The first of Paul’s three missionary journeys begins in chapter 13. Here are the essentials to remember: Journey 1 is covered in Acts chapters 13 and 14. Paul’s co-workers include Barnabas and John Mark. Main points of contact include Cyprus, Lystra, Derbe, and Antioch of Pisidia. The time span is A.D. 46-48. Maps of Paul’s journeys can be found in the back of many Bibles. These can be quite helpful when studying the journeys.
The church in Antioch became a great missionary center. Paul’s first missionary tour began at the bidding of the Holy Spirit, who may have spoken through some of the leaders. The Spirit singled out Saul (soon to be known as Paul) and Barnabas for this evangelistic project. After prayer and fasting, the work began. Fasting calls greater attention to the need for prayer. No important work should be considered or undertaken without prayer.
On his journeys, Paul continues to follow the practice of preaching first to the Jews. This was not favoritism; it was a highly practical approach. The Jews already believed in God and were generally familiar with the Old Testament, including its promises and prophecies of the Messiah. On Cyprus, a sorcerer tried to prevent the Roman leader from obeying Christ. Saul exercised the power of the Holy Spirit, reprimanding and blinding the sorcerer. The mystical arts never did well in competition with the Spirit of God.
Beginning in 13:9, Saul is called Paul. Saul was his Hebrew name and Paul his Roman, Hellenistic name. Luke will now refer to Paul first when he and Barnabas are named together, except when they return to the Jerusalem church.
Upon reaching Paphos, John Mark left their company and returned to Jerusalem. We are not told why Mark turned back, but Paul was sorely disappointed by his action (Acts 15:37-39). Pamphylia was a province on the lower coast of Asia, known to us as Asia Minor. Invited to speak in the synagogue, Paul rehearsed God’s dealings with his people, beginning with the Egyptian Bondage. In this sermon we see the pattern of early preaching. God promised a savior and continually pointed to his coming. When Jesus arrived, he was mistreated, rejected, and killed. However, the glorious resurrection of Jesus establishes him as Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). Salvation comes only through Jesus (13:39). Paul constantly made use of the Old Testament prophets in preaching Jesus, pointing out that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies.
The first sermon in Perga greatly interested the people, and Paul and Barnabas were invited to speak again the next Sabbath. Unbelieving Jewish leaders were upset and contradicted what Paul was saying. Paul lays the blame for their disappointing destiny at their own feet: “Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46). The words of verse 48 simply mean that those who were genuinely interested in eternal life chose to believe the gospel. The Gentiles were glad for the chance to be saved. Shaking the dust off their feet meant Paul and Barnabas had done what they could in Perga.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.