The 1st Missionary Tour of Paul (Acts 13-15:35)


Paul and Barnabas were separated by the Holy Spirit from the church in Antioch to be sent out on the first missionary tour to foreign lands. It was wildly successful, establishing the church in many foreign ports. Paul would take three strictly missionary tours along with his trip in captivity to carry the Gospel to the very house of Caesar in Rome. Here begins the great mission to the "uttermost parts of the world".

  1. Introduction:
    1. Acts chapter 13 begins another part of history of the early church. Christ had said that the disciples would be his witnesses first in Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, and finally to the uttermost parts of the world (Acts 1:8). We have seen by the previous presentations how the preaching of the word in the name of Jesus began at Jerusalem and spread abroad. In Acts 11:19-26 we learned of the establishment of the church in the great Gentile city of Antioch in Syria. Here the disciples were first called Christians. Disciples of the church in Antioch had sent Saul and Barnabas on a relief mission to Jerusalem, from which they had just returned (Acts 11:27 ; 12:25). Now Antioch becomes the center from which the gospel spreads through a series of missionary tours in which Saul (soon to be called Paul) becomes the leader.
  2. Paul's First Missionary Journey.
    1. At Antioch of Syria. 13:1
      1. Antioch becomes the center from which the Gospel spreads. It is geographically situated on some of the main travel routes by land and by sea. Antioch is located about 300 miles north of Jerusalem, on the west bank of the Orontes River. In ancient times it was called the "Queen of the East" because of the beauty of its surroundings, the importance of its commerce, and its strategic location on intersecting caravan routes between the east, west, north, and south. Also called Caesarea. Population: 500,000.
      2. Prophets and Teachers. "Prophet" as used here probably differs little from "teacher." Both words signify those who speak for the Lord in exposition of His word, though "prophet" sometimes implies speaking by direct revelation. Those listed are:
        1. Barnabas - Joses surnamed Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement). He was a Levite of the country of Cyprus. Acts 4:36-37; 11:19-26.
        2. Simeon who was called Niger.
        3. Lucius of Cyrene. Cyrene was a place in north Africa. Lucius is thought to be the same person who is later a companion of Paul when the letter is written to the Romans (Rom 16:21). Tradition claims him to have been ordained a elder of the church at Cenchreae?
        4. Manaen - "Manaen" is the Greek way of spelling the Jewish name Menahem, and indicates that he may have been a Jewish boy who became closely connected with the Herod household. The word suntrophos (4939) (here translated "brought up with" or "foster brother") is somewhat of a question? It may mean to grow up together or even be a court title. He was brought up with Herod Antipas and probably his foster brother.
        5. Saul - Later called Paul. Born in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia. From a devout Jewish family. Said he was "brought up" in Jerusalem.
      3. 13:2 - As these were engaged in ministering and fasting, the Holy Spirit gave a revelation (probably through one of the prophets) that Barnabas and Saul should be separated (873) (to appoint, set apart, one for some purpose - to do something) for a work to which He had called them.
        1. "Ministering" (3008) here is the word for participating in worship rites. It is the word that gives us the word "liturgy" for worship or service. Leitourgeo is a word regularly used in the Old Testament and the New Testament of the work of the priests and Levites in the temple. It is used by the Catholic church as a proof text for their priesthood. It is also used by Protestant churches as a proof text that only ordained clergymen may officiate at the worship services. This word is not limited to worship services only. Our word "liturgy" (which has special reference to the communion service) does come from this Greek word, but it was not used as such in New Testament times, but to later ecclesiastical practices.
        2. 13:3 - Fasting (3522) in this context is to be understood as a devotional exercise intended to solemnize the occasion.
        3. Laid hands on them. This was a means of appointment or ordination to a special work or office. Here the work is that of missionaries of the Church at Antioch. The Holy Spirit guided them and sent them.
  3. Cities Visited On Paul's First Missionary Tour.
    1. 13:4 Down to Seleucia. Seleucia was founded in 300 BC by Seleucis I Nicator, to provide a seaport for Syrian Antioch. This city was located near the mouth of the Orontes River, where it empties into the Mediterranean Ocean. The distance from Antioch to Seleucia by water was 41 miles, over land was 16 miles. It was often called Seleucia by the sea.
