Acts, Lesson 14: Paul’s First Missionary Journey, Pt. 1

Paul and Barnabas, founders of the Church in Cyprus (610x351)Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch after they had delivered aid for the mother Church at Jerusalem. At Antioch, we find out what the Lord has planned for Saul and Barnabas.


The Church calls and commissions Saul and Barnabas to be missionaries

There’s a lot going on in the first few verses of this chapter. So, we will look much deeper into what’s going on than we would normally do studying the book of Acts.

Read Acts 13:1


Excursus: What’s Going On with “Prophets and Teachers” in the New-Covenant Church?

Within the New Testament, we see prophesying and teaching as functions carried out within the New-Covenant Church. Prophets could, at times, foresee future events (Acts 11:27-28, 21:10-11) but, more importantly, they encouraged the assembled community (Acts 15:32, 1 Corinthians 14:3). Teachers educated the faithful in the doctrines of the Christian faith (Acts 11:26, 1 Timothy 2:7). Prophesying and teaching were functions that pastors and deacons often carried out within the Church. We see this overlap of responsibilities in Ephesians 4:11 (the Greek grammar in that passage suggests that pastors and teachers were one function), 1 Timothy 2:17, and 1 Timothy 5:17.

The Didache affirms this understanding. (The Didache is the oldest non-biblical document in the New-Covenant Church. It was a 1st-century document used to help bring adult, Gentile coverts into an ethnically Jewish Church.) Reflecting early Church thinking on prophets and teachers, Didache 15:1 reads: “Therefore, appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord… for they too carry out for you the ministry of the prophets and teachers.”

The Apostle Paul had these words about prophets and teachers in the New-Covenant Church in Romans 12:6-7: “We have different gifts based on the grace that was given to us: If prophesying, in proportion to the faith… if teaching, in teaching …”

  • Paul literally said, “If prophesying, in proportion to the faith.” What isn’t clear is to which “faith” Paul was referring. Was Paul referring to the person’s faith (the faith by which someone believes in Christ) or the faith (the body of doctrine, which the Church is called to believe).
  • If Paul meant the person’s faith, then the more strongly the person prophesying believed in Christ, the more he could proportionally prophesy. If Paul meant the faith, then the more one knew the standard of faith, the doctrines of the Church, the more he could prophesy, that is speak them and apply them in a particular setting.
  • Your pastor believes that Paul was referring to “the faith,” that is, the faith the Church is given to believe. If Paul wanted to refer to the faith of the person, then putting Greek grammar into English, Paul most likely would have said, “in proportion to the faith of you,” or “in proportion to the faith of him,” meaning, “in proportion to your faith” or “in proportion to his faith.” Since Paul only said, “the faith,” then it makes more sense that he was referring to something objective: the faith that we are given to believe.

In ranking the various gifts and talents within the Church, Paul wrote this to the Church at Corinth: “God has appointed in the Church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then healing, then helping, then leading, and then various kinds of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:28).

  • Ironically, what Paul didn’t mention was pastors/elders/bishops. However, since 1st Corinthians was written by the Apostle Paul and Pastor Sosthenes (Silas), the authorship of 1st Corinthians carries with it the idea that the Apostolic Office was continuing in the Pastoral Office (although pastors would not become Apostles in the truest sense, of those directly called by Jesus). Thus, after the Apostles died, pastors would be in the Church to fill that role in 1st Corinthians 12:28.

Ephesians 4:11-13:

And he [Christ] gave [note this is the primary verb in these three verses] some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, and still others to be pastors and teachers: to equip [noun] the saints, for service work/ministry, and for building [noun] the body of Christ until we arrive [secondary verb] at unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, into a mature man, into the measure and maturity of Christ’s fullness.


Lesson 14, Ephesians 4.11-13


  • For what purpose does God use Church workers, in this case, prophets and teachers?



Read Acts 13:2-3

The five men in these verses: All five men were Greek-speaking Jews. Barnabas came to Antioch from Jerusalem (Acts 11:22, 27), Symeon and Lucius came from Africa (Acts 11:20), Manaen came from Herod’s court in Galilee (Luke 3:1), and Saul was from Tarsus in Asia Minor (Acts 11:25-26).

“Worshiping the Lord”: The verb for worship in this verse is leitourgeo. In 1st-century Greek, leitourgeo referred to acts of public service performed for the state, which included participation in its public religious rituals. The Greek-language Old Testament, the Septuagint, used leitourgeo to refer to the worship acts that Aaronic priests and their Levitical assistants performed in the Temple (Exodus 28:43, Numbers 18:2, and Sirach 45:15 in; see also Hebrews 10:11 in the New Testament). Luke’s use of leitourgeo is in line with that biblical usage. This reveals that the church at Antioch worshiped the Lord through various liturgical actions, including the Lord’s Supper. We know leitourgeo has that meaning attached to it because the early Church fathers used leitourgeo referring to the Lord’s Supper liturgy. This verse could be translated: “as they performed the liturgy to the Lord.”

Fasting: Earlier, we covered the what and why of fasting. As a recap, Scripture shows us that fasting is a way of humbling yourself before God (sometimes in repentance, as in 1 Samuel 7:6), or asking for His help. For example, the Israelites fasted when they sought God’s guidance at a time of civil war (Judges 20:26). The elderly widow and prophetess, Anna, worshiped God with prayer and fasting as she awaited “the redemption of Jerusalem,” that is, the coming of the Messiah (Luke 2:36-38). In these verses in Acts, the leaders in the church at Antioch were fasting as they sought God’s will for their congregation.

