Paul's Third Journey (Acts 18:23 - 21:17)


Antioch of Syria

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The third journey starts immediately after the completion of the second journey. There is no information on the time between returning to Antioch to starting on his way.

Galatia and Phrygia (Tarsus, Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Antioch of Pisidia)

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These areas had been visited previously. The most likely cities "passed through" were Tarsus, Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia. He was trying to get to Ephesus as soon as possible. Paul had left Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus on the previous journey. Paul said he would return so he was very concerned in keeping that promise. Paul apparently only visited the churches to see how they were progressing. Apparently, everything was acceptable in the churches. Knowing what we know about Paul, if any major problem existed, he would have stayed in the appropriate Galatia and Phrygia region and tried to send someone else to Ephesus until he could get there.

Ephesus

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Ephesus was the greatest city of the Roman province of Asia (Acts 18:24 - 20:1). Paul spent a long time there on this journey.

There was a very able and scripturally knowledgeable Jew from Alexandria. His name was Apollos. Priscilla and Aquila, after having heard this man, took him and instructed him in the more complete ways of the Jesus. He only knew of the baptism of John the Baptist (baptism of repentance and of Jesus to come). However, they instructed Apollos in the ways of the baptism (receiving) of the Holy Spirit.

When Paul arrived in Ephesus, Apollos had gone to Corinth. Paul encountered twelve men who were converted but were misdirected by Apollos prior to the teaching by Priscilla and Aquila. (Note: Not all scholars believe these twelve were actually converts of Apollos.) They had not received, or even heard of, the Holy Spirit. Of course, Paul told them of the Spirit and baptized them. Remember that John the Baptist preached of the coming of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Now after Jesus, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was here.

As far as recorded, this is the longest time Paul was tolerated in the synagogue: three months (Acts 19:8). After he was thrown out of the synagogue, the Christians met in a church of their own. They met in a place called the school of Tyrannus. The school (i.e., lecture hall) owned by Tyrannus was probably used by him to teach students of rhetoric. He also made it available to traveling philosophers or teachers.

In those days because of the heat of the day, work ceased at 11 A.M. Later in the afternoon people went back to work. Paul would work at his trade of tent making in the morning. Then he would preach in the hot, but available, mid day hours. For two years Paul preached in this church. Because of Paul's preaching, many converts went about preaching and passing the "good words" of the gospel. Paul, who surely did some traveling, and his converts started the churches of the area. Most likely, the seven churches of Revelation 2-3 were founded at this time: (Ephesus), Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicia.

There were mentions of supernatural activities of Paul (Acts 19:11-20).

Paul rid evil spirits from the sick through having just some of the trade materials, sweatcloths and aprons.

There were traveling Jews who claimed to be exorcists. There was a man called Sceva who had seven sons. He was the chief of the Jewish priests. The exorcists commanded, in the name of Jesus of whom Paul preaches, for the evil spirits to come out of Sceva. The evil spirit said he knew Jesus and Paul but who were they. At that point, apparently the man in whom the evil spirit resided pounced on the exorcists and sent them away naked and wounded. All the Jews and Greeks in Ephesus heard of this and praised the Lord. There is evidence there was an additional "confessional" (Acts 19:18). It appears certain persons admitted their secrets, curses, and charms. When they do this, those items are rendered worthless.

Another action occurring was the voluntary public burning of certain books that were about witchcraft. There is a value in the Bible placed at about fifty thousand pieces of silver.

Paul now made plans to revisit Macedonia and Achaia. Then he would go to Jerusalem. After that he was then making big plans to go to Rome. Paul sent ahead to Macedonia Timothy and Erastus. (In Rom 16, an Erastus was a Christian who was also the treasurer of Corinth. He may be the same person referenced here.)

Apparently during his stay at Ephesus, Paul had some problems with the church of Corinth. There is a letter written to the Corinth church referenced in 1 Cor 5. This letter is not documented anywhere. A representative from Corinth came to Ephesus to Paul with a response. Paul then wrote 1 Cor as the response to that response letter. Shortly after this, Paul visited for a short period Corinth and then returned to Ephesus. He then wrote a very strong letter back to Corinth, 2 Cor.

