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Paul’s Missionary Journeys

[Acts 11:19-21:16]

The Gentile church in Antioch

[Acts 11:19-30] When the church had been scattered following Stephen’s persecution, the Jews preached the word as far abroad as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, but only to other Jews. However, some men from Cyprus and Cyrene then preached to the Gentiles at Antioch, producing many converts. When the church at Jerusalem hear of this they send Barnabas who, confirming their faith, goes to Tarsus to look for Saul. Finding Saul, he brings him back to Antioch where they spend a year together teaching people about Christ. It is here at Antioch that converts are first called Christians. Some prophets come from Jerusalem, one of whom foretells a great famine that will arise in Judea. In response to this, the church decides to make a collection for the brethren in Judea and send it to them by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

Herod’s persecution of the church

[Acts 12:1-24] Now about this time, Herod begins to persecute the church and kills John’s brother, James. Seeing this pleases the Jews, he has Peter put in prison, intending to deal with him at Passover. When all the church are praying for Peter, he is freed from prison by an angel of the Lord. He makes his way to Mary’s house where he tells the astonished group about his escape (Mary is the mother of John Mark). Peter then leaves Mary’s house and went somewhere else. Herod examines those responsible for Peter’s safekeeping in prison and has them put to death. It seems that Herod was displeased with Tyre and Sidon, but the people appease him through the king’s chamberlain. Later, when Herod makes a speech to the people in his royal apparel, he receives praise as if he is a god, is consequently smitten by the angel of the Lord and dies a miserable death.

Paul’s first missionary journey

[Acts 12:25-14:28] Having delivered the offerings raised by the church at Antioch, Barnabas and Saul return from Jerusalem, bringing with them John Mark, Barnabas’ nephew. Through prayer and fasting, the Holy Spirit appoints Saul and Barnabas from among the teachers at Antioch for a specific work, the nature of which is soon revealed to us. They leave Antioch, taking John Mark with them, and travel to Seleucia from where they sail to Cyprus. From Salamis to Paphos they preach the word of God to the Jews in the synagogues. At Paphos, the deputy, Sergius Paulus, calls for Saul and Barnabas to hear the word of God, but a Jewish sorcerer by the name of Bar-Jesus, or Elymas, attempts to prevent the deputy from receiving the word. Saul, now called Paul for the first time, pronounces God’s judgement on him and he is struck blind. The deputy is astonished at this act and is confirmed in the faith. Paul and his company leave Paphos and sail north to Perga in Pamphylia, on the southern coast of Asia Minor, where John Mark decides to leave them and return to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas continue north and arrive at Antioch in Pisidia. Here Paul preaches the word in the synagogue, showing through scripture that Jesus is the Christ. Many Jews and proselytes receive the Christian faith. The next Sabbath, the whole city is at the synagogue to hear Paul preach, filling the Jews with envy and causing them to contradict Paul’s teaching. Paul and Barnabas boldly tell them they were first required to preach the word to the Jews, but as they are rejecting it, the gospel is now to be preached to the Gentiles. The Gentiles rejoice at this and receive the word, but the Jews organise a persecution against Paul and Barnabas and they are expelled from the area. They arrive at Iconium, full of joy and the Holy Spirit. Paul and Barnabas preach with great success at Iconium, but a persecution is again organised and they are obliged to flee to the region of Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia. While preaching at Lystra, Paul heals a man who had been a cripple from birth. The people of Lystra, being a remote region, consequently assume Paul and Barnabas are gods and make preparations to offer sacrifices to them. Paul and Barnabas are able to dissuade them, albeit with some difficulty. Now some Jews from Antioch and Iconium come to persuade the people to stone Paul, who is then dragged out of the city and assumed to be dead. However, when the disciples gather around him he gets up and returns to the city. The next day Paul and Barnabas leave for Derbe. Having preached there, they retrace their steps through Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, confirming the disciples and ordaining elders in every church. They then pass through Pisidia and Pamphylia and preach the word in Perga, before going on to Attalia and sailing back to Antioch. Having arrived back at Antioch, they gather the church together and tell them of all that God has done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. They now remain at Antioch for a long time.

The Jerusalem meeting

[Acts 15:1-35] Now some teachers from Judea come to Antioch and teach that Gentiles must be circumcised before they can be saved, causing some dispute between them and Paul and Barnabas. It is decided that Paul and Barnabas should go to Jerusalem to discuss this matter with the church there. After much disputing with the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, Peter offers his opinion. Barnabas and Paul then relate their success amongst the Gentiles, after which James delivers his judgement that the only condition to be imposed on Gentile converts is to abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication. A letter is written to the churches at Antioch, Syria and Cilicia informing them of their decision, supported by Judas and Silas who will later return to Antioch with Barnabas and Paul. When Paul and his company return to Antioch and read the letter from Jerusalem, it is received with great joy. Judas and Silas stay for a while, preaching and teaching the people. But when the time comes for them to return to Jerusalem, Silas decides he would prefer to stay with Paul and Barnabas to continue to be involved with the work there.

