Chapter 52.1 Strengthening the Churches
Acts of Christ through his apostles, A.D. 46 to 100
Paul’s Corinthian Letters, original oil painting on canvas by L. Lovett, size 20 x 16 inches, August 1995
Paul’s Corinthian Letters, original oil painting on canvas by L. Lovett, size 20 x 16 inches, August 1995
(CLICK on the image above for a LARGER version)

Third Missionary Journey

It was now spring A.D. 53. Paul was rested and ready to embark upon another journey. He had some unfinished work in Ephesus and was anxious to get a church started, for it would be headquarters for all the churches in Asia Minor. Timothy and Silas were still in Galatia, so his new traveling companion was Titus, a resourceful Greek from Antioch who had journeyed to Jerusalem with him years before.

From Antioch, the two missionaries followed the familiar overland route by way of the Syrian and Cilician Gates into the upland districts of Galatia. Paul again visited the churches, bringing new strength to all the disciples and reaffirming the principles Timothy had brought them in his letter.


While Paul, Titus, and Timothy were on their way to Ephesus, an Alexandrian Jew named Apollos had arrived. He was an eloquent man, a gifted scholar, and powerful in his use of the Old Testament Scriptures. Full of spiritual fervor, he accurately taught the facts about the prophecies of Christ, even though the only baptism he knew was John’s, and he had never received the Holy Spirit or been baptized in the name of Jesus.

Paul’s former employers from Corinth, Priscilla and Aquila, had remained in Ephesus while Paul returned to Syrian Antioch from his Second Missionary Journey. When they heard Apollos speaking John’s message so boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and instructed him on the New Covenant events of Christ, Pentecost, and the salvation experience. He was a humble man, readily accepting their teaching, and was baptized with Jesus’ baptism. Priscilla and Aquila’s time spent teaching him was well worth the effort. In the power of the Holy Spirit, Apollos went on to become one of the most outstanding teachers of the Gospel. Some scholars believe he wrote the letter to the Hebrews.

The Spirit encouraged Apollos to go across to Achaia, and the congregation gave him their support, writing to the disciples there to make him welcome. From the time of his arrival, he brought great reinforcement to those who had become believers by God’s grace. With irresistible arguments he powerfully refuted the Jews, demonstrating publicly from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul and his two associates reached Ephesus. Aquila and Priscilla had opened a prosperous tent making shop, so Paul once again had a place to stay and continue his trade when not preaching.

Teaching and Healing

In A.D. 54, Nero became Roman Emperor. At the beginning, his rule was peaceful. His persecution of Christians in Rome was still ten years away. However, at Ephesus, the Temple of Artemis, Diana of the Ephesians, was a great center of paganism in the Mediterranean world. To the small Christian communities founded along the coastline, the heathen temple was an infernal counterpart to the Temple of God at Jerusalem.

For the next three years, probably between 54 and 57, Paul concentrated his mission at Ephesus. He spent the first three months teaching in the synagogue. When the inevitable break within the Jewish community occurred, he moved to the lecture room of Tyrannus, remaining there for a period of two years so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. God worked extraordinary miracles through the Apostle to the Gentiles, so that when even his sweat bands and work aprons were brought in contact with the sick, their diseases were cured and evil spirits came out of them.

Both Jews and Greeks began to respect the name of Jesus. Many Gentiles who had become believers openly confessed that they had been using magical spells. Those who formerly practiced magic collected their books and burnt them publicly, and the total value came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.

Soon, however, Paul’s amazing success provoked fierce opposition. As a result of his teaching, the guild of silversmiths saw their trade in small silver images of Diana threatened by a sharp decline in sales. They took their grievance to the marketplace and stirred the crowd into seizing two of Paul’s Macedonian converts Gaius and Aristarchus. In the uproar, the situation was saved by the tact of the town clerk, who released the men and dispersed the crowd. But Paul decided to close his ministry in Asia Minor. He sent Timothy and Erastus on to Macedonia, and planned to follow them.

Corinthian and Roman Letters

During his time in Ephesus, Paul heard news from the community of believers at Corinth that made it necessary for him to write a letter of warning against immorality. Shortly afterwards, he received an official letter from them asking advice on specific matters of doctrine, which Paul answered in a letter known as First Corinthians. He sent the letter by sea, while Timothy took the land route to deal with the situation in person.

Neither the letter nor Timothy’s visit achieved the desired effect, and Paul wrote a “severe letter” known as Second Corinthians which was carried by Titus, an older and more experienced man than Timothy. This letter demanded a proper respect both for Christian morality and for Paul himself as the founder of the church.

When Paul finally closed his ministry in Ephesus, he encouraged the disciples to accept the responsibility of the church, then said goodbye and traveled overland north to Troas, where he sailed once again for Macedonia to visit Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. Somewhere along the way, he met Titus who at last brought him the good news that the Corinthian church was ready to conform. Paul continued on to Corinth, where he spent the winter months.

Early in the year A.D. 57, Paul received news of a severe famine threatening the already destitute members of the Jerusalem church with starvation. More than a year earlier, he had asked the churches in Galatia, Asia, Macedonia, and Achaia to put aside a relief fund for the poverty-stricken church. With news that this aid was now badly needed, he decided to take the money to Jerusalem himself before making preparations for his journey to Rome and Spain.

Before leaving the city, Paul composed a letter to the Christians in Rome. Dispatched by a deaconess named Phoebe who was going there, it was designed to introduce himself to the Roman believers before he arrived, and to set forth the foundations of the Christian faith. With the simple theme of salvation by grace through faith in Christ, this letter was one of the greatest ever written.

