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The Journeys of Apostle Paul

The gospel Apostle Paul preached (Part 4)

It is in the last chapter of Acts we find God introduces a different message of the gospel though Paul. Paul is finally at his last destination in Rome where this final enlightenment takes place. Even in Rome, Paul gave priority to speaking first to the leaders of the Jews there. They were still the chosen race, and it was still Paul's desire that they should believe that Jesus was the Christ. But that was not to be. The people of Israel were offered to be part of God's plan of the Kingdom. This is not to happen until the next age.

It is made known to the assembled Jews at Rome that the Kingdom was postponed by the fact that God's salvation was to be sent to the other nations (Gentiles). It is clearly evident that here are two main divisions in the gospel message. Peter is prominent in the first, heralding the kingdom in the land of Israel. Paul is at the head of the second, proclaiming the kingdom to Israelites and non-Israelites (the nations aka Gentiles) outside the land of Israel.

Paul's final epistles were written at his prison home in Rome. They include Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon. Earlier he had written Galatians in which he rebuked the Galatians.

The Divisions of Pauls Ministry

It is truly remarkable how God worked with Paul in his ministry progressed. If one reads the accounts of the gospel as proclaimed by Jesus, Peter and the rest of the 12 and then reads the gospel proclaimed by Paul there seems to be an apparent conflict. Truly, there are two gospels (evangels). One concerns the Kingdom heralded by Jesus Himself and His Jewish followers and the other known as the Pauline Evangel. The former evangel was based upon salvation through a combination of repentance, faith and conformity to law; the latter was channelled through faith and the grace of God.

In addition, Paul's ministry is not strictly a progression. A progression involves a forward movement of the same thing; but in Paul's case it is an advancement from an initial revelation of the essential elements of the gospel to a expanded and grander revelation of the fullness of the gospel. His good news message is a distinct revelation, unique in Scripture. Before reading about the advancement of his ministry and noting its distinct characteristics, notice how frequently he lays claim to the monopoly of it, calling it "my gospel". See my earlier description of this on the link http://www.bibleanalytics.ca/paul.

Paul was not given all his instructions concerning "his" gospel at the start. We will see this in his acts as he carries out the work assigned to him. Not only can we trace its association with the earlier proclaimed gospel of the Kingdom of God, but also its gradual unfolding as a result of continuous revelations given to him.

First Phase

Soon after being called on the Damascus road (probably 37AD), Saul (Paul) proclaiming the Lord Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God, in the local synagogues. His preaching soon angered the Jews and they sought to kill him, but he escaped and went to Jerusalem. Just as the 12 Apostles were persecuted, so was he.

Act 9:20 (KJV) And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
Act 9:21 But all that heard him were amazed ....
Act 9:22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.

Rejected, he goes to Arabia for three years (Acts 9:23; Gal. 1:17-18) to be taught by the risen Christ. The twelve Apostles were taught by Jesus while He was on the earth, but Saul was taught by Christ from Heaven. He received from Christ an expanded and distinct gospel which was to be proclaimed to the gentiles (nations), outside of the land of Judea. After the revelation given him by Christ he returned to Damascus, then Jerusalem. His first journey is depicted in the map below:

pauls first trip

Upon his return to Jerusalem the disciples were afraid of him but Barnabas befriends him (Acts 9:26-27). He continued to expound that Jesus is the Christ. But once again an attempt was made to slay him. The brethren took him to Caesarea and then to Tarsus, his home town. (Acts 9: 26- 30)

With the persecution and dispersion of disciples from Jerusalem, Antioch in Assyria becomes a new center for the preaching of the gospel (evangel).(Acts 11:19-24).

Barnabas then sets out to find Saul (Paul) (Acts 11:25) and together they set out to Antioch. They stayed in Antioch preaching the about Jesus Christ , the Messiah and Son of God. There they laboured together unremittingly for a whole year." All this time Saul was probably subordinate to Barnabas.

Act 11:25 (KJV) Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:
Act 11:26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch.

And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

Thereafter he and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem, taking with them staples because of the drought which affected Judea.

Act 11:29 (KJV) Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:
Act 11:30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

The many clashes Paul faced

With the baptism of Cornelius, a non-Israelite, (Acts 10) the way was open for Gentiles (the nations) to have access to the promises formerly set aside only for Israelites. This dramatic change came as a shock to many Jewish Christians who had thought circumcision and the Law were essential for salvation. Paul faced opposition from almost everyone. Opposition from the Pharisees, the scribes, Sanhedrin and Jewish leaders At one point the Jewish leaders wanted to kill him.

Act 21:30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.
Act 21:31 And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.
Act 23:12 And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.
Act 25:3 And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him.

