Paul's First Missionary Journey
(around the years 46-48 A.D.) (Acts 13 - Acts 14)
It is interesting to note that this journey sets off
not from Jerusalem, the mother Church where all the apostles were gathered,
but from Antioch, a newly established Church.
The Church of Antioch (Syria) had been founded by believers (lay people),
who were escaping from the persecution in Jerusalem.
"The believers who had fled from Jerusalem during the persecution
after Stephen's death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch
of Syria. They preached the Good News, but only to Jews. However, some
of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching
to Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. The power of the Lord was upon them,
and large numbers of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord."
As we can see, it was in Antioch that the Evangelization to the Gentiles
(non Jewish people) began on a large scale and it was done by lay people.
Paul and Barnabas had been actively working in this Church for a year,
when, one day, while, together with the leaders of the Church, "were
worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for
me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' So after
they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them
off." (Acts 13:2-3)
It is the whole Church that sends off the two missionaries. And the Holy
Spirit ratifies this mission. The Holy Spirit is the main operator of
all missionary activities.
"The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, sailed to
Cyprus." (Acts 13:4)
A young man, by the name of John (or John Mark), joined this missionary
"John was with them as their helper." (Acts 13:5) This man,
as we will see later, will be the cause of much trouble.
FIRST STOP. The island of Cyprus.
The Evangelization strategy used by the two apostles was: first address
the local Jewish community. Overseas Jewish communities were scattered
all over the Roman Empire. And afterwards Evangelize the Gentiles.
The method of Evangelizing was to use the Old Testament as the starting
point to lead the Jewish audience to accept Jesus as the fulfillment of
"We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has
fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus." (Acts 13:32-33)
With this missionary spirit, "they preached from town to town across
the entire island" (Acts 13:6)
A very good example, given here, of Evangelizing the Gentiles is a well
educated, high ranking Roman official, the proconsul Sergius Paulus.
"He was a man of considerable insight and understanding. He invited
Barnabas and Saul to visit him, for he wanted to hear the word of God." (Acts 13:7)
He accepted the word of God and believed in the Lord. Many other Gentiles
were converted as well.
The missionary journey started off very well. But, before we go to the
it is worth mentioning here, the sudden decision of the young man John
Mark to leave the missionary journey and return to Jerusalem. Why he left?
No reason is given. Acts 13:13, simply states: "John left them to
return to Jerusalem."
Paul must have taken it very seriously, because, when later, the two apostles
decided to begin their second missionary journey, this is what happened.
"After some time Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let's return to each city
where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new
believers are getting along.'"
Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed
strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not shared
in their work. Their disagreement over this was so sharp that they separated.
Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas,
and the believers sent them off, entrusting them to the Lord's grace.
So they traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia to strengthen the churches
there." (Acts 15:36-40)
An important lesson we can draw from this event, is that human factors
always play a key role in missionary journeys. We must trust God, who
knows how to use them for his plan.
SECOND STOP. Antioch of Pisidia.
This Antioch should not be confused with the Antioch of Syria from where
the two apostles began their first missionary journey.
Here Barnabas and Paul, as their custom, first announce the Gospel to
the Jewish Community, and then to the Gentiles. They receive a very good response.
But soon the Jewish leaders incite the people against them, who have to
"They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled
them from their region. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest
against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy
and with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 13:50-52)
THIRD STOP. Iconium
"In Iconium, Paul and Barnabas went together to the synagogue and
preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Gentiles
believed. The apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about
the grace of the Lord. The Lord proved their message was true by giving
them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. But the people of the city
were divided in their opinion about them. Some sided with the Jews, and
some with the apostles.
A mob of Gentiles and Jews, along with their leaders, decided to attack
and stone them. When the apostles learned of it, they fled for their lives.
They went to the region of Lycaonia, to the cities of Lystra and Derbe
and the surrounding area, and they preached the Good News there."
FOURTH STOP. Lystra
In Lystra something extraordinary happened. The crowds were so astonished
at the apostles' power to perform miracles, that they started adoring
them as gods.
The missionaries, who had just been kicked out of cities as evil men,
are now adored as gods!
"A man with crippled feet from birth, was listening as Paul preached,
and Paul noticed him and realized he had faith to be healed. So Paul called
to him in a loud voice, 'Stand up!' And the man jumped to his feet and
When the listening crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their
local dialect, 'These men are gods in human bodies!'" (Acts 14:8-11)
The crowds started offering sacrifices to them. The apostles strongly
refused this, and took this opportunity to announce the Gospel.
"Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings like
yourselves! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn
from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them." (Acts 14:15)
Immediately after this incident, persecution comes again.
"Now some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and turned the crowds
into a murderous mob. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city,
apparently dead. But as the believers stood around him, he got up and
went back into the city. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe."
FIFTH STOP. Derbe
"After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples,
Paul and Barnabas returned again to visit the communities they had left
in each city, where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them
to continue in the faith, reminding them that they must enter into the
Kingdom of God through many tribulations. Paul and Barnabas also appointed
elders in every church and prayed for them with fasting, turning them
over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had come to trust." (Acts
BARNABAS AND PAUL RETURN TO THEIR SENDING CHURCH OF ANTIOCH.
