The second section of Acts, which is contained in chapters 8-12, records the Great Scattering of believers, when those who had once been united in one large group in Jerusalem were forced out, and went throughout all Judea, Samaria, and beyond, reaching to many places where Jews dwelt throughout the Roman Empire. This scattering came to an end when those who had been involved in it came to a place where they started a work, settled down, and remained where they were. Since they were no longer scattering to many different places carrying the word, the Great Scattering came to an end. Then the Lord instead called a new apostle, the man Paul, and commissioned him to carry the word of the gospel to all the places those involved in the Great Scattering had not reached. Thus started the third great period of Acts, which we would call quite obviously “Paul’s Ministry.” We will study this third great period of the book of Acts and Paul’s Ministry in this study.

As we said, the Great Scattering ended when those involved in it came to a place and settled down there. We can see this if we compare Acts 8:40:

40. But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.

with Acts 21:8:

8. On the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him.

Here it can be seen that Philip, the man whom God uses as an example of what happened in the Great Scattering, came to the city of Caesarea and stopped his traveling. Years later, we find him still there, now married and with children. He settled down in this city, and it became his new home. In a similar way, the others involved in the scattering found new homes and settled down there as well. Yet there were still many places that had not yet been reached with the word, mostly to the north and west of the land of Israel. The ancestral Israelites living in these places still needed to hear the gospel, and so God needed to call a new apostle to reach them. This He did when he called the man Paul, who so strangely and miraculously had been brought to Christ during the scattering period. The remainder of Acts is concerned with this man’s activities, first in this third section detailing Paul’s Ministry.

We see Paul called to his ministry in Acts 13:1-3.

1. Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3. Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

Paul, here called by his Hebrew name Saul, is chosen, along with Barnabas, for a work to which the Lord is calling them. Paul and Barnabas were some of the Lord’s prophets and teachers in the city of Antioch at this time. Antioch was in Syria, the nation to the north of Israel. Antioch was one of the most powerful cities of Syria, and was a center for believers in Syria at this time. Paul and Barnabas were important members of the ekklesia there, but now the Spirit wants them to be separated from the rest so they can depart and perform a unique work on His behalf. The leaders at Antioch are quick to follow the Spirit’s instructions, so they loose Barnabas and Saul from their duties among them. Now, they are free to travel to the places that have not yet heard the word and proclaim it to them.

The first place Paul and Barnabas go is, in fact, Barnabas’ youthful home, the island of Cyprus off the coast of Syria, as we read in Acts 13:4.

4. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5. And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant.

Salamis was on the eastern coast of the island, which is where they would have landed by ship coming from the coast of Syria on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea. They start their ministry in the synagogue, proclaiming the word to the Jews there, as the message was to the Jew first and primarily at this time. We also learn that they were not alone, but had a young man named John along as their assistant. This will be common throughout Paul’s ministry, for he always has an entourage of followers, sometimes more, sometimes less, along with him as he journeys.

6. Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus,

They continue through the island to Paphos, the city on the western side of the island. There, they have an encounter with a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus, as we read in the following verses. At last, they finish their work on Cyprus and depart for the mainland, as we read in Acts 13:13.

13. Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.

John departs from them once they come to the mainland, leaving them in the lurch, so to speak. This does not deter them, and they continue to the next major location of their ministry, as we read in verse 14.

14. But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down.

The remainder of chapter 13 has to do with their ministry here in this synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, not, of course, to be confused with Syrian Antioch, from which they began their journey. Many who hear believe in Antioch, both Jews and Gentiles, but persecution forces them out, as we read in Acts 13:49-51.

49. And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. 50. But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. 52. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

So they come to Iconium in the region called Lycaonia. In Iconium, they have a successful work, as we read in verse 1.

1. Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed.

However, opposition arose from the Jews who did not believe, who stirred up the Gentiles and got them on their side, so we read in verse 6,

6. they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region.

In Lystra, Paul heals a lame man who had been a cripple from the womb. The Gentiles of the city misunderstand this healing, and believe Paul and Barnabas to be gods. They attempt to sacrifice to them, but Paul and Barnabas stop them from doing so. Then, the Jews who were Paul’s enemies from Iconium arrive, and convince the mob to stone Paul. God raises him from the dead, however, and he continues on to Derbe. We read in verse 21:

21. And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch.

Finishing their work in Derbe, they return to the cities they had ministered to in reverse order. We read why they did this in Acts 14:22.

