One Sabbath in Antioch

Monday: The Beginning of the First Journey

Acts 13:13-43 In this week’s studies, Paul and Barnabas go to the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch and show how Jesus is the anticipated Savior seen from Old Testament history.
The Beginning of the First Journey

Acts 13 introduces us to the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul, starting with God’s call of Barnabas and Saul and the commissioning of them by the church at Antioch. 

There were three journeys in all. On the first (Acts 13:4-14:28), Paul and Barnabas sailed from Seleucia near Antioch to Cyprus. They traversed that island and then went to Perga in Pamphylia on the southern coast of what we call Turkey. They traveled inland to Galatia, ministered in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra, and then retraced their steps to the coast and returned to Antioch. At the start of the second journey (Acts 16:1-18:22), the two missionaries parted in a dispute over John Mark who had left them on the first journey and was thought by Paul to be unfit for future service (cf. Acts 13:13; 15:36-41). Barnabas took Mark and returned to Cyprus, while Paul took another missionary named Silas and went overland into Turkey. From there he went on into Europe, worked in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and finally Corinth. On his way home, he made a short stop at Ephesus but did not stay there until the third journey. The final missionary journey (Acts 18:23-20:38) also began by an overland trip through the previously evangelized regions of Turkey, but the bulk of the time was spent at Ephesus. At the end of this journey, Paul sailed back to Jerusalem where he was arrested. 

These three missionary journeys changed the history of Europe forever and, as a result, also the history of the world. 

In Acts 13 we are at the start of these journeys, and it is not long before we find that they were not at all smooth sailing. We begin to pick up hints of the difficulties that were beginning to afflict these workers. 

As far as we know, there were no serious difficulties on Cyprus. But now we begin to notice some. We anticipated one in the last chapter: a shift in leadership. Up to this point, when the names of Barnabas and Saul occur, Barnabas is mentioned first, then Saul. It is because Barnabas was the leader. He had been active in the church at Antioch, and it was he who had recruited Paul. Even the Holy Spirit said, “Separate unto me Barnabas and Saul….” However, somewhere along the line this changed. In verse 13, where we are now, it is not “Barnabas and Saul,” but rather “Paul and his companions.” A little further on, in verse 42, it is “Paul and Barnabas.” This is not just a simple variation. It indicates that somewhere along the line, Paul began to take first place as leader of the missionary party. 

We need not suppose that Barnabas did anything but take this graciously. He seems to have been an extremely gracious man. Still, it must have been a bit difficult for him. 

Second, there is the matter of the missionaries separating over John Mark. Luke mentions this briefly in verse 13, passing over the fact that Paul and Barnabas must have reacted quite differently to Mark’s defection at this point as well as at the start of the second journey. 

Mark had not been called by the Holy Spirit or commissioned by the church as the others had been. Mark was related to Barnabas, and Barnabas probably just said, “Let’s take him along with us,” which is what they did. Mark was with them on Cyprus. But when they arrived in Pamphylia, for some reason, which we do not know, Mark left the others to return to Jerusalem. What we do know is that Paul did not like it. He regarded it as a desertion. So when it came time for the missionaries to begin their second journey, Paul would not take Mark along. Barnabas insisted on giving him another chance. They had an argument and parted company. Think of that. Two great leaders who had worked together so successfully on that first missionary journey now disagreed so strongly that they could not cooperate.

Study Questions
  1. Find a map, perhaps in your Bible, and recount Paul’s three journeys.
  2. What do we learn about the relationship of Paul and Barnabas in verse 13?
  3. Why did Paul and Barnabas have a dispute?

Reflection: Have you ever been witness to the deterioration of fellowship among Christians, or even to a church split? How could the problem have been avoided? What were the consequences and how did you feel?

Prayer: Pray that God would give you the grace needed to work with others, especially believers.

For Further Study: Download and listen for free to Richard Phillips’ message, “Jesus the Missionary.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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