Lesson 15--Paul's Second Missionary Journey: Intro

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Paul's Second Missionary Journey

An Introduction and Geographical Overview

What did Paul and Barnabas decide to do?

Acts 15:36


What problem developed between the two of them?

Acts 15:37-38


How was the dispute settled?

Acts 15:39-41


Where did Paul and Silas begin their work?

Acts 15:41-16:1a—


Who joined Paul and Silas at Lystra?

Acts 16:1b—


Where did Paul and his companions then go? Where were they forbidden to go?

Acts 16:6-8


There are eight different Roman provinces mentioned in connection with the Second Missionary Journey in Acts 15:41-16:10. The first, Syria, lay just north of Palestine on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. Syrian Antioch, Paul’s home congregation, was its capital city. The next six—Cilicia, Phrygia, Galatia, Asia, Mysia, and Bithynia—were all located in Asia Minor, present day Turkey. The eighth was Macedonia, which makes up parts of present Greece and Bulgaria. 

Syria—cf. Note 24.

Cilicia—This province lay in southeastern Asia Minor. Its chief city was Tarsus, the city of Paul’s birth and early childhood. It was the center of Paul’s missionary work during the silent years after his conversion and before his work in Syrian Antioch.

Phrygia—This province in central Asia Minor is very mountainous and was settled by the "Phryges" tribe, which migrated there from Europe. The tomb of King Midas can be seen in this province. Its borders are quite indefinite, and in fact during the time of Paul it was divided into two parts, an Asian Phrygia and a Galatian Phrygia.

Galatia—This province also lay in central Asia Minor just to the east of Phrygia and northwest of Cilicia. The name was actually used in two different senses during the first century after Christ. Geographically, it was used to designate a large portion of territory in northern central Asia Minor, the old kingdom of Galatia. Politically, it was used to designate the Roman province, which included other smaller territories to the south. The cities in which churches were founded on the First Missionary Journey are found in these southern territories, and no doubt this is the Galatia referred to in our text.

Asia—This province encompassed most of western Asia Minor and included many islands off the coast. While Paul was forbidden to preach in Asia at this time, he did return to it later as did other Christian missionaries. Its leading cities have familiar names—Ephesus, Laodicea, Pergamos, Philadelphia, Sardis, Smyrna, and Thyatira (cf. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians and Jesus’ words to the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2-3).

Mysia—This smaller province lay in northwest Asia Minor and was actually considered part of the province of Asia as far as the politics of the day went. It is mentioned separately, no doubt, because Troas lies within its borders.

Bithynia—This province likewise lay in northwest Asia Minor. Paul was forbidden to preach in this area, too, at this time. However, Peter addresses his first epistle to the "pilgrims of the Dispersion" in the province of Bithynia among others (cf. 1 Peter 1:1). It is interesting to note that the famous lawyer and author Pliny was governor in this area during the years 111-113 AD. He found the Christians under his jurisdiction in such numbers that the heathen temples were almost deserted. A series of letters followed between Pliny and Emperor Trajan, in which the moral character of the Christians was defended with the result that the repressive measures required by officials were interpretted with leniency in that area.

Macedonia—This was the first Roman province in Europe to receive the gospel message. Its name was taken from Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. The province came into Roman hands after a serious defeat of the Macedonian king in 172 BC. Its major cities included Philippi, Berea, and Thessalonica.

Troas was the chief city in the northwest section of the province of Asia. It came under the jurisdiction of Rome in 133 BC and eventually became a colony, which meant they were free from the controls of the Roman governor of the province of Asia. They were therefore exempt from certain taxes. It was a large town with a theater, temples, and an impressive aqueduct supplying water from the mountains to the east.

To which cities in Greece did Paul and his companions go?

Acts 16:11-12; 17:1,10,15; 18:1,18—


Samotrace was an island in the Aegean Sea just northwest of Troas. It was considered sacred and is mentioned in the Illiad as the home of Poseidon, the sea-god. There was a small town on the northern end of the island off of which ships would anchor for the night.

Neapolis was the seaport for the city of Philippi. It lay on the Aegean Sea about ten miles from the city of Philippi, being connected to the city by good roads.

Philippi was name for Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great’s father. It passed into the hands of the Romans in 148 BC. The city was a colony, which meant that the citizens were independent of provincial control. Many of its citizens were former Roman soldiers given pieces of land in exchange for their military service. Philippi was the chief city of eastern Macedonia, however, it was not the capital.

Amphipolis was an important town in Macedonia in Paul’s day. It was originally founded by a group of Athenians in 437 BC. The city, surrounded on three sides by the river Strymon, was strategically located on the main route from Thrace to Macedonia and occupied an important position on the Roman road called the Via Egnatia. It was a rich farming district for figs, olives, and grapes. There was also extensive mining of silver and gold.

Apollonia was also a town on the Via Ignatia. It lay thirty miles from Amphipolis and thirty-eight miles from Thessalonica. 

Thessalonica was named after Queen Thessalonica, the wife of a Macedonian king and the step-sister of Alexander the Great. It served as the headquarters for the Macedonian navy, while under their control. It became a free city under the Romans and served as the capital of all Macedonia after 146 BC.

Berea lies in southwestern Macedonia and was one of the most populous cities in the province in Paul’s day.

Athens, which remains the capital of Greece today, has a long and illustrious history. The city had at least a half million inhabitants in Paul’s day and was founded before 1500 BC. It was a center of art and philosophy as well as of idolatry. Some of the greatest minds known to man lived and worked within her walls.

Corinth, which rivaled Athens in wealth if not culture, lay west and south of Athens on what is called the Peloponnesus. It had three good harbors and therefore became a center of trade. It was a city known for its brazen sexual sins and illicit and idolatrous worship.

Cenchrea was one of the three seaports of the city of Corinth.

What other cities were visited on their return to Syrian Antioch?

Acts 18:19,22


Ephesus was the chief city of the Roman province of Asia. It had a tremendous harbor and lay at the beginning of a fertile valley, which extended far into the interior of Asia Minor. Being one of the most accessible cities in Asia Minor by both land and sea, it became a major trading center. Ephesus was also the home of the goddess Diana, whose temple dominated the city skyline. Pilgrims from all over the ancient world visited her temple, and this brought tremendous wealth and affluence to the city.

Caesarea, located in Palestine, was built by Herod the Great who embellished it with countless grand public buildings. The city became the residence of the Roman governor. Because it had no natural harbor, a breakwater was constructed by letting down stones 50’ x 18’ x 9’ in size into twenty fathoms of water. An artificial harbor over 200 feet wide was then constructed.

Discussion Topics:

Reread the accounts of the origins of the First and Second Missionary Journeys as found in Acts 13:2-3 and Acts 15:36-40. How are they different? How are they the same?

Why do you think the Spirit forbid Paul from preaching in Asia and Bithynia? What lessons can we learn from this with regard to our own mission efforts?