The Apostle Paul was one of the first missionaries. He traveled in the first century, beginning not long after Christ’s death and resurrection. Before his conversion, Paul (then known as Saul) lived in Tarsus. He grew up there and became a tentmaker. Though his father was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin and also a Pharisee, Paul was born a Roman citizen.
He began as an opponent to the cause of Christ, persecuting the church and believed he was doing right by arresting and killing Christians. It was not until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus that he realized the horrors he was perpetrating and changed his ways. However, when he changed, he changed completely. His goal became to serve Christ with his whole life.
Because of his background, Paul was one of the best available to take the message of Christ to both the Gentiles and the Jewish world. He had the knowledge of the Pharisees ways, having been one, and he had grown up following the Mosaic Law with his family. He also had personal knowledge of Jesus, even though he had not had the privilege of walking with Him the way the disciples had.
His conversion on the way to Damascus was followed by three days of blindness while he waited for Ananias to tell him more about Jesus. His reputation had preceded him to Damascus, and while he spent three years there, eventually the people attempted to stop him.He was able to escape the city by being let down in a basket outside the city.
After leaving Damascus, he began to travel to tell people about Jesus and give them the message of salvation. He stayed around Cilicia and Syria for a while. Eventually, the Holy Spirit made known to Paul that it was time to take the gospel to a new location.
First Missionary Journey – Paul and Barnabas
About ten years after Paul’s conversion, he and Barnabas set out to take the message of Jesus from Antioch (which is in Syria) to other parts of Asia, joined by John Mark, who was Barnabas’ cousin. They were expecting to speak in synagogues, but this plan was scrapped when the Jews of many synagogues completely rejected the gospel they preached. He began preaching more to Gentiles, who were more receptive.
The locations Paul and Barnabas visited during this journey included Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Seleucia, Salamis, Paphos, Perga, and Attalia.
The Jews who rejected the message of Christ were often violent toward Paul, and sometimes attacked him. In one city, he was stoned and left for dead, but God was not finished with him yet. The men returned to Jerusalem after this journey to discuss with other Christians the fact that Gentiles were also able to receive salvation and were not required to follow Mosaic Law to do so.
Second Missionary Journey – Paul and Silas
During preparations for the journey, Barnabas wanted to bring John Mark again, but Paul was against the idea. They had a heated argument and ended by separating. Barnabas took John Mark with him, while Paul chose Silas to go with him.
Paul and Silas went to Tarsus, Paul’s hometown, and from there they went to Derbe and Lystra. He met Timothy in Lystra and the two became fast friends. Timothy traveled with Paul and Silas to Galatia and Phrygia. At this point, Paul had a desire to travel farther west in Asia, but God told him not to. The group continued to Mysia, and Paul wanted to go on east toward Bithynia, but God again said no.
The three men went on to Troas, a port city on the Aegean Sea, instead. There they met Luke, who wrote the gospel of the same name and also the book of Acts. He joined them as they continued to travel and preach the gospel. There, Paul had a vision of a man in Macedonia asking for someone to come to them, and the men headed to Greece on a ship.
They landed at Neapolis and traveled to Philippi, where their preaching was heard by a woman named Lydia. She responded to the message of the gospel and her entire household was baptized on Pentecost. In this same location, Paul and Silas were being followed by a young girl who was demon possessed. They cast out the demon and her masters were very angry at the loss of their income from the girl’s predictions. They complained to the authorities, who arrested and beat Paul and Silas and threw them in prison.
Paul and Silas sang praises to God throughout the evening, and in the middle of the night, an earthquake sent my God caused the shackles of all to loosen and the doors to open up. In those days, if a jailor’s prisoners got loose, the jailor was beaten or killed. The jailor, sure that all the prisoners would escape because they could, was planning to commit suicide rather than suffer, but Paul stopped him. He explained that everyone was still there. The jailor was so thankful that he listened carefully to Paul’s message and his whole family followed Christ.
Leaving the area, Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke went on through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica. He preached there in the synagogues for three Sabbaths but some unbelievers rejected the gospel and began to riot. The missionaries had already left the area, however.
They preached in Berea, where they had willing listeners who checked the Scriptures to verify the veracity of the message. With this study, God was pleased. Many Bereans accepted the gospel message and followed Christ. While there, however, angry Jews followed them from Thessalonica and began to look for him, meaning to cause trouble.
Paul left for Athens immediately, while the rest stayed behind until Paul sent for them. Paul preached to the Athenians while he waited for the other men. The very intelligent men of Athens had difficulty reconciling the message with their understanding and Paul explained it at a location known as Mars Hill. He used their altar to “the unknown god” to explain the true God to them.
From there, the party continued on to Corinth, where Paul finds common ground with Aquila and Priscilla, who were also tent makers. He teaches in the synagogues for over a year.
Paul left Corinth to go to Cenchrea, followed by Ephesus. He leaves Ephesus and goes by way of Caesarea to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.
Third Missionary Journey – Paul
Paul stayed in Antioch for several months. He determined to revisit some of the churches from his previous journeys, beginning in Galatia, since he had written to them (the New Testament book of Galatians). From there, he continued to Phrygia, then went on to Ephesus. He stayed in Ephesus for three years, working with the church there. While he was there, he wrote two letters to the Corinthian church.
