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Missions Often; Paul’s Mission Trips - Acts 8-21:15

Updated on March 26, 2018
Pastor Kev profile image

I am an adopted son of the Lord, a husband of a beautiful wife, father of three amazing P's, and a discipleship pastor in South Carolina.

Division #1: The early church goes “On Mission”.

Acts 8-9

The Bible is God’s story. It is His story of His people, and how His Son brings His people redemption. As the earthly ministry of Jesus concludes at his ascension to the Father, His disciples waited for “the helper.” John 16:7 records Jesus saying earlier “it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” Nine days later, the disciples were ready to celebrate the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. Acts 2 gives us the account of the Holy Spirit filling each of them, and the church was born. The scenario at Pentecost happened that it was kind of missions in reverse. People from all over were there in Jerusalem, and when they heard the disciples talking in languages they could understand, many people were saved, and they took their new found belief home to the countries they came from. The core of the church was there in Jerusalem, and its ministries began.

Unsure of what to do, they relied on the Holy Spirit to guide them. Acts 6 starts off by telling us about Stephen and the church in Jerusalem, and how it was growing by leaps and bounds. It was great for this church to be on the rise, but God had other plans. He wanted the message of His Son’s redemptive work shared with the world. In Acts 6:8 we begin to get the story of Stephen, and how the religious leaders of the day began an all-out war against this new faith. A young Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus was at the stoning of Stephen, and from witnessing these events, Saul became the chief antagonist of the early church. Unknowingly, he was the catalyst for the church scattering, and by its scattering, it spread like wildfire across the region. Those who were dispersed by this action went throughout the country, preaching the Good News, the message of Jesus Christ, as they went.

While it was spreading, the leaders of the early church needed to ensure sound doctrine was being taught in the churches outside Jerusalem, so they began a series of mission trips to visit and help these churches. We have already studied some of these first mission trips, such as Philip, Peter, and Paul’s initial training trip. The map above a picture of the geographic influence of the early church.

Philip’s trip took him around the region. He was preaching in Samaria when Peter and John joined him there. He was asked by an angel to go “On Mission” to the south, where he witnessed to the Ethiopian Eunuch. Following that, he ended up in Caesarea, where 25 years later he was still there preaching when Paul stopped in for a visit.

In Acts 9 we read of Saul’s conversion and subsequent training trips led by members of the early church. On the road to Damascus, Jesus appeared in a vision to Saul who was blinded, and directs him to continue his journey to Damascus where he is healed and then baptized. According to Paul's letter to the church in Galatia, Galatians 1:17 says I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. While he was in Damascus, Paul was proclaiming Jesus in the Synagogues, before being forced to escape to Jerusalem. When Saul reached Jerusalem, he tried to meet up with the disciples, but they were all afraid of him. Because of his history (and they were very familiar with that) they found it hard to believe that Saul, who was present at Stephen’s stoning and who had tried to eradicate the church, was a disciple of Jesus Christ. Barnabas, however, took him by the hand, introduced him to the apostles, and explained to them how Saul had seen the Lord on his journey, and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He further explained how Saul had spoken in Damascus with the utmost boldness in the name of Jesus. After that Saul (renamed Paul) joined with them in all their activities in Jerusalem, preaching fearlessly in the name of the Lord. He would talk and argue with the Greek-speaking Jews, but they made several attempts on his life. When the disciples realized this, they took him down to the port in Caesarea and sent him off to his home, Tarsus. After this, Galatians 1:21 indicates that he preached in Cilicia and Syria. Acts 11:25 even records that sometime later, Paul was brought from Tarsus by Barnabas to work in Syrian Antioch.

We have already studied Peter’s mission trips too. To review Peter, in Acts 9-10:48, the whole Church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria now enjoyed a period of peace. Peter left Jerusalem and headed to Lydda, where he met up with Aeneas. Aeneas had been stuck on his bed for 8 years. When Peter met him and at the Holy Spirit’s urging, Peter prayed and Aeneas was healed, in Jesus’ name. This one event turned the hearts of an entire region towards Christ. Peter went on to Joppa where he met a woman who was also healed. While Peter was in Joppa, he was asked to go to Caesarea to meet with a Roman centurion named Cornelius. Cornelius had been visited by an angel who told him to send for Peter. In Joppa, Peter had his vision of the clean and unclean animals that God had said were now all clean. Peter understood God meant that not only dietary rules had been lifted, but Gentiles, who up to now have been considered unclean, now were welcome in the fold of the Christian church. Peter welcomed Cornelius’ messengers and accepted their invitation. When Peter got to Caesarea, Peter led Cornelius and his entire family to Christ. After this, Peter went back to Jerusalem and explained why, out of the blue, he had begun to teach and baptize Gentiles.

