Paul – The Mission

A life of Mission

One of the most notable elements of Paul’s life are the three “Missionary Journeys” he embarked upon. These are recorded in Acts chapters 13-20, and provide an incredible account of the earliest formation of the Church across the ancient Roman world. The call upon Paul was to take the Gospel out to the many cities and people groups living under Roman rule around the Mediterranean. Paul’s previous life experiences made him perfect for this task of bridging and helping to bring together different cultures into one Church. As a Roman citizen raised in Tarsus, he could travel freely within the empire and was fully protected by the greater rights afforded to citizens of the state. He was clearly equally comfortable whether speaking before the Greeks of Athens, the Jewish community in Jerusalem, or the ruling Roman authorities. But more important than anything else, Paul was fully committed to serving his God and King Jesus, no matter where that took him, or what he had to suffer along the way.

Below are maps and descriptions of the major journeys of Paul’s Life:
Paul’s First Missionary Journey.
Produced from Paul’s Missionary Travels and Journey to Rome© Biblica Inc. Licensed under CC-BY-SA

Paul’s first, and briefest journey is described in Acts chapters 13 – 14. He and Barnabas were called by the Holy Spirit while praying and fasting in Antioch. Travelling, teaching and proclaiming the gospel, they passed first through Cyprus, and then sailed onto Perga, Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe before returning to Antioch and sharing what God had done on their journey with the believers there.

Some of the notable events during this journey include: Paul’s confrontation with a false prophet in the city of Salamis (Acts 13:4-12), the impact of the gospel on both the Jewish and Greek populations, and the healing of a crippled man at Lystra (Acts 4:8-18). One element that quickly becomes apparent is that though many would come to accept the message that Paul carried, he would also face significant opposition and danger. They were driven out of Antioch in Pisidia and Paul was stoned at Lystra and dragged out of the city because he was presumed dead. Nevertheless, Paul and Barnabas did not let these events stop them from teaching about Jesus and founding communities of believers wherever they went.

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey.
Produced from Paul’s Missionary Travels and Journey to Rome© Biblica Inc. Licensed under CC-BY-SA

The Second Missionary journey began shortly after Paul had been in Jerusalem, where he and Barnabas had been part of a delegation from Antioch to discuss with the Apostles and other followers of Jesus how best to integrate gentile (non-Jewish) believers into their community. (Acts 15:1-35). After settling the matter, and returning to teach and preach in Antioch, Paul’s journey to spread the message of Jesus continued. Accompanied by Silas, Paul first revisited many of the same places as on the first journey, The Holy Spirit soon led Paul further out of Asia and into the heart of the Greek World in Macedonia and then to Athens.

Just a few of the notable events during this journey include: Paul’s separation from Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41), Timothy joining with Paul and Silas (Acts 16:1-5), The imprisonment of Paul and Silas in Philippi and subsequent salvation of their jailer (Acts 16:16-40) and Paul addressing the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17:22-34). Once again this journey was marked by many people coming to believe in Jesus as Lord, the Churches being built up, encouraged and strengthened, but also opposition from those who felt threatened by this new movement of God.

Paul’s Third Missionary Journey.
Produced from Paul’s Missionary Travels and Journey to Rome© Biblica Inc. Licensed under CC-BY-SA

The Third Missionary Journey again departed Antioch and followed much the same route as his previous journey. However, one significant change was that instead of travelling from Antioch in Pisidia straight onto Troas, this time Paul went to Ephesus first. Ephesus was a prominent port city on the Mediterranean, and became Paul’s base for a number of years. After this, he again traveled throughout Macedonia and Greece, before setting sail for Jerusalem.

A selection of the many notable occurrences during this journey included: Powerful work of the Holy Spirit, miracles, and a riot in Ephesus (Acts 19), a young man is raised from the dead (Acts 20:7-12). One of the other incredible things about this journey was that Paul knew how personally dangerous going to Jerusalem would be, and yet he went anyway. In Acts 21:10-16, Paul even receives a prophetic word about the fate that awaits him there, and yet he still chooses to go.

Paul’s Journey to Rome.
Produced from Paul’s Missionary Travels and Journey to Rome© Biblica Inc. Licensed under CC-BY-SA

Having been arrested in Jerusalem, Paul continued to hold to what he believed in, eventually exercising his right as a Roman citizen to have his case heard at the highest court of the Roman world – by Caesar himself (Acts 23 – 26). He was then transported to Rome, a long journey across the Mediterranean Sea. During this voyage, the ship was caught in a storm and wrecked on the island of Malta (Acts 27).

When he finally arrived in Rome, Paul was placed under house arrest, yet even that did not prevent him from gathering people around him, teaching, preaching and continuing to share the gospel. Though the book of acts does not record the end of his life, church historians state that he was eventually executed by the Romans. To the very end, Paul continued to boldly live out the pursuit of the mission God had called him to.

More Resources

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Paul – The Letters

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