In his missionary work, Paul traveled extensively beyond Judea in order to spread the gospel. He used Antioch as his home base and it was a major Christian center even before Paul began his ministry (Niswonger, 1992). Paul’s journeys covered a great deal of territory and took years to complete. His first missionary trip lasted from 46 to 48 A.D. The second trip was from 49 to 52 A.D. And the third trip lasted from 53 to 57 A.D. One reason the trips took so long is because Paul often stayed for extended periods of time in different locations.
On the first missionary trip, Paul traveled to Salamis with Barnabas and John. In Salamis, they preached the word of God in Jewish synagogues. From there, they traveled to Paphos where they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet. Paul attempted to minister to the sorcerer but was opposed. When the sorcerer was struck blind, the proconsul who the sorcerer worked for, became a believer (Acts 13:6-12).
Their next stop was Perga in Pamphylia where John left them to travel to Jerusalem. At the Pisidian Antioch, Paul went to the Jewish synagogues on Sabbath and was asked to speak. Many people began to follow Paul and the next week even more people arrived to hear him. The Jews began to get jealous and challenge Paul. Paul said that God had first turned to the Jews but was rejected, so now the Gentiles were being included. The Jews had Paul kicked out of the city.
In Iconium, Paul again preached at the synagogues and was attracting large numbers of both Jews and Gentiles. He was able to do many miraculous signs and wonders, but the city became divided by those who believed and those who did not. The Jews came up with a plan to stone Paul, but he found out about the plan ahead of time and left.
Paul’s next stop was Lystra. There he preached and healed a cripple (Acts 14:8-11). The priest of Zeus was impressed and wanted to offer a sacrifice in honor of him. Paul began to chastise them for this behavior. At this point, some Jews from Antioch and Iconium came over to Lystra to cause trouble. Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city.
In Derbe, Paul continued his ministry and drew large numbers of disciples. Following that stop, he returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch to win more disciples and appoint elders. From Pisidia, he went to Pamphylia to preach in Perga and then traveled to Attalia and finally back to his home base in Antioch.
Silas accompanied Paul during his second missionary expedition. They were to return to Syria and Cilicia to strengthen the churches there. They set out from Derbe and went to Lystra where they met Timothy. Timothy wanted to join them, so Paul circumcised him because of the Jews they would meet. Then they delivered the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. They traveled through the regions of Phrygia and Galatia and at the border of Mysia attempted to enter Bithynia. The spirit of Jesus would not let them enter there so they went on to Troas. It was in Troas that Paul had a vision of a man in Macedonia and said that they must go there (Acts 16:9-10).
Paul went from the islands of Samothrace to Neapolis and on to Philippi where he stayed several days. One of those days, Paul went down to the river to pray. He spoke to some women there, met a woman named Lydia and baptized her. He also met a slave girl who could predict the future. She was able to make money for her masters by fortune-telling. When Paul cast out the spirit that allowed her tell the future, her owners became furious because they could no longer exploit the girl for monetary gain. They had Paul and Silas taken to the authorities. There, they were accused of throwing the city into an uproar and advocating customs that were unlawful for Romans. The crowd that gathered became very agitated. Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten, and thrown in jail. That night there was an earthquake that caused the jail doors to open and the chains to fall off. The jailer was terrified and went to Paul asking to be saved. He washed their wounds and then was baptized. Paul was released and the authorities wanted him to just leave town, but Paul did not want to just slink away quietly (Acts 16:16-40).
From Philippi, Paul and Silas passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia to reach Thessalonica. They preached at the Jewish synagogues and gathered large numbers of followers including Greeks and some prominent women. Again a mob rose up and Paul had to leave. The man, Jason, whom Paul and Silas had been staying with was arrested, but posted bond and was let go (Acts 17:1-9).
Paul and Silas went on to Berea and had better luck there than in Thessalonica (Acts 17:10-15). However, part of the angry mob from Thessalonica came over to incite the crowds and Paul had to leave again. He went down the coast to Athens. In Athens, he found a city full of idols. He argued with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers and was taken to the Areopagus. He told them how God made the world, and about repentance and judgment. When he left the council, a few people believed him and followed to hear more.
When Paul arrived in Corinth, he stayed and worked with the tentmakers Aquila and Priscilla. Every Sabbath he went to the synagogue to preach with Silas and Timothy. Eventually, the Jews became abusive toward him. Paul got mad and declared that he was no longer going to preach to them and he would preach only to the Gentiles. God came to Paul and told him that he needed to keep preaching to everyone. Paul was arrested near the end of his eighteen month stay in Corinth (Niswonger, 1992). He was brought into the court and accused of persuading people to worship in ways that were contrary to the law. Gallio, in an interesting turn of events, said that the law they were referring to was the Jewish law and they needed to settle the issue themselves (Acts 18:14-17. So, Paul was allowed to leave.
Paul traveled on to Syria with Aquila and Priscilla and went on to Ephesus and Caesarea where he continued to preach in the synagogues. At the end of his journey he traveled to Jerusalem and back to Antioch.
After some time in Antioch, Paul set out on his third missionary journey. He wanted to travel to Galatia and Phrygia to strengthen his disciples. In Ephesus, he found more disciples and followers. For three months he spoke at the synagogues but soon found the others there obstinate. He decided to hold daily discussions in a lecture hall instead of the synagogue. He stayed in Ephesus for two years before deciding to go to Jerusalem by way of Macedonia and Achaia.
Paul stayed for three months in Greece and was accompanied by Sopater, Aristarchus, Gaius, Timothy, and Tychicus, and Trophimus. During his stay, Jews put together a plot to kill Paul. He found out about it just as he was about to leave for Syria, so he decided to go back through Macedonia instead. In Troas, Paul was speaking to the people when a man died and Paul brought him back to life (Acts 20:7-12).
Paul met up with his companions in Assos, and they went from there to Mitylene, to Kois to Samos, to Miletus. In Miletus, Paul sent for the elders from Ephesus to give them instructions. He basically used this opportunity to say good-bye to them and say that he would not be able to see them again. The rest of journey included stops in Cos, Rhodes and Patara. From Pheonicia, he traveled to Tyre where he stayed for seven days and Ptolemais where he stayed for just one day. When Paul reached Caesarea, he stayed with Phillip. After several days there, a prophet foretold of Paul being arrested in Jerusalem. People begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem, but he felt it was God’s will (Acts 21:14).
Niswonger, R. 1992. New Testament History. Zondervan: Grand Rapids.
NIV Study Bible. 1985. Zondervan: Grand Rapids.