Lesson 8: Paul's First Missionary Journey - Part 2

Course: New Testament Overview, by Dr. Carl Laney

Lesson 8: Paul’s First Missionary Journey – Part 2, Acts 14 - 15

I. Ministry in Asia Minor (continued)

A. Ministry in Antioch, Acts 13: 13- 14:28

Hi, I’m Carl Laney and it’s my privilege to serve you in introducing the New Testament. We’ve been looking at Paul’s first missionary journey in Acts 13-14 and we are continuing that study in this lesson. As you recall, Paul and Barnabas and John Mark had left from Antioch on the Orontes and they had gone to Cyprus where they had ministered there on the Island of Cyprus. The proconsul of the Island of Cyprus had believed. They had left the Island of Cyprus and gone north into Asia Minor and it was at that point that John Mark had deserted the missionary team, but Paul and Barnabas continued north to the City of Antioch of Pisidian, Pisidian Antioch. They had ministered there in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch and some had come to faith but others had rejected the Gospel but there had been quite a response among the Gentiles there at Pisidian Antioch.

B. Ministry in Iconium, Acts 14:1-7

There was some opposition and as a result the missionary team left Pisidian Antioch and they continued 80 miles to the southeast to the city of Iconium, which is known as Konya today. It was Paul’s practice to go the synagogue because the synagogue was where the Jewish people, who were expecting the coming of Messiah, could be found. So, Paul went to the synagogue as was his pattern and there was a good response there.

1. Response to the gospel, 1-2

It says in 14:1 that “he spoke in such a way that a large number of people believed, both Jews and Greeks.” But there was also some opposition in verse 2, “But the Jews who had disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren.” So, there was both belief and unbelief.

2. Ministry despite opposition, 3-4

But the ministry continued in spite of opposition. The city soon became divided and persecution began. We see that in verse 4, “But the people of the city were divided and some sided with the Jews and others with the Apostles,” and persecution began. The city of Iconium is famous today for the whirling dervishes. The whirling dervishes are a sect of the Islam and they go into a trance by their whirling and have visions. So, the city of Iconium where Paul ministered is known for its whirling dervishes today.

3. Flight to Lystra, 5-7

When there were some enemies of the Gospel who wanted to take the lives of Paul and Barnabas they left. The missionary team left, and they headed to Lystra, about 18 miles southwest of Iconium. They came to Lystra and these were in the province of Galatia.

C. Ministry at Lystra 14:8-20

Lystra had once been a military outpost to the city or Rome, but after the area had been subdued, the city declined in population and importance. It was so far off the main road that most of the inhabitants of Lystra didn’t even speak Greek. We see this in 14:11, they didn’t even speak Greek which was the common language of the day. Well, Lystra was a nice place to retire and wait out the opposition that Paul had experienced at Iconium.

1. Healing of the lame man, 8-10

It was there at Lystra that Paul once again authenticated the message of Jesus by healing a man who had been lame from birth. We see in verse 8 this man who had been lame from his mother’s womb and he was listening as Paul spoke and Paul fixed his gaze upon him and Paul saw that he had faith to be made well. He said with a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet” and the man was miraculously healed. This miracle served to authenticate Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel. It wasn’t merely to heal this man it was to authenticate Paul’s proclamation but also to give a foretaste of the Kingdom that Jesus had come inaugurate because in the Kingdom, the future Kingdom, there will be no sickness or people who are lame or people who have speech impediments or disabilities. So, this was a little bit of a foretaste of the Kingdom that Jesus would one day establish on earth.

