First Missionary Journeys (Acts 9:19-14:28)

Introduction to Paul's Missionary Journeys

As J. Gresham Machen stated: At about the year 35 A.D. the movement of Jesus followers would have classified as a Jewish sect. Some 30 years later, the movement was worldwide Christianity almost entirely by the efforts of a single man, Paul. Jesus made the mark in history; Paul spread Jesus' mark. This section describes the missionary journeys of Paul. He embarked upon major journeys to spread the word of Jesus as the savior of the world. He would be running much of the time, physically and emotionally hurt, and always explaining himself. But God said he would be in turmoil the remainder of his life.

Paul's life can be studied thanks to the writings of Acts by Luke. There is much about Paul NOT covered in Acts. For various reasons, Luke did was not available at times; he did not think some things were important enough; or he did not think he was supposed to cover. We will get into a little more detail as we study.

In summary, Paul made three significant missionary journeys in his life. They are usually referred to in texts in a very simple way as the first, second, and third missionary journeys. In addition to the three journeys, toward the end of his life he took another journey to Rome, a major goal of his life. We will study in detail all four journeys.

Paul's Preparation for Mission (Acts 9:19-31)

After Paul's conversion, he strengthened himself and started preaching. Now, however, he was preaching about the soul saving Jesus. Jesus was the Son of God. The people in the synagogue were amazed as they listened. Isn't this the man who came to oppress and hurt those who believed in Jesus? Now he is preaching for Jesus. It wasn't long before certain powerful Jews were plotting to kill Paul.

Sometime within the times discussed in verses Acts 9:19-23, Paul goes to Arabia. We know this is true because of the reference to this trip in Gal 1:15-17. It could be between the two sentences in verse 19 to anywhere between the verses 20 to 23. The most logical place is 9:23 when Luke writes "And when many days had elapsed,". The Galatians passage refers to going to Arabia and then returning to Damascus. A very plausible chain of events would be for Paul to have been converted; he then needed training prior to his "preaching to Gentiles" assignment from God; then start his preaching. In my opinion, Paul could not have straightway preached without knowing what he was doing. In Acts 9:19-23, Paul goes to Arabia. We know this is true because of the reference to this trip in Acts 26:20 Paul said he preached first to Damascus. Therefore, it would seem Paul immediately after his conversion (i.e. middle of 9:19) he went to Arabia for training and reflection. In Galatians, Paul made reference to conferring (talking or studying) with other than flesh and blood. Some say Paul had Jesus visions for training and inspiration. He may have gone to Arabia on a preaching mission. However, it would seem if Paul spent three years preaching, the Apostles would not have been as reluctant to accept him when he went to them some time later in Jerusalem. A certain amount of logic, though not necessarily accurate, can state Paul knew the depth of the requirements that God was now putting on Paul's shoulders. Therefore, if he went to the Sinai area, which he used interchangeably with Arabia (Gal 4:25), he would have been going there for seclusion, not preaching. After all, Sinai was considered holy because that is where Moses received the Law.

It appears he stayed the better part of three years in Arabia. Galatians states Paul went to Arabia and then went back to Damascus then after three years returned to Jerusalem. It is very difficult to determine times from Luke's writings. It appears Paul spent a very small amount of time in Damascus after his conversion. "Many days past" (Acts 9:23) may mean up to the questionable three years. So it appears Paul spent a better part of three years in Arabia. He then returned to Damascus to preach. Then when his life was in danger, he moved to Jerusalem, also not the best place for him to be.

The majority of the Jews, a large sect of Arabs referred to as Nabataeans (2 Cor 11:32-33), and other onlookers rejected Paul's teaching.

We don't know whether the Nabataeans were offended directly (probably by Paul's preaching, if he preached) or whether, somehow, the Jews persuaded them in some way to help the cause of the Jews. We only know the Nabataeans hated the followers of Jesus. There was also a serious conflict between Herod Antipas and Aretas IV, the king of the Nabataeans. Antipas had divorced Aretas's daughter to marry Herodias. This and other boundary disputes resulted in outright war at about 36 A.D. Maybe the Jews suggested that Paul was an agent of Antipas. But, we really don't know.

