Lesson 2: Paul's Missionary Journeys Reviewed
Acts ch.13--Acts ch.20
You were assigned to review Paul's missionary journeys between Lesson #1 and Lesson #2. All three missionary journeys started from Antioch of Syria. Barnabas was Paul's partner on the first missionary tour. Acts 13:4 says, "So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia: and, from thence they sailed to Cyprus." Verse 5 says, "They had also John to their minister," I. e. John Mark. From Cyprus, they sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, City #17 on your map, where John Mark left them and went back to Jerusalem, Mark's hometown (13:13). From Perga, Paul and Barnabas traveled to the highlands in Asia Minor, into the regions of Galatia. They went in the synagogue at Antioch and at Iconium and were invited to preach. Acts 13:49 says, "The word of the Lord was published throughout all the region." They made many disciples at both Antioch and Iconium. Paul and Barnabas left small camps of disciples sin both cities, or, in other words, infant churches. Finally, they were expelled from the coasts of Antioch (13:50). Later, they fled from Iconium, further east into Lystra, where Paul was stoned and left for dead. The next day (14:20), Paul and Barnabas departed into Derbe. But, just like Antioch and Iconium, they left a small camp of disciples at Lystra. After some time at Derbe, "and had taught many" (14:21), it says Paul and Barnabas returned through Lystra, Iconium and Antioch where "they...ordained them elders in every church..." (14:23). Thus, we discover the first organized churches in Galatia. It was to these congregations and possibly others that Paul, several years later, wrote a letter and addressed it to the churches of Galatia in Gal. 1:2~one of the books we shall consider in this study.
After this tour through Galatia, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch of Syria, City #10, from whence they had started their first missionary journey per instructions of the Holy Spirit. The last verse in Acts chapter 14 says, "They abode long time with the disciples" at Antioch. While Paul and Barnabas continued at Antioch of Syria, certain Jews of the Pharisees came from Judea, I. e. the Jerusalem area, teaching a false doctrine. These Jewish brethren were teaching that Christians, I. e. disciples of Christ must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses, I. e. the ten commandment law of the Old Testament, in order to be saved. That's found in Acts 15:1. Verse 2 says, "Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them..." In other words, Paul and Barnabas, inspired men, apostles of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2), resisted that doctrine totally and mightily. I think you know that Paul and Barnabas were ultimately sent to Jerusalem by the church at Antioch to confer with the apostles in Jerusalem about this false teaching. Most of Acts chapter 15 is devoted to that trip to Jerusalem and the meeting with the apostles and elders of the Jerusalem church.
It is very important HERE that you get a good firm grip on the false doctrine taught by the Jewish teachers that came from Jerusalem. That doctrine is stated in Acts 15:1 and restated again in v. 5. You will remember the meeting with The apostles and elders at Jerusalem finally culminated in them writing a short letter to the Gentile church at Antioch of Syria (and other places) and sending two other prophets of the church in Jerusalem, I. e. inspired teachers, named Judas and Silas, to confirm the information in the letter. In that letter, Acts 15:24, the apostles and elders at Jerusalem not only restated the false doctrine, they said these false teachers were "subverting the souls" of those they taught. To subvert means to ruin, destroy or corrupt. Thus, that doctrine of circumcision and keeping the law of Moses should have been forever, then and there, nipped-in-the-bud. When you get this doctrine firmly in mind, it is the same thought that got Stephen killed. The charge against Stephen was (Acts 6:14),"we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us." You see it was those customs that Moses delivered, I. e. the ten commandment law with all the statutes and judgments associated with it, that made up the constitution of the Israelite Nation; that the Jews at the time of Jesus and at the time of Stephen, as well as, the time of Paul and Barnabas here in Acts chapter 15, that the Pharisees refused to give up. Although Moses himself had said that time would come (Deut. 18:18) when that law would be replaced. Peter had used that Old Testament scripture (Deut. 18:18) and preached in the temple (Acts 3:22-23). But, most of the Pharisaic Jews simply refused to accept the change in law from the old covenant to the new covenant. It seems in the statements and the discussions in Acts chapter 15, that some Jews, usually referred to as Judaising teachers in the commentaries, had compromised somewhat. By that, I mean they were willing undoubtedly to accept Jesus as a prophet and to be baptized; but, they insisted on circumcision and keeping the law of Moses. Thus, Luke says it this way in Acts 15:5, "there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, that it is needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses."