The apostle’s plan was to take his relief collection and sail from Corinth to Jerusalem, but it was thwarted by a threat of ambush. So he sent his escorts, who were representatives of the churches, on ahead by ship across the Aegean Sea to Troas, while he walked the much slower way overland to Macedonia. He joined Luke at Philippi and spent the Passover with him there. From this point on, Luke would be at Paul’s side. After the festival, the two companions sailed across to Troas where the others were waiting for them, and they stayed there seven days.

On the first day of the week (Sunday), the believers at Troas gathered in the third floor of a large family home to observe the Lord’s Supper. Paul’s final discourses were very long and so were the prayers. Since he was leaving the next day, he talked until midnight. A young man named Eutychus was sitting on the windowsill. As Paul spoke on and on, the young man became very drowsy. Finally, he sank into a deep sleep. As his body shifted, he rolled off the sill and fell three stories to the ground. When they went to him, Dr. Luke confirmed he was dead. Everyone was stunned.

Immediately Paul went downstairs, bent over him so no one could see, and held Eutychus close to his body. After a few moments, he stood up with the boy in his arms and comforted the weeping people, “Do not worry! He’s alive!” When everyone saw he had recovered, they calmed down, went back upstairs, and ate the Lord’s Supper together. Paul continued talking to them until dawn. The young man was taken home unhurt, and all the believers were greatly relieved. At sunrise, the apostle and his companions went south to Miletus.

Tearful Goodbye

To save time and reach Jerusalem by Pentecost, Paul summoned the elders of the church of Ephesus to meet him on the coast at Miletus. When they arrived on his last day at port, he bade them a fond farewell, sharing his apprehension of the fate that awaited him in Jerusalem.

“You know that from the day I set foot in the province of Asia until now I have done the Lord’s work humbly, in spite of the heartache and tears I have endured from the plots of the Jews. Yet I never shrank from telling you the truth, either publicly or in your homes. I have repeatedly spoken one message for Jews and Gentiles alike—the necessity of turning from sin and turning to God, and of faith in our Lord Jesus.

“Now I am going to Jerusalem, drawn there irresistibly by the Holy Spirit, not knowing what awaits me, except in city after city the Spirit has told me that imprisonment and suffering lay ahead. But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the good news about God’s wonderful kindness and love.

“None of you to whom I have preached the kingdom will ever see me again. Let me say plainly that I have been faithful. No one’s damnation can be blamed on me, for I did not hold back from declaring all that God wants for you.

“Watch out for yourselves, feed God’s flock whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders and guardians. You are the shepherds of his church, which he purchased with his own blood. I know full well that after I leave, false teachers will come in among you like vicious wolves, not sparing the flock. Even some of you will distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out! Remember the three years I was with you—my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you.

“I have never coveted anyone’s money or fine clothing. You know that these hands of mine have worked to pay my own way, and I have even supplied the needs of those who were with me. I have been a constant example of how you can help the poor by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Paul’s last words didn’t come out easily. He was having difficulty holding back the tears, “Now I entrust you to God and the word of his grace—his message that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself.”

When he had finished speaking, he knelt and prayed with them. They wept aloud without shame as they embraced him in farewell, sad most of all because he had said that they would never see him again. It was extremely difficult for the elders to let him go, but they finally accompanied him down to the ship and saw him aboard. The ropes were loosened and the tide moved the ship out into the channel. As the wind caught the sail, the ship took Paul from their sight for the last time.

Arrest in Jerusalem

Paul, his associates, and representatives of the churches arrived in Jerusalem just in time for Pentecost A.D. 58. After their delivery of financial aid to Pastor James and church elders, Paul was attacked by local Jews in the Temple. He was rescued from the mob by Roman soldiers, who immediately arrested him and took him to the Fortress of Antonia.

That night the Lord stood by his side, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have told the people about me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Gospel in Rome.”

When the commander of the regiment discovered that he was a Roman citizen and there was a plot against his life, the apostle was hurriedly sent by night under heavy guard to Felix, procurator of Judea in Caesarea. The Jews brought charges against him which Felix knew were false because he was quite familiar with the Way. However, since Paul wouldn’t bribe him to gain his freedom, he was forced to remain in prison for two years. During this time Luke was never too far from Caesarea. The beloved physician made frequent trips to the sites of Christ’s ministry, where he began interviewing eyewitnesses and gathering material for his two-volume history.

I Appeal to Caesar!”

In A.D. 60, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. When the new governor brought Paul before him to hear his case, the Sanhedrin from Jerusalem brought serious false charges against him, similar to those brought against his Lord thirty years ago.

Paul denied the charges, “I am not guilty. I have committed no crime against the Jewish laws, the Temple, or the Roman government.”

Then Festus, wanting to please the Jewish leaders, asked him, “Are you willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there?”

The apostle emphatically answered, “No! This is the official Roman court; here is where I should be tried. You know very well I am not guilty. If there is no substance in the charges which these men bring against me, no one has any right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”

After Festus conferred with his council, he declared, “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”

Regardless of what anyone thought of Paul’s teaching, it was clear that he was completely innocent in the eyes of Roman law. His appeal to Caesar took the matter out of the governor’s hands and he must be sent to Rome because the appeal could not be withdrawn. At this time the official policy of Rome was still favorable toward Christians and the apostle was expected to be acquitted. All that remained was to state the charges in a letter to Nero. King Herod Agrippa II, son of Agrippa and last of the Herod line, was a favorite in the emperor’s court and he helped Festus phrase the document to work in the apostle’s favor.

Soon Paul’s waiting would end and he would be on his way to Rome.

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