Escalating Resonances in Paul’s First Missionary Journey
We’ve done a short series on Acts 13-14 recently, and I had the job of wrapping things up, with just the last 8 verses or so. I have to say that I slightly panicked at what I initially, but erroneously, assumed was a rather slight and inconsequential passage.
It’s actually quite key to understanding what was about to happen at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. It comes at the end of the famous First Missionary Journey that Paul and Barnabas undertake on commission from the Church in Antioch. And so I tried to put the whole journey (from Acts 13:1-14:28) into the perspective of both what comes before (in particular, Paul’s conversion in Acts 9) and the Jerusalem Council discussions of how to handle all the Gentiles getting converted. This is obviously part and parcel of Luke’s overarching agenda with the Book of Acts in seeing the gospel rippling out from the Jerusalem epicentre.
When you do this you find how central the 2 elements of Jesus’ commission to Paul in Acts 9, and the 2 summary points made in their Acts 4 debrief are to the whole story:
- PREACHING TO GENTILES (& Jews) Acts 9:15 – Paul is ‘chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles … and Israel’
- SUFFERING & OPPOSITION Acts 9:16 – Paul will be shown ‘how much he must suffer for my name’
Then check out the end of the section:
- SUFFERING & OPPOSITION Acts 14:22 – We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God
- PREACHING TO THE GENTILES (& Jews) Acts 14:27 – God opened the door of faith to the Gentiles
Once you see this, Luke’s selectivity in recording Paul & Barnabas’ experiences on their journey make perfect sense. Here’s a summary overview, picking out these two elements:
The next point to strike me on doing this was the escalating intensity of people’s reactions, as the journey proceeds:
- positively – the numbers of responses grow, and the proportion of Jews/Gentiles believing shifts towards the latter
- negatively – the seriousness and horror of the persecution deepens
You can listen to the whole talk here.