Paul accomplished amazing things throughout his four missionary journeys. He spread the Gospel to those who had never heard before. He brought the good news to the Jews and the Gentiles despite the persecution he received. God worked in amazing ways throughout Pauls’s life. His accomplishments can encourages us today to take the gospel into the world.
What were Paul’s missionary journeys? Paul took four missionary journeys throughout his ministry. Paul’s first three missionary journeys are recorded in Acts, and the fourth is mentioned throughout Paul’s letters to various churches. The first missionary journey he went through Cyprus, Lycia, and Galatia. His second missionary journey took place through Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia. Paul’s third occurred in Galatia, Asia, Macedonia, Achaia, and ending up in Jerusalem. On his last missionary journey, he went through Crete, Asia, Macedonia, and Achaia.
By looking at Paul’s missionary journeys we can look and reflect on the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s command to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). We can also be encouraged in our own faith walk as we see what Paul had to endure to share the gospel, but the power the gospel has to change lives.
Here’s an outline of each missionary journey:
- Paul’s First Missionary Journey
- Paul’s Second Missionary Journey
- Paul’s Third Missionary Journey
- Paul’s Fourth Missionary Journey
Now let’s look at his first missionary journey.
Paul’s First Missionary Journey
Paul’s first missionary journey occurred around 46-47 A.D. You can read about it in Acts 13-14. While in Antioch Paul and Barnabas were set apart by the Holy Spirit and sent on their journey by the Church.
Paul and Barnabas in Cyrus
After Paul and Barnabas were blessed and sent out by the Church, they headed to Cyprus where they proclaimed the word of God.
They started in Salamis and were proclaiming the word of God in the synagogues. They also had John Mark with them as they continued to preach the good news across the island until they got to Paphos.
Some of the first of many oppositions they faced was from a magician who was a Jewish false prophet. Paul performed a supernatural act that caused this false prophet to be blind, and because of this, the proconsul of the area believed.
Lycia and Galatia
From the island of Cyrus Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark all sailed to Perga in Lycia. John Mark departed from there and went to Jerusalem, while Paul and Barnabas went to Antioch in Pisidia.
Paul again went to the synagogue and while he was there preached about the good news of Jesus. The result of this meeting was many Jews turning to Christ. They were encouraged to come back the following Sabbath to preach.
Unfortunately, the following week when the Jews saw the Gentiles showing up some Jews became jealous and started to contradict what Paul had to say. Since the Gentiles were more willing to hear what Paul had to say, he turned and preached to the Gentiles.
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.Acts 13:48
The Gentile’s response to the good news was positive. The Gospel continued to spread, but yet again the Jews’ jealousy became an issue. The Jews eventually drove Paul and Barnabas out of Antioch, so they continued on into Iconium.
Very similar to what happened in Antioch, Paul went to the synagogue in Iconium to teach and many Jews and Greeks alike believed, but the unbelieving among the Jews stirred up trouble again dividing the city.
Paul and Barnabas left when they heard about attempts to stone them.
When they came to Lystra Paul performed a miracle making a crippled man walk again, when this occurred the people of the area assumed they were gods and started sacrificing to them. When Paul and Barnabas realized what was happening, they tore their clothes and told the people of the one true God.
Once again the Jewish unbelievers from Antioch and Iconium stirred up trouble and had Paul stoned. They thought that Paul was dead but he got up and walked to the city.
They then continued on to Derbe where they preached the Gospel and made disciples.
Paul and Barnabas Return
Surprisingly after recently coming out of many cities that persecuted and tried to kill Paul and Barnabas, they decided to return to Antioch in Syria through Galatia. The quicker way would not have required them to go through any of the towns for a second time but Paul was intentional with his journey.
they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.Acts 14:21-22
Their journey through these cities for a second time gave them a chance to establish elders of the church, and pray and fast with the Church.
Paul and Barnabas then continued down to Perga and sailed back to Antioch in Syria. When they arrived back in Antioch, they were able to tell everyone there about how God had been working and the many who had come to faith.
Paul’s Second Missionary Journey
Paul’s second missionary journey happened after the Jerusalem Council, most likely around 48-49 A.D.- 51 A.D. Originally Paul invited Barnabas to go and visit all the Churches they had started a year or two earlier.