Apart from his journeys with Jesus, John, and Philip, Peter went on other mission trips too. According to Galatians 2:11, he visited Syrian Antioch; he may have visited Corinth according to 1 Corinthians 1:12 as he was certainly known there. Traditionally Peter’s home was in Rome, and was martyred there in approximately 67AD.

1: The early church recognized the importance of reoccurring missions.

Application Question: What is keeping me from going on a local, national, or international mission trip; and what can I do to remove those barriers so that I can be obedient to Jesus’ Great Commission?

Division #2: Paul goes on his first mission trip.

Acts 13:4-14:28

No Biblical missionary more exemplifies going “On Mission” to the known world more than Paul. His meteoric rise to a global force for Christ is unequalled. Following his conversion on the road to Damascus, he received as much training as he needed, and then he set off to take the Good News of Jesus’ Salvation to the world. Between 46AD and 48AD, Paul left on his first mission trip. It is this trip that Paul took Barnabas along as they visited Cyprus and Asia Minor. Paul ended that trip in Syrian Antioch where he spent a lot of time with the local church.

Paul’s first journey began when he and Barnabas went down from Syrian Antioch to Seleucia, and from there they sailed off to Cyprus. On their arrival at Salamis, they began to proclaim God's message in the Jewish Synagogues, adding John Mark (Barnabas’ nephew) as their assistant. As they made their way through the island as far as Paphos, they came across a man named Bar-Jesus, a Jew who was both a false prophet and a magician. This man was attached to Sergius Paulus, the proconsul (or Roman governor of the island province of Cyprus), who was himself a man of intelligence. Barnabas and Paul were summoned before Sergius, and there they clashed with Bar-Jesus, and Sergius Paulus became a believer.


EXTRA!! EXTRA!! Galatia was a large Roman province in Asia Minor, extending almost from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean through the mountains and plains of modern central Turkey. Galatia was settled by Gauls from central Asia in the 3rd century BC, and were a constant thorn in the side of the Romans up until the Gallic wars in 50BC where they were officially conquered by the Roman army and became a Roman province. Galatia included the Phrygian town of Pisidian Antioch; but that is not to be confused with Syrian Antioch


After Sergius Paulus’ conversion, Barnabas, Paul and John Mark then sailed from Paphos and headed to Perga in Pamphylia. It was here that there seems to be a sort of dust up between John Mark and Paul. We don’t know why, but John Mark left the group and returned home. He could have been tired of traveling, he could have been homesick, he could have objected to going among Gentiles, he could have been just tired of being around Paul and Barnabas and playing second fiddle, or he could have been scared of the potential dangers of being a disciple of Jesus. Whatever the reason, John Mark left and went to Jerusalem, and Paul was none too pleased about it. This issue actually caused division between Paul and John Mark for some time, but their relationship was later restored according to Colossians 4:10-11 and 2 Timothy 4:11. Paul and Barnabas continue on to Galatia, where they continued their journey through Perga to the Antioch in Pisidia.


Paul’s 1st Itinerary: Syrian Antioch, Seleucia, Salamis, Paphos, Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Pisidian Antioch, Perga, Attalia, Syrian Antioch


In Pisidian Antioch they went to the Synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. (Remember that in Biblical times the teachers sat and the students listened.) After the leaders of the Synagogue were done with the opening scripture reading, they invited Paul to speak to the congregation, and the Gospel of Jesus was well received. A week later, however, the message they shared was rejected and Paul and Barnabas were expelled from the entire district.

They then traveled on to Iconium and they continued to be full of joy and the Holy Spirit. Much the same thing happened at Iconium that had happened in Pisidian Antioch. Their message was initially well received, but a hostile group rose up from both Gentiles and Jews in collaboration with the authorities. This group insulted them and planned to stone them. They were warned about it before it happened, so they fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe.


