Jon: During the 1st century, most people around the Mediterranean Sea lived in densely packed cities all ruled by the Roman Empire.
Tim: Each city was a diverse blend of cultures, ethnicities, and religions.
Jon: Because of this, there were all sorts of temples for offering sacrifices to all sorts of gods, and each person had their own portfolio of gods that they gave their allegiance to.
Tim: But in every city you would also find a minority group who wouldn’t worship any gods but their own, the Israelites, also known as the Jews. They claimed that their God was the one true creator and King of the world.
Jon: Now all these cities were connected by a network of roads built by the Roman Empire, and so it was easy to move around, to do business, and even spread new ideas.
Tim: Now one person familiar with these roads was the apostle Paul. He spent the second half of his life traveling from city to city, announcing that Israel’s God had appointed a new king over the nations.
Jon: This king wasn’t like anyone who’d come before.
Tim: Right. Most kings rule with aggression or power. But this new King rules with self-sacrifice and love. His name is Jesus, and Paul is his herald who is inviting all people to live under this King’s rule.
Jon: The stories of Paul’s travels and how people received this message, that’s what the third part of Acts is all about.
Paul’s Missionary Journeys [01:19-02:57]
Jon: For some time, Paul’s home base had been in the city of Antioch. And from there, he and his co-workers went out on three road trips, traveling by land and by sea to strategic cities throughout the empire.
Tim: In each city, Paul’s custom was to go first to the Jewish synagogue, where his people gathered. He’d start teaching and showing how the messianic King promised in the Hebrew Scriptures is Jesus of Nazareth.
Jon: And some believed this news, others didn’t. And still others thought this message was so misleading and dangerous they would incite riots to kick Paul out of town.
Tim: And so that’s when Paul would take to the bustling city marketplace. He would set up shop there to make and sell leather tents to cover his travel expenses.1 And here, Paul kept sharing the news about the risen King Jesus with anybody who would listen.
Jon: He was often misunderstood as just promoting a new god. One time, he prayed for a sick person, they were healed, and everyone around thought he must be a Greek god that came down to visit them.2
Tim: But Paul insisted there’s only one true God, and he was his servant. This message often stirred up opposition and more riots, and he got beaten, even thrown in jail.
Jon: Why such a strong reaction?
Tim: Well, the worship of the gods held together Roman culture. They believed the gods kept their cities safe, and the temple worship of the gods was a huge part of their economy. Paul wasn’t just adding Jesus as a new god to the list, he was saying all other gods are powerless, even a sham.
Jon: So he’s undermining their way of life.
Tim: Yes. And more than that, when Paul announced Jesus as a new King, he would call him “Lord” or “Son of God,” the very titles people used to refer to the emperor of Rome!
Living Like Jesus was Actually King [02:58-03:59]
Jon: So Paul’s message could easily be heard as a threat against the entire political order. Why would anyone join this movement? I mean, it sounds dangerous.
Tim: Well, people were captivated by the story of Jesus and how his love created communities where all people were treated as equals, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or economic status. These people formed new families that would eat together—they lived sacrificially and took care of their poor.
Jon: They lived like Jesus actually was the King.
Tim Right. And so in every city where Paul announced the message about Jesus, people were being transformed by God’s Spirit to become new kinds of humans.
Jon: So Paul would stay in that city and teach them the way of Jesus.
Tim: And then he would leave for a new city.
Jon: This was a difficult life. Paul had to endure a lot of pain and a lot of suffering.
Tim: Yeah, and he did so because he believed that his own hardships were a reenactment of Jesus’ suffering and death for others. He said it was God’s own love that drove him to share the story of Jesus, no matter the cost.
Paul’s Growing Reputation and Journey to Jerusalem [04:00-04:25]
Jon: After his third road trip, Paul’s reputation had grown. He had made many new friends but had also made many new enemies that he would be wise to avoid.
Tim: But Paul didn’t avoid them. His next stop was Jerusalem, a city full of people who wanted him arrested, even dead. And so why he goes to Jerusalem and what happens when he gets there, that’s what the final section of Acts is all about.