Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave
I tried looking at some maps of Paul's third missionary journey, and they were all different. I guess no-one's quite sure what route he took, and everyone uses different bits of Acts or the Epistles to figure it out. So I picked the one that made most sense to me and used it in this week's study. I'll use it when I write the children's stories too, and my fingers are beginning to itch with ideas...
(20) A Collection for the Churches
Paul’s third missionary journey started with a prolonged stay (up to three years) in Ephesus, just across the straits from Corinth. He left Ephesus with the intention of carrying the gospel to the center of the known universe – to Rome. But first he planned to revisit old mission fields collecting aid for Jerusalem, where Christians were suffering now from famine, terrorism and war. While no one is quite sure what route he took, it’s likely the journey started with a brief trip to Corinth
Trouble in Corinth
1. Paul sends a letter and a friend to the Corinthians while he stays in Ephesus (Read Acts 19:22, 1 Corinthians 4:17), but he doesn’t visit them until he starts making his collection of aid for Jerusalem (Read 1 Corinthians 16:1-4,8). How might that make them feel?
2. Read 2 Corinthians 1:15-16. It’s not clear what route Paul takes from Ephesus, but it’s likely he would have stopped in Corinth first. It’s also likely the trip didn’t go well. Read 2 Corinthians 2:1. Is Paul being angry, hurt, practical, or just following the Spirit? And how do we tell the difference in our own lives?
3. Read 2 Corinthians 2:12-14. Commentators suggest that if Paul did visit Corinth briefly, he probably returned to Ephesus and made his way to Troas –gateway to Macedonia. It seems he hopes to find Titus there, with better news from Corinth. But Titus isn’t there. How does Paul handle the disappointment? How do we handle it?
4. Read 2 Corinthians 7:5-7,13. Paul and Titus get back together while traveling through Macedonia, and at last the news from Corinth is good. (Actually, this makes 2 Corinthians sound like more than one letter, but many commentators think it is.) Paul feels refreshed. What sort of news makes us feel that way?
5. Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-7. The collection continues for the saints in Jerusalem. But what sort of thing does Paul write about to encourage giving? How does this compare with ways that we are asked to give?
6. Read 2 Corinthians 8:16-18. And still Paul doesn’t visit his Corinthians church. Instead he’s praising Titus for going in his place. Do you think this might cause trouble, or division? (Read 2 Corinthians 10:10,14-16, 11:5-6) What kind of things cause trouble between church members and church leaders today?
7. Read 2 Corinthians 12:11-14. Paul responds to the accusations by reluctantly boasting of how God has used him. Then he promises a third visit, which will come toward the end of his third missionary journey. How can we distinguish between boasting about God and boasting about ourselves? What picture of Paul do we have?
8. Read Acts 20:1-3. Paul left Ephesus, traveled around Macedonia, and finally arrives in Greece where he spends three months, most likely in Corinth. What do you think he might have done while there, given where he wanted to go next?
On the Road Again
1. Paul’s logical route home would have been to sail back to Ephesus and Caesarea or Antioch. Read Acts 20:3-4. Instead he and his followers go back North through Greece toward Philippi and the boat to the Troas. Presumably they’re carrying quite a lot of aid by now, traveling in convoy perhaps, keeping watch for bandits, and praying. How well do we cope when best-laid plans get replaced by traveling around in circles?
2. Read Acts 20:4, Romans 16:21-24. One of the things Paul probably did while in Corinth was write his letter to the Romans – after all, he was getting progressively more eager to go there. A lot of people are named. How do you feel about so many names being included in the Bible?
a. Timothy is from Lystra in Asia – Greek father, Jewish mother – and becomes a great church leader. Tradition says he was killed by stoning at age 90 for stopping a procession to the goddess Diana
b. Lucius of Cyrene was a member of the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1)
c. Jason is from Thessalonica. He got into trouble for letting Paul and Silas stay at his house.
d. Sosipater is probably the same as Sopater, from Berea. Some traditions say he was one of the 70 disciples sent out by Jesus. He was Bishop of Iconium, traveled with Jason to Corfu where they made many converts, continuing to convert people after they were imprisoned.
e. Tertius acts as Paul’s scribe when he writes to the Romans
f. There are (at least) two people named Gaius. One is from Derbe (near Lystra), and is probably the one traveling with Paul (Acts 19:29). The other is a Corinthian baptized by Paul (1 Corinthians 1:14). John writes to a Gaius in Ephesus who may well be one of these (3 John 1)
g. Erastus traveled with Timothy (Acts 19:22) and appears to hold public office in Corinth (2 Timothy 4:20). He’s also sometimes listed as one of the seventy.
h. Quartus doesn’t appear anywhere else.
i. Aristarchus is from Thessalonica. He was traveling with Paul and was seized with Gaius during the riot in Ephesus. He sails with Paul on his final journey (Acts 27:2). He’s another one of the seventy... maybe.
j. Secundus is from Thessalonica.
k. Tychicus probably traveled to Rome with Paul, and was sent from there to Ephesus and Collosus. (Ephesians 6:21, Colossians 4:7, Titus 3:12, 2 Timothy 4:12)
l. Trophimus is from Ephesus. He travels to Jerusalem with Paul. Since he’s a Gentile, this causes some trouble (Acts 21:29). He might be the unnamed follower who traveled with Titus to Corinth.
3. Read Acts 20:5-6 Luke is back on the team, and everyone’s sailing from Philippi, but not all at the same time. Why might this be? Are there times when you’ve been asked to go it alone when you thought you were working with a team?
4. Read Acts 20:7-12 Paul’s clearly in such a hurry he ends up preaching all night. So why do stay 7 days in Troas?
5. What is your favorite part of the story of Eutychus?
6. Read Acts 20:13-16. Paul walks to Assos? Any ideas why?
7. The ship is taking them along the coast – a much safer way to travel than out at sea. Miletus is the place where Tychicus gets left when he is ill. (2 Timothy 4:20) What impression do you get of this journey?
8. Paul skipped Ephesus on his first journey. Now he’s about to do it again. But he sends for the elders and plans to talk with them, setting things straight perhaps in a way he didn’t do for Corinth. At the end of his talk (which we’ll look at next week), they all weep and pray for him (Read Acts 20:36-38). Why is this all so emotional?
9. Luke continues to detail the route of the ship. As expected, it’s a merchant ship (Acts 21:3). It stops in every port, and the tension rises with every meeting. Paul is returning to the Jerusalem for the last time. Read Acts 21:14. Are there times when we need to stop arguing and make the same reply?