The Bible
  NT Background
  NT Books
  NT Studies
  OT Background
  OT Books
  OT Studies
  Bible Study
  Early Church History
  British Museum
  Historical Docs
  Life Questions
  How to Preach
Search for page by title (auto-completes)
Advanced search
Google Translate
Advanced Search
Search for word or phrase within each page
Search by OT book and chapter
Search by NT book and chapter

New Testament Overview 3 - Paul's Missionary Journeys

Julian Spriggs M.A.

Also available:

1: Life and Ministry of Jesus 2: Birth of the church
3: Paul's Missionary Journeys 4: Paul's Imprisonment
5: John and the Later New Testament

Summary of Paul's Journeys

Journey Date
Chapters in Acts Cities visited
1st Journey AD 48-49 Acts 13-14 Antioch, Cyprus, Galatia (Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe), Antioch
Council of Jerusalem AD 49 Acts 15 Jerusalem
2nd Journey AD 50-53 Acts 15-18 Antioch, Galatia, Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Jerusalem
3rd Journey AD 54-58 Acts 18-20 Antioch, Galatia, Ephesus, Macedonia, Corinth, Macedonia, Miletus, Jerusalem
Trials and Journey to Rome AD 58-60 Acts 21-27 Jerusalem, Caesarea, Rome
Imprisonment in Rome AD 60-62 Acts 28 Rome
After end of Acts? AD 63-66 Spain?, Crete, Ephesus, Macedonia, Nicopolis, Rome

Four groups of Paul's letters

Group Period of ministry Date
Letters written
1 2nd Missionary Journey AD 50-53 Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians
2 3rd Missionary Journey AD 54-58 1 & 2 Corinthians, Romans
3 Imprisonment in Rome AD 60-62 Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon
4 After end of Acts AD 63-66 1 Timothy, Titus, 2 Timothy

Paul's First Missionary Journey (Acts 13-14, c. AD 47-48)

The maps of Paul's missionary journeys show the cities and regions that he visited. The regions in capital letters are the Roman provinces, which were imposed by the Romans on top of the local ethnic regions, which are written in small letters.

Antioch (Acts 13:1)

Each of the three missionary journeys began in Antioch. This church became the sending church for Paul and his team as they began to reach out with the Gospel further and further into the Gentile world. During worship one day, the Holy Spirit called this church to send out their two finest leaders (Barnabas and Paul) to the mission field. I wonder how many churches today would be willing to hear this message.

Cyprus (Acts 13:4-12)

After prayer and laying on of hands, they left for Cyprus, which was the home of Barnabas. There they travelled across the island, preaching in the synagogues, and had a favourable reception from the Roman proconsul, and a powerful encounter with a travelling magician. However, there is no record in Acts of any church being established there.

Galatia - Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:13-52)

From Cyprus, they sailed to the mainland, and travelled inland to Antioch in Pisidia. In Acts, there are two different cities called Antioch. The first Antioch was in Syria where Barnabas and Paul had been sent out from, this Antioch was in a region called Pisidia, in western Galatia.

In this Antioch, Luke gives an example of the message Paul would preach in a Jewish synagogue, drawing totally from their Scriptures, showing that Jesus was the fulfilment of what it said. As a visiting Jewish rabbi, he would be invited to bring 'a word of exhortation', following the reading of the Scriptures. In Antioch some Jews believed, together with many god-fearers. However the next Sabbath, there was opposition from the unbelieving Jews, who were jealous because Paul and Barnabas had 'stolen' their god-fearers. They stirred up opposition, so Paul and Barnabas had to leave the city in a hurry.

This is an example of the pattern in the way Luke describes Paul's ministry:
1. Paul preached in the synagogue on the Sabbath.
2. A few Jews responded, together with many god-fearers.
3. The unbelieving Jews became jealous, and stirred up opposition, "But the Jews ...".
4. Paul preached to Gentiles, with greater success.
5. A church was started with a mixed group of people filled with the Holy Spirit, some Jews, some Gentiles.
6. Paul appointed leaders in the new church.

Galatia - Iconium (Acts 14:1-7)

The same pattern happened in Iconium, where there was a positive response to the Gospel from both Jews and Greeks. But opposition and persecution came from the unbelieving Jews, and they left when those groups tried to stone him.

Galatia - Lystra (Acts 14:8-19)

In Lystra, after they had seen a lame man healed, the local people welcomed them, thinking they were Greek gods visiting the city. Paul was only just able to prevent the people from offering sacrifice to them, and then preached to them, challenging them to turn from worthless Greek gods to the living creator God. Luke gives an example of Paul's preaching to a pagan audience, where he preaches from creation, and does not quote the Jewish Scriptures.

