Calvary Road Baptist Church


Acts 18.23-21.16

Tonightís service will be quite different from what is our usual fare on Sunday nights. This evening we will devote the entire service to surveying the Apostle Paulís third missionary journey, recorded in the book of Acts beginning in 18.24 and concluding in 21.16, and also mentioned in some of Paulís epistles. Do not fear that any attempt will be made to read all that scripture. Such an endeavor would be quite impossible. Instead, I propose to make use of two maps that the ushers are handing out at this time. I do hope you have something to write with, so you can mark on the map that shows Paulís third missionary journey. What could leave the greatest impression on you by the end of the service may be what Luke leaves out of the book of Acts, as well as what I leave out of my remarks. Luke does not tell us, and what I will suggest to you, are the numerous letters written by Paul during his third missionary journey, comprising a significant portion of the New Testament. What I will make no comments about includes Paulís final meeting with the elders from Ephesus, which I will deal with at another time.

Before we begin with Paulís third missionary journey, please look at the maps below showing the likely path of his first and second journeys. While his first journey was restricted to the eastern Mediterranean, between the two cities named Antioch, notice that the second journey was considerably more expansive, taking a somewhat counterclockwise circuit through the Roman province of Asia, through Macedonia, and through Achaia (what we think of as Greece), before sailing to Ephesus and Caesaria and traveling overland to Jerusalem and then back to his home church in Syrian Antioch.

It was during Paulís second missionary journey, in the weeks following his brief time in Thessalonica, that he wrote First and Second Thessalonians, his first two inspired letters. It is likely that that those two letters were completed and dispatched before or shortly after Paul arrived in Athens. Remain mindful that Paulís primary activity on each of his missionary journeys, no less the third one, was preaching the gospel and establishing churches, while also strengthening already established churches.


Acts 18.23: ďAnd after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.Ē

It had been more than three years since Paul had visited the congregations he had earlier established, therefore it was critical that he provide them needed oversight and instruction. This is he did, the result being that the disciples were strengthened in the faith. Paul learned a great deal about the spiritual state of the Galatians while he was there, including a great deal about the personalities involved in those churches. That information would be useful when the Judaizers later descended on them and Paul was prompted to write his epistle to the Galatians. Acts 18.24-28, providing a history of Apollosí visit to Ephesus, was dealt with some weeks ago.


Again, I will pass over the record of the conversions of the disciples of John the Baptist, in Acts 19.1-7, having already dealt with them. As well, Acts 19.8-30, is history we have already read. Paul separated from one group of hardened unbelievers, met in the school of Tyrannus, and his efforts were subsequently very fruitful. For the same reason, I will pass over Acts 19.13-20, which records the seven sons of Sceva and the evil spirit that thrashed them.

Some guessing is required to fit Paulís activities together, since neither he nor Luke provide a point by point timeline. Therefore, I think it is before Paul leaves Ephesus that he visited Corinth a second time for a short visit and also wrote them an uninspired letter that he alludes to in First Corinthians 5.9: ďI wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators.Ē Do not be surprised that Paul wrote many letters to churches and individuals. He was a letter writer, most of which we no longer have, since only his inspired letters, being a part of scripture, have been preserved.

It is along about this time that Paul began to formulate his plans to raise money for those suffering believers in Jerusalem. It was while Paul was still in Ephesus that he wrote what we refer to as the First Corinthian letter, the first of his two inspired and preserved letters to that congregation. Near the time he wrote First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul also dispatched Timotheus and Erastus into Macedonia, those cities due north of Athens and Corinth on the map I have provided for you. We learn this from Acts 19.22: ďSo he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.Ē

It was after they had received First Corinthians that Paul sent Titus and another brother to Corinth to inquire about the response of the congregation to his very strong words, and also to begin preparing for the collection for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. Though Paulís third missionary journey was undertaken for a number of reasons, there can be no doubt that the effort to raise money for the saints in Jerusalem was one of his main motivations for traveling that rugged and demanding circuit. Gentile believers giving to Jewish believersí needs promised to have a dramatic impact on the spread of the gospel, for two reasons: First, it would dispel long held prejudices against Gentile believers. Second, it would display the spiritual credentials of the Gentile Christians, because a giving spirit is an undeniable characteristic of real Christianity. Anyone can talk. Christians give.

The uproar stirred up by Demetrius the silversmith against Paul and the gospel is found in Acts 19.22-41, likely used by Paul as providential indication that it was time for him to leave the city and proceed to Macedonia.


