4.JERUSALEM: THE MEETING WITH PETER
‘Three years later’ Saul went to Jerusalem to meet Cephas (from the Greek ‘Petros’ meaning rock and the name Paul always uses) and ‘stayed fifteen days with him.’ Undoubtedly Peter taught him the oral tradition relating to the life of Jesus whom Paul himself never met (cf.1Cor 11:23-25) as well as a christological interpretation of the prophets according to the teaching of the Master with his disciples.
The visit was a discreet one: the only other leader of the Church whom Paul met was ‘James, brother of the Lord.’ Paul enriched himself spiritually within the Mother Church yet he was never able to integrate, probably because of his past history as a Zealot. At one point he even escaped an assassination attempt by Greek speaking Jews (Acts 9:29-30)
He was sent back to Tarsus where he took up his former profession as a tent maker and continued to proclaim his faith in the synagogue (Acts 18:3). These were years of personal growth.
5.ANTIOCH: THE START OF HIS MISSIONARY ADVENTURE
At the beginning of the 40’s Barnabas was sent by the Church in Jerusalem to Antioch in Syria to take in hand the Church there founded by Greek missionaries who had been expelled from Jerusalem. He went to Tarsus to ask for Paul’s help, becoming a great evangeliser and one of the leaders of the community there. It was Paul’s first time away from the world of the synagogue since he also preached to the Greeks and a mixed community was established. The ‘invention’ of the title Christians, used for the first time in Antioch, is one of the finest fruits of Saul’s preaching ministry in the city.
From then on the Church in Antioch became a centre for the spreading of the Gospel and existed independently from the Temple and the life in Judea.
This community in Antioch enjoyed a solid foundation and organisation. Thus, during a prayer assembly, the inspiration of the community confirmed a personal vocation and the voice of the Holy Spirit was heard saying ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul to do the work to which I have called them.’ The assembly prayed, fasted, placeed their hands on the two men and sent them off on their mission.
Barnabas and Paul sailed towards Cyprus. Again it was the Holy Spirit which sent them in this direction: there they preached the Gospel in the synagogues on the east of the island at Salamis, then in the west at Paphos. From this moment on, Luke calls Saul by his Roman name Paul, thus underlining his full entitlement in the mission to go to ‘all nations.’
6.FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH IN ASIA MINOR
The two men travelled on into pagan territory, beyond the Taurus mountains to four strategic cities for the Romans on the road to Sebastopolis. Luke sets Paul’s first important missionary discourse in the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia, a new Roman colony. Finding a hostile reception from most of the Jews, Paul addressed the pagans. The two Apostles then moved on to Iconium, Lystra and Derbe where they strengthened the young communities.
On the one hand, they encouraged a common life among former Jewish believers and new converts from paganism, thus provoking hostility from the leaders of the synagogues where they preached. On the other hand, they nominated ‘elders’ according to the model of the Church in Jerusalem. Having completed this mission, they returned to the great city of Antioch in Syria.