2. Case of mistaken identity, 11-13

Well we come in verses 11-13 to a case of mistaken identity. The Greeks thought of the Gods as very human like. Basically, the gods of the Greeks were humans with super powers. So, they saw that Barnabas and Paul had done this great miracle and they came to the conclusion that the gods, the Greek gods had come down to earth as men. The Greeks had many stories about the gods taking on forms of men and coming down to earth. They identified Barnabas as Zeus, the chief of the gods. They identified Paul as Hermes because Hermes was the patron of the orators. The missionary team could scarcely keep the citizens from sacrificing to them. That’s quite a crisis, Paul goes to preach the Gospel and they want to sacrifice to the preacher instead of recognizing Jesus. Interestingly Paul was preaching to a very pagan audience and you can compare and contrast his message here at Lystra to the message that he preached at Antioch in the synagogue. Now he’s not preaching in a synagogue, he’s preaching to a pagan audience and he doesn’t appeal to scripture, he doesn’t take them to the Psalms or Isaiah.

3. Proclamation of the gospel, 14-18

What does he appeal to? Verse 15 he appeals to creation, he says, “God who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them”, God made all of these things that you see around you. He appeals to the evidence and the witness of creation. Then he points out that God is the God of providence, v 17, “He did not leave Himself without a witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, as satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” What’s Paul saying? The true God is the God who created all things, the true God is the God who provides your food and meets your needs, so worship the true God. He’s trying to do a little pre-evangelism helping people come to faith in the true God and then at that point he would point that Jesus is the creator of all. It was probably at this point at Lystra that Timothy was converted. Timothy came to faith through the ministry of the Apostle Paul. Now Timothy had learned the scripture from his mother and his grandmother but the catalyst for Timothy coming to know Jesus was through Paul’s ministry. Paul refers to Timothy as his true child in the faith. So, Timothy came to faith at this point and later joined Paul on his second missionary trip.

4. Stoning of Paul 19-20

Well the Jews at Antioch and Iconium came to Lystra in an attempt to turn the people against Paul. There at Lystra Paul was stoned as these people came from Antioch and Iconium. Paul was actually left for dead in verse 19, “dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.” Paul may have actually died, or he may have just been unconscious, but it was a miracle that he survived the stoning.

D. Ministry at Derbe 14:21

On the day after Paul’s stoning at Lystra he left for the rather secluded city of Derbe about 70 miles to the southeast of Lystra. Derbe has only been recently identified and we know very little about that ancient city. Paul preached the Gospel there at Derbe and made disciples there.

E. Return to Antioch 14:22-28

1. Follow-up in Galatia, 22-23

Leaving Derbe Paul and Barnabas retraced their steps to Antioch preaching the Gospel and appointing elders. Notice the things that he did as he returned. This was follow-up work. Paul had gone through these cities proclaiming the Gospel but now he goes back and in 14:22 we read what he was doing, he was strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith saying through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God. Paul is talking about the future aspect of God’s Kingdom, when Jesus returns and sets up his Kingdom on earth. The Kingdom is a spiritual reality that we enter into presently by faith, but it has a future culmination when Jesus returns and establishes his rule from Jerusalem on the Throne of David and that’s what I believe Paul’s anticipating here. When they had appointed elders in every church and prayed with fasting they commended to the Lord those who had believed.

2. Ministry at Perga, 24-25

So, Paul came back he was instructing the believers, he was appointing elders, he was helping these young churches to get established. Paul and Barnabas continued their journey and we see them preaching at Perga. There’s no record of a response to the Gospel there at Perga, they preached there but there’s no record. They went to Attalia and then from Attalia they set sail for Antioch.

3. Voyage to Antioch, 26

It was from this beautiful little port city of Attalia which you can visit if you go to Turkey that Paul left on his ship to return to Antioch. Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch in the fall of AD49. They had been gone for a year and a half, this first missionary journey took a year and a half. They had traveled 1250 miles on this first journey.

4. Report to the church, 27-28

They return to Antioch and there they reported what God had done and had he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. At the end of chapter 14 it says they spent a long time with the disciples there at Antioch. So, Paul’s on his first missionary furlough and he is back at Antioch. Three significant things happened as Paul was in Antioch and after he returned to Antioch.

