What happened on Paul's second missionary journey?

Here is a map of Paul's second missionary journey to help you follow along:



Paul's second missionary journey is recorded in Acts 15:36—18:22. A year or two after completing their first missionary journey, Barnabas suggested that he and Paul revisit the churches they had planted. A disagreement arose over whether or not John Mark, who had left them on the first journey, should join them on this journey. Eventually Barnabas decided to take John Mark to Cyprus while Paul took Silas to modern-day Turkey. (Acts 15:36–41).

Paul and Silas picked up Timothy, a young but well-spoken of believer in Lystra. Paul decided to have Timothy, the son of a Greek man and a Jewish mother, circumcised to gain the trust and respect of the Jews in that area. The three men then continued to strengthen the faith in those churches and the number of new believers increased daily. Paul, Silas, and Timothy desired to enter Asia to spread the gospel there, but the Holy Spirit prevented them. Finally in Troas, Paul received a vision of a man asking them to go into Macedonia (modern-day Greece). (Acts 16:1–10).

Paul, Silas, and Timothy, now joined by Luke, sailed from Troas to Greece and made their way to Philippi. Lydia, a wealthy merchant, opened her heart to the gospel and her home to become the meeting place for the church in Philippi. Later, Paul cast demons out of a slave girl whose owner then brought Paul and Silas before the city magistrates for what they had done. Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in prison, but they continued to praise God from their jail cell. That night, God caused an earthquake to release all the prisoners, but none fled the jail. Because the prisoners stayed, Paul was able to share the gospel with the jailer who believed and was baptized. In the morning, the magistrates freed Paul and Silas, but Paul refused to leave without a public apology for the way they had violated his rights as a Roman citizen. After this incident, Paul, Silas, and Timothy traveled to Thessalonica with monetary support from the new church in Philippi. (Acts 16:11–40).

Paul preached in the synagogue in Thessalonica and some Jews believed as well as many Greeks, including some of the leading women. Unfortunately, the non-believing Jews formed a violent mob so Paul and Silas had to escape at night to Berea. First Thessalonians 3:2–6 tells how Timothy spent time in Thessalonica to establish and exhort the new believers in their faith and how he later came to Paul with an encouraging report on the status of their walk with God. (Acts 17:1–10).

In Berea, Paul again shared the gospel in the synagogue. The Bereans listened to Paul's teaching and carefully examined Scripture to determine if his teaching was true. Thus, many in Berea believed the gospel message. Unfortunately, the non-believing Jews from Thessalonica arrived in Berea to stir up trouble, so Paul was sent off to sail to Athens by himself while Timothy and Silas stayed behind. (Acts 17:10–15).

When Paul reached Athens, he preached both in the synagogue and in the marketplace. He used references to their own "unknown god" and quoted the Greek poet Aratus' Phaenomena in order to appeal to the Athenians. Some Athenians believed, others mocked, and others seemed interested only in intellectual stimulation, so Paul continued on to Corinth. First Corinthians 2:3 reveals that Paul arrived in Corinth "in weakness and in fear and much trembling" after the repeated persecution he had suffered in the previous cities. (Acts 17:16–34).

In Corinth, Paul met fellow Jews and tentmakers Aquila and Priscilla and decided to stay and work with them. Paul began his year and a half ministry in Corinth by teaching in the synagogue and was soon joined by Silas and Timothy. Unfortunately, the Corinthian Jews opposed and reviled Paul so he turned his attention to the Gentiles. Many Corinthian Gentiles believed and were baptized. During his time in Corinth, Paul also wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians to encourage the Thessalonian believers in the persecution they suffered and to teach them right living. Paul also received another vision from God encouraging him to continue preaching the gospel despite upcoming hardship. After this vision, the Jews brought Paul before Gallio, the proconsul, arguing that he was teaching worship contrary to the Law. Gallio refused to hear the case without Paul even having to speak a word in his own defense. So Paul continued in Corinth "many days longer" (Acts 18:18). (Acts 18:1–18).

When it was time to return to Antioch in Syria, Paul first got his hair cut in Cenchreae marking the end of a vow he had taken. Priscilla and Aquila accompanied Paul as he sailed to Ephesus and shared the gospel there. The Ephesians were eager to have Paul stay, but he declined, hoping to return at a later time. Priscilla and Aquila settled in Ephesus while Paul sailed on to Caesarea. He then made his way to his home church in Antioch in Syria and shared the work God had done over the previous two to three years he had been gone. (Acts 18:18–22).

Believers can learn a few things from Paul's second missionary journey. We see that God can bring good results even out of a "sharp disagreement" (Acts 15:39); Barnabas and Paul split up and went different directions, meaning the gospel was shared in new places. Paul chose to have Timothy circumcised in Lystra even though circumcision is not a requirement for salvation. Through that act, Paul exemplifies the importance of showing deference to the community with whom we are trying to share the gospel. Paul, Silas, and Timothy listened to the Holy Spirit and only went where He allowed, setting an example for us to be so dependent on God's direction in our lives. Lydia and Priscilla are women who both played vital roles in growing the church in the cities in which they lived showing that God values women and desires to have them help in growing His kingdom. Paul and Silas continued to praise God even from their jail cell in Philippi after a serious beating and God freed them with a supernatural earthquake. These events show that it's possible to praise God even in hard times and that God honors that "sacrifice of praise" (Hebrews 13:15). The example of the Bereans shows the importance of examining Scripture to discern if a teaching is true. Paul's use of culturally relevant references in Athens shows the importance of knowing our audience when sharing the gospel. The encouraging vision Paul received in Corinth before the Jews brought him before the proconsul shows how compassionate our God is to give encouragement at just the right time. And finally, Paul's return to Antioch shows the importance of continuing to testify to God's work in our lives to those who have been praying for and supporting us.

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Related Truth:

What happened on Paul's first missionary journey?

What happened on Paul's third missionary journey?

What are the concept and the goals of Christian missions?

World missions – What does the Bible say?

How do I know if I'm called to be a missionary?


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