Persecution of Paul and Barnabas occurred in almost every city where they preached the gospel. Severe persecution from the Jewish leadership of Israel was horrible enough, but now, Paul and Barnabas are harassed by the Jewish Christians for their preaching. The liberty of Paul's gospel was assailed by "false brethren" nurtured in the bosom of the Jewish church at Jerusalem.

2 Cor 11:26 (KJV) In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
Gal 2:4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

Yes, Paul called these Jewish Christians "false brethren". In the early stage of Paul's ministry the Jewish faction was bent on forcing circumcision (Gal. 2:3-5) on believers. They advocated the bondage of circumcision and keeping the law of Moses. These attempts finally resulted in Paul carrying the issue straight to the main church in Jerusalem. He went down to Jerusalem. The verdict of the Jerusalem conference (Acts 15) checked the circumcision propaganda.

It does not appear that the opponents ever again openly taught circumcision as essential to salvation. The decision of the apostles at Jerusalem made this impossible. Defeated in their efforts, the ones demanding circumcision modified their strategy and clothed their doctrine in subtler garb. They now preached circumcision as the prerogative of the Jewish believer in Christ, and as a means of perfection for the Gentile believer (Gal. 3:3-5).

The epistle of Galatians is a very remarkable and revealing one. . The sum and substance of its message is summarized in verse two of chapter five: Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if you receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. The Judaists sought to fuse law and gospel. Paul proves such fusion to be impossible. Law and grace are irreconcilable. Every attempt to combine them strikes equally at the majesty of the law and the power of the gospel, making both of none effect. Paul contends with those who would pervert his gospel, while the wavering Galatian churches watch the progress of the struggle.

Paul, the divinely appointed bearer of a distinctive message to the nations, champions the cause of the gospel to the uncircumcised. Pitted against him, ever seeking to discredit his apostleship and distort his message, are the Jewish leaders and teachers. The Galatians oscillate between the influences of these rival gospels. They are readily removing away from the gospel under which they were called by Paul to another of a totally different sort.

This stigma of believing that being a follower of Jesus Christ required at least keeping some of the Old Covenant rules and rituals, such as Holy Days observance, water baptism, tithing and Sabbath keeping (Sunday observance?) were required for salvation. These are works of the law which Paul never preached toward the end of his ministry. His prison epistles reveal the truth of being a part of the body of Christ.

First Missionary Journey (approx. 44-47AD)

After his call on the road to Damascus, the next great landmark in the life of Saul was his severance, by the holy spirit (together with Barnabas) to a special work (Acts 13:2).

It is significant that God separated them from the twelve. The expanded teaching of him and Barnabas when severed from the twelve began this next phase of their work and the first missionary journey.

Acts 13:2 (KJV) As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

With this phase of the ministry we find that Saul is now called Paul in Scripture.

Acts 13:9 (KJV) Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,

In the city of Tarsus where he was born, it was customary for parents of the Jewish race living in Roman territory to give their children two names, one a Hebrew name (Saul) and the other a gentile name (Paul).

This phase of the ministry of Paul and Barnabas was initially carried out independently of the twelve apostles (Acts 13:2:14:27) and later completed in association with them. In the various synagogues in Asia he preached the hope of Israel, which was establishment of the Kingdom of God, centred on Christ the Messiah. Outside the synagogues in the cities he taught the justification of God by faith, to both Jews and gentiles alike (Acts 14:28 -19:21). Two distinct gospels. This is significant because there was a gospel for the circumcision and another for the uncircumcised.

first missionary journey

Paul's first missionary journey began at Antioch and ended up there. He stands and delivers a sermon in Pisidia Antioch which adds much clarity to his message, for there he first broaches the grand doctrine of justification by faith (Acts 13:14-41, see verse 39). Many wanted the gospel to be preached to them again. The next week the whole city gathered to hear the message (Acts 13:44). Ah, problems enter. At Antioch now, as in every city afterward, the unbelieving Jews used their influence with their own adherents among the Gentiles to persuade the authorities or the populace to persecute the apostles and to drive them from the cities they visited.

From Antioch Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium. Then upon their preaching the Jews and city leaders planned to stone them but they fled to Lystra. While in Lystra some Jews from Antioch and Iconium came to the city and stirred up the people and convinced them to stone Paul. He was stoned, was assumed dead, then rose up and with Barnabas departed to Derbe (Acts 14:19-20). Then onto Iconium, Pisidia Antioch, Perga, and Attalia, preaching the word (acts 14:25). And finally to home base, Antioch. At the church in Antioch they described how God had opened the door of faith to the nations (gentiles). There they abode a long time with the disciples (Acts 14:28).

Thereafter some Jewish leaders from Judea came to Antioch and taught that unless you are circumcised you cannot be saved. This caused a great deal of commotion among the disciples in Antioch. Paul and Barnabas had a heated debate and argument with them. It became necessary to take this issue to the Jerusalem church for a resolution.

