New Testament Survey: Acts to Revelation - Lesson 16
Acts - Second Journey
Barnabas and John Mark went to Cyprus and Paul and Silas went through Asia Minor, then to Macedonia and Greece.
Acts - Second Journey
VIII. The Second Missionary Journey
A. Two New Teams
1. Barnabas and John Mark - Cyprus
2. Paul and Silas - Syria, Cilicia, Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Pisidian Antioch
3. Derbe - The circumcision of Timothy (Acts 16:3)
B. The Call to Macedonia
1. Plan - Go to Asia
2. Troas, Samothrace, Neopolis
a. Missionary strategy - Acts 16:13
b. Conversion of the jailor - Acts 16:31ff
c. Fear of the magistrates
4. No mission in Amphibolis or Apollonia
a. Missionary strategy - Acts 17:1-2
b. Length of stay
c. Forced to leave
a. Silas and Timothy
b. Paul on the Areopagus
a. Port city
b. Mission to the Gentiles
c. Rome's view of Christianity
9. Cenchreae, Ephesus, Caesarea, Jerusalem, Antioch
Acts was written by the same person that wrote the Gospel of Luke and continues where Luke left off with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
Luke wrote as a historian and includes details related to geography, political leaders and navigational terms. He was also an eyewitness and acquainted with eyewitnesses of events recorded in Acts.
Luke's purpose in writing Acts was give an orderly historical account of events surrounding Christ's ascension, the first followers of Christ and the spread of the early Church.
Acts 1:8 is the theme verse for the whole book. The structure of the book of Acts shows how this theme was fulfilled by recording events relating the spread of the gospel geographically.
At first, the early Church was made up mostly of Jews who continued to live a Jewish lifestyle.
Two events in the early Church were the choosing of an apostle to take the place of Judas Iscariot, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
The elements of conversion in the New Testament are repentance, faith, confession, regeneration and baptism.
Many of the early Christians spoke Greek and Aramaic. Stephen was one of the first deacons and was martyred for his faith.
The apostle Paul's background as a Jew, training as a Pharisee, and Roman citizenship had a significant influence in his ministry and writings.
Paul had a dramatic conversion experience as he was traveling on the road to Damascus.
After Paul's conversion, on some areas of his theology his positions stayed the same, and on some areas his positions changed dramatically.
Many of the events related to Paul's life and ministry are recorded in the book of Acts.
The conversion of Cornelius and Peter's vision were important events in emphasizing the inclusion of Gentiles into the early Church.
The church at Antioch sent out Paul, Barnabas and John Mark to preach the gospel. This was Paul's first missionary journey.
The Jerusalem Council was a meeting of the early Church leaders to decide how to include Gentiles Christians into what had, up to this point, been a predominantly Jewish Christian group.
Barnabas and John Mark went to Cyprus and Paul and Silas went through Asia Minor, then to Macedonia and Greece.
Some of the letters from Paul in the New Testament are to an individual and some are to congregations. The letters are written in a form that includes the same general elements in the same order.
A main theme of 1 Thessalonians is the second coming of Christ.
Paul addresses some issues regarding the second coming of Christ, such as being responsible to work and support yourself in the meantime.
On his third missionary journey, Paul spent most of his time in Ephesus.
Paul defends his apostleship and explains that the foundation of our relationship with God is based on faith, not works.
Paul begins by defending his apostleship. He then explains justification by faith and gives some ethical exhortations. (The lecture does not cover points C. Ethical Exhortations (5:1-6:10) and D. Conclusion (6:11-18), but we included the outline points for your benefit.)
Most people agree that Paul wrote both letters to the Corinthians. He answered questions from people in the Corinthian church and addressed problems that had arisen.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul emphasizes unity and diversity in the body of Christ, and responds to questions about marriage, spiritual gifts and the Lord's Supper.
Paul defends his actions and apostleship and encourages the people in the church in Corinth to contribute to his collection for the poor in Jerusalem.
The content of Paul's letter to the church in Rome was shaped by the ethnic background of the congregation and the challenges they were facing at that time.
The outline of Paul's letter to the Romans indicates his understanding of the fundamental concepts of the gospel.
Paul wrote Romans from the perspective of his calling as the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Paul begins Romans by stating the problem of sin and enumerating a few specific sins. His conclusion in chapter 3 is that both the Jews and the Gentiles are under the wrath of God.
