New Testament Survey: Acts to Revelation - Lesson 20

Acts - Third Journey

On his third missionary journey, Paul spent most of his time in Ephesus.

Robert Stein
New Testament Survey: Acts to Revelation
Lesson 20
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Acts - Third Journey

Paul and His Letters

Part 4

IV.  Third Missionary Journey

A.  Description of travels (Acts 18:22-23; 19:1)

B.  Major Cities

1.  Corinth - 2nd Journey

2.  Ephesus - 3rd Journey

C.  Ephesus - Missionary base for other churches

D.  Letters Written

1.  Galatians

2.  Corinthian correspondence

3.  Romans (written in Corinth)

  • 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.


Dr. Robert Stein
New Testament Survey: Acts to Revelation
Acts - Third Journey
Lesson Transcript


Returning back to the third missionary journey, we ended earlier with the second missionary journey, which he finishes in Jerusalem, like he [i.e., Paul] does every missionary journey. And it’s rather interesting – when Paul does all of this journeying, Luke summarizes it rather briefly. Acts 18:22 (the end of the second missionary journey) says, “When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church ….” “He went up …” – where do you go up, in that part of the world? Jerusalem. You never go down to Jerusalem, even if you’re in the north. If you’re in the north, and you go to Jerusalem, you go north. If you’re in the south, you go up. If you’re in the east you go up. And if you are in the west you go up, because Jerusalem is on a mountain, and so you’re always going up. And, no matter what direction you leave Jerusalem, you go down. So, he goes up from Caesarea to visit the church, which is centered in Jerusalem, and then he goes down to Antioch. Continuing in v. 23, “After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia ….” And then, with 19:1, he’s in Ephesus. That’s a small, 1500-mile walk. There’s time that way, and on average, walking 16 miles a day was a pretty common pace. That’s 100 or so days of doing nothing but walking. He can’t be too frail, especially if he has to carry his things with him. He has to carry some of his tent-making equipment, and texts, and things of that nature. So it’s a long journey, and now we’ll find that he leaves the province of Asia once again, and will cross over to Europe.

In the second missionary journey, what cities did he visit where he established churches? There were two cities in Macedonia – Philippi and Thessalonica (and we have a letter to the Thessalonians). Then he leaves and stops by Berea and does something, but we don’t read much by way of a church there; there’s no letter to that church. And where does he spend his largest amount of time in his second missionary journey? In the city of Corinth – the largest city there.

On this missionary journey, he’ll spend the largest amount of his time in the city of Ephesus. To prepare for the story of Acts 19:1, Luke tells us about a man named Apollos, who came to Ephesus, and is a great preacher. Later on, in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, some people will say “I am of Apollos, I am of Peter, I am of Paul, etc.” So he was probably a very eloquent man, and great in preaching.

In Chapter 19 an incident takes place that is very hard to understand, “While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus.” Ephesus is the main city in the province of Asia, which is the western part of modern-day Turkey. Continuing, “There he found some disciples. And he said to them ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’” Doesn’t that sound like something weird? Can you imagine anybody that we’ve read of who’s a Christian before this in Acts saying that they’ve never heard that there’s a Holy Spirit? It’s very strange. So Paul then says (v. 3), “Into what were you then baptized?” because something’s strange. They reply that they were baptized into John’s baptism. These were followers of John the Baptist. We’re talking about 55 AD, and these are followers of John that continued. There will continue to be members of the sect of John the Baptist into the 200’s, or at least to the end of the second century. So, John’s impact was great; he gathered followers who continued to be followers of John, and that group continued to evangelize and establish themselves for probably another 150 years.

These are followers of John the Baptist, apparently, in Corinth, and Paul says (v. 4), “’John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve of them.” This is a very unusual situation, the fact that Paul wants to ask, sensing that something is wrong. He doesn’t ask “Have you been baptized?” He doesn’t ask, “Have you repented?” He doesn’t ask “Do you believe?” He asks, “Have you received the Spirit?”, which is the clue of being a Christian back then. This is key, because if they answer “no”, he tells them about Jesus, and then he baptizes them. So, it’s clear that in Paul’s mind, they’re not Christians. In Luke’s mind they’re not Christians, because otherwise they would be baptized. Baptism is an essential part of becoming part of the Christian community. So they become believers, and (v. 6) the Spirit comes upon them in the same way. This is the third passage in Acts (only three) in which the Spirit comes in a visible way, and there is speaking in tongues, the other two being Pentecost and Cornelius, and all of these being essentially distinct and unusual in that way. I don’t think Luke wants us to assume that this happens to everybody in the Book of Acts, because he only refers to it in these three instances. They’re disciples, and now they have become Christian believers.

In his approach, we find that once again we have that he entered a synagogue (v. 8). That’s the way he’s starting his mission – he starts in a synagogue, “For three months he spoke boldly, arguing and pleading with them about the kingdom of God. But some were stubborn and disbelieved, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, who withdrew from them taking the disciples with him, and argued daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years.” So here we have another very long stay once again, and that is in the city of Ephesus.

What probably happens here later on, in 20:31, is something we may as well look at now. He refers to his being there three years. He says when he meets the Ephesian elders and gives his parting sermon, “Be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears …,” so, this indicates a three-year ministry in this major city.

Tyrannus owned a lecture hall which was probably occupied early in the morning, up to about 10:00 in the morning, or something like that (maybe 11:00). Then there was usually a break time in that society from about 11:00 until about 3:00 – siesta time is still part of that world because of the heat. It’s impossible to do anything. And then after that the hall would be used again. But during that time between 11:00, say, and 3:00, it would be empty, and Paul hires it and uses that as his church.

A number of things happen, great work progresses there; and from here, churches are established. This is the central base in Asia. But surrounding Ephesus (which is a city about the size of Corinth – about 500,000 people), there are other cities – not as large, but large cities for those days – Colossi, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. These are established as mission centers. Churches begin there, and Paul’s partners go out from Ephesus to establish the churches in those areas. In Colossians, Paul refers to their having been established. He says about Epaphras, “For I bear witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans.” So, all of those are cities right around Ephesus, and those are established during this particular period of time. Main city – first to the Jew – then if they’re expelled from the synagogue he goes to the Greeks – and from there are established satellite churches in the surrounding areas of Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis.

During this time, in his third missionary journey, the four main letters of Paul are written: Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians (although we’ll note that he actually wrote at least four letters to the Corinthians – we’ll note that there were more than just the 1 and 2 Corinthians that we have), and then the letter to the Romans.

So, in the third missionary journey, we have his most extensive stay in any one city that we know of (some 3 years in Ephesus), and his four main letters he writes at that time. After that, he returns, visits Corinth, goes over to Cenchreae, visits Philippi, etc., and then returns at the end of the third missionary journey.