Paul's Second Missionary Journey
After returning from Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas continued ministering in Antioch for another year before going out on their second missionary journey in 52 A.D. This second journey began about the same year that Claudius expelled the Jews and Christians from Rome. According to the Roman Historian Suetonius, who wrote his volumes on Lives of the Caesars in 110 A.D.,
“Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.” [Claudius, XXV]
Of course, “Chrestus” was Christ, and the disturbances were caused by Jewish opposition to Christ. Tacitus, in Annals 15.44, spells his name “Christus,” and says that he was executed during the reign of Tiberius. This expulsion affected Aquila and Priscilla, who left Rome and went to Corinth, where Paul met them on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1). [See map in Appendix 5.]
In the year of this expulsion (52 A.D.) Claudius took elephants to Britain and won a great battle, taking captive the British royal family. Caradoc appeared before Claudius and the Senate later that same year and gave his famous speech that saved his life. Caradoc had to remain in Rome for seven years (52-59 A.D.), during which time he often terrorized the Roman citizens by driving a chariot at high speed through the streets of the city. Apparently, there were no speed limits, or perhaps he enjoyed diplomatic immunity.
And so, about the time that Paul was considering a second missionary tour to visit the churches that he had established earlier, these events were going on in Britain and Rome. We read this in Acts 15:36,
36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.”
A number of ancient manuscripts leave out this verse, causing some to question its validity. But Ivan Panin includes it in his Numeric New Testament. His work is valuable in the matter of disputed texts, because he establishes the inspiration of the text by gematria, the mathematical structure of the inspired text. Thus, whenever some might question a Scriptural text, I defer to Ivan Panin.
We are told that Barnabas wanted to take John Mark along (as in the first journey). But Paul had lost confidence in him after his report to the Jerusalem Church had caused such a rift with the Judaizers and had forced them into holding a Church Council. He absolutely refused to take him again. This disagreement resulted in two teams of missionaries going forth. Barnabas took Mark and took a ship to Cyprus, his home country; Paul took Silas and traveled by land westward through Syria and Cilicia. During this time he composed his two letters to the Thessalonians.
Acts 16:1 tells us that Paul and Silas went to Derbe and Lystra. It was at Lystra a few years earlier that Paul had been stoned (Acts 14:8, 19). But as the brethren gathered around him, no doubt praying, Paul revived and went with them to Derbe. In returning to Lystra, Paul met a disciple named Timothy, who had a Greek father and a Jewish mother.
It is possible that Paul had met him on his first trip, though he is not mentioned. It is likely that he would have witnessed the miracle of healing that Paul worked on the crippled man (Acts 14:10). We can surmise that Timothy had been attached to the synagogue there, considering his Jewish mother, but yet also was uncircumcised. At any rate, on this second journey, “Paul wanted this man to go with him” (Acts 16:3), along with Silas. Timothy essentially replaced John Mark, even as Silas had replaced Barnabas.
Interestingly enough, Paul then recommended that Timothy be circumcised, not because it was necessary for his salvation, but in order that he might not hinder Paul's access to the synagogues in various cities. It was a matter of expedience, not of divine compulsion. In fact, we are told specifically in Acts 16:4,
4 Now while they [Paul and Silas] were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem for them to observe.
These were the decrees specifically stating that circumcision was not necessary for salvation. Paul took them along on this trip to add weight to his teaching and to show his unity with the Jerusalem Church. The missionary band, however, was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia, perhaps because the leaders of the synagogues knew him and may have stoned him again.
So they passed through Asia (modern Turkey), picking up Timothy in Lystra, then going to Iconium, Pisidian Antioch, and finally to the west coast at the city of Troas (old Troy). There Paul had a prophetic dream in which a man from Macedonia appealed for him to come and help him.
Immediately, they crossed over by ship into Macedonia to the city of Neapolis (Acts 16:11) and “from there to Philippi” (16:12). There they met Lydia, a businesswoman from Thyatira, who responded to the Gospel. She invited them to stay at her house, and her whole household were baptized.
There also Paul commanded the spirit of python (“divination”) to come out of the young woman who was following them (16:18). Her deliverance caused an immediate economic crisis in the idol-making business, which landed Paul and Silas in prison. Apparently, Timothy was not imprisoned with them. This was one of the five times that Paul was beaten with 39 stripes (2 Cor. 11:24). One can only imagine all the scarring on Paul's back by the end of his ministry!
But that night as Paul and Silas sat in the stocks, with their backs in shreds, they sang praises to God, with the other prisoners thinking that they surely must be demented. A great earthquake struck around midnight, however, which destroyed the prison and (supernaturally?) released everyone's “stocks and bonds.” The warden was about to commit suicide, when Paul called out to him, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” The warden was converted to Christ.
When the earthquake set the prisoners free in Philippi (Acts 16:26), the prison warden's life was in danger, because by law he was personally responsible for all the prisoners. Any prison escape would have cost him his life under Roman law. This is why he “was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped” (16:27).
But Paul called out to him and told him that “we are all here!” Obviously, Paul had told all the prisoners to remain in the prison, and they were all so awestruck by the miracle that they willingly obeyed. No doubt there were no more unbelievers in that prison. The warden himself and his family became believers and doubtless formed the core of the Philippian Church, along with the young woman who had been delivered of the spirit of python.
