Paul's Second Missionary Journey (Acts 15:40-18:22)


The second missionary trip was not planned to reach out to areas beyond those on the first trip but to return to the churches established on the first journey. God, however, had additional plans (Acts 15:36). The second journey started around 48 - 50 A.D. It took approximately three years (maybe a little longer). Paul's traveling companion was Silas. Remember Silas was one of the two messengers who was to pass on to the people of Antioch the decision of the Jerusalem Council (Gentiles did not have to be Jews to be Christians).

Syria and Cilicia

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The first location visited by Paul and Silas was Syria and Cilicia. This is the correct name for the province as combined. Luke says only they visited these churches and strengthened them (Acts 15:41).


Map of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul

Going overland through the Cilician Gates, they visited first the Galatian church in Derbe (Acts 16:1-5). There is not any other startling thing to note here. There is no reason to believe Paul conducted "business" any different than in Syria and Cilicia.


Map of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul

Lystra was next (Acts 16:1-5). Apparently a man named Timothy was converted on Paul's last trip. Timothy now wanted to join Paul and become a co worker and traveler with Paul.

Timothy is a fairly important person. His mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, were Jewish (2 Tim 1:5). Therefore, he was considered one half Jew. He had a good reputation among the Christians. In addition, Paul had him circumcised before taking him along. The circumcision seems inconsistent with Paul's idea of Gentiles not being required to become Jews. However, knowing the times should clear the problem. Timothy was the son of a Jew. It would be offensive to Jews if he were not circumcised. Paul readily agreed with the circumcision of Jews, not Gentiles. Remember that Paul was a pedigree Jew. He did not do away with the primary requirements of being a Jew if one were a Jewish Christian. Living a Jewish life style allowed the Christian Jew to be a better witness to unbelieving Jews (1 Cor 20-21). Again, there is no reason to believe Paul conducted "business" any different than in Syria and Cilicia and Derbe. In the case of the Gentile Titus, Paul insisted that he not be circumcised (Gal 2:3).

Pass Through Phrygian and Galatian Region

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The next stop on this second journey was Phrygian and Galatian region (Acts 15:6). Galatia is the Roman province name and Phrygia the ethnic name. Most likely, this portion of the trip involved a revisit to Iconium and Antioch. Although, not documented, some scholars believe the three companions also started churches in other local regions.

Pass by Mysia and Bithynia

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For some reason, the Holy Spirit told Paul NOT to go to Asia, Mysia, and Bithynia (Acts 15:6-7). The constant direction from the Holy Spirit led them around certain areas and to Troas. We do not know exactly how Paul received the message. Paul and Silas (and probably also Timothy) had the gift of prophecy. Maybe a vision or a dream could be the medium. Whatever the medium, they were not going to disobey.


Map of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul

Troas was a free city near Troy. The group awaited instructions from the Lord. Probably the church in Troas was started on this visitation. There were two significant items that happened.

In a night vision, Paul saw a Macedonian calling for help. This was the directive for which Paul was waiting. The second item seems to be the joining of Luke with Paul, Silas, and Timothy. This is evidenced by the first use of the pronoun "we" (Acts 16:10-40). Luke was probably a Gentile. He was either a believer when he joined Paul in Troas or they converted him first. It is believed Luke home was in Philippi in Macedonia. In fact, some believe the Macedonian calling for help in Paul's vision was Luke.


Map of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul

The ship on which they arranged passage stopped in Samothracia (Acts 15:11).


Map of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul

Then they went the next day to Neopolis in Macedonia (Acts 15:11), modern Kavalla. Neapolis was the seaport for Philippi, about 10 mi (16 km) away.


Map of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul

They went to the Roman province of Philippi, about 10 miles inland. This is an important journey stop. It appears there was no synagogue in Philippi because they met outside the gate for services. It required at least 10 Jewish men to organize one. Five significant items occurred here.
  1. The Conversion of Lydia (Acts 16:13 - 15)

    As stated earlier in discussions, Paul always tried to preach first to the Jews in a synagogue. If there were no synagogue, they would meet elsewhere. It appears there was no synagogue (Acts 16:13). They could have gone to another house, building, a house of prayer, or even outside. Philo uses in his historical writings the "house of prayer" to mean a synagogue. Philippi probably did not have many Jews. There may not be many Jews because of Roman intolerance in Philippi. That may be why they were meeting outside the city. Also, it appears there were women gathered also probably means a minimum of Jews. The men would have been at a "house of prayer" if there were one there.

