephen’s defense in Acts 7. Both of these sermons present an outline of Hebrew history as the background for the coming of Jesus.

b. The Gospel of Salvation 26-31

That’s what Paul does, he tells the story of Israel, how God has worked in choosing the nation of Israel and brining the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage and taking them through the wilderness wanderings and bringing them the monarchy and King David and the prophets and finally bringing them to the point of culmination in God’s great plan for his people. That is to bring Jesus on the scene. The story of Israel culminates with God’s provision of Jesus who is going to be the savior of Israel and the nations of the earth.

In Paul’s preaching we see he presents the basic elements of the Gospel in this sermon to the Jews in the synagogue at Antioch. You can compare it with how Paul summarizes the Gospel in 1 Cor. 15 where Paul talks about the death and burial of the Lord Jesus Christ, his resurrection and his appearance to many witnesses and that same focus is here in Acts 13. As we see they put him to death and after that they laid him in a tomb and then in verse 30 he was raised from the dead and verse 31 he appeared to those who were with him. So, we see the death, burial, resurrection and resurrection appearances of Jesus and this is what Paul preached at Antioch and he summarizes this Gospel message for us in 1 Cor. 15:3-4. Paul is speaking to a Jewish audience and so he wants to make sure that they understand that the message he’s proclaiming is very well grounded in scripture.

c. The support of Scripture 31-39, Psalm 2:7, Isaiah 55:3, Psalm 16:10

So, he appeals to several Psalms, Psalm 2:7 to argue for Christ’s exaltation to heaven. He appeals to Psalm 16:10 to argue for his resurrection from the dead and also he appeals to Isaiah 55:3 to illustrate the fact that Jesus came to claim his kingdom.

d. The application 38-41

Well, through Jesus, Paul says, two things are available, #1 forgiveness from sin. We see that in verse 38, “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,” Although the Old Testament sacrifices covered sins the Old Testament sacrifices did not deal fully and finally with the sin issue. Jesus had to come and to pay the full and final sacrifice for sins by his precious blood. But there is something else that Paul wants to emphasize to his readers and that is found in verse 39, “through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed [e]through the Law of Moses.” Paul is introducing a great theme here, a theme he is going to be developing in his letter to the Romans, justification by faith. The word freed is literally dikaioo, justified. Let me read that again, “through Him everyone who believes is justified from all things, from which you could not be justified through the Law of Moses.” Verse 39 contains the seed thought of what is most characteristic of Paul’s teaching, justification by faith. And so, in verse 39 you see the beginnings of what will be the argument of Paul’s letter to Galatians and Paul’s letter to the Romans. Justification by faith apart from the works of the law, that’s what Paul is emphasizing here in verse 39. And then he points out that this good news shouldn’t be ignored, and he quotes, from Hab. 1:5 to emphasize that, 19:30.8 (THIS IS ACTS 13:41) “Behold, you scoffers, and marvel, and perish; For I am accomplishing a work in your days, a work which you will never believe though someone should describe it to you.” He’s warning against failing to respond to and pay attention to the message that he is proclaiming. He says, “Don’t ignore it as the people in Habakkuk’s day ignored it and God brought on the Babylonian attack and the judgment on Jerusalem.

4. Response to the Ministry

Well in the preaching of the Gospel there is usually a response to the message and the response can be positive or negative and find in verse 42 that some people responded with interest. They kept begging that Paul and Barnabas would speak to them again on the next Sabbath. They wanted to hear more about the Gospel. But then there was also opposition and rejection of the Gospel message. Some of the Jews were annoyed that their synagogue was practically being overtaken by Gentiles who were coming in to hear what Paul was proclaiming about Jesus. So they were annoyed by that. They were jealous that some of these Gentiles were receiving this message about a Jewish Messiah, a Messiah that had come for Israel. Although they had rejected the Messiah they didn’t like the idea of these Gentiles claiming the relationship with Israel’s Messiah. So, there was a rejection of the message by some. Paul had preached to the Jews first, this was his pattern to let the Jews know that the Messiah had come. But now on the basis of the rejection by the Jews in the synagogue Paul now turns to the Gentiles. In verse 47 Paul emphasizes that God has a program for the Gentiles, For this is what the Lord has commanded us: "'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" God was going to use Israel as a light and a messenger for this Good News to come to the Gentiles. The Gentiles heard this, and they were excited and notice in verse 48 Luke records that as the Gentiles responded to Paul’s message, “and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” The word appointed is the word, tasso, a military term to arrange in place, to assign, to appoint by authority. What we see here is that God is sovereign, God is sovereign over belief and unbelief. Those who had appointed to eternal life they believed. Now they didn’t get saved just by the appointment, they had to believe. And the belief was preceded by their appointment. And so what we see in this verse is a great balance between divine sovereignty, God’s appointment, and human responsibility they believed. Both are biblical, and both are important concepts to grasp as we try to understand God’s plan of salvation. There is a human response but there is also God’s sovereign appointment. You can spend the rest of the day thinking about that.

B. Ministry at Iconium 14:1-7

1. Forced to flee, Paul and Barnabas traveled 80 miles SE to Iconium (modern Konya)

Well in the face of opposition and persecution the missionary team left Antioch. They left Antioch but before they did we see a symbolic gesture as Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off of their feet, this was a gesture of rejection.

2. Response to the Gospel 1-2

Jesus had illustrated this back in Matt. 10 and as the missionary team left Antioch they shook the dust off of their feet as a symbolic gesture that these people had rejected the Gospel and now on that basis they were rejected as well.

3. Ministry despite opposition 3-4

Paul and Barnabas left Antioch, but they also left some disciples there. The Holy Spirit had been at work and some had come to faith in the Lord. A church was in the process of being established there at Antioch. It’s interesting that not every missionary opportunity is going to be immediately successful. I’m sure as Paul and Barnabas left Antioch having shaken the dust off of their feet they were perhaps a bit discouraged. But you know God had begun a work at Antioch and God doesn’t give up on small things. God is the God of the mustard seed. Remember the parable of the mustard seed, starts so small but grows to great proportions so that the birds of the air can nest in the branches. Well, God doesn’t play the numbers game and even a small group of disciples can grow and develop and there was a church at Antioch that had started, a small group of disciples and that was going to grow and develop as God continued to work in the lives of those people. So, you may be involved in a small work but remember that God doesn’t play the numbers game, he can grow that work to great proportions, perhaps even beyond anything that you’ve imagined.

Transcribed by BT volunteer Sandy Whitfield.