More detail and the decision regarding this crucial issue can be found at the link "Jerusalem council".

The Jerusalem council decided that it was not required for gentiles who were converted to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses. That decision was then conveyed to the churches by Paul, Barnabas, Silas and Judah. The churches rejoiced for the consolation (Acts 15:31).

Second Missionary Journey (approx. 49-53 AD)

Paul and Barnabas separate and Paul takes Silas with him as they begin the second missionary journey through Syria and Cilicia confirming the ecclesia. Barnabas took Mark with him and set sail to Cyprus (Acts 15:36-41).

second journey

As Paul and Silas travel through Syria and Cicilia, Paul circumcised the disciple, Timothy because of the Jews that were in the region. They continued on through Phrygia and Mysia proclaiming the decrees that were ordained of the apostles and elders as a result of the Jerusalem Council.

Then onto Troas, then Philippi where Lydia and her household were baptised. It was in Philippi that Paul cast a demon out of a possessed damsel who was taunting Paul and soothsaying. Paul and Silas are thrown into jail when the multitude rose up against them, spurred on by the damsels masters who persuaded multitude against the disciples. They were thrown prison. That is when the Philippians' jailer was converted, he and his household. Another miracle. Paul then told the Roman soldiers that you have beaten us openly un-condemned. We are Romans he said. The soldiers in fear released them (Acts 16:11-40).

Continuing on their journey they had passed through the cities of Amphipolis and Apollonia, arriving in Thessalonica where they preached the Word. But once again antagonistic Jews caused an uproar in the city so Paul and Silas had to be scurried away to Berea. Notice how often the Jews who rejected Christ had a hatred of anyone who accepted Him. They were relentless in persecuting the Apostles and disciples.

The Bereans were more open minded than the people of Thessalonica. They received the Word and checked up what Paul preached with the scriptures. Many of them believed. But here we go again. The Jews from Thessalonica came and stirred up the people and Paul had to scurry out and went to Athens. Timothy and Silas remained in Thessalonica. In Athens Paul a very eloquent speech to the Athenians, who were for the most part superstitious and full of intellectual vanity. Some believed Paul's word's and were converted (Acts 17).

Paul travels to Corinth where Timothy and Silas join him. He became acquainted with Priscilla and Aquila and stayed with them. They and Paul were tent makers and Paul spent some time with them in this craft. Paul reasoned in the synagogue very Sabbath but eventually the antagonists opposed Paul and blasphemed. Paul then said, from now on I will go to the gentiles (Acts 18:6). He remained in Corinth for at least a year and a half, preaching Jesus Christ. It is in this period that he wrote first and second Thessalonians and probably Galatians.

From Corinth, he along with Priscilla and Aquila, to Ephesus. There he preached to the Jews and then sailed to Caesarea, and then went to his home base of Antioch.

Third Missionary Journey (approx. 53-58 AD)

third missionary journey
After spending some time in Antioch, Paul departed and went through the country of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the faith of the disciples. He went along the cities of the upper coast and came to Ephesus (Acts 19:1). Paul remained in Ephesus and surrounding area for about two years and God magnified his ministry. Mightily grew the word of God and prevailed (Acts 19:20). It was during this period that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians and Romans.

Paul travels through Asia and Macedonia strengthening the churches. His travel companions included Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychicus and Trophimus (Acts 20:24). Paul came to Troas where we find the account of the young man Eutychus being brought back to life after falling from a third loft during Paul's speaking late at night. Paul departs Troas and goes to Assos, then Mitylene. Then sails through the islands of Chios and Samao docking at Trogyllium, and onward to Miletus. While in Miletus he beckoned the elders from Ephesus to come so he could give them information on caring for the flock and warning of grievous wolves entering the congregations.

From Miletus Paul sails past Coos, Rhodes to Patara. Then boarding another ship he sails past Cyprus and arrives at Tyre. He stayed in Tyre for 7 days with disciples Then went to Ptolemais, saluted the brethren and stayed with them one day and continued on to Caesarea. There he went to the house of Philip the evangelist and tarried in that city many days. Philip had four daughters who prophesied.

The prophet Agabus came down from Judea and revealed to Paul that he would be taken into custody by the Jews in Jerusalem and be delivered into the hands of Roman soldiers.

Paul's complex state of affairs in Jerusalem (58AD)

So Paul went to Jerusalem knowing trouble awaited him. In Jerusalem, Paul and his companions were warmly received by the brethren (Act 21:17). They went and met with James and the elders where Paul declared the success of his ministry among the gentiles (nations). They glorified the Lord.

But now an interesting occurrence. The elders persuade Paul to obey an ordinance of purification in the temple to display to the Jewish community that he walks orderly and keeps the law. Paul imperfectly conformed to their request. More detail on this incident can be found in this link (Acts 21:27). The Jews from Asia stirred up the people in Jerusalem, dragged Paul from the temple and were about to kill him.

