ACTS of the APOSTLES
With people, places, definitions, map ......

Part 5 of 6, chapters 18:23b-21:15

Paul's Third Missionary Journey


Map - Paul’s Third Missionary Journey, returning to Asia Minor and Greece c AD53-58

Map Key: 1. Paul's Third Journey as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Also in text in [red square brackets]

 

PAUL STARTS HIS THIRD JOURNEY; APOLLOS ARRIVES IN EPHESUS; HE IS TAUGHT BY PRISCILLA & AQUILA, AND CROSSES TO ACHAIA

Acts 18:23b-28 - (After spending some time in Syrian Antioch [1], Paul starts on his Third Missionary Journey, and ....) proceeded to visit systematically throughout Galatia [2] and Phyrgia [3] (two large areas in which Paul must have spent quite a few months), putting new heart into all the disciples as he went.

Apollos speaks powerfully at Ephesus and Corinth

Now a Jew called Apollos, a native of Alexandria and a gifted speaker, well-versed in the scriptures, arrived at Ephesus. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with burning zeal, teaching the facts about Jesus faithfully, even though he only knew the baptism of John (the Baptist). This man began to speak with great boldness in the synagogue. but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately. Then as he wanted to cross into Achaia (and the city of Corinth), the brothers gave him every encouragement and wrote a letter to the disciples there, asking them to make him welcome. On his arrival he proved a source of great strength to those who believed through grace, for by his powerful arguments he publicly refuted the Jews, quoting from the scriptures to prove that Jesus is Christ.

Apollos - After Priscilla and Aquila had taught him more about Christ's Gospel, Apollos moved from Ephesus to Corinth (Acts 19:1). As an eloquent and persuasive preacher, he obviously made such an impact on the Corinthian Christians, they split into factions - some for Paul, others for Apollos or Cephas (the apostle Peter). Some even for Christ! Later in Paul's Third Journey, c AD56/57, Apollos was back in Ephesus working with Paul, who dealt with these splits in his First Letter to the Corinthians (1:12; 3:4-6). At the end of the Letter (16:12), Paul tells them that Apollos will return to Corinth as soon as "God wills". According to tradition Apollos became the first bishop of Corinth.

Ten years later in c AD66, Apollos is in Crete with Titus, and about to leave on another journey (Titus 3:13).

 

PAUL REACHES EPHESUS AND STAYS FOR NEARLY THREE YEARS

Ephesus - South of modern Izmir or Smyrna in Western Turkey, and at that time capital of the Roman province of Asia. One of the three greatest cities of the eastern Mediterranean with a population of perhaps 250,000 - the other two being Alexandria in Egypt and Syrian Antioch, Ephesus was an important port with good access to the interior of Asia Minor. As a centre for the worship of Artemis or Diana - the Asian goddess of fertility, her temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The great theatre could hold 25,000 people:

Acts 19:1-22 - While Apollos was in Corinth Paul journeyed through the upper parts of the country (the high inland plateau of Asia Minor) and arrived at Ephesus [4] (on the coast). There he discovered some disciples, and he asked them, ....

- In Acts 19:2b-5 following, Paul baptises a number of Christian disciples in the Holy Spirit:

(Verse 2b starts ....) "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"

"No", they replied, "we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."

"Well then, how were you baptised?" asked Paul.

"We were baptised with John (the Baptist)'s baptism," they replied.

"John's baptism was a baptism to show a change of heart," Paul explained, "but he always told the people that they must believe in the one who should come after him, that is, in Jesus."

When these men heard this they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus, (Verse 6 continues ....), and then, when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they began to speak with tongues and the inspiration of prophets. (There were about twelve of them in all.)

Paul's two-year ministry at Ephesus

Then Paul made his way into the synagogue there and for three months he spoke with the utmost confidence, using both argument and persuasion as he talked of the kingdom of God. But when some of them hardened in their attitude towards the message and refused to believe it, and, what is more, spoke offensively about the Way (of Jesus Christ) in public, Paul left them, and withdrew his disciples, and held daily discussions in the lecture-hall of Tyrannus (a philosopher or teacher in Ephesus). He continued this practice for two years (... Paul's longest recorded stay in any one location during his three Missionary Journeys), so that all who lived in Asia (not just Ephesus, but the surrounding country), both Greeks and Jews, could hear the Lord's message. God gave most unusual demonstrations of power through Paul's hands, so much so that people took to the sick any handkerchiefs or small-clothes which had been in contact with his body, and they were cured of their diseases and their evil spirits left them.

