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Acts 13 v 1 - 15

The thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of Acts tell the story of the first missionary journey, undertaken by Paul and Barnabas. The attached map will give you a good understanding of their journey. The Christian Church was now poised to take the greatest of all steps: previously, the Gospel had been spread by believers who were having to move because of persecution, but now there was a planned decision undertaken through direct guidance by the Holy Spirit. Now the prophets were wandering preachers in those early days who had given their whole lives to listening for the Word of God and proclaiming it to those it was relevant for them to hear. Already we can note that the prophets named here were from differing backgrounds and places: Manaen for instance was a man with aristocratic connections. It is possible that Simeon called Niger, who was from Cyrene was the Simon of Cyrene who carried Christ's cross!

Their first stop was in Cyprus and that was an obvious place to go as Barnabas was a native of Cyprus- chapter 4 v 36-and he and Paul headed straight for the capital of the island, Paphos. It appears that initially Barnabas was the leader, but very quickly we read that it is now 'Paul and his friends'! Paul has taken the leadership and from gracious Barnabas there is no word of complaint! Note that John Mark joined the pair. He was very young, but his mother's house was where the church at Jerusalem met, and he would have known the Christian faith since childhood. And he was related to Barnabas. However, he struggled on the journey and for a reason we do not know, he left the group and returned to Jerusalem. Paul found this action unforgivable and it would divide Paul and Barnabas in future journeys.

The group continued and headed for Pisidian Antioch which was in the middle of mountainous terrain. We may question why they chose to head this direction through inhospitable areas rather than stick to the coast? Well, Pisidian Antioch was one of the churches to which Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians and there he told the churches that he preached there because of his illness-Galatians 4 v 13. It is likely that his ongoing issue was recurrent malaria which caused debilitating headaches and this would have improved in mountainous areas rather than sticking to the coast, where mosquitos would be found. It clearly never occurred to him to retreat or turn back!


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