22. 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.”

In verses 23-25, they continue their reverse-journey, though they sail by Cyprus without stopping there and come at last back to Antioch. Here, they report to the leaders there, their old companions.

27. 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.

They remain in Antioch for some time, as we read in verse 28:

28. So they stayed there a long time with the disciples.

This marks their return to their home base, and completes Paul’s first apostolic journey. The pattern that is usually followed by Paul is that he visits a place and makes disciples; then after he has departed he writes a letter to that region backing up what he taught them. Finally, he returns to that region, strengthening the believers there. In the case of this first journey, I believe that his letter to this region backing up his ministry is the book of Galatians, which was written during his long stay in Antioch that we just read about in Acts 14:28. Without going into my reasons for believing this (many would not teach this about Galatians,) notice that this fits the pattern, as we will see it through the remainder of Paul’s ministry. Then, we will see that he returns to this region, as we will read in Acts 16:1-6 and Acts 18:23. This summarizes his ministry to Cyprus, Pisidia, and Lycaonia, and the first part of Paul’s Ministry.

Now while Paul is waiting in Antioch for the second journey of his ministry to begin, several conflicts arise. First is a conflict with the circumcision party, as we read in Acts 15:1.

1. And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

This conflict takes Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders and settle the conflict there. The result is that Paul and Barnabas are justified, and the new believers are not forced to circumcise after the manner of Moses or begin to keep the law, as we read in Acts 15:2-35.

Back in Antioch, Paul realizes the time has come for a second apostolic journey, no doubt because he was informed so by God, as we read in Acts 15:36.

36. Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.”

However, at this point, a second conflict arises, this time between these two old friends and fellow workers, as we read in verses 37-38.

37. Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.

So the matter of John causes great conflict between the two, and the result is that they are parted, as we read in Acts 15:39-40.

39. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40. but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.

So Barnabas takes Mark with him and heads back home to Cyprus in a pout, while Paul chooses Silas as his new partner, and they head overland to Syria and Cilicia, as we read in verse 41.

41. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Paul arrives in Derbe and Lystra once again, and there chooses Timothy to replace John Mark, as we read in Acts 16:1-3. They go through the cities of that region, delivering the conclusion of the Jerusalem council and strengthening the believers. Now, however, the time comes to decide where to go next, and this is not an easy decision, as we read in Acts 13:6-8. However, their next move is finally revealed to them by the Lord in verse 9.

9. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

So God sends them into Macedonia, and they quickly obey, as we read in Acts 16:11.

11. Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, 12. and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days.

The remainder of chapter 16 outlines their ministry in Philippi, and some of the exciting and instructive events that happened to them there. From Philippi, they continue west along the coast to another Macedonian city, as we read in Acts 17:1.

1. Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.

So Thessalonica is their next stop, and their ministry there is outlined for us in Acts 17:1-9. Conflict arises there, and so the time comes once more for them to depart, as we read in Acts 17:10.

10. Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.

Berea is the next major city west in Macedonia, and so their next major work takes place there, and is outlined for us in Acts 17:10-14. Conflict again arises, stirred up by their enemies from Thessalonica, and so Paul leaves Macedonia at last, as we read in Acts 17:15.

15. So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.

Athens is in Achaia, not Macedonia, so Paul’s ministry to Macedonia ends here. Again, let us consider our pattern. Paul first ministered in person to Macedonia. Then, we would expect him to back up his ministry there with letters. We see that he did indeed do this, for we have the letters of I and II Thessalonians, and later the letter of Philippians, written to this region. We would also expect Paul to return back through this region, and we do read of him doing this, first in Acts 20:1-6 (wherein he returns here twice,) and then in I Timothy 1:3, where we learn that he returned here even after the Acts period. This concludes his work as we know it in Macedonia.

However, this does not end Paul’s second apostolic mission, for he continues it in Achaia (or Greece,) as we read when we continue the book of Acts. First is his ministry in Athens, as we read about it in Acts 17:15-34. Paul does some very unique things here while waiting for his companions to follow him and arrive there. He street preaches, the first time we read of him doing this, which results in his famous address in the Areopagus. Once he completes the work in Athens, he moves on, as we read in Acts 18:1.