"Finally, they returned by ship to Antioch of Syria, where their journey
had begun and where they had been committed to the grace of God for the
work they had now completed. Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the
church together and reported about their trip, telling all that God had
done and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too. And
they stayed there with the believers in Antioch for a long time."
Keeping constant contact with the sending community and reporting to this
community is an essential part of Evangelization.
Evangelization, even when it is done by one single believer alone, is
always a Church activity. The whole Church is missionary. The whole Church
community encourages, fosters, supports, remains actively involved in
all Evangelization activities.
Paul's Second Missionary
(around the years 50-52 A.D.) (Acts 15:36-40, Acts 16, Acts 17, Acts 18:1-22)
The second missionary journey of St Paul and his missionary team, starts
again from Antioch.
"After some time Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let's return to each city
where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new
believers are getting along'." (Acts 15:36)
Barnabas agreed, but the two apostles had a terrible argument over the
presence of John Mark (see first journey)
"Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed
strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not shared
in their work. Their disagreement over this was so sharp that they separated.
Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus." (Acts 15:37-39)
"Paul chose Silas, and the believers sent them off, entrusting them
to the Lord's grace. So they traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia to
strengthen the churches there." (Acts 15:40-41)
The first part of Paul's second missionary journey was spent in revisiting
the Churches founded during the first journey. Paul's Evangelization plan
was to establish a strong local Christian Community in each place he went,
and then later revisit these communities or keep in contact with them
Paul and his missionary team revisited Derbe and Lystra.
"In Lystra they met Timothy, a young disciple whose mother was a
Jewish believer, but whose father was a Greek. Timothy was well thought
of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium, so Paul wanted him to join
them on their journey." (Acts 16:1-3)
All those who have joined a missionary team will read this passage through
their own experience. It is quite common for some local believers, after
having seen the missionary team and their witness, to join them in the
Timothy is one such example. And he presents Paul with a new problem.
Timothy had not been circumcised at birth as all Jewish children are (on
the eighth day after birth). Timothy knew very well that he could be baptized
without having to be circumcised. This doctrine had strongly been preached
by Paul whenever he went. But now, it was not a matter of doctrine. It
was a matter of respect for human feelings and cultural customs. The Jewish
community would feel much more at ease to have Timothy circumcised. Paul
"In deference to the Jews of the area, Paul arranged for Timothy
to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father
was a Greek" (Acts 16:3)
This attitude of compromise on non essential elements of the faith, make
the Evangelization work more fruitful.
"So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew daily
in numbers." (Acts 16:5)
At this point, the second missionary journey, turns very dramatic. All
the members of the team experience a very special, almost irresistible
leading presence of the Holy Spirit. It seems that the Holy Spirit is
leading them to a very specific goal.
"Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia,
because the Holy Spirit had told them not to go into the province of Asia
at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed for the
province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not let them go.
So instead, they went on through Mysia to the city of Troas." (Acts 16:6-8)
Here at Troas the most important decision is made: the beginning of the
Evangelization of Europe. Macedonia, Greece, Athens, were important cultural European centres.
"That night Paul had a vision. He saw a man from Macedonia in northern
Greece, pleading with him, 'Come over here and help us.' So we decided
to leave for Macedonia at once, for we could only conclude that God was
calling us to preach the Good News there." (Acts 16:9-10)
This is how Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, relates this
event. Note how Luke is using here the "we" instead of "they":
"we decided", "we could only conclude", "God
was calling us". Luke was a member of the team, and he reports passionately
the events that took place during the journey. Throughout the Acts, there
are a number of these "we sections". In this way, Luke emphasizes
the fact that the whole team felt the clear indication of the Holy Spirit,
and the whole team decided to begin the Evangelization of Europe. Perhaps
they were not fully aware of the important impact that their decision
would have on the history of Europe.
THE FIRST EUROPEAN STOP. PHILIPPI
"We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island
of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. From there we reached
Philippi, a major city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony;
we stayed there several days." (Acts 16:11-12)
At Philippi there was an Overseas Jewish community. But they had no synagogue
for their Saturday meetings. They used an open air space near a river.
"On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank,
where we supposed that some people met for prayer, and we sat down to
speak with some women who had come together." (Acts 16:13)
Women are more open to accept faith, and usually are more devoted to it.
Many women played an important role in the work of Evangelization. This
is how Luke describes the conversion of one of them, Lydia.
"One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple
cloth. She was a worshiper of God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened
her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She was baptized along
with other members of her household, and she asked us to be her guests.
'If you agree that I am faithful to the Lord,' she said, 'come and stay
at my home.' And she urged us until we did."
In the early years of Christianity, the house of believers became the
Church of Christians. They had no temples or special buildings for their
assemblies. "They met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared
their meals with great joy and generosity" (Acts 2:46)
The test of persecution is always close. The leaders of the city, started
accusing the missionaries:
"'The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!' they shouted.