Paul and Barnabas disagreed on who else to take. Barnabas wanted John Mark to come along, but Paul was against this since John Mark had left them on the previous trip before they made it to Galatia.
Because of this disagreement, Barnabas took John Mark and sailed to Cyprus and Paul took Silas and when first through Syria and Cilicia.
Paul and Silas in Galatia
Paul returned to many of the churches that he had helped establish on his last missionary journey.
When Paul and Silas come to Derbe and Lystra they meet a man named Timothy. He was well spoken of, therefore Paul decided to let Timothy accompany them, but because he was Jewish, and for the sake of the gospel, Paul circumcised Timothy.
While in Galatia they also told believers about the decisions that were made in Jerusalem, and because of this many churches continued to grow and were strengthened in their faith.
As the three men, Paul, Silas, and Timothy traveled on, they continued into Asia but were restricted by the Holy Spirit to speak about the good news. Paul did receive a vision while in Asia. His vision was a Macedonian man asking for Paul to come and help them. After receiving that vision they made their way to Macedonia.
When they first arrived in Macedonia, they traveled to Philippi where they stayed for a while and were able to preach to some women there. One specific woman, Lydia, became a believer along with the rest of her household and invited Paul and his companions to stay.
Paul and Silas soon ran into more issues, but also more opportunities to share the Gospel. Throughout their stay a particular girl who was possessed had been following them around declaring who they were.
Paul called out the demon inside of her, the owners were very upset as they would lose money from the demon no longer possessing the girl. The owners being upset took Paul and Silas to the magistrates. Paul and Silas were then beaten and thrown into prison.
While in prison, Paul and Silas prayed and sung hymns to the Lord, as they sang and prayed many of the other prisoners listened. Late in the night an earthquake occurred, this earthquake not only opened all the doors but broke their chains.
The jailer at the time believed that all the prisoners had escaped and was about to kill himself but Paul and Silas stopped him and told him that no one had escaped. Then the jailer responded asking how to be saved.
And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”Acts 16:31
God turned an unfortunate situation into an opportunity, Paul and Silas were not only able to witness to the jailer but all the prisoners listening to their hymns and prayers throughout the night.
When Paul and Silas were released they Paul was even able to clear their name more publicly. Since Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were able to demand being publicly vindicated, this was important as to not impede the Gospel message in Philippi.
Their next stop after passing Amphipolis and Apponia was Thessalonica. Like many of the other places Paul had been to, he went to the synagogue to preach of Jesus and the resurrection.
Yet again, Jews became jealous.
The Jews in fact created a mob and brought them before the city leaders. The leaders were not happy since the Jews told the leaders that they had caused the disturbance claiming there is another king.
The Jews were upset for losing power and tried to combat it by getting those, who believed in Jesus in trouble.
Paul and Silas did leave after the trouble they had in Thessalonica, but as we read in Thessalonians the Church continued despite the persecution.
For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews1 Thessalonians 2:14
Paul, Silas, and Timothy then went to Berea. In Berea Paul yet again started in the Jewish synagogue, but this time with a different response.
Instead of jealousy and mobs, the Jews examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul was saying lined up. Because of their eagerness for the word, and devotion to studying the scripture, there were many who believed.
Soon enough the Jews from Thessalonica heard that Paul was teaching in Berea and came to stir up the crowds. Paul was sent away again, with Silas and Timothy staying behind.
Paul then traveled to Athens and told Silas to come as soon as possible. While Paul waited for Silas and Timothy scripture says “his spirit was provoked within him” (Acts 17:16), this was because he saw an abundance of idols.
Paul decided to make the best use of his time and talked with the Jews at the Synagogue and Gentile believers. He also talked with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers and because of this they brought him to Areopagus, it was a court where the men of this region discussed civil and religious life.
In the Court of the Areopagus Paul was able to covey the gospel message to the people of Athens. Many were not Jewish so he spoke in a way that they would understand, instead of quoting the Old Testament which they may not have known, he quotes writers they would know.