However, the Jews pursued Paul from Antioch and Iconium, and won over the crowd, stoned him and left him for dead. Whether he was actually dead or not, we do not know, but the disciples surrounded him, presumably praying for him, then witnessed a miracle, as he rose up and went on to Derbe.

Galatia - Derbe (Acts 14:20-21)

In Derbe, they also preached and made many disciples. After such opposition and persecution, it would be most natural for Paul and Barnabas to continue down the main road, through Tarsus (Paul's home town), and back to Antioch in Syria. But, even though they had been stoned, mistreated, and opposed, they returned to those same cities to encourage the new believers and to appoint leadership in the churches.

Return to Antioch (Acts 14:26-28)

Finally, they returned by sea to Antioch where they reported their adventures to the church, declaring how the Lord had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

The Letter to The Galatians

Shortly after Paul's visit, another group of teachers arrived in Galatia, who began to preach in the new churches. Their message would have been something like this:
"We come to you with the authority of James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, (they were lying - they had not been sent by him) and though we are glad that Paul came to you, really he was only trying to please you by preaching an easy gospel of faith, rather than the full gospel that we preach. You Jews, it is wonderful that you have come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. But you Gentiles, if you want to believe in Jesus, it really is necessary for you to become Jews first, because, after all, Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, and all the true believers are Jews. Once you have been circumcised and become Jews, then you can believe in Jesus ..."
In other words, these Jewish legalists were adding to the Gospel, declaring that believing in Jesus was not enough, so they had to do something to become believers. The false teachers confused the new Christians in Galatia, they persuaded some to be circumcised, others were unsure what to do.

Paul was most upset when he heard what had happened in the churches of Galatia, and wrote the Letter to the Galatians in response. In this very strongly-worded letter, he said exactly what he thought about these false teachers, even calling down a curse on anyone who preached a different gospel from the Gospel he preached. He declared that by submitting to circumcision, the Galatians had fallen away from grace, and had turned to a different gospel. First by arguing from his own personal testimony, and then from the Old Testament, he showed that the only way to be declared righteous before God is by faith, and not by any works of the law, then pleaded with them to come back to the Gospel of grace. In a final practical section, he showed them how to live by the Spirit, allowing the fruit of the Spirit to grow in their lives.

The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15, AD 49)

Do Christians have to become Jews?

Soon Paul had a face to face confrontation with these Jewish legalists, when a group of them came to Antioch, teaching that the Gentiles cannot become Christians unless they are circumcised. Obviously this issue needed to be sorted out once and for all, so Paul and Barnabas were appointed by the church to go to Jerusalem to discuss it with the apostles. This meeting has become known as the Council of Jerusalem. After the meeting heard reports from Peter, and from Paul, about how God had been showing his grace to the Gentiles, the chairman, James, made the final decision. This was that Gentiles should not be required to submit to the Jewish law and to circumcision, but should only keep a selection of regulations to enable the Jewish and Gentile believers to have fellowship together. James wrote this decision in a letter which was taken back to the churches in and around Antioch by Paul and Barnabas.

This was one of the most momentous decisions ever made by the church, through which the door was opened for evangelism of the Gentiles, and the recognition that the church was not just to be a sect within Judaism, but to be a world-wide body of believers in Jesus Christ, in which the old barriers of race and social status were to be broken down.

James the Apostle

The James who chaired this meeting should be distinguished from James the brother of John, one of the twelve disciples, who was executed by Agrippa I (Acts 12:2). James was evidently a half-brother of Jesus, born normally to Mary and Joseph. From the Gospels, we read that he and the rest of the family were sceptical about Jesus, even going out to restrain him, when people thought that he was mad. However, Paul tells us that the risen Jesus appeared especially to James (1 Cor 15:7), after which he evidently became a believer, and joined the church. He rose to prominence as the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and therefore presided over the Council of Jerusalem. He was a zealous observer of the Jewish law, and highly respected in Jerusalem by both the church, and the Jews.

Around the year AD 62, the high priest took advantage of a gap between the rule of two Roman governors to bring James before the Jewish Sanhedrin, who condemned him to be stoned to death, upsetting many of the local people. This was unlawful because the Romans had taken away the right of the Jewish leadership to sentence people to death. As a result, the new Roman governor removed the high priest from office and appointed a new one. Josephus described this in his History of the Jews (Ant. 20:9:1).