Lydia, of course, was actually from Thyatira, but Acts 16:40 seems to say that she had a house in Philippi. The word “house” is actually not in the Greek text (note the italics in most versions), but yet it is implied. We are not told if this was a rented house or if she owned it, but the implication is that this is where Paul and Silas established the first church in Philippi.
When morning arrived, the civil magistrates were embarrassed by the whole incident. They released Paul and Silas and tried to get them to leave town quietly (16:36). But they knew they needed to remain a while and establish the new home church. So they refused to leave town without first being given an official apology.
In fact, Paul struck fear in their hearts by informing them that he and Silas were Roman citizens and had been beaten unlawfully. The irony of the situation is that the civil magistrates now treated Paul and Silas very well and would not oppress them further—even at the instigation of the idol makers—because Paul and Silas could have ended their careers by appealing to Roman law.
But after visiting with Lydia and telling her of the warden's conversion, they left town and went west to Thessalonica. They spent three weeks there teaching and discussing Jesus Christ in the local synagogue. A number of people believed the Word, including “a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women” (17:4). Among them was Jason (17:5). It is of interest to us that Jason is one of the Greek forms of the name Jesus.
The Jewish leaders finally became alarmed that so many were coming to believe in Jesus. So they accused Jason of harboring treasonous people—those who recognized a king other than Caesar (17:7). Recall that this had been one of the charges laid upon Jesus Himself (Luke 23:2). The Jews themselves had affirmed, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). Again, the irony here is that the Jewish mindset was largely rebellious against Caesar, and within 15 years the entire Judean nation would be in open revolt. And yet they accused Jesus and Jason and all Christians of being rebellious against Caesar!
Jason, then, like his Namesake (Jesus), was accused of treason, for Jason was a type of Christ. He was arrested and was set free only by paying bond (Acts 17:9). Meanwhile, Paul and Silas had been hidden and escaped arrest. They left town that night and went southwest to Berea a short distance away.
There Paul and Silas visited the synagogue, and finally they found people who were more open to hearing the gospel. Acts 17:11 says,
11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.
Take note that the Greek believers were always more open to the Gospel than the Jews themselves. This would be natural, because the Gospel treated them as equals, rather than as second-class citizens of the Kingdom. God was not grudgingly throwing them a few crumbs, but was making them co-heirs with Christ. That revelation alone was enough to make them rejoice.
But news of this acceptance of the Gospel reached the Jews in Thessalonica, and they immediately sent men to Berea to stir up trouble for Paul and Silas. So Paul was escorted by the brethren to Athens, while Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea (17:15). In this time of separation, Paul saw that Athens was full of idolatry. He continued to bear witness of Christ with Jews, Greek proselytes, and with philosophers among the Stoics and Epicureans.
Paul was well versed on the various philosophies of the day, as is clearly seen in all of his writings. Though he seldom mentions them, he deals with their questions thoroughly. In fact, it seems clear that Paul admits to having been an Epicurean at one time.
The philosophers encouraged Paul to discuss his teachings at the Hill of Areopagus, or Mars Hill. (The Greek god of war, Ares, was called Mars, by the Romans.) There Paul told them about “The Unknown God,” to whom they had erected a monument (17:23). He even cites one of their own prophet-poets, Aratus, who had lived about 270 B.C. in Cilicia:
28 For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His offspring.’ 29 Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.
When Paul finally got to the part about the resurrection of the dead, some sneered, but others wanted to hear more. Two notable believers came out of this witness: Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, along with “others” (17:34). But no church was formed in Athens at this time.
Paul then went to Corinth, where he spent eighteen months (18:11), establishing a strong church body, which met at the home of Aquila and Priscilla. They were tentmakers, as was Paul, and so it is likely that they met while Paul was looking for work to support himself.
Meanwhile, Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia to join Paul in Corinth. They reported the usual Jewish opposition to the Gospel, until they finally told them, “Your blood be upon your own heads! I am clean. From now on I shall go to the Gentiles” [ethnos]. In the light of the experience of Jason, the type of Jesus Christ, it is noteworthy that they referred to that hated statement in Matt. 27:25, “His blood be upon us and on our children.”
However, the contrast with the Corinthian synagogue is striking, for there Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, came to believe in Christ (18:8). This opened the door for many of the Jews to believe in Christ, for as we see so often, people follow the example of their leaders.
Even so, there were other Jews, led by Sosthenes, who appealed to Gallio, the proconsul (judge). Sosthenes either had succeeded Crispus as leader of that synagogue, or was the leader of a different synagogue. At the trial, Gallio was wise enough to see that this was purely a matter of religious difference and not a matter needing justice, so he threw the case out of court (18:16). The crowd, which was hostile to the Jews anyway, gave Sosthenes a beating, while Gallio did nothing to stop it.
The Corinthian Church was the main success that came of this second missionary journey. From there Paul, accompanied by Aquila and Priscilla, sailed from the Corinthian port of Cenchrea across the Aegean Sea to Ephesus, then to Caesarea in Syria; and finally they returned to Antioch, where they gave their report on the spread of the gospel in Macedonia and Greece.