'They are teaching the people to do things that are against Roman customs'." (Acts 16:20-21)
"A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials
ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely
beaten, and then they were thrown into prison." (Acts 16:22-23)
They are miraculously saved by the Lord, and they have the chance of Evangelizing
the jailer of the prison and his household
"Then Paul and Silas shared the word of the Lord with the jailer
and all who lived in his household. That same hour the jailer washed their
wounds, and he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized.
Then he brought them into his house and set a meal before them. He and
his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God."
The next morning, "after being released from prison, Paul and Silas returned
to the home of Lydia, where they met with the believers and encouraged
them once more before leaving town." (Acts 16:40)
SECOND EUROPEAN STOP. Thessalonica.
"Now Paul and Silas traveled through the towns of Amphipolis and
Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue.
As was Paul's custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three
Sabbaths in a row he interpreted the Scriptures to the people." (Acts 17:1-2)
Many believed. One of them must have been Jason, who welcomed the missionary
team into his house.
Soon the same pattern of events repeats itself. The leaders of the city
form a mob and start accusing the missionaries :
"They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so
they could drag them out to the crowd. Not finding them there, they dragged
out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before
the city council. 'Paul and Silas have turned the rest of the world upside
down, and now they are here disturbing our city,' they shouted. 'And Jason
has let them into his home. They are all guilty of treason against Caesar,
for they profess allegiance to another king, Jesus'."
Reading this passage, it is easy to remember the words of Jesus, who promised
that those who welcome his disciples will receive the reward of the disciple.
Jason has welcomed Jesus' disciples into his home and now he shares the
THIRD EUROPEAN STOP. Berea
"That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When
they arrived there, they went to the synagogue. And the people of Berea
were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly
to Paul's message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to check
up on Paul and Silas, to see if they were really teaching the truth. As
a result, many Jews believed, as did some of the prominent Greek women
and many men." (Acts 17:10-12)
Soon some people stir up trouble again against Paul and Silas. At this
point the local believers are very concerned about the safety of the missionary
"The believers acted at once, sending Paul on to the coast, while
Silas and Timothy remained behind. Those escorting Paul went with him
to Athens." (Acts 17:14-15)
FOURTH EUROPEAN STOP. Athens
We have already analyzed in detail both the content and the presentation
of Paul's Evangelization in Athens.
(see RUNDOWN AND ANALYSIS OF THE FIRST EVANGELIZATION RALLY IN JERUSALEM
(Acts 2), AND THE FIRST RALLY IN ATHENS (Acts 17)
We can add here one more remark. Paul has a clear Evangelization plan.
He aims at forming strong Christian communities in each major city of
the Roman Empire.
Athens was the cultural centre of Europe. Rome was the centre of power.
Paul aims at both cities.
As we have seen, if we judge the Evangelization in Athens only by the
number of converts, it was a failure. But if we see it in a broader view,
as the beginning of dialogue with Greek culture, then Paul's experience
at Athens was very important.
But Paul did not stay any longer in Athens. Luke states very simply:
"Then Paul left Athens and went to Corinth." (Acts 18:1)
Paul sees in Corinth good prospects for Evangelization. He decides to
remain there longer.
"Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word
In Corinth the model of the "house-church" spread rapidly. The
first house offered as a Church, was the house of Aquila and Priscilla.
"There Paul became acquainted with a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus,
who had recently arrived from Italy with his wife, Priscilla. They had
been expelled from Italy as a result of Claudius Caesar's order to deport
all Jews from Rome. Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers
just as he was." (Acts 18:2-3)
Aquila and Priscilla's house is not only the "Church", it is
also Paul's working place. Why does Paul want to earn his own living?
Paul knows that full time Evangelizers have the right to be supported
by the community of believers, but this is how he puts it:
"We were never lazy when we were with you. We never accepted food
from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so that
we would not be a burden to any of you. It wasn't that we didn't have
the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example
to follow." (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9)
Another "house-church" was that of "Titius Justus a Gentile
who worshiped God and lived next door to the synagogue." (Acts 18:7)
Paul preached often at the synagogue. Many believed.
"Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, and all his household believed
in the Lord. Many others in Corinth also became believers and were baptized." (Acts 18:8)
As usual, the reaction of the leaders was prompt.
"When Gallio became governor of Achaia, some Jews rose in concerted
action against Paul and brought him before the governor for judgment.
They accused Paul of 'persuading people to worship God in ways that are
contrary to the law'."
The Roman governor though, refused to judge what he considered to be a
mere religious dispute.
In Corinth, Paul had a special vision of the Lord, who gave great strength
to all the members of the missionary team.
"One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, 'Don't
be afraid! Speak out! Don't be silent! For I am with you, and no one will
harm you because many people here in this city belong to me.'" (Acts 18:9-10)
When Paul says good-bye to the brothers and sisters in Corinth, he leaves
behind a strong and well organized community.
He will keep in contact with them through letters and communication with
some of its leaders, who constantly will keep him informed about the situation
of the Church.
"Paul sailed for the coast of Syria, taking Priscilla and Aquila
with him. When they arrived at the port of Ephesus, Paul left the others
behind. But while he was there, he went to the synagogue to debate with
the Jews. They asked him to stay longer, but he declined. So he left,
saying, 'I will come back later, God willing'. Then he set sail from Ephesus.