The violence of evil and the power of the "name"

But there were some itinerant Jewish exorcists who attempted to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus when dealing with those who had evil spirits. They would say, "I command you in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches." Seven brothers, sons of a chief priest called Sceva, were engaged in this practice on one occasion, when the evil spirit answered, "Jesus I know, and I am acquainted with Paul, but who on earth are you?" And the man in whom the evil spirit was living sprang at them and over-powered them all with such violence that they rushed out of that house wounded, with their clothes torn off their backs. This incident became known to all the Jews and Greeks who were living in Ephesus, and a great sense of awe came over them all, while the name of the Lord Jesus became highly respected. Many of those who had professed their faith began openly to admit their former practices. A number of those who had previously practised magic collected their books and burned them publicly. (They estimated the value of these books and found it to be no less than five thousand pounds - 50,000 drachma, a drachma being a day's wage; say 2-3 million sterling!) In this way the Word of the Lord continued to grow irresistibly in power and influence.

- Towards the end of his 3 year stay in Ephesus, Paul probably wrote his First Letter to the church in Corinth. This and his Second Letter are introduced shortly -

Paul speaks of his plans

After these events Paul set his heart on going to Jerusalem by way of Macedonia and Achaia, remarking, "After I have been there I must see Rome as well."

Then he despatched to Macedonia (the province that included the cities of Philippi and Thessalonica) two of his assistants, Timothy and Erastus, while he himself stayed for a while in Asia.

Erastus - The name appears three times in the New Testament, and may all refer to the same man:

(1) This Erastus, who is in Ephesus at the end of Paul's long stay there. He now goes with Timothy to Macedonia in advance of Paul. The visits to Macedonia and on to Achaia (including Corinth) were probably to collect gifts for the church in Jerusalem;

(2) Erastus, town clerk of Corinth, included in Paul's greetings from the Christians in Corinth to the Romans, one or two years later in c AD57/58 (Romans 16:23);

(3) While Paul was in prison in Rome before his execution in c AD67, he notes that Erastus stayed on at Corinth (2 Timothy 4:20).

 

A NEAR RIOT IN EPHESUS; PAUL LEAVES AND TRAVELS THROUGH MACEDONIA, AND SOUTH TO GREECE

Acts 19:23-20:3a - Now it happened about this time that a great commotion arose concerning the Way (of Jesus Christ). A man by the name of Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines for Diana, provided considerable business for his craftsmen. ....

Demetrius - The name appears twice in the New Testament:

(1) This Demetrius, the silversmith of Ephesus;

(2) Another Demetrius, commended in the Third Letter of John sent from Ephesus to Gaius towards the end of the 1st century (3 John 12) -

.... He (Demetrius) gathered these men together with workers in similar trades and spoke to them, "Men," he said, "you all realise how our prosperity depends on this particular work. If you use your eyes and ears you also know that not only in Ephesus but practically throughout (the province of) Asia this man Paul has succeeded in changing the minds of a great number of people by telling them that gods made by human hands are not gods at all. Now the danger is not only that this trade of ours might fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana herself might come to be lightly regarded. There is a further danger, that her actual majesty might be degraded, she who the whole of Asia, and indeed the whole world, worships!"

When they heard this they were furiously angry, and shouted, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"

Soon the whole city was in an uproar, and on a common impulse the people rushed into the theatre dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, two Macedonians who were Paul's travelling companions. ....

Gaius - The name appears five times, referring to three or four different men:

(1) Gaius, here linked with Aristarchus as a fellow Macedonian;

(2) Gaius from Derbe, one of Paul's companions taking gifts to Jerusalem a few months later. On that occasion, Aristarchus is not linked with this Gaius, but with Secundus as the "two Thessalonians" (Acts 20:4).

