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 Introduction and Paul's 1st Missionary Journey (Acts 9:1 - 14:28)

(The research for this article was undertaken by Marian Coekin. To aid your search, the passage of time, the names of places, and significant events are highlighted. This page prints onto four A4 sides.)


* Paul was born in Tarsus (Acts 22:3), a centre of learning in Cilicia (Acts 23:34) (see map).

* According to tradition, his parents originally come from Galilee.

* In Acts 22:3 he says he was 'brought up' in Jerusalem.

* He was of the tribe of Benjamin (Rom.11:1).

* Paul and his family were Roman citizens (Acts 16:37).

* He trained under the Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).

* He was highly regarded as a 'Pharisee of the Pharisees'. 'I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee' (Acts 23:6); he said he had been 'extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.' (Gal.1:14).

* As a 'young man' he was given authority by the chief priests to persecute Christians, putting many in prison and 'when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.'  (Acts 26:10 and 11 for more details)


CHAPTER REFERENCE WHAT HAPPENED: the passage of time is indicated by  words in bold blue: to help your search for events, place names are highlighted in bold green: the more significant events are highlighted in bold purple.
Acts 9:1,2 Saul carried letters from the high priest to the synagogues in Damascus permitting him to take Christians as prisoners to Jerusalem.
Acts 9:3-6 The Lord Jesus appeared to Paul on the Damascus road in a blinding light and with the words 'Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?' Paul asks who he is and is told that the speaker is Jesus.
Acts 9:7-9 Blinded by the light Saul was led by the hand to Damascus.
Acts 9:10-16 A believer, Ananias, was told by God in a vision to go to Saul because 'This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel'.
Acts 9:17-19 By the laying on of hands Saul's sight was restored; he was baptised and had a meal.
Acts 9:20-25 Saul spent several days with the disciples of Jesus in Damascus; at once began preaching in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God; baffled the Jews who heard him. 'After many days' (v.23a) which Paul says in Gal.1:17,18 amounted to three years, and included a time in Arabia,  a conspiracy to kill him meant he had to escape. He was lowered in a basket down the city wall. The time in Arabia is thought to be when he received 'by revelation' (Eph.3:3) his profound understanding of the Gospel.
Acts 9:26-30 Saul went to Jerusalem and tried to join the disciples, but they were afraid of him. Barnabas took him to the Apostles and told them what had happened to Saul and about his preaching. Paul says in Gal.1:18 that he became acquainted with Peter with whom he stayed for 18 days. Otherwise he only met James the Lord's brother; none of the other Apostles.  He says he was not known personally to the churches in Judea. He preached and debated with the Greek Jews but they tried to kill him. So the Christian brothers took him to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus where he stayed for about 10 years.
Acts 11:19-30 Some of the Christians from Judea who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen, went to Antioch and set up a church (see point 7 on the map). The church in Jerusalem, hearing that Gentiles were being converted, sent Barnabas to Antioch, who in turn went to Tarsus to look for Saul. They returned to Antioch where Saul taught the church for 'a whole year' (Acts 11:26a). During this time, in response to a famine in Judea, gifts were taken to Jerusalem by Saul and Barnabas (Acts 11:30) making this Saul's second visit to that city. This could be the visit Paul himself describes in Gal.2:1-10. 
Acts 12:25  When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission in Jerusalem they returned to Antioch (taking with them John Mark). (About AD 46)
Acts 13:1-3 Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the leaders and people at Antioch sent Saul and Barnabas 'for the work to which I have called them'. This is the beginning of the First Missionary Journey. (See the red dashed line on the map).
Acts 13:4-12

Start of the 1st Missy. journey

Saul, Barnabas and John Mark went down to Selucia, the port about 15 miles away, and sailed over to Salamis in Cyprus. Note that (a) Barnabas was from Cyprus and (b) men from Cyprus had been instrumental in setting up the church in Antioch. These may have been factors in the choice of Cyprus as their first call.

They proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues travelling to Paphos in the SW corner of the island (point 10 on the map). There they met Bar-Jesus [which means 'son of salvation'] who was 'a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet' (probably a court wizard -Stott), an attendant to Sergius Paulus the Pro-Consul. [Since BC 22 Cyprus had been a province controlled  by the Senate rather than by the Emperor direct.] [Romans of that time were much given to superstition - hence the presence of a sorcerer.]

Sergius sent for Saul and Barnabas to hear the word of God, but Bar-Jesus, now renamed Elymas (for reasons not clear) opposed them. Saul seeing his effect on Sergius challenged Elymas and turned him temporarily blind. On seeing this Sergius believed.  Note Luke tells us here (v.9) for the first time that Saul is also called Paul. This name is used from now on.

Acts 13:13-52 Paul and his companions sailed from Paphos across to mainland Asia Minor, to Perga in Pamphylia where John Mark left them to return to Jerusalem. We do not know why John Mark left them, but in 15:38 Paul refers to it as a desertion. It has been suggested that Paul was ill at this point, see Gal.4:13 (Stott). From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch which would have meant climbing to the Taurus mountains plateau at about 3,500 feet. On the Sabbath Paul was invited to speak.  His sermon is recorded in vs.16-41. As they left the synagogue many Jews and converts to Judaism invited them to return the next Sabbath. The talked to them and  'urged then to continue in the grace of God'.

On the next Sabbath almost the whole city turned out to hear them, but the Jews were filled with envy. Paul quotes Is.49:6 'I have made a light to the Gentiles ...' which rejoiced the Gentile hearers and many believed. But the Jews incited God-fearing women and leading men who stirred up persecution and expelled them from the region.

Acts 14:1-7 Paul and Barnabas went on to Iconium (point 13 on the map), preached in the synagogue and a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. But others opposed them. Paul and Barnabas spent 'a considerable time there', but the city was divided about them and there was plot to stone them. But they found out about it and fled to Lystra and Derbe in Lycaonia. 

                                                    The site of Derbe from the East

Acts 14:8-20 In Lystra Paul healed a man lame from birth, who jumped up and began to walk. Crowds called Paul 'Hermes' and Barnabas 'Zeus' and tried to sacrifice to them. Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes and declared they were only men as they were.

Then some Jews came from Pisidian Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over so that they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, believing him to be dead. But he recovered and the next day left with Barnabas to go to Derbe.

Acts 14:21-28

End of 1st Missy journey

They preached the good news in Derbe and 'a large number' believed. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch strengthening the believers and appointing elders to look after the churches. After going through Pisidia they  went into Pamphylia and preached in Perga. From there they went to Attalia (a port slightly south of Perga) and sailed back to Antioch in Syria where they recounted to the whole church all that God had done amongst the Gentiles. And they stayed a long time.

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