Lesson 9: Paul's Second Missionary Journey - Part 1
Hello, I’m Carl Laney, Professor here at Western Seminary and it’s my privilege to teach you this introduction to the New Testament. We’ve been looking at Paul’s travels and as we consider the Apostle Paul, many people look back to Acts 9 as Paul’s conversion. Well, I’ve been reading on that and an excellent book related to this subject is, Marvin Wilson’s, Our Father Abraham. He does a great job showing the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. He prefers to refer to Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road as a calling rather than a conversion. Let me read from his book on page 46, “those scholars typically describe this life-changing experience as a conversion, it would be more correctly labeled, “the call.” In this vein, Krister Stendahl has shrewdly observed. Here is not that change of religion we commonly associate with the word conversion, serving the one and the same God. Paul received a new and special calling in God’s service. God’s Messiah asks him as a Jew to bring God’s message to the Gentiles.” Then Marvin Wilson concludes, “as we have emphasized at no point in his life did Paul leave Judaism, rather he understood his relationship to the Messiah as the full blooming of his Jewish faith.” Isn’t that good? Well, Paul lived as a Jewish person. He came to understand that the Messiah, Jesus, was the promised one that had been promised by the prophets. He embraced that and began to share that news with his Jewish friends and with Gentiles. We are thankful for the life of Paul.
Let’s pray and we’ll look at his second missionary journey. Heavenly Father we thank you for the technology that allows professors at Western Seminary to teach those that they’ve never met outside the classroom. We just thank you for the opportunity to share some insights from this New Testament introduction course with these listeners and observers. Thank you for this good day and for the opportunity to study together in Jesus name we pray, amen.
I. THE PREPARATION FOR THE MINISTRY 15:36-16:5
Well we are looking at Paul’s second missionary journey this morning, and as you can see from the slide there, Paul left from Antioch and headed to the region that he had ministered to on that first journey. He headed through the Galatian region and went back to visit those churches. Then he continued through the Highlands of Central Turkey and made his way to Troas, and it was there at Troas that he received his vision to come over to Europe. So, Paul went across the Aegean Sea came to Neapolis then started ministering at Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, made his way south to Athens and then to Corinth. Then a stop at Ephesus on his way home and then a stop in Jerusalem before returning to Antioch on his first missionary journey. A journey that took him about two and a half years.
A. The Separation of Paul and Barnabas 15:36-40
Well at the end of chapter 15, of the Book of Acts, we see there was a breach in the relationship between Paul and his missionary colleague Barnabas. And the issue arose over the inclusion of John Mark on the missionary team. Barnabas wanted to take his nephew on the second journey, but Paul felt that his failure, John Mark’s failure to complete the first journey, disqualified him from further service. What had John Mark done that had caused Paul to have these feelings against him and not wanting to bring him? Well, Luke records in 15:38 that he had abandoned the missionary team. Paul insisted that they should take him along who had deserted, the word that is referred to here is a word that means to stand off, to withdraw, to depart from. It’s like a rebellion and Paul felt John Mark had disqualified himself by these actions. So, what we discover is that the debate between Paul and Barnabas over including John Mark got so strong that the two men separated. They separated from each other and instead of one team going out together, two teams left from Antioch. Barnabas took John Mark and they left and went to Cyprus where Paul and Barnabas had ministered on the first journey.
B. The Follow-Up Ministry in Asia Minor 15:41-16:5
Paul chose Silas and they left for Asia Minor to minister in the cities of Asia Minor where Paul and Barnabas had served on the first journey. Well, this was a breach, a breach between Christian leaders on the matter of including John Mark. It’s helpful as a follow-up to note that in 2 Tim. 4:11 Paul says he found Mark to be useful for the ministry and wants Mark to join him in Rome at the end of Paul’s life. But in this situation, we have a division that takes place and these two men separate from each other. There’s been a lot of ink spilled over the debate, who was right? Was Barnabas right for wanting to give Mark a second chance? Was Paul right for having high standards in terms of leadership and involvement in a missionary team? Well, what we’ve discovered from this is that people don’t always agree. Even Christian leaders, but the good news about that is that God is bigger than our disagreements. I don’t think you can say. well, Barnabas was right, or Paul was right. They just had a difference of opinion as to John Mark and whether he should be included in this second team. And in the sovereignty of God two teams left Antioch instead of just one. Paul and Silas traveled north through Syria and Silica to Asia Minor. They returned to the cities that Paul had ministered with Barnabas on that first journey to Derbe and Lystra where Paul had been stoned.
