Paul's First Missionary Journey
Read Acts 1:8
This is the last major division of the book of Acts. During the first division, the Gospel went “to the Jew first.” The church was entirely composed of Jewish believers. In the second division, Peter took the Gospel to Samaria. Now the Gospel is going into all the world through Saul. In this section, Saul’s name changes to Paul and Paul becomes the leader of the church.
Barnabas and Paul’s first stop is Cyprus, Barnabas’ home. They cross the island and then sail from Paphos to Perga in Pamphylia. Then they leave the ship and travel into Asia Minor and into Galatia. They visit Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. They return through Attalia and sail back to Antioch.
Read verses 1-4
The chapter begins by listing the five leaders of the church in Antioch: Barnabas, Simon, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, and Saul. The leaders were fasting together and the Holy Spirit called Barnabas and Saul for a special work. Notice, Barnabas’ name comes first. Before long, this will change and Paul’s name will come first because he will become the chief spokesman.
The men fasted and prayed and then laid their hands on Barnabas and Saul before sending them away. The laying on of hands is a way of identifying with the two missionaries. They are in partnership with them and sending them out as their representatives. Even so, notice that vs. 4 says that they were sent by the Holy Spirit.
Read vs. 5
Here you see the method that is always used: the Gospel is taken to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. (Acts 1:8; Romans 1:16) The Gospel was always preached first in the synagogue and then to the community at large.
Read vs. 6-12
In Paphos they came across a sorcerer (Bar-Jesus/Elymas). He is also called a false prophet. He was a companion of Sergius Paulus, the deputy of the country. Paulus is called an intelligent man. He calls for the missionaries to teach him about the word of God. Elymas tried to influence Paulus from believing what Barnabas and Saul were teaching. Paul, as he is called for the first time, was filled with the Holy Spirit and recognized him as a child of the devil and enemy. The Spirit enables Paul to strike him blind. Sergius Paulus was astonished by this miracle and believed.
Re: Saul/Paul’s name
Saul was his Jewish name, Paul was his Roman name. Paul was both a Jew and a Roman citizen. He is now moving away from addressing only Jews and is here beginning to take up his calling as the Apostle to the Gentiles. This may account for the name change.
Paul had the sign gifts of the apostles. Do you remember why the apostles were able to perform miracles? Remember, the New Testament had not yet been written and the church was moving away from the Mosaic Law which had authority over the Jews to the new life and liberty in Christ. This was a big shift in thinking, and the miracles were proof of their authority, given to them by God. How are we to judge today whether teachings have the authority of God?
Vs 13 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, 14 but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia.
John Mark leaves them here. Luke doesn’t give us any details, but later we will learn that John Mark deserted them. Paul later refuses to take John Mark on another missionary journey and Barnabas and Paul disagree so much that they go their separate ways. But later on at the end of his life, Paul asks for John Mark to come to him (2 Tim 4:11) John Mark is given a second chance and Paul accepts him. This is the same John Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark. God is a God of second chances.
Read vs 14-16
When they get to Antioch the went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. After the service, it was customary to invite vistors to say something. Paul stood up to preach. He addresses his sermon to “Men of Israel and you who fear God.” That tells us that there must have been Gentile proselytes there.
Read vs. 17-39
Paul’s sermon is a lot like Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost and Stephen’s sermon before the Sanhedrin. He starts by reviewing Israel’s history as a nation, reminds them of the ministry of John the Baptist and then brings it up to the Gospel—the Person and the Work of Jesus Christ. Central to his message is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He confirms that Jesus is the Messiah by referring to the Old Covenant scriptures and compares David’s death to Jesus’ and ends by declaring that all who believe are justified and that they could never be justified by the law of Moses! This must have been shocking to them! He then goes on and exhorts them not to reject the message. (vs. 40-41)
Read vs. 42-49
When the service was over the Gentiles asked Paul to preach to them the next Sabbath! Some of the Jews and proselytes and some Gentiles followed after Paul and were encouraged to “continue in the grace of God.”
Vs. 44 next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.
People must’ve been talking about what Paul had said in the synagogue because the whole city gathered to hear him speak!
45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.
The Jews were jealous and started causing trouble. But notice what Paul says: “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you.” That has been and will continue to be the pattern. The Gospel goes first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. Sadly, there is a pattern of rejection by the Jews.
Vs 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,
‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.
The Word of God spread throughout the whole region, but Paul and Barnabas were run out of town by the Jews.
Vs. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Shaking the dust off the feet was a Jewish sign of rejection. (Read Matthew 10:14) They go on to Iconium, and the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
*These lessons are written for use with elementary aged students. You can find lessons for previous chapters here.