EXTRA!! EXTRA!! While In Lystra, Paul and Barnabas heal a crippled man and are nearly worshipped as gods. - Acts 14:11


While they were in Lystra, some Jews had followed them from Antioch and Iconium. After turning the minds of the people against Paul, they stoned him and dragged him out of the city thinking he was dead. But while the disciples were gathered in a circle round him, Paul got up and walked back to the city. The very next day he left with Barnabas and traveled to Derbe.

In Acts 14:21 they retraced their steps through Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, all the while encouraging the brothers and sisters in those churches they had started. They arrived in Perga and then walked down to Attalia. From there they finally sailed back to Antioch (in Syria). When they arrived there, they called the Church together and reported to them how greatly God had worked with them and how God had opened the door of faith for the Gentiles. It was here at Antioch they spent a considerable time with the disciples.

2: God’s command of going “On Mission” does not promise physical protection, but obedience promotes spiritual growth.

Application Question: When have I turned away from going where God was leading? What were the consequences?

Division #3: Paul goes “On Mission” for the second time.

Acts 15:40-18:23

Paul goes on his second journey, and this time he goes with Silas. This trip takes place around 49AD – 52AD, and their trip would take them through Asia Minor and Europe.

Paul finished his first journey at Syrian Antioch, and it is here that he leaves to go on his second journey. After choosing Silas to go with him, they traveled through Syria and Cilicia and strengthened the churches.

He again went to Derbe and Lystra. At Lystra there was a disciple by the name of Timothy who was held in high regard by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium, and Paul wanted to take him on as his second companion. As they went on their way through the cities, they relayed to each group of believers there the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders in the Council at Jerusalem.

They made their way through Phyrgia and Galatia, but the Holy Spirit prevented them from speaking God's message in Asia. When they came to Mysia they tried to enter Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them. Why would the spirit of Jesus and the Holy Spirit prevent willing missionaries from going into certain places? Since there is no reason given directly in Scripture, we must take what we know of the Trinity and figure the reasons. While of course, it is a guess, we know that God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is sovereign, and Revelation 22:13 tells us that God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. God’s Word also tells us in 1 Timothy 2:3-4 that His desire is for “all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of truth”. So why prevent Paul from entering Asia and Bithynia? The facts are that God knew Europe was ripe for Paul’s teaching at that moment, and maybe those other towns were not. Maybe God’s desire was that those regions would be visited later? (We see this accomplished later in Acts 18:19-21, 24:19-41, and 1 Peter 1:1) If we review Old Testament details of Israel’s greatest King, in 2 Samuel 7:11, we read that David wanted to build God a Temple, a place for God to reside that was not a tent. This was certainly not a bad desire to have, but it was not in God’s timing. God told David through Nathan that it was not David’s place to build this, but one of David’s sons would “build a house for my Name.” So you see, it is not in the details, it is in the willingness. Paul exemplified this. Paul says “It was my desire to go here or there, but since the Holy Spirit wants me to go in another direction, I’ll trust in the Lord, and lean not on my own understanding.”

So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas, where one night Paul had a vision of a Macedonian man standing and appealing to him with the words: "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" So they set sail from Troas and ran a straight course to the island of Samothrace, and then on the following day to Neapolis. Paul records that they then spent a few days in Philippi.


EXTRA!! EXTRA!! Philippi – located near modern Kavalla in northern Greece, It was a city and a chief part of Macedonia founded by Philip, the father of Alexander the Great. A Roman colony and military center, governed directly from Rome, held a Roman garrison, Philippi was situated on the Via Egnatian, the highway running east and west linking Rome to Byzantium, which is modern-day Istanbul.


There Paul, Silas, Timothy, and sometimes Luke, brought the Gospel to Lydia. After witnessing to Lydia, one day they were drawn into a conflict over a girl with an evil spirit, and when her masters convince the local leaders to arrest them, they are beaten and imprisoned without a trial. They survive a destructive earthquake and win their jailer to Christ. The magistrates release them, but when he learns that Paul is a Roman citizen, the magistrate apologize to them and after taking them outside the prison, requested them to leave the city.