Whatever the beginning, to get rid of Paul, they were going as far as planning to capture and kill him. All of them started watching at all the gates for Paul. This is one of the famous stories of Paul's escape from harm. Paul learned of the "gate watchers" and the demand for his life. Because some of the houses include part of the city walls, Paul was taken by his friend believers to a house which overhanged the wall. They hid Paul until dark. Then they lowered him over the wall in a basket from one of the house windows. Then Paul made his escape (Acts 9:24-25).

Paul then went to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-29; Gal 1:18-20). This is usually referred to his first return to Jerusalem. He stayed away from Jerusalem for approximately three years. He now returned to see especially Peter but also see the other Apostles. The only Apostles he saw were Peter and James. They were very apprehensive at first. They were not sure he was an apostle, i.e. Paul had seen Jesus in body before or after the resurrection. Paul knew there would be problems with a return to Jerusalem. That is why he waited three years. This does not mean he had no communications with anyone in Jerusalem during that time. Travel by many people between cities and towns was very common. He could have communicated through letters and messages many times to many people.

People were understandably apprehensive at this "new" Paul. After all, he may be feigning this conversion to spy on the people. Staying away for a period of time might have been a new tactic. However, history has put a lot of credit and thanks on the shoulders of a man named Barnabas. Barnabas was a Levite born on the island of Cyprus. He sold the property he owned on Cyprus. He gave the money away to the Apostles for distribution to the poor (Acts 4:36-37). He was a good and strong man of God's Spirit. His name translated as "the son of encouragement".

For some reason, Barnabas had developed the confidence in Paul that was needed for Paul to start serious teaching. Possibly by observation, other trusted people, or even divine intervention, Barnabas trusted and believed in Paul. F.F.Bruce in his commentary on Acts says Barnabas knew Paul very well and, therefore, knew of the realness of his conversion. In Acts 9:27, there is the description of Barnabas telling the Apostles about Paul's conversion and powerful preaching in Damascus. Actually, the word Apostles is generic. Galatians says Paul went to Jerusalem for 15 days. He stayed with Peter during that time. While he was there, Paul saw only one other Apostle, James. It appears Paul's goal was to see Peter. Peter was the leader of all the Apostles. Paul believed Peter's acceptance would be all that Paul would need. In addition, Paul wanted to know EVERYTHING about Jesus. Since Peter was one of the most intimate persons with Jesus, Peter could tell Paul stories and activities of Jesus that would thrill Paul and give him the added knowledge he needed for his evangelism. Thanks to Barnabas, Paul was accepted as an Apostle. Then he started preaching with the others in the Jerusalem.

During Paul's stay in Jerusalem, he preached in the same synagogues in which Stephen spoke (Acts 6:9). There were not many persons thrilled over Paul's words. Again, his life was at risk. Paul describes (Acts 22:17-19) divine intercession. By a vision, he is warned by Jesus of the upcoming dangers. Paul was to leave Jerusalem; he reluctantly obeyed. Fellow believers knew of the dangers and insisted in accompanying him to Caesarea. From there he would go to his hometown of Tarsus, about 65 miles northwest of Jerusalem.

At this point in Acts, Luke does not talk about Paul until Acts 11:25. However, Paul is not quiet. Galatians describes (Gal 1:21-24) Syria and Cilicia (recall this combined province - which included Antioch and Tarsus) did not know his face but had heard of his situation - a famous persecuting rabbi who now preaches the faith he, at one time, tried to destroy. Using timing information from various letters and different periods of his life, it is estimated Paul spent six to eight years in Tarsus. During this time he preached the gospel. It is generally acknowledged, through writings and testimonies of Paul, the Jews lashed him five times "forty lashes save one" (i.e. 39 lashes). As discussed in the beginning of Paul's religious life, the local minister head of the synagogue probably administered these lashings.