Paul travels from Ephesus to Troas and then to Macedonia. Second Corinthians 2.12-13 reminds us how important to Paul his colleagues were:

12     Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christís gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord,

13     I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.

Sometime after he arrived in Macedonia he met up with Timothy, who he had sent there ahead of him.[1] Titus also arrived from Corinth with the good news that the Corinthians were responding very favorably to the rebukes and corrections in the first Corinthian letter.[2] There is some evidence that Paulís initial plan was to travel from Ephesus directly to Corinth, from one major seaport city to another, but something caused him to change his itinerary. It may have been the uproar in Ephesus caused by Demetrius, coupled with the fact that Titus had not yet returned from Corinth. The result was that he headed for Macedonia. Why had he not purposed to go to Macedonia first? Remember, this was primarily a fundraising expedition, and the Macedonian cities were impoverished. The cities that were thriving were Corinth and Ephesus, so he was planning to travel from Ephesus to Corinth. However, God had providentially forced a change in Paulís plans. Therefore, when the Macedonians learned that Paul was attempting to raise money from the financially prosperous churches for the poor believers in Jerusalem they pleaded with him to include them in the effort. Second Corinthians, written from Macedonia, records their response:

2Co 8.1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;

2      How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

3      For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;

4      Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.

5      And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.

Thus, reliable Titus was dispatched to Corinth for the second time, along with two other men, no doubt carrying Paulís second Corinthian letter with him. The Corinthians must have been spurred to an even greater level of giving when they learned of the efforts of the Christians in Macedonia. From there Paul apparently conducted a brief preaching tour in Illyricum to the Northwest of Macedonia, visible on your map. It is the region later known as the Balkans, and in more recent times Albania, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. His later comments in Romans 15.19-20 suggest that he may have begun to think about an even more expansive preaching tour while he was there, perhaps even at this time beginning to think about eventually going all the way to Spain to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. I can tell you from personal experience that going to such places where spiritual fruit can so easily be harvested makes it increasingly difficult to return home.


Acts 20.2-3: ďAnd when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece, And there abode three months.Ē

By Greece is probably meant both Athens and Corinth, though Paul almost certainly spent the majority of his time in the much larger and more prosperous city of Corinth. While there he wrote his epistle to the Galatians, who were to the East of him, and his epistle to the Romans, who were to the West of him. It is thought he wrote Galatians at the end of 57 AD and Romans at the beginning of 58 AD. The theme of both epistles was justification by faith, and in both letters Abraham is the prototype of someone who is justified by faith.

From what is written at the end of Paulís letter to the Romans, we know the names of some of Paulís companions while he was in Corinth. Of course, there was Phebe, dispatched to carry the letter to the Romans from Corinthís port city to eastern waters, Cenchrea.[3] Also mentioned were Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Tertius, Gaius, Erastus, and Quartus. It is also likely that Stephanus, Achaius, and Fortunatus, mentioned in First Corinthians 1.24 when Paul was in Ephesus, had by this time returned home to Corinth.

It is in Paulís Roman letter that he mentions his great desire to visit Rome, after his task of taking the offering he was then collecting was delivered to the saints in Jerusalem.[4] It was also mentioned in Romans that he wanted to continue on to Spain.[5] Whether he was able to do that no one really knows. At this point I think it is appropriate to mention what I believe to be the very essence of Paulís letter to the Romans. To be sure, the central theme of Romans is the same as Galatians, justification by faith. Just like Galatians, Paul shows Abraham to be the prototype of the person who is justified by faith. However, Romans is best seen as a missionaryís letter of introduction to believers he has never met, believers he looks forward to meeting, and believers whose prayer and monetary support he hopes to win. To that end he writes this profoundly important New Testament letter which fully explains his doctrinal position and his ministerial practices, the need for justification, the nature of justification, the nation of Israel (in which he addresses the Jewish question), and concludes with those things in a believerís life that should accompany justification.


From Acts 20.3, we learn that Paulís intent was to sail to Syria, but he instead passed back through Macedonia: ďAnd when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia.Ē After arriving back at Philippi, one of his favorite congregations, he sailed to Troas located at the West end of modern day Turkey. We know Luke was with him at this time, since he wrote the words ďwe sailed away from Philippi,Ē in Acts 20.6. It was after Paul was in Troas for a week that he preached late into the night and a young man fell asleep and fell from a rafter, forever earning himself a place in Godís Word for falling asleep in church. From Troas Paul sailed to Miletus, deciding not to stop in the city of Ephesus where there had been so much trouble. Instead, he arranged to meet the elders from the church in Ephesus in this city of Miletus.[6] I will deal with that meeting at another time.

