It is in verse 9 of this chapter that the Bible first mentions that Saul was also called Paul. The inference from that statement is that he had been called by that name, at least to some extent, for possibly a while. Some have theorized that the name change was by choice – in order to be more identifiable to the gentiles to which Paul was called to proclaim the word of God. But that speculation ignores the fact that others were known by different names (Peter, for example, was known also as Simon and Cephas).
Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark left Paphos and landed at Perga in the humid region of Pamphylia, a narrow strip of land between the sea and the Taurus Mountains. John Mark left them in Perga, but Paul and Barnabas traveled up the steep road into the higher elevation of Pisidia in Galatia. When the Jews rejected his message, Paul preached to Gentiles, and the Jews drove Paul and Barnabas out of the Pisidian city of Antioch.
Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit from the church at Antioch. This journey of Paul’s is thought to have lasted about a year and a half. They traveled down first to Seleucia, then set sail to Cyprus where Barnabas was from, taking John Mark with them. They started proclaiming the word of God in the synagogue at Salamis. Then they went 90 miles to Paphos, the seat of Roman government on Cyprus. The proconsul was the highest ranking official in a Roman province. This one summoned Saul and Barnabas, wishing to hear the word of God. But a magician, a false prophet who was with him, was working against them, trying to turn the proconsul away. Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, rebuked the man and caused him to lose his sight. The proconsul believed after seeing this.
They then set sail again to Perga, where John Mark left them to return to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas continued on to Antioch of Pisidia. This is a long way from the Antioch that they started from – in Syria. This Galatian city was one of 16 cities that the Syrian king Seleucus had named for his father Antiochus. In verse 16-41, Paul delivers a sermon that begins with the wilderness wanderings, and ties the Scriptures to Jesus, his death, and his resurrection. They were received well and encouraged, and they begged them to come back on the next Sabbath to preach again. But the Jews saw the great crowds and were jealous. They started contradicting them and reviling Paul. Paul answered as follows:
“It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,
I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth‘”
When the gentiles heard this, They were rejoicing and glorifying the Lord. And many became believers. But the Jews stirred up persecution against them, and they were driven out, From there they went to Iconium, rejoicing over the success with the Gentiles, and filled with the Holy Spirit.
Side note: This article at Ferrell’s Travel Blog is about Pisidian Antioch and contains a modern photo of an ancient street there. Here is another with good pictures of the ruins there.
Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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