    2. From there sailed to Cyprus. It was an island of Asia in the Mediterranean. It is about 140 miles long and 50 miles wide. Its two chief cities are Salamis, at the east end of the island, and Paphos at the west end. Since Caesar Augustus had farmed out the copper mines of Cyprus to Herod the Great, considerable numbers of Jews had moved to Cyprus to work there. Barnabas was a native of the island, and acquainted with conditions there. Some evangelistic work had already been done there (Acts 11:19). The Church at Antioch was originally founded, in part, by men from Cyprus (Acts 11:20).
    3. 13:5 Arrived in Salamis. It was the largest city on the island of Cyprus. Located on the southeast part of the island. Were many synagogues in this city and therefore many Jews as well. Many of the Cypriots were mostly worshippers of Aphrodite or Venus, and whose worship included human sacrifice.
      1. They preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. Preaching to the Jews first and then to the Greeks as ordered by God.
      2. They also had John as their assistant (5257) (helper, deacon, minister). He is a cousin of Barnabas. The first mention of the presence of John Mark is made here; accompanied Barnabas and Saul from Jerusalem (Acts 12:25) and sailed with them from Seleucia.
    4. 13:6-12 To Paphos. Lot of Worshippers of Aphrodite here and a large temple and harlot priestesses who served in the temple.
      1. In Paphos the provincial center the group encounters a Jewish sorcerer, Elymas - Bar-Jesus, who had attached himself to the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus. The governor is described by Luke as a "man of understanding" that is "one possessing good sense and wisdom or perception." Due to the decay of belief in their mythological gods, many interested Romans turned to the study of other religions, especially that of the Jews. That is why an evil man like Elymas, who though a Jew, practicing arts of astrology, magic, and divination learned from the Babylonians, could attach himself to the Roman governor. The practice had become common among some Jews (Acts 19:13).
      2. Sergius Paulus desired to hear the gospel, but Elymas knew this would be the end of his influence. So he tried to turn the proconsul's hearing away from the preachers. At this point Saul (his new name of Paul is used here for the first time) took the lead. In harsh language he rebuked the sorcerer as "the son of the devil," one "full of all guile and villainy" and pronounced a sentence of blindness upon him. Immediately he became blind.
      3. The governor, seeing and being astonished, believed. He became a believer and followed the whole process of obedience to the gospel.
    5. 13:13 - Sailed from Paphos to Perga in Pamphylia. Pamphylia was one of the provinces of Asia Minor (Turkey today). It was north of Cyprus about 100 miles, and had Cilicia on its eastern border, Lycia on its western, and Pisidia on the north, with the waters of the Mediterranean forming its southern boundary. Perga was the capital city of the province. It was located not on the seacoast but about 7 miles inland on the Cestius River. There was a mountain near the city a celebrated temple of Diana or Artemis. There are extensive Greek and Romans ruins in Perga.
      1. John Mark departs to Jerusalem. We do not know the reason for his leaving but we do know it displeased Paul. It caused a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas later in (Acts 15:37-40). Differences between Paul and Mark are settled later (Col. 4:10)
    6. 13:14-52 - Departed Perga to Antioch in Pisidia. Leaving Perga they traveled about 100 miles north to Antioch Pisidia. Luke does not mention the hardships of this journey but Paul makes later reference to them in (2 Cor. 11:26). This was a great city on the main route between Ephesus and Cilicia. There was a considerable Jewish population there.
      1. Paul preaches the gospel in Antioch Pisidia. Having been invited to speak Paul addressed the synagogue. He starts by greeting the two groups, the Jews "men of Israel" and Gentile God-fearers "ye that fear God."
      2. In Acts 13:16-22 This section is a reminder of the principal actions of God in Israel's behalf. Paul states the points the Jews usually made in reviewing how their faith had been created by God's mighty deeds on Israel's behalf. He chose Israel (v.17), led them from Egypt after the temporary bondage (v.17), bare them forty years in the wilderness (v.18), destroyed the Canaanite nations and gave them the land (v.19), raised up judges to rule them until Samuel (v.20), and then gave them King Saul (v.21). Finally the great King David was raised up. He was a "man after God's own heart" who would do all the Lord's will (v.22).