If, as in some ancient texts, Doberus in Macedonia should be read for Derbe (in Asia Minor), then they may be the same man;

(3) Gaius, whom Paul remembers baptising in Corinth four or five years earlier as he writes his First Letter to the Corinthians (1:14);

(4) Gaius, Paul's host in Corinth, included in the greetings from Corinth to the church in Rome (Romans 16:23).

Gaius (3) and (4) are probably the same man;

(5) Gaius who receives the Third Letter from John. A rich man who lived in the Ephesus area towards the end of the century (3 John 1);

Aristarchus - Shortly in Acts, Aristarchus is one of Paul's companions travelling to Jerusalem with him (Acts 20:4). Two or three years later he is again a companion of Paul in the hazardous voyage to Rome (Acts 27:2). He presumably stayed with Paul in prison, as he is included in the greetings to the church at Colossae (Colossians 4:10) and to Philemon (verse 24) -

.... Paul himself wanted to go in among the crowd, but the disciples would not allow him. Moreover, some high-ranking officials who were Paul's friends sent to him begging him not to risk himself in the theatre. Meanwhile some were shouting one thing and some another, and the whole assembly was at sixes and sevens, for most of them had no idea why they had come together at all. A man called Alexander whom the Jews put forward was pushed into the forefront of the crowd, and there, after making a gesture with his hand, he tried to make a speech of defence to the people. but as soon as they realised that he was a Jew they shouted as one man for about two hours, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"

Public authority intervenes

But when the town clerk had finally quietened the crowd, he said, "Gentlemen of Ephesus, who in the world could be ignorant of the fact that our city of Ephesus is temple-guardian of the great Diana and of the image which fell down (perhaps an ancient meteorite) from Jupiter himself? These are undeniable facts and it is your plain duty to remain calm and do nothing which you might afterwards regret. For you have brought these men forward, though they are neither plunderers of the temple, nor have they uttered any blasphemy against our goddess. If Demetrius and his fellow-craftsmen have a charge to bring against anyone, well, the courts are open and there are magistrates; let them take legal action. But if you require anything beyond that then it must be resolved in the regular assembly. For all of us are in danger of being charged with rioting over today's events particularly as we have no real excuse to offer for this commotion."

And with these words he dismissed the assembly.

Paul departs on his second journey to Europe

(Chapter 20 ......) After this disturbance had died down, Paul sent for the disciples and after speaking encouragingly said good-bye to them, and went on his way to Macedonia [5]. As he made his way through these districts ....

- of Macedonia, Paul probably wrote his Second Letter to the Corinthians after Titus' return from that city (2 Corinthians 7:5-7);

- Assuming the Letter to the Galatians was written to the churches of north Galatia, Paul might have written it around this time during his journey through Macedonia, or later in Greece -

........ he spoke many heartening words to the people and then went on to Greece [6] (including Corinth), where he stayed for three months.

- During his stay in Corinth, Paul is believed to have written his Letter to the already established church at Rome;

- According to his Letter to the Romans (15:19), either on his way from Macedonia or during his three months stay in Greece, Paul led or organised a mission to Illyricum (Dalmatia) - the area of the old Yugoslavia.

The two Letters to the Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans are now introduced. In the New Testament, these four actually come together as the longest of Paul's letters, but in the order Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians.

They can also be grouped together as the so-called "soteriological" letters (from the Greek for "saviour" and "salvation") as Paul argues in them that the death of Jesus is all that mankind needs to find salvation and to be restored to fellowship with God. It is no wonder these letters, especially Romans, can be so difficult to understand, and yet have such a profound impact on men and women throughout the ages.

 

PAUL RETURNS FROM GREECE THROUGH MACEDONIA; HE CROSSES TO TROAS AND PREACHES THERE

Acts 20:3b-12 - Then (after staying in Greece and Corinth for three months ...) when he was on the point of setting sail for Syria the Jews made a further plot against him and he decided to make his way back (by land) through Macedonia [7]. His companions on the journey were Sopater a Beroean, the son of Pyrrhus ....

Sopater - Sopater may be the Jewish Christian Sosipater, included in Paul's greetings in his Letter to the Romans (16:21), especially as this Letter was probably sent from Corinth shortly before this journey back to Jerusalem -

.... two Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus ....

Secundus - Aristarchus has already been introduced. Secundus, also from Thessalonica is not heard of again in the New Testament -

.... Gaius from Derbe ....