Ephesus was also famous for the Temple of the Greek goddess Artemis (Roman equivalent Diana). (This Artemis may not actually be the Greek virgin goddess Artemis. The temple may be for ancient goddess of Asia Minor commonly called Cybele.) This temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was approximately four times the size of the Parthenon in Athens. It had 127 columns each 60 feet high and was 425 feet long by 220 feet wide. The symbol of the goddess was a many-breasted woman. Since Ephesus was also very well known for its silversmithing, there were many images made for sale of this symbol. These silversmiths were getting fed up with Paul. His preaching of a single God and the savior Jesus was hurting their business. Headed by Demetrius, a strong and rich silversmith, the silversmiths were able to gain a large enough following to call an unplanned town meeting in the amphitheater. This theater would seat approximately 25,000 people. Paul was going to preach. But, because of the great confusion and the fact the people had already "captured" Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia which were with Paul, the disciples did not let Paul enter the theater. The chanting of respects to the goddess Diana enhanced the confusion. Finally, the clerk of the city was able to quiet the crowd down enough for speakers to be heard. The clerk said the power of the goddess Diana could not be undermined in Ephesus. He was able to persuade the people to pursue any charges against Paul in an orderly and lawful manner. He was effectively telling the people Ephesus was a free city and could conduct its own business AS LONG AS IT WAS ORDERLY. The Romans DID NOT LIKE DISORDER. Therefore, if we do not want Rome's influence on these decisions, we must handle this problem with care.

After the uproar was over, Paul said farewells to the disciples and left for Macedonia. There is a scholarly question of whether Paul was actually imprisoned during part of this time. Also, some say if he were in prison part of this time, he probably wrote some of the prison epistles at that time. We do not know any more. Luke did not elaborate anymore about this time.

Macedonia

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On his way to Macedonia (Acts 20:1-2), Paul went through Troas. On his way to Troas, he probably stopped in Smyrna, Pergamum, Assos, and probably other places where churches were had started. He intended to spend a little time in Troas preaching. However, the Lord was speaking to him making him uneasy. The Spirit was telling Paul he had to go to Macedonia (2 Cor 2:12-13). During the time of the problems in Ephesus, Paul had sent Titus to Corinth from Ephesus. Later, Titus met Paul in Macedonia. Paul wrote 2 Cor at this time and sent the letter ahead of him to Corinth. In his letters, there are hints he visited for short periods of time cities to which he had previously visited.

Greece

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Now Paul heads out back to Greece (Achaia) (Acts 20:2-3). It is logical he would have visited Amphipolis, Thessalonica, and Berea while he was on his way through Greece. It seems Paul visits Athens again then stayed in Corinth for about three months. He wrote Romans at that time. He wrote he wanted to visit Rome after another return to Jerusalem (Rom 15:23 - 29). Paul was originally going to sail in a special ship to Jerusalem (purposed to transport Jews to Jerusalem for the festival times) from Corinth but the Jews plotted against him (Acts 19:4). Therefore, he first went to Macedonia then started back to Jerusalem. In Acts 19:4 Luke says Paul was accompanied by Sopater from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonia, Gaius of Derbe, Timothy, and Trophimus. These persons accompanied Paul with a collection (1 Cor 16; 2 Cor 8 - 9; Rom 15:25-26) to give to poor believers. It is believed Titus was with Paul also (2 Cor 8:6). It is supposed Titus was not mentioned by name because he was like a brother to Paul, i.e. part of the family.

Philippi

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Philippi was on the way back to Macedonia (Acts 20:5-6). So, of course, Paul had to stop there. At this point, the "us" and "we" of Luke come back, insinuating Luke now rejoins the group. Recall the "we" stopped in Philippi on the second journey (Acts 17:1).

Paul wanted to stay a while in Philippi so Luke stayed with Paul and the rest of the group went ahead to Troas (Acts 19:5). Apparently, Paul was waiting out the "feast of unleavened bread" before he left Philippi. This puts the timing of this part of the journey about April 7-14 of 57 A.D. Because of the desired stay in Philippi, Paul and Luke did not make Jerusalem in time for Passover. However, they were going to be there for Pentecost.

Troas

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Paul and Luke made Troas (Acts 20:6-12) in about five days instead of the usual 1-2 days. The cause was probably the winds of the sea. They stayed there about seven days. Paul would preach to the assemblage of disciples whenever he could. They met on the first day of the week to "break bread". This was most likely the fellowship meal, "Agape", or the Love Feast of believers.

