The 3 Missionary Journeys of the Apostle Paul

New Testament records the apostle Paul taking three missionary journeys that spread the gospel to Asia Minor and Europe. Paul, formally known as a leading Jew named Saul, was a well educated man living in Jerusalem. Just after Christ’s death and resurrection, he did his best to destroy the Christian church, even participating in the execution of the first Christian martyr, Stephen (Acts 7:55–8:4). On his way to Damascus to find and imprison more Christians, Paul met the Lord, repenting and turning in faith to Jesus Christ. After this experience, he attempted to persuade Jews and Gentiles about his life changing conversion. Many doubted and shunned him, but Christians such as Barnabas, accepted and spoke up for him leading Paul and Barnabas to become missionary partners. On three separate missionary journeys, lasting several years in length, Paul preached the good news of Jesus along trade route towns and in many coastal cities.

Pauls Missionary Journey 1

Following God’s call to share the gospel, Paul and Barnabas left the church at Antioch in Syria. Their original plan of evangelism was to preach in the town synagogues but when many of the Jews rejected the teachings of Christ, the missionaries recognized God was calling them to witness to the Gentiles. Because of Paul’s bold testimony of Jesus, the once persecutor known as Saul, became the persecuted. Those who rejected his message of salvation through Jesus tried to stop and hurt him to the degree that even one city he visited, he was stoned and left to die. However, God chose to spare him and though he endured trials, beatings and imprisonments, he continued preaching the gospel of Christ. Paul’s ministry to Gentiles brought controversy over who could be saved and how to receive salvation. Between his first and second missionary journeys, he participated in a conference in Jerusalem discussing the way of salvation through Christ which eventually led to the consensus that the Gentiles could receive Jesus without submitting to Jewish traditions.

Pauls Missionary Journey 2

After having spent some more time in Antioch building up the church, Paul was ready to take his second missionary journey. Asking Barnabas to join him to revisit the churches of their first missionary journey, a disagreement followed and caused them to split. God turned this dispute towards a positive, creating the opportunity for two missionary teams; one being Barnabas and John Mark who traveled to Cyprus and the other, Paul and Silas who traveled to Asia Minor. God providentially redirected Paul and Silas to Greece, bringing the gospel to Europe. In Philippi, the missionary team was beaten and imprisoned but rejoicing to suffer for Christ, they sang songs to the Lord in their captivity where God caused an earthquake to open the doors of the cell and free them from their chains. The  jailer who was there to oversee Paul and Silas was amazed at what he had seen and soon he and his family believed in Christ.

Mars Hill Athens

The government officials however, just wanted Paul and Silas to leave. So they traveled on to Athens where Paul preached to an inquisitive audience on Mars Hill; one of the most important gospel presentations he made during this second missionary journey. (Acts 17:16-34) Paul started his message by addressing the false beliefs of those gathered there that day and then used those beliefs as a way of presenting the gospel message to them. He proclaimed the only true God whom they could know and worship without man made idols. Has had happened before, some sneered and some believed.  Paul taught those who believed in Christ and established them in churches. During this second missionary journey, Paul made many disciples from all backgrounds including a young man named Timothy, a businesswoman named Lydia, and the married couple Aquila and Priscilla.

Missionary Journey 3

During Paul’s third missionary journey (Acts 18:23-20:38) he continued to preach fervently and God confirmed his message through miracles. Acts 20:7-12 tells us of Paul at Troas where a young man who was sitting in an upstairs window sill, went to sleep and fell out the window. Everyone believed him to be dead but Paul revived him and the testimony of a miracle is written. Through Pauls witnessing, new believers turned from their old occult ways like those in Ephesus. Many of course were still not happy with how people were turning to God through this Christ that Paul preached about. One silversmith name Demetrius even started a riot, giving praise to their goddess Diana in rebellion of what he was witnessing amongst new believers, but the persecution and opposition ultimately only strengthened true Christians and the gospel continued to be spread.

At the end of Paul’s third missionary journey, he knew he would soon be imprisoned and probably killed. His final words to the church at Ephesus display his devotion to Christ: “You know how I always lived among you from the first day that I came to Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with many tears and trials which befell me through the plots of the Jews. I did not keep from declaring what was beneficial to you, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will befall me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment  and afflictions await me. But none of these things deter me. Nor do I count my life of value to myself, so that I may joyfully finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:18-24). 

The purpose of all of Paul’s missionary journeys was to proclaim God’s grace through the  forgiveness of sin by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God used Paul’s ministry to bring the gospel to the Gentiles and establish the church. His letters to the churches, recorded in the New Testament, still support church life and doctrine. Although Paul’s missionary journeys were riddled with suffering and caused him to sacrifice everything, they were worth the cost. (Philippians 3:7-11).  Imagine being with Paul and Silas during their travels. You can experience the footsteps of Paul on a guided Christian Heritage Tour and take into account the days of the New Testament and imagine the journey of the Apostle Paul as he would have experienced.