Friday, July 11, 2014

Christians' need to share Jesus with all kinds of people - Summarizing Paul's second missionary journey

Acts 16:5-10 "So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily. 6 They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; 7 and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; 8 and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”10 When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them."

Several days ago I had introduced readers to the idea of the relationship between the Book of Acts and the New Testament letters. We looked specifically at two things in those series of posts: why the Apostle Paul wrote Galatians and how that epistle related to Paul's first missionary trip or journey in Acts 13-15. The links to both of those posts are below for the reader's reference:

Today's post will be viewed as a continuation of those two posts, with the idea of looking further into Paul's second missionary trip or journey in Acts 16-18. Studying the book of Acts is invaluable to the Bible student because of how it aids the reader in interpreting many of the New Testament epistles. Along today's survey we will discover that Paul wrote 1 & 2 Thessalonians towards the tail end of his second missionary journey. For sake of brevity, I will simply list in descending order a "count down" list of details we can find in Paul's second missionary journey that can aid in understanding his epistles to the Thessalonians. Below is a map that pictures the trip Paul took in Acts 16-18:

Counting down all that was entailed in Paul's 2nd missionary journey

Six Conversions. The most remarkable feature of Paul's second missionary journey are the remarkable conversions to Christ that are recorded along the way. Lydia was the first European convert to Christ in Acts 16:14-15. The Philippian Jailor's conversion in Acts 16:30-31 gives us one of the clearest explanations regarding how a person is to be born-again. Certainly the Thessalonian believers themselves is remarkable since we see a church born and planted in Acts 17:4. Concerning the hunger new believers ought to have for the scriptures, none exceed the Bereans in Acts 17:12. As Paul would arrive at Athens Greece, he would preach one of his most eloquent and best defenses of the Gospel before a scholarly guild of skeptical philosophers in Acts 17:34, with a few of them responding to the Gospel. Then finally we see Crispus, a Jewish Synagogue leader becoming converted to the faith and thus beginning a major move of God at Corinth in Acts 18:8. 

Five Major Cities. As you follow the map above, you can trace Paul's trip through Macedonia. He began at Philippi, the chief city of the region. As he traveled on down through Thessalonica, Berea and Corinth, he ended up planting key churches.  Then his final stop is at a major cultural center of Graeco/Roman life - Athens. 
What we see in these cities is a missionary strategy being done by Paul and God's leading of him in doing so.

Four points to Paul's preaching. As Paul grew in his faith and ministry experience, His preaching became more focused. In his first missionary journey we see him declaring and defending the Gospel. In this second missionary journey, Paul focuses upon four key points: Jesus, Jesus' resurrection from the dead, repentance and Jesus' second coming.  The last point especially is brought to the forefront in Paul's addresses and may explain why he focused more upon Christ's second coming in 1 & 2 Thessalonians than in any of his other letters,

Three churches planted. Paul ended up planting three churches to which he would later write various epistles: Philippi, Thessalonica and Corinth.

Two letters/epistles written. As we have already mentioned, Paul wrote 1 & 2 Thessalonians towards the latter part of his second missionary journey. He most like wrote these letters during his stay at Corinth in Acts 18. The key verse to 1 Thessalonians is found in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 and the key verse to 2 Thessalonians is in 2 Thessalonians 3:5.

One main point of application when considering Paul's second missionary journey: "You and I are to go to all kinds of people, sharing the Word, our lives and Jesus."