Paul’s Missionary Journeys
Missionary work is central to the life of an apostle. Not all missionaries are apostles, other qualifications must be met. Not all apostles are missionaries, per say. That is, an, apostle will do missionary work, but not necessarily be a missionary. Paul was not just a missionary, but it was the most outstanding aspect of his ministry. Paul took three major missionary journeys in his life.
I. First Missionary Journey
After being separated as an apostle, along with Barnabas, in Acts chapter 13, Paul set out on his first missionary journey. Barnabas and John Mark were his companions and co-workers. Early on, Barnabas was mentioned first in the team, but after a while Paul was spoken of first. An obvious indication of Paul’s leadership as the head of their apostolic team.
Early church ministry was done by apostolic teams. This began with Jesus sending out the seventy, two by two (Luke 10:1). However, on Paul’s team, John Mark got homesick during their travels and returned home. This would later be a point of contention that would break up this apostolic team.
During the two-and-one-half-year missionary journey (spring of 47 A.D. to. fall of 49 A.D.), Paul and Barnabas made disciples, built churches and trained leaders in the following places:
- Island of Cyprus (struck sorcerer blind)
- Antioch of Pisidia
- Lystra (crippled man healed; Paul stoned and left for dead)
After completing these stops, Paul and Barnabas went back to each of these new churches and followed up on their work.
And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Ordaining elders is an important function of apostles. They didn’t perform this function on their first trip through. Time was needed to develop the qualities and characteristics that were necessary. Those who had distinguished themselves as leaders were set apart to lead these new congregations, under the supervision of the apostolic team, and more specifically, Paul.
After this lengthy, prosperous apostolic journey which spread over 1,200 miles, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, their home church. Regardless of how large and successful Paul’s ministry became, he never saw himself as being above, or better than being accountable.
From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. So they stayed there a long time with the disciples.
II. Second Missionary Journey
After a Church Council at Jerusalem (Acts chapter 15), Paul began to feel the stir once again to visit the newly formed churches he had founded. When the Word said that Paul and Barnabas “abode long time” at Antioch, it is estimated that it was two years. Antioch was a training center among churches. Paul’s leadership skills were put to good use. But the call to return to the mission field stirred his nest.
However, tThe contention was so strong between Paul and Barnabas regarding John Mark, that they parted ways: And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other (Acts 15:39).
Paul chose Silas as his new partner and received the blessing of the brethren (Acts 15:40). They set out on Paul’s second missionary journey which is spoken of in Acts 15:36-18:22. They visited the following places:
- Lystra (Timothy joins team)
- Troas (Paul receives vision)
- Philippi (beaten and jailed; first European church)
- Corinth (joined by Aquilla and Priscilla; stayed at Corinth 18months)
Once again Paul returned to Antioch, his home church and spent time there.
III. Third Missionary Journey
Acts 18:23-20:38 covers the third missionary journey of Paul. Once again, Paul began by retracing his steps to visit the churches he had founded. He immediately set out for Ephesus. Paul stayed at Ephesus for over three years, building the church.
The following are the places Paul went to on his third mission aryJourney:
The three journeys covered a period of twelve years. Paul was used by God to establish churches in the majority of the cities in Asia Minor and Greece.
Next, we conclude with Paul’s writings and hardships.