This may be a little rough on the stomach and imagination; but, it is appropriate to know what Jesus, Paul, and others went through at lashings during those days. This will give an indication of the terror of the punishment. The whip was a heavy, 4-pronged strap of calf hide with two prongs of ass hide. Some descriptions say there was a weight like material at the end of the prongs to cut the skin and better direct the lashes. The prongs were long enough to reach the navel from behind and above. The hazzan, the person administering the whipping, swings with all his might down over the shoulder to cut the chest. This is done thirteen times while a reader reads from the Law. Then the whipping changes to thirteen lashes over the other shoulder. This, of course, criss-crosses the welts. Then the final thirteen lashes are administered across the back. All these hits wrap around the body.

It has been described as tearing burrows in the skin then pouring in hot lead - resulting in intense and intolerable pain. This punishment caused anything from collapsing to death. If the person passes out during the lashes, they revive him and continue. There were occasions during a sentencing when more than one lashing was required. Then they would wait for the lashes to heal and then administer them again.

Please note our Lord went through this at His trial (Matt 27:26).

The trials references (2 Cor 11:23-27) probably took place during those years in Tarsus. He really was not very accepted there with his new "way out" beliefs. He kept on trying to convert Jews and Gentiles to Jesus the Redeemer. These problems were not mentioned in Acts. His family disowned and disinherited him. There is no evidence the family believed Paul at all. If he caused any long term problems which lashings would not cure, he was probably excommunicated from synagogues with which he could be identified. With an excommunication, he lost all birthrights. It should be noted Paul's efforts were not to any avail. Churches were started in Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:41).

There is one thing to keep in mind when looking at the places Paul visited. Whether Luke was with Paul or not with Paul, Luke was not as complete as we would have liked him to be. Therefore, there is not reason to believe Paul visited ONLY those in Acts. There is every reason to believe, and most scholars and commentators would agree, Paul visited other cities and towns. Therefore, the more one reads about the journeys, the more ideas of other locations are written.

Acts "Non Paul" Interlude of Peter (9:32-11:22)

This segment of Acts did not cover any of Paul's life. It emphasizes Peter's activities. However, it still sets the stage for Paul's missionary outreach.

In this section, Peter travels to Lydda. There was a man named Aeneas who had been bed ridden for eight years with a paralysis. Peter cures him on the spot in the name of Jesus. All that saw this miracle turned to Christ. In Joppa, there was another Jesus follower called Tabitha, also translated in Greek Dorcas meaning "gazelle". This was a lady full of good deeds and a helper of all. She was sick and died. Since Lydda and Joppa were close, Peter was asked to come to Joppa. When he got there he saw all the mourning of the widows because of the passing away of this fine woman. Peter visited Tabitha alone in the room in which she was laid. He told her to arise; she did. Then Peter gave Tabitha to the others. The word of this miracle spread.

After the healing of Tabitha, Peter stayed some days in Joppa with a tanner, Simon (Acts 9:43). A tanner was considered to be unclean because he worked with the skins of dead animals (Lev 11:40). Peter's staying with him may have helped prepare him to preach to Gentiles, whom he considered unclean.

