After Paul and Barnabas go their separate ways, Paul and Silas travel overland through Asia Minor visiting the churches planted during the first missionary journey. In Derbe they add the young disciple Timothy to their traveling group. Timothy was most likely a convert during Paul’s first visit, since that time he has grown in his faith, prophecies were spoken about him and he received a spiritual gift that brought him to the attention of Silas and Paul. Paul required Timothy to be circumcised in order to accompany them, he was ethnically Jewish but had a Greek father so therefore had never been circumcised. Timothy was circumcised for outreach purposes, not for ‘salvation issues’ as discussed in Galatians. His circumcision would allow him to minister to both Greeks in the marketplace and Jews in the synagogues.
As the trio traveled through Galatia, they intended to go west towards Ephesus, but the Holy Spirit stopped them, after that they attempted to go north but they were stopped going that direction as well. So instead they traveled northwest to the port city of Troas. We don’t know what circumstances, travel conditions or prophecy prevented the group from travel where they wanted to go; what we do know is that God planned for the gospel to go to those places at a later time.
In Troas, Paul has a vision where he sees a Macedonian man standing on shore across the sea begging him to “Come over to Macedonia and help us”. Then Paul and company leave for Macedonia and Greece to preach the Gospel, Luke joins the group at this point.
Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke travel along the Roman road, the Via Egnatian, their first stop is Philippi. This is a Roman colony, a mini-Rome with the same rules and regulations for Roman citizens. On the Sabbath the travelers go to the river to look for the Jewish place of prayer. Instead of the ten men needed to form a synagogue, they found many God-fearing women receptive to the Gospel. The leading woman was Lydia, a Roman dealer in royal purple cloth; after she and the members of her household were baptized, she invites the travelers to stay in her home.
Paul and Silas continue to go to the place of prayer to preach the gospel, they were continually harassed by a demon possessed slave girl who followed them around saying, “these men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved”. This distraction continued for many days until Paul lost his patience, turned to the girl and removed the demon in the name of Jesus Christ. Immediately she lost her ability to tell fortunes and was no longer of any value to her owners. The slave owners seized Paul and Silas and brought them before the local authorities. Because they were Jews, they were accused of advocating practices unlawful for Romans, the authorities had them stripped, beaten and imprisoned without a proper trial.
That night in the jail, Paul and Silas are singing and praying with the other prisoners listening to them. At midnight there was a great earthquake, the foundations of the jail are moved, the doors fly open and the prisoners’ chains fall off. The Roman jailer thinking that all the prisoners had escaped prepares to kill himself, but Paul calls out to him to stop saying we are all here! His grateful response is to fall at their feet and ask, “What must I do to be saved?” Remember what the slave girl was saying, “they are telling you the way to be saved”; through singing, prayers and earthquake God’s way is revealed.
Meanwhile the magistrates meet and attempt to send Paul and Silas out of town but Paul protests that they had been beaten and imprisoned in public without a trial which was a violation of their rights as Roman citizens. He demands that the magistrates must publically apologize and escort them out of prison to show that the magistrates were in the wrong. Paul and Silas were not seeking a public display to sooth their injured pride, but rather a declaration of innocence to protect the new church in Philippi.
After meeting with the church, the travelers leave for Thessalonica, which is a Greek city about 90 miles away. Thessalonica has “favored” city status, which would make them very sensitive to losing that position by any perceived conflict with Rome. Paul preached in the Jewish synagogue for three Sabbaths, but as they gaining converts the Jews again become jealous of their success and instigate a riot, they enter Jason’s house looking for Paul and Silas. Not finding them they take Jason and some other brothers before the city officials accusing them of defying Caesar’s decrees. The officials require Jason to post a bond, which meant that if another riot happened they could confiscate his property and even put him to death. After dark, the brothers sneak Paul and Silas out of the city to avoid any more riots and trouble.
The group leaves Timothy behind with the new church in Thessalonica and travel 50 miles to Berea. Berea is a small mountain town, with many open-minded Jews, who eagerly accepted the gospel and examined the Scripture for confirmation of Jesus as the Messiah. But again the Jews came to incite riots against the brothers, so Paul is quickly taken out of town and across the water to Athens. It is interesting to note that even though the Bereans were very responsive to the gospel, God moves Paul on to Athens, to a resistant people.
Paul is alone in Athens, every day he goes to the marketplace and the synagogue to preach. He is greatly disturbed by the amount of idols in Athens; his troubled spirit leads him to begin conversing with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in the marketplace. Athens was the center of Greek culture, pagan worship, philosophy and democracy; it was much smaller in size than Thessalonica or Corinth. Epicureans were atheists, their highest ideal was the pursuit of pleasure and happiness, pain and suffering was to be avoided always. In contrast the Stoics were pantheists, worshipping countless gods and believing they should be “free” from all passions. They were subject to the whims of the gods, who demanded they denied themselves pleasures and happiness. However what the Athenians loved more than anything was a good debate, “they spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas”.
The leading philosophers of Athens bring Paul to a meeting of the Areopagus, he was not there to stand trial; he is there to deliver his “new” teachings for their deliberation. Paul approaches with a respectful attitude, he notes that they are “very religious”; they even have an altar “to an unknown god”. The Greeks believed that the gods constantly interfered in the lives of men, therefore they were afraid of offending even a minor god or they might be subject to their anger. Paul proceeds to introduce the Greeks to what they call “the unknown god”, He is the Lord of Heaven and Earth, who made the world and everything in it. Paul points out that the LORD does not live in temples, and is not served by human hands, because He made everything, He gives life and breath to everyone. Paul continues by quoting two Greek poets, who seem to confirm his point. Then he states that we should not think that the LORD is an image made by human skill or imagination. He finishes strong saying that there is coming day when the Lord of Heaven and Earth will judge the world, by a man (Jesus) who he designated having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.
For the Athenians, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was a concept they wouldn’t accept; Luke records just a small number of new believers. Yet this great speech on Mars Hill, give us a clear example of preaching the gospel clearly even in a culturally different setting, the foundation of the gospel message rests firmly in the certainty of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
From Athens Paul travels to Corinth, Corinth is a large Roman colony known for their slave market, sexual immorality and self-promotion. Paul arrives in a discouraged mood; he meets Priscilla and Aquila, who are Jews, recently expelled from Rome and is soon joined by Timothy and Silas. The brothers bring news and a monetary gift which allows Paul to spend each day preaching in the synagogue. Once again the Jews oppose Paul; but this time God reveals to Paul that they would not be harmed so Paul stayed in Corinth for 18 months. Paul’s opponents eventually drag a new Jewish believer before the proconsul Gallio, accusing them of advocating an illegal religion under Roman law. Before Paul can mount his defense, the Roman governor delivers his ruling, “settle this among yourselves”, Rome will not intervene. The rabble that the Jews stirred up then turn on Sosthenes, the synagogue ruler, and beat him in front of Gallio, who does not defend of stop the abuse, emphasizing the hands off policy of Rome!
After staying in Corinth for a year and a half, Paul begins his return to Antioch; Priscilla and Aquila travel with him, they remain in Ephesus and Paul continues to Jerusalem then home to Antioch.