Gaius - One of three or four men of this name in the New Testament. If the town of Derbe was actually Doberus in Macedonia as some manuscripts show, then this Gaius is the same man attacked in Ephesus during the near-riot (Acts 19:29) -

.... Timothy, and two Asians, Tychicus ....

Tychicus - Three years later, Paul is in prison in Rome, c AD61-63, and writes the Letters to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and to Philemon for delivery by Tychicus. In Ephesians 6:21 and Colossians 4:7, Paul commends him highly. In Colossians 4:9 we learn Tychicus is taking Onesimus the escaped slave, and subject of the Letter to Philemon back to Colossae.

By c AD66, Paul is planning to send Tychicus from Macedonia or Ephesus to join Titus in Crete (Titus 3:12). Then in c AD67 as Paul prepares to die in Rome, he sends Tychicus back to his home-town of Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:12) -

....and Trophimus ....

Trophimus - On reaching Jerusalem, Trophimus is held partly responsible for the arrest of Paul. Recognized in the city with Paul, the assumption is made that Trophimus, a Gentile from Ephesus has entered the Temple area (Acts 21:29), an offence punishable by death. The only other mention of him is in the Second Letter to Timothy (4:20), when Paul writes that he left the sick Trophimus in Miletus. By tradition, Trophimus was martyred in Rome in c AD67 during the persecutions of Nero.

These companions include representatives of various churches taking gifts to Jerusalem - Sopater from the town of Berea, Aristarchus & Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe (or possibly Doberus in Macedonia), and Tychicus & Trophimus from Ephesus. There are no representatives from Corinth or Philippi - perhaps Luke represented Philippi as he appears to have lived there for some years.

 

- The following verses include the second of four "We" sections (Acts 20:5-15), in which Luke, the author of Acts apparently gives an eye-witness account:

 ..... This party proceeded to Troas to await us there while we sailed from Philippi [8] after the days of unleavened bread. and joined them five days later at Troas [9], where we spent a week.

Paul's enthusiasm leads to an accident

 On the first day of the week, when we were assembled for the breaking of bread, Paul, since he intended to leave on the following day, began to speak to them and prolonged his address until almost midnight. There were a great many lamps burning in the upper room where we met, and a young man called Eutychus who was sitting on the window-sill fell asleep as Paul's address became longer and longer. Finally, completely overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground from the third storey and was picked up as dead. But Paul went down, bent over him and holding him gently in his arms, said, "Don't be alarmed; he is still alive."

Then he went upstairs again and, when they had broken bread and eaten, continued a long earnest talk with them until daybreak, and so finally departed. As for the boy (Eutychus), they took him home alive, feeling immeasurably relieved.

PAUL GOES OVERLAND TO ASSOS, AND SAILS TO MILETUS. THERE HE MEETS THE ELDERS FROM EPHESUS

Acts 20:13-18a - Meanwhile we had gone aboard the ship and sailed on ahead for Assos, intending to pick up Paul there, for that was the arrangement he had made, since he himself had planned to go overland. When he met us on our arrival at Assos [10] (Map 21) we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene [11]. We sailed from there and arrived off the coast of Chios [12] the next day. On the day following we crossed to Samos [13], and the day after that we reached Miletus [14]. (End of the second "We" section. Verse 16 continues ....) For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus with the idea of spending as little time as possible in Asia. He hoped, if it should prove possible, to reach Jerusalem in time for the day of Pentecost.

Paul's moving farewell message to the elders of Ephesus

At Miletus he sent to Ephesus to summon the elders of the Church. On their arrival he addressed them in these words:

PAUL'S FAREWELL TO THE ELDERS OF EPHESUS

- As Paul sails from Macedonia for Palestine, he by-passes Ephesus, but calls in at Miletus. From there he summons the elders of Ephesus. On their arrival, Paul talks about his mission to both the Jews and Greeks in the province of Asia. He knows that if he continues on to Jerusalem, he will be persecuted, but must finish the ministry given to him by Jesus Christ. He warns them against the rise of false teachers:

Acts 20:18b-35 - "I am sure you know how I have lived among you ever since I first set foot in Asia (in Asia Minor). You know how I served the Lord most humbly and what tears I have shed over the trials that have come to me through the plots of the Jews. You know I have never shrunk from telling you anything that was for your good, nor from teaching you in public or in your own homes. On the contrary I have most emphatically urged upon both Jews and Greeks repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus. And now here I am, compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I do not know what may happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit warns me that imprisonment and persecution await me in every city that I visit. But frankly I do not consider my own life valuable to me so long as I can finish my course and complete the ministry which the Lord Jesus has given me in declaring the good news of the grace of God. Now I know well enough that not one of you among whom I have moved as I preached the kingdom of God will ever see my face again

... according to the "Pastoral Letters", Paul probably did revisit Ephesus, c AD66. Possibly referred to in his First Letter to Timothy 3:14 ....

That is why I must tell you solemnly today that my conscience is clear as far as any of you is concerned, for I have never shrunk from declaring to you the complete will of God. Now be on your guard for yourselves and for every flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians - you are to be shepherds to the Church of God, which he won at the cost of his own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves (false teachers) will come in among you without mercy for the flock. Yes, and even among you men will arise speaking perversions of the truth, trying to draw away the disciples and make them followers of themselves. This is why I tell you to keep on the alert, remembering that for three years (during Paul's stay in Ephesus and Asia earlier in his Third Journey, Acts 19:1-20:1) I never failed night and day to warn every one of you, even with tears in my eyes. Now I commend you to the Lord and to the message of his grace which can build you up and give you your place among all those who are consecrated to God. I have never coveted anybody's gold or silver or clothing. You know well enough that these hands of mine have provided for my own needs and for those of my companions. In everything I have shown you that by such hard work, we must help the weak and must remember the words of the Lord Jesus when he said, 'To give is happier than to receive'."

Acts 20:36-38 - With these words he knelt down with them all and prayed. All of them were in tears, and throwing their arms round Paul's neck they kissed him affectionately. What saddened them most of all was his saying that they would never see his face gain. And they went with him down to the ship.

THE VOYAGE TO PALESTINE; PAUL IS WARNED AT CAESAREA NOT TO CONTINUE; HE CARRIES ON TO JERUSALEM

Acts 21:1-15 - The third of Luke's four "We" sections (Acts 21:1-18), are included here in Part 32.34 and the following Part 32.35:

When we had finally said farewell to them (the elders of Ephesus) we set sail, running a straight course to Cos [15], and the next day we went to Rhodes [16] and from there to Patara [17]. Here we found a ship bound for Phoenicia, and we went aboard her and set sail. After sighting Cyprus [18] and leaving it on our left we sailed to Syria and put in at Tyre [19], since that was where the ship was to discharge her cargo. We sought out the disciples there (perhaps including the Syrophoenician woman whose daughter was healed by Jesus all those years before) and stayed with them for a week. They felt led by the (Holy) Spirit again and again to warn Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. But when our time was up we left there and continued our journey. They all came out to see us off, bringing their wives and children with them, accompanying us till we were outside the city. Then kneeling down on the beach we prayed and said good-bye to each other. Then we went aboard the ship while the disciples went back home. We sailed away from Tyre and arrived at Ptolemais [20]. We greeted the brothers there and stayed with them for just one day. On the following day we left and proceeded to Caesarea [21] and there we went to stay at the house of Philip the evangelist (previously associated with Samaria and the Ethiopian eunuch - Acts chapter 8), one of the seven deacons. He had four unmarried daughters, all of whom spoke by the Spirit of God. During our stay there of several days a prophet by the name of Agabus came down from Judea (25 years before, he had prophesied a major famine - Acts 11:28). When he came to see us he took Paul's girdle and used it to tie his own hands and feet together, saying, "The Holy Spirit says this: the man to whom this girdle belongs will be bound like this by the Jews in Jerusalem and handed over to the Gentiles!"

We all warn Paul, but he is immovable

When we heard him say this, we and the people there begged Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered us, "What do you mean by unnerving me with all your tears? I am perfectly prepared not only to be bound but to die in Jerusalem for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus."

Since he could not be dissuaded all we could do was to say, "May the Lord's will be done," and hold our tongues.

Paul is warmly welcomed at first

After this we made our preparations and went up to Jerusalem [22].

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