The next stop was at the port of Caesarea. From there he went up and visited
the church at Jerusalem and then went back to Antioch."
After the usual reporting to the sending Church, Paul and his team are
ready for the third missionary journey
Paul's Third Missionary
(Around the years 53-58 A.D.) (Acts 18:23, Acts 19, Acts 20, Acts 21)
Before we begin the description of the third missionary
journey, it is worth mentioning two events that took place just when the
journey was about to start.
1. The arrival of Apollos in Ephesus.
Apollos was an Overseas Jew from Alexandria in Egypt. He must have heard
of Jesus in Alexandria from some believers, and being a devout Jew, well
acquainted with the Scriptures, he quickly identified Jesus with the Messiah.
His knowledge of Jesus' teaching though, was very limited, but his zeal
for Evangelization urged him to leave his community and begin his missionary
journey. It is to be noted here that Luke is using "the Way of the
Lord", to describe the teachings of Jesus. "The Way of the Lord"
was the first name to indicate Christianity in the early Church. Luke
"Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the
Scriptures well, had just arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt.
He had been taught the way of the Lord and talked to others with great
enthusiasm and accuracy about Jesus. However, he knew only about John's
baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God more accurately." (Acts 18:24-26)
It is amazing to see how lay missionaries can help each other. Aquila
and Priscilla are willing to share with Apollos all they had learned from
St. Paul, and Apollos is happy to learn more.
Apollos is determined to carry on his Evangelization work, and all the
believers encourage and help him.
"Apollos had been thinking about going to Achaia, and the brothers
and sisters in Ephesus encouraged him in this. They wrote to the believers
in Achaia, asking them to welcome him. When he arrived there, he proved
to be of great benefit to those who, by God's grace, had believed. He
refuted all the Jews with powerful arguments in public debate. Using the
Scriptures, he explained to them, 'The Messiah you are looking for is
Jesus'." (Acts 18:27-28)
2. A group of Christians in Ephesus, who had only received John's baptism.
Maybe this group of believers was formed by Apollos, or some other missionary,
who didn't impart a full instruction.
"While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior
provinces. Finally, he came to Ephesus, where he found several believers.
'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' he asked them.
'No,' they replied, 'we don't know what you mean. We haven't even heard
that there is a Holy Spirit.'
'Then what baptism did you experience?' he asked.
And they replied, 'The baptism of John.'
Paul said, 'John's baptism was to demonstrate a desire to turn from sin
and turn to God. John himself told the people to believe in Jesus, the
one John said would come later.'
As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord
Jesus. Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on
them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied. There were about
twelve men in all." (Acts 19:1-7)
These two incidents reported with so many details by Luke, offer us a
better picture of the Evangelization work in the early years of the Church.
There was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, all believers joined in the
work of proclaiming the Gospel. Evidently there was no set catechism for
all to follow. All felt the need of having the writings of the Apostles.
The Gospels, the letters of St. Paul and of other Apostles, were treasured
by all communities and read to all in their assemblies.
The New Testament was formed in this feverish Evangelization atmosphere.
FIRST STOP. Ephesus
For the first few months, Paul and his team concentrate on the synagogue,
but with very little result. Luke says that "some rejected Paul's
message and publicly spoke against the Way, so Paul left the synagogue
and took the believers with him. Then he began preaching daily at the
lecture hall of Tyrannus." (Acts 19:9)
Ephesus was a multi-racial, multi-religious, very prosperous Roman colony.
Schools or lecture halls, like the one mentioned here, must have been
abundant. Paul invents a new way of doing Evangelization. A school of
Evangelization. For more than two years he and his team teach daily the
"Way", in this school.
"This went on for the next two years, so that people throughout the
province of Asia--both Jews and Greeks--heard the Lord's message." (Acts 19:10)
The power of healing and casting devils, that the Lord had granted Paul,
helped the Evangelization work. Luke writes:
"A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus
was greatly honored. Many who became believers confessed their sinful
practices. A number of them who had been practicing magic brought their
incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. When they calculated
the value of the books, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas (several
million dollars). So the message about the Lord spread widely and had
a powerful effect." (Acts 19:17-20)
We have seen how the Evangelization plan of Paul included two important
centres: Athens (Greek culture) and Rome (the capital of the Empire)
This is how Luke writes:
"Afterward Paul felt impelled by the Holy Spirit to go over to Macedonia
and Achaia before returning to Jerusalem. 'And after that,' he said, 'I
must go on to Rome!'" (Acts 19:21)
"But about that time, serious trouble developed in Ephesus concerning
the Way. It began with Demetrius, a silversmith who had a large business
manufacturing silver shrines of the Greek goddess Artemis. He kept many
craftsmen busy. He called the craftsmen together, along with others employed
in related trades, and addressed them as follows:
'Gentlemen, you know that our wealth comes from this business. As you
have seen and heard, this man Paul has persuaded many people that handmade
gods aren't gods at all. And this is happening not only here in Ephesus
but throughout the entire province!'" (Acts 19:23-26)
The silversmith Demetrius' words hit the right cord. He added that Paul's
message not only damaged their business, it also "robbed the magnificent
goddess Artemis of her prestige" (Acts 19:27)
"At this their anger boiled, and they began shouting, 'Great is Artemis
of the Ephesians!' A crowd began to gather, and soon the city was filled
with confusion. Everyone rushed to the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius
and Aristarchus, who were Paul's travelling companions from Macedonia.
