On the Road with Paul from Asia to Europe
It’s a new day in Asia as Paul and Silas set out on the next missionary journey, traveling to familiar-sounding places: Philippi, Galatia, Thessalonica, Corinth. What makes this stretch of road significant is when the gospel crosses from Asia over into Europe.
In Asia especially, Paul helped churches, formed by Jews, understand what it means to be saved by grace. They were used to following Moses’ Law. Some even taught they still needed to eat kosher and be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul corrected that—not only are we saved by grace, but we live by grace. Grace is a way to life and a way of life.
On the road again, Paul planned to visit Asia’s commercial, political, and educational centers, but the Spirit of God forbid Paul to preach the Word in Asia. What? He had somewhere else in mind.
So Paul and company traveled west until they came to the coast. As they waited for God to lead, Paul had a dream. A man on a far shore called across the sea, “Come to Macedonia (Europe) and help us!” God just gave Paul his map. Traveling with Paul into Europe are Silas, Timothy, and Dr. Luke, the author of Acts.
Here’s a highlight from each of their visits:
In Philippi, a Roman colony
On their first Sabbath, Paul and company learned of a prayer meeting down by a river. Perhaps they’re the ones who prayed for help in Macedonia? Lydia from Thyatira had organized it. She worshipped the living and true God but knew little about faith. She will be the first one in Europe to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
But soon Paul and his team were hated by the locals whose way of life was disrupted by Paul’s preaching. The crowds grabbed Paul and Silas, beat them, threw them in prison, and locked them in stocks. At midnight, even in such a miserable situation, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God.
Suddenly an earthquake shook the prison, and all the doors flew open and the stocks fell off their feet. Instead of escaping, they stayed put and led the prison guard to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Once cleared of their crimes, they said goodbye to Lydia and the young church and continued west in Europe.
As was his pattern, Paul first went to the synagogue. He met the faithful Jews and shared the gospel. Some believe, but most reject the gospel. Christianity is causing a revolution in the Roman Empire, with Paul and his team at the center of it.
In Berea, people hear the gospel and many Greek men and women believe. But then a Jewish faction from Thessalonica show up and try to run Paul out of town.
Paul leaves Berea and goes to Athens alone, while Silas and Timothy go back to Thessalonica to check on the young churches.
Athens, the cultural center of the world, was filled with idolatry—and religion. On Mars Hill where philosophers gathered, Paul preaches one of his greatest messages. (See Acts 17:22-31.) The crowd engaged with Paul until he talked about Jesus’ resurrection. As today, wherever the Word of God is preached, some mock the gospel and others believe.
Paul left Athens and went to Corinth, probably the most wicked, sex-crazed, addiction-filled city of the day.
In the Jewish community, Paul met a couple, Aquila and Priscilla, who recently had left Rome. They landed in Corinth and opened a shop. One day, Paul walked into it and introduced them to Jesus Christ.
Other Jews also turned to the Lord, but most argued with Paul on every point. Finally, frustrated and spent, Paul left the synagogue and turned his attention to the gentile world.
Next, the gospel sounded out so that everyone in Asia heard it.