The divine remedy to the problem of sin and separation from God is justification by a righteous God.
The results of God's righteousness include, peace, hope, freedom, living in the Spirit and assurance.
Paul was arrested in the Temple in Jerusalem, went on trial in Caesarea, and was transported to Rome and imprisoned awaiting trial before Caesar.
A major theme in the book of Philippians is joy in times of adversity.
In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the preeminence and supremacy of Christ.
Imperative is always based on the indicative.
Most scholars agree that Ephesians was written by the apostle Paul, partly because the content follows an outline that is similar to other letters attributed to him that are contained in the New Testament.
In Ephesians, Paul emphasizes who we are in Christ and the mystery of the gospel.
Paul writes to Philemon about how Philemon should receive his runaway slave Onesimus, who has become a committed disciple of Christ under Paul's influence and is returning to him.
Luke does not record the details of Paul's death in the book of Acts.
The best argument is for Pauline authorship, possibly with the help of a secretary.
Two themes in 1 Timothy are the role and requirements for bishops and elders, and the role of women in ministry.
Paul gives instructions to Titus who is a pastor in Crete.
Paul gives instruction to Timothy, who is a young pastor.
It is unclear who wrote the book of Hebrews.
A major theme in Hebrews is the supremacy of Christ. There are also passages that emphasize that perseverance is essential.
According to James, true faith results in works.
The apostle Peter wrote this letter to encourage Christians to be faithful during a time of suffering.
Themes in 1 Peter include the atonement, the new birth and the continuity of the Old and New Testaments.
Some people question whether or not 2 Peter was written by the apostle Peter.
Themes in 2 Peter include false teachers and the return of the Lord.
1 John is similar to the Gospel of John in style, vocabulary, theology and purpose.
John makes a distinction between acts of sin and continuing in sin.
Jesus came as God in the flesh and offers us the gift of eternal life.
Revelation is a book written in an apocalyptic genre by the apostle John.
The philosphy of interepretation you use when you study the book of Revelation determines what you think specific passages in the book are teaching.
Chapters 1-12 begins with the seven churches, and includes the seven seals and seven trumpets.
Revelation chapters 13-22 focus on the beast, Christ's final victory, final judgment and the millenium.
After Christ ascended and the church was spreading, it was helpful to have a written record of Christ's life and the apostles' teaching. All the books included in the New Testament were written before the end of the first century.
Each book included in the New Testament had to meet specific criteria. They are arranged with the Gospels first, then letters, then the book of Revelation.
In this second graduate-level class on New Testament Survey, Dr. Robert Stein walks you through the New Testament books Acts through Revelation. In his analysis of the books, you will learn not only the facts but also be challenged with their theological and spiritual significance.
Lecture: Paul: Second Journey
Let’s go then to the second missionary journey, which begins in Acts 15 by an account which is surprisingly straightforward and honest. One almost wonders why Luke even talks about it, but it does reveal his integrity and his honesty in writing the accounts. When I read what he says here in Acts 15:36, it makes me want to feel like I can trust him in other instances -- I think it aids the credibility of him as a historian, “And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Come, let us return and visit the brethren in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’ Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark.” Remember, they started out with Mark. Mark left after Paul assumed the leadership of the group. “But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp contention ….” Here are two of the great Christian leaders of the world, and they have an argument over this, a “…sharp contention, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus [which was Barnabas’s home], but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”
So, Barnabas and John Mark go to Cyprus, but if you look later on in the life of Paul and his missionary letters, he has some very positive things to say concerning John Mark. In Colossians 4:10, he writes, “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas ....” So, when Paul writes Colossians from in imprisonment in Rome, Mark is with him again. So whatever the problem was at the beginning of the second missionary journey, it was not a lasting hostility. Later on, Mark rejoins Paul in some of his work, and is with him in Rome. And in 2 Timothy 4:11, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful in serving me.” So whatever might have been the problem at the beginning of the second missionary journey, it was not a lasting problem, and they are reconciled later.
Notice also that instead of saying “Well, if that happens, if you won’t let me do what I want to do, I’m not going to church anymore,” what happens is that two missionary teams develop. So they say something like, “Well, if we can’t work together, let’s have two missionary teams.” And Paul then re-visits the churches of the first missionary journey. He goes up from Syria to southeastern Turkey (Cilicia); visits the cities in reverse order of Lystra, Iconium, Derbe, Pisidian Antioch, and there establishes the churches more fully that he founded on the first missionary journey.