The Letter from James

We do not know when James wrote his letter, or whom he wrote it to. It is strongly Jewish and reminiscent of Jewish wisdom writing. It is a series of practical instructions covering a selection of themes like, trials and testing, the power of the tongue, and the rich and poor. One of his main themes is that true faith is expressed in a godly lifestyle of good works, and a faith without the accompanying works is dead. "Even the demons believe - and shudder"

Matthew's gospel

There is great debate over which of the gospels was written first. Many scholars think Mark was written first, but the early church believed that Matthew was the first gospel, and there is new evidence today to support this.

Matthew was one of the twelve disciples, also known as Levi, the tax-collector, who was called to follow Jesus. In Jewish society, tax-collectors were the most despised people, excluded from participation in the Jewish religion, because they collected taxes for the Romans. They were notorious for their injustice as they took a substantial proportion of what they collected for themselves.

Matthew's gospel is very well ordered, as one would expect if it is written by an accountant. The material is grouped thematically, alternating between descriptions of Jesus's actions, and five major sections of his teaching. In the first century, it was used as a manual for discipleship, for training new Christians. Matthew proclaims Jesus as the King of the Jews, who fulfilled all the scriptural expectations of being the Jewish Messiah, but who was rejected by his people, but who also came for all nations. He was the descendant of Abraham, the Son of David, the keeper of the law, and his life and his ministry was the fulfilment of many Old Testament prophecies.

Paul's Second Missionary Journey (Acts 15-18, c AD 50-53)

Antioch (Acts 15:36-41)

Following the Council of Jerusalem, Paul wanted to return to the churches of Galatia, with Barnabas. However, they had a strong disagreement over John Mark, who had returned early from the first missionary journey. Barnabas wanted to give him a second chance, but Paul did not agree. Eventually, no agreement was achieved, Barnabas went off with Mark to Cyprus, and Paul took Silas with him on his second missionary journey. About ten years later, there was a happy ending to this argument, when we read that Mark had re-joined Paul's ministry team, and is even described as being very useful to Paul (2 Tim 4:11)

Return visit to Galatia (Acts 16:1-5)

Luke briefly describes Paul's second visit to Galatia, where he encouraged the new churches, and delivered the letter with James's decision from the Council of Jerusalem. While in Lystra, a young man named Timothy joined him. Over the next few years, Timothy was trained by Paul, and became one of his most important co-workers. He was sometimes left as Paul's representative in churches where there were problems to sort out, particularly problems with false teachers. At the end of Paul's life, it was to Timothy that Paul passed on the commission to guard the gospel and continue to bring it to the Gentiles.

To Europe through a vision (Acts 16:6-10)

From Galatia, Paul was heading along the main road leading to Ephesus, probably with Rome in his mind as his final destination. However, the Holy Spirit made it clear that this was not the way to go, and instead Paul and Silas ended up in Troas, wondering where to go next. It was here that he received a vision during the night of a man from Macedonia (northern Greece), saying, "Come over and help us". So they crossed over the sea and the Gospel first came to Europe.

Philippi (Acts 16:11-40)

The first city Paul and Silas came to was Philippi. This was a Roman Colony, with an almost totally Gentile population, and not enough Jews to have a synagogue. Instead the Jews met by the river, and this is where Paul met a God-fearing business lady called Lydia, who became a believer in Jesus, and their hostess. Trouble came when a slave girl with a demonic spirit tormented Paul and Silas, and Paul cast the spirit out of the girl. Because the spirit could predict the future, and therefore made the girl's owner much money, the owner was most upset. So he brought Paul and Silas before the local authorities, who had them flogged and put in prison. At midnight, while praising God, there was a dramatic earthquake which broke the chains off Paul and Silas, and opened all the doors. Just before the jailer committed suicide, Paul called him to believe in Jesus, and he became a new Christian. So, the church in Philippi was born, which became one of Paul's most supportive churches. After making the authorities apologise for mistreating Roman citizens, Paul and Silas left the city.

Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9)

From Philippi, Paul travelled along the Via Egnatia, the main road to Rome from the East, to Thessalonica, which was the major city of the region of Macedonia. In Acts, Luke records that Paul preached in the synagogue for three Sabbaths, with some success, particularly among the god-fearing Greeks who attended the synagogue. However, the unbelieving Jews caused an uproar in the market- place and had Paul and Silas expelled from the city.

