In this post we considered Paul's second missionary journey as recorded in Acts 15:36-18:21. Paul's point was to spread the Gospel Westward and heed the vision given by God to press into the regions of Macedonia. During this time he wrote two more Epistles: 1 & 2 Thessalonians, from Corinth. This journey last for nearly two years, nearly twice as long as his first one.
With those reviews in mind, we now once again travel with Paul on what will be his third missionary journey in Acts 18:23-21:16. Again one of reasons we are doing these periodic studies is to understand the backgrounds to some of the other books of the New Testament.
Paul's third missionary journey in a nutshell
Paul's third missionary journey was both similar and yet different from the prior two. The similarities lie in the fact that he started out encouraging the same set of churches he had ministered to in his first missionary journey (compare Acts 18:23). Upon meeting a scholarly Jew by the name of Apollos, Apollos' conversion led him to be sent onto Corinth while Paul made headway into the region of Ephesus and Asia Minor in Acts 18:24-28. Unlike his second missionary journey wherein he had been unable and prevented by the Holy Spirit from heading into Asia Minor and Ephesus (Acts 16:1-8), Paul was now given liberty by the Spirit to make Asia Minor his target in Acts 19:1-41 and 20:17-38.
Out of all the places Paul would have the most fruitful ministry, none exceeded Ephesus. After two years of fruitful ministry, Paul left and then returned to Ephesus to say his final farewell in Acts 20. As Paul would sail to Macedonia once more, he would make several stops along the way in Acts 21:1-16. It would be during this time that Paul would compose three more letters: 1 & 2 Corinthians and then Romans.
Dr. Harold Kime, a professor that I had in my Bible College days, wrote these words in his notes on 1 & 2 Corinthians: "Paul's travels between the writing of 1 & 2 Corinthians. After writing 1 Corinthians, Paul left Ephesus and sailed to Macedonia, stopping a while at Troas, and then moving onto Philippi. There he awaited the coming of Titus who had been sent to Corinth in his place." Many scholars believe that Paul would had written the Epistle to the Romans towards the tail end of his third missionary Journey. Much like Galatians functioned in summing up all that Paul did in his first missionary journey, Romans was written to spell out the Gospel on the Western-most frontier of the early church's westward push. Romans contains the finest and most comprehensive presentation of the Gospel found anywhere in the Bible.
The following outline summarizes Paul's third missionary in Acts 18:22-21:17
1. Paul's journey through Galatia to Ephesus. Acts 18:22-28
2. Paul's ministry at Ephesus (most likely wrote 1 Corinthians during this time). Acts 19:1-41
3. Paul's journey back to Macedonia through Greece to Miletus. Acts 20:1-16
4. Paul's final farewell to the Ephesians, back through Miletus to Caesarea to Jerusalem (this is where he most likely wrote Romans, 2 Corinthians). Acts 20:17-21:16
Point of Application for Paul's third missionary journey in Acts 18:22-21:16
In comparing these chapters to what Paul ended up writing in Romans, 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians, we can note that following main point of application: The more we let the Gospel transform us, the more effective we will be in glorifying Jesus Christ.
Certainly Paul's great concern during his third missionary was about getting the Gospel right and letting it transform him, his companions and his hearers. If we were to locate a summary set of verses for this third journey, we would find them in Acts 20:25-32 “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. 26 Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
Today's main point of application was: The more we let the Gospel transform us, the more effective we will be in glorifying Jesus Christ. We looked briefly at Paul's third missionary journey in Acts 18:22-21:17 and noted how during this trip Paul wrote three more letters: 1 & 2 Corinthians and Romans. May you and I be those who are being transformed by the Gospel and who are eager to tell the transforming Gospel to other people.