1. After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth.

Athens was the capital of Greece during its golden age, but Corinth had become the most important city there during the days of the Roman Empire. Paul’s work in the city begins in the synagogue, and when he faces opposition there, he moves to the house of one named Justus, which was right next door to the synagogue. After more than a year and a half, persecution arises, but is quickly staunched by Gallio, the new proconsul of Achaia. This allows Paul to stay here as long as he likes, but at last his work is completed, as we read in Acts 18:18.

18. So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.

He is journeying back towards Jerusalem, but stops off in Ephesus, which will be his next major place of ministry, for a brief preliminary visit, as we read in Acts 18:19-21.

19. And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20. When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, 21. but took leave of them, saying, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” And he sailed from Ephesus.

His second apostolic journey ends with his intended visit to Jerusalem, followed by his second return to his home base of Antioch, as we read in Acts 18:22.

22. And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch.

So back where he started once again, Paul has completed his second apostolic journey. Backing up his ministry in Achaia during this second journey, the letters he writes are the books of I and II Corinthians. I Corinthians was written from Ephesus during his long stay there on his third apostolic journey. After Ephesus, he returned to Macedonia, from which he wrote II Corinthians in preparation for his upcoming return there. His return to this rejoin is found in Acts 20:2-3, wherein he revisits Achaia. This summarizes his ministry to Macedonia and Achaia, and the second part of Paul’s Ministry.

This time, there is no long pause between Paul’s second and third apostolic journeys, although we do read that he spent some time in Antioch. However, when this was completed, he started off again on the third portion of his ministry, first visiting Galatia and Phrygia, the regions he ministered to on his first apostolic journey, as we read in Acts 18:23.

23. After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.

A brief aside from Paul’s ministry takes place in Acts 18:24-28, wherein we learn of Apollos’ arrival at Ephesus, and how he was straightened out regarding the truth before himself journeying to Achaia to aid the believers there. Immediately then in Acts 19:1, we return to our main topic of Paul’s ministry and learn of Paul’s return to Ephesus.

1. And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples

Paul straightens out these disciples in verses 2-7, and then begins his second and lengthy ministry to Ephesus in verses 8-10.

8. And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. 9. But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10. And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

This is the longest period we read of Paul spending in a single city, but this is partially explained by the fact that Paul was not just ministering to the Ephesians, but also to all the Jews and Greeks of Asia, who felt compelled to come to hear him in Ephesus. We must note, however, that this is not the giant continent of Asia that is on our maps, but a little Roman province in Asia minor, of similar size to Macedonia or Achaia. Yet he has a significant work here, and it lasts for a long period of time. Trouble arises with the idolaters in Ephesus, as we read of in the remainder of Acts 19.

Now starting in Acts 20, Paul begins to revisit the places he visited on his second apostolic journey. First we read of his departure from Ephesus in Acts 20:1.

1. After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia.

He stays there for a while, then returns to Achaia, as we read in Acts 20:2-3.

2. Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece 3. and stayed three months. And when the Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia.

So again he passes through Macedonia, this time journeying rather than visiting, and arrives finally back at Philippi, as we read in Acts 20:6.

6. But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

He had only passed through Troas previously, apparently because the word had already been proclaimed there during the Great Scattering period and there were already believers present. A record of one of the events of his week-long stay is recorded in Acts 20:7-12. Then, his journey continues until he comes to Miletus, where he decides to meet with the elders from Ephesus, as we read in Acts 20:16-17.

16. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost.
17. From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.

His meeting with the Ephesian elders takes up the remainder of chapter 20. Most significant of this portion is his proclamation to them in verse 25, telling them that they will not see him again in the flesh.

25. “And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more.”

This causes them great sorrow when they part from him, as we read in Acts 20:37-38.

37. Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, 38. sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.

Paul and his companions then continue on their journey, sailing past Cyprus, the first place Paul ministered. They have a significant stay in Tyre, as we read in Acts 21:3-4.

3. When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo. 4. And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.

