Paul's First Mission


Key Facts about Paul

  • Paul was originally named Saul.
  • He was born a Jew in a Greek city known as Tarsus.
  • Tarsus was in the Roman province of Cilicia.
  • Paul's father was probably a Roman citizen, resulting in Paul being a Roman citizen.
  • He was a Pharisee.

Paul and Barnabas set off

In Antioch in Syria, Paul and Barnabas were worshipping and fasting with other church leaders. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Paul and Barnabas were set apart for a special mission and, after further pasting and praying and the laying on of hands, they were sent on their way.


  • It was the Holy Spirit, NOT the church leaders, that chose Paul and Barnabas for the task, showing that the Holy Spirit is controlling events.
  • The laying on of hands was a means by which the church leaders could express their fellowship and show their approval; it wasn't to give them a spiritual authority that they didn't already possess.


Paul and Barnabas sailed to Cyrpus, a sensible place for the two to begin the church's outreach, as Barnabas himself was a Cypriot.


Salamis was the largest city on the island and there was a large number of Jews living there.

There were several synagogues in Salamis which Paul and Barnabas went to in order to find an audience for the gospel.


Their next stop in Cyprus was Paphos, the capital city of the island.

Main Encounters: Sergius Paulus, Bar-Jesus.


  • Also known as Elymas, a Semitic word meaning 'magician'.
  • We are told he is Jewish, a magician and a false prophet.
  • Elymas felt threatened by Paul and Barnabas as the Roman Proconsul was no longer as interested in his false signs and miracles.
  • This parallels to Philip's encounter with Simon Magus in Samaria.
  • Filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul denounces Emylas, and through the judgement of God, he is temporarily blinded.


  • It is thought that Luke told this story as he wanted to show how Paul used his apolstolic authority to stop the evil influence of Bar-Jesus, proving to readers that the power behind the gospel is superior to that of pagan magic.


While describing the events that occurred in Perga, Luke for the first time, no longer speaks of 'Barnabas and Saul'.

Instead, Paul is now placed ahead of Barnabas


This seems to be Luke's way of saying that Paul has taken over the place of prominence. It is clear that Paul has become the dominant partner in the missionary team.

Pisidian Antioch

Background Info:

  • A Roman city with a strong Hellenistic Greek and Jewish culture.
  • In South Galatia.
  • It guarded the northern border of the Roman Empire.
  • Soldiers were encouraged to retire here.
  • About 100 miles north of Perga.

The Speech at Pisidian Antioch

When Paul and Barnabas arrived, the Jewish elders invited them to speak.


  • In the speech, Paul gave a summary of the history of the Hewbrews from the Exodus.
  • He reminded the audience of the Jewish hope of a Messiah from the line of David and declared that Jesus was this Messiah.
  • He highlighted the condemnation of Jesus by the rulers at Jerusalem and his death, burial and resurrection.
  • To end his speech, Paul proclaimed the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus, finishing with a warning that his audience shouldn't reject this opportunity.


  • Paul's speech aroused a lot of interest.
  • Word travelled among the Jews and Gentiles about Paul's message, resulting in "the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to head the word of the Lord" (13:44)
  • However, the synagogue leaders were irritated and "filled with jealousy" (13:45).
  • They rejected Paul's request to speak during the next synagogue service, triggering a pattern that was repeated time and time again: Paul would be rejected by the leaders and the majority of the Jewish worshippers and would then preach to the Gentiles.


Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue to preach to those assembled for services. Their preaching was so effective that large numbers of Jews and Gentiles believed the gospel.

The unbelieving Jews began a smear campaign to poison the minds of the Gentiles. In spite of this persecution, Paul and Barnabas "spent considerable time" in Iconium.

They preached effectively in Iconium and God performed miraculous wonders through them.

Eventually the Jews plotted with some Gentiles and political leaders of Iconium to gather a mob, beat up Paul and Barnabas, and stone them to death.

Paul and Barnabas heard of this plot and quickly left Iconium.


  • The "signs and wonders" performed by Paul and Barnabas would serve to confirm the truth of their message. Paul refers to these signs as evidence that God approves of their gospel faith, not the preaching of the law.
  • It can be argued that the missionary work was successful in Iconium, as they left behind a group of converts to carry on witnessing, therefore helping to expand Christianity.

Lystra and Derbe

Here, Paul and Barnabas continued to preach the gospel.


Luke only reports a single event in Lystra.

Paul had been speaking to a crowd of Gentiles in a public place and he was somehow drawn to the faith of a crippled man lame from birth. Paul directed his words to the man, demanding him to: "Stand up on your feet!" (14:10). At once the man jumped up and began to walk.


  • This story depicts Oayl as a genuine messenger of God.
  • Similar to Peter, who also healed a lame man. Both Peter and Paul are shown to be exercising the same power as did Jesus, who also healed a crippled person.

The Speech at Lystra:

The Lystrans believed that Barnabas was Zeus and Paul was Hermes. Paul and Barnabas were forced to deny this.

Paul then made a moving speech in the hope of stopping the attempt of the Lystrans to worship them.


  • The speech was an example of how the gospel was introduced to purely pagan audiences.

Sometime after the speech, Jews from Pisidian Antioch and Iconium came into Lystra and began to preach against Paul and Barnabas. The Lystrans were no doubt disappointed that Barnabas and Paul claimed to be no more than ordinary human beings and as a result of being won over by the Jews, the crowd attacked Paul and stoned him.


Once revived, Paul went back into Lystra, and then he and Barnabas left the next day for Derbe.


  • Luke gives no details about the activities of Barnabas and Paul in Derbe. However, their missionary work must have been successful, because their preaching won a large number of disciples.
  • It also seems that they did not suffer any persecution in Derbe, which is further supports the idea that their missionary work in Derbe was successful.

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