C. Why did Paul circumcise Timothy (v. 3)?
It was probably at Lystra that Timothy was added to the missionary team. Timothy had apparently been converted under Paul’s ministry when Paul passed through this region on his first journey. So, Timothy now joined the missionary team. But we’re surprised that Paul had Timothy circumcised, especially in light of the Jerusalem Council decision which said circumcision was unnecessary to add anything to the justification that we experience by faith in Christ. Circumcision was not necessary but because of Timothy’s background, Paul sensed it was expedient to circumcise him. He had a Jewish mother and a Greek father so what did that make Timothy? Nobody knew for sure and Paul wanted to make sure that Timothy was able to go into the synagogues and conduct the ministry with Paul and he didn’t want him to be excluded in any way. F. F. Bruce has commented in his book on Paul that in Timothy’s case the circumcision was a mere surgical procedure, not a religious rite. I think that explains it pretty well.
II. THE CALL TO MACEDONIA 16:6-10
A. The Leading of the Holy Spirit 16:6-8
Well the missionary team continued through Asia Minor visiting those congregations that Paul had established on that first journey and they were sharing the report of the decision by the Jerusalem Council. As a result of the witness of these missionaries, the faith of these early believers was strengthened, and their numbers increased in this area of Galatia. Well having passed through the area of Phrygia and Galatia Paul, Silas and now Timothy, on the team, continued on. Paul wanted to go south to Asia, but the Holy Spirit said no. He decided well maybe they should go north to Bithynia, but again the Holy Spirit said no. So not being able to go north or south they continued toward the west and ended up at Troas. I think this is a good example of sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading while having a strategic plan. Paul had a plan, let’s go south to the area of Ephesus in the area of Asia. Let’s go north to Bithynia. Paul had a plan to take the Gospel to these strategic areas but he was also sensitive to the Spirit's leading and so he was able to modify those plans based upon the Spirit’s leading, he ended up at Troas.
B. The Vision of the Macedonian 16:9-10
It was there at Troas that the Lord gave Paul and Silas and Timothy a call to Macedonia. It was there that Paul had this vision of a Macedonian urging the missionary team to come and to help to spread the Gospel in Macedonia. At this point notice in Acts 16:10 Luke seems to have joined the team, “When he had seen the vision immediately we sought to go to Macedonia.” Luke apparently includes himself now at this point in the travel. So we have Paul and Silas and Timothy and now Luke, the four on this missionary team. Some have even suggested that perhaps Luke was the Macedonian that was calling Paul in this vision to come over and to help spread the Gospel in northern Greece.
III. THE MINISTRY IN PHILIPPI 16:11-40
A. The Journey to Philippi 16:11-12
Philippi, a Roman city, was located on the Gangites River 10 miles inland from Neapolis.
So, Paul left Asia Minor for Greece and came to Macedonia, which is in Europe. They set sail across the Aegean Sea and passed from Troas, a distance of about 175 miles until they came to Neapolis, the port of Philippi and Neapolis is a beautiful little port city. It’s the terminus of the Egnatian Way that journeys across the northern part of Macedonia and eventually connects with the Appian Way which leads on to Rome. They landed at this beautiful little port city of Neapolis and then went 10 miles north to the city of Philippi. Philippi, located on the Gangites River, is just 10 miles north of Neapolis. The city was of strategic importance because it commanded a fertile plain in this region. 16:12 mentions that Philippi was a leading city of the district of Macedonia. It was a significant place because a Roman Colony had been established there. A Roman Colony was there at Philippi, so the people living in that place had the same privileges as those living in Rome itself. Because of the political and economic importance of this city, Paul felt it was a strategic place to spread the Gospel into the region of Macedonia.
Well there was no synagogue at Philippi so the devote Jews gathered by the riverside for prayer. They gathered at the riverside because there was flowing water and Jewish need flowing water for the ritual of immersion which was a ritual cleansing. This is referred to in the Jewish literature, the Mishnah and Talmud as the Mikveh. Mikvehs are often dug in the ground and filled with water and flowing water flows into the Mikveh but here they simply used the river and the river had flowing water, so the Jews would gather at the riverside for prayer and for their ritual cleansing.
B. The Conversion of Lydia 16:13-15
You can go down to that riverside at Philippi today and know that you are in the area where Paul met this group of Jewish people and Lydia, a native of Thyatira, a city famous for its purple dye, responded to Paul’s preaching and she was immersed. She identified herself as a follower of the Jewish Messiah by a ritual of immersion which was an identification ritual. Notice her response to the Gospel it says, “The Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” Notice God’s sovereignty, God opened her heart but notice the human response. She responded and both of these are true, divine sovereignty and human decision. They come together in this decision that Lydia made to be a follower of Jesus. She believed, and her household also believed and was immersed. Then she showed her hospitality by inviting the missionary team to be her houseguests for the duration of their ministry in Philippi, Act 16:15, she said, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.” So, she welcomed these four missionaries into her home.