Paul wanted to go in, but the believers wouldn't let him. Some of the
officials of the province, friends of Paul, also sent a message to him,
begging him not to risk his life by entering the amphitheater." (Acts 19:28-31)
"Inside, the people were all shouting, some one thing and some another.
Everything was in confusion. In fact, most of them didn't even know why
they were there." (Acts 19:32)
After hours of shouting and confusion, the mayor of the city, who feared
that the Roman soldiers would take action against the riot, convinced
the crowds to disperse.
NEXT FOUR STOPS. Macedonia, Greece, Philippi, Troas
"When it was all over, Paul sent for the believers and encouraged
them. Then he said good-bye and left for Macedonia, followed by three months in Greece, then back to Philippi for the Passover." (Acts 20:1-3)
"As soon as the Passover season ended, we boarded a ship at Philippi
in Macedonia and five days later arrived in Troas, where we stayed a week." (Acts 20:6)
Troas is the very important place where Paul and his missionary team had
begun the journey to Europe. Now from Philippi in Macedonia, they sail
back to Troas.
"On the first day of the week, we gathered to observe the Lord's
Supper." (Acts 20:7)
The first day of the week is Sunday. This is one of the first record of
the Christian custom of celebrating Sunday with the Eucharist. This custom
spread very quickly among the Greek-Christians, who were not accustomed
to the Saturday celebration Saturday (the Sabbath day) remained always
"the holy day of rest", but Sunday, the day of Jesus' resurrection,
was being celebrated as well, by Christians.
Luke relates a few interesting details of this Sunday celebration:
"Paul was preaching; and since he was leaving the next day, he talked
until midnight. The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many flickering
lamps. As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on
the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he sank into a deep sleep
and fell three stories to his death below. Paul went down, bent over him,
and took him into his arms. 'Don't worry,' he said, 'he's alive!' Then
they all went back upstairs and ate the Lord's Supper together. And Paul
continued talking to them until dawn; then he left. Meanwhile, the young
man was taken home unhurt, and everyone was greatly relieved." (Acts 20:7-12)
NEXT STOP. Miletus
"Paul had decided against stopping at Ephesus this time because he
didn't want to spend further time in the province of Asia. He was hurrying
to get to Jerusalem, if possible, for the Festival of Pentecost. But when
we landed at Miletus, he sent a message to the elders of the church at
Ephesus, asking them to come down to meet him." (Acts 20:16-17)
Paul had spent almost three years at Ephesus. The Church there was well
established. The Miletus meeting was a farewell and the last recommendations
to the leaders of that Church. It is a meeting of friends, of brothers,
of people of responsibility.
"Now I am going to Jerusalem, drawn there irresistibly by the Holy
Spirit, not knowing what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit has told
me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is
worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord
Jesus--the work of telling others the Good News about God's wonderful
kindness and love.
And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will
ever see me again." (Acts 20:22-25)
"And now beware! Be sure that you feed and shepherd God's flock--his
church, purchased with his blood--over whom the Holy Spirit has appointed
you as elders." (Acts 20:28)
"When he had finished speaking, he knelt and prayed with them. They
wept aloud as they embraced him in farewell, sad most of all because he
had said that they would never see him again. Then they accompanied him
down to the ship." (Acts 20:36-38)
PAUL'S JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
After saying farewell to the Ephesian elders, Paul and his missionary
team after a few days of sailing, "landed at the harbor of Tyre,
in Syria, where the ship was to unload. We went ashore, found the local
believers, and stayed with them a week." (Acts 21:3-4) These disciples
prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem.
"When we returned to the ship at the end of the week, the entire congregation,
including wives and children, came down to the shore with us. There we
knelt, prayed, and said our farewells. Then we went aboard, and they returned
home." (Acts 21:5-6)
"The next stop after leaving Tyre was Ptolemais, where we greeted
the brothers and sisters but stayed only one day. Then we went on to Caesarea
and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men
who had been chosen to distribute food." (Acts 21:7-8)
As in the previous stop, many believers of Caesarea prophesized that Paul
should not go to Jerusalem . Luke adds:
"When we heard this, we who were travelling with him, as well as the
local believers, begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.
But he said, 'Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! For I am
ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but also to die for the sake
of the Lord Jesus.' When it was clear that we couldn't persuade him, we
gave up and said, 'The will of the Lord be done'." (Acts 21:12-14)
"Shortly afterward we packed our things and left for Jerusalem. Some
believers from Caesarea accompanied us, and they took us to the home of
Mnason, a man originally from Cyprus and one of the early disciples. All
the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem welcomed us cordially." (Acts 21:15-17)
PAUL'S REPORT TO THE CHURCH OF JERUSALEM.