    Lydia was a proselyte and was one of the women at that prayer location. She was a dealer of special purple dye produced in Thyatira. She listened to Paul and was converted. Apparently, after she was baptized, her entire household was converted. She also invited Paul's team to stay at her house as long as they were in Philippi.

  2. The Exorcism of the Fortune telling Demon (Acts 16:16 - 21)

    There was a slave girl who had the ability (possessed) to utterances and prophecy. Her masters made a lot of money off this girl. For some reason not clear in scripture, she followed Paul and the team. She seemed to know Paul knew the way to salvation by the "most high God". Paul was very grieved at this; so he drove out the demon and she became a Christian.

  3. The Beating and Jailing of Paul and Silas (Acts 16:22 - 24)

    The removal of the demon did not make the masters very happy. They immediately seized Paul and Simon, apparently Luke and Timothy were not there at this time, and took them to the magistrate. They were accused of essentially disturbing the peace. In the Roman Empire, remember, disturbing the peace was a very serious offense. In addition, the Jews were not very liked in Philippi. Judaism was not a prohibited religion (the cult of the emperor being the official religion), but propagating it was regarded as a menace. Paul and Silas were regarded as Jews, since, at this time, the Romans considered Christianity to be a Jewish sect. The Jews had previously tried to argue Christianity was not part of Judaism. However, they were not convincing (Acts 18:14-16). They were teaching "customs" foreign to those customs accepted by Rome; i.e. they were teaching a different religion. It may also have been associated with Paul referring to Jesus as Lord, Savior, or Son of God. The Romans wanted those terms reserved for the emperor. They probably also said, "these people are disloyal to Caesar" which would probably have been enough to finish the trial.

    At this point the magistrate said to strip off their clothes and whip them. This is probably one the three whippings Paul describes in 2 Cor 11:25. It is not known how many strikes were sentenced. Afterwards, they were thrown into jail.

  4. The Earthquake and the Conversion of the Jailer (Acts 16:25 - 34)

    All the time they were in jail, Paul and Silas were praying and singing. All this time the other prisoners were also listening. Suddenly, there was a large earthquake that opened all the doors of the jail. In addition, all the bonds were loosed. The head jailer awakened. He thought the prisoners had escaped. Under those conditions, the Romans would have killed the jailer for allowing the prisoners to escape. (Just after the death of Julius Caesar, Brutus and Cassius killed themselves because of the care they were supposed to have given to Caesar.) So the jailer drew his sword to kill himself. Paul told him not to harm himself. All the prisoners were there. At that, the jailer threw himself down to the ground. He asked what he and his house had to do to be saved. Paul told him and otherwise talked to him about Christianity. The jailer took them to his place within the prison walls. Paul converted the jailer's household and washed the beating "stripes". Paul baptized them all.

  5. The Release from Jail (Acts 16:35 - 40)

    In the morning, the magistrates sent persons, who were probably equivalent to sergeants, to the jail to release Paul and Silas. Paul refused to leave unless the magistrates came down themselves. Since Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were wrongly whipped. This was NOT good news to the magistrates. A town, city, government, etc. simply does not take legal penal actions such as flogging against a Roman citizen without due process and permission from the Roman leaders. Since Paul and Silas's rights were violated, the Philippians were scared that there would be reprisals from Rome. Paul asked for the magistrates, themselves, to come down to release them. The magistrates immediately went to the jail and released Paul and Silas. The magistrates also asked Paul and Silas to leave Philippi. Paul and Silas agreed. They first visited Lydia then they departed Philippi.

Something to keep in mind about Paul; one of his personal and God directed goals was to spread the word in Rome. Therefore, legally clearing the above problem with the magistrates was important. Paul wanted to set the records straight before any future dealings with the officials in Rome.

Through Amphipolis and Apollonia

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Paul and his companions (Silas and Timothy) now traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia. The famous "we" of Luke now changes to "they" (Acts 17:1). We shall see the "they" again becomes "we" when Paul comes back through Philippi (third journey, Acts 20:6). Therefore, the assumption is Luke stayed in Philippi while Paul traveled. The Egnatian highway was a famous one in history. It crossed Macedonia and joined the Aegean Sea to the Adriatic Sea.


