Paul’s First Missionary Trip
We often read of Apostle Paul’s First Missionary Journey, but this description is incomplete.
It fails to mention that his first missionary trip consisted of at least two other disciples of Jesus Christ.
Similarly, many Christians often overlook the importance of Paul’s first missionary excursion.
But under close examination, it shows that God is just and that He’s a God of the Gentiles too. It also marks the change in name of Saul, his promotion, his call to ministry, and his answer and obedience to the Holy Ghost.
Finally, it indicates the introduction of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
Where did Paul’s First Missionary Journey Start?
Paul’s First Missionary Journey started in Antioch. It began with him and Barnabas.
Both of them left Antioch together. They traveled, more or less, in a circuit, then returned to Antioch. They started in this city and they finished here.
At that time, Barnabas was the main speaker in this two-man team. We observe this when the Scriptures make multiple references of Barnabas and Saul, thus placing Barnabas before Saul.
As a result, they left Antioch and traveled to “Seleucia and from [there] they sailed to Cyprus,” (Acts 13:4).
However, in the Mediterranean Sea, on the island of Cyprus, they stopped in the city of Salamis. There they preached the Word of God to the Jews.
Apostles Paul – Barnabas and Mark First Missionary Expedition
As these two apostles navigated the diverse terrains of their first missionary voyage, they added another disciple to their team. He’s Apostle John Mark.
It was in Salamis that they met John Mark and there he joined them and together they continued on their first missionary journey, (Acts 13:5).
Up to this point, on their excursion, they were only preaching to the Jews, (Acts 13:5).
Next, the three-man team of Barnabas, Paul, and Mark journeyed in-land on the island of Cyprus to the South-Western City of Paphos, (Acts 13:6).
This pattern of sailing where possible and traveling the remainder of the distance in-land has become a pattern for traveling for Paul and his team on this first excursion.
What is the Distance of Paul’s First Missionary Excursion?
I know some readers will ask: What is the distance of Paul’s First Missionary Journey?
To discover this, we could measure the distances between the places that he visited and total those measurements.
This should provide a realistic approximation of the distance Paul traveled on his First Missionary Voyage.
“Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem,” (Acts 13:13).
At this point, they left the island of Cyprus and sailed back to the Continent of Europe.
Nevertheless, when they arrived at Perga, John had a change of heart. He abandoned them and returned to Jerusalem.
A Map of Paul’s First Missionary Voyage Will Help
Again, the now two-man team, of Barnabas and Paul, continues its tradition of ministering the Word of God only to the Jews.
Consequently, as they traveled farther in-land into Euro-Asia they continued to visit Jewish synagogues and to teach and preach only to them.
“But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the [S]abbath [D]ay, and sat down,” (Acts 13:14).
An examination of a map of Paul’s first missionary journey will assist you in understanding the route that they took.
The Importance of Paul’s First Missionary Journey
If it wasn’t for the obedience of Paul, salvation would not have come to the Gentiles. All the other Apostles were preaching only to Jews.
The Gentiles were left out of this great inheritance. He brought the Word of God to Gentiles. This enables them to hear, receive, repent, and believe it, then turn to God. This empowered them to have eternal life.
Note, too that Apostle Paul started his first missionary expedition also preaching and teaching only to the Jews. What happened to change that? He is famously known as the Apostle of the Gentiles as Peter is the Apostle of the Jews.
However, in Antioch in Pisidia, they visited the synagogue. While they were there the equivalent of today’s bishops, invited both Barnabas and Paul to speak to the congregation.
“And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on,” (Acts 13:15).
Paul Demonstrates that he is the Leader of this Expedition
However, observe who took the initiative and the lead role to speak to the congregation, in the verse of Scripture below.
This preaching, right here, marks the promotion of Paul over Barnabas. Hence, from here on, in Scriptures, he is the main speaker of the team.
“Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience,” (Acts 13:16).
Accordingly, with their focus of preaching and teaching only to the Jewish people, Paul continues to address only the “Men of Israel”.
Again, at this point, Gentiles are still without God and Christ in the world, (Acts 13:16).
Paul Recounts their Jewish History
Then he introduced a new paradigm, to the Jews, concerning the forgiveness of sins.
Paul concluded this travel through time, that he took the Jews on, by saying: “But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption,” (Acts 13:37).
By this declaration, he differentiated Jesus Christ from all the prophets before him. They all died and saw corruption except for Jesus. And God didn’t resurrect any of them besides Jesus.
A Paradigm Shift for the Jews
He distinguished Christ even further. Before him, Moses taught the Jews to utilize the blood of animals for the atonement of sins.