From Miletus, Paul continued on to the ancient coastal city of Tyre, and then proceeded onward to Ptolmais and Caesaria. Philip, one of the original deacons in the Jerusalem church, lived in the city of Caesaria along with four daughters. Paul remained there with them a considerable time, possibly to rest from his travels, Acts 21.8-10. It was while Paul was in Caesaria that a prophet named Agabus arrived from Jerusalem and predicted that Paul would be delivered by the Jews into the hands of the Gentiles if he proceeded on to Jerusalem.[7] Luke and those who lived in Caesaria interpreted that prediction as a sign from God that Paul should not continue on to Jerusalem. However, Paul continued on to Jerusalem with the offering for the poor brethren, bringing his third missionary journey to an end.[8]

What was Paulís third missionary journey all about? It was about the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ, and doing everything possible within the guidelines of Godís revealed will to bring about the conversion of the lost. To see more Jewish converts, Paul sought to relieve the suffering of impoverished Jewish Christians in and around Jerusalem. After all, had they not given all they had after Pentecost to feed and house all those new converts before they were scattered by persecution?

Paul knew that Gentile Christians giving to alleviate the suffering of Jewish Christians would go a long way to open the hearts of even more Jewish people to the gospel of Godís grace. However, even Paul had not realized how committed the Macedonian Christians would prove to be. Crucial for us to keep in mind is that Paulís efforts to raise money were always within the context of church congregations, in Galatia, in Philippi, in Thessalonica, in Berea, in Corinth, and in Ephesus. As well, when Paul traveled in regions where the gospel had not been preached, he declared the unsearchable riches of Christ and sought to establish churches to continue the effort after he moved on to other regions. Along the way four of the most important New Testament letters were written. From Ephesus the First Corinthian letter. From Macedonia the Second Corinthian letter. From Corinth the letter to the Galatians followed by the letter to the Romans.

Where would we be without Paulís rebuke and correction found in First Corinthians? Our understanding of spiritual gifts, the clarity he provided concerning the functional hierarchy in the home and the proper observance of the Lordís Supper, what he taught about love, and then that great chapter dealing with resurrection. In his second Corinthian letter we learn so much about separation from ungodliness, so much about the difference between godly sorrow that works repentance and the sorrow of the world, so much about the strategy of dealing with the obstacles to the truth found in oneís mind, and so very much about sacrificial giving and a deep love for the cause of Christ. What can be said about Galatians and Romans? Powerful letters, setting forth the great truth of justification by faith and Godís great grace to sinners. How our lives would be different but for Paulís third missionary journey, the providential dealings of God in his life to alter his plans so that Godís purpose in him might be fulfilled.

We leave off this evening with the Apostle Paul in the city of Jerusalem, the religious and spiritual center of the world. Over the next few weeks we will see how God fulfills his desire to travel to Rome, but in a way he never anticipated. However, in closing let us remember the events Paulís life. It is likely the trouble caused by Demetrius in Ephesus led to Paul traveling to Macedonia first rather than Corinth, which led to their great sacrifice and the writing of Second Corinthians chapters 8 and 9. It also led to Paulís travel through Galatia, which no doubt contributed to his letter to the Galatians written from Corinth. From Macedonia, Paul conducted a preaching foray into Illyricum, which may have burdened him for Spain and provided impetus for his missionary introduction letter asking for help to get to Spain that is our epistle to the Romans. Trouble in Ephesus. Missing Titus in Troas. Poverty in Macedonia. Then there was his journey back to Macedonia from Corinth instead of sailing directly to Ephesus. How many times had God used trouble and persecution direct Paulís life in such a way that great fruit was produced? Thankfully, Paul knew ďthat all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,Ē Romans 8.28. How fruitful might each of us be if we looked at each problem, each setback, each trouble in our lives, as intervention by God to enable us to give Him greater glory and to bear even more fruit?



[1] 2 Corinthians 1.1

[2] 2 Corinthians 7.13-16

[3] Romans 16.1

[4] Romans 1.8-16

[5] Romans 15.22-29

[6] Acts 20.13-38

[7] Acts 20.11

[8] Acts 21.12-16

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