II. THE JERUSALEM COUNCIL

A. The Problem with the Judaizers, Acts 15:1-5

The first thing that happened is recorded in Galatians 2:11-16, Peter came to Antioch and Peter was just enjoying the fellowship with these Gentile believers until some of the Judeans, those with a Jewish background came to Antioch and Peter disassociated himself from the Gentile believers. And Galatians 2 records how Paul had to rebuke Peter for his hypocrisy in disassociating himself from the Gentile believers under the pressure of these Jewish believers, Jewish messianic believers. So, Peter came to Antioch.

B. Debate over circumcision, 1-2

The second thing that happened is that Paul learned that some of the churches that he had planted on that first journey were dealing with a critical issue because some of the Jewish believers were saying that you had to be circumcised and worship on the Sabbath and practice Jewish customs in order to truly be saved. This is the problem of the Judaizers and so Paul had to sit down and write a letter to address that. Paul addresses that in Galatians and I think the real key to his letter and his message to the Galatians is found in Galatians 2:16, “ nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law,” you don’t have to be circumcised, you don’t have to worship on the Sabbath, you don’t have to follow Jewish food restrictions, but we are justified by the works of the law, “but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” Has Paul made it clear or not. You’re not justified by the works of the law, by worship on the Sabbath, by circumcision, by eating certain foods or not eating certain foods, you’re justified by faith and by faith alone. That’s the essence of Paul’s letter to the Galatians seeking to refute the Judaizers that had infiltrated the churches there of Galatia.

C. Delegation to Jerusalem, 3-4

The third thing that Paul did while he was at Antioch is that he traveled to Jerusalem to participate in what is recorded in Acts 15 as the Jerusalem council. So these three things Paul was involved with. Peter came to Antioch and Paul rebuked Peter, he wrote a letter to the Galatians and he took a trip to Jerusalem to address this Judaizing problem with the Jerusalem council.

D. The Issue, 5:1 Can Gentiles be saved as Gentiles Or must they become Jews first?

So, let’s continue our study as we move to Acts 15 and the Jerusalem council. Acts 11 records that Peter reported to the church at Jerusalem the conversion of Cornelius, a Gentile, and the church at Jerusalem concluded after that report, God has granted to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life, Acts 11:18, On this basis Paul and Barnabas had been preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles and many had come to faith. But now there rose opposition to the practice of accepting Gentiles into the church on an equal basis with Jewish believers. The theological question before the church was this, is a Gentile acceptable to God without becoming a Jew first?

III. THE DISCUSSION OF THE COUNCIL, 15-6-21

A. Peter 6-11 Jews are saved by grace thru faith. Doesn’t that apply to Gentiles?

It’s a question not of how to be saved but who can be saved. Can you be saved as a Gentile or do you have to become a Jew first in order to be saved. Well the Jerusalem council met in the fall of AD49 to decide whether or not Gentiles could be accepted into the body of Christ without having to become Jews first.

Now we’re talking about the Judaizers, let me define Judaizers. It refers to early Jewish believers who lobbied for a strict adherence to the law for new Gentile believers. The Judaizers who came to Antioch were true believers. They knew from the Hebrew Bible that God had a program for Israel and in order to participate in that program you had to become a Jew. They had a problem with the idea of integrating Gentiles into God’s program without having them become Jews first. God’s program is for the Jews, so if you want to be a part of God’s program you need to become Jewish. You need to practice the food laws, be circumcised, worship on Shabbat. So, was the concern that Paul took to Jerusalem and was going to addressed there at the Jerusalem council. So, in Acts 15 we read of Paul’s going down to Jerusalem and there at Jerusalem there were some who were saying that you had to become a Jewish proselyte in order to truly be a follower of Jesus. They were saying to Paul and Barnabas, you guys made a mistake, you made a big mistake going to these Gentiles and preaching to them and inviting them into the body of Christ without having them be circumcised first and having them follow the Jewish food laws first.