For example, a line from a poem Phaenomena. It is important to note that although Paul quoted certain writings from different philosophers those in Athens would know, this does not mean he approves anything said by the writers.
After hearing what Paul had to say and especially about Jesus’ resurrection, there were some who laughed at him, but there were also those who believed and joined Paul.
Soon after Athens, Paul went to Corinth where he meets two Jews from Rome, Aquila, and Priscilla. Both Aquila and Priscilla and Paul were tentmakers, so Paul stayed with them and worked while also going to the synagogues on the Sabbath to preach and try and convert both Jews and Greeks.
Silas and Timothy again joined Paul after having gone and encouraging the believers in Macedonia.
Paul ended up staying in Corinth for a year and a half after the Lord came to Paul in a vision encouraging him and telling Paul that “no one will attack or harm you” (Acts 18:10). Paul continued to preach the word of God and many were saved, but many Jews were also upset.
The Jews of Corinth tried to bring Paul before the proconsul, who at this time was Gallio, but Gallio would not even hear Pauls’s case and sent them away.
Paul stayed in Corinth for “many days longer” (Acts 18:18) then set sail to head back to Antioch in Syria. Priscilla and Aquila also joined Paul.
On their way back they stopped in Ephesus where Paul went into the synagogue to talk with the Jews. When he was asked to stay longer Paul did not. He needed to do the will of God. Instead, he left Priscilla and Aquila to start a ministry there.
Paul then again set sail arriving in Caesarea visiting the Church there than traveling down to Antioch.
Paul’s Third Missionary Journey
Paul’s third missionary journey began in Antioch since Antioch was the Church that had sent him out originally. This journey most likely took place between 52-57 A.D.
Throughout this trip, Paul visited many of the locations from his first and second missionary journeys. He was able to encourage the Churches he previously established and continue to spread the gospel.
Paul in Galatia and Asia
Paul first went through the regions of Galatia and Phrygia. He was able to strengthen all the disciples in those areas.
Paul then went to Ephesus in Asia. The last time that Paul was in Ephesus he was invited to stay longer, and Paul told them he would come back if the Lord wills. Paul did in fact return.
There were disciples in the area who knew about John the Baptist and his ministry, but not of Jesus Christ, a man named Apollos had taught them, but Apollos himself did not know about Jesus until instructed by Priscilla and Aquila.
Paul was able to teach those who did not know about Jesus but were eager to hear about the death and resurrection, and they believed.
Paul then taught in the synagogue for three months. He was able to teach and proclaim the word of God boldly, there were some who were stuck in unbelief of what Paul said and then spoke evil about the message.
Paul decided to no longer preach in the synagogue but instead went to the hall of Tyrannus and there he spoke daily about God and his word. Paul continued in this for two years it says in scripture “all residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10).
During Paul’s ministry, Paul performed many miracles in the name of Jesus. Performing miracles displayed God’s power but also made a way for the gospel to be preached.
And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of PaulActs 19:11
There were others who were not followers of Jesus but thought they could profit from the work Paul was doing. This did not happen, as these men tried to use God’s name without faith the evil spirit ran out the men instead of the men running out the evil spirit. This caused many to fear the name of the Lord, and all those who were believers gave up their practices of magic arts.
Before Paul left Ephesus to travel to Macedonia there was a certain man in Ephesus named Demetrius. Demetrius was a silversmith and made idols for the people, and since Paul taught against idolatry this did not help Demetrius financially.
Demetrius decided to take this out on Paul by starting a riot against Paul.
There were others whose businesses were hurt financially because of Pauls’s teaching when they got together a riot ensued. Paul even wanted to go among the crowd, but the disciples would not let him since many there might want to kill Paul.
Instead after reasoning from many different leaders including Alexander a Jew and a town clerk the rioting subsided. Shortly after the riot, Paul left for Macedonia.
Macedonia and Achaia
As Paul traveled to Macedonia and through Achaia he encouraged the Churches there. When he came to Greece he spent three months there and then planned on sailing to Jerusalem. Those plans were changed when they found out about a plot by the Jews against Paul.