Paul’s second missionary journey

[Acts 15:36-18:22] Some days later, Paul suggests to Barnabas that they visit the churches planted on their first journey. Barnabas is determined that Mark should go with them, but Paul refuses because Mark had left them at Pamphylia. Not being able to agree on this, Barnabas leaves for Cyprus taking Mark with him. Paul chooses Silas to go with him and they first head for the churches at Derbe and Lystra. It is in this area of Iconium that Paul meets Timothy who is respected amongst the churches. Paul chooses Timothy to join him and Silas, but, as Timothy is the son of a Jewess and a Greek father, decides it would be prudent to circumcise him first. The letter from the apostles and leaders in Jerusalem is delivered to the churches as they pass through the different cities, and they are urged to follow their instructions. They find that the faith of the churches is stronger and their numbers are continuing to increase. During their travels, Paul wants to divert to preach the word in new places, but is twice deterred by the Spirit and directed to Troas. Here Paul has a dream in which a man begs him come over to Macedonia to help us. Luke has now joined Paul and Silas and they sail to Samothracia, then Neapolis, and from there they go to Philippi, a major city in that region of Macedonia. There is no synagogue in this city, but a group of worshippers is found by the riverside where Paul and his group then sit and speak with them. Here, a woman named Lydia accepts Paul’s teaching, and she and her household are baptised. She offers her hospitality to the group enabling Paul and his companions to lodge with her. For a few days, a young woman with a spirit of divination, used by her masters for financial gain, follows the group until Paul finally gets upset with her and exorcises the spirit in the name of Jesus Christ. Her masters, finding their income is now lost, make accusations against Paul and Silas and they are both beaten and imprisoned. At midnight, while Paul and Silas are praying and singing praises to God, an earthquake suddenly shakes the prison, the doors open and all the prisoners’ chains fall free. The prison keeper awakes to find the prison doors open, assumes the prisoners have escaped and is about to kill himself (for death would have been his punishment if they had escaped) but is prevented by Paul. The event results in the conversion and baptism of the prison keeper and his household. The next morning the magistrates order Paul and Silas to be released. Paul asserts his rights as a Roman citizen, causing alarm amongst the magistrates for, as a Roman, he had been treated unlawfully. Consequently, the magistrates personally come to release Paul and Silas, but suggest they should leave the city. From the prison they go to Lydia’s house, comfort the brethren and then go on their way taking Timothy with them, but Luke stays in Philippi. They pass through Amphipolis and Apollonia and arrive at Thessalonica. Here they preach the gospel on three successive Sabbath days, producing many converts, some Jews, many devout Greeks and a few women. Amongst the converts there is a man named Jason whose house they stay at. Some unbelieving Jews are moved by envy to incite a mob, which then goes to Jason’s house to seize the disciples. Not finding them there, they take Jason and some of the brethren to the city rulers, accusing them of crimes against the state. Being satisfied with the defence offered by Jason, they are released. The brethren then decide they should send Paul and Silas away at night, and they head for Berea taking Timothy with them. At Berea, Paul and Silas preach in the synagogue where the word is received and the scriptures searched daily by the Bereans to verify the good news. There are many converts made here, both Jews and Greeks. The Jews at Thessalonica get to hear the word is now being preached at Berea and go there to incite a persecution against Paul and Silas. Consequently, Paul is sent away by sea accompanied by some brethren, but Silas and Timothy remain at Berea. Paul arrives at Athens and the brethren return with a message for Silas and Timothy to join Paul as soon as possible. While he is waiting for them, Paul recognises the whole city is given over to idolatry and disputes with Jews at the synagogue, also with devout people and some others in the market place. He is encountered by some philosophers who debate with him and invite him to explain his doctrine. When they hear of the resurrection of the dead, some mock him, some are hesitant and some believe. Among the converted are Dionysius, a member of the council, and a woman named Damaris. Paul leaves Athens and goes to Corinth where he meets with Aquila and Priscilla. They are tentmakers, which is also Paul’s trade, and he is invited to stay with them. As is Paul’s custom, he goes to the synagogue each Sabbath, reasoning with and converting some Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy join him from Macedonia, Paul is encouraged in  the Spirit to testify all the more to the Jews that Jesus is Christ. They oppose him, and so he ceases to preach in the synagogue and uses a neighbouring house owned by a believer named Justus. From here he continues to preach, converting and baptising many Corinthians, including Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue. Paul has a dream one night in which he is greatly encouraged by God, and consequently remains in Corinth for eighteen months. The Jews rise against Paul and take him before Gallio, the deputy of Achaia, in an attempt to have him convicted. However, their cause is dismissed as it is solely a Jewish concern. Sometime after this, Paul takes his leave of the brethren and sails to Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila as far as Ephesus from where they return to Corinth. Here, at Ephesus, Paul reasons with the Jews in the synagogue and is asked to stay with them, but he chooses to go to Jerusalem for Passover and promises to return at a later date, if it be God’s will. Paul then sails from Ephesus to Caesarea where he visits the church before continuing to Antioch.

