Paul’s First Missionary Journey (Acts 13 & 14)
Welcome to Lesson 12 in your Bible Study of Acts. In this lesson we look at the first of Paul’s missionary journeys.
As you know, in the history of the early church (and in Acts), Paul became the principal character in evangelizing the Mediterranean world, particularly the Gentile populations.
Paul traveled extensively throughout his career. The Book of Acts records three separate missionary excursions: one to Galatia, one to Europe and Greece and a third to the city of Ephesus.
Paul’s Missionary Journeys Mark An Important Juncture
We must mention at the outset that this is an important juncture in the Book of Acts:
- The gospel is moving into completely Gentile populations – Prior to this, the gospel was preached primarily to Jews, Samaritans (near-Jews) and God-fearers (Cornelius) who sympathized with Judaism.
- From Chapter 13 forward, Luke is more interested in narrating how churches are planted than in how different groups were converted as before.
- Luke dedicates the rest of his book to the Gentile mission in some form or fashion. From Chapters 13-20, he is writing about Paul and his mission. From Chapter 21-28, he is writing about Paul’s trials and trip to Rome.
We will briefly summarize the first of Paul’s missionary journeys here in this study. In later studies we will slow down to study the individual narratives in Acts 13 and 14.
Read Acts 13:1-3
- What details does Luke provide about the church in Antioch? Describe the process by which the church sent out its first missionaries? Who are the people and what roles do they have in the church? What exactly did they do prior to and in sending out the first missionaries?
- How exactly did the Holy Spirit tell the church, “set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them?”
- Are there “prophets and teachers” in your church today? Why or why not and how exactly do you know when someone is gifted in this way?
- Is the process described in Acts 13:1-3 more or less the way your church sends out missionary candidates? Should it be? Why or why not? How should a church send out its missionaries today?
First of Paul’s Missionary Journeys by City
- Look at the map of the ancient world (above) and trace the path of Paul’s first missionary journey in Chapters 13 and 14: Starting with Antioch, Paul went to Seleucia, then Cyprus => Salamis => Paphos => Perga (in Pamphyla) => Pisidian Antioch => Iconium => Lycaonia=> Lystra => Derbe => Lystra => Iconium => Antioch of Pisidia => Pisidia and Pamphyla => Antioch.
- What happened to Paul at Paphos (describe very briefly)
- What happened to Paul at Lystra? (describe very briefly)
The region through which Paul traveled on his first journey is considered the region of Galacia. This is the same region where Paul first directed one of his first letters.
The letter to the Galatians was the first serious doctrinal challenge that Paul faced. There, certain Jewish Christians wanted the Gentile Christians to conform to the law of Moses as part of their Christian faith. Paul denounced this requirement as a false gospel saying, the righteous shall live by faith.
Read Acts 14:21-23, 15:36, 41; 18:23
- Compare the locations of these passages with the locations of previous stops in the first of Paul’s missionary journeys (Acts 13 and 14). What is happening in these passages?
- What is Paul primarily doing here with the churches he has planted?
- How does this relate to Jesus’ final commisson to his followers to “make disciples”? Is it possible to make disciples by only sharing the gospel and planting a church? How should these verses impact our church planting and mission sending strategies as a church body?