Beroea (Acts 17:10-15)

They fled to nearby Beroea, where again they preached in the synagogue. It was here that Luke described the Jews as being more noble, as they carefully examined the Scriptures to see whether what Paul said was true. But again, trouble came from Jews who had pursued them from Thessalonica, so Paul had to leave for Athens.

Athens (Acts 17:16-32)

Paul arrived alone in Athens, and was distressed by seeing all the statues of Greek idols, including one dedicated: 'to an unknown god'. He talked with the sceptical philosophers, who scoffed at him when he spoke about the resurrection, but some invited him to speak again. Luke gives us an example of Paul's preaching to a pagan audience. In this, he drew his message from this altar to an unknown god, and proclaimed him as the One True God, who had created the heavens and the earth, and even quoted pagan Greek poets, rather than the Old Testament to make his point. Most of the cynical audience laughed at him, but a few became believers.

Corinth (Acts 18)

The port city of Corinth was renowned in the ancient world for its immorality. They even had a word in the Greek language - to play the Corinthian, meaning to be immoral.

After persecution in Philippi, Thessalonica and Beroea, and a sceptical reception in Athens, Paul arrived in Corinth, "in weakness and fear and in much trembling" (1 Cor 2:3), determined to preach Christ crucified whatever the response. As usual, Paul started preaching in the synagogue, until the opposition grew too severe. However, even the leader of the synagogue became a believer. The Lord appeared to Paul in a vision, encouraging him that there is a harvest to be reaped in Corinth, so he stayed for 18 months, and saw many people from very varied backgrounds, including the rich and slaves, become believers.

Eventually the Jews brought Paul before the Roman governor, called Gallio, who refused to get involved in what he saw was an argument about the Jewish law, and therefore dismissed the case. This Gallio was only governor of Corinth for one year in AD 51, which accurately dates Paul's visit there. Paul then left for Ephesus, on his way back to Jerusalem, leaving a church, with whom he would have a turbulent relationship over the next few years.

Expulsion of Jews from Rome

In AD 49, the emperor Claudius was having problems in the Jewish quarter in Rome. There were riots taking place, probably over the issue of whether Jesus was the Messiah. To deal with this problem, Claudius took drastic measures, and expelled the Jews from the city of Rome. This would mean all Jews, including Jews who believed in Jesus. Two of these were Priscilla and Aquila, who Paul met in Corinth (Acts 18:2). Suddenly, Rome became a completely Gentile city. The Roman historian, Suetonius mentioned this expulsion in his history of Claudius (Claudius 25).

Letters to Thessalonica

While in Athens and Corinth, Paul corresponded with the church he had recently established in Thessalonica, writing two letters to them.

1 Thessalonians

Paul had to leave Thessalonica suddenly because of the persecution, and was probably not allowed back by the local Roman authorities. So he was concerned whether the church was surviving the opposition. He was eager to hear news from Thessalonica, so he sent Timothy to find out. He returned with good news. However, there appears to have been some criticism of Paul, that did not care about them, and that he abandoned them when the opposition came. In response, Paul declared his care for the people and explained that he continually wanted to return, but was not allowed to.

He also answered a series of questions asked by the church, particularly about the second coming of Jesus. They had got the impression that the second coming was very soon, and were therefore most concerned about their loved-ones who had died before Jesus came back. Paul re-assures them that instead of missing out, they will be with Jesus when he comes. They also asked when Jesus would return, Paul's response is that he will come like a thief in the night, therefore live in the light, and be prepared for his coming. He also exhorted people to work, rather than depend on other people, as there were some people in the church who were so confident that the second coming was soon, so they were merely sitting around waiting for the great day, instead of getting on with their lives and working to support themselves.

2 Thessalonians

Shortly following 1 Thessalonians, Paul had to send a second letter. Timothy returned to Paul with mixed news from the church. The accusations against Paul had been silenced, but the unhealthy interest in the second coming had become worse. They had taken Paul's teaching that Jesus would come like a thief in the night to confirm their belief that Jesus would come very soon. Also they had either received teaching, a word of prophecy or a false letter claiming to be from Paul, that the day of the Lord had actually begun. The problem of the idlers had also become worse, so Paul rebuked them sharply, saying that if they do not work, they should not eat. Paul's reply was to say that the second coming will not be until after a period of rebellion, when the 'Man of lawlessness' would appear. In other words, it is not yet, so get on with normal life, and don't worry about it.

Ephesus and home (Acts 18:19-22)

After leaving Corinth, he visited Ephesus briefly, desiring to come back for longer, and then sailed to Jerusalem, and back to Antioch, to conclude the Second Missionary Journey.

