Paul's Third Missionary Journey (Acts 18:22–21:16)

Paul';s third and final missionary expedition was launched from the same place as the other two: Antioch, Syria (Acts 18:23). The first leg of his third missionary trip was over land in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). He visited cities in the regions of Galatia and Phrygia before settling for nearly three years in the city of Ephesus (19:1–41), where he founded a church that would receive one of the letters that later would be included in the Bible.

Like many ancient cities of that time, Ephesus was rife with pagan religious worship and practices. But as Paul preached, taught, and performed miracles for all the people to see — including the healing of sick people and the casting out of demons — many people turned to Christ, including sorcerers who burned very expensive sorcery books (Acts 19:17–20).

Acts 20:7–12 gives the account of Paul doing what Jesus himself had done: raising a person from the dead. A young man named Eutychus fell three stories from a windowsill to his death. But Paul bent down and took the man in his arms: “ ‘Don';t worry,'; he said, ‘he';s alive!'; ” (20:10). As Paul had said, the young man lived.

While in Ephesus, Paul found himself in trouble from the local idol worshipers. This time, Paul had exposed the fraud of the pagan god Artemis and the craftsmen and artisans who were in the business of supplying the public with the idols. After Paul spoke out, a near riot broke out and he was nearly killed in the melee (Acts 19:28–41).

Paul left Ephesus for Macedonia and eventually arrived in Greece, where he stayed for three months before learning of a plot against his life (Acts 20:1–3). At that time he was preparing to sail back to Syria — most likely Antioch — but decided to return through Macedonia. After arriving in the city of Philippi, he sailed to Troas (20:6). From there, Paul traveled through Assos, Mitylene, Kios, Samos, and Miletus (20:13–16).

While in Miletus, Paul sent for the elders of the church at Ephesus and asked them to come meet him. They did, and Paul told them:

You know that from the day I set foot in the province of Asia until now I have done the Lord';s work humbly and with many tears. I have endured the trials that came to me from the plots of the Jews. I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes. I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike — the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus. (Acts 20:18–21)

Paul then told them that he would be returning to Jerusalem and encouraged them in their work in their church. In the end, when Paul had finished speaking to the elders, “he knelt and prayed with them. They wept aloud as they embraced him in farewell, sad most of all because he had said that they would never see him again. Then they accompanied him down to the ship” (Acts 20:36–39).

Paul then finished the final leg of his voyage, stopping in the island of Cos, Rhodes, Patara, Cyprus, and then to Tyre, Syria. He then traveled through Ptolemais, Caesarea, and then finally to Jerusalem.

Study Questions

What was the tone of Paul';s farewell to the elders of the Ephesian church?

Read Acts 20:25–35. What specific encouragements did Paul give the elders of the Ephesian church and how do they apply to your life of faith today?

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