Now, the reason I pound on this so hard at this point is that the false doctrine didn't stop at Antioch of Syria. Paul and the other apostles tried; but, the false doctrine spread and spread and spread. It finally spread into the churches of Galatia, we shall find. You can’t really understand Paul's letters — Galatians, Romans, etc. —until you discover Paul was bucking this false doctrine on almost every page and in almost every line.
Alright, let's get down to Paul's second missionary journey. There are about 5 or 6 verses at the end of Acts chapter 15 that tell us about Paul and Barnabas parting company. It was primarily over John Mark, Barnabas' nephew that went part way with them on the first missionary journey. Paul and Barnabas were Christian gentlemen and would not let their personal differences prevent their dedicated and continuous service in Christ's kingdom. Barnabas took John Mark and sent to Cyprus. Paul took Silas and headed back into Galatia on what is termed Paul's second missionary journey. Silas, you will recall, was the prophet that came down from the Jerusalem church to Antioch of Syria to confirm the letter sent by the apostles and elders. Chapter 16 begins with Paul and Slilas back in Lystra and Derbe which, as we have said before, were probably considered churches of Galatia. Don't miss verse 4 in chapter 16! As Paul and Silas went from city to city, "they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem." In other words, Paul and Silas relayed to the churches of Galatia the information contained in the little letter written by the apostles and elders back in Acts 15:23-29 about the Judaising teachers that caused the trouble at Antioch.
Then, a young preacher, named Timothy, joined Paul and Silas in the regions of Galatia. The trio proceeded (per negative instruction of the Holy Spirit) to the City of Troas, City #23 on your map. At Troas, Luke joined them and Paul was given a spiritual vision that invited them over into Macedonia (Acts 15:9), which was in Europe. After some weeks and some success at Philippi in Macedonia, City #26, Paul and Silas were beaten and put in jail. They were released by an earthquake at midnight and the Philippian jailer was baptized into Christ that same night. A church was thus established at Philippi. The only members we met were Lydia and her household and the Philippian jailer and his household. Finally, after all the troubles at Philippi, Paul and Silas passed through a couple of cities mentioned in the first verse of Acts chapter 17 and eventually came to Thessalonica, City #28, that we talked about back in our first lesson. Thessalonica had a Jewish synagogue where Paul preached for three weeks (according to Acts 17:2). Some at Thessalonica believed, i. e. were baptized into Christ; and, by that means, the Thessalonican church came into existence. You recognize, of course, this is the church to which Paul wrote the epistles called I and II Thessalonians at a later time. That is one of our reasons for reviewing this second missionary journey.
Again, trouble brewed, and Paul and Silas were sent away from Thessalonica by night (17:10). They went to Berea where the people were more noble and a church was established there. Eventually somebody from Thessalonica came to Berea and stirred up trouble. Paul had to leave, but Silas and Timothy were able to stay. So, Paul went alone to Athens, a great Greek cultural and educational center where there was a synagogue of the Jews (17:17). It would appear Paul didn't make much headway with the academians of Athens; although, a man named Dionysius and a woman named Damans were said to have believed at the end of that chapter. Acts 18:1 says, "Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth," that's City #31. There was a synagogue at Corinth where Paul was invited to preach and he met some very dear friends—a man named Aquila and his wife, Priscilla. They had been kicked out of Rome by the Emperor, Claudius. A congregation of the Lord's church was ultimately established in Corinth. They had to leave the synagogue eventually; but, Paul spent 18 months at Corinth. Now, here is one of our reasons for reviewing Paul's second missionary journey. It was sometime during the year and a half at Corinth that Paul apparently wrote the letters of I and n Thessalonians to the church back at Thessalonica. We covered that congregation at the beginning of the 17th chapter. Also, we shall learn that at a later time, Paul wrote some letters back to this congregation, i. e the congregation at Corinth. Those letters were called I and II Corointhians, of course. So, you can see why we need to review Paul's missionary journeys before we study those books. It is here in the book of Acts that we find the setting for those books.
