A. The Growth Moves to Europe (16:6-19:20)
Second Missionary Journey
After the Jerusalem council, Paul and Barnabas set for their second missionary journey from Antioch. Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them on their journey, but Paul insisted that they travel without Mark because he had abandoned them on a prior trip. The scripture says “there arose such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.”
Paul selects Silas as his partner for this journey. Their intent was to continue in Asia Minor to check on the churches established in the first journey. But God had a different plan. If the gospel was to reach the remotest parts of the earth, it had to expand to the next sphere of influence: Europe.
The Holy Spirit forbade Paul and Silas from preaching in Asia (16:6). Then Paul receives a vision from God of a man in Macedonia who appeals to Paul to help them (16:9). God had called them to cross over to Europe (16:10), and so they crossed the sea to Macedonia and Greece (16:11).
Just as in the first journey, this second journey also develops a consistent pattern:
Paul’s Message to Gentiles in Athens
The pattern changes somewhat with the audience. Paul, in chapter 17, does not begin in the synagogue, but in the market place. Now Paul speaks in a culturally relevant way to Gentiles first. Paul and Silas become separated after persecution in the city of Berea. Paul flees ahead to Athens, and while waiting for Silas and the others to catch up with him, he acts as a tourist, walking through the beautiful city of Athens (17:16).
Paul begins debating with some Greek philosophers in the market place. This is Paul’s second recorded message to Gentiles. He addresses the Athenian philosophers using their philosophical terminology. Like with the Gentiles in Lystra, he begins by discussing God as creator (17:24) and demonstrating that he is transcendent (17:25). Paul declares that all need to repent of their ignorance, for “a Man” is coming who will judge the world. Paul states this man’s authority to judge is based on his resurrection from the dead (17:31).
While Paul lost his audience with his discussion of a resurrection, we can see that Paul was trying to direct the message from that which the Gentiles would understand (God as creator) towards the resurrection of Jesus.
A Defense of Paul
Luke records details on this trip of three incidents where Paul is surrounded by uprisings. In 16:19, we see that Paul’s ministry in Philippi interrupts the profiteering of some fortunetellers. But when all is said and done, they are exonerated by the magistrates (16:37-40), and it is shown that Paul’s rights as a Roman citizen have been violated.
In Corinth, the Jews rise up against Paul and haul him before the Roman official, Gallio (18:12). But Paul is again exonerated by the Roman leader (18:14-15), saying that this was an internal religious debate and that it did not concern him (18:17).
During the third missionary journey, Paul’s ministry in Ephesus is so successful that it begins to impact the sale of idols at the temple to Artemis. The merchants rise up in a riot against Paul and take him to the amphitheater. There the town clerk declares that this riot was unlawful and dismissed the assembly (19:38-41).
In all three of these incidents, Luke demonstrates to his audience of the peaceful intentions of the Christian movement and that any disorder was the cause of the Jewish leadership or profiteers.