Suddenly the chief captain and Roman centurions intervened and stopped the beating of Paul and took him to the citadel for safe keeping. Then Paul requested of the chief captain, Claudius Lysias, that he might speak to the large crowd which gathered at this tumult.

He spoke to the large crowd on how he had been converted on the road to Damascus and had preached the gospel throughout Asia (Acts 22). Then in anger the crowd cried out that he should not live. Again Claudius Lysias the chief captain had to step in and take Paul back to the citadel where he was again under Roman custody.

The hatred against Paul and the gospel was so intense that over forty Jews banded together vowing that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. However Paul's sisters son caught wind of this plot and he alerted the chief captain. Upon this news the chief captain wisely organized a battalion of 200 soldiers and horsemen to safely transport Paul for judgement by governor Felix of Caesarea (Acts 23:23-24).

Paul a Prisoner at Caesarea (58-60AD)

In Caesarea he defends himself several times while he is a prisoner (Acts 24). He is found to have done nothing worthy of bonds or death. Governor Felix, in spite of his innocence, keeps him a Roman prisoner hoping that a bribe will be offered to secure his release. So Felix gives him liberties such as not being bound and the right to have people visit him.

In two years Felix, the Roman governor of Judea, is replaced by Porcius Festus. Governor Festus hears the accusations against the apostle made by several Jews from Jerusalem, none of which can be proved (Acts 25:6 - 8). Festus, wanting to acquire favour from the Jews, asks him if he is willing to have his case officially tried by him in Jerusalem. Paul, as a Roman citizen, requests his case be heard by Caesar in Rome.

Festus agrees to send him to Rome. King Agrippa and his wife arrive in Caesarea and allow Paul to defend himself against the charges laid against him (Acts 25:13 - 26:29). Not only does Agrippa find that he has done nothing worthy of imprisonment or death (Acts 26:30 - 31) but that Paul might have been freed if he had not appealed his case to Caesar (Acts 26:32).

Sail to Rome - Fourth Journey (approx. 60-63 AD)

Soon thereafter Paul and certain other prisoners under the custody of centurion Julius, set sail to the empire capital, Rome and arrive at the port of Sidon. They set sail again but because of unfavourable winds they sail along the north coast of Cyprus and arrive at Myra (Acts 27).
fourth missionary journey

They board another ship in Myra bound for Italy, however, the trip begins to experience troubles. The ship leaves Myra with 276 total people aboard her (Acts 27:37). Strong winds prevent the vessel from sailing directly west toward Italy, so it sails south to gain the coastal shelter of Crete. The ship docks for a short period in Fair Havens (also called Safe Harbour).

Paul warns them not to leave port (Acts 27:9-10), but his warnings go unheeded and the ship leaves port. Strong winds and a stormy sea out of the North and North-East blow the vessel away from Crete. Unable to control the ship she is allowed to go wherever the wind takes her. After two weeks the ship finally runs aground at the island of Malta (Melita). All those on the wrecked ship make it safely to shore and are warmly greeted by the natives. Paul is bitten by a poisonous viper and does not die as the natives were sure he would. Also Paul performs miracles there, healing the sick and infirmed.

The weather finally improved and after 3 months they sailed away in an Alexandrian ship. They docked at Syracuse where they stayed for 3 days. Then on to Rhegium, then Puteoli. In Puteoli Paul found brethren and stayed with them seven days. Also brethren from nearby Appii Forum and The Three Taverns heard of Paul's presence and met with Paul (Acts 28:15). Paul thanked God and was encouraged.

Paul in Rome (approx 63-64AD)

In Rome Paul is a prisoner and is allowed to live by himself guarded only by a Roman soldier (Acts 28:16). He is able to receive visitors and to preach. He called the Jewish leaders in Rome together and spoke to them about his commission and the gospel. Some believed and some did not. It became clear to Paul that God had now set aside the nation of Israel for this age and only the gospel of grace was of consequence.

Now for the first time the apostle makes it publicly known to the Jews themselves that God's salvation was to be sent directly to the other nations and that they will hear it (Acts 28:28).

Acts 28:28 (KJV) Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.

Paul dwelt two years in his own hired house and preached to many that came to him. He preached the gospel with confidence and with no interference. During this time he wrote Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians and Philippians. These are sometime referred to as the prison epistles. They have to do with the gospel of grace.

The book of Acts ends with this verse:

Acts 28:31 (KJV) Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

A little later he penned the final epistles, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus. We know little about Paul's life after this except for what we can glean from a few other verses in his epistles and historians.

last journey

Pauls final epistles infom us about being in the body of Christ and our celestial inheritance.

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