C. The Exorcism of a Demon 16:16-18 possessed by a “python-spirit”
Well, Paul had a ministry there in the forum of Philippi, preaching and teaching to the people. You recall there wasn’t a synagogue to preach in so Paul was in the open air, in the market place in the forum and we discover that there was a slave girl there who had a spirit of divination as it’s referred to here. Literally, she had a python spirit – a spirit of Pythia. Now who was Pythia? Pythia was the priestess of Apollo. Apollo, the god of youth, manly beauty, and prophecy whose oracle was given and delivered at Delphi. Pythia, that was the priestess there, believed to be inspired by the god Apollo when she was seated on a tripod stool over a sacred rock that had a crack in it in the temple and some noxious gasses would come up from the crack in that rock and she would go into a trance and Pythia would speak for Apollo. Pythia responded to questions with unintelligible words, but the priest would come down and write down her words and give this as a message from Apollo to a pilgrim visitor at the worship center there at Delphi. This woman who was a slave girl had a spirit of divination, literally a spirit of Pythia. She was like the priestess at Delphi and the demons were using her. The message that they were proclaiming through her was these men, Paul and his missionaries are servants, of the Most High God, who are proclaiming the way of salvation. Well, that sounds pretty good until you think about it that these demons were seeking to discredit the missionary team by associating them with Satan. So this was an endorsement, but it was an endorsement from the wrong source. You wouldn’t want to be endorsed by someone who had a bad reputation. Even though what she was saying was true it was an endorsement by the devil and Paul didn’t want to have this endorsement. So, he delivered this young woman from the spirit that was controlling her, and Paul said, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” So, she was delivered and no longer able to give these prophecies.
D. The Imprisonment of Paul and Silas 16:19-24
Having the source of their income cut off, these businessmen who owned this slave girl began to abuse the missionary team and accuse them and accuse them falsely, so Paul and Silas were arrested. The missionaries were jailed in the prison there at Philippi. They were secured in the prison with their feet, 16:24, in stocks. There was no escape possible they were incarcerated, and their feet were in stocks. You know God had prepared the heart of Lydia to respond to the Gospel.
E. The Conversion of the Jailer 16:25-34
God also prepared the heart of the jailer at Philippi to respond. There they were in this prison at Philippi late at night and the missionary team was singing hymns of praise to God. I think this is a good example of Paul practicing what he actually taught rejoice always, rejoice in all circumstances. Paul emphasizes this in his letter to the Philippians. You recall how an earthquake caused the prison gates to be opened and the jailer thought that the prisoners had escaped and was about to take his own life. But Paul said no, we’ve not left we’re still here. The jailer responded, “Sirs what must I do to be saved?” Paul responded, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household. Your family can be saved by faith as you can as well.” This jailer believed as Lydia had believed, and he was immersed that night he and his family had come to faith.
F. The Release by the Magistrates 16:35-40
The next morning the magistrate sent word to release the prisoners. And it was then that Paul spoke of his Roman citizenship and he called for an apology by the magistrates who had arrested and beaten him on the previous day. According to Roman law, Roman citizens were exempted from degrading forms of punishment and Paul had been degraded by this abuse that had come upon him. A Roman citizen would claim their legal right simply by saying, “I’m a Roman citizen.” And we wonder why Paul didn’t affirm his Roman citizenship when he was arrested. Well perhaps he did, perhaps he did, perhaps he called out that he was a Roman citizen, perhaps his claims were ignored. Eventually, we see that Paul and Silas were released and the magistrates embarrassed for what they had done ask them to leave quietly. But before leaving Philippi Paul and Silas and the missionaries visited Lydia and encouraged new believers there.
Paul had established a young congregation at Philippi, a congregation that would minister to him significantly later on, as we read in his letter to the Philippians. It’s fun to think about Paul’s ministry at Philippi and to reflect on maybe what stands out in our own minds on Paul’s visit there to Philippi. I was in Philippi this last spring and it was just kind of fun to reflect on what Paul did there and what stands out in terms of his arrest, his trial, his incarceration, his release, and all that happened and what was significant for Paul there and what applies to us. It’s an interesting study to think about the effect of Paul’s experience there at Philippi and how it applies to us.
IV. THE MINISTRY IN THESSALONICA 17:1-9
A. Thessalonica, the largest city, and capital of Macedonia.
Paul and the missionary team then left Philippi and traveled about 100 miles to the west along the Egnatian Way through the cities of Amphipolis and Apollonia and they came to Thessalonica. Thessalonica was the capital of Macedonia in Paul’s day. It was situated on the Thermaic Gulf and had an excellent harbor and was a very important place commercially. It had a harbor on the Thermaic Gulf which gave access to the Aegean Sea, it was also on this main east-west road the Via Egnatia, the Egnatian Way. According to early records, Thessalonica was the largest city of Macedonia having a population of about 200,000 and was regarded as “the key to the whole region.” It’s interesting that Paul bypassed two cities on his way to Thessalonica. He bypassed Amphipolis and Apollonia and he came to Thessalonica. He wanted to focus his ministry on areas that were strategic, where the Gospel could radiate out from the central regions.