This interlude also includes the writing of Peter and on the visions of Cornelius, a Centurion of Caesarea in the Italian cohort. Remember that a centurion was a non commissioned officer in command of 100 men. Cornelius was a semi-proselyte to Judaism, accepting Jewish beliefs and practices but stopping short of circumcision. Cornelius believed in God and gave of his bounty freely. He had a vision of an angel coming to him and telling him to locate Peter in Joppa. Peter would then tell him what to do. He immediately sent two servants to Joppa. While they were on their way to Joppa, Peter was having his vision. This is the famous vision where Peter is essentially told to forget what Peter thought was unclean. What God calls clean is all that counts. Peter saw heaven open and vessel or a large "sheet" descend. On the sheet were all manners of animals. He was told, apparently by God, to kill and eat the animals. Peter refused because they were unclean. The voice said again to eat. What God has cleansed is not common anymore. This was done a third time; then the vessel returned to heaven. Peter was not sure what the vision meant. After the vision ended, the two men from Cornelius were at the house (Peter staying at Simon the Tanner's house). The servants told Peter of the need of Cornelius. The next day the three of them returned to Cornelius's house. Cornelius had even called all his relatives and close friends. Peter explained to the people that over the ages the Jewish tradition taught certain people were common or unclean (Gentiles). Peter had been warned by God that we should not call any man common or unclean (Acts 10:34; Deut 10:17; 2 Chron 19:7).

Peter asked Cornelius for what reason was Peter called. Cornelius told Peter of the vision to get in contact with Peter. Peter gave the people a "sermon" on God sent Jesus. He summarized the living and teachings of Christ. He told them of the crucifixion and resurrection. He told all to spread the word of salvation to all the world. After this, the Holy Spirit descended on this group of people, Jews and Gentiles. Peter then baptized all. The word of this transformation reached Jerusalem. The Apostles asked what happened. Peter explained his vision, Cornelius's vision, and the descendance of the Holy Spirit. After they heard this, they all rejoiced the praised God that He had granted repentance to the Gentiles, also.

Note the gift of the Holy Spirit came upon these Gentile converts before they were baptized in water (Acts 10:48). The authentication of the gift was the speaking in tongues (Acts 10:46), entirely apart from the laying on of hands. All this demonstrated, especially to the Jewish brothers who accompanied Peter, was God had received these Gentiles into the church on an equal basis with Jewish believers because they had believed in Christ (Acts 10:43).

Many believers had traveled to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and then to Antioch. The church at Antioch (modern Antakya) was the next great milestone for the followers of Christ. Antioch, founded about 300 B.C., was the third largest city in the Roman world. The two largest were Rome and Alexandria. There were many Jews there. First, preaching was to the Jews only. Some of the men were Greek speaking form Cyprus and Cyrene. There was a great deal of success with the preaching to the Greek speaking Jews. It appears from verse Acts 11:20 they preached about Jesus as Lord rather than Jesus the Messiah. This may have helped them in having people listen to the preaching. The success was so great in Antioch the word spread to Jerusalem. The Apostles sent Barnabas to Antioch to help and observe. Some of the Antioch leaders were Cypriots; Barnabas was one also. Therefore, this was a natural choice. The Apostles dubbed Barnabas the "Son of Encouragement". He immediately started living his name as soon as he got to Antioch. Barnabas immediately saw the need for a leader to work in Antioch. He chose to go to Tarsus to look for Paul for that leadership. He found Paul and persuaded him to accompany him to Antioch. Paul was very excited, also. This was the second time that Barnabas greatly influenced Paul in his post-conversion experiences. Paul hoped this could be the long awaited start of the Gentile preaching mission.

THE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST WERE FIRST CALLED CHRISTIANS AT ANTIOCH (Acts 1:26). This is based on the Greek word Christianos. From now on these notes will call the followers of Christ Christians.

Barnabas and Paul worked in Antioch for a year. Observe when reading Acts the way Luke ranks persons. The first person of a listing of persons is thought to the be leader. At this time in Acts, Luke first refers to Barnabas and Paul (meaning Barnabas then Paul, in terms of leadership). Later on (Acts 13:13) the names are reversed inferring Paul is now the leader.