The third missionary journey begun at Antioch, ends at Jerusalem, which
was not the sending Church. But Paul gives a detailed account of his journey.
"The next day Paul went in with us to meet with James, and all the
elders of the Jerusalem church were present. After greetings were exchanged,
Paul gave a detailed account of the things God had accomplished among
the Gentiles through his ministry." (Acts 21:18-19)
Paul knows very well that the believers in Jerusalem were mainly Jewish
people, very attached to the law of Moses. He must not have been surprised
when he heard these words:
"They said to Paul, 'You know, dear brother, how many thousands of
Jews have also believed, and they all take the law of Moses very seriously.
Our Jewish Christians here at Jerusalem have been told that you are teaching
all the Jews living in the Gentile world to turn their backs on the laws
of Moses. They say that you teach people not to circumcise their children
or follow other Jewish customs. Now what can be done? For they will certainly
hear that you have come. Here's our suggestion'". (Acts 21:20-23)
They invite Paul to go to the Temple together with some local believers,
and take part in a Jewish purification ceremony, "then everyone will
know that the rumors are all false and that you yourself observe the Jewish
laws." (Acts 21:24)
"Paul agreed to their request, and the next day he went through the
purification ritual with the men and went to the Temple." (Acts 21:26)
But this very conciliatory gesture of Paul, became the long awaited occasion
by some Jews to incite the crowds against Paul. Many people had seen Paul
in Jerusalem together with a Gentile by the name of Trophimus from Ephesus.
Some Jews from the province of Asia, who were in Jerusalem at that time,
started shouting that Paul had taken that Gentile into the Temple, which
is against the Law. Paul had not done it, but
"the whole population of the city was rocked by these accusations,
and a great riot followed. Paul was dragged out of the Temple, and immediately
the gates were closed behind him. As they were trying to kill him, word
reached the commander of the Roman regiment that all Jerusalem was in
an uproar." (Acts 21:30-31)
It was the year 58 A.D. Less than thirty years has passed since Jesus
had been accused and condemned in Jerusalem. Luke's description of the
location and the circumstances is very similar to that of Jesus' trial.
The same "crowds followed behind shouting, 'Kill him, kill him!'" (Acts 21:36)
At this point, the Roman authorities intervene for fear of a riot. There
is a short dialogue between Paul and the Roman commander, who as usual
does not understand what's all about, and is surprised to hear Paul speak
"'Do you know Greek?' the commander asked, surprised." (Acts 21:37)
Greek was the common language in the Roman Empire. It was the language
of cultured people.
The Roman commander later asked Paul:" 'Tell me, are you a Roman
'Yes, I certainly am,' Paul replied." (Acts 22:27)
Afterwards, the attitude of the commander changes, because under Roman
Law, every Roman citizen had the right to be properly judged before any
punishment could be inflicted.
Paul, who always grasped any occasion to do Evangelization, asked the
Roman commander to allow him to speak to the crowds.
"The commander agreed, so Paul stood on the stairs and motioned to
the people to be quiet. Soon a deep silence enveloped the crowd, and he
addressed them in their own language, Hebrew." (Acts 21:40)
Paul explains to the crowds that he was educated in the Jewish law in
and became a very staunch defender of the Law of Moses.
"I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, binding
and delivering both men and women to prison." (Acts 22:4)
Then Paul shares with the crowds his experience on the way to Damascus.
the Risen Lord appeared to him, and showed him the new way to follow.
The crowds were listening to Paul, until he mentioned that Jesus had sent
him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. At this point the crowds started
The Roman commander took Paul to prison, and "the next day he freed
Paul from his chains and ordered the leading priests into session with
the Jewish high council. He had Paul brought in before them to try to
find out what the trouble was all about." (Acts 22:30)
Paul defends himself before the Sanhedrin (the high council) in a very
"Paul realized that some members of the high council were Sadducees
and some were Pharisees, so he shouted, 'Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as
were all my ancestors! And I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!'
This divided the council--the Pharisees against the Sadducees-- for the
Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, but the Pharisees
believe in all of these. So a great clamor arose. Some of the teachers
of religious law who were Pharisees jumped up to argue that Paul was all
right. 'We see nothing wrong with him,' they shouted. 'Perhaps a spirit
or an angel spoke to him.' The shouting grew louder and louder, and the
men were tugging at Paul from both sides, pulling him this way and that.
Finally, the commander, fearing they would tear him apart, ordered his
soldiers to take him away from them and bring him back to the fortress.
That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, 'Be encouraged, Paul. Just
as you have told the people about me here in Jerusalem, you must preach
the Good News in Rome'." (Acts 23:6-11)
Paul slowly understands that his imprisonment is the way to get to Rome.
The following events will prove he was right!
The Roman commander feels that the presence of Paul in Jerusalem can be
a cause of new riots and assassination attempts. He then orders Paul to be sent, under escort, to Caesarea, where the governor Felix (whose wife Drusilla
was Jewish) would make a final judgement.
In Caesarea, Felix listens to the accusers of Paul and to Paul's defense.
