Team building

Paul’s second missionary journey, which took place approximately A.D. 49-52, encompassed a much larger territory than his first expedition did. The initial purpose of Paul’s trip was to visit the believers in every city that he and Barnabas had previously preached the gospel in (Acts 15:36), but a conflict between Paul and Barnabas caused the two to go their separate ways. Luke’s description of the incident suggests that the leadership role had become an issue, and at that point, Paul was unwilling to follow Barnabas’ direction. Luke stated, “And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; and Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.

The break up of Paul and Barnabas’ ministry partnership may have seemed like a problem at first, but it actually led to a much better outcome in the end. Because Mark was left behind, he joined up with Peter and eventually wrote the second book of the New Testament titled “The Gospel According to S. Mark.” It is likely that most, if not all of Mark’s factual data came directly from Peter who was a member of Jesus’ inner circle of friends, as well as, the primary leader of the church located in Jerusalem. Paul’s selection of Silas to travel with him may have been the reason why his second trip was much more aggressive than his first, covering approximately twice the amount of territory than his first missionary journey did (Paul’s Second Missionary Journey, p. 1588). When Paul and Silas arrived in Lystra, they were joined by Timothy, “the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts:16:1-2).

The fourth person to join Paul’s missionary team was the author of the book of Acts, Luke. The transition in the language from they to we suggests that Luke joined Paul’s team in Troas. It says in Acts 16:8-10, “And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.” Timothy and Luke were key members of Paul’s missionary team that stayed with him throughout the rest of his life. The final book Paul wrote, 2 Timothy was addressed to “my dearly beloved son” (2 Timothy 1:2) indicating Paul and Timothy developed a very close personal relationship. In that book, which was written while Paul was in prison waiting to be executed, Paul said, “Only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11), suggesting Luke was not only Paul’s partner in ministry, but a faithful companion until his death.

A spiritual revolution (part two)

Paul’s first missionary journey changed the course of history in that it turned the tide toward non-Jewish conversions to Christianity. After they were expelled from Antioch in Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas traveled east to Iconium where the multitude of the city became divided between loyalty to the traditional teaching of the Jews and Paul’s gospel message (Acts 14:4). The problem Paul and Barnabas faced in Iconium was that things turned violent. A plot to stone them to death caused the two missionaries to flee to Lystra and Derbe, “and unto the region that lieth round about” (Acts 14:6). While they were in Lystra, Paul healed a man that had been crippled from birth (Acts 14:8-10). This miracle caused the people of Lystra to associate Paul and Barnabas with the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes. It says in Acts 14:11, “And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lift up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.”

The people of Lystra seemed to be ignorant of or perhaps, chose to ignore the existence of the god that created the universe. In his argument against worshipping false deities, Paul encouraged the people of Lystra to turn from their false religion to the living God, “which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things therein: who in times past suffered the nations to walk in their own ways.” (Acts 14:15-16). Even though he was able to convince the people of Lystra that he was an ordinary man like them, Paul’s accomplishment backfired when Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived and persuaded the people of Lystra to stone him. Luke’s description of this incident (Acts 14:19-20) suggests that Paul’s death was never verified, but Paul’s account in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 of a man that was caught up to the third heaven and heard words that could not be repeated is thought to be a personal testimony of what happened to him after he was stoned to death in Lystra.

In spite of the dangerous situations they faced in the cities they had already preached in, Paul and Barnabas returned to Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch (Acts 14:20-21) in order to further establish and strengthen the churches started there. Luke tells us Paul and Barnabas were “confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The Greek word translated tribulation, thlipsis means “‘a pressing, pressure’, anything which burdens the spirit” (G2347). Thlipsis is used in Revelation 7:14 to refer to the great tribulation that is expected to take place just before the millennial reign of Christ. Paul’s statement “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” seems to suggest that satanic attacks or spiritual warfare are a normal part of Christian life and must be endured by every believer. Paul and Barnabas’ example of courageous perseverance made their first missionary journey a tough act to follow.

A spiritual revolution (part one)

Paul’s first missionary journey quickly changed the focus of his attention. Initially, Paul followed the course of Jesus’ apostles and taught in Jewish synagogues about the fulfilled promise of a Savior for God’s chosen people (Acts 13:23), but then he turned to the Gentiles and faced a great deal of persecution from the Jews. Paul’s straightforward message was good news to the Gentiles because they understood they were being included in God’s plan of salvation. After hearing his teaching in Antioch in Pisidia, the Gentiles wanted Paul to preach to them the next week also and Luke reported, “the next sabbath came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming” (Acts 13:44).

Paul and Barnabas’ objective in turning to the Gentiles was to fulfill God’s great commission to take Jesus’ gospel to the whole world (Matthew 28:19). Their succinct explanation of the situation showed that Paul and Barnabas were only interested in doing God’s will. Speaking to the Jews in Antioch in Pisidia, Luke reported, “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:46-47). Paul and Barnabas placed the blame on the Jews for their rejection of God’s free gift of salvation. The Greek word translated unworthy, axios has to do with deserving God’s blessing (G514). Although the Jews were destined for salvation, their rejection of Jesus caused them to lose the preferential treatment they previously had through the Old Covenant. According to the prophet Jeremiah, Israel will be restored at some point in the future and will serve God as they were originally intended to (Jeremiah 30:9).

Unlike Peter’s experience with the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:17-48), Paul and Barnabas’ impact on the Gentiles in Antioch in Pisidia appeared to be the result of the moving of the Holy Spirit rather than an answer to prayer. Luke said of Paul’s message of salvation, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). The expression “ordained to eternal life” indicates that “eternal life involves both human faith and divine appointment” (note on Acts 10:48). The Greek word translated ordained, tasso means “to arrange in an orderly manner, i.e. assign or dispose (to a certain position or lot)” (G5021). Tasso is associated with positions of military and civil authority over others and is used in Luke 7:8 to describe the assignment of soldiers to a particular location and activity. The centurion stated, “For I also am a man set (tasso) under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it” (Luke 7:8). Therefore, it seems likely that God’s divine appointment of certain individuals to salvation has something to do with spiritual warfare and the orderly government of his kingdom.

Paul’s calling

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.