Late Summer 49 A.D. to Late Autumn 49 A.D.
The Jerusalem conference
Pharisaic Judaizers come down to Antioch (Acts 15:1, 5) in the late summer of 49 A.D. and teach that circumcision is necessary before a person can be saved.
Paul, Barnabas, Titus and certain others (Galatians 2:1-2) are sent to Jerusalem to confer with other apostles, elders and brethren concerning the relationship between circumcision and salvation. This gathering in Jerusalem is commonly referred to as the Jerusalem Conference. This conference occurs in the Fall of 49 A.D. around the time of the Feast of Tabernacles (Acts 15:2).
The evangelists have a private meeting with the apostles James, Peter and John about the circumcision question (Galatians 2:4-10). They agree that circumcision is not required for Gentiles to be saved. The ministry of Paul and Barnabas is confirmed.
The circumcision question is discussed further among the conference attendees. Peter offers his judgment then Paul and Barnabas tell the conference about the miracles and wonders God has wrought among the Gentiles through them (Acts 15:12). James then renders his judgment:
"And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, 'Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon (Peter) has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.
"'And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: "After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things."
“'Known to God from eternity are all His works. Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.' ” (Acts 15:13-21, NKJV throughout)
The apostles, elders and the whole church agree with James that the Gentiles do not need to be circumcised in order to become a believer and receive salvation. The conference has Judas (Barsabas) and Silas travel with the two evangelists to Antioch to deliver a letter, written by James, summarizing what was decided in Jerusalem regarding the circumcision question (Acts 15:30-32).
Late Autumn 49 A.D.
Arguments and separation
Paul and Barnabas stay in Antioch a certain number of days until they have a sharp disagreement over whether to take John Mark with them on another missionary journey. The argument becomes so heated that they separate:
"Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.'
"Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia (Perga), and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God." (Acts 15:36-41)
Late Autumn 49 A.D. to Late Summer 50 A.D.
The Second Missionary Journey begins
Paul takes Silas with him to Tarsus. From there they travel to Derbe and Lystra. It is in Lystra that he meets Timothy, who would become his frequent traveling companion, fellow laborer in spreading the gospel and his best friend (Acts 16:1; 1Timothy 1:2, 4:14).
Timothy lived in Lystra. His mother was a Jew and his father was a Greek (a Gentile). Timothy traveled with Paul on most of his second missionary journey, served him in Ephesus (Acts 19:22) and was with him during his imprisonment in Rome (Philemon 1:1). Paul stated that Timothy was specially given the gift to evangelize and defend the truth (1Timothy 4:14, 2Timothy 1:6). He expresses his love for Timothy, as well as praising the faith of his relatives, in the last epistle he would write before his death:
"To Timothy, a beloved son: . . . I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day; greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy; when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also." (2Timothy 2:2-6, NKJV throughout)
The apostle has Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3). He then takes him and Silas to churches in the regions of Galatia (Iconium) and Phrygia (Antioch) to deliver the decision rendered at the Jerusalem conference.
As he journeys to the northwest of Antioch he desires to preach the gospel in western Asia. God's spirit, however, forbids him to do so (Acts 16:6). The group continues to travel north toward the region of Mysia. Paul wants to travel East to the province of Bithynia but again is forbidden to do so (Acts 16:7). The group instead travels to the port city of Troas on the Aegean Sea. It is in Troas that Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, joins them. God then gives him a vision of a man in Macedonia (Greece) begging him for help (Acts 16:8-9). Paul and his traveling companions immediately board a ship, sail near the island of Samothrace (Samothracia), then arrive at Neapolis (Acts 16:10-11).
From Neapolis the group goes to Philippi, where a woman named Lydia hears Paul's preaching. On Pentecost in 50 A.D. Lydia is baptized along with her entire household (Acts 16:12-15).