Ordained or Commissioned?: The laying on of hands in these verses do not refer to ordination but, instead, commissioning. Both Paul and Barnabas were already serving in the public ministry of the church. The church at Jerusalem had earlier sent Barnabas to serve as pastor for the church in Antioch (Acts 11:22). Paul attributes his apostolic authority to a call directly by Jesus (Galatians 1:1, 15-16).

But now, through the Church, God will call Saul and Barnabas to serve in another capacity. That’s what the laying on of hands in these verses signifies. “Sent them off” could be translated more literally as “released them.” And that’s what the church at Antioch did: they released Barnabas and Saul from their work there so they could go and undertake missionary work.

When Paul and Barnabas completed their missionary journey, they would return and report back to the congregation at Antioch, who had sent them (Acts 14:26-27).


Saul and Barnabas go to Cyprus

Read Acts 13:4-5

  • Although the congregation at Antioch had sent Saul and Barnabas, whom does Luke credit for sending them?


  • What does this mean when a congregation “calls” a pastor?


  • To whom do Saul and Barnabas first go to “proclaim the Word”? (Note: we will look into the significance of this more deeply when we study Acts, chapter 18)


For Saul, going first to the synagogue to proclaim the Word of Jesus was both practical and theological. On the practical side, synagogues already served as weekly gathering places where Jews and, sometimes, even Gentiles gathered for prayer and religious instruction. Theologically, Saul was convinced that he should first tell the Jews that Jesus is the long-promised Messiah, for the Gospel “is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16, Acts 13:46).


Read Acts 13:6-11

Saul and Barnabas first sail to Cyprus, the home of Barnabas (Acts 4:36).

  • Who is Bar-Jesus?


  • What happens to him?


  • As we learned from earlier study on the book of Acts, what was the purpose of such miracles?


Note: In Acts 13:9, Saul is now referred to as “Paul” throughout Acts and the rest of the New Testament. Paul is a Roman name; Saul is a Hebrew name. Many Jews of this time had two names, one Jewish and another Greek or Roman. Paul may have begun to favor his Roman name for a couple of reasons: 1) Paul means “little.” By using his Roman name, Paul was showing that, on his own, he was not worthy to be an Apostle (1 Corinthians 15:9). 2) Paul’s ministry was now becoming more focused on the Gentiles.


Read Acts 13:12

  • What was the result of what took place?


A Map of Paul’s First Missionary Journey

 Lesson 14, Pauls first missionary journey


Paul and Barnabas at Antioch (in Pisidia)

Read Acts 13:13-15

The rulers of the synagogue considered Paul and Barnabas as important Jewish visitors, perhaps recognizing that Paul was a rabbi. So, they invited them to speak a word of encouragement for the people, which is a scriptural sermon or homily. The book to the Hebrews describes itself as a “word of encouragement” (Hebrews 13:22), using the same Greek phrase that Luke used.


Read Acts 13:16-41

In his sermon, Paul highlighted that Jesus fulfilled the Davidic covenant by rising from the dead to an everlasting kingship (Acts 13:33-37), meaning that only Jesus is the true Messiah. Paul also preached that Jesus superseded the Mosaic covenant by bringing about God’s forgiveness (Acts 13:38). That meant that the Old Covenant was no longer the true covenant with God (Acts 13:39).

Within that message, Paul highlighted Israelite history from its exodus from Egypt to the coming of Jesus, preached with a specific purpose.

  • Did Paul expose the sin of Israel (Law)? (vs. 27-28)


  • Did Paul preach who Jesus was and is? (vs. 32-33)


  • Did Paul preach that someone has forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ (Gospel)? (vs. 38)


  • Did Paul preach in a way that showed that the Word has the power to do what is says or as an offer he presented to the people?
  • Discuss: Can Paul’s preaching serve as model for us today about what a sermon should be? (remember Luke 24:47)


Read Acts 13:42-43

  • What was the response to Paul’s preaching?


Read Acts 13:44-47

  • How did the Jews respond to the people of Antioch gathering to hear the Word of the Lord?


  • What did Paul and Barnabas then say?


Paul and Barnabas quoted Isaiah 49:6. In Isaiah, God commissioned His servant, first, to restore the dispersed tribes of Israel. Then His servant was to spread His salvation to all nations, meaning Gentiles are included. As in Isaiah, where the servant symbolizes both the redeemer (individual) and the redeemed (collective), Paul contends that Jesus, the Servant (Acts 3:13), continues His mission through His servant Apostles and pastors who are sent to enlighten the Gentiles (Acts 26:17-18, 23).


Read Acts 13:48-52

  • Concerning salvation, who among the Gentiles believed? (vs. 38)


The Greek word for “appointed” (tasso) has military imagery behind it, as in assigned or allotted a spot within a military formation. Luke used the passive voice to show that that God is the doer: God has appointed these Gentiles for eternal life. This shows that salvation is 100% God’s doing.

  • What then happened to Paul and Barnabas? (vs. 50)


  • Despite that, what was their state of being? (vs. 52)


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