As their mission for God continues, the challenges for Paul and Barnabas only loom larger.
Departing from the known territory of Cyprus, (Barnabas’ home country,) they head back to the mainland to the seaport of Perga, in Pamphylia. (They are in the region of southern Turkey.)
From Perga, at sea level, they climb the mountains up to Antioch of Pisidia. (Antioch of Syria was their sending church, so perhaps they were motivated to minister at Antioch of Pisidia because of the name of that city.) (We also know the Holy Spirit’s guidance is heavily upon them for instruction, direction, and protection. This would explain whatever confidence they may have in proceeding.)
They have suffered their first loss in ministry along the way. When they arrived at Perga, John Mark departed to return to Jerusalem. Apparently, he was not mature enough to continue with them and longed for home. Later, Paul and Barnabas would come into sharp conflict over the possibility of Mark rejoining them – as apparently Paul would not have it, and Barnabas, (the continual encourager,) – would. Mark leaving them would become the basis of them separating into two ministries. Unfortunately, even in ministry, conflict, (even sharp conflict,) is sometimes unavoidable.
Paul and Barnabas press on. It is known at this time a typhoid epidemic was taking place throughout this region, and it is possible Paul contracted the disease during this time. One of the symptoms is constantly running eyes, and Paul may have alluded to this condition in his later letter to the Galatians. (Which was a letter he wrote to the churches in this region.) At any rate, if this was the case, climbing from sea level to the towns at the top of the mountain ranges of southern Turkey would have been quite an exhausting feat.
Some have suggested Paul may have been guided to particular locations by the Holy Spirit at this time simply by his need for rest. The main point to note however, is he never turned back, and he never gave up. He remained faithful, with only Barnabas at his side.
At Antioch of Pisidia, we have the most complete recording of one of Paul’s messages. This would clue us in on exactly how Paul shared the Gospel – especially when speaking in the synagogues. (Note how similar his message is to Stephen’s message in Acts 7.)