Paul’s Persistent Preaching
What are you going to do with the rest of your life once you become a Christian? Or, if you are a Christian, what are you doing now that sets your life apart from the lives of non-Christians? Consider what Paul did after his baptism.
Once Paul became a Christian, he devoted the rest of his life to preaching the Gospel. He did other things as well, including making a living as a tentmaker (Acts 18:3). But his main purpose in life, which should also be our main goal, was to please God and save sinners by teaching people about Jesus.
Some of Paul’s hearers found this hard to believe because of his former persecution of Christians (Acts 9:21). Paul, however, had changed. He was now living and preaching the very faith in Jesus that he once tried to destroy.
Unlike many of the early apostles and evangelists, Paul was set apart by God as “an apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). God did not intend for Paul to remain preaching in Jerusalem and Judea the rest of his life. Nor did He want Paul preaching only in Jewish synagogues. God told Paul: “Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21).
The book of Acts tells how Paul fulfilled God’s commands to preach to the Gentiles. In chapters 13-21, we learn of Paul going far from home on three different missionary journeys. The first one is recorded in Acts 13-14.
After fasting and praying with the church in Antioch of Syria, Paul and Barnabas sailed to the island of Cyprus. There they encountered a wicked sorcerer and false prophet named Elymas, whom Paul struck blind. They also taught the Roman governor (or proconsul) of Cyprus, who “believed, when he saw what had been done [to Elymas], being astonished at the teaching of the Lord” (Acts 13:12). Paul and Barnabas then left Cyprus, traveled to Perga, and on to Antioch of Pisidia, where they were expelled for preaching the Gospel. Afterward, they journeyed to Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. In Lystra, the multitudes “stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead” (14:19). But he rose up and continued his first missionary journey. He and Barnabas traveled back through most of the cities where they previously had taught the Gospel, and “appointed elders in every church” (14:23).
Paul’s second missionary journey began in the same place as the first one—Antioch of Syria. This time, however, Paul chose Silas as his partner. While Barnabas took John Mark and returned to Cyprus, Paul and Silas traveled by land to some of the churches Paul had established on his first journey. After picking up Timothy when he came through Lystra and Derbe, “a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us’” (16:9). They soon set sail for Macedonia, and preached the Gospel in some of the country’s best known cities, including Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. Paul then traveled down to Athens, where he preached on Mars Hill. After that, he went to Corinth and “continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (18:11). Once he left Corinth, Paul sailed to Ephesus and then eventually back to Antioch (18:22).
The very next verse (18:23) says that after Paul “spent some time” in Antioch, he began his third journey. (Can you imagine how tired of traveling Paul must have been?) He journeyed through the regions of Galatia and Phrygia and then on to the city of Ephesus, where he lived and taught for more than two years. He then departed for Macedonia and Greece, before sailing to Troas. Paul never made it back to Antioch. At the close of his third journey, Paul was arrested in the temple in Jerusalem (21:26). The book of Acts closes with Paul still in custody years later, waiting to plead his case before Caesar (28:30).
Next to Jesus, Paul was probably the greatest missionary ever to live. He is a wonderful example for every Christian to follow. We may not all leave our homes to do foreign mission work, but we all need to spend a lot of time teaching people about Jesus and His glorious church. What could be more important?
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