The key places and events of Paul’s three missionary journeys in the Book of Acts

The key places and events of Paul’s three missionary journeys in the Book of Acts.

During Paul’s missionary journeys throughout the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit can be seen manifesting Himself in Paul, and in his ministry. It is as if Paul had a copy of the book of Matthew and read from its verses,

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20; Holman Christian Standard)
From around 47 A.D., until his death in 63 A.D., Paul did indeed fight the good fight. He also participated in many events that would lead to the founding of Christian churches throughout the Middle East, and subsequently the world.

Paul’s first missionary journey, although shortest in time and geographical distance, was nonetheless extremely significant in the development of the first Christian churches of his time and region. This journey started in Syrian Antioch, and ended in Syrian Antioch with more than ten stops along the way where he proclaimed the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some notable events in this first missionary journey begin with Barnabas and Paul’s stop in Cyprus. Bar-Jesus, or Elymas tries to convince the Roman Proconsul Sergius Paulus to not believe the story about Jesus Christ that Paul is teaching. These deceptive acts of Bar-Jesus are undoubtedly an attempt to keep people dependent upon his magical services. This magician does not want them believing in the only real power which exists, which is the Holy Spirit. It is also notable that within this time frame, Luke no longer refers to Paul as Saul, but begins calling him Paul (a more appropriate name for the Greco-Roman audience that Paul will be trying to reach) from this point on. From Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas head to Perga. It is at Perga that the cousin of Barnabas, John Mark (the author of the Gospel of Mark) decides to accompany them no longer. Many suggestions have been given as to the decision of John Mark; however, Luke, the writer of Acts, does not tell us why. From Perga, they travel to Pisidian, Antioch. Here Paul preaches in the synagogues about the fulfilled messianic promises of Jesus Christ and stressed to the people there that justification is found in Jesus and not the Law of Moses. From Pisidian, they traveled to Iconium, and Lystra. In Lystra, Paul heals a crippled man, and Barnabas and Paul were worshiped as the gods Zeus and Hermes. They, of course, refuse to accept this worship and try to tell the people there about Jesus Christ. It is here that Paul was stoned, but survived. Paul and Barnabas then traveled to Derbe, and back to Lystra, Iconium, Pisidian Antioch, and Perga. As they traveled through these cities, they focused on the appointment of elders to be in charge of the local churches. They did preach in Perga for a short time, however, because they passed through the city quickly the first time through. This trip ends in Syrian Antioch where it first began.

Paul’s second missionary journey began under unfortunate circumstances. Because John Mark had decided to split with them in Perga on their first journey, Paul did not want John Mark with them on the second journey. Barnabas did. According to Acts chapter 15, Barnabas and Paul had a sharp disagreement regarding whether or not John Mark should accompany them. Barnabas separated from Paul and sailed for Cyprus with John Mark. Paul chose Silas to accompany him. This trip started in Syrian Antioch and made many important stops before ending again back in Syrian Antioch. In Lystra, Paul and Silas picked up Timothy. In Troas, Paul saw the man of Macedonia in a vision. In Philippi, a woman named Lydia was converted, and a girl was delivered from demon possession. While imprisoned in Philippi, Paul and Silas converted a jailer to Christianity after an earthquake occurred. In Thessalonica, jealous unbelieving Jews form a mob and assault the house of Paul’s host, Jason. In Athens, Paul preached a sermon on Mars hill, before the Areopagus, which is the local city counsel that licenses teachers. In his sermon, he portrays God as the one creator and sustainer of humanity, and professes that all of humanity has its origin in God. In Corinth, Paul made tents with fellow believers, Pricilla and Aquila. Paul began preaching in the house of Titius Augustus as opposed to preaching in the synagogues. Important events that occur here are the conversion of Crispus, a synagogue ruler; a vision from Jesus where Jesus told Paul to stay in Corinth a little longer; the Roman proconsuls refuse to condemn Paul for preaching; and the writings of First and Second Thessalonians. After one and a half years in Corinth, Paul reaches Cenchrea, and then goes on to Ephesus. Having accompanied him so far, Pricilla and Aquila stay in Ephesus to help further the church there. From Ephesus, Paul goes to Caesarea, Jerusalem, and ends back in; you guessed it, Syrian Antioch.

On Paul’s third missionary journey, Paul set out to strengthen his disciples. This trip, like the others, starts in Syrian Antioch. First, he visits the regions of Galatia, and Phrygia and thus the churches of Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch. In Ephesus, the disciples of John the Baptist receive the Holy Spirit, Paul preaches in the schools of Tyrannus, and seven sons of Sceva tried to cast out demons in the name of Jesus unsuccessfully. It is here in Ephesus that Demetrius led a riot on behalf of the goddess Artemis against Paul and his message. The town clerk subsequently rebuked Demetrius and declared Paul to be neither a robber nor a blasphemer. From Ephesus Paul travels to the Macedonian areas of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. It is here in Macedonia that Paul takes up a collection for the church in Jerusalem as mentioned in First Corinthians 16:1-5. From there, Paul goes to Athens and Corinth and back through Macedonia ending in Troas. It is here in Troas that Eutychus fell out of a window during one of Paul’s sermons. This was probably due to Paul’s long-winded preaching spells, for we see in Acts chapter 20:7 that he preached until midnight. When Eutychus fell from the window, he died. Paul went down, embraced him, and healed him. From Troas, Paul went to Miletus and Tyre, where he was warned that his life would be in danger upon entry to Jerusalem. Again, upon reaching Caesarea, Paul was warned about what would happen to him in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, Paul continued his third missionary journey into Jerusalem. Here in Jerusalem, Paul makes a report to the church about his accomplishments and events of his third journey. Paul was later seized in the temple for preaching about Christ, but was rescued by Roman soldiers. It is here in Jerusalem that Paul made his famous speech to the Jews about his conversion from the stairway of a castle. The Roman Tribune, Claudius Lysias, sends Paul to Caesarea where Paul stands trial before Felix, Festus, and Herod Agrippa. Paul eventually appeals his case to Caesar in an effort to reach Rome, unconcerned of the danger that lurked in the air of the Greco-Roman capital. Paul chose to minister in Rome at the expense of his physical life.

Paul traveled to many places over many miles to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. His passion and concern for the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles led him on three missionary journeys. These journeys will forever impact the history and development of the Christian church.


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