So, finally, after 18 months at Corinth and the brethren there — many problems, some success —Paul " took his leave of the brethren," it says in 18:18. Paul went to Jerusalem and then back up to Antioch of Syria from which all three of the missionary journeys started. Paul's tent making friends, Aquila and Priscilla, went with Paul as far as Ephesus. That city, Ephesus, is City #33 on your map. Acts 18:19 says that Paul "came to Ephesus, and left them there, i. e. Aquila and Priscilla stayed at Ephesus." It's logical to assume from the rest of that verse that Paul and his friends must have checked out the place of Ephesus. According to verse 20, Paul was invited to stay at Ephesus. However, Paul did not stay; but, Paul did promise them he would return-that's in v. 21. Then, v. 22-23 of Acts chapter 18 is a broad sweep of Luke's pen. Paul sailed from Ephesus, went to Cesarea, City #5 on the map. Paul went up to Jerusalem and saluted the church, in the middle of v. 22. From there, Paul went back to Antioch of Syria. I would be inclined to think that the church in Antioch, City #10, was in some way Paul's sponsoring congregation. Paul was at Antioch back in Acts 13:2 when the Holy Ghost said, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them" at the beginning of the first missionary journey. If the church at Antioch contributed financially to Paul's missionary work, we are not told that they did. Luke's broad stroke of the pen simply says in v. 23, "after he, i.e. Paul, had spent some time there, he departed." No details! Luke skips the good times, the bad times, the chicken dinners, and the long sermons; but, after "some time," what ever that was, Luke said Paul "went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples." Again, there's a lot said in that sentence. This is the beginning of the third missionary journey. All three journeys started from Antioch of Syria. First, you should note, Paul traveled in the country of Galatia, the setting of one of the books we shall cover in this series. No one congregation is mentioned by name, but, we are told the nature of Paul's work. Paul "strengthened all the disciples," at the end of v. 23. Ultimately, Paul went back to Ephesus where he had left his tent making friends, Aquila and Priscilla, according to the first verse in chapter 19. A congregation was established at Ephesus; and, we learn in Acts 20:31 that Paul stayed at Ephesus three years — twice as long as he stayed at Corinth. Paul had a great deal of missionary success in Ephesus. Verse 9 says he was "disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus." Verse 10 down through v. 20 describes some of Paul's successes; and, v. 20 sums it up like this, "So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed." While Paul was at Ephesus, it seems he made great plans to travel much deeper and farther into the Roman empire. He planned another trip back to Jerusalem (v. 21). After Jerusalem, Paul planned a trip to Rome, the capital of the empire (according to v.21). It would seem Paul stayed in contact with the other churches over the region of Macedonia and Achaia by sending his co-workers where needed. Verse 22 mentions Timothy and Erastus. It was from Ephesus on this third missionary journey that Paul wrote the book of I Corinthians, another of the books we shall study in this series. It would appear that before Paul was ready to leave Ephesus, a big riot took place, described in v. 23 through the end of the chapter. The next chapter, Acts chapter 20, begins by telling us that, "after the uproar was ceased, Paul...departed for to go into Macedonia." That's back up where Philippi was located. It is thought that the book of II Corinthians was written from Macedonia. We'll get into more details later. "When he had gone over those parts," v. 2 says, "he came into Greece," which probably means Corinth, where Paul spent three months, it says at the beginning of v. 3. This is thought to fulfill the promise which Paul made to his brethren at Corinth in I Cor. 16:6, where Paul said, "it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go." And, it was most probably, that winter at Corinth, the three months mentioned in Acts 20:3, that Paul took fresh writing materials and wrote to the churches of Galatia, which we know as the book of Galatians; and also, a letter to the church(s) at Rome, where Paul already had plans to visit — we learned back in Acts 19:21. That letter is , of course, known to us as the book of Romans. Thus, Paul most probably wrote Romans and Galatians from Corinth, near the end of his third missionary journey. I and II Thessalonians were written from Corinth during Paul's earlier year and a half stay at Corinth. We have already said, I Corinthians was written from Ephesus; and, II Corinthians, probably from Macedonia, possibly Philippi. Have a good day! And, hurry back to Lesson #3