The first church that formed outside of Jerusalem was in Antioch. It became a hub of missionary activity and was probably known for its strong leadership and collaborative approach to preaching the gospel. Among those listed as prophets and teachers in Antioch was Barnabas and Saul, whom Luke identified as the first missionaries (Acts 13:4). He said, “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 Greek word translated separate, aphorizo (af-or-id’-zo) meant that Barnabas and Saul were being ordained to preach the gospel in a new capacity (G575/G3724). They were not going to stay at Antioch, but would be traveling to locations specified by the Holy Spirit. The Greek word translated called, proskaleomai (pros-kal-eh’-om-ahee) means “to call toward oneself that is summon invite” (G4341). You could say that Barnabas and Saul’s calling was an opportunity for them to work with the Holy Spirit in a similar way to what the twelve apostles did with Jesus while he was on Earth.
Barnabas and Saul’s departure from Antioch was an act of obedience as well as an act of faith. The first missionary journey, which took place A.D. 46-48, covered a distance of almost 1,000 miles, but it started out as just a sea voyage to the island of Cyprus where Barnabas was originally from. Luke recorded, “So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister” (Acts 13:4-5). John, who was surnamed Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark, was Barnabas’ cousin (note on Acts 13:5). He may have joined Barnabas and Saul as an assistant of some type, perhaps because of his writing ability and knowledge of the Greek language. Even though he was not called to preach the gospel, John Mark may have been filled with the Holy Spirit and utilized as a record keeper of the divine messages Saul (Paul) received from the Lord.
During this first missionary journey, Luke noted the transition from using the name Saul to Paul in his encounter with a sorcerer named Elymas. Luke stated, “But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, and said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:9-10). Paul’s bold confrontation of Elymas may have been a result of his confidence in having been called to the mission field or the filling of the Holy Spirit. The ordering of names in the Bible usually denotes rank or seniority of the individuals. After this incident, “the order in which they are mentioned now changes from ‘Barnabas and Saul” to “Paul and Barnabas'” (note on Acts 13:9). This could have been due to the fact that at this point Paul began taking the lead in preaching the gospel and was the primary person the Holy Spirit was communicating with.