What is Paul? A Chronology | Part 3

This is the third post in a series on the Apostle Paul’s life and ministry. Read the first here and the second here.

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey

Paul and Barnabas Part Ways

Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement about John Mark’s viability to join their mission (Acts 15:37-39). At this point they parted company, Barnabas sailed to Cyprus and Paul, accompanied by Silas, travelled through Syria to the region of Cilicia (Acts 15:40-41). Paul travelled to Derbe and Lystra, where Timothy joined him (Acts 16:1). As they travelled through these towns they delivered the decision of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 16:4).

Paul Bypasses the Rest of Asia

They travelled through the regions of Phrygia and Galatia, but bypassed all of Asia on their way to Troas (Acts 16:6-8). There Paul had a vision whereupon he concluded that they should take the gospel to Macedonia (Acts 16:10).

Mission in Macedonia

In Troas, Luke joined them and they sailed to Samothrace, then to Neapolis and from there to Philippi, where they stayed several days (Acts 16:11-12). After an eventful time in Philippi, which included imprisonment, Paul and Silas came to Thessalonica having passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia (Acts 17:1) (this also implies that Luke stayed behind in Philippi). For at least three weeks, Paul, following his normal custom, reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue from the scriptures (Acts 17:2). Having their lives threatened, they travelled to Berea by night (Acts 17:10). The Jews who had threatened them in Thessalonica had come to Berea and Paul was sent away to the coast, though Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea (Acts 17:13-14).

Mission in Greece

Those who assisted Paul to flea Berea brought him all the way to Athens (Acts 17:15). From Athens, where he delivered the Areopagus Address (Acts 17:22-32), he travelled to Corinth (Acts 18:1). Silas and Timothy rejoined Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:5, 1 Thess 3:6) after he had waited for them in Athens having sent instructions to them in Berea to join him (Acts 17:15-16). From Athens Paul also sent instructions to Timothy to strengthen the faith of those in Thessalonica (1 Thess 3:2-5). Paul stayed in Corinth for about 18 months (Acts 18:11) teaching the word of God to a community of many converts (Acts 18:8). Paul’s language in his first letter to the Thessalonians that Timothy “had come to us from you” indicates that he wrote this letter during his time in Corinth.

Paul’s Return to Antioch

From Corinth, Paul made the return journey to Antioch in Syria, Priscilla and Aquila now accompanying him after becoming acquainted with them in Corinth (Acts 18:2, 18). This implies that Timothy and Silas were left behind in Corinth. On the journey back to Antioch he had his head shaved because of a vow in Cenchreae (Acts 18:18). In Ephesus he left Priscilla and Aquila behind (Acts 18:19) and set sail for Caesarea (Acts 18:21-22). From Caesarea he travelled to Jerusalem to greet the church there (Acts 18:22). From Jerusalem he made his way back to Antioch (Acts 18:22).

Paul’s Third Missionary Journey

Strengthening the Churches in Asia Minor

Paul started his third missionary journey by travelling through the regions of Galatia and Phrygia, and strengthening those churches (Acts 18:23). When Paul came to Ephesus he found some disciples who were yet to be baptized having only received John’s baptism (Acts 19:2-4). He baptized them in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:5).

Mission in Ephesus

Paul proclaimed the gospel in the synagogue in Ephesus for a period of three months (Acts 19:8). Paul subsequently withdrew his disciples and started teaching them in the hall of Tyrannus for the next two years (Acts 19:9-10).

Collection for the Jerusalem Church

While ministering in Ephesus, Paul sent Timothy and Erastus ahead to Macedonia (Acts 19:22). Luke’s narrative is silent as to a reason for sending these men ahead, but in part they were sent to collect or to prepare the love gift the churches in Macedonia and Achaia had promised to send the church in Jerusalem (1 Cor 16:1-4, 2 Cor 9:1-5, Rom 15:23-28). The mention of the gift collection in the letter to the Romans also points to the fact that this letter was written during this missionary journey of Paul.

Paul Leaves Ephesus

After a riot in Ephesus about the impact of the gospel (the Way – Acts 19:23) on the cult of Artemis (Acts 19:27-28), Paul departed for Macedonia as well (Acts 20:1). In total, Paul spent three years in Ephesus (Acts 20:31).

Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church is the letter we know as 1 Corinthians.

The Corinthian Crisis

During the years spent in Ephesus, Paul had to deal with a crisis in the Corinthian church and wrote four letters to them. In the first letter to the Corinthians contained in the canon, we read that Paul had sent them an earlier letter with instructions not to associate with sexually immoral people who claim to be believers (1 Cor 5:9, 11). Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church is the letter we know as 1 Corinthians. In this letter Paul addresses a whole host of issues including a response to the Corinthians regarding a form of unwarranted asceticism for married men and women (1 Cor 7:1). In the second letter to the Corinthians contained in the canon, we read of Paul elaborating on the purpose for which he sent one of his previous letters to the Corinthian church. He mentions that it was painful or sorrowful to instruct them (2 Cor 2:3-4) and that he wrote to test them (2 Cor 2:9). The context of this elaboration shows that restoration of a brother is in view (2 Cor 2:6-8, 10). This material is not covered in 1 Corinthians and therefore points to a third letter sent to the Corinthians. Paul’s fourth letter to the Corinthians (what we know as 2 Corinthians), was written after he was encouraged by Titus to hear that the Corinthians responded appropriately to his sorrowful third letter (2 Cor 7:5-8). Part of the reason then why Paul wrote a fourth letter was to express his joy in their repentance (2 Cor 7:9). Paul indicates in 2 Corinthians that he will be visiting the church for a third time (2 Cor 12:14, 13:1). This seems to indicate that during his time in Ephesus he made a visit to Corinth not noted in Luke’s chronology of events. Given that Paul’s description of his travel plans in 1 Corinthians 16:5-8 matches the events in Acts 20:1-3, it is likely that he made his second visit to Corinth before writing 1 Corinthians. A likely reason for this second visit would be to deal with a church discipline issues.

Strengthening the Macedonian and Corinthian Churches

After departing from Ephesus, Paul passed through Macedonia offering encouragement to the churches and travelled to Greece, where he stayed for three months (Acts 20:2-3) in Corinth (his third visit). After discovering a plot against him by the Jews, Paul decided to travel back through Macedonia, rather than setting sail for Syria (Acts 20:3).

Paul and Luke in Philippi

Paul had a large company of men travelling with him; Sopater from Berea; Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica; Gaius from Derbe; Timothy, Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia (Acts 20:4); and Luke (‘us’ – Acts 20:5) joining Paul in Philippi. Paul and Luke stayed in Philippi for the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Acts 20:6) while the other men went ahead of them to Troas (Acts 20:5). After the feast Paul and Luke sailed to Troas in five days (Acts 20:6). In Troas they met up with rest of the companions and stayed there for seven days (Acts 20:6).

Paul Journeys to Jerusalem and Warns the Ephesian Elders

On the second day of the week (Acts 20:7), Paul’s companions set sail for Assos (Acts 20:13) after he had raised Eutychus from the dead the previous day (Acts 20:9-10). Paul travelled to Assos by land (Acts 20:13). In Assos Paul joined his companions as they sailed to Mitylene (Acts 20:14). From Mitylene they sailed a day to Chios, the next day to Samos and the day after to Miletus (Acts 20:15). They took this route to attempt to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost, thus bypassing Asia (Acts 20:16). In Miletus Paul addressed the Ephesian Elders to warn them (Acts 20:17-31), thereafter they set sail for Cos, the day after for Rhodes and from there to Patara (Acts 21:1). They sailed to Tyre in Syria and stayed with disciples there for seven days (Acts 21:3-4). They continued their voyage to Ptolemais and from there to Caesarea (Acts 21:7-8).

Paul Arrives in Jerusalem

From Caesarea they travelled to Jerusalem accompanied by some of the disciples from Caesarea (Acts 21:16). In Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church (Acts 21:17), but were expecting, based on prophecy, to face serious opposition from the Jews (Acts 21:10-12).


  1. Praise God for the testimony of Paul’s life. This is very informative, thanks very much. Hopefully there will be more to follow?

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