The churches founded by the Apostle Paul, in his native province, must often have been visited by him. It is far easier to travel from Antioch to Tarsus, than from Antioch to Jerusalem, or even from Tarsus to Iconium. Thus the religious movements in the Syrian metropolis penetrated into Cilicia. The same great "prophet" had been given to both, and the Christians in both were bound together by the same feelings and the same doctrines.
When the Judaizing agitators came to Antioch where Paul stayed, the result was anxiety and perplexity, not only in Syria, but also in Cilicia. This is nowhere literally stated but it can be legitimately inferred. We are, indeed, only told that certain men came down with false teaching from Judea to Antioch (Acts 15:1).
The decree of the Jerusalem conference is addressed to "the Gentiles of Cilicia" (Acts 15:23) as well as those of Antioch, thus implying that the Judaizing spirit, with its mischievous consequences, had been at work beyond the frontier of Syria. And, doubtless, the attacks on Apostle Paul's apostolic character had accompanied the attack on apostolic truth, and a new fulfillment of the proverb was nearly realized, that a prophet in his own country is without honor.
Paul had, therefore, no ordinary work to accomplish as he went "through Syria and Cilicia confirming the churches" and it must have been with much comfort and joy that he was able to carry with him a document, emanating from the Apostles at Jerusalem, which justified the doctrine he had taught. Nor was he alone as the bearer of this letter, but Silas was with him also (Acts 15:27). It is a cause for thankfulness that God put it into the heart of Silas to "abide still at Antioch" when Judas returned to Jerusalem, and to accompany Apostle Paul (Acts 15:40) on his northward journey.
For when the Cilician Christians saw their countryman arrive without his companion Barnabas, whose name was coupled with his own in the apostolic letter (Acts 15:25), their confidence might have been shaken. An occasion might have been given to the enemies of the truth to slander Apostle Paul, had not Silas been present, as one of those who were authorized to testify that both Paul and Barnabas were still Christian men (Acts 15:26).
Where the churches were, which Paul confirmed on his journey, we are not informed. After leaving Antioch by the bridge over the Orontes, he would cross Mount Amanus by the gorge which was anciently called the "Syrian Gates." Then he would come to Alexandria and Issus, two cities that were monuments of the Macedonian conqueror.
If there were churches anywhere in Cilicia, there must have been one at Tarsus. It was the metropolis of the province; Paul had resided there, perhaps for some years, since the time of his conversion. If he loved his native place well enough to speak of it with something like pride to the Roman officer at Jerusalem (Acts 21:39) he could not be indifferent to its religious welfare.
Among the gentiles of Cilicia, to whom the letter which he carried was addressed, the gentiles of Tarsus had no mean place in his affections. And his heart must have overflowed with thankfulness, if, as he passed through the streets which had been familiar to him since his childhood, he knew that many households were around him where the Gospel had come "not in word only but in power."
But it has pleased God that we should know more of the details of early Christianity in the wilder and remoter regions of Asia Minor. To these regions the footsteps of Apostle Paul were turned after he had accomplished the work of confirming the churches in Syria and Cilicia. The task now before him was the visitation of the churches he had formed in conjunction with Barnabas. We proceed to follow him in his second journey across Mount Taurus.
The vast mountain-barrier which separates the sunny plains of Cilicia and Pamphylia from the central table land has frequently been mentioned. On the former journey (Acts 13:14) Apostle Paul traveled from the Pamphylia plain to Antioch in Pisidia, and thence by Iconium to Lystra and Derbe. His present course across the mountains was more to the eastward and the last-mentioned cities were visited first. More passes than one lead up into Lycaonia and Cappadocia through the chain of Taurus from Cilicia.
As Apostle Paul emerged from the mountain passes, and came among the lower heights through which the Taurus recedes to the Lycaonian levels, the heart which had been full of affection and anxiety all through the journey would beat more quickly at the sight of the well-known objects before him. The thought of his disciples would come with new force upon his mind, with a warm thanksgiving that he was at length allowed to revisit them, and to see how they fared. Here the tender-hearted Apostle was approaching the home of his Lycaonian converts.
On Paul's first missionary journey, when he came as a stranger, he had traveled in the opposite direction but the same objects were again before his eyes. When we come to Lystra, we are at once in the midst of all the interest of Apostle Paul's public ministry and private relations. Here it was that he and Barnabas were regarded as heathen divinities and then considered enemies. Here too it was that the child of Lois and Eunice, named Timothy, taught the Holy Scriptures from his earliest years, would eventually become Paul's comfort, support, and companion.
But many years of difficulty and persecution were yet to elapse before Greeks and Barbarians fully learnt that the God whom Apostle Paul preached was a Father everywhere present to His children, and the One Author of every "good and perfect gift."
Lystra would ultimately provide Paul with something he did not expect. Among the new believers in the city was a man named Timothy. His initial meeting with this fairly young, though knowledgeable in the Scriptures, person would lead to a lifelong friendship that would change the course of both their lives.