It was not Paul's time to Preach the Good News, until....
After Paul’s conversion, he spent a short time with the disciples, and then went out to preach the Good News. Unfortunately, he was not well received. People remembered it was Paul who had persecuted the church, and Paul’s old friends were justly confused about Paul’s new behavior. So, reluctantly, Paul returned to his hometown of Tarsus, and would wait there until God called him. While he was away, the church began to grow, especially in the city of Antioch. It is in this city that the term “Christian” is first used. Barnabas, one of the church leaders, remembered Paul, and went to Tarsus and brought him back to Antioch to help with the growing church. The church at Jerusalem was not a missionary church, but things were different at Antioch. In fact, the Antioch church was doing so well that they decided to send Barnabas and Paul (still known as Saul at this time) out to spread the Word. Their first stop would be the island of Cyprus. “The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.” (Acts 13: 4) Seleucia was the port city for Antioch. There are some magnificent ruins of the once great city still there today.
You can read about this mission trip in Acts 13, so let me just mention a few things. You will notice that they preached first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles. This will be their pattern. (see Romans 1: 16) Cyprus was under Roman occupation, and was littered with small towns, so Barnabas and Paul would have made many stops along the way. If you travel to Cyprus today, you will still see the same Roman mile posts that the two men would have seen. Notice that Luke, the author of Acts, refers to the pair as Barnabas and Paul. This was in keeping with the writing style of the day, as you would always list people in accordance with their position. Barnabas was the senior leader. However, as you read through Acts, into the next chapters you will notice the order in which their names are listed reverses. Paul will become the dominant leader. In Acts 13: 7, Luke mentions the proconsul, Sergio Paulus. Boy, did Bible critics jump on this! They claimed there was no such person. However, in 1877, the first of a several inscriptions was found in Cyprus bearing his name. The name was also discovered in the writings of the Roman, Pliny the Elder. Critics argued Luke gave Paulus the wrong title. However, coins bearing the title of ‘proconsul’ have since been discovered. So now the critics resorted to the notion that Luke misspelled his name. Paulus should be spelled with 2 “l’s”. It has since been discovered that Paulus is spelled with 2 l’s in the Latin, but only one l in the Greek. Luke is 100% accurate. I’m trying not to run too long, but I want to mention one other thing I like. Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit caused a sorcerer to go blind. “Immediately mist and darkness came over him…” (Acts 13: 11) This is the only place in the Bible you will find the coming of blindness referred to as a “mist”. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician, and called ‘The Father of Medicine’ uses this terminology in his writings. It strikes me as no coincidence that Luke, a doctor himself, would use this term. It was here in Cyprus that Paul and Barnabas were joined by Barnabas’ cousin, Mark.
The mission trip to Cyprus was a great success, and so they decided to continue their mission trip and to travel to Asia Minor. Mark chose not to accompany them. We’re not really told why he left the mission trip, but we do know that Asia Minor was a very dangerous region. Archeological discoveries show inscriptions which refer to armed police and soldiers who kept the peace. One inscription refers to “a conflict with robbers and an escape from a drowning river.” Perhaps this region is what Paul was referring to when he wrote, “I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.” (II Corinthians 11: 26) Their time in Asia Minor is recorded in Acts 14.
(Part 3, next blog)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Dan is a graduate of Otterbein College (now University). He graduated with a degree in education. From time to time Dan still substitute teaches. His interest in history led him to investigate the historical accuracy of the Bible. This, in turn, led to a full investigation of Apologetics.