Now let me comment about this situation. When they come to Derbe, there is a disciple named Timothy (16:1-4),”… the son of Jewish woman who is a believer; but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him [so that Paul, Silas, and Timothy would be a three-some on the missionary team], and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” My goodness, I thought we just fought through this, indicating that this doesn’t have to be done! In Jerusalem, Paul fought not to have Titus circumcised; now here he circumcises Timothy.
Well the one thing that’s for sure is he doesn’t do it because of pressure. I mean, if there was pressure to have someone circumcised, it was in Jerusalem. Having resisted that, this is a different issue. And Luke says he does it because it’s known that he’s uncircumcised, and they’re going to be working in the synagogues. My understanding is something like this:
Paul says to Timothy: “Now Timothy, you and I know that circumcision isn’t relevant. ‘For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail ….’ [Galatians 5:6 – this isn’t written yet, but the thought is no doubt in his mind]. We’re going to be working in these synagogues and, rather than every time we go to a synagogue having to deal with this issue of circumcision (the issue of whether a person can be saved without being circumcised, etc.), these are Jews we’re dealing with. Why don’t we just deal with it, have you circumcised, and then we don’t have to worry about that?” Timothy agrees; he’s circumcised; and now they go to the various synagogues and talk about Christ, talk about grace through faith alone, and they don’t have to always re-hash this other issue, which is a subsidiary issue, not the main issue. This allows them to keep their focus on what is essential, and at the heart of their message – the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, some people have said that Luke can’t be right; Paul would have never done that. I don’t know how you can say that; Paul feels quite free on these issues. Some people say that Paul believed in the freedom of the gospel. Well, that’s just the point --the gospel’s so free that this is an irrelevant issue. It doesn’t matter one way or the other; so, why not, for the sake of preaching of the gospel, taking care of this, so we can go on and not worry about it any longer? I tend to think that it makes perfectly good sense, and is not a major issue.
On the first missionary journey, Paul traveled a rather short distance. He started from Antioch; comes down to Cyprus; comes up to Attaleia, where John Mark leaves; and then they pursue up to Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe; return that way; and then return straight to Antioch without hitting Cyprus on the way back. So this is a very short missionary journey. This is Syria, Cilicia (where Tarsus is located), and in practice, this whole area was the province of Syria. In the first missionary journey, these are the churches that are established. Later on, when we look at Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the issue is going to be whether the churches established during his first missionary journey in the Roman province of Galatia are the churches that he writes to; or whether the territory north of Galatia (which was the ancient Galatia) is being involved in that. We’ll worry about that when we get to that section.
On this missionary journey, they’ll go from Antioch, through the Cilician gates (the pass between the very rugged mountains); visit Lystra, Iconium, Derbe, and Pisidian Antioch (different from Syrian Antioch); come over here to Troas; cross over to Philippi, (do a work at Philippi); Amphipolis and Apollonia (no mission work in these cities here); then to Thessalonica, Berea, coming down to Athens, Corinth; then a quick stopover in Ephesus; and then they return to Jerusalem. There is much more of a sea voyage here than in the shorter journey, but a significant portion of Paul’s travel here is by land. So, if you talk about Paul being a very frail individual, that might be. He might be frail, but he was awfully strong to carry out all the missionary journeys that he traveled. It’s really rather impressive. How far does a person walk in a day, when they’re journeying in ancient times? Right around twenty miles – not much more than that, and not much less if you want to get somewhere.
Now, we have here at the beginning of the second missionary journey, a re-visiting of the churches. And then, Paul wants to go to the province or Bithynia. Bithynia is located in what we call northern Turkey, next to the Black Sea. The province of Asia in the Bible does not mean that whole region farther to the east (China, etc.), but it’s this part of Turkey where Ephesus is the main city. He’s not wanting to go to India or China, but Asia here in Turkey (western Turkey on the Aegean Sea). And, he’s planning to do a missionary journey in Asia (remember the Asia we’re talking about – the province where Ephesus is the main city). And he has this intention (Acts 16:6-7), “They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.” How God leads them in these directions, we’re not told; we just know that this is the divine plan. So they now come to the city of Troas, near ancient Troy, and a vision appears to Paul (v.9-10), “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia.” So now we have the first “we” section in the Book of Acts (Acts 16:9 begins it). He leaves the port of Troas (in modern-day Turkey), goes halfway over to the island of Samothrace, where they set anchor and stay in the port so that they don’t have to go during the night; then the next day to the city of Neapolis, which is the port city; and they eventually come then by foot to Philippi.
