Saul's First Missionary Journey

The Call of Barnabas and Paul

Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit they are set apart for a special mission. It's significant it was the Holy Spirit as it shows the spirit again controlling events. As the two are setting off on their first real missionary expedition they are entering into a new phase of their work. This journey is for exclusively non-Jewish territory, starting the break between Christianity and Judaism.

Pisidian Antioch

This was a Roman city with strong Hellenistic Greek and Jewish culture - wherePaul would have visited often. It was in South Galatia and was of strategic military importance, guarding northern border. Soldiers were encourages to retire here, ensuring a loyal colony. The road from the sea at Perga to Pisidian was notorious for bandits. John Mark was not there are an apostle nor was he sent out by the Spirit, "they had John to assist them". He parts their company with them on the coast and returns home.

It has been suggested Paul went to Pisidian Antioch in Galatia because it was at a high altitude and so would provide a relied from an illness he contracted on the coastal trip as he wrote that "Because of a bodily ailment I preached the Gospel to you at first". However it is also possible that Paul did not want to make another sea voyage in returning to Antioch, but preferred to cross land and preach as he went. Paul argued it was right for the mission to begin with the Jews but if they turn down the gift of eternal life, it will be given to those who will appreciate it - Gentiles. The Jewish leaders' hostile reaction shows how much of a threat they considered the apostles to be. They can't prevent the Gentiles believing but can try and take Paul and Barnabas away by prejudicing the leading figures.

Iconium

The missionary method following Paul to Iconium resembled the one he used in Pisidian Antioch. He converted some Jews and many Gentiles in the face of opposition. The leaders wouldn't accept it and prejudiced the people against the two. Paul went straight to the synagogue, still using the same missionary tactic of making contact with Gentile 'God-fearers' familiar with the concept of monotheism and the Messiah.

Remained witnessing to the word and grace of Gos, performing signs and wonders to confirm the truth of their message. Later in Paul's letter to the churches in Galatia he refers to these signs as evidence that God approves of their gospel of faith, not preaching the law. The people became more and more divided until a mob incited to stone them.

It could be argued the missionary work was successful in Iconium, leaving behind a group of converts. A large number of Christian inscriptions have been found showing the existence of a vigorous church life most likely started by Paul. It is also one of the cities Paul addressed his epistles to.

Lystra

Lystra was in the south of Galatia connected with Pisidian Antioch by a direct road. Both towns were Roman colonies, settlements of soldiers. The colonies were designed to keep the enemies of the empire in check. In Lystra Paul and Barnabas depart from the normal evangelical pattern. This account doesn't begin with a synagogue. There is no mention of Jewish community in this account but in Acts 16 we know there was. While Paul was preaching he became aware of a lame man listening, this man had faith and was healed by Paul. This parallels the healing at Gate Beautiful.

The crowd spoke in Lycaomian, showing the area had not been Hellenised. The pair's unfamiliarity with the dialect would explain their lack of reaction to being called Zeus and Hermes. Word of their miracle spread to one of the priests and preparations were made for a sacrifice. At this point the apostles realised what was happening and tried to persuade the priests to stop. When Paul addressed the crowd, it's the first recorded time that he delivers his message to a non-Jewish audience. Their polytheism and idolatry would be especially onvious to strict Jews, it was to these Paul made his remarks.

Derbe

The Jews from Pisidian Antioch and Iconium were able to sway the mood of the crowd. The mood quickly changes from adulation to hostility. Paul and Barnabas went to Derbe, located a short distance to the south east, after their harsh treatment in Lystra. We are told that the mission in Derbe was a success. After, the two retrace their steps through Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch - despite hostility. Their aim is to strengthen the churches newly established. They would need strengthening and would have to suffer some persecution, it appears to be a part of the early life of the Christians. 

Reaction to Paul and his message

The response at the Synagogue in Pisidian Antioch was favourable. Paul's words roused interest and many wanted to learn more. They were invited back to speak again the next Sabbath. The next Sabbath a mainly Gentile crows turned up to listen. Many Jews reacted favourably also, but could not get over the fact of the salvation of Gentiles as well, enacting some hostility towards Paul now.

Significance of the Journey

Both 'God-fearers' and complete pagans were converted to faith and this is the first time that a Roman Governor becomes a believer.

Paul has success among the Gentiles while being largely rejected by the Jews. To the Jews, Paul is relaxing the requirements to God's Community as the demands on the converts were much simpler than those made on the Gentiles who wanted to join the Jewish Community.

Paul had himself been one of the strictest Jews however, his new relationship to Christ established a new one to others - those he would have despised at one point in time. Paul feels a special kinship to the non-Jewish pagans who accept Christianity.

Credits:

Created with images by H o l l y. - "Three." • Epicantus - "Old telephone" • Khánh Hmoong - "Dong Van Old Quarter" • manfri - "MI AMI FESTIVAL 2015" • Epicantus - "by Daria / epicantus"

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