Lecture 11: Paul's Third Missionary Journey - Part 1 | Free Online Biblical Library

Lecture 11: Paul's Third Missionary Journey - Part 1

Course: New Testament Overview, by Dr. Carl Laney

Lesson 11: Paul’s Third Missionary Journey – Part 1

Hi, I’m Carl Laney and it’s my privilege to provide for you this introduction to the New Testament. One of the great joys I’ve had during my time here as a Prof at Western is the opportunity to serve as interim pastor in a number of different churches, about a dozen different churches I’ve served as interim pastor. The longest interim was three years, the shortest was three months. The three-year interim was at a Chinese church and my sermons were translated into Chinese. That was an exciting time.

Today we are going to be studying Paul’s third missionary journey and its seems as though Paul was something like an interim pastor at Ephesus during his three years of ministry there. We are going to pray and look at Paul’s third missionary journey and then some of the letters that Paul wrote during this journey.

Father thank you so much for the opportunity to study your Word. Thank you for the technology that allows us to share this Biblical information with people off campus and thank you for your Word that we can study, and may your Holy Spirit truly guide our interaction with it today. In the strong name of our savior we pray. Amen.


We are looking at Paul’s third missionary journey and most of the time, on this journey, was spent at Ephesus. Paul left from Antioch, went through the Galatian region that he had ministered to on his first journey and then he went directly west to Asia and landed at Ephesus where he had left Aquila and Priscilla.


A. Ephesus was the guardian of the temple of Artemis.

He started his journey in the spring of AD53 and made his way to Ephesus to begin a ministry there. Ephesus was located near the Aegean Sea on the Cayster River which gave access to the Port city of Ephesus. It was on the major caravan route that brought goods from the area of Mesopotamia across Asia and to the Port of Ephesus. Ephesus was the guardian of the Temple of Artemis and her temple there at Ephesus was about four times as large as the Parthenon. It was regarded as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, it was amazing. It was made of marble, had 127 columns that were 20 meters high. Of the 127 columns only one remains today at the site of the temple. The temple was built in an area that became swampy and most of it kind of sank into the Turkish swamp land. Only one column remains today.

B. Artemis was the goddess of hunting, wild animals, childbirth and nature, 19:35.

Who was Artemis, this Goddess who was worshipped in Ephesus? She was the Goddess of hunting wild animals, childbirth, and nature. According to legend her sacred image had fallen from heaven and landed at Ephesus where a temple was built in her honor. You can see by the image the emphasis on fertility. It’s debated among scholars as to whether these are eggs or breasts but either way they are an emphasis on this fertility deity. Before describing the ministry of Paul at Ephesus, Luke brings us up to date in Acts 18 by recounting the ministry of Aquila and Priscilla there at Ephesus during Paul’s absence.

C. The Work of Apollos, 18:24-28

Aquila and Priscilla had a significant ministry in the life of an Alexandrian Jew name Apollos. What kind of man was Apollos? Beginning in Acts 18:24 we have him described. He was Alexandrian, he came from this great city in Northern Egypt where the Bible had been translated into Greek and we know that translation as the Septuagint. He was a man who was eloquent, and it said that he was mighty in the scripture. He’d been instructed in the way of the Lord and was fervent in spirit, speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus having been acquainted only with the Baptism of John. He focused his ministry on the Old Testament Prophecies and what these prophecies foretold about the coming Messiah, Jesus. But he only knew of John’s preparatory baptism. He only knew that Jesus had taught that the Lamb of God was coming to take away the sins of the world. So, his knowledge of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus was pretty much absent. He knew that Jesus was the Lamb of God coming into the world, but Aquila and Priscilla took him aside and notice in verse 20, they explained the way of God more accurately. Apollos had been trained in the Bible during his time in Alexandria but now he grew in his understanding of these prophecies and how they had been fulfilled in the person of Jesus. Aquila and Priscilla helped him gain that knowledge and understanding. He was brought up to speed, as it were, in terms of a full understanding of Jesus and what Jesus had done to die for our sins, raised from the grave and ascended to Heaven. Having been teachable, Apollos had an expanded ministry and we read at the last verses of Acts 18 how he had an expanded ministry, because he crossed over to Corinth and had a ministry in Corinth. There at Corinth he was able to refute the Jews and demonstrate by the scriptures that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Many of the Corinthians were enamored with Apollos and his eloquent manner of speaking.