And here now we begin to see the missionary strategy of the apostle (v.13), “And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.” The missionary strategy of Paul involves a major city. He stops at Philippi, that’s a small village on the way to a major city. And usually he looks for a city with a synagogue. There is no synagogue in Philippi, however. But there is a meeting place where Jewish women get together, and he goes there. And so the first attempt again, is to go to a Jewish audience. First to the Jew the gospel will go, then to the Greek. And also we find the practice of hospitality. There is at the meeting of the women a woman named Lydia (v.14-15), and “The Lord opened her heart to heed what Paul was saying,” and when she was baptized with her household, “…she besought us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’”
The practice of hospitality was something that Paul could count on. If you went to an ancient city, there were not hotels; there were not inns (what we see in the Christmas story is not anything like a Super 8 located on the outskirts of Bethlehem). These were the kinds of places where a caravan might stop, and so forth. There might be straw and things like that, but things like hotels are simply not the way people travel; one depends on hospitality. And hospitality was something very much ingrained on the Jewish mind. So that, if you were a Jew and you came to a city, met a Jewish person, and mentioned that you were traveling, they would invite you to stay in their home. That was just the practice. You just did it, even if you didn’t really want to – it was an unspoken requirement among Jews. It was part of the culture. And they would even argue over, and try to fight to have that honor of having the visitor stay with them. Remember that life at this time is pretty boring, and at least if you have a visitor you have someone else to share with and something else to talk about. So, Paul would live on the basis of hospitality, and that practice continues in the early church, and the early Christian missionaries would simply go to a village, find a Christian; they would be put up, and they would be encouraged and helped along the way.
Now that could be abused later on, and so in the early church they began to say that if they stayed more than two or three nights, kick them out (because then they’re abusing their missionary privilege). They were being put up there on the way through the system of hospitality. So you have here major city, a Jewish audience, staying with the practice of hospitality.
Now a major conversion takes place, and that is the story of the Philippian jailer. It’s one that children learn very early about in the Sunday School materials. Paul heals a girl that has a demon of some sort, and the owners are really infuriated (the owners of that slave girl). And they charge Paul before the magistrates with disturbing the city, “’They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.’ The crowd joined in attacking them.” And in v.22, “the magistrates tore their garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet to the stocks.”
At midnight they’re singing and praying; an earthquake comes and the doors of the prison are opened, and the jailer is about commit suicide. He had his sword and was about to commit suicide. Now why in the world would you do that? There was a law, the Justinian Code #944, which says that a guard is responsible for the prisoners. And if a prisoner escapes, the penalty that the prisoner was to suffer, the guard now has to take care of. So the prison guard, seeing the prison doors open, thinks that everyone has escaped, and, rather than go through all of this dishonor and suffering, he’s just going to take his life. And Paul says (v.28), “’Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’ And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’” At the same hour, we read that he spoke the word of the Lord to him, and to all that were of his house. He says “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your house.” And he took him that night, washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once with all his family. This is an example of conversion where he believes in the Lord and is baptized right that night. Some have argued that this indicates infant baptism, because he’s baptized with all his house. But we don’t know if he had small children – they may have been grown-up children. But if you look at v. 34, “Then he brought them into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.” If you want to get technical, you could say that if they’re old enough to rejoice, they’re old enough to believe. So I don’t think you can make a big issue of infant baptism based on this passage. So the gospel message is “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you’ll be saved.” Then you’re baptized, and we have this conversion in Europe in the experience at Philippi.
Now an interesting thing happens with the magistrates, however (v.35). “When it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, ‘Let those men go in peace.’” And they think, “Ok great, let’s go.” But Paul said to them (v. 37-39), “’They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now cast us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.’ The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they [the magistrates] were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city.” Now, why are the magistrates afraid? Well, this is a special kind of city – a Roman city that had kind of an independent status from the province – it was a city that was built to house retired veterans of the legions, so it was very patriotic and sensitive to their unique Roman ties. But most importantly, it was forbidden to beat a Roman citizen. Even putting him in chains is forbidden. So these magistrates that had him chained and beaten -- and there was no charge, they were not condemned in any official way -- they’re frightened. They are literally frightened, and Paul is going to make the most of this.