Paul’s third missionary journey

[Acts 18:23-21:16] After spending some time back at Antioch, Paul again leaves and travels through Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. Meantime, a Jew named Apollos comes to Ephesus. He is an eloquent man, well versed in the scriptures and had been initiated in teachings concerning Christ, but only as far as John’s baptism and not the events that followed. After hearing him preach, Aquila and Priscilla take him aside and instruct him more fully in the gospel. Apollos then goes to the church at Corinth where they receive letters of commendation concerning him from Ephesus. Here at Corinth, Apollos teaches in the synagogue, converting many Jews to Christ. While Apollos is at Corinth, Paul arrives at Ephesus and perceives there is something still lacking with twelve of the disciples there. It appears they know only the baptism of John, so Paul completes their teaching and baptises them in the name of the Lord Jesus. He then lays hands on them and they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues and prophesying. Paul then preaches in the synagogues for three months, but many speak against him. He then leaves the synagogues, taking some disciples with him, and spends the next two years preaching daily in the school of Tyrannus. From here, the news of the gospel spreads throughout Asia to both Jews and Gentiles. During this time, Paul works many miracles. Some vagabond Jews attempt exorcisms in the name of Jesus, but an evil spirit turns on them saying, I know Jesus! And I have heard about Paul. But who are you? They fear Jesus and Paul, but not these Jews. This becomes known, resulting in many being converted who then burn their books on magic. After these events, Paul decides he should now go through Macedonia and Achaia, then on to Jerusalem. However, having sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia, he is able to continue a little longer in Asia. Growth of the Christian church in Asia has greatly impacted the living made by people whose trade is dependent on worship of the goddess Diana. Demetrius, a silversmith of Ephesus and maker of silver shrines for Diana, incites a less than peaceful demonstration against Paul. Things begin to look dangerous for Paul and his companions, but the town clerk intervenes and the crowd is appeased. Paul calls his disciples together to take his leave of them before journeying to Macedonia. Passing through Macedonia, preaching along the way, he travels on to Greece and spends three months there. Paul then intends to sail to Syria, but hearing that Jews are laying in wait for him, he travels back through Macedonia accompanied by several companions. They travel ahead of Paul to Asia while Paul waits for Luke. Paul and Luke then sail from Philippi, and in five days reach Troas where they meet with the brethren from Asia. They stay there for seven days. The day before Paul intends to leave, the disciples gather together to break bread, after which Paul preaches to them at some length. At around midnight, a young man goes into a deep sleep, falls from the third floor and is killed. Paul restores him to life before continuing to talk to the disciples until daybreak, then leaves for Athos by land. Luke and his companions go by sea, meeting with Paul at Athos from where they all travel together to Mitylene, eventually arriving at Miletus. Intending to go to Jerusalem as soon as possible to be there for Pentecost, and not wanting to be delayed at Ephesus, Paul sends for the Ephesian church elders. He spends some time talking about his ministry and, knowing he will not see some of them again, warns them of dangers that might come their way before commending them to God and kneeling with them in prayer. Because they are not likely to see him again, Paul’s leaving is very sorrowful. They accompany him to a ship in which he sets sail with his companions for Caesarea, travelling via Patara and stopping at Tyre where they stay for seven days with some disciples. While they are at Tyre, the disciples warn Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. Nevertheless, they continue on their journey and sail to Ptolemais where they stay for a day with some brethren before going on to Caesarea. At Caesarea they lodge with Philip, one of the seven deacons, where they stay for many days. During their stay with Philip, a prophet by the name of Agabus comes from Judaea to see Paul. He warns him that he will be bound by the Jews at Jerusalem and handed over to the Gentiles. All those with Paul try to persuade him not to go on to Jerusalem, but he insists he must go, saying he is prepared to die there for the name of the Lord Jesus. And so they go to Jerusalem, along with some of the disciples from Caesarea. Amongst them is an older disciple by the name of Mnason, whom they will be lodging with at Jerusalem.

Hierarchical Précis