Now Paul decides he must make another trip to Jerusalem. This is usually referred to his second return to Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30; 12:25). Prophets were people who were able to see the future. This is certainly nothing new to a believer of the Bible, particularly of the Old Testament. Agabus was one of these prophets in the time of Paul. He had come to Antioch with bad news for "the world". There was to be a bad famine. "The world" meant wide spread but most likely referred to the Roman Empire. There were many poor. This kind of a catastrophe would make it much harder for the Christians and the Jews to help the poor. Although there are in some secular historical writings a multitude of bad harvests and famines around those years, there is no specific identification of any "great famine". Luke is simply documenting there was a famine at that time. Judea was to be worst hit. Josephus has recorded a deep famine in Judea around 46 A.D. under the reign of Claudius (Antiquities 3.15.3). This could be the one. The Christians started collecting offerings of food and money. The Elders of the local churches distributed the offerings. The major importance of this time is Luke says "about that time" Herod (Agrippa I) beheaded James (Acts 12:2) and Peter was imprisoned. James was the first of the Twelve to be martyred.

This portion of scripture (Acts 12:3-11) tells of the famous miraculous escape of Peter from Herod's prison. While Peter was in prison, When not sleeping, he prayed and prayed without ceasing. Peter slept between and was chained to two soldiers while there were also two guards at the prison door. There were four squads, four soldiers for six-hour shifts. An angel of the Lord came and poked Peter on his side and told him to stand up. When Paul arose, the chains fell off at his feet. The angel told Peter to prepare himself for escape, put on his sandals, and follow the angel. Peter walked by all the guards to the metal gate. The gate opened by itself and Peter walked into the street; afterwhich, the angel disappeared. Peter went to John Mark's mother's house immediately after the escape. Barnabas and Paul probably stayed in Barnabas's mother's (Mary) house. John Mark was a cousin (Col 4:10) to Barnabas. It is thought Mark was the boy who lost his clothes in a chase at the arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:51-52).

Herod, not too happy about the escape, had the guards killed. Herod was killed, according to the Bible, immediately when he was claimed to be a god. Worms ate him. This death is also documented in the writings of Josephus (Antiquities 17.6.5 - WARNING! The description of Herod death by Josephus are VERY graphic).

Josephus states that Herod was struck down while delivering his final oration and, after five days of suffering, died (A.D. 44). It is thought Barnabas and Paul arrived in Jerusalem between the Peter escape time and Herod's death. The end of Acts 12 picks up Paul again and carries him for the the rest of Acts.

At this time Luke says Barnabas and Paul "fulfilled their mission" and returned to Antioch.

Antioch of Syria

Map of the First Missionary Journey of Paul

After having returned to Antioch, Barnabas and Paul started their regular life of preaching (Acts 13:1-2). There is not any other information for this time in Paul's life. There were at least three others: Simeon (Latin nickname Niger, meaning dark-complected), Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen (raised with Herod Antipas). Niger is said by some scholars to be the person who carried Christ's cross. We will never know for sure. It appears there was an intense period of prayer (v 2). The Holy Spirit's calling of Barnabas and Paul to their missionary work most likely caused this. The laying on of hands was not an ordination; it was more a delivering of them into God's hands for their journeys.

Accompanied by John Mark, Barnabas and Paul set out on the first journey from Antioch in Syria at about 45 A.D. John Mark was the son of Mary (Acts 12:12) and cousin to Barnabas (Col 4:10). He did whatever Paul and Barnabas asked him to do--perhaps helping with baptisms and teaching new converts.

Some details should be considered on the means and difficulties Paul had on his travels. Traveling by land was easy if one was traveling on the Roman roads. They had some of the finest roads in the history of that time. They developed approximately 50,000 miles of well-traveled and relatively safe primary roads. They had almost 200,000 miles of what could be called secondary roads. It is not an exaggeration when it is said "all roads lead to Rome". They did. They wanted to make sure of being able to tie the empire together. For sure, they wanted to move troops quickly to all locations.

A Roman road was an engineering marvel for the times. It was made of layers of sand and gravel to a depth of three feet. Then a bed of concrete (invented by the Romans) might be laid. Some roads had gravel on the top; but, important roads were topped with large blocks of stone and mortar. The main roads might be twenty feet wide; but, others, especially in the mountains, might be only five to six feet wide. Stone arched bridges were built where necessary. There were even mileage posts marking the miles to Rome (actually to the golden milestone in the Roman forum in Rome).