While in Philippi Paul casts a demon out of a female slave (Acts 16:16-18). Her masters, however, angry that they have lost the ability to make more money from the slave's demonic divination, stir up the city against him and Silas. The two evangelists are arrested, beaten and put in prison (Acts 16:19-24). Soon after arriving in jail a miraculous earthquake causes all the cell doors to open and the bonds of all prisoners to be loosed. This event leads to the conversion of the prison guard.
A freed Paul and Silas, along with Timothy and Luke, travel through the cities of Amphipolis and Apollonia and arrive in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1). In Thessalonica Paul visits a Jewish synagogue and for three consecutive Sabbaths (Saturdays) explains why Jesus is the Old Testament prophesied Savior of Mankind (Acts 17:2-4). Although many believe what is said certain Jews, envious of the Gospel's success, form a mob and start a riot (Acts 17:4-5). The riotous crowd go to the house of Jason seeking him and Silas. When they are not found, the crowd drags Jason and some brethren to the local civil magistrates and accuses them of wrongdoing (Acts 17:5-8). In a short time, however, Jason and the brethren are let go.
Paul and Silas preach in a synagogue in Berea. The Bereans are not only willing to listen to what they have to say they also verify what is preached against the Old Testament scriptures (Acts 17:11-12). Many Bereans come to believe the Gospel. Unfortunately, Jews from Thessalonica arrive in the city seeking to cause more trouble for him (Acts 17:13). He immediately leaves for the coast and sets sail for Athens while the rest of his party stay in Berea (Acts 17:14). In Athens he requests Timothy and Silas come to the city (Acts 17:15).
Athens is the capital and largest city of modern Greece. With a recorded history spanning 3,400 years and being inhabited far longer, it is one of the oldest cities in the world.
Athens was known, among many things, for its giant temple dedicated to the Greek god Zeus. The temple of Zeus, which was larger than the Parthenon, had 104 columns each of which was about 56 feet (17 meters) tall. The building itself was made of marble and was 315 feet (96 meters) long and 131 feet (40 meters) wide. The huge statue of Zeus on his throne that was housed in the building is considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
While waiting in Athens for his traveling companions Paul preaches the Gospel to any Athenian who would listen. Some who hear his message are Jews and devout people. Others are Epicureans (followers of Epicurus) who believe the highest aim of man is to seek a pleasant life. Stoics also listen to him. They believe that man's happiness consists of bringing himself into harmony with the universe. After the Epicureans and Stoics dispute with him over his message they take him to the Areopagus (or Mars Hill as the Romans call it) to further explain what he teaches (Acts 17:16-19).
On Mars Hill Paul uses an altar he saw dedicated to "an unknown god" as a springboard for teaching the crowd about the REAL God that CAN be known:
"And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, 'May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak?'
"Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, 'Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.'
"'Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: . . . ' " (Acts 17:19, 22-23, NKJV)
Late Summer 50 A.D. to Autumn 52 A.D.
The apostle Paul preaches in Corinth, Ephesus, then travels to Jerusalem
Paul leaves Athens and travels to Corinth. It is in Corinth that he first meets Priscilla and Aquila. Since both he and the couple make a living as tentmakers he stays at their house. He preaches the gospel every Sabbath in the synagogue. Silas and Timothy join him in Corinth. (Acts 18:1-5). The synagogue eventually splits and a new church is formed. After the split he stays and teaches in Corinth for a year and a half.
In the winter of 51 A.D. Paul is brought before the judgment seat of Gallio (Acts 18:12-18) and is released. He remains in Corinth until the Spring of 52 A.D. when he then travels to the port city of Cenchrea. In the city he has his head shaved due to a vow he took (Acts 18:18). He soon boards a ship and travels to Ephesus with Priscilla and Aquila. In Ephesus he preaches in a synagogue but soon leaves the couple behind so that he can be in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Acts 18:19-21). He sails from Ephesus to Caesarea, then travels to Jerusalem. After keeping the Feast he returns to Antioch (Acts 18:21-22).