The Bible In Our World (Part 30)

 

Acts (Part 3)

By Don Ruhl

 

This last part of the Book of Acts (Chapters 13–28), covers the journeys of Paul.

His journeys were not comfort cruises, but instead, controversy, imprisonment, riots, and dangerous sea voyages filled his travels.

His journey took him to places of great influence in the Roman world:

 

Athens: The academic and cultural center

Corinth: The commercial center

Ephesus: The religious center

Rome: The legal and governing center

 

We call Paul’s travels “missionary” journeys. How did we come up with the term “mission” and “missionary”? They come from the Latin “to send,” and the sending of Paul is apparent in Acts 13 in the Latin.

Paul’s First Journey 

Acts 13 shows how Paul began his journeys (Acts 13.1–3). Once Paul and Barnabas arrived in a town, they went first to the synagogue. Paul would speak on what the Jews knew (13.5, 13–16). Sadly, in many cities, the very people to whom God wanted the Gospel to go first, rejected it.

Acts 14 shows that sometimes the Gentiles sided with the Jews, yet, the preachers kept preaching (Acts 14.1–7). However, at Lystra the people went to the other extreme, “Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!’ And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes” (Acts 14.11–13). Amazingly, the people turned quickly against Paul and Barnabas, just as quickly as the people changed their opinion about Jesus, “Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe” (Acts 14.19, 20).

Controversy in the Church 

Back at Paul’s home congregation, Judaizers came and taught that Gentiles had to be circumcised (Acts 15.1). Paul and Barnabas could not let that go, so they argued with them to no avail, “Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question” (Acts 15.2). At Jerusalem, the church in Antioch knew that the apostles, the preachers, and the elders would work together to resolve this issue (Acts 15.4–6).

After listening to the testimony of Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and James, they concluded that circumcision was not necessary, but that it would be good to encourage the Gentiles to make a break with their pagan past (15.19–29).

Paul’s Second Journey 

After the controversy over circumcision, Paul wanted to revisit the church they established (Acts 15.36–41), but he and Barnabas had a serious disagreement that led to the break up of their evangelistic team, yet, the Lord used it to create two teams. They did not preach different doctrines, but disagreed on a matter.

It was during this journey that Paul picked up Timothy as a new worker (16.1–5). Then the team travelled to Europe and baptized the first convert there (16.11–15). After that, Paul cast a spirit out of a girl, who had made money for her masters (16.16–24). Her masters had Paul and Silas thrown into prison, yet, the Lord used that to convert another man and his family (16.25–34). After their release from prison, the team start traveling again, finding people who wanted the word of God (17.10–12).

At Athens, Paul was alone, speaking to anyone who would listen to him (17.16–21). When he spoke to the philosophers there, he used their culture and quoted them in his speech (17.22–34).

Paul’s Third Journey 

At Ephesus, some interesting things happened (Acts 19.9–20). Later, a man started a riot against Paul. It seems that in most places where the Gospel went, there was either revival or riot, although Athens was an exception to this general statement.

During this third journey, Paul showed his evangelistic zeal. After a prophet warned of the suffering Paul would encounter in Jerusalem, and his friends hearing that, trying to persuade not to go, he answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21.13).

Paul’s Journey to Rome 

That sounds like what happened to Jesus. Once in Jerusalem, Paul showed his loyalty to the Jewish nation, but they misinterpreted his actions and words, and sought to kill him (21.26–36).

Even then, Paul used the protection of the Roman guards to find an opportunity to preach (21.37–22.21).

Paul had always wanted to go to Rome, but he may not have imagined it as a prisoner in chains, and enduring a shipwreck en route.

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