Almost all Paul's land travels were on these fine roads. His churches he started were usually at major traveling routes. Most of the time, for safety, one would usually travel in groups (although, the Romans kept the highways very safe). Walking and using donkeys were the signs of the time. Travelers might cover as much as twenty miles in a travel day. This usually included resting during the hottest part of the day. Inns were available but, generally, not the safest places to stay. They either stayed with other believers or sometimes even "under the stars".

Traveling by sea required obtaining passage. The boats usually used were trade ships that would accommodate a certain number of people. The rates were usually not too expensive. Some of the boats would carry hundreds of people. Josephus reported a travel he made with 600 persons. Luke reports 276 people on one trip (Acts 27:37). There were some boats that would exchange passage for work.

The boats were at the mercy of the winds. There were many shipwrecks (2 Cor 11:25). Winter was very dangerous. Certain areas of the Mediterranean were treacherous in certain months. The summer was the best time to travel by water. Almost all the time, travel stopped from mid-November through February.

All travel in Paul's time was tiring and often dangerous.


Map of the First Missionary Journey of Paul

The travelers passed through Seleucia (Acts 13:4), the port city of Syria, to book passage to the island of Cyprus (Kittim in OT). It is approximately 90 miles to the island. Remember that Barnabas was a Cypriot; so he was interested in these people.

Island of Cyprus


Map of the First Missionary Journey of Paul

Salamis (Acts 13:5) was the leading city on the eastern side of the island. For a short time, Barnabas and Paul preached in their synagogues. To say this was an uneventful time would be wrong, in accordance with the trend of Paul's receptions in his life. However, there is no documentation for this leg from Luke of Paul. Remember that John Mark is with them here. Some believe John Mark was assisting by means of performing the baptisms of new converts.

2. Paphos

Map of the First Missionary Journey of Paul

By land, they traveled to the western side of Cyprus to Paphos, the capital. There were two significant incidents on Cyprus (Acts 13:6-12).

A Jewish man named Bar-jesus (means son of Jesus) claimed falsely to be a sorcerer of divine revelations. He is also referred to as Elymas, which probably means something similar to sorcerer (Greek magos). He resisted the gospel and kept advising his master, Sergius Paulus (proconsul of island), to do the same. However, Paulus still called for Barnabas and Paul to hear what they had to say.

Note: This appears to be the place where Luke starts calling Saul the name of Paul.

Paul was told by the Holy Spirit of this man and his claims. He denounces the man and pronounces a temporary blindness on him. Sergius Paulus was Roman. After hearing of Bar-jesus and hearing what Barnabas and Paul had to say, Paulus converted. Perhaps, as some scholars say, some members of Paulus's family were Christians.


Map of the First Missionary Journey of Paul

From the island of Cyprus, on another ship, the travelers went to Perga, a port city on the coast of Asia Minor in the district of Pamphylia (Acts 13:5 Acts 13:13). This is a point in the travels for which there are unanswered questions. For some reason, John Mark leaves Barnabas and Paul and returns to Jerusalem. Some speculate John Mark left because of Paul's increasing prominence over his cousin Barnabas; some say John Mark was frightened Paul was going in over his head in visiting the cities Paul had on his itinerary. We never understand the reason. However, we do know this action by John Mark leaves a mark on the heart of Paul (i.e. he did not like Mark's leaving) and causes major problems between Barnabas and Paul later on (Acts 15:37-39). Mark and Paul were reconciled (2 Tim 4:11).

Antioch of Pisidia

Map of the First Missionary Journey of Paul

The next leg of the journey is to the Roman colony of Antioch of Pisidia, (Acts 13:14-52). This was rough country to travel. Not only the terrain was bad for walking, but also the area was a haven for robbers (2 Cor 11:26). As soon as possible, Paul and Barnabas went to the synagogue. Remember, the typical service was rather simple: prayer, readings from the Law and Prophets, then discussions. Also recall, any person in the synagogue could address the audience. A traveling Jew might be asked to speak if he were capable. It is suspected that is what happened. Paul and Barnabas were asked to speak because they had been traveling and might be able to add to the service by using information gained by the travel.

