This is the second post in a series on the Apostle Paul’s life and ministry. Read the first post here.
Paul’s First Missionary Journey
Mission in Galatia
Paul and Barnabas were sent out from the church in Antioch, Syria (Acts 13:1-3). They were assisted by John Mark, who would leave them to return to Jerusalem later in the journey (Act 13:6, 13). Initially they went to Seleucia from where they would sail to Cyprus (Acts 13:4). In Cyprus they visited both Salamis (Acts 13:5) and Pathos, from where they would sail to the region of Pamphylia (Acts 13:13). From Perga in Pamphylia they travelled to Antioch in the region of Pisidia (Acts 13:14). After spending at least two Sabbaths in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:14, 42, 44), they went to Iconium under the threat of persecution (Acts 13:50-51). Again, after having their lives threatened, they fled to Lystra in the Lycaonian region (Acts 14:6). Paul survived being stoned by his enemies (Acts 14:19) in Lystra and from there travelled to Derbe with Barnabas (Acts 14:20). They made disciples in Derbe and thereafter started back on their journey to Antioch in Syria – initially passing through Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch (Acts 14:21). On their way back, they strengthened the disciples and appointed elders in every church (Acts 14:22-23). They came back to the region of Pamphylia and spoke the word in Perga (Acts 14:24-25). Thereafter they went down to Attalia, from where they sailed back to Antioch in Syria (Acts 14:25-26).
Paul’s Ministry Strategy
Paul’s main ministry strategy was to proclaim the word of God in the Jewish synagogues in these towns visited (Acts 13:5, 14-15, 44; Acts 14:1). The typical content of these proclamations or sermons can be deduced from the recording of what he spoke in Pisidian Antioch in Acts 13:16-41. The basic outline of this message is as follows:
- The God of Israel has been faithful to His promises
- Jesus is the promised Messiah and Saviour from David’s line
- John the Baptist had proclaimed a baptism of repentance in preparing the way for Jesus
- The Jewish people in Jerusalem had put their own Messiah to death
- God raised Jesus from the dead
- Christ’s resurrection can be testified to by multiple witnesses
- The resurrection is a fulfilment of the Old Testament
- Forgiveness of sins is proclaimed through the risen Messiah
- Everyone who believes in Him will be justified
The Jerusalem Council
The Need for the Jerusalem Council At Antioch, men from Judea (Gal 2:12) started teaching that Mosaic Law observance, with specific focus on circumcision, was necessary for salvation (Acts 15:1, 5). This even caused a confrontation between Paul and Peter at Antioch, because Peter would no longer eat with the Gentiles when these men arrived from Judea, thereby denying the unity that the gospel produced (Gal 2:11-14). Paul and Barnabas were appointed by the church to go to Jerusalem to meet the apostles and elders about this issue (Acts 15:3). Along the way, in Phoenicia and Samaria, they testified to the conversion of the Gentiles (Acts 15:4).
The Verdict from the Jerusalem Council The major conclusions from the Jerusalem Council can be summarised as follows:
- God makes no distinction between Jew and Gentile since salvation is by faith (Acts 15:9)
- Jews are saved by grace as much as Gentiles are, therefore it is not necessary to add the yoke of the Law (Acts 15:11, 28)
- Salvation extended to the Gentiles is consistent with OT prophetic expectations (Acts 15:16-18)
- In consideration of Jewish sensibilities, Gentiles should abstain from things polluted by idols, sexual immorality, and from eating anything strangled or from blood (Acts 15:20-21, 29)
A letter was sent to Antioch with the council’s decision regarding this matter. Barsabbas (Judas) and Silas were sent to Antioch to accompany Paul and Barnabas to testify to this decision (Acts 15:22-29). The letter was well received in Antioch (Acts 15:31), Judas and Silas encouraged the church (Acts 15:32) and Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch to teach and proclaim the word of God (Acts 15:35).