Paul then decided to go back through Macedonia to return to Jerusalem. He went through towns such as Berea, Thessalonica, and Philippi again. With him were many companions from various churches which gave him some protection while he traveled.
Journey to Jerusalem
Paul and his companions arrived at Troas, it was in Troas that a young man Eutychus was listening to one of Paul’s sermons and fell three stories out a window. When they found him he was dead but Paul restored life to this man.
After Troas Paul walked to Assos where he met his companions. Paul then decided to sail past Ephesus, because of Paul’s desire was to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost, he knew that staying in Asia would take more time than he desired.
Instead, Paul called the elders from Ephesus to meet him in Miletus. In Miletus he encouraged the elders and commended them, letting them know that he would not be seeing them again since he knew that imprisonment and maybe death waited for him in Jerusalem.
From there Paul and his companions sailed towards Syria. They eventually made it to Tyre and stayed with disciples there that encouraged Paul not to go onto Jerusalem. Paul then continued on his journey after having been encouraged by many in Tyre.
From there Paul traveled to Ptolemais then headed to Caesarea and stayed with Philip. While Paul was there a prophet whose name was Agabus who came down and told Paul of the coming affliction he would face in Jerusalem.
Despite the many people again urging Paul not to go, Paul told them all what he expected to do.
Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’Acts 21:13
Paul then traveled o Jerusalem and was greeted by his brothers in Christ. He told the church there all God had been doing among the Gentiles. But then Jews from Asia saw Paul and stirred up trouble and Paul was arrested.
Paul’s Fourth Missionary Journey
Paul’s fourth missionary journey is not recorded in the book of Acts like his first three. Acts ends with Paul’s imprisonment with Rome, and most likely after that imprisonment, Paul continued to travel possibly establishing new Churches and encouraging ones he had established on previous journeys.
In letters that were written after Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, we can learn about some of the places and activities that went on during Paul’s fourth missionary journey.
These letters are 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. Paul also spoke of his desire to go to Spain, and he may have during this fourth missionary trip, but there is no evidence in scripture that he did.
After Paul’s release, he may have headed to Crete where he established a Church and left Titus in charge to help the Church there grow.
Paul traveled in Asia as well, in 2 Timothy Paul talks about having to leave Trophimus in Miletus because he was ill.
While Paul was in Ephesus there were many who did not stay and help support Paul. Many false doctrines were also spreading at the time. Paul left Timothy and urged him to stay to keep the false doctrines from spreading anymore.
In the book of Philemon, Paul mentioned how he hoped he would be able to visit in Colossae, if he did it may have been following his visit to Ephesus.
We also know that Paul stopped in Troas because of what he tells Timothy in 2 Timothy. While in Troas he was confronted by Alexander a coppersmith, he opposed Paul’s message, and although no one came to help Paul against Alexander, the Lord strengthened Paul. Paul also left his coat, books, and parchment with a man named Carpus.
At the beginning of 1 Timothy Paul says “when I was going to Macedonia” (1 Timothy 1:3). This implies he did in-fact go to Macedonia and based on Paul’s previous trips through Macedonia we can speculate that Paul took a similar route and saw the Churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea.
After his time spent in Macedonia, he may have headed back to the Church in Ephesus as he says he will in 1 Timothy, but he soon ends up in Achaia.
Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:20 that “Erastus remained at Corinth,” so we know that Paul was also likely there. Titus is invited in the book of Titus to join Paul in Nicopolis, Paul tells Titus he plans on spending the winter in Nicopolis.
Paul ended up imprisoned in Rome, we may not know when he was arrested, but Nero was the Roman emperor at the time, he did not like the Christians. Paul wrote 2 Timothy while imprisoned in Rome, he was able to encourage those in Ephasus even while imprisoned himself.
Shortly after 2 Timothy was written Paul was beheaded in Rome.
When we look at Paul’s multiple missionary journeys throughout his life we can be greatly encouraged by all he accomplished. It is amazing to see how God can work through us when dedicating our life to him.
Throughout Acts and Paul’s letters again and again we hear him say “if God wills” (Acts 18:21). Paul also had many plans himself, but he surrendered himself to the Lord, going and doing things that may have been unsafe but ultimately helped grow the kingdom of God.