Paul's Third Missionary Journey (Acts 18-20, AD 54-58)

In his Third Missionary Journey, Paul did not travel to any new places, but mostly concentrated on strengthening the churches he had previously established.

Galatia (Acts 18:22)

Once again Paul travelled through Galatia, encouraging the churches, and seeing how well they were doing.

Ephesus (Acts 19)

This time Paul travelled directly to the city of Ephesus, which was the major city in the Roman province of Asia, with an important port. It was well known as a centre for the worship of Artemis, the goddess of fertility. The temple to Artemis in Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. In this temple was a sacred stone which had fallen from heaven. Many people travelled great distances to visit the Artemis temple, and a large trade in statues of Artemis grew up. Spiritually, Ephesus was a very dark city, being a major centre of magic arts and a wide variety of occult practices.

Paul stayed here for two years, working as a tent-maker, and then preaching during the heat of the day in a lecture hall. Paul had great success here, many people came to faith in Jesus, and publicly burnt their magical books, and spoke out the magical charms, thus breaking the secrecy. So many people were converted, that the sale of images of Artemis dropped greatly, so the statue makers and sellers became upset when they suffered economically. This led to a riot in the great amphitheatre, led by the statue makers, which was eventually silenced by the local authorities, who were frightened that the Romans would step in to quell the rebellion.

Collection for Jerusalem saints (Rom 15, 1 Cor 16, 2 Cor 8-9)

Throughout his third missionary journey, Paul was collecting money from the Gentile churches in Macedonia and Greece for the Jewish church in Jerusalem. This was partly to help the believers in Jerusalem, who were very poor, and who had suffered a severe famine. However, Paul also wanted this to be an act of solidarity to ease the tensions between the Gentile churches that Paul had established and the Jewish church in Jerusalem, who often struggled to accept Paul's ministry to the Gentiles.

Correspondence with Corinth

While Paul was in Ephesus, he wrote several times to the church in Corinth, in an attempt to bring unity, and to restore his relationship and authority in the church. In total, there were four letters, two of which are preserved in the Bible:

Number Title Comment
1 The 'Previous Letter' not to associate with immoral men (1 Cor 5:9)
2 1 Corinthians
3 The 'Severe Letter' calling them to repentance (2 Cor 7:8)
4 2 Corinthians

The basic problem in the church in Corinth seems to be that people in the church were strongly influenced by Greek attitudes to spirituality. It has been said that, 'There was a church in Corinth, but too much of Corinth in the church'. To them, the ideal spiritual leader would be physically perfect, an eloquent speaker, he would never suffer, and generally would be uninvolved and unaffected by anything physical, certainly not having to work with their hands. In their thinking, Paul did not match up to this ideal, so they severely questioned his spirituality and authority. Different factions sprang up in the church, each with their favourite spiritual hero.

Some probably believed that they were already living in the age to come, particularly because they spoke so much in the tongues of angels, and therefore they denied the truth of a future physical resurrection. Some took this understanding to say that because they were so spiritual, they could live however they liked, and they were boasting of their freedom because they even had a man living incestuously with his step-mother. Others took the opposite view, that Christians should not have any sexual relationships at all, including within marriage.

1 Corinthians

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul addresses several different issues reported to him, and questions asked by the church. However, there is an underlying theme of rejection of Paul's authority, because of the super-spirituality in the church.

First he addresses reports of disunity. There were different factions, each favouring a different leader, some followed Peter, some Apollos because of his eloquence, some followed Peter, and probably the really 'spiritual' followed Christ. Addressing the false values of Greek thinking, he shows how God uses the foolish things in the world to shame human wisdom, and that the ultimate foolishness was the cross.

Then he rebukes the church for tolerating the man living with his father's wife, telling them to discipline him. He calls them not to have lawsuits against each other, or visit prostitutes. Then he turns against the people teaching asceticism, by giving instructions about marriage and singleness, saying that each person should be married if they are called to be married, and single if called to be single.

Another issue was food offered to idols. This was a problem for the believers in Corinth. Should a Christian go to the fellowship meals in pagan temples, and should they eat meat sold in the market-place which had been previously offered as a sacrifice to an idol? He broadened this issue into the subject of Christian freedom, saying that Christians are free, but should be willing to forgo those freedoms for the sake of other believers.

