Paul, the Apostle

Acts 13:13 Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. 14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. 15 And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, "Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on." 16 Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, "Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: (NKJV)


The time is A. D. 45 and Paul’s First Missionary Journey has begun. Paul, Barnabas, and Mark are sent out by the church in Antioch to minister to Asia Minor, present day Turkey. Mark, who 22-23 years later would write the gospel that bears his name, was a cousin of Barnabas and was sent to assist Paul and Barnabas in their ministry. 

Their first stop on their way to Asia Minor is the Island of Cyprus. Here Paul’s Jewish name of Saul is changed to his Gentile name of Paul as he prepares to begin his ministry to the Gentiles. The group ministered on the island and Luke gives us the account of the first convert from Paul’s three missionary journeys, the proconsul, the Roman government’s administrative officer of Cyprus, Sergius Paulus. 

Now “Paul and his party” have sailed northward from Cyprus and have landed at the port city of Perga, in Asia Minor (v. 13a). Perga was the capital of the Roman province of Pamphylia (v. 13b). Here, John Mark makes the decision to leave the missionary party and return to Jerusalem (v. 13c). 

We do not know the reason for Mark’s departure but we know that Paul did not take kindly to his act which may have been a factor in Paul separating from Barnabas, Mark’s cousin, later on. Mark later was able to regain the confidence of Paul (2. Ti. 4:11). 

From Perga the party travelled about 100 miles north to Antioch (v. 14a). This Antioch was located in the province of Pisidia (v. 14b). As was their custom, Paul and his party attended the synagogue on the Sabbath (v. 14c). 

After the reading of the scriptures, Paul and his party were recognized as visitors and were given the opportunity to speak words of “exhortation” (v. 15). Paul took the lead and stood before the Jews saying "Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen” (v. 16). 

Paul was about to launch into a lengthy message detailing the history of the Jews concluding with the finishing work of the Lord Jesus Christ. This message was the first account of a message from Paul on his missionary journeys and was likely a pattern for all of his future preaching. 

This passage places Paul as the missionary leader over Barnabas and the rest of the missionary party for the first time. It also shows his method of preaching the gospel for the first time. This passage represents the birth of Paul’s preaching. 

Thus the transformation from Saul the persecutor to Paul the Apostle is complete. He went on to be used greatly by God as he followed God’s plan for his life. 

God also has a plan for each of us. We are to be obedient to Him as He leads and guides us along our journey. Like Paul, we also can be used greatly by God.

Art Toombs Ministries 

Online Bible Commentary