Paul and Barnabas

The Christians in Antioch commissioned Barnabas and Paul to undertake a missionary journey to spread the good news about Jesus among a wider audience. They took Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark, with them.

The plan was, first of all, go to Cyprus. It is not clear whether they planned anything beyond this.

Soon after arriving in Cyprus, the three adventurers came into the company of the governor of the province, Sergius Paulus. He was very impressed with their message. He not only adopted Paul as his son, therefore gifting him Roman citizenship (discussed here), he also encouraged the three missionaries to visit his own home city, Antioch in Pisidia.

A quick sea journey brought them to the southern shore of Anatolia. Here John Mark left them. From subsequent events, it is possible that Mark did not agree with sharing a meal with Sergius Paulus, a non-Jew. So Paul and Barnabas (Luke, the narrator, now puts Paul first) went inland to Pisidian Antioch. Here we have Luke’s version of Paul’s message to the people, which is modelled on Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin. An addition element reflects Paul’s own call to be the apostle to the nations:

On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.

Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly, “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the nations. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the nations, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'”

While the message was well received in the city, it also provoked opposition, so they were expelled from the region, despite their brilliant credentials from Sergius Paulus.

After this, they also travelled to other cities of southern Galatia. In these places they received a similar set of responses – an initial warm reception, followed by hate-filled rejection. The city of Derbe was the only exception; here they were warmly received and did not encounter any (recorded) opposition. After spending some time in Derbe, Paul and Barnabas retraced their steps back to the coast, eventually returning to Antioch in Syria by ship.

There was great rejoicing in Antioch over the many new disciples for Jesus who had been won by Paul and Barnabas.