      3. In Acts 13:23-26 Paul affirmed that out of David's seed hath God according to the promise brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus (v.23). The promise referred to is that of 2Sam. 7:12, where Nathan promised David that while he slept that God would raise up one to sit on his throne. That fulfillment occurred as John the Baptist had begun to preach baptism of repentance (v.24). He himself bore witness to the coming of Christ by denying that he himself was the Messiah but that one was coming far greater than he (v.25). Paul then affirms "Brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and those among you that fear God, to us is the word of this salvation sent forth" (v.26).
      4. In Acts 13:27-30 The Jews in Jerusalem and their rulers had not understood the teachings of the prophets which were read in the synagogue every Sabbath and had fulfilled the predictions of the scriptures by putting Jesus to death (v.27), even when He was found innocent of any crime worthy of death (v.28). They took Jesus down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb (v.29). But God raised him from the dead (v.30). Mention of the burial emphasizes the actuality of death and thus the reality of the resurrection.
      5. In Acts 13:31-41 After the resurrection Jesus was seen for about 40 days by His followers. These were His witnesses among the people (v.31). Those who knew Him the best and the most personally recognized Him as the risen Lord and now testified that indeed He had risen from the dead. Paul states in (v.32) "We bring you good tidings of the promise made unto the fathers, that God hath fulfilled the same unto our children, in that He raised up Jesus." Paul then quotes three Old Testament writings to prove the resurrection of Jesus (Psa. 2:7; Isa. 55:3; Psa. 16:10) (v.33-35). David died and saw corruption but Jesus raised from the dead and saw no corruption (v.36-37). Through faith in Jesus there is forgiveness of sins, it was not possible to be justified under the law of Moses (v.38-39). Beware and believe this message or you will perish - die in your sins (v.40-41).
      6. In Acts 13:42-52 This message heard for the first time by the people in Antioch Pisidia aroused much interest. They were asked to return and speak the next Sabbath (v.42). Many Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas and were encouraged by them (v.43). On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came to hear the word of God (v.44). This great interest caused jealousy among many of the Jews, and they contradicted and reviled the things spoken by Paul (v.45). Paul boldly states that the Jews had judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, "Lo we turn to the Gentiles" (Isa. 49:6) (v.46-47). The Gentiles were glad and many believed (v.48). The gospel spread through the whole region (v.49). The Jews stirred up leading women in the city and led an attack through the rulers of the city to drive them out (v.50). They shook the dust from their feet (Luke 10:11-12) and went to Iconium (v.51). A good church was left at Antioch Pisidia and the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit (v.52).
    7. 14:1-3 - At Iconium. This city (Konya today) was in the region of Phrygia, and located near the border between Phrygia and Lycaonia. Iconium was about 60 miles southeast of Antioch Pisidia. Several Roman roads met at this point and therefore an important center for teaching the gospel. This region is also part of the Roman province of Galatia at this time. Iconium is the capital of Lycaonia in Asia Minor. It was a large and rich city, 120 miles north from the Mediterranean Sea, at the foot of the Taurus mountains, and on the great line of communication between Ephesus and the western coast of the peninsula on one side, and Tarsus, Antioch and the Euphrates on the other.
      1. Many Jews and Greeks believed. This is very similar to what took place in Antioch Pisidia. They would seek out the local Jewish population, at the synagogue if there was one, and preach the gospel to them. Some Jews and some Gentiles would believe. The unbelieving Jews would cause opposition and Paul would be forced to move on. By going to the synagogue at Iconium they could reach the Jews and proselytes would put them in contact with other Gentiles. They performed many miracles here and stayed here a long time.
      2. 14:4-6 The multitude of the city was divided, some for and some against the apostles. When they heard of the plan to stone and abuse them they had to flee. Not only the envious Jews but also the Gentiles and rulers of the city were involved so they retreated to Lycaonia.
    8. 14:6-20 Flee to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia. Lycaonia was one of the ethnic provinces of Asia Minor in pre-Roman times. Lystra was about 40 miles to the southeast of Iconium, and Derbe was about 20 miles farther to the east. Lystra had been made a Roman colony by Augustus in 6 A.D. Derbe was in the extreme southeast corner of the Lycaonian plain, almost on the border between Lycaonia and Cilicia. It was the first city a traveler came to after passing through the mountain pass called "the Cilician Gates" as he traveled to the east towards south Galatia. Both these cities would have been commercial centers for the whole region. At Derbe there would have been a customs house, where customs on goods entering the country would have been collected. A temple and statue of Zeus just outside the city.