Whether he has in mind the desire to protect the Christians in the community, that if they beat this one famous Christian and got in serious trouble with it, they may be less likely to pick on other Christians in this way or not, we don’t know. But the magistrates come and apologize and say, “We’ve got this bucket of Kentucky fried chicken for you to eat on the way,” or something like that. Paul’s Roman citizenship didn’t protect him from a beating, but it shows that the beating was illegal and it frightened those that did beat him. But the Philippian jailer is converted, and we have a good example of conversion in the normal pattern. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you are baptized.
Leaving Philippi, they come to the cities of Amphipolis and Apollonia. And we read (17:1), “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.” Now, what does that suggest about Amphipolis and Apollonia? It appears that there was no synagogue in those cities. And the result was that Paul is not going to go in those cities, because the greatest pulpit he has available is a synagogue. All he has to do is go on the Sabbath into the synagogue, and sit and wait and be asked to preach. You can’t ask for anything better than that. You don’t have to ask for a spot in the downtown to show your Jesus film, or anything like that; you just go to the synagogue, and then they’ll ask you to preach. And this not only is an opportunity for him to preach, but it’s also a fulfillment of “to the Jew first, and also to the Greeks”. So that this is his strategy, and he practices that when comes to Thessalonica and he preaches there. And we have a little bit of a conflict with regard to just how long he was there. Beginning with Acts 17:2, “And Paul went in [to the synagogue], as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.’ And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous ….” And a riot starts, and the result of the riot is that they drag Paul and Silas away into custody, and Jason is forced to put up a bond guaranteeing that they will leave. We continue in v.9, “When they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.”
So, they’re forced to leave the city in Acts 17:9, and when Paul writes his first letter to the Thessalonians, he says something that may reflect his opinion of what had happened here. In 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18 he says “Since we were bereft of you brethren for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you –I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.” Some have suggested that the hindrance of Satan was the bond that Jason had to put up, guaranteeing that Paul would not stay in the city. Whether it is or not, it’s impossible to know. We can’t be dogmatic on that at all.
How long did Paul stay in the city? We have, according to this, that he was there for three weeks, in the synagogue preaching and it looks like after three weeks he may have had to flee. However, if you look at the letter of 1 Thessalonians, he says some things there that give the impression that he was there for a longer time. Turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 1:9, “For they themselves report concerning us what a welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” If you turn from idols, what kind of people are you? Gentiles. And Paul seems to talk about a Gentile mission which Acts does not refer to. Acts just refers to the synagogue episode there. And then also you have in 2:14-16, “For you brethren became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews.” So these are Gentiles, right? They’re suffering the same things as Gentiles from the Jewish Christians suffered from Jews in Judea. So again, you have references to a group of Gentiles having entered the church, and we don’t have any time in the three weeks where a great work among the Gentiles is referred to here.
Most significant, however, is what Paul says in Philippians 4:16, “For even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.” So Paul, twice in Philippi, receives a gift of money from the Philippians. Now Philippi is 100 miles away. So if you have two trips from Philippi to Thessalonica for aid, etc., you have to think a lot more than three weeks. So it probably was a little longer than that, and Luke has just not been concerned about giving the exact amount of time here.
From Thessalonica he leaves to the city of Berea. Let’s just look at some of these cities – we have Troas, Samothrace, Neapolis is the port to Philippi, where they follow the road to Amphipolis and Apollonia (no work there); on to Thessalonica; down to Berea; from there they’ll go down to Athens, and on to Corinth.
At Berea there’s a believing church established there. We don’t have to refer to that; then he goes to Athens, and there’s some suggestion that he was waiting for Silas and Timothy to return. They were there with him in Athens; they had gone back to Thessalonica, and he was waiting in Athens for them. His intention was not to establish any mission there (there doesn’t seem to have been a synagogue there, which is somewhat surprising), but it’s a very pagan city. It was not so much a business center (Corinth was more that, because Corinth was a port city), but Athens was more of a symbolic city. And it could be that since Jews were very much in the mercantile and business aspects of cities, that Corinth would have been the city where they would have settled, because as a port city it was a good place to deal with trade and the like. But when he comes to Athens he’s waiting for them, and he’s forced to preach. He’s provoked by the idolatry that he saw in the city.