This was a very common practice in these times. During the assembling of believers, they would have a meal or Love Feast and follow the meal with a celebration of the Lord's Supper.

Because of trying to somewhat "hide" Christian meetings and also the need to work during the daytime, many sessions of Paul ran into the night. This account of the Love Feast took place deep into the night (midnight, Acts 19:7). The gathering was on the third floor of a building. Because of the heat, a young man, Eutychus was sitting in the window trying to absorb the cooler evening breeze. After a very tiring day, Eutychus fell asleep and fell out of the window. When everyone rushed to him, he was dead. Luke, the physician, would not have been wrong on stating his death. Paul went to him, fell on him, embraced him, and with a reassurance to the people Paul restored him to life. This "technique" was similar to that used in by Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-37). Everyone broke bread and continued the meeting until daybreak.

Assos

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For some reason, Paul went from Troas to Assos on foot (Acts 20:13-14). Luke and the others sailed by ship to Assos. They met in Assos.

Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Trogyllium

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Luke just mentions Paul and group passing through these cities. Mitylene is on the island of Lesbos. Chios and Samos were islands. Paul missed Passover but there are fifty days between Passover and Pentecost. There was still time to make Pentecost in Jerusalem.

Miletus

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About thirty miles from Ephesus is the city of Miletus (Acts 15:38). The ship to Jerusalem did not stop at Ephesus. It stopped in Miletus. So Paul sent for the elders (previously ordained in Acts 14:23) of the church of Ephesus. He wanted to wish them farewell. Most of the remaining verses in the Miletus passage is the moving and emotional speech of Paul to the elders and the Ephesians. This speech is actually in two parts. The first (Acts 19:18-27) discussed his ministry in Ephesus. The second part (Acts 19:28-35) charges the elders of the church about their responsibilities.

Was the Holy Spirit telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem? Did he go because he was personally bound and determined (i.e. Did he recognize the Spirit?)? Most feel, if Paul KNEW the Spirit did not want him to go, he would NOT have gone. Various prophets were "seeing" the problems Paul was going to have in Jerusalem. Paul leaves the elders with the responsibility to shepherd the church flock. Paul was aware of the problems to come, even in Corinth (Rom 15:30-31).

Cos, Rhodes, Patara, Cyprus, Tyre, Ptolemais

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The cities of Cos and Rhodes (both in the Dodecanese islands) are mentioned because they travel through them.

On Patara (Acts 21:1-2) they booked passage. They continued toward and passed Cyprus (Acts 21:3).

The ship stopped in Tyre for one week. Paul used this time to preach to the Christians. It was also an emotional gathering as were Troas and Miletus (Acts 19:4-6).

Ptolemais was the next stop on the way to Jerusalem (Acts 21:7). They stopped there for one day.

Caesarea

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Caesarea was the last major stop before the sixty four miles to Jerusalem (Acts 21:8-14). It is not known whether the group walked from Ptolemais to Caesarea or sailed. They could get there either way. Paul and group stayed with Philip (Acts 19:10; last referenced in Acts 8:40). Remember, Philip was one of the original seven "deacons". He had become a powerful evangelist. He now had four daughters who had the gift of prophecy. They are said to have predicted Paul's problems in Jerusalem. F.F.Bruce says some of the daughters lived to be very old. They were highly regarded as authentic informants on persons and events in the early Palestinian times.

Agabus, previously encountered in Acts 11:27-30, took Paul's belt and bound his own hands. He was symbolizing (predicting) the coming Jerusalem arrest of Paul. Luke and the believers tried to dissuade Paul from going to Jerusalem. But, Paul was committed (Acts 19:13).

Jerusalem

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This leg to Jerusalem was the end of Paul's third missionary journey (Acts 21:15-17). Some people from Caesarea, including a Cypriot named Mnason, accompanied Paul. This arrival is a major turning point in Paul's life. The next day, Luke, Paul, and the rest of the missionary party visited the Elders, Apostles. The missionaries related all the activities that occurred during the third journey. They were all happy but were concerned the people of Jews of Jerusalem would now know he was back in town and they meant him harm.