Acts 15:41 – 18:22
Paul was busily engaged in ministry following his return from Asia Minor. In A.D.49, he wrote the Epistle of Galatians to the recently established church. He wanted to emphasize the faith principle over and over against legalistic Judaism.
Later that winter, he participated in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) regarding the issue of whether a Gentile had to become a Jew to be a Christian. After some time, Paul suggested that he and Barnabas visit once again the churches they had so recently planted in Asia Minor. From that suggestion, a disagreement rose between them as to whether to take John Mark, because he had left the first journey early.
In the end, they never could agree and Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, while Paul got Silas to accompany him on his next journey. In the spring of A.D. 50, they set out traveling north from Antioch.
They passed through Paul’s hometown of Tarsus and then ascended the Taurus Mountains via the Cilician Gates, which was the main pass through the mountains to the Asian plateau. They came once again to Derbe and then Lystra, where they were joined by Timothy, a convert from his earlier journey.
They finally came to Troas, after first passing through Phrygia and Galatia. The city of Troas had an excellent harbor and received a large number of ships carrying cargo across the Aegean Sea between Asia Minor and Macedonia. Paul wasn’t sure where to go from there, so he stayed until he had a dream in which he was summoned to go to Greece: “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9).
Luke joined them from here on and the party sailed across the Aegean Sea and arrived in Macedonia, which was the northern province of Greece. At that time it was a Roman colony. The whole territory of Greece covered about 50,000 square miles, which is the approximate land size of Wisconsin. The topography of the country is dominated by rugged mountains that cover 75% of the land area.
This mountainous terrain made travel difficult and discouraged the unification of the Greek people in ancient times. Because of the terrain, independent city-states developed. Because they were unable to negotiate the snow-buried mountain passes in winter, the early Greeks took to the sea and spread their culture throughout the Mediterranean world. The sea has been extremely important in the life and cultural development of Greece. There are many splendid seaports along its 2,600 mile coastline.
Greece plenty of sunshine and it partakes of a splendid Mediterranean climate. The annual rainfall is about 40 inches in the west and 20 inches in the east along the Aegean coast. Since the soil was poor, the people depended mostly on trade and shipping to maintain their economy. The main highway through Greece was the Via Egnatia, which went from Byzantium, on through northern Macedonia, and on to Apollonia. They linked with other ships that traveled the Appian Way at the “heel of the boot” in southern Italy.
Paul and his party disembarked at Neapolis and took to the road and walked the rest of the eight miles to Philippi along the Via Egnatia. Philippi was described by Luke as being “the leading city of the district of Macedonia”.
Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, founded the city to control the nearby gold deposits. It was of strategic importance because of its command of the plain through which the Egnatian Way passed. Augustus made the city a foreign colony in 42 B.C. There was a famous school of medicine there, and it is thought by many that either this was the original home of Luke or where he studied medicine. Either way, Luke seems very fond of the city in his writings of description for her. From the text of Bible, it also seems that he may have remained there after Paul and his party departed.
Paul met on the Sabbath with a small group of Jews who gathered for prayer on the banks of a rapid stream. It was here that Lydia (a Jewish proselyte and merchant from Thyatira) believed and was baptized. She established a church in her home.
It was also here that Paul cast a demon out of the slave girl that had been following them around scaring all the people off. This set the girl’s owners against them and they had Paul and Silas thrown in prison. As they were praising God and praying, a great earthquake came and opened the cell doors. It impressed the jailor so much that he and his family all converted to the new faith.
The party left Philippi and traveled along the Via Egnatia about a hundred miles to Thessalonica. It was located at the head of the Thermaic Gulf where the three fingers started reaching into the Aegean Sea. The city had an excellent harbor and was a very important commercial city. It was the capital of the province and it was the largest and most prosperous of the Macedonian cities of Paul’s day. Because of its importance, it was called the key of the whole of Macedonia. Cassander, one of Alexander’s generals, named it after his wife, who was the daughter of Philip of Macedon.
The Bible talks of Paul’s visit lasting three Sabbaths, but it undoubtedly extended beyond that. He seems to have taken a job there and also received more than one gift from the people there while he was ministering to them. There was a Christian church that had already been started there, but some of the Jews of the city got jealous because the people were responding so positively to Paul’s preaching. They tried to incite mob action against them, and to avoid further trouble Paul and company left during the night and went to Berea.
It was located about 40 miles west of Thessalonica, and was a few miles south of the Via Egnatia. It was a pleasant little city that was of no great political or historical importance, but it was significant for them because it was secluded. This helped to protect them for awhile, and they found a responsive group of people there who listened to what they had to say. Then the Jews from Thessalonica found out about their ministry there and came and stirred up the crowds against them. Paul left Silas and Timothy to continue the ministry there and he took a ship to Athens, about 200 miles to the south.
This city is five miles inland from the Aegean seaport, Piraeus. The original site for the port was selected because of its good water supply and mass of limestone that rises 230 feet above the surrounding area. This made it a natural fortress against attack and it also served as a lofty worship center in time of peace. This mass of rock is where the Parthenon was built. It was completed in 438 B.C. and dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom. The magnificent temple was 228 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 60 feet high. It housed a 40 foot gold and ivory statue of “the Virgin”.
Athens was well known for its exports of olive oil and wine. It was also a vibrant cultural and intellectual community, and was the birthplace of democracy as we know it today.
Paul didn’t seem to be too impressed by anything he saw there, because the Bible says that he was grieved by the idolatry he saw. While he was waiting for Timothy and Silas to come, he preached Jesus and the resurrection in the Jewish synagogue and in the public market. He was invited to speak before the council of Aeropagus. Although a few people did believe there, it does not appear that a church was established there. He finally left and journeyed 60 miles west to Corinth.
Corinth is regarded as one of the most vitally located cities of the ancient world. It was situated on the isthmus that linked the Peloponnesus peninsula to the mainland of Greece. It controlled any trade or travel that passed through the narrow isthmus. It sat up high, so it could easily be defended in case of an attack, and lay between two seas.
The city controlled two fine ports – Cenchreae on the Aegean to the east and Lechaeum on the Gulf of Corinth to the west. In ancient times, smaller ships avoided the treacherous 200 mile journey around the Peloponnesus by being dragged on rollers across the isthmus. Emperor Nero attempted to build a canal across the 4 mile isthmus, but it never got finished until 1893.
Corinth was also noted for its wealth, indulgence, and immorality. Its worship center on the Acrocorinth was dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. There were many temple prostitutes that were serving there also.
Paul spent a year and a half teaching the word of God in Corinth. With the assistance of Silas and Timothy and a tent-making couple named Aquila and Priscilla, an important church was established there. It was from here that he wrote the two Epistles of Thessalonians to correct some problems that were happening in the church at Thessalonica.
After the church was firmly established, Paul left the city and went back to Ephesus. Then he returned to Antioch, concluding his second missionary journey in late autumn of A.D. 52. He had been gone for 2 1/2 years and had traveled approximately 2,000 miles.
Below is a map of Paul’s Second Missionary Journey and also one of Greece in Bible Times.