B. Paul and Barnabas 12 – Remember what God is doing among the Gentiles

They had a problem distinguishing the requirements of the Old Covenant and the blessings of the New Covenant. Well it was agreed that this was serious, and it had to be addressed by the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. So, Paul and Barnabas and others made their way to Jerusalem and there they reported God’s work among the Gentiles. Some of the Jewish believers there in Jerusalem with a Pharisaic tradition insisted that it was necessary for these Gentiles to be circumcised and to submit to Jewish ceremonial law. Again, the question is whether these Gentiles can be saved as Gentiles or whether they had to become Jews in order to be saved. So, there’s quite a discussion there among the participants in the Jerusalem council. Peter spoke first and after considerable debate he addressed the crowd and he rehearsed what God had done in bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles. He told about God’s work in Samaria and God’s work in the life Cornelius and reminded his Jewish messianic listeners that Jewish people could not bear the yoke of the law, how much less could Gentiles bear the yoke of the law.

Finally, Peter declares that Jews are saved by grace through faith in Jesus and the same principle applies to the Gentiles. So, he says, let’s not put God to the test asking him if he really means what he says that we are saved by grace through faith based upon the blood of Jesus. If that’s true for Jewish people, it’s got to be true for Gentile people. You can’t add something to the Gospel for Gentile people that’s not there for the Jewish people. Well, Peter has spoken and then Paul and Barnabas testify, Paul and Barnabas tell of the response among the Gentiles on that first missionary journey. They tell of those that came to faith in Galatia.

C. James 13-21 – What God is doing today is in keeping with his plans, for the future

1. James Quotes Amos 9:11-12

James, now speaks. James is the half brother of Jesus and he is in leadership there in the church in Jerusalem. So, James speaks, and he summarizes the message of Peter and then he appeals to scripture. He appeals to a text in the Book of Amos, Amos chapter 9 and he uses this text to show that God has a plan for blessing the Gentiles as Gentiles. And that what God is doing today among the Gentiles is in harmony with his plan for the future to bless the Gentiles as Gentiles. It’s a passage in Amos 9:11-12 that speaks of God’s blessing on disobedient Israel. God says that even though Israel has disobeyed one day in the future God is going to restore the Davidic Dynasty. He’s going to raise up again the Davidic Dynasty and at the time when God raises up the Davidic Dynasty Israel is going to enjoy world wide dominion. This is the time when Jesus will sit on David’s throne and rule the nations of the earth. At that time, Amos predicts, Gentile nations will call upon the name of the Lord.

2. What Is the Point?

Now what James is emphasizing here is that God is doing something today that is consistent with what he has promised for the future. God’s work among the Gentiles, bringing them to faith as Gentiles, is consistent with God plans to do for the Gentiles in the future. James has pointed out that God has a program for Gentiles as Gentiles. So, he says it’s not necessary to make these Gentiles into Jews in order to experience the fullness of their salvation. So, the fundamental principle of the Gospel, by grace through faith based on the blood of Jesus, is preserved.

a. James suggests minimal restrictions. Why were these necessary?

But James suggests some minimal restrictions and guidelines for the Gentiles that are coming into the body of Christ. He suggests these in order to promote peace and harmonious relations between those of a Jewish traditional background and those Gentile believers who don’t have this background.

What James suggests is that the Gentiles abstain from some practices that were abhorrent to those with a Jewish background in order to preserve harmony and good relations within the body of Christ. It would have been easy for the Gentiles to offend the Jews who weren’t so liberated and sensed a freedom. James is simply saying, “Let’s not offend each other, let’s not offend the Jewish brethren, let’s promote harmony in the church.”

1. Meats offered to idols, Cor. 8:7-13, 10:7-28

So, here’s what James recommended, first abstain from meat offered to idols. Now Paul’s going to later address that in 1 Cor. and he’s going to give some guidelines for dealing with meat offered to idols. James is saying, “In order to avoid offending our Jewish brethren, Gentiles don’t eat the meat that offered to idols.” Paul’s going to clarify that later on in I Cor. 8.