"Felix, who was quite familiar with the Way, adjourned the hearing
and said, 'I will decide the case later'. He ordered an officer to keep
Paul in custody but to give him some freedom and allow his friends to
visit him and take care of his needs." (Acts 24:22-23)
The governor Felix, as many other Roman officials, used bribery to enrich
themselves. "Felix hoped that Paul would bribe him, so he sent for
him quite often and talked with him. Two years went by in this way, and
because Felix wanted to gain favor with the Jewish leaders, he left Paul
in prison. Then Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus." (Acts 24:26-27)
A new trial is organized, and Paul has to defend himself in front of Festus.
At the end of this trial, Paul resorts to his right, as a Roman citizen,
to be judged directly by the Emperor in Rome.
"Paul said, 'I appeal to Caesar!' Festus conferred with his advisers
and then replied, 'Very well! You have appealed to Caesar, and to Caesar
you shall go!'"
Finally Paul has the chance of going to Rome, in chains!
Before Festus can arrange how to send Paul to Rome, King Agrippa (a puppet
king made by the Romans) comes to Caesarea to pay his respects to the
new governor Festus. (Acts 25:13)
King Agrippa is interested to meet Paul and understand why he has been
accused by the Jews. Festus gladly brings Paul before King Agrippa. Festus
"In my opinion this man has done nothing worthy of death. However,
he appealed his case to the emperor, and I decided to send him. But what
shall I write the emperor? For there is no real charge against him. So
I have brought him before all of you, and especially you, King Agrippa,
so that after we examine him, I might have something to write. For it
doesn't seem reasonable to send a prisoner to the emperor without specifying
the charges against him!" (Acts 25:25-27)
Paul starts his defense before king Agrippa in the form of a proclamation
of the Gospel. He gets so excited that "suddenly, Festus shouted,
'Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!'
But Paul replied, 'I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. I am speaking
the sober truth. And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak frankly,
for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not
done in a corner! King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you
Agrippa interrupted him. 'Do you think you can make me a Christian so
Paul replied, 'Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and
everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for
these chains.'" (Acts 26:24-29)
"When they left, they all agreed, 'This man hasn't done anything
worthy of death or imprisonment.' And Agrippa said to Festus, 'He could
be set free if he hadn't appealed to Caesar!'" (Acts 26:31-32)
St. Paul's third missionary journey starts at Antioch and ends in the
prison of Caesarea, where Paul after two years of imprisonment will finally
begin his fourth missionary journey (in chains) from Caesarea to Rome.
Paul's Fourth Missionary
(from the prison of Caesarea to the prison of Rome)
(around the year 60 A.D.) (Acts 27, Acts 28)
After two years of relatively free imprisonment at
Caesarea, Paul starts his voyage to Rome. Luke seems to write the logbook
of the ship, with many details and special maritime expressions.
"When the time came, we set sail for Italy. Paul and several other
prisoners were placed in the custody of an army officer named Julius,
a captain of the Imperial Regiment. And Aristarchus, a Macedonian from
Thessalonica, was also with us. We left on a boat whose home port was
Adramyttium; it was scheduled to make several stops at ports along the
coast of the province of Asia." (Acts 27:1-2)
The voyage is very difficult from the very beginning. Once the ship reaches
the port of Myra, in the province of Lycia, the Roman officer decides
to put the prisoners on another ship. "At Myra the officer found an Egyptian ship from Alexandria that was bound for Italy, and he put us on board." (Acts 27:6)
After many days of rough sailing and great difficulty, the ship finally
arrives at Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.
"We had lost a lot of time. The weather was becoming dangerous for
long voyages by then because it was so late in the fall, and Paul spoke
to the ship's officers about it." (Acts 27:9)
The presence of Paul on the ship is outstanding. His wisdom, his
common sense, his ability to communicate, and especially his Evangelization
passion, all mix together and make Paul a true leader in difficult times.
"'Sirs,' Paul said, 'I believe there is trouble ahead if we go on--shipwreck,
loss of cargo, injuries, and danger to our lives.' But the officer in
charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship's captain and the owner
than to Paul." (Acts 27:10-11)
They decided to leave Fair Havens and look for a safer port where to spend
"The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship,
the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even
threw out the ship's equipment and anything else they could lay their
hands on. The terrible storm raged unabated for many days, blotting out
the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone." (Acts 27:18-20)
Everyone realized that Paul's words were wise and should have been followed.
The leadership of Paul becomes more evident. Here we see how Paul, the
Evangelizer, knows how to make the good news of Jesus relevant to human
"No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew
together and said, 'Men, you should have listened to me in the first place
and not left Fair Havens. You would have avoided all this injury and loss.