D. The Encounter with the Disciples of John, 19:1-7

Paul came to Ephesus and when he came to Ephesus he encountered an unusual situation. He encountered a group of John’s disciples at Ephesus, that is John the Baptizer’s disciples at Ephesus. This is something that only could have happened in the first century. Like Apollos, these disciples of John the Baptizer only knew of John’s preparatory ministry. They were believing Jews who had not yet entered into the blessings of the New Covenant through a full understanding of what Jesus had done with his death and resurrection. So, Paul questioned them and found out that they were ignorant of the ministry of the Spirit. Paul said to them, Acts 19:2, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So, they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul then instructs them concerning the full truth of the Gospel and he laid hands on these men and they received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. Now the laying on of hands was an identification ritual, and what Paul did is saying you men who now believe in Jesus are welcomed into the body of Christ and are identified as Christ’s followers. Many wondered why they spoke in tongues. Well, this was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel, Chapter 2. Peter had spoken of this prophecy in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem and so this was a more complete fulfillment of that for this little group of Jewish messianic believers at Ephesus. It was like a mini Pentecost for this pocket of Old Testament believers, these messianic Jews at Ephesus. And, it would have served as a sign to the Jewish community there that something had happened, which had resulted in and would result in God’s judgment on the generation there in Jerusalem and that would be fulfilled in the AD70 destruction of Jerusalem. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 14:22 that tongues are a sign, a sign to Jews and particularly unbelieving Jews that they need to repent and receive God’s message. And so, this would have been a sign, a sign to the other Jews in the community that God was at work and that they needed to repent and receive his message.

E. The Triumph of the Gospel, 19:8-20

Paul continued his ministry in Ephesus. Verse 8 tells us that he was preaching at Ephesus in the synagogue and like at Corinth and other places where Paul ministered he’d go to the synagogue. He would read the scriptures and he’d teach how Jesus had fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. But he also got involved in a teaching ministry to his disciples, and we see that in verses 9 and 10 where he gathered his disciples and was reasoning daily with them in the school of Tyrannus. Apparently, Paul rented a classroom in the school of Tyrannus and he gathered his disciples there and taught during his time in Ephesus. He apparently worked as a tent maker during part of the day, and also lectured in this school of Tyrannus as well. It was an exciting opportunity for Paul to not only preach in the synagogue, but teach in the school and raise up his disciples nurture them in their Christian understanding and preparation for ministry. We discover that this took place for two years, verse 10, and during that time that Paul was teaching in the school of Tyrannus, Luke records that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord. It was probably during these years that these disciples of Paul who were under his tutelage at the school of Tyrannus planted churches in areas that Paul hadn’t been to. They planted churches in the Lycus valley, churches like Colosse, a church that Paul didn’t plant but later would write a letter to. The church at Hierapolis, the church at Laodicea. These were churches that were apparently founded by Paul’s disciples as he ministered in Ephesus.