      1. In this Greco-Roman town of Lystra there was no synagogue, for the account states that Paul proclaimed the word in the streets of the town, by the gate and marketplace. Paul healed a lame man who had been crippled from birth (v.8-10). This miracle made the pagan multitude think their gods had come down in human form (v.11). Such superstition was common. So the Lystrans called Paul (Hermes, Mercury) and Barnabas (Zeus, Jupiter). The people intended to sacrifice to and worship them as gods (v.12-13).
      2. Paul states "why are you doing these things?" We are men just as you are. Turn from these vain things you are doing and serve the living God (v.15-18). We've come to get you to stop such idol worship, not encourage it.
      3. In verses 19-20 The enemies of Paul in Iconium and Antioch Pisidia heard he was at Lystra. The persecutors traveled a distance of over 100 miles in order to continue their active opposition to Paul and Barnabas, and to keep the Lycaonians from becoming involved in this new religion. These men persuaded the multitudes that Paul was an impostor. A short time ago they were ready to worship them, and now they give permission for them to be stoned.
      4. The visiting Jews did the stoning. They were satisfied they were stoning a blasphemer because Paul taught grace rather than obedience to the Old Law. Then Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city and they thought he was dead.
    9. 14:21-28 From Lystra to Derbe. Derbe was 20 miles away to the southeast. They preached the gospel to that city and converted many disciples.
      1. They then return to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch Pisidia. They go back to visit the new congregations they have just started. What great faith to return to these places they have been badly persecuted. Not only are men to be won to Christ, but the converts must be conserved! The welfare of the new Churches was more important than their own physical safety.
      2. They were strengthening, encouraging, and appointing the disciples they had made in these cities. Increasing their faith. They are warning the brethren of persecutions and affliction that will be coming upon them. Though persecution is unpleasant if they will continue with Christ to the end they will have eternal life in heaven.
      3. They appointed for them elders in every church (v.23). Prayer and fasting here as in (Acts 13:1-2) expound the seriousness of this selection.
      4. The return trip from the interior of Asia Minor to Antioch of Syria was told by Luke in a few words. The group passed through Pisidia, Pamphylia, and Perga (where they again preached), Attalia (from which they sailed), and finally back to Antioch of Syria (v.24-26).
      5. Attalia was a town on the seacoast, about 16 miles from Perga. Modern name is Antalya. Probably found no ship bound for Syria at Perga so traveled to Attalia to find a ship back to Antioch of Syria.
      6. On their return to the church which had sent them out, they gathered the whole congregation for a report. They told all that God had done with them and how the door of faith for the Gentiles had been opened (v.27). They stayed here a long time with the disciples (v.28). They had done all the Holy Spirit had intended for them to do and concluded the first missionary journey. Paul and Barnabas traveled over 1200 miles and established more than half a dozen churches in the 2-4 years they were gone on this journey.
  4. The Troubles Over Circumcision And The Jerusalem Council. Acts 15:1-35
    1. 15:1 Men who came from Judea. These were men who were supposedly converted Jews from the sect of the Pharisees. In Gal. 2:4 they are referred to as "false brethren who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty." They came from Jerusalem to Antioch of Syria, and claimed to have been sent from the apostles.
      1. They were causing a great disturbance among the church in Antioch by their teaching that circumcision must be practiced and probably a few other Jewish customs as well.
      2. The Judaizers regarded circumcision (and the keeping of the whole law) as indispensable to salvation. They wished to force the keeping of the Law on the Gentile converts, and they claimed that the church in Jerusalem had authorized them to so teach, which was a false claim (15:24). It is very difficult for you and I to understand the vast importance of the Law to a Jew.
    2. 15:2 - Paul and Barnabas both knew that this was a false teaching. Paul received the gospel he preached through direct revelation from Christ (Gal. 1:11-12).