But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship
will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and
whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, `Don't be afraid, Paul, for
you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What's more, God in his goodness
has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.' So take courage! For
I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked
on an island." (Acts 27:21-26)
THE SHIPWRECK AND LANDING ON THE ISLAND OF MALTA
"About midnight on the fourteenth night of the storm, as we were
being driven across the sea, the sailors sensed land was near." (Acts 27:27)
Paul, the moral leader of the ship, urges everyone to remain aboard the
"As the darkness gave way to the early morning light, Paul begged
everyone to eat. 'You haven't touched food for two weeks,' he said. 'Please
eat something now for your own good. For not a hair of your heads will
perish.' Then he took some bread, gave thanks to God before them all,
and broke off a piece and ate it. Then everyone was encouraged, and all
276 of us began eating--for that is the number we had aboard. After eating,
the crew lightened the ship further by throwing the cargo of wheat overboard." (Acts 27:33-38)
When morning dawned, they saw a bay with a beach. After some more difficulties,
The ship started to break apart, and everybody tried to reach for the
"The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to make sure they didn't
swim ashore and escape. But the commanding officer wanted to spare Paul,
so he didn't let them carry out their plan. Then he ordered all who could
swim to jump overboard first and make for land, and he told the others
to try for it on planks and debris from the broken ship. So everyone escaped
safely ashore!" (Acts 27:42-44)
PAUL ON THE ISLAND OF MALTA
"Once we were safe on shore, we learned that we were on the island
of Malta. The people of the island were very kind to us. It was cold and
rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to welcome us and warm us." (Acts 28:1-2)
Luke seems to forget that Paul is a prisoner and he writes as though the
warm welcome is for the missionary team as in previous missionary journeys.
Paul's miraculous deeds make Paul's leadership more apparent.
"As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the
fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, fastened itself onto
his hand. The people of the island saw it hanging there and said to each
other, 'A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will
not permit him to live.' But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and
was unharmed. The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead.
But when they had waited a long time and saw no harm come to him, they
changed their minds and decided he was a god." (Acts 28:3-6)
"Near the shore where we landed was an estate belonging to Publius,
the chief official of the island. He welcomed us courteously and fed us
for three days. As it happened, Publius's father was ill with fever and
dysentery. Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying his hands on him,
he healed him. Then all the other sick people on the island came and were
cured. As a result we were showered with honors, and when the time came
to sail, people put on board all sorts of things we would need for the
PAUL ARRIVES AT ROME
"It was three months after the shipwreck that we set sail on another
ship that had wintered at the island--an Alexandrian ship with the twin
gods as its figurehead. Our first stop was Syracuse, where we stayed three
days. From there we sailed across to Rhegium. A day later a south wind
began blowing, so the following day we sailed up the coast to Puteoli.
There we found some believers, who invited us to stay with them seven
days. And so we came to Rome.
The brothers and sisters in Rome had heard we were coming, and they came
to meet us at the Forum on the Appian Way. Others joined us at The Three
Taverns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
When we arrived in Rome, Paul was permitted to have his own private lodging,
though he was guarded by a soldier." (Acts 28:11-16)
At last Paul is in Rome. And long before Paul (or Peter) even put foot on Roman land, already Christian communities were scattered all over Italy. These communities had been evangelized by other Christians, having come to Rome, perhaps, for commercial or political reasons. But it was the Evangelization spirit of all baptized people that was the main reason for the spreading of Christianity all over the Roman Empire.
PAUL EVANGELIZES AT ROME UNDER GUARD
Once in Rome, although a prisoner, he uses the limited amount of freedom
still allowed to him by the Roman authorities, to continue the work of
"Three days after Paul's arrival, he called together the local Jewish
leaders. He said to them, 'Brothers, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed
over to the Roman government, even though I had done nothing against our
people or the customs of our ancestors. The Romans tried me and wanted
to release me, for they found no cause for the death sentence. But when
the Jewish leaders protested the decision, I felt it necessary to appeal
to Caesar, even though I had no desire to press charges against my own
people. I asked you to come here today so we could get acquainted and
so I could tell you that I am bound with this chain because I believe
that the hope of Israel--the Messiah--has already come'." (Acts 28:17-20)
"They replied, 'We have heard nothing against you. We have had no
letters from Judea or reports from anyone who has arrived here. But we
want to hear what you believe, for the only thing we know about these
Christians is that they are denounced everywhere.'
So a time was set, and on that day a large number of people came to Paul's
house. He told them about the Kingdom of God and taught them about Jesus
from the Scriptures--from the five books of Moses and the books of the
prophets. He began lecturing in the morning and went on into the evening.
Some believed and some didn't." (Acts 28:21-24).
As it was Paul's custom, after having addressed the Jewish community,
he concludes, "I want you to realize that this salvation from God
is also available to the Gentiles, and they will accept it." (Acts 28:28)
"For the next two years, Paul lived in his own rented house. He welcomed
all who visited him, proclaiming the Kingdom of God with all boldness
and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him." (Acts 28:30-31)
Here ends the Acts of the Apostles. We do not know when or whether there
was a trial. We know though that both Peter, who became the Bishop of
Rome, and Paul, were killed during the fierce persecution of Emperor Nero.
(between the years 64-67)
In the letter Paul wrote to the Philippians, Paul tells us how he looked
at his imprisonment.
"And I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that everything
that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone
here, including all the soldiers in the palace guard, knows that I am
in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, many of the
Christians here have gained confidence and become more bold in telling
others about Christ."