I Am

Chapter 54: Apostle Paul’s First Missionary Journey




   After Paul’s dramatic conversion to the WAY in about A.D. 35, he disappears from history for about a dozen years. For part of that time, he probably studied his Jewish Bible, or the Old Testament, looking for prophecies about Jesus and the new covenant God said he would make to replace the earlier set of rules he had given the Jews. In time Paul probably teaches believers what he has discovered. He eventually returns to his hometown of Tarsus, in what is now Turkey. That’s when he bursts back onto the pages of church history.

   Barnabas pastors a church of mostly non-Jews in Antioch, Syria about 150 miles southeast of Paul’s hometown. The church must be growing because Barnabas goes up to Tarsus and convinces Paul to join the ministry team as an “associate pastor”.

   tells us that it was at Antioch that the believers were first called christians, “. . . . and the disciples were called christians first in Antioch”. Believers eventually warm up to this new name and retire their former name, “the way”.

   While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers, and said, “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved”. Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them. Jews welcomed gentile converts, as long as the gentiles followed all the Jewish traditions—including the most intrusive: circumcision and kosher food restrictions. So when gentiles began converting to christianity, many Jewish believers expected them to embrace not only the teaching of Jews, but the laws of Moses, as well.

   Paul and Barnabas, however, weren’t requiring that of the gentiles in Antioch. So when Jewish christians visited there from Jerusalem, a fiery debate erupted. Church leaders led by James, the brother of Jesus, met in Jerusalem to settle the argument.


* Peter defended Paul and Barnabas.

* Paul and Barnabas added that the Holy Spirit was clearly working through the uncircumcised gentiles of Antioch.

Circumcision is not necessary for salvation.

* James quoted the Jewish Bible, or the Old Testament, confirming that God spoke of a time when the rest of humanity might seek the Lord, including the gentiles. The Council decided to ask the gentiles to observe only three Jewish rules:

(1) “You must abstain from eating food offered to idols. (2) Abstain from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and (3) Abstain from sexual immorality.” In time, Paul started teaching that Jewish food laws are irrelevant in this day of the new covenant. In Paul says, “One person believes it’s all right to eat anything, but another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.”


   One day in a worship service at Antioch, the Holy Spirit impresses on the group to share Barnabas and Paul with others—to send the pastors out on a missionary expedition. They were sent out by the Holy Spirit. says, “So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed into Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.”

   That one expedition turns into three, stretching roughly 7,000 miles over the next 20 years. By the end of these expeditions, new congregations made up mostly of non-Jews had sprung up throughout the Roman Empire—in what are now Cyprus, Turkey, and Greece. This includes churches in two of the Empire’s busiest cities—the seaport towns of Corinth in Greece and Ephesus in Turkey. From Syria on the Empire’s eastern border to Italy in the west, Paul helped start at least 20 churches. He made believers in frontier towns, highlands and villages, and farming communities. But he gave most of his time to preaching in the Empire’s great coastal cities, for that’s where the crowds were.

   In late spring of 44 A.D., the Brethren ordained Paul and Barnabas as Apostles. In 13:4-52, from Antioch, two Apostles go to Seleucia If you remember in Daniel, Seleucus was one of Alexander the Great’s four generals that took control over the eastern part of the Empire which included Babylon and Syria (311 B.C.). He founded Atioch and

   Paul and Barnabas and John (surnamed Mark) travel to Seleucia and then sail to Salamis, the principle city and seaport of the Island of Cyprus is where Barnabas was born and raised In Salamis, they preached the gospel in several synagogues. They then crossed the island by foot and arrived at Paphos

   While in Paphos, the island’s Roman governor requests the two evangelists meet with him, so that he can hear the word of God. Accompanying the governor is a sorcerer and false prophet known as Elymas the Magician. Elymas resists the gospel and tries to prevent the governor from accepting the truth of God The Apostle Paul perceives Elymas’s intentions and responds immediately. Elymas immediately goes blind and is unable to see for a period. The governor then believes the gospel

   From Paphos, Paul and Barnabas sail to Perga, on their way to Pisdian It’s at Perga, that Mark leaves Paul and Barnabas and returns to Jerusalem. Antioch in Pisdia is also called Pisidian Antioch to distinguish it from the Antioch located in Syria. In Antioch, the evangelists visit a local synagogue, where Paul tells the people that Jesus Christ is the Messiah who was promised in the Old Testament. Many people turn against Paul and Barnabas.

   The two then leave for Iconium In Iconium, Paul and Barnabas are met with great resistance to the gospel. After learning of a plot to have then stoned to death, they flee to the nearby towns of Lystra and


   In the town of Paul miraculously heals a crippled man, who could not walk. The towns people, who saw the miracle, proclaimed Paul and Barnabas as gods Jews from other areas came to the city and stirred up the crowds against Paul and have him stoned, dragged out of the city, and left for dead. He miraculously regains consciousness and re-enters the city. The next day, he and Barnabas travel to Derbe

   Paul and Barnabas preach the gospel in Derbe, then retrace their steps back through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. They ultimately arrive back at Syrian Antioch the city from which they had begun this mission journey In Antioch, Paul and Barnabas met with fellow christians and gave a report about their mission journey.

   Paul and Barnabas stay in Antioch, spending time with Disciples