The Life and Times of Paul – Second Missionary Journey

By Mary Jane Chaignot

At the beginning of chapter 16, Paul and Silas are headed off through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. Pretty soon, they’re back at Derbe. And from there, they head over to Lystra. They will continue westward, hugging the coast of Asia Minor all the way to Macedonia. The return trip will include some sea travel, and they will end up back in Antioch. If they’re leaving in 49, it’ll be 52 when they return. Now, when they get to Lystra, they meet up with a man called, Timothy. He’s a disciple whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was Greek. So Timothy had not been circumcised, but he is well known to the community. Paul wanted to take Timothy along. So, the first thing Paul does is circumcise him.

Basically, this trip will take them back to the places where they had already been, places where they had had a lot of trouble; but now it’s very peaceful, and the churches are flourishing. They don’t actually have a real schedule made out, but the plan is to go to Bithynia. That would have been due north into the area of Galatia. Paul thought he could do great missionary work up there. But, when they try to enter Bithynia, the Spirit of Jesus will not allow them to do that. And then one night, Paul has a vision of a man begging him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Macedonia was the gateway to Europe.

Immediately, they make the arrangements and head over. Eventually, they end up in Philippi, a Roman city and the capital of that district of Macedonia. Apparently, there is no synagogue here because Paul goes outside the city gate to the river to pray. Several women have gathered there, and Paul sits down. One of those who is listening is a woman named Lydia who is a trader in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, which is roughly 200 miles south of Philippi. The Lord opens her heart and she is immediately baptized, along with all the members of her household. The result is that she and her household get baptized before they ever leave there.

While still in Philippi, Paul and Silas are followed by a slave girl who has a predictive spirit. She was earning a lot of money for her owners through fortune-telling. She follows them for days saying they are servants of the Most High God. This, of course, is true, but Paul is able to release her from the demon, at which point she is normal – i.e., no longer an effective fortune-teller. Her owners seize Paul and Silas, taking them before the authorities. The charge is that these Jews have a lack of regard for Roman customs. The crowds support the charge; bowing to the wishes of the people, the magistrates order them to be stripped, beaten, and thrown in prison.

That night they are singing hymns and praying to God when an earthquake strikes. The prison doors fly open, and everybody’s chains fall off. Rather than trying to escape, Paul and Silas stay and preach to the prison guard. He and his whole family are converted that night. In the morning, the magistrates are ready to dismiss them when Paul announces he is a Roman citizen (and exempt from public flogging). The magistrates try to appease them, and encourage them to leave town. Nonetheless, Paul and Silas spend another night with Lydia.

After this, they go to Thessalonica, approximately a five-day walk from Philippi. After a few weeks, the Jews become jealous and find some “bad characters” in the market place. Soon there is a full-fledged riot in the city, implying that trouble follows Paul and Silas wherever they go. Paul and Silas leave the city in the middle of the night to go to Berea. The Bereans are of more “noble character” and enjoy having Paul in their midst – at least until the Jews from Thessalonica find out. Once again, they are forced to leave.

This is when Paul arrives in Athens, a city steeped in cultural significance – with an idol on every street corner. It should be no surprise, then, that in this philosophical hub, Paul is soon invited to a meeting of the Areopagus. The Areopagus is a place as well as a council. Located on a high hill, it was named after Mars, the god of war. It was the job of this venerable council to monitor some of the new philosophies that came to town. They are intellectually curious about Paul’s ideas. Never one to back away from an opportunity to talk, Paul said, “Men of Athens. I see that in every way you are religious.” He had noticed an altar with the inscription “to the unknown god.” It might have been a special shrine, saying in effect, if there’s any god up there that we missed, this one’s for you. Think of it as an insurance policy dedicated to any unknown god. Paul, however, sees that altar and determines that it has been dedicated to the one, true God that they didn’t even know yet. It’s the opening he needs to enlighten them on the one, true God.

Afterwards, Paul leaves Athens for Corinth, about forty-five miles northeast. Most scholars think this occurred during the summer of 50 CE. Almost immediately, he meets Aquila and his wife Priscilla, who were expelled out of Rome the previous year. It is quite probable that they were already Christians. And once the three figure out that they have a spiritual connection, they also discover that they share a business interest. They are both tentmakers. Yet every Sabbath, Paul “reasoned in the synagogues trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” As a result of this, he was becoming a little better known. He was devoting a little more time to his preaching work. And of course, as soon as that happened, the Jews started opposing him. It got to the point where they started becoming abusive. This was not casual opposition. This is the point at which he announced that he would go to the Gentiles. That’s tantamount to saying, “I was supposed to preach to the Jews first, and I have. But since you have rejected the message, you will now be rejected.”

So, he leaves the synagogue and goes next door to the home of Titius Justus, who is a worshiper of God. There, Paul has great success. He stays in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. This is longer than he’s stayed anywhere else to date.

Now, sometime during that 18-month period, there was an encounter with Gallio, the proconsul of that region. The year is 51-2 CE. The charge was again that Paul was persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law. Gallio didn’t buy into it, and dismissed that case on religious matters – virtually saying, “Settle it yourselves!”

Paul stays in Corinth for some time. Finally, he goes on his way to Ephesus, another major port city. And what is the first thing Paul does when he gets there? He goes into the synagogue and reasons with the Jews, despite having said that he was done with the Jews. According to Acts, he journeys through Caesarea before making his way back to Antioch.

Life and Times