The Life and Times of Paul – Third Missionary Journey

By Mary Jane Chaignot

At the beginning of this journey, Paul goes all the way up to Galatia and Phrygia. Along the way, he is strengthening all the disciples, but we don’t know how much time all this is taking. Eventually, he finds himself back in Ephesus. Several important things had happened while he was gone. Priscilla and Aquilla met Apollos for the first time and taught him about Jesus, for previously he had only known the baptism of John. Apollos became very popular in Ephesus and eventually wanted to expand his ministry into Corinth. He left Ephesus just before Paul arrived.

It isn’t long after Paul arrives in Ephesus that he comes across some disciples -- about 12 men -- and asks them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” What this suggests is that there was diversity in preaching and diversity in understanding. These people all counted themselves as believers, but it is not at all clear what they all believed. There was more work to do.

Basically they answer, “And what Holy Spirit would that have been?” Not only did they not have the Holy Spirit, they don’t even have a clue what it is supposed to be. What they know is John’s baptism. Now, after their conversation, Paul baptizes these people. It is the only time in the Bible when people were baptized twice. And as soon as he places his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit descends into them and they immediately begin speaking in tongues and prophesying, which is what always happened when the Holy Spirit infused people.

After taking care of these people, Paul enters the synagogue, and speaks boldly and argues persuasively, for about three months. Then some of them become obstinate. They refuse to believe and publicly malign the Way. They aren’t attacking Paul directly, but they are attacking his teachings. Looking for a new venue, he goes to the “hall of Tyrannus,” where he has discussions daily. For two years, this went on. And then it says that “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” Whether or not “all” is a bit of an exaggeration, it suggests these talks were well attended.

Then Luke shares a little anecdote that shows just how strong a reputation Paul really had. Some Jews made a very comfortable living as exorcists. One group was the seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest. We don’t know of a chief priest by that name, but maybe they had borrowed the title, too. They were going around using Paul’s name. When they commanded the evil one to come out, it refused. The spirit claimed to know about Jesus and Paul, but not them. Luke continued, that “the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all.” All seven. Obviously more than words were needed. “He gave them such a beating, that they ran out of the house, naked and bleeding.”

It becomes apparent that many who counted themselves as believers had also retained some of their ancient ways, which would have included some superstitious practices. Now believers realized that their actions had to match their words. It says that they “came and openly confessed their evil deeds,” and that “a number of them who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly.” When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to about 50,000 drachmas. That is a huge number considering that the average worker earned one drachma every day. And it says, “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”

Also, while Paul was in Ephesus, a big disturbance came about. There was a man named Demetrius who had a thriving business making little artifacts for the temple of Artemis. And people came from all over to buy his artifacts as a keepsake. Ever since Paul came to town, business was falling off. People were listening to Paul say, “Man-made gods are no gods at all.” Demetrius felt this was a danger not only because their trade would lose its good name, but also because the temple of the great goddess Artemis would be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, would be robbed of her divine majesty. He managed to get his fellow craftsmen riled up. His words struck terror in the hearts of the Ephesians. Their lives and culture were intimately intertwined with the temple. Now the people joined the artisans and they all ended up in their open air coliseum – maybe as many as 25,000 people. With the whole city on the verge of rioting, the town clerk entered the fray and was able to quiet them down. Nonetheless, Paul was ushered out of the city.

At the beginning of chapter 20, he goes back through Macedonia again. He visits Corinth, spending the winter there. This is probably now the winter of 56, about the third year into this journey. It’s at this time, when he is in Corinth, that he probably wrote the letter to the Romans. Just as he planned to sail for Syria, it says, “the Jews made a plot against him.” A lot of Jews would have been getting ready to go to Jerusalem for Passover, and a tragic shipboard accident could easily have been arranged. Somehow Paul found out, and made some last minute changes to his schedule, and decided to go back on land through Macedonia. He could have stopped in Berea, Thessalonica, and Philippi along the way, although none of these stops are mentioned.

Eventually, Paul and company arrive at Troas, a city on the coast, perhaps about 100 miles southeast of Philippi. He stayed there for about a week. On the first day of the week, all the believers came together to break bread. And Paul kept on talking until midnight. A young man found a spot by the open window, in the fresh night air, and the next thing you know, he fell out of the window, onto the ground from the third story. And he was dead. This is Eutychus, of course. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man, and, putting his arms around him, said, “Don’t be alarmed; he’s alive!”

Paul is now in even better company. Jesus raised someone from the dead. Peter raised someone from the dead. And now Paul has raised someone from the dead. That is verification that Paul is vested by God.

From here, they continued on to Melitus, which is about 30 miles south of Ephesus, where he sent for the elders from Ephesus to come down and meet him. This is called his “farewell speech” to the Ephesian elders. Deep down, he knows that he will never see these people again, and he invites them to come down to give them a word of encouragement -- and his final thoughts. He tells them, that the Spirit has impelled him to go to Jerusalem. He knows that prison and hardships await him there, but he doesn’t know what else, whether he’ll ever leave there alive. But whatever happens, he’s ready to meet it. It is the most touching, emotional, and tender speech in Acts, probably including all of Paul’s writings. There is no admonishment, no rebuke. It’s a farewell, “I love you, and I’ll never see you again” speech. And how did they respond? Afterwards, they all kneeled down and prayed.

Now, at the beginning of chapter 21, they head out for sea, stopping at every little harbor along the way. Eventually, they will end up at Tyre and spend about a week there. They will have traveled a distance of about 400 miles from where they are now. While Paul is in Tyre, another group of disciples come out to meet him. Some of them had the gift of prophecy, and begged him not to go on to Jerusalem. Despite their urgings, however, he held firm.

There is a visit from the prophet Agabus, who has already been mentioned in 11:30. Without comment, he solemnly removes Paul’s own belt, and then binds his own hands and feet. And he says the Holy Spirit says, “In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.” However, he doesn’t say to Paul, “Don’t go.” If these words are examined closely, one can see all kinds of parallels with Jesus’ experiences. Jesus had said, “I’m going to Jerusalem.” There are three passion predictions in the Gospels. This is the third one here since he left Melitus. There is also that tension of not knowing what is going to happen when he gets there. And both were “handed over.” These are some of the connections. But Jerusalem is the goal. Paul has to go there. And he’s going there willingly. He’s going there in obedience to the Holy Spirit, not because he wants to go, but because the Holy Spirit said, “Go to Jerusalem.” So he does.

Life and Times