The First Missionary Journey (13:4-14:28)

Bible Passage: Acts 13:4-14:28

This is a lengthy passage that covers the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas once they had been sent out from the church in Antioch. Their main focus was Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and Cyprus, and this was the first time a missionary journey had gone out with a focus on reaching both Jews and Gentiles. Because this is a long passage you might want to choose certain sections to read and summarise other parts. A few features of this missionary journey to draw out are:

The Gospel Comes With Power: When the team arrived at their first stop (Cyprus) they were confronted by a magician named Bar-Jesus, who had ingratiated himself with the proconsul of the island. As Bar-Jesus heard the gospel preached he realised that it was a threat to his power and he stirred up trouble. Paul rebuked him, and he was temporarily struck blind (in an echo of what had happened to Paul himself when he opposed Jesus). In Lystra and Derbe, when the crowds saw the spiritual power that accompanied Paul and Barnabas, they thought that Zeus and Hermes were visiting them until Paul and Barnabas assured them otherwise! In both places the gospel came not only with words but with spiritual power that demonstrated its truth. As we seek to spread the gospel, let us not neglect this but seek God for works of power that accompany his word.

Crossing Racial Barriers: It was in Antioch that there had first been a drive to share the gospel with the Greek speaking community, and this became a feature of this missionary journey. In Pisidian Antioch, they went to the synagogue on the sabbath day and were invited to give a word of exhortation. Paul reasoned from the scriptures, showing that Jesus was the promised messiah and the fulfilment of the Old Testament, and people initially responded, before the message was contradicted and opposed. Because of this they turned to the Gentiles and many believed. Similarly in Iconium, there was a response to the gospel from both Jews and Gentiles. This became a pattern for Paul wherever he went, going to the synagogue first and then reaching out to the Gentiles. As we share the gospel we should be looking not only to one ethnic or cultural group, but should have a heart for reaching people from lots of different backgrounds.

Opposition to the Gospel: As Paul and Barnabas went from place to place, opposition followed them. In Lystra and Derbe, there was a positive response to the gospel initially, but this soured when people came from Pisidian Antioch and Iconium who had opposed the apostles in those places and brought their opposition with them. The persecution became so fierce that they tried to kill Paul! As they returned the way they came, they looked to strengthen the fledgling churches and appoint elders. On this journey Paul reflected on their experience, that it is through many tribulations we enter the kingdom. We should be ready for opposition and hardship as we engage in God’s mission!

Potential Applications:

  • This passage highlights the power of God and we should pray that we see mighty signs and wonders accompanying our gospel ministry.
  • Challenge people to think about who those people are who don’t seem obvious to share the gospel with. Think about what you can do to reach such people.
  • You could offer some time where you pray for any who are currently going through a hard time for their faith.