B. The Ministry in the Synagogue 17:1-3
Well he was there at Thessalonica and there was a synagogue there and so in Chapter 17 we read that he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and he was explaining 17:3 and giving evidence that the Messiah, the Christ, had to suffer, rise again from the dead saying that this Jesus whom I’m proclaiming to you is the Messiah. So Paul was proclaiming the Messiah and showing the prophecies of scripture, how Jesus had fulfilled those prophecies and emphasizing that Jesus had come to fulfill Israel’s Messianic hopes and they needed to embrace him as their King, 17:7.
C. The Response to the Message 17:4-9
We see the response to the message, we find that there were Greek Gentiles and some leading women of the city of Thessalonica who believed. But there was also considerable unbelief among the Jewish population, and they actually brought charges against Paul’s host, Jason who had welcomed Paul there. Notice what they are saying in verse 17:6, they dragged Jason before the authorities and were shouting these men who have upset the world have come here also. Paul and Silas and Timothy and Luke, those who had upset the world had come to Thessalonica. Paul and Silas had to leave Thessalonica because of the opposition there. They fled by night and traveled about 40 miles to the west to Berea, a city that is off the Egnatian Way.
V. THE MINISTRY AT BEREA 17:10-15
A. Berea was of no political or historical importance.
You go in along the Egnatian Way and you have to turn off to this little site of Berea. A place of no historical or political importance. It was a nice place for the missionary team to find a quiet spot and a bit of refuge after the persecution they had experienced at Thessalonica. There was a synagogue at Berea, I had a chance to visit that synagogue, or at least the present-day synagogue there at Berea, and Paul had the opportunity to preach to the people there at Berea. What he found at Berea was a very attentive congregation.
B. The Bereans proved their eagerness for spiritual things, 17:11.
Luke records that these people, these Bereans, received the word with great eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Many churches or Sunday School classes have been named the Bereans because of the example of these believers who wanted to see if the things that Paul was teaching were scriptural. That’s a good characteristic for all of us. When we hear a sermon, when we hear a lecture we need to go to the Word of God and find out for ourselves as the Holy Spirit leads us in our studies. Are the things that we heard true? Are they Biblical? Do they have a solid Biblical foundation? So, these Bereans certainly are commended for their giving attention to the scripture. But, the Jews came down from Thessalonica and began to agitate the situation in Berea. Paul was forced to leave Berea.
VI. THE MINISTRY AT ATHENS 17:16-34
Silas and Timothy remained at Berea and later joined Paul at Athens. But Paul left Macedonia and he continued south toward Athens and Corinth in the region that is called Akia. The northern part of Greece is called Macedonia, the southern part is called Akia. So, Paul arrived at the Port of Athens, the Port called Piraeus, the Port of Athens. He would have walked the route leading to the central part of the city of Athens from the Port of Piraeus. Along the way, he walked the route to the center of the city and would have seen the road lined with idols as he approached the city. Athens was about 200 miles south of Berea about 5 miles from the Aegean Sea and it was a cultural and intellectual community.
Athens was also the worship center for the Goddess Athena, the Goddess of wisdom. The Parthenon where Athena was worshipped was the very center of the city. Athena the virgin was a Goddess, a warrior Goddess, so Paul came to the city of Athens, the city that was noted for the worship of Athena, the city where democracy had its origins, this great intellectual, cultural center. There at Athens Paul had the opportunity to minister. It wasn’t long before his preaching there in the city of Athens attracted some attention from the leading philosophers of the city. There were the Epicureans who felt that the avoidance of pain is the chief end of life. There were also the Stoics who believed that self-denial was the basis for human self-sufficiency.
Paul went to the Areopagus, the Aeropagus is a 377-foot hill near the Acropolis. The hill was dedicated to Ares, God of War. The Council of the Areopagus was entrusted with overseeing matters of religion, cultural and education in ancient Athens. It was their custom to evaluate the competence of visiting lecturers who came to the city. Paul was a visiting lecturer, he had brought a new teaching into the city. He had brought this teaching about Jesus and people wanted to know more and this leading Council, the Council of the Areopagus wanted to investigate. This would give Paul an opportunity to present his Gospel to these leaders of the city, the Council of the Areopagus. We’re going to look at Paul’s message to this council in part 2 of today's lecture.