With modern innovations like TripAdvisor, Easyjet and Uber, we often fail to realize that Mediterranean society in the first century was just as accustomed to long-distance journeys as we are. Paul was particularly well travelled, which is why W. M. Ramsay entitled his biography of the apostle, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen. In our chapters for study, Paul visited many different locations; over twenty places are named. We want to examine Paul’s travelling habits, and show how they are relevant for our busy lives today.
Paul rarely travelled alone. He spent a short time walking solo to Assos, Acts 20. 13, possibly to pray and commune quietly with his Master. But, in general, he surrounded himself with godly fellow believers, v. 4. God decreed that it was ‘not good that the man should be alone’, Gen. 2. 18. The original context of this statement involves marriage, but it is also true that single Christians, like Paul, need other people to support and encourage them. Paul’s companions all had their part to play. Some suffered with him, like Silas, Acts 16. 19. Some witnessed with him, like Timothy, Phil. 2. 22. Some served with him, like Mark, 2 Tim. 4. 11.
Similarly, remember that Elisha poured water on Elijah’s hands, 2 Kgs. 3. 11. There was blessing for both men. The high-profile servant was helped in a practical way by a seemingly less important character. Elisha learned much from being with Elijah. We should cultivate the companionship of godly believers.
Paul’s life was full of variety. The one fixed point in his schedule seems to have been the Lord’s supper, 1 Cor. 11. 20. The apostle made it his priority to meet with Christians in local churches, wherever he could. At Troas, he deliberately waited until ‘the first day of the week’ so he could break bread with the believers, Acts 20. 6-7. This was consistent with the Lord’s instruction, 1 Cor. 11. 23-26, therefore it was Paul’s pleasure to obey.
There is a direct challenge to us when we travel, whether on business or holiday. Do we look for companies of the Lord’s people, where possible? Obedience is more important than convenience!
Paul was glad to receive hospitality from Christians, and they were glad to offer it. According to the parable of sheep and goats, looking after Paul was as good as looking after the Lord Himself, Matt. 25. 40. We need to be ready to give and receive; this mutuality draws us closer to our fellow believers and to our Lord, Acts 2. 44, Phil. 4. 10.
Philip and Mnason were highly hospitable, Acts 21. 8, 16, like Stephanas and his family, 1 Cor. 16. 15. This was a healthy addiction. Hospitality is a clear indicator of spiritual maturity, 1 Tim. 3. 2, Titus 1. 8.
Paul knew he had to go to Jerusalem, Acts 20. 22. He was aware that this journey would lead to trouble, 21. 13. Nonetheless, he was determined to continue. This was the pathway of submission. In the same manner that the Lord Jesus had suffered for the will of God, so too would