During his time in Ephesus, he taught about the Holy Spirit and found that 12 people who had been baptized had not yet received the Holy Spirit. After discussion and understanding, he baptized them and they received the Holy Spirit immediately.
Paul continued to preach in the synagogue for several months. Some unbelievers criticized the gospel message and spoke evil of it. The believers left the synagogue along with Paul.
This is also where seven brothers, whose father was a man named Sceva who was a priest and a Jew, went around pretending to be exorcists. When they saw Paul casting out demons, they wanted to do as he did, and tried it, with very poor results. Rather than the demons leaving, the brothers were attacked and found that using Jesus’ name without having Jesus’ power on them was not effective. Only God’s power can command evil spirits. This situation resulted in many who were following or attempting magic to repent and destroy their spellbooks and other magic tokens and supplies.
The people in Ephesus – especially the idol-making silversmith Demetrius – began to be upset with Paul and his company because they were losing business. People were leaving worship of the goddess Diana and turning to the true God. The people rioted and attempted to assault Paul and his friends, who wanted to speak to the mob but was prevented by some of the disciples. The riot was finally ended by a man who worked for the city who told the crowd that the evangelist was not going to destroy the worship of their great goddess Diana and berated them for being disorderly.
Paul left then and went on to Macedonia, visiting Corinth while there, and also writing to the Roman church.
He left there and went to Troas, where after a long day of preaching, one of the listeners dozed off in an upstairs window and fell to the ground below, where he died. However, Paul went to the man and when he embraced him, God restored him to life.
Paul was joined by Luke and some others who traveled to Troas from Phillipi. The others sailed on to Assos, but Paul chose to get there on foot. The entire group boarded a ship to Mitylene, then pause at Trogyllium and end at Miletus, where the Ephesian church elders met with him and were warned about apostasy.
From Miletus, Paul sailed around Cos and Rhodes, islands where he paused briefly in dock, and changed boats at Patara to go on to Tyre (which is in Phoenicia). He fellowshipped with the believers there for a week before sailing on to Ptolemais, and then to Caesaria. He visited there with Philip and was told by the prophet Agabus that he would be bound, illustrated by binding his hands and feet with his belt.
Paul was begged to stay away from Jerusalem, but he went anyway.
Fourth Missionary Journey
He arrived in Jerusalem in time to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. He visited James while there and also took some converts, who were Jews, to the temple. While there, Jews from Asia who hated Paul accused him of doing wrong, causing a riot. Paul was seized, dragged from the temple, and beaten. Someone alerted the Romans, and soldiers arrived. Their presence subdued the attackers, and the beatings stopped.
The soldiers bound Paul and began to lead him away, but Paul requested to speak to the crowd. The soldiers allowed this. His speech increased the resentment rather than ameliorating it, and the soldiers intended to scourge him; however, Paul stated he was a Roman citizen and the centurion carried this assertion to his commander, who verified his citizenship and stopped the scourging from happening.
Forty Jews who hated Paul make a pact that they would not ingest anything until Paul was dead. They got with the elders and chief priests to set up a plan to murder Paul, but were overheard by Paul’s nephew, who carried news of the plot to the Romans. Because of this, 200 Roman soldiers accompanied Paul, in the dead of night, to Caesarea to stand before Felix the governor, who kept him prisoner.
Though Paul was found innocent, Felix continued to keep him prisoner, hoping to get a bribe to release him. To increase that possibility, he allowed Paul to have visitors and he did not keep him bound. Two years later, Felix was replaced. The new governor, Festus, when he heard the accusations, asked about trying the case in Jerusalem. Because Paul was a citizen of Rome, he requested to be tried by Caesar.
King Agrippa came to Caesarea and heard Paul’s case and found no fault worthy of death or even imprisonment. He noted that Paul could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.
He and some other prisoners were loaded on a ship headed to Rome. They traveled around several islands, pausing at Crete. Paul warned the accompanying centurion, Julius, that they should not sail, as it was dangerous, but Julius chose to set sail anyway. A storm sends the ship farther out to sea and the skies, being overcast, made it difficult to determine location and the ship was lost and tossed for around two weeks, eventually running into rocks just off Malta. The people stayed on the ship, following Paul’s instructions from God, until given permission to leave. They floated on wreckage to the island, and everyone on board made it safely.
While on the island, Paul was building a fire and was bitten by a poisonous snake, which did him no harm because God protected him. God gave him the ability to heal, as well, and he healed many on the island before leaving on a ship to Syracuse and then on to Puteoli, where he spent a week with the area Christians before going on to Rome via the Appian Way. He was imprisoned in Rome for two years, though his imprisonment was only barely such, as he lived alone with a single soldier to guard him and was allowed to preach the gospel and to receive visitors.
After his acquittal, Paul returned to Crete to visit with Titus and then went to Nicopolis by boat, where he wrote to Timothy and Titus. He traveled on to Spain, where he preached for some time before once again returning to Rome as a prisoner, where he wrote the second letter to Timothy. After about a year in prison, Paul was beheaded.