It was during this time in Ephesus, around AD56 that Paul received some troubling news from the church he had planted at Corinth. He learned that there were divisions in the church at Corinth. We read about this in 1 Cor. 1 where Paul writes, and he says, “I wish there were no divisions among you, but I’ve been informed that there were quarrels. Some are saying I am of Paul and others are saying I am of Apollos and others I’m of Cephas and some saying I’m of Christ.” There was a parting spirit going on there at the church of Ephesus, there were divisions. There were also some disorders taking place there and we find in Chapter 5 a lack of church discipline and spiritual accountability. There was also the problem of law suits that we see in Chapter 6 and a problem of immorality, they were practicing immoral behavior as believers. So, 1 Cor. the letter that Paul sometime around AD56 from Ephesus writing to Corinth is intended to address these issues. But in addition to addressing these concerns of discipline and law suits and immorality this letter is also intended to reply to some questions raised by the believers at Corinth. So, in 7:1 Paul says, “Now concerning the things about which you wrote,” apparently there was a letter sent to Paul. Things that they had inquired about and so Paul begins to address these issues and the first issue he addressed in Chapter 7, is the issue of marriage and divorce. In Chapter 8 he talks about the issue of things sacrificed to idols now concerning things sacrificed to idols. In Chapter 12 now concerning spiritual gifts. In Chapter 16 now concerning the collection. So,1 Cor. contains Paul’s replies to a number of concerns, raised by the church. And Paul wrote this letter to the church at Corinth to correct these disorders that he was aware of and to reply to these questions that had been raised. I suggest that the theme of 1 Cor. is life and conduct of believers in the local church. In the letter to the Corinthians it’s as if we took the roof off of the local church and we see what the church at Corinth was like with all its blemishes and problems and Paul addresses these in his letter.

God was continuing to work among the people at Ephesus and people were responding to the signs and wonders, the miracles that were taking place. Luke records in Chapter 19 how some Jewish exorcists actually attempted to exorcise authority over demons as Paul had been doing, and they thought there was somehow magic in the name Jesus. These Jewish exorcists attempted to exorcise a demon by appealing to the name Jesus. But they were unsuccessful and instead of delivering the man they themselves were beaten up.

Many of the new believers at Ephesus repudiated their past and we see this as evidenced by the burning of the books that they destroyed there at Ephesus. We see in verse 19, “Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.” So that the word of the Lord was going mightily and prevailing. Burning these books, we kind of wonder why they did that. It’s evidence of the changed life. No longer were they enamored with the sorcery and the magic and the involvement with demons that they had had in the past. They separated themselves from that. They had a changed life and believing results in a changed life. Believing results in regeneration so they put aside their past and began to embrace their new life in Christ under the New Covenant.

F. Paul's Travel Plans, 19:21-22

Chapter 19:21 Paul tells us a little bit about his travel plans. He is on his third missionary journey and after his ministry at Ephesus he plans to go to Jerusalem and he also tells us that he eventually wants to go to Rome. Later he’ll write his letter to the Romans, preparing his way for his trip to Rome. Paul’s ministry at Ephesus came to an end rather abruptly. It was the result of a clash that took place between Paul and the worshippers of Artemis, the cult of Artemis.

G. The Clash with the Cult of Artemis, 19:24-41

As I mentioned before Ephesus was the worship center for Artemis, this Asiatic fertility deity. The silversmiths at Ephesus had a pretty good business going there making small silver images of Artemis which they would sell to the worshippers as they came to Ephesus. The worshippers would buy these images and then dedicate them to the temple at Ephesus, the temple of Artemis. It was a good business for the silversmiths, it was also a good business for the priests and those who officiated at the temple of Artemis. They were receiving of the benefit of these silver items that were donated and offered as a sacrifice to the temple. So the business was booming, until Paul’s ministry came along and people began to repent of the worship of Artemis and silversmiths business plummeted. It plummeted when the Gospel came to Ephesus. Demetrius, one of the representatives of the silversmiths said that Paul’s ministry was doing damage to the honor of Ephesus. He says the temple of the great goddess is being regarded as worthless and she whom all Asia and the world worship will even dethroned from her magnificence by the ministry of Paul and the preaching of the Gospel. This speech to the people led to a riot and the citizens of the city were aroused and they rushed to the theater, this huge theater at Ephesus. A theater that seats about 25,000 people. Paul wanted to go in – what a great opportunity to address the assemble and preach the Gospel to them. But his disciples wouldn’t permit. They said Paul this is just too dangerous, this is a volatile situation they explained to Paul. Finally the town clerk came into the theater and said this was not a proper meeting and that there were courts available in which people could raise their concerns and he quieted the crowd and then dismissed them in verse 35. He reminded them that the courts were in session and if there were any law breakers that needed to be brought to the courts that could be done properly and he dismissed the assembly.