EXTRA!! EXTRA!! Thessalonica - Modern Salonika or Thessalonica. A free city, capital of the Roman province of Macedonia in northern Greece. Thessalonica was a major port, and like Philippi, located on the east-west Egnatian highway, and thus an important center of trade by land and by sea


The next day they journeyed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, and stopped at Thessalonica. There was a Jewish Synagogue in Thessalonica, so Paul went there to witness, like he always did. His teaching converted a large number of the people, but also infuriated many Jews and all of a sudden, the city was in an uproar. Without delay, their Christian brothers sent Paul and Silas off to Berea that night. When they got to Berea, they went to the Jewish Synagogue. The Jews proved more generous-minded than those in Thessalonica, because they accepted the message that Paul taught. But as was the case over and over again, when the Jews at Thessalonica found out that God's message had been proclaimed by Paul at Berea, they came there too, to cause trouble. The brothers at Berea then sent Paul off at once to make his way to the coast, but Silas and Timothy remained there in Berea.

The men who accompanied Paul stayed with him all the way to Athens and returned with instructions for Silas and Timothy (still in Berea) to rejoin Paul as soon as possible. Paul had to wait a while for Silas and Timothy to get there, so while he was there, he decided to have some fun with the local religious community. It is here in Acts 17:16-34 where Paul preaches one of my favorite sermons. By divine wisdom, Paul was walking among all the idols of the city, and came across one that was “to the unknown god”. This struck a chord with him, so while he was there, he approached all the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers and told them that he represented this unknown god. He is “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.”

Before long Paul left Athens and went on to Corinth where he found a Jew called Aquila, a native of Pontus. This man had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla because Emperor Claudius had issued a decree that all Jews should leave Rome. They all worked together as tent-makers. Every Sabbath Paul would to speak in the Synagogue, trying to persuade both Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia and were able to take some other daily responsibilities, Paul was able to focus completely on preaching, showing the Jews as clearly as he could that Jesus is the Christ. However, when the Corinthian audience turned against him, Acts 18:6 records Paul saying: Your blood be on your heads! From now on I go with a perfectly clear conscience to the Gentiles.


EXTRA!! EXTRA!! Corinth- near modern-day Corinth in southern Greece. An ancient Greek city, and the chief town of the Roman province of Achaia, governed by proconsul Gallio. Located near the narrow strip of land separating the Adriatic from the Aegean Seas, the north-south highway linking the rest of Greece with the southern Peloponnesus ran through it, a vital center of commerce. A cosmopolitan city with the temple of Aphrodite - goddess of love and fertility - and with two nearby ports including Cenchrea, Corinth was well known for its sexual immorality


Paul walked out of the Synagogue and went to the house of a man called Titius Justus, a man who reverenced God and lived next door to the Synagogue. Paul settled down in Corinth for eighteen months, which was his second longest recorded stay in a city during his three Missionary journeys. While he was there, he taught them God's message.


Paul’s 2nd Itinerary

Syrian Antioch, Syria, Cilicia, Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Phyrga, Galatia, Mysia, Troas, Samothrace, Neapolis, Philippi, Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Cenchrea, Ephesus, Caesarea, Jerusalem, Syrian Antioch


When Paul’s stay in Corinth was over, he left the brothers and sailed for Syria. He did not leave alone however, Priscilla and Aquila went with him. You might remember that it was when he was at Cenchrea that he had his hair cut short, because of a vow he had taken. When Paul, Priscilla and Aquila arrived in Ephesus, Paul went into the Synagogue and debated with the local Jews. There must have been some relationships built, because they asked him to stay longer. He declined the invitation, but left saying “If it is God's will I will come back to you again” (which he did on his Third Missionary Journey). Priscilla and Aquila stayed there in Ephesus, but Paul left, heading to Caesarea by sea, with his final destination being Jerusalem. He stopped to pay his respects to the Church in Jerusalem, and finally went back to his home base (by heading down in elevation but Northerly in direction) to Syrian Antioch. He spent some time there before he left to go on his Third Journey.

3: Frequent missions is a sign of a church in tune with God’s Will.

Application Question: What excuses do I have for not participating frequently in missions? How can I be more active?

Division #4: Paul goes “On Mission” for a third trip.

