The missionary journeys of Paul (Acts 14)

Although the apostle Paul embarked upon numerous missionary travels, traditionally these have been divided into three major journeys. It is estimated that the first lasted from A.D. 46 to 48; the itinerary moved from Syrian Antioch to Cyprus and then on to southern Asia Minor (Turkey), where Paul visited several cities before returning to Syrian Antioch. The second journey (A.D. 49 – 52) involved an overland trip from Syrian Antioch across Asia Minor to Troas in the northwest, followed by a sea voyage across the Aegean Sea to Greece, with visits to Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens and Corinth. Paul then crossed the Aegean Sea to Ephesus (in Asia Minor) and from there made a lengthy sea voyage to Judea. The third journey, from A.D. 53 to 58, once again took him across Asia Minor and into Greece.

Certain elements of Paul’s strategy and style are evident in his missionary work:

  • Paul was seldom without a fellow worker; his partners at various times included Barnabas, Silas, Luke and others. He also endeavoured to train young Christians, such as John Mark, Timothy and Apollos, in the work of missions.
  • Paul always endeavoured to speak in terms that would be meaningful to a particular audience (1 Corinthians 9:22). This is perhaps best demonstrated during his second journey in the city of Athens, where Paul delivered his famous sermon on Mars Hill. Facing an educated tribunal, he addressed his audience using logic and Greek poetry. Although his stay in Athens was not particularly successful overall, this strategy demonstrated a great strength of the apostle’s style of communication.
  • From time to time Paul participated in the trade of tent-making in order to support his travels (Acts 18:3). Even though he believed that a minister of the gospel is worthy of pay, he did not want to alienate or antagonize anyone on the issue of financial support (1 Corinthians 9:6).
  • Paul tended to speak first at a local synagogue when preaching in a new city. This encounter generally met with forceful Jewish opposition, compelling him to move on to the Gentiles. This practice began in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:14), where Paul and Barnabas, after meeting with Jewish opposition, first proclaimed that they would then take the gospel to the Gentiles. This familiar pattern was once repeated in Rome near the end of Paul’s ministry (Acts 28:26-28).
  • Paul had to deal with persecution from both Jews and Gentiles.

The apostle was opposed by some Jews simply for preaching Jesus and by others (who believed in Jesus) for not requiring Gentiles to become proselytes to Judaism. Jewish leaders sometimes tried to prejudice local authorities against Paul, causing his expulsion from Antioch on charges of disturbing the peace (Acts 13:50).

Paul was opposed by Gentiles because he led his converts to abandon their traditional gods (see Acts 19:23-41).

Even though Paul was at times jailed and beaten by Roman authorities, he invoked his Roman citizenship at strategic points to further his ministry.

  • Paul demonstrated deep commitment to the churches he planted, and his emotional ties to his new converts were deep (2 Corinthians 6:4-13): He worked on behalf of these fledgling churches night and day (1 Thessalonians 2:9) and prayed for them continuously. Throughout his journeys Paul revisited churches, analysing their growth and ministering to them. Paul also wrote letters to the various churches throughout his missionary journeys.

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