A. Paul left Ephesus in May of A.D. 56 and headed north to Troas.

So, Paul left Ephesus. He left Ephesus in May of AD56 after a three-year ministry there and Paul left Ephesus and he went north from Ephesus to Troas. He expected to meet Titus in Troas according to 2 Cor. 2 but Titus was nowhere to be found. So, Paul crossed the Aegean Sea and journeyed on to Macedonia. It was there in Macedonia that Paul met Titus and received a very encouraging and positive report about the situation in Corinth. You recall that Paul had written 1 Cor. during his time at Ephesus and he had challenged the church to deal with the issues of division, issues of immorality, issues of law suits and church discipline and they had responded.

B. In Macedonia, 20:1-2, Paul wrote 2nd Corinthians (fall 56).

The church had responded positively so Paul sat down and wrote what we know as 2 Cor. From Macedonia in fall of AD56 Paul wrote his second canonical epistle to the believers at Corinth. Paul was anticipating a visit to the city of Corinth and his letter was really preparing for that visit. Titus had given him a favorable report about the church and Paul wanted to write and commend them for responding so well to his first letter. With this in mind he sat down in Macedonia and he wrote 2 Cor. I love 2 Cor. it is such a pastoral letter as Paul really emphasizes his relationship with the Corinthians. He talks about his own ministry as a minister of the New Covenant and what God has done in his life and what God has done in the lives of the Corinthians. 2 Cor. a very pastoral letter and I think we could say the theme of it is Paul’s pastoral ministry under the New Covenant. The New Covenant which was inaugurated by Jesus and his death on the cross.

Paul left Macedonia and traveled down south into what the text refers to as Greece. The region in the southern part of Greece is the area of Achaea. In Acts 20:22, he had gone through those districts and given them much exhortation, the area of Macedonia, he came to Greece. He spent 3 months there in the southern part of Greece which would be Achaea. We would assume since 2 Cor. was preparing for Paul’s ministry in Corinth, another visit in Corinth, that Paul spent his time in Corinth. The 3 months mentioned in Act 20:3 were spent in Corinth. Paul spent time with that church that he had spent a year and a half with on his second journey.

C. In Greece 20:3a, 5, Paul spent the winter of A.D. 56/57(Achaia) and wrote Romans.

It as was during this time that Paul was in Corinth he wrote another letter, a third epistle during this period. During the winter that he spent in Corinth he wrote a letter to the Roman church or to the church at Rome. Paul wrote this letter to prepare for his visit to Rome. The church had already been planted and Paul wanted to use this opportunity to visit Rome to enlist some support for his travels further west to Spain. This letter was an opportunity as well for Paul to present the Gospel as he knew it, peached it, and proclaimed it. The theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans is justification by faith - justification by faith to all who would believe. The first 8 chapters of this book really focus on the theme of our salvation. And then he moves on in chapters 9-11 to focus on the theme of God’s sovereignty in relationship to Israel, Israel in its unbelief.

Then he focuses in Chapters 12-16 on Christian service. What do we do now that we believed? In 12:1 Paul says, “Therefore on the basis of all that God has done for us, now you live your life as a living sacrifice for Christ.” Paul spent his time during the winter 56-57 in Corinth learning of a conspiracy against him, Paul again went north through Macedonia and no doubt wanted to spend some time with his friends once again at Philippi.

D. The Fellow Workers of Paul 20:4

Notice in chapter 20:4, he was accompanied on this journey north by a number of Gentile believers. These people accompanied Paul as he continued on north through Thessalonica and then up to Philippi.


Paul had the opportunity to minister at Philippi and then he left Macedonia from Neopolis and sailed to Troas. At Troas Paul had an opportunity to greet the church and he preached there long into the night. They were gathered there in an upper room and his message was prolonged, verse 7, till midnight. Boy you have to watch the preacher who starts in the evening and preaches till midnight. There we read of Eutychus who is sitting in a window, fell asleep during Paul’s preaching and he suffered a fatal fall but Paul miraculous picked him up and restored him to life. Paul said, “Do not be troubled his life is in him,” and he was restored to life.


