Lecture 20: Acts - Third Journey
Lecture: Third Journey
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.