      1. Dissension (4714) - discord, strife, insurrection
      2. Disputation (4803) - discussion, questioning
      3. It was decided that Paul and Barnabas and certain others should go to Jerusalem with this question. In Gal. 2:2 tells us they went to Jerusalem because of a revelation. Gal. 2:1 tells us that Titus is one of the "certain others" that went with them.
      4. They went to Jerusalem because this is where the majority of the twelve apostles were. The Judaizers and some others probably did not regard Paul's opinion or authority as an apostle (Gal. 2:6-9). The date of this trip to Jerusalem is 51 A.D.
    3. 15:3 Sent on their way by the church. Passed through Phoenicia and Samaria. As they traveled through these cities they told of the success of their first missionary journey and the conversion of the Gentiles and there was great joy.
    4. 15:4 It was a journey of approx. 300 miles from Antioch to Jerusalem. They were received and welcomed. Paul and Barnabas told of the church work that God had been doing through them.
    5. 15:5-6 Certain "converted" Pharisees, stood up saying it was necessary to circumcise these Gentile converts and direct them to observe the Law of Moses.
      1. The apostles and elders came together to look into this matter. When we compare the language of 15:6 with that of 15:4, we are led to see that verse 6 speaks of a different meeting than verses 4 and 5 did. In that first meeting Paul and Barnabas had declared in detail the conversion of the Gentiles. Then the Judaizers stated their position, insisting that the Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to keep the law. At this point the meeting seems to have been dismissed. Then verse 6 introduces us to a second public meeting which continues through verse 29. Compare Gal. 2.
      2. The purpose of the second meeting was to enable the apostles to bring the whole church into agreement with themselves.
    6. 15:7-11 In this speech Peter, in agreement with Paul and Barnabas, clearly endorsed the position of freedom from the law. He emphasized three points:
      1. God had chosen Peter to preach to Cornelius and his house and they had been accepted by obeying the gospel alone and were not required to be circumcised.
      2. The law was a yoke which the Jews themselves were never able to keep.
      3. That Jew and Gentile shall be saved in the same manner, that is, by the grace of God and not by the Law.
    7. 15:12 Then Paul and Barnabas spoke of the miracles and works that God performed through them on their first missionary journey which further convinced the people God accepted the Gentiles. They appeal to what God had done and this was evidence that God approved their ministry.
    8. 15:13-21 James the Lord's brother is the next speaker. James was acknowledged as a great Jewish personality and had great influence (according to Josephus). James' name had been used by the Judaizers (Gal. 2:12) and perhaps they expected James to support their circumcision position. James agrees completely with Peter, Paul, and Barnabas and his summary restates several of their arguments already made.
      1. In verse 14, he approved what Simeon or Peter had said in appealing to the conversion of Cornelius. He quoted from the prophet Amos in agreement with the statements of Peter (Amos 9:11-12). This quotation predicted that the tabernacle of David would be reestablished and that the Gentiles would be included in the covenant.
      2. In verse 19, James states the Gentiles should not be troubled by the addition of any burden beyond that of acceptance of the gospel. However, he cautioned that a letter should be written to these Gentile Christians to urge them to (v.20) "abstain from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from what is strangled, and from blood." James states the fact that "Moses from generations of old hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogue every Sabbath" as the reason these four things should be kept by the Gentiles.
    9. 15:22-29 The letter. Following James' suggestion that a letter be written (v.22), "Then it seemed good to the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to choose out men of their company, and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas called Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren." The reason for their coming is stated in (v.27) "they themselves shall tell you the same things by word of mouth." There would be no mistaking the message which came by word of mouth and by letter.
      1. In verses 23-29, the letter followed the suggestions made by James. The letter was to; the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Cilicia; from the apostles, elders, and brethren.
      2. In verse 24, the letter disclaimed responsibility of the Jerusalem church for the Judaizers who had gone out troubling the church with the false doctrine of keeping the Law.
    10. 15:30-35 Paul, Barnabas, Silas, and Barsabas traveled back to Antioch from which they had been sent. The church was gathered together and the letter read and Silas and Barsabas exhorted the brethren and confirmed the message.
      1. The news brought rejoicing for the consolation it contained (v.31).
      2. After spending some time in Antioch of Syria, Silas and Barsabas were sent back to Jerusalem. But Silas saw fit to stay in Antioch (v.34) and would accompany Paul on his next (second) missionary journey travels.