The Heart Of Paul’s Theology: Paul And The Thessalonians


Paul’s Second Missionary Journey: Acts 15:36 – 18:22

Paul’s second missionary journey is recorded in Acts 15:36 through Acts 18:22. There Luke states that Paul traveled mainly in the regions of Asia Minor before continuing on to several regions of modern-day Greece. Like Paul’s first missionary journey, this trip also began in Syrian Antioch, probably around the year A.D. 48 or 49. Paul and Barnabas planned to minister together, but they came into conflict because Barnabas wanted John Mark to accompany them. Paul objected because Mark had abandoned them during their first missionary journey. Consequently, Paul chose Silas as his traveling companion, while Barnabas and Mark made their way to Cyprus.

Paul and Silas first went through Syria and then into Cilicia. Although we don’t know the particular towns they visited, the book of Acts does tell us that they strengthened a number of churches in these regions. From Cilicia, they traveled into Galatia where they visited the churches Paul had planted during his first missionary journey. They stopped first in Derbe, and then in Lystra, where Timothy joined them. From Lystra the party continued through Galatia and into Phrygia.

Now, at this point, Paul wanted to preach in the province of Asia, the westernmost portion of Asia Minor, and in Bythinia to the north. But the Holy Spirit did not permit him. So, the company went from Phrygia to the coastal port of Troas about 300 miles away, where the reason for their hasty move to the west became clear. In a dream, Paul saw a man who begged him to come to Macedonia, primarily to areas that now lie within the northern regions of Greece.

In response to this dream, Paul and his companions immediately sailed for Macedonia. They passed briefly through Neapolis before arriving in Philippi, where they remained for some time and saw a good number of people come to Christ. Eventually, however, the people of Philippi incarcerated Paul for exorcising a demon from a slave girl. But even in jail the gospel spread. In the middle of the night an earthquake shook loose the prisoners’ chains and opened the prison doors. Although the prisoners could have escaped, they remained in their cells so that the jailor would not be punished for losing them. The jailor was so impressed by this act of charity toward him that he and his entire household came to faith.

From Philippi, the missionaries moved through Amphipolis and Apollonia before arriving in Thessalonica, where Paul preached the gospel in the synagogue for three weeks. Through this evangelism, a number of Jews and many Gentiles received the gospel. Paul worked to support himself during this time, and also received gifts from the Philippian Christians that helped meet his needs. These facts suggest that Paul may have remained in Thessalonica as long as a few months. Eventually, however, some unbelieving Jews became jealous of the gospel’s success and formed a mob against Paul and Silas, forcing them to flee to Berea.

At first, the Bereans received Paul’s gospel message eagerly. But soon, unbelieving Thessalonian Jews found out about it and aroused that city against him too. Paul fled once more, this time making his way to Athens, where he preached not only to the Jews in the synagogue, as was his custom, but also to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers on Mars Hill. 

From Athens, Paul traveled to Corinth, where he spent at least a year and a half, perhaps more, planting and raising a church. After this, he headed east, stopping briefly in Cenchrea, then sailing to Ephesus in Asia Minor. From there he sailed to Caesarea and then made his way home to Antioch in Syria, perhaps stopping briefly in Jerusalem along the way. His journey ended probably in the year A.D. 51 or 52.

Click here to watch The Heart of Paul's Theology: Paul and The Thessalonians, lesson three in the series The Heart of Paul's Theology.

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