2. Porneia, 1Cor.5-1

Then he says abstain from Porneia, well, Porneia some have interrupted this as a reference to illicit sexual relations. Certainly, immorality would be wrong for any Christian whether they are Jewish or Gentile in background. Porneia seems to refer to something deemed innocent enough for the Gentiles but forbidden because of the offense to the Jews. There would be no question of illegitimate sexual relations among both Jews and Gentiles but there is an issue that was of great concern for the Jews and that was marriage within the prohibited relationships of Lev. 18, marriage that was a marriage between near relatives, an incestuous kind of a marriage between near relatives, that seems to be what James is referring to. In order to avoid offending the Jews don’t marry near relatives as was often practiced among Gentiles.

3. Things strangled, Lev. 17:10,14, 19:26

The third thing he wanted them to abstain from is meat that had been strangled. Meat that had been strangled would retain the body fluid and the blood and Jews recognized that blood was for sacrifice, it had a special purpose so don’t eat meat that has blood in it.

4. Blood, Lev. 17:10,14

Then he confirms that in the last prohibition to abstain from blood.

b. What is the Old Testament background for these restrictions?

Now what’s the Old Testament background for these restrictions? They are all based on Lev. 17 and 18. In the Book of Lev. there are some things that are specifically said that they Jews are not to practice and what James is saying, “Let’s avoid offending the Jewish people with their traditions so Gentiles adopt these customs as well so that you can have harmony in the Body of Christ.

III. THE DECISION OF THE COUNCIL, 15:22-35

A. The Letter of Clarification, 15:22-29

Well, the suggestions made by James were accepted by the other members of the Council and they implemented a decision putting it in writing and sending this news out to the other churches. What we have in Acts 15:22-29 is the letter that the Jerusalem council wrote to the churches. It says, “The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings.” And then he goes on to explain that they have met together, they’ve decided on these restrictions and notice in verse 28 they add “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials:” and he names the essentials. So, you really sense that the Holy Spirit led these church leaders to make this decision and they acknowledge that in their letter.

B. The Letter Delivered to Antioch, 15:30-31

Well, the first stop in receiving this Good News was Antioch. The people there rejoiced, they rejoiced because they knew they didn’t have to adopt Jewish customs, they didn’t have to worship on the Sabbath, they didn’t have to eat certain foods and avoid certain foods. They didn’t have to be circumcised and live as Jewish people in order to be truly saved. So, this was an important decision by the church and the people at Antioch rejoiced in it.

C. The Ministry of Paul and Barnabas, 15:35

Paul and Barnabas remained on at Antioch during the winter of AD49 and 50 preaching the Gospel and making disciples there at Antioch. As we think about the decision that was made by the Jerusalem Council we can learn some things can’t we, we can learn some things about how the church functioned in the New Testament Period.

D. Lessons from the Jerusalem Council

What can we learn about the steps taken by the church at Antioch? About the input they received from various church leaders, how they were directed by the Word of God as James appeals to Amos 9 as they sensed the leading of the Spirit. What can we learn about church polity, practice and decision making? Well we can learn that there wasn’t just one person that made all the decisions for everybody else, it wasn’t like Peter was the Pope who made all the decisions for the church. They met together, they wrestled with the issues and they came to a decision that they felt was led by the Holy Spirit. What are the long-term implications of the decision of the Jerusalem Council? Well, that’s interesting to think about because you look at Jewish people today and often times, at least the Orthodox have a traditional dress and life style and eat kosher food and apart from the decision of the Jerusalem Council that might be going on in our churches today. But based upon the decision of the Jerusalem Council there were only minimal restrictions placed upon the Gentile believers and they insisted that there was nothing to be added to the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ant that’s Good News, the Gospel was preserved. Paul wrote to Galatians to make sure that the Gospel of justification by faith was preserved and the decision of the Jerusalem Council really confirmed that.