Even the ruins in Athens today are really very impressive – if you go to the Parthenon, it is an amazing city, with beautiful symmetry. But the reason it looks so symmetrical, is that, as one archaeologist said, “There’s not a straight line in the whole building.” Everything is bent. If you look at the straight columns, they’re not straight. They are bigger in the middle than at the top, because if they were straight, the middle would look narrower. And if you look at the top, the top doesn’t have straight walls going up; they’re bent outward, because if you look at it they’ll seem bent inward at the top. So everything is built according to these principles. It’s a remarkable building, and when we look at it we just marvel at the beauty of the city. But that’s not what Paul’s reaction was. Paul’s reaction was that he is aghast at its idolatry. Paul judges the city not by its externals, but what he sees in their heart, and it’s full of idolatry. It’s an ugly city, it’s so full of idolatry. And I think we have to be careful that we don’t judge the great accomplishments of architecture or buildings, seen as what they represent. Do they represent a love for God, and a piety? No, not at all, just the opposite. When we look at our own nation and its remarkable scientific achievements, and you look at what’s behind that, oft-times you don’t see a great love and piety of God, you see an ugliness. In the 1930’s for instance, the leading scientific nation in the world with physics and the like, was Germany. And yet, that covered a great ugliness in that country.
So, Paul sees and judges it, and decides he has to preach. And when he begins to preach (he has an ability to preach), and the result is that they take him to the Areopagus, which is the hill of Ares. We call it Mars Hill many times, because Ares is the Greek name for the god of war; Mars is the Roman name for the Greek god of war. So Mars Hill is just the Roman name; Areopagus is the Greek name. And there are Epicurean and stoic philosophers and so forth, and they say, “Let’s bring him up to the Areopagus and ask him to talk to us. After all, we have nothing better to do, and here’s someone who is saying something. Let’s listen to him.” Now, the speech of Paul has been looked at by some people as being a very dangerous, false attempt, a bad attempt for Paul to become a philosopher, and the results are poor, and this indicates that he was rebuked. And when he writes to the Corinthians, he says (1 Corinthians 2:2), “I determined [when I came] not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” that he felt repentant over what he had done at Mars Hill. I think that’s a very poor, false understanding of what took place. What Paul is preaching is what any good preacher does – you try to make some contact with where the people are. And where he is, is not the synagogue, so he can’t refer to what God has done in the Old Testament (the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and through the prophets, etc.). There would be no contact in that.
So what he does, standing up in the Areopagus in v. 22, he says, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. [You are religious people – let’s talk about religion.] For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’” In other words, we have thousands of gods out here, but we might have left one out, and we don’t want to offend anybody, so let’s put one out there just in case. We have found archaeologically inscriptions to unknown gods plural up in Mars Hill, the Areopagus area. Continuing (v.23b),
“What therefore you worship as unknown, I now proclaim to you.” I want to talk to you about this thing, this unknown god that you know exists but you don’t know how to talk about. Let me talk to you about him. “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, and hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your prophets have said.
Notice here he quotes a Greek prophet. The Greek prophet is not inspired, but he said something that’s right, and I want to talk to you about that.
‘For we indeed are his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, ‘We will hear you again about this.’”
So, Paul gives a message, and he’s not pulling any punches. He says that they’re worshipping in ignorance, and that God bore with us, but now it’s time to repent – that’s not minimizing the message that you have here. And then when he gets to Jesus, he talks about his resurrection, and it’s at that point he’s turned off. No more. Now why is it at this point that they turn him off? Well, these are Greek philosophers, and the predominant Greek philosophy of the day was very influenced by Plato, who has a strong dualism. Matter is evil; spirit is good. That’s the whole problem in the world – the conflict between inner spirit and outer matter, and the problem that we have as some of the neo-platonists would say, is that our good soul is imprisoned in this body.
The idea of a resurrection – when a person is finally freed once and for all from the curse of his body; for God then to put it back into a body, that’s absurd. So the resurrection, in which a resurrected body is being referred to, is a contradiction of terms for many Greek philosophers – it’s like a square circle. A good body is not possible – bodies are matter, and matter is, in and of itself, intrinsically evil. Therefore, they turn him off at that point, and some believe, and a small mention of this is made in v.34. I don’t think Luke thinks that Paul blundered on this. I think that Luke is giving an idea of Paul’s speech which was fit for the occasion. I don’t think you should say, “Well he didn’t preach about the Old Testament.” He was preaching to people who didn’t know the Old Testament. He wants some continuity, and I thought the response was simply because of the people who were there, not because of the message as such. Athens, however, never has a church that we read of in Acts. It doesn’t seem that there was a strong Christian community established there.