A. Journey to Miletus, 20:13-16

Leaving Troas Paul decided to walk the next 20 miles to Assos while Luke and the others continued on by ship. Then they rejoined Paul and from Assos they sailed to Miletus. Miletus was a port city on the mouth of the Maenander River. It was located about 30 miles south of Ephesus. We wonder why Paul bypassed Ephesus rather than stopping at Ephesus. The text tells us that he was in a hurry to make it to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost in the spring. Perhaps he did not want to be delayed a long time in Ephesus visiting friends there. He wanted to have some words with the Ephesian elders, so he said, “Meet me in Miletus, 30 miles south and that way Paul would avoid a lengthy stay at Ephesus, but he would have an opportunity to speak to the leaders of the church, the Ephesian elders.

B. Instructions to the Ephesian Elders, 20:17-35

In 20:17-35 we see Paul’s ministry to the Ephesian elders. Paul speaks of his own ministry at Ephesus and how he served. He speaks of his future plans how he is going on to Jerusalem and he expects and anticipates some opposition there. In verse 24 Paul gives us, what I believe is a real key to his philosophy of ministry. Notice Acts 20:24 Paul says to the Ephesian elders, “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” What does this tell us about Paul’s philosophy of ministry? I believe it tells us that Paul viewed himself as expendable in the service for Christ. This was the attitude that enabled Paul to be successful in the completion of his ministry. He says, “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, [purpose statement] so that I may finish my course.” And as we read in 2 Tim. 4 Paul is able to write in verse 7, “I have finished the course, I’ve kept the faith,” and Paul was faithful to the charge that God had given him. His sense of being expendable and humble service for Christ was a real key to his successful ministry.

Paul gave a charge to the Ephesians elders, he says, “As overseer’s shepherd the church of God which he has purchased by his blood. Guard the flock, watch over them, protect them by your good teaching.” And then he bide them farewell verse 36-38 he gave them a farewell and they were weeping lamenting the fact that Paul was moving on. They expressed their emotions and their real love for Paul in these words, the last words of Chapter 20.


Paul then left Asia and he sailed to the Phoenician port Tyre, 21:3, and while at Tyre he was again warned, by the believers there, against going up to Jerusalem. There was a sense, there was an ominous sense about the situation there and yet Paul felt he must go ahead onto Jerusalem. I think Paul was willing to go to Jerusalem and count the cost. He knew there was going to be opposition to his ministry because of his involvement with Gentiles. But nevertheless, he was willing to go ahead and to proceed to Jerusalem.


A. The prophecy of Agabus, 9-11, 20:22-24, 21:4, 11-14

He left from the Aegean area and he made his way to Caesarea. Caesarea Maritima, Caesarea on the sea. This was the capital and the center for government for Palestine in the first century. Paul had a chance to go there and it was there that Agabus who had predicted the famine in Acts 22 predicts Paul’s suffering there in Jerusalem. But Paul was obedient to the will of the Lord, even though he knew there were trials ahead. After several days in Caesarea he and a small group of the believers traveled to Jerusalem, 55 miles from Caesarea up to Jerusalem.

B. The Journey to Jerusalem 15-16

Paul arrived in Jerusalem in the spring of AD57. He was back in Jerusalem after his third missionary journey. His third missionary journey had taken four years, three of those years had been spent at Ephesus. He had traveled 2,700 miles during this third missionary journey and he had written three letters, 1 and 2 Cor., and Romans. Remember in his first journey Paul wrote no letters but he came back from that ministry in Galatia and wrote what we know as the Epistle to the Galatians.

  • During his second journey Paul wrote two letters, 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Second journey, two letters.

  • On his third journey Paul wrote three letters, 1 and 2 Corinthians and Romans.

  • In the second part of this lesson we’re going to be taking a closer look at the Book of Romans and get a better understanding of Paul’s message to the church at Rome.