Paul's mode of operation was always the same: go to the synagogue to try to persuade the Jews of the community that Jesus was the Messiah and Redeemer. Then he would preach to the Gentiles. As we shall see, Paul was eventually driven out of the synagogue by the Jews, although he always left some converts, and ended up gathering preaching to the converted Jews and proselytes and other Gentiles. At this point in the journey, in Antioch of Pisidia, Luke records for the first time a synagogue message of Paul.

His message consisted of an early 450 years (400 years of slavery, 40 years of wilderness wandering, 10 years of war for Canaan) of history of Israel (Acts 13:17-22); then a description of the coming of Jesus (Acts 13:23-29); then a discussion of the resurrection of Christ (Acts 13:30-41). There is evidence there were a good number of converts (Jews and proselytes) after this first meeting. He was even invited to speak the next Sabboth.

A word should be said of what a proselyte was. This was a Gentile who had converted to Judaism, totally. This means they submitted to the Law; they performed a self administered baptism; if males, they were circumcised. This explains why there were more women proselytes than men. There was a "1/2 way" proselyte. This person was sometimes in scripture called a "God fearer". They were allowed to worship in the synagogue but were not full fledged Jews. Sometimes they were called "proselytes of the gate". The proselytes were considered by Paul "easier" to convert than the blood Jews. It was because they were not held to centuries of tradition. They were recent (in terms of biblical timing) converts and were a little "softer" in their tradition. They would tend to listen more closely to what Paul and Barnabas had to say. In addition, these Gentiles were good "bridges" to all other Gentiles; like friends, neighbors, and family; who were not believers or proselytes.

The next Sabboth there were many people including Jews, proselytes, and other "heathen" Gentiles. By now the Jews were getting organized against Paul. They were arguing about everything he said. They were primarily interested in demeaning the idea that Paul's gospel was for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Paul and Barnabas knew the synagogue would be closed to Paul and all his followers after that day. Therefore, they let the gathering "have it". Paul and Barnabas rebuked the Jews of their unbelief. They said the Jews judged themselves as being unworthy for everlasting life; therefore, Paul and Barnabas were going to turn their message to the Gentiles. This would be to fulfill God's call for the Gentiles being saved and Isaiah's prophecy (Isaiah 49:6). Of course, the Gentiles were rejoicing. This was the way of most of Paul's preaching; first the synagogue, until thrown out, then gathering in other places any who wished to hear the message. Paul and Barnabas left Antioch. However, they performed the symbolic ritual of shaking the dust off their feet (Matt 10:14-15; Acts 13:30-41; Acts 13:51; Luke 9:5; 10:11) and continued their journey.


Map of the First Missionary Journey of Paul

The next place on their journey was Iconium (Acts 14:1-6), modern Konya. They traveled approximately 90 miles to the east in Galatia. This visit was very similar to others. They started at the synagogue until it was not tolerated anymore. Luke states Paul and Barnabas converted many. He also says they preached in Iconium "a long time". However, we do not know how long that was. It could be a "long time" compared to times at other places (several weeks?). Then they moved to other less formal places. The Jews were gathering their powers and were planning to stone Paul and Barnabas and their followers. Paul and Barnabas heard about the plan for the stoning; so they all dispersed out of Iconium onto the road toward Lystra and Derbe.


Map of the First Missionary Journey of Paul

Paul and Barnabas traveled about 18 miles to the south to Lystra (Acts 14:6-20). There is no specific mention by Luke of any synagogue preaching. They did preach most probably primarily to the Gentiles. It is thought there were not many Jews in this area or town. However, there were three significant things that happened in Lystra.

