Terry and I just returned from an eleven day trip to Turkey and Greece during which I served as lecturer on the missionary journeys of the apostle Paul. We sailed from Istanbul to Athens, with stops in Troy/Troas, Sardis/Ephesus, Kos, Rhodes, Laodicea/Hierapolis, Santorini and Corinth.
In most of these ancient cities, ruins have been excavated sufficiently to enable identification of homes, businesses, civic buildings, temples and churches. Amazing architecture and incredible construction technique produced structures beyond comprehension. In some cases gigantic stone blocks weighing many tons rested for centuries atop mammoth stone pillars.
The New Testament contains information about Paul’s three separate missionary journeys, probably conducted between 45 and 58 A.D. Each was several years in length. During these trips Paul preached the news of Jesus in many important coastal cities and trade route towns.
God used Paul’s ministry to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, establishing the Christian church in places beyond its point of origin. He was aided by Barnabas, John Mark, Silas, Luke and Timothy. Positively received by many, Paul and his message were rejected by others who expressed their disapproval by beating, stoning, imprisoning and running him out of town.
Because of his bold testimony of Jesus, Saul the persecutor became Paul the persecuted.
Although Paul’s missionary journeys caused him to sacrifice everything, he said his sufferings were worth the cost: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him.” (Phil. 3:8)
Last week’s journey greatly enhanced our appreciation for Paul and his courageous ministry! I hope you share that appreciation!