They sail from Tyre, stay one day in Ptolemais, and then arrive in Caesarea in the land of Israel, as we read in Acts 21:8.

8. On the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him.

After a somewhat eventful stay in Caesarea, Paul’s third apostolic mission is completed upon his arrival at Jerusalem, as we read in Acts 21:15.

15. And after those days we packed and went up to Jerusalem.

This is not a return to Antioch, his home base, but it does mark the end of this third apostolic journey, for at this point the fourth section of Acts, Paul’s Imprisonment and Trials, begins, as we move through the final stage of our journey to the momentous occasion that led to Paul’s proclamation in Acts 28:28.

So Paul’s third journey comes to an end. The major new region he ministered to during this period was Asia. Backing up his ministry in this third journey, the letters he writes to this region are the books of Ephesians and Colossians. Ephesians may or may not have actually been written to the city of Ephesus, but it may also have been written to the Laodiceans, and be the book to them mentioned in Colossians. Either way, it would be a book to this region. Not only so, but the personal book of Philemon was written to a man living in Asia. I and II Timothy were written to that most loyal of Paul’s helpers while he was ministering in Ephesus as well. As we have already seen, Paul never returned to Asia, as he told them they would not see his face again in Acts 20:25. However, he did see the elders again, as we have already discussed regarding Acts 20:13-38. This summarizes his ministry to Asia, and the third part of Paul’s Ministry.

We could compare the pattern Paul followed during this part of his ministry with his ministry to Rome, one of the major places he visited during his Imprisonment and Trials period. In this case, he wrote a letter to Rome first, probably from Achaia in Acts 20:2-3, and then arrived and ministered to them, as we read in Acts 28:16-31. This is similar to the pattern we have seen during his ministry, only in reverse. First comes the letter, then that is backed up by Paul’s personal visit. This may easily be explained by the fact that the gospel had already been proclaimed in Rome by others, so Paul’s letter in this case was backing up their ministry before him. But we will discuss this portion of his work when we consider the fourth and final section of Acts.

So we have seen that Paul’s ministry carried the gospel to the places remaining where it had not yet been proclaimed, until all the Israelites around the world had heard. Paul was the one carrying the word during this portion, along with the helpers God assigned to him. It covered Cyprus, Galatia, and Phrygia; Macedonia and Achaia; and Asia in the three stages of his ministry. It followed the general pattern of first a visit, then letters backing up that visit, then at least one return visit, if not more. The exception was Asia, where Timothy made a return visit, but Paul did not accompany him. Yet even then, Paul met with the elders to back up his work with them. So this was Paul’s ministry, and the third way the gospel was spread in Acts.

Important to this is the fact that only Paul and his companions are seen to be spreading the Word during this portion. In our day, anyone who hears the gospel and believes it can take it up and proclaim it to others. Yet not so during the Acts period. Only those God commissioned to do so could carry the Word, and they could only carry it to those God gave them permission to carry it to. In the first period of Acts, the Great Unity, it was the twelve who spread the Word. In the second period, the Great Scattering, it was those who had been trained by the twelve and who had been part of the Great Unity who spread the Word. Now, in this third section, it is only one man and his companions who were charged with spreading it, the man Paul. God was not working to spread the Word like we might have done it, but was doing His work as He saw fit.

Another important fact to note about Paul’s ministry is the fact that he only carried the Word to places that had not yet heard it. The gospel had not yet been proclaimed in the places he went to, though it had been proclaimed to many other places around the world during the Great Scattering period. Yet Paul only went to places that had not yet heard the gospel, as he explains in Romans 15:20.

20. Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation:

Though we too proclaim the gospel, and our gospel too concerns Jesus Christ, we do not do it as those specifically sent by the Spirit, as Paul was. This is because today the Word Itself is apostled to the nations, as Acts 28:28 declares. Thus any one of us can carry the Word to anyone who might care to hear it and believe it. Moreover, we do not have to worry about whether or not they have heard it before. Men can hear the gospel again and again, and as long as they still live and can hear, it is not too late for them to believe it. Let us use this great privilege we have, then, and spread the truth. Praise God that we have God’s Word to proclaim to a lost and dying world! Let us ever take advantage of the honor God has placed upon us.

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