First, Paul healed a man who had been cripple since birth (Acts 14:8-11). The man heard Paul speak. He told Paul he had the faith that he could be healed. Dramatically (in a loud voice), Paul told the man to stand; the man stood. This miracle excited the people.

(Acts 14:12-19) The next significant event needs some background. The Greek people in Lystra were heathens. The legend of the area was Zeus (father of the Greek gods) and Hermes (son of Zeus, messenger of the Greek gods) had, at one time, visited the area as human men. Therefore, Paul and Barnabas were identified to these two gods: Barnabas, the older, as Zeus; Paul, the more active, as Hermes. Of course, since these two people were gods come to earth, sacrifices must be made to the gods. So the priests started making preparations for sacrificing the oxen. When Paul and Barnabas found out, they were absolutely livid and horrified. Although Greek was the more common language, it seems the people of Lystra had a language or their own, not understood by Paul and Barnabas (14:11). With great emotion, Paul and Barnabas tore their outer clothes off and tried to stop these rituals. They said they were there to let the people know about Jesus who wished to stop exactly the things they were doing. They were just barely able to stop the sacrificial activities (14:18). Paul's message to stop the sacrifices (14:15-17) focused on idolatry being vain (having no meaning). Restraining the crowds was very hard.

The third event almost brought death to Paul. The Jews from Antioch and Iconium found out he was in Lystra (14:19). They went to Lystra to persecute Paul. They aroused the crowd so much they started throwing stones. Afterwards, he was dragged to a dump outside the city. They thought he was dead. When the Christians gathered around him he got up and went right back into the city. The next day, Paul and Barnabas left for Derbe. F.F.Bruce calls what happened the "grim irony in the quick reversal of the local attitude to the two apostles." In other words, the very attempt to stop the sacrifice may well have made contribution to the rejection.

One other point to note but will be discussed later: Timothy was apparently converted in this trip to Lystra. There is evidence in Acts 16 and 2 Timothy that this time was when Timothy was with Paul.


Map of the First Missionary Journey of Paul

Now Paul and Barnabas travel about 60 miles to the southeast to Derbe (also called Lycaonian and confirmed as the mound of Kerti Huyuk). We are told they preached and made many converts. We have no reason to believe anything was any different there than any other place they had been. This also was the farthest point in this first journey. From now on, they retrace their steps back to see how the cities were doing in terms of converts and their effects.

Return to Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch

Map of the First Missionary Journey of Paul

Now Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch (Acts 14:21-23). Their primary goal was encourage the Christians in those cities. It would be hard sometimes to hold the faith. However, God was always with them. They helped in the selection of Elders in each of the churches. The requirements for Elders will be discussed later. W.M.Ramsey says, most likely, the political leaders were slightly different in these cities than when Paul and Barnabas were there originally. This is unknown. But, do not let this point slip by: Paul and Barnabas were taking their lives into their hands by going back so soon. This was missionary bravery.

Return to Perga

Map of the First Missionary Journey of Paul

Pergo in Pamphylia was also revisited (Acts 14:25-26). They apparently spent some time here preaching.


Map of the First Missionary Journey of Paul

They then traveled to Attalia (Acts 14:25-26) near Perga. They probably could not find passage home from Perga. So, they went to Attalia.

Return to Antioch of Syria

Map of the First Missionary Journey of Paul

They returned to Antioch of Syria. They both felt the journey was very successful. The church was extremely happy about the results. Paul and Barnabas were highly commended for their success.

We do not know how long this first journey lasted. Scholars vary in length from one year to four years. Most generally, eighteen months is acceptable.

Summary of First Journey

The general pattern of this journey is fairly typical of all the journeys. First, they would try to witness to the Jews and proselytes using the synagogue. When they were no longer tolerated, they preached elsewhere to the converts and Gentiles. Then, in some way, they are physically and emotionally abused. This was usually created by hostile Jews.

To the best of our knowledge, Paul did not write any letters during the first journey.