Acts 18:23-21:15

During Paul's third missionary journey, he returned to Asia Minor and Greece during 53AD-58AD. After spending some time in Syrian Antioch, Paul started on his Third Missionary Journey and proceeded to visit churches throughout Galatia and Phyrgia, refreshing the disciples at each visit.


EXTRA!! EXTRA!! Ephesus - South of modern Izmir or Smyrna in Western Turkey, and at that time capital of the Roman province of Asia. One of the three greatest cities of the eastern Mediterranean with a population of perhaps 250,000 - the other two being Alexandria in Egypt and Syrian Antioch, Ephesus was an important port with good access to the interior of Asia Minor. As a center for the worship of Artemis or Diana - the Asian goddess of fertility, her temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The great theatre could hold 25,000 people.


Paul arrived in Ephesus and made his way into the Synagogue there. For three months he spoke with the utmost confidence, but when some of them hardened in their attitude toward the message and refused to believe it, Paul left. Paul then held daily discussions in the lecture-hall of Tyrannus. He continued this in Ephesus for two years, (making his stay last a total of three years) which was Paul's longest recorded stay in any one location during his three Missionary Journeys. He stayed there so long that everybody who lived in Asia (not just Ephesus, but the surrounding country), both Greeks and Jews, could hear the Lord's message. Paul continued to preach and also to heal, and with such success that a number who previously practiced magic publicly burned their expensive scrolls. It was also towards the end of his 3 year stay in Ephesus that Paul probably wrote his First Letter to the church in Corinth.

After all that had happened in Ephesus, Paul set his sights on Jerusalem by way of Macedonia and Achaia. He said in Acts 19:21 "After I have been there I must see Rome as well."

He sent two of his assistants, Timothy and Erastus, on to Macedonia while he stayed for a while in Asia. Paul was publicly attacked by the many craftsmen whose livelihood depended on the worship of the goddess Diana and a near-riot ensues, which was the catalyst for Paul leaving and he left for Macedonia. As he made his way through the districts of Macedonia, Paul probably wrote his Second Letter to the Corinthians. Paul spoke many heartening words to the people, and then went on to Greece where he stayed for three months. While there he also visited Corinth, which is when he probably wrote Romans, the letter to the church in Rome. According to this letter, either on his way from Macedonia or during his three months stay in Greece, Paul led or organized a mission to Illyricum or Dalmatia, too.


Paul’s 3rd Itinerary

Syrian Antioch, Galatia, Phyrgia, Ephesus, Macedonia, Greece, Macedonia, Philippi, Troas, Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Miletus, Cos, Rhodes, Patara, Tyre, Ptolemais, Caesarea, Jerusalem


Around 58AD, Paul was ready to set sail for Syria, but the Jews started plotting on him, so he decided to make his way back by land through Macedonia. His traveling companions on the journey were Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychicus and Trophimus. These guys went on ahead to Troas to wait there, while Paul sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread. They joined up five days later at Troas where Paul spent a week. At Troas, a truly funny thing happened. Because Paul, being VERY long winded in a sermon, a young man Eutychus not only fell asleep, but fell out of a third story window.

Paul arrived at Assos where he joined up with the rest of his band of missionaries, and then they sailed to Mitylene, where they stayed one day. They then sailed to the coast of Chios, were there one day, and the next day they left for Samos. Finally they reached Miletus. Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus with the idea of spending as little time as possible in Asia so he could get to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost. At Miletus he asked all the Church elders to come see him. When they got there, he broke the bad news to them that they would never see him again.

After all the goodbyes were said, they left on a ship to Cos. They then went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. Paul bought a ticket on a cargo ship headed to Tyre. They met up with the disciples there and stayed with them for a week, where Paul was warned not to go to Jerusalem. Instead they sailed away from Tyre and arrived at Ptolemais. They greeted the brothers there and stayed with them for just one day. The next day they left and proceeded to Caesarea and stayed at Philip’s house. While they were with Philip, Paul was once again warned not to return to Jerusalem. Regardless of the dangers and the warnings, they made their plans and went up to Jerusalem.

4: Going “On Mission” requires reoccurring contact.

Application Question: When have I led someone to Christ, but then did not follow up with intentional discipleship?


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