On Paul’s second missionary journey, he returned to several cities he had previously visited in order to see how they were doing (Acts 15:36). Paul cared for people, and his desire was to see the early church thrive. He was compelled to return.
Along the way, Paul was joined by a disciple named Timothy. Paul and Timothy would form a strong bond similar to that of a mentor-and-mentee relationship. As they passed through the cities, Paul and Timothy shared decrees that had been decided upon by the apostles and elders of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 16:4).
Imagine the confusion that could have been present in the early church. Everything was new! Jesus changed everything. He refocused their lives on the heart instead of outward appearance. He provided salvation through grace instead of the law. As they tried to navigate these unknown territories, the church decrees helped unify the church as a whole, under the same mission.
As Paul and Timothy connected with existing churches, we find our fifth update on the newly found church. “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily” (Acts 16:5). Through the apostle’s efforts, the church was strengthened, the church’s faith increased, and her numbers grew daily. Think about that for a moment. Daily, God was adding followers to His church. The early church was strong and experienced constant growth.
paul in macedonia
After the Holy Spirit stopped Paul from going into Asia and Bithynia, he received a vision of a man calling him to Macedonia. Immediately, he left for Macedonia, as he believed God had called him there to preach the gospel. They came to Philippi, a city in Macedonia, where a businesswoman named Lydia was saved along with her family (Acts 16:9–15).
Also in Philippi, Paul cast out a spirit of divination in a slave girl who was a fortune-teller (Acts 16:16–24). Because this put a halt to the monetary gains of the slave girl’s owners, Paul and Silas were thrown in jail. While in jail, God performed a miracle. While Paul and Silas were praying and singing to God so that all the prisoners could hear, an earthquake shook the foundations and the doors of the jail were opened. From fear that the prisoners would escape, the jailer was about to kill himself when Paul stopped him and showed him that they were all there. Immediately, the jailer asked what he must do to be saved. Paul’s response: “believe in the Lord Jesus” (Acts 16:31). The jailer and his family believed and were baptized (Acts 16:25–40).
At two different times in Paul’s second missionary journey, we gain insight into Paul’s approach of presenting the gospel. Typically, Paul connected with the religious culture of the city (even if it was against Jesus) by highlighting the positive spiritual aspects of their religion. This approach allowed Paul to connect with people on a spiritual level so that he could then preach the gospel. For instance, in Acts 16:11–15, Paul and Silas meet with a group of women outside the city who were praying together. This led to Lydia and her family’s salvation.
In Athens, Paul reasoned with people in the marketplace, including Jews, Epicureans, and Stoic philosophers (Acts 17:16–34). In his famous speech to the men of Athens, Paul commended them for being religious. He pointed out the fact that they had an altar with the inscription, “to an unknown God” (Acts 17:23). As he continued, Paul helped them understand that they didn’t have to worship an unknown God because Jesus, the Messiah, could be known. For He is the creator of all things, the Lord of heaven and earth, the giver of life, and the sovereign One. For these mighty reasons, Paul explained that God should not be considered as an object formed by human hands (Acts 17:22–29).
Paul’s approach in sharing the gospel allowed him to meet people where they were and to help people feel welcome instead of ostracized. This approach gives people hope that they too can know God. We are all spiritual beings, and, through this commonality, Paul was able to connect with people in a way in which they could hear the gospel. May we not judge other’s beliefs, but rather use them as a starting place to connect, find common ground, and share the gospel.