But, now, Paul postulates a new dogma for the same, even the forgiveness of sins through the preaching of Jesus Christ.
He says, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins,” (Acts 13:38).
Up until then, this was unheard of. The Lord was with him, that’s why the people didn’t stone him for this statement. This was revolutionary and new.
No more do the Jews and the world need the blood of animals to remove sins, for the blood of a man achieved the same. That man is Jesus Christ.
When Does God Accept You and See You as Righteous in His Eyes?
If God forgives our sins, He accepts us and we are righteous in His eyes.
This message is very similar in substance to the one Apostle Peter preached to the Jews at Pentecost.
Now, forgiveness of sins comes through a man even Jesus Christ. But how?
“And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the [L]aw of Moses,” (Acts 13:39).
Recall that Paul is also Jewish and here he is telling this mixed-congregation, consisting mainly of Jewish people, this revolutionary new doctrine.
He is instructing them that things have changed. Before Christ, anyone who desires to be right or “justified” in the eyes of the Lord God had to follow the Law of Moses.
Observe the Power of Believing in Jesus Christ
But now, if we believe in “him” that is, in Jesus Christ, it justifies us “from all things” from which [we] could not be justified by the Law of Moses. It’s superior to the Law of Moses.
Immediately, as Paul tells them that believing in Jesus Christ makes them right with God, he addresses the doubters.
“Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets,” (Acts 13:40).
These Jews have believed and practiced Moses’ Law all their lives and so did their forefathers before them.
“Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you,” (Acts 13:41; Habakkuk 1:5).
Now, this stranger proposes a new and more efficient mode for the removal of sins?
Apostle Paul’s Doctrine of Atonement
Even though the majority of the Jewish people rejected Apostle Paul’s doctrine of atonement the Gentiles welcome it.
Consequently, “[a]nd when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next [S]abbath,” (Acts 13:42).
The few Jewish leaders who believed Paul’s new doctrine encouraged him discreetly after his sermon.
“Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God,” (Acts 13:43). Acts 13:13-43.
Paul’s First Missionary Journey Summary
Since the Lord God changed Saul’s name to Paul and promoted him, he became the main speaker for them.
And for this reason, many refer to this first missionary journey as Paul’s, but really it’s both Paul’s and Barnabas’ first missionary journey.
Here again, the description of, “Paul’s First Missionary Journey” emphasizes that he was the main speaker and leader of this two-apostle team because Barnabas is not mentioned in it. Even though he was the main speaker for them at the start of this expedition.
Nevertheless, both Paul and Barnabas fulfilled the “work” that the Holy Ghost “called them” to perform.
“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” (Acts 13:2).
The Role of Christian Fasting in Paul’s First Missionary Ride
Consequently, the Bible refers to both Barnabas and John Mark as Paul’s “company” as he traveled on his expedition, (Acts 13:13).
Finally, the First Missionary Journey of Paul indicates the introduction of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
Despite, Gentiles who were in the various Jewish synagogues who heard the Word of God as well as the Jews, they couldn’t benefit from it, (Acts 13:42).
Cornelius and his household only receive salvation because Simon Peter preached Jesus Christ to them. However, this wasn’t available to every Gentile yet.
Only those who heard Peter’s sermon received salvation. Because the Lord had sent them to the Jews first.
Times of the Gentiles – Paul’s First Missionary Journey
For this reason, Paul and Barnabas have been preaching and teaching only to Jews. The time of the Gentiles was near but it wasn’t here yet.
Because, up until then, there was no defined manner, from God, which describes how Gentiles could receive salvation. But the Jews had a procedure from Him.
Therefore, the Lord by the mouths of Paul and Barnabas, sent His Word first to the Jews to grant them salvation.
Note how Paul expressly mentions his intended audience, despite the congregation being mixed with both Jews and Gentiles, (Acts 13:26).
However, as Paul declares to them “the glad tidings” or the gospel he introduced a new way to achieve the forgiveness of sin, (Acts 13:32).
The Blood of Jesus Christ is Adequate
He taught that now, instead of the blood of animals remove your sins the blood of a man is adequate, even the blood of Jesus Christ.
“Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience,” (Hebrews 9:7-10).
Note that if we “believe” in Jesus Christ, believing by itself, doesn’t save us. It justifies us with the Lord God through His Son, Jesus Christ. But we must obey Jesus to be saved.
It is at this juncture that many preachers, teachers, and the pews erred. Anyone thinking that believing alone saves leaves such a one in a vulnerable place.
A place where s/he remains unjustified and lost. In other words, her or his sins remain.
What’s the work that the Lord has called you to do? Have you fulfilled it?