From Athens, they leave to Corinth. Corinth was located on an isthmus, a peninsula, and interestingly enough, if you come down Greece, you have at a certain point two bays that come in and come out again, and then you continue the peninsula down there. Coming around that peninsula was very dangerous. And so what they had done was to build a road on that small isthmus where the bays come in so the ships could come into one end of the bay, and then they would put it (if it was not too large) on wheels. And then they would roll it to the other side, and set it sail again, and it would go up the bay that was there, and continue on its journey. And so, travel from Turkey, Ephesus, and that side, always would come that way to avoid the danger and the lengthier time of coming around the isthmus of Greece. They would come to that bay, and they would roll across the country railway called Diolkos, and set sail. If it was too large a ship, they would have to unload it and reload to another awaiting ship. Later on the Greeks built a canal across, so ships could go through. It’s a rather impressive canal, and if you’re ever there, when you visit the canal, you can also walk down a path and see the old roadway on which they traveled that way.
It was a very large city – about ½ million people. So if you leave Alexandria and Rome, the largest cities, this would be tied with maybe Ephesus and Antioch with the next-largest cities at about ½ million. It is a port city. Port cities are not usually known for their great morality. People who are away from home tend to do things that they would not do if they were at home. And the very word “Corinthian” became a verb. To “corinthianize” something or someone was to debase them – a very immoral city, and we might say that it was not a great city to have a mission in. But it was an ideal city to have a mission in, in Paul’s mind. When he comes there, v.2, “He finds a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome.” He comes to the city, finds Priscilla and Aquila, lately come from Rome because Claudius had expelled all the Jews from Rome. There’s a wonderful correspondence between this and the Roman historian Suetonius, who writes in his work, The Life of Claudius (the emperor), that in AD 49, he expelled all the Jews from Rome. When we look at the Book of Acts, it’s things like this that reinforce your view that this man is a historian, and that he’s writing good history. And so you have this very event supported in that regard.
Silas and Timothy return in Acts 18:5 from Macedonia and Thessalonica, and inform Paul about what is going on there, and Paul then writes 1 Thessalonians. I mentioned the distance between Athens and Thessalonica by land is about 275 miles (by sea 350). We have in Corinth a large mission work among the Gentiles. And an event comes that I want to call to your attention in v. 12 and following, “When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia [in about AD 52], the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, saying, ‘This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law’ [This man is teaching a different religion.] But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, ‘If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.’ And he drove them from the tribunal.” The Roman governor, AD 52 -- what is his view of Christianity? It’s a Jewish sect, thus protected by all those special rules and laws that Jews had been granted. Going back to the second century BC, the Jews were granted under the period of the Maccabees, special treaties with the Romans. And Julius Caesar, when he became emperor, extended them, which meant that Jews did not have to address the emperor by sacred names. They did not have to sacrifice to the emperor as a god; they could instead sacrifice in their temple to their god on his behalf.
That’s a big difference – as a Jew, you can do the one but you can’t do the other. You were able to collect temple taxes from the people. The Romans were very uneasy about having anyone possess large sums of money. Large sums of money allow you to acquire weapons and hire soldiers. They allowed the Jews to collect from all the male Jews in the world a temple tax. And the temple was very wealthy. There was a lot of money permitted there. This was extended into other areas of Jewish culture, as well. If, when welfare was being distributed by the Romans, it was a Sabbath day, a Jew could get his on another day so that he didn’t have to violate his religion. Not only that, if welfare were in sides of bacon, they could say, “I’m a Jew, I’ll take it in cash.” There were all sorts of privileges. And in general, Rome was very uneasy, very much opposed to new religions. Christianity doesn’t have any of those problems, because it’s a Jewish sect.
By the time it becomes clear that there is a clear break between the two, Christianity has been around for decades and has evidenced itself as not being much of a major problem. So it’s very interesting, and very important to see the Roman understanding of the Christian religion. Paul then writes 2 Thessalonians.
From Corinth, he returns after the end of the second missionary journey to Cenchreae, which is the port city. Corinth was on the west side of the isthmus; Cenchreae on the east side of the isthmus. So he crosses the isthmus by foot; sails from Cenchreae to Ephesus; then for a very short time Caesarea, Jerusalem, and Antioch. And that ends the 2d missionary journey.