He also answers reports about their worship. In a difficult and controversial passage, he commends them for keeping the traditions in women wearing head-coverings, showing that men and women should maintain their distinct dress, as is culturally appropriate. But he rebukes them because the disunity was so severe that it also spread to their celebration of communion. The rich would get there early and eat all the food, leaving nothing for the poorer slaves who would arrive later and find nothing to eat. Also in their worship, they seemed to boast and show off their spirituality by the use of spiritual gifts, particularly their use of tongues. Paul shows that their overriding desire should be to demonstrate love, and to edify one another. He declares his preference for the gift of prophecy in public meetings because it is intelligible and therefore edifying to others.

Finally he addresses those who deny that there will be a future resurrection. He says that if there was no resurrection, they have no hope, but instead the day will come when we will be raised physically into bodies suited for glory.

2 Corinthians

Following 1 Corinthians, the problems seem to have grown worse. The people rejecting Paul's authority had become even more influential, and had turned much of the church against him. In 2 Corinthians, Paul gave an extended defence of his actions, his ministry, and his calling to be an apostle against these people, who he sarcastically calls 'super apostles'.

First he defended his changes of plan, explaining why he had not yet come to them. Between the writing of 1 and 2 Corinthians, Paul had paid a brief visit to Corinth, not mentioned in Acts, which he calls the 'painful visit' (2 Cor 2:1). It was to avoid another such painful visit that he had not yet visited again. Instead he had sent Titus as his representative, to see how the church was responding. After the arrival of Titus back from Corinth, Paul wrote 2 Corinthians expressing his delight that Titus had brought the good news that there had been a positive response of godly grief and repentance. Within this defence he made an extended digression about the glorious message of reconciliation that he brought, but which comes in weak earthen vessels, emphasising to the Greeks that it is the message which is important, and not the messenger.

Following practical instructions about the collection for the saints in Jerusalem, and principles of generous and voluntary giving, he concludes his letter with a lengthy defence of his personal calling to be an apostle. Instead of boasting in all his achievements, as the Greeks would do, he comes in the opposite spirit, and boasted in all his weaknesses, his suffering, his unanswered prayer, and how the grace of God is made perfect in weakness. The climax of his boast is when he was let down the wall in a basket. In Greek epics, the great military hero was the first one to climb up the wall and enter a city under siege.

Corinth / Greece (Acts 20)

Following Paul's departure from Ephesus, Luke briefly describes a visit to Macedonia, then Greece (probably Corinth), and a return visit to Macedonia and Troas.

Letter to Rome

During his three months in Greece (Acts 20), Paul wrote what is normally thought of as his greatest letter, and clearest statement of the Christian Gospel, the letter to the Romans. There seem to be two purposes for Paul's writing this:

The first was for practical personal reasons. Paul was on his way to Jerusalem with the gift from the Gentile churches, so he asks the Roman church to pray for him and for the reception of this gift, and for his own safety in Jerusalem. Following the third missionary journey, he saw that his work in the Eastern Mediterranean area had been completed. Up until this time, the church in Antioch had sent him out and supported him. He had established thriving churches in each major city, which he expected to preach the Gospel in their surrounding areas. Paul was now turning his attention to the West, particularly to Spain, as he did not want to preach the Gospel where it had already been preached. So, through the letter to Rome, he lays out his Gospel, to establish relationship with them, asking that they would receive him when he eventually came to Rome, and become the church that would send him out on his mission to Spain.

The second was to address a situation in the church itself. From a careful reading of the letter, it appears that there were several different fellowships in Rome, rather than a single church. Also, there was a problem in the relationships between the Jewish and Gentile believers. The Jewish believers tended to be more legalistic, still keeping the Jewish Sabbath and food laws, and judged the Gentile believers for not keeping them. In turn the Gentile believers despised the Jewish believers for not living in the freedom that Jesus gave (Rom 14-15). So through his letter, Paul showed their unity before God, in judgement, in salvation by grace, in sanctification and glorification. Therefore, they need to show love and tolerance for each other.

Return to Jerusalem (Acts 20)

On his way back to Jerusalem, Paul stopped briefly at the port of Miletus. From there he called the elders of the church in Ephesus to come and meet him. In a moving speech, he warns that false teachers will come, even from among them. In other words, some of the elders themselves will become false teachers, which is a prediction of the situation later addressed in 1 Timothy. From Miletus, he sailed to Jerusalem.

Also available:

1: Life and Ministry of Jesus 2: Birth of the church
3: Paul's Missionary Journeys 4: Paul's Imprisonment
5: John and the Later New Testament