Paul & Barnabas begin first journey:
While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. – NIV Acts 13:2-3
This was the beginning of Paul’s first missionary journey. The church was involved in sending Paul and Barnabas, but it was God’s plan. Why did Paul and Barnabas go where they did? (1) The Holy Spirit led them. (2) They followed the communication routes of the Roman empire – – this made travel easier. (3) They visited key population and cultural centres to reach as many people as possible. (4) They went to cities with synagogues, speaking first to the Jews in hopes that they would see Jesus as the Messiah and help spread the Good News to everyone.
Paul & Silas begin second journey:
…but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. – NIV Acts 15:40
Paul’s second missionary journey, this time with Silas as his partner, began approximately three years after his first one ended. The two visited many of the cities covered on Paul’s first journey, plus others. This journey laid the groundwork for the church in Greece.
Paul begins his third journey:
When he landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch. – NIV Acts 18:22
This verse marks the end of Paul’s second missionary journey and the beginning of the third, which lasted from A.D. 53-57. Leaving the church at Antioch (his home base), Paul headed towards Ephesus, but along the way he revisited the churches in Galatia and Phrygia (18:23). The heart of this trip was a lengthy stay (two to three years) in Ephesus. Before returning to Jerusalem, he also visited believers in Macedonia and Greece.
Tradition says Paul took fourth journey:
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. – NIV Acts 28:30
Tradition says that Paul was released after two years of house arrest in Rome and then set on a fourth missionary journey. Some reasons for this tradition are as follows: (1) Luke does not give us an account of his trial before Caesar, and Luke was a detailed chronicler; (2) the prosecution had two years to bring the case to trial, and time may have run out; (3) in his letter to the Philippians, written during his imprisonment in Rome, Paul implied that he would soon be released and would do further travelling; (4) Paul mentions several places where he intended to take the gospel, but he never visited those places in his first three journeys; and (5) early Christians literature talks plainly about other travels by Paul.
It may be that during Paul’s time of freedom, he continued to travel extensively, even going to Spain (see Romans 15:24, 28) and back to the churches in Greece. The books of 1 Timothy and Titus were written during this time. Later, Paul was imprisoned again, probably in Rome, where he wrote his last letter (2 Timothy).
Why do we need them?
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – – his eternal power and divine nature – – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. – NIV Romans 1:18-20(3)
Some people wonder why we need missionaries if people can know about God through nature (the creation). The answer: (1) Although people know that God exists, they suppress that truth by their wickedness and thus refuse a relationship with him. Missionaries sensitively expose their error and point them to a new beginning. (2) Although people may believe there is a God, they refuse to commit themselves to him. Missionaries help persuade them, both through loving words and caring actions. (3) Missionaries convince people who reject God of the dangerous consequences of their actions. (4) Missionaries help the church obey the Great Commission of our Lord (Matthew 28:19, 20). (5) Most important, though nature reveals God, people need to be told about Jesus and how, through him, they can have a personal relationship with God.
Knowing that God exists is not enough. People must learn that God is loving. They must understand what he did to demonstrate his love for us (5:8). They must be shown how to accept God’s forgiveness of their sins. (See also 10:14, 15.)
©Kingsway “International” Church 1973.