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The Acts of the Apostles
In this part, the Book of Acts focuses on the ministry of St. Paul, and the extension of the Church of the Gentiles. The missionary journeys of St. Paul were four, and they ended in Rome where he was in prison until his martyrdom.
The First Missionary Trip (Ch. 13, 14)
Accompanying St. Paul in this trip were St Barnabas, and (in its first part only) St. Mark. As shown in the attached map, this trip can be divided into the following steps:
1) From Antioch in Syria to Seleucia (a port on the Mediterranean Sea), then to Salamis, the port of Cyprus (125 miles, Acts 13:4,5). 2) From Salamis to Paphos, the capital of Cyprus (90 miles, Acts 13:6-12). 3) From Paphos, through the Mediterranean, to Perga in Pamphylia (175 miles, Acts 13:13). 4) From Perga to Antioch in Pisidia, Asia Minor (125 miles, Acts 13:14-50). 5) From Antioch in Pisidia, they were expelled and went to Iconium (110 miles, Acts 13:51 – 14:5), where many Jews and Greeks believed, but the unbelieving Jews, who were zealous for the literal law, resisted and expelled the two apostles. 6,7) From Iconium to Lystra and Derbe (Acts 14:6-21). 8-10) Return to Antioch in Syria. At this point, the first missionary trip stopped, and Paul and Barnabas had to go to Jerusalem to attend the first council in Jerusalem, to discuss the issue of circumcision. After attending this council, St. Paul left Barnabas, took with him Silas and went to visit the Churches in Syria and Cilicia. Barnabas took Mark with him and traveled to Cyprus (Acts 15).
Main Events of this Trip:
1- The encounter in Paphos (Cyprus) with a sorcerer, Bar-Jesus, a friend of the proconsul who was trying to prevent him from listening to Paul the Apostle. But St. Paul exhorted the sorcerer and punished him with temporary blindness until he repents. When the proconsul saw that, he was amazed, believed, and was baptized.
2- The first sermon of the Apostle Paul in Asia Minor was given to the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia (part of Galatia) on the salvation that Christ offered on the cross, which was rejected by the Jews. This opened the door to the Gentiles to believe.
3- During their mission in Derbe and Lystra, Paul and Barnabas met a man who was paralyzed since his birth, and Paul healed him. The people in these cities thought they were gods who descended from heaven.
4- The convening of the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem in 49 A.D. because of the fanatic Jewish thought which insisted on the necessity of applying the Jewish laws and traditions (e.g. circumcision) to the Gentiles who accept the Christian faith. St. James (the brother of the Lord), Bishop of Jerusalem presided in this council. The Apostles listened to the testimony of St. Paul on the return of the Gentiles to God. Then St. Peter supported him, telling them what God had revealed to him in a vision about Cornelius. In a spirit of prayer and unity of faith, the council declared its apostolic decision to accept the Gentiles into the Christian Church without asking them to practice the Jewish laws and traditions “So as not to trouble the Gentiles who are returning to God” (Acts 15:19). The council sent this decision with the Apostles Judas (also called Barsabas) and Silas, along with the Apostles Paul and Barnabas, to inform the Churches in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia.
The Second Missionary Trip of St. Paul (Acts 15:36 – 18:22)
St. Silas accompanied St. Paul in this trip, which lasted about 3 years (49 - 52 AD). The trip started from Jerusalem to Antioch (see attached map) where they returned to visit the Churches in Syria, Cilicia, Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium. From there they passed through Asia Minor (accompanied by Timothy then Luke) to Troy (on the west coast), and then to the North Eastern ports of Greece until reaching Athens. They then went east another time to Asia Minor and stopped at Ephesus, from which St. Paul returned to Jerusalem by sea.
Main Events of this Trip:
1- His encounter with Timothy: St. Paul met Timothy in Lystra and Derba, made him his disciple and took him in his trip. Timothy later became the Bishop of Ephesus and was martyred in the year 97 AD. St Paul wrote him two letters, in which he calls him “his true son in the faith” (Acts 16:1-5).
2- His encounter with Lydia: In Philippi, St. Paul and Silas met Lydia, a seller of purple from Thyatira (Asia Minor). She was a rich woman who believed in the preaching of the Apostles, was the first convert in Europe, and hosted Paul and Silas in her home (Acts 16:11-15).
3- Satan trying to obstruct the ministry: In Philippi, there was a fortune-telling lady who came across the way of the apostles, and the devil used her to obstruct their ministry. St. Paul rebuked the evil spirit, which left her at this hour. Those who benefited from her protested and incited the crowd against the apostles. They beat them with sticks and put them in jail. The two apostles were awake and praying at midnight, and the doors of the prison were opened … (Acts 16:25-40).
4- St. Paul argues against the philosophers in Athens: Athens was the center of philosophy and science. Her people worshiped many gods and were ignorant of the only true God that Paul worshiped. St. Paul preached them about Him, the salvation and resurrection of the dead, and they mocked at him. However, St. Paul was not ashamed to preach them the word of God (Acts 17: 22-34).
5- The encounter of St. Paul with Aquila and Priscilla who came to Corinth (Greece) from Italy as refugees. They were also tent makers like St. Paul. Paul stayed with them and was teaching every Saturday in the synagogue (Acts 18:1-11).
(To be continued).
Saint Mark's Orthodox Fellowship urges you to study the Bible and encourage others to do the same. Please feel free to make any copies from these notes and distribute them to your relatives and friends. The Fellowship welcomes any questions, comments or additional references, whether for publication in these "Short Notes" or in private correspondence.
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