We first met Paul in Acts 8:1. His name was Saul, then. He is present and approving of the execution of Stephen. In Acts 9, while on his way to persecute the Christians in Damascus, Saul has an encounter with Jesus that forever changes his life. Saul goes from being a zealous, Jewish pharisee who persecuted the Church, to the primary vessel that God uses to begin the spread of the gospel throughout the world. We have seen it repeatedly in our reading throughout the year, but this is yet another example of God using unexpected individuals to bring about the fulfillment of His will.
Though the location and primary human character of Acts shifts in chapter 13, the Holy Spirit is still the main agent in the progress of the early Church. In Acts 13:4, we are told that Saul and Barnabas are “sent out by the Holy Spirit” on the first of three missionary journeys. It is the Holy Spirit who sends them, leads them, empowers them, sustains them, and brings fruit to their ministry. The same is true in the lives of believers and the ministry of the Church today. Incidentally, beginning in Acts 13:9, Saul is referred to as Paul, the name we most commonly call him.
Acts 13-14 record the details of Paul’s first missionary journey. The trip takes him and Barnabas through Cyprus, Perga, Pisidia-Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe and then ultimately back to Jerusalem in chapter 15, where they meet with the rest of apostles. The exact cities are less important than seeing the large movement: The gospel is going to the nations. The Holy Spirit, through the obedience of Paul, is beginning to take the message of salvation to the ends of the earth, bringing ultimate and eternal blessing to those who respond in faith.
Paul's missionary journeys
First Journey, Acts 14-15
Acts 13:1-3; 14:1-7
Today’s passage starts with Paul and Barnabas, along with the other disciples in Antioch, fasting and worshiping the Lord. As they do so, the Lord reveals that He wants to send Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. Next, the story takes them to Iconium and shows the positive and negative ways they were received by different groups of people. God is once again revealed more fully in the family ingredient of Storytelling. As you read through today’s passage, picture vividly the adventure of it all. Draw your children into the story and help them see the many times that God intervenes to protect, and also the times of hardship as Paul and Barnabas obediently follow the course God has laid out for them. Doing God’s work God’s way does not promise a life of ease, but it does promise that He will be with us and He will empower us to spread the gospel of His Son, Jesus. This is an important principle for us to learn and teach our children. Watch the Bible App Journeys for Jesus to get a greater overall view of the continuing adventures for Paul and the people he meets throughout his three missionary journeys.
- Discuss ways that the Spirit might have used to reveal God’s plan to Paul and Barnabas?
- What does it mean in Acts 13:3- they “placed their hands on them”? What were they doing? Why?
- How did the people respond to Paul's message? Did everyone respond the same?
- Describe Paul and Barnabas as they are poorly treated. What is different about their reaction?
- Paul and Barnabas left home to spread the gospel. Where did they eat, sleep, get money? Identify blessings and costs of full-time service.
Activity 1: Following Jesus
Make signs for Antioch and Iconium and put in different rooms. Add other locations if desired. Roll dice to tell kids how many steps to take. Take two craft sticks and tie to form cross. The person holding cross goes first and represents the Holy Spirit. For fun, do something at each place like somersault, cheer, etc.
Adapted: People of Our Everyday Lives
Activity 2: Jesus in You
When you see your children do something that reminds you of Jesus, tell them and praise them for it. Not to the point where they get all the credit, but as a pointer. When they see how their actions depict God’s character, it is really an eye opener. Our kids need to hear about God, not only when they are doing things that are disappointing, but also when they are showing the fruit of the Spirit.
Small Group Discussion
- In this week’s reading you see many accounts of the boldness of believers and the continued work of the Holy Spirit to advance the gospel. Acts 12:24 “But the Word of God increased and multiplied.” What examples are there to follow? How do we apply Holy Spirit-driven-boldness in our lives?
- A big moment for the early church takes place in Acts 15. Should Gentile believers be circumcised? Peter spoke up; he believed circumcision was not necessary for salvation of Gentile believers. Peter believed that God’s grace alone is our means of salvation for both Jews and Gentiles (v.11). Is there a promise to proclaim? What does it mean for you and me?