Map of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul

Now Paul's team enter Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-10), now called Saloniki. They traveled approximately 90 miles on the Egnatian highway. This city was also a civitas. Paul spent about three weeks in the synagogue before he was not tolerated anymore. He preached three significant points: Christ was predicted to die; the Messiah would rise from death; Jesus fulfilled the writings.

Jason (Greek name; Jewish equivalent Joshua) was apparently hosting the team. The non believers ganged up on Jason's household looking for Paul and his company. When they could not find them, they took Jason and some other converts to the rulers. They charged Jason's household of harboring troublemakers. The charges were very similar to those called out in Philippi. In those days, one could put up property of money as a guarantee of keeping the peace (i.e. a security deposit). To keep the peace; Paul, Silas, and Timothy decided to leave.

Note in Philippi and Thessalonica, Paul and his company were accused by the local governments, not the Romans. However, calling Jesus a King or Lord could cause a problem with the Roman leadership. But, since Thessalonica was a free city, it was out of the Roman and local magistrates' immediate authority.


Map of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul

Next on the journey was the city of Berea (Acts 17:10-14). F.F. Bruce speculates Paul may have been heading for Rome but was diverted to Berea because there was news that Claudius was expelling Jews out of Rome. Again, there is no reason to believe Paul's team activities were any different than other cities (i.e. preaching at the synagogue, being thrown out, then preaching to the Gentiles at another location). The major exception is the people of Berea listened much more to Paul. They actually searched the Old Testament to test Paul's claims and prophecies. This is different than the reception in Thessalonica. There might not have been any trouble at all if it weren't for the Thessalonians. They heard Paul was in Berea so they followed Paul to Berea. Some of the converts accompanied Paul out of the city. Apparently Silas and Timothy were not with Paul because they stayed in Berea.

A special note should be made of the women of Macedonia. In these three places Acts 16:14; 17:4,12 women were in all respects men's counterparts. This backs up some secular historians that the women of Macedonia were leaders; they commanded armies; they founded cities; they were rulers; etc.


Map of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul

Next on the travelogue was the great city of Athens (Acts 17:15-34). The converts who assisted Paul out of Berea accompanied him to Athens. We do not know whether they reached Athens by land of sea. However, it is known Paul immediately sent, by means of the converts returning to Berea, for Silas and Timothy. It is possible Athens was not on the original agenda. However, knowing Paul, he made good use of his time.

We do not know how long Paul was in Athens. We are sure he preached in the synagogue on the Sabbaths and in the marketplace (Greek agora) the other days. Athens was full of idolatrous symbols. Paul must have been in his glory in the depth (number of people) of conversions needed in Athens.

While in Athens, he became familiar with two philosophies: Epicurean and Stoic. The Epicureans taught pleasure was the man's highest goal and the reason for living. The Stoics emphasized self control and self sufficiency.

These philosophers were interested in knowing about Paul's new "gods". It is thought they heard Jesus and Anastasis (Greek resurrection) as deities. The philosophers insisted Paul go to the court of the Areopagus (Greek god Ares + hill pagus). The equivalent Roman god was Mars. Therefore, the hill was called Mars Hill. When Paul went to the Areopagus, he saw many pagan engravings and inscriptions. One of the most well known was the inscription "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD" (Acts 17:23).

In his own way, Paul was trying to "compliment" the people on their questioning and listening. He commented on their "devotion" to their god, the "unknown" one. Remember also he was very fluent in the Greek influence and Greek background and writings (i.e. some poetry). Some of the references he gives are messages using Greek poetry. That would be something the highly educated and learned persons in Athens would understand. Josephus says everyone of the time agreed the Athenians are the most religious of the Greeks. Some of these philosophers did nothing except stay all day at Mars Hill and argue and discuss philosophies.

Paul said it would be ignorance to be honoring a god that is unknown and represents almost nothing. Someone had probably realized some benefit of the god but was unsure which god to honor. So the honor was given to "whoever should be given the credit". He said God the Creator is not represented in anything made by human hands. God made us of one blood to dwell on earth happily seeking the Lord God, finding Him, and worshipping Him. He is not far away. Even your own poets (referring to Epimenedes of Crete and Aratus from Cilicia) say we are his offspring (Acts 17:28). Since we are the offspring of God we should be living in and for Him. We should not think God is like gold or silver or any "art" of man (idols). Everything was going fairly well until Paul mentioned resurrection. The Greeks did not believe in bodily resurrection. It was not only impossible but not even desirable. Even though the majority of people were ridiculing and scorning Paul at this time, there still were some converts. One major convert was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus. Another person was a woman named Damaris. It is thought she was probably a Jew who converted previously in the synagogue. (Today there are streets in Athens named after Paul and Dionysius.) There were other converts; however, we are given any indication whether the numbers were large or small. Luke is again slack on that information (Acts 17:33-34).

Luke does not say whether Silas and Timothy ever show up in Athens. We know they were with him in Corinth, the next city. By reading 1 Thes 3:1, it is clear Silas and Timothy came to Athens but were immediately dispatched back to Macedonia. They later went to Corinth. There will be more on this later.

The following are a few locations in modern day Athens. This is for general interest only:

Acropolis of Athens viewed from Mars Hill (the Aeropagus)
Mars Hill in Athens as seen from the Acropolis
The Parthenon as seen in Athens


Map of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul

Now Paul and his companions travel to one of his most famous cities Corinth (Acts 18:1-18). Before the journey study, it is worth while to look at a little history of Corinth.

Corinth is one of the most important cities to which Paul wrote letters. It was also one of the most corrupt in Paul's time of about 50 A.D. Corinth was the capital of the province of Achaia, a Roman colony. It was known for everything sinful. The Greek term occasionally used is Korinthiazomai which literally means, "to act the Corinthian" which came to mean, "to practice fornication". It definitely had cultures from the Greeks and Romans. Corinth was originally Greek but was destroyed by the Romans in 146 B.C. It essentially did not exist again until about 44 B.C. when Julius Caesar reestablished a new Roman colony at that location. The first settlers to Corinth were not Romans; but, they were freed slaves, Syrians, Egyptians, and Jews. By the time of Paul, the city had grown to tens of thousands of people including Romans, Greeks, and eastern areas. Latin was official; but, Greek was the language of the streets.

Corinth was commercially strategic. It was located in the isthmus (a narrow strip of land between two bodies of water) between the mainland and the Peloponnesian Greece. Actually, small boats could be hauled overland to the otherside of the isthmus.

Corinth had many of the Roman physical characteristics. It had a forum, temples to the gods (primarily Apollo or Athena). There were public buildings with beautiful landscapes, public baths, fountains, basilicas, gymnasiums, amphitheaters, etc. It boasted a large outdoor theater to accomodate 20,000 people.

Two magistrates who were elected annually ran the local government.

Once every two years there was a special celebration dedicated to Poseidon, god of the sea. There were competitions in music, speech, drama, and athletics. Paul would have had a very hard time trying to find someone to listen to his preaching when this celebration was on.

Various religions were practices in Corinth. First, there were those associated with the deities and cults of Greece (including Apollo, Athena, and Aphrodite - with its 1000 prostitutes). Even the god of healing, Asclepius, had a sanctuary. Second, a temple probably built by Claudius represented the Roman imperial cult. Third, Judaism was represented. Jews may have been some of the original colonists. But they definitely were a part of the exiling of the Jews from Rome in 19 A.D. by Tiberius and 41 A.D. by Claudius. Claudius was actually good to the Jews. Caligula, before Claudius, was a vicious human. He would even kill his own family members if they crossed him. It is not clear in history why Claudius expelled the Jews. Stephen Benko writes that Suetonius said the Jews were constantly making disturbances instigated by Chrestus (some say this was Christ or to "a" Messiah). So they were expelled.

Of course, where there were Jews there would have been synagogues. This would be where Paul would have first headed.

In Corinth, Worship in the temple of Aphrodite involved temple prostitutes. Sexual license was extensive. A Jewish couple, Aquila and Priscilla, were expelled from Rome by Claudius. They were converts and coincidentally had the same occupation as Paul: tent makers and other leather goods. These people and Paul became very close friends. By living with these persons, he could "earn" room and board by helping them work the trade.

As usual, Paul's preaching at the synagogue was short-lived (Acts 18:4-6). Also as usual, Paul then turned his attentions to the Gentiles. He moved to the house close to the synagogue. The owner was Titius Justus who was a proselyte before converting to Christianity. He was very happy by the conversion of Crispus, the head of the synagogue, and many others (Acts 18 8). God spoke to Paul in a night vision. He told him to have strength and go and spread the word. Don't hold back. God was with him. There were many of God's people in Corinth. Paul was in Corinth for approximately one and one half years. This was one of his longest tenures.

While Paul was still teaching in the synagogue, Silas and Timothy had returned from Macedonia with a very encouraging report on the status of the churches. The report encouraged Paul to write the first letter to the Thessalonians. It appears some financial assistance was given to Paul. If this happened, then Paul would have been relieved of his obligation of work so he would have more time to preach. He later, while still in Corinth, wrote the second letter to the Thessalonians. We will look at the letters a little later.

The unbelieving Jews again got up their strength and took Paul to Lucius Junius Gallio, the Roman proconsul of the Province of Achaia. Apparently the charges were related to Paul teaching ideas which were contrary to the law, probably a Roman law. That was probably related to the Roman's having to approve all religions before it was taught. It also could have been the law of the Jews. They may have been trying to convince Gallio to let the Jews have their own authority to punish Paul because of history. Remember the Romans for decades allowed the Jews to punish violators of their own Jewish laws as long as the punishment fell within certain guidelines. For example, the Jews could not put anyone to death without the approval of the Romans. Gallio quickly dismissed the case.

It appears the unbelieving Greeks took advantage of the situation (Acts 18:17). This verse is controversial. It is not clearly understood why Sosthenes was beaten. It appears Sosthenes replaced the newly converted Crispus. Sosthenes may have lead the way against Paul or may have been a Christian sympathizer. If he were against Paul, the people who beat him may have been Gentile sympathizers (since Paul was a friend to the Gentiles). If he were a Christian sympathizer, the people who beat him were probably the unconverted Jews. I tend to believe the Jews were the culprits. That is because there is a possibility that this Sosthenes was converted later if he is the same Sosthenes Paul refers to in 1 Cor 1:1.

After the release of Paul by Gallio, Paul stayed "a good while longer" (probably a few months). We are not sure whether these months are part of the 18 months or should be added to the 18 months.


Map of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul

Paul was probably trying to get back to Jerusalem in time for Passover. He left for Syria accompanied by his friends Priscilla and Aquila. Paul went to Corinth's eastern port of Cenchrea. There he had his hair cut. Paul again was observing the Nazirite vow. Probably, Paul was consecrating the vision (Acts 18:9-10). Remember that Paul was a Jew and followed some of the Jewish traditions. His preaching emphasized GENTILES did not have to follow the Jewish traditions. Paul probably wrote the "lost Corinthian letter" (1 Cor 5:9).


Map of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul

Now Paul arrived in Ephesus, a Roman province in Asia (Acts 18:19-21). Paul preached, as usual, in the synagogue. There was a great deal of interest in what he had to say. The people wanted Paul to stay. Paul said he wished he could but had to get to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. However, he assured them he would be back. He left Priscilla and Aquila apparently to follow up on the development of the church. Paul sailed from Ephesus apparently with Silas and Timothy.

The following are a few locations in modern day Ephesus. This is for general interest only:

The Library of Celsus at Ephesus
The Great Theater At Ephesus


Map of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul

Paul landed in the great harbor of Caesarea (Acts 18:22).


Map of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul

From Caesarea Paul went UP to the church. The term UP in this scripture means up in altitude. Caesarea is essentially sea level. Jerusalem is approximately 3000 feet above sea level; but is is actually DOWN or southward on the map. Paul met with the other Apostles and followers for the Passover celebration (Acts 18:22). Apparently Paul left Silas in Jerusalem because there is no other future reference to Silas.

Antioch of Syria

Map of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul

After the celebration, Paul and Timothy went DOWN and returned to Antioch, Paul's home base location. Again, geographically one travels up or northward to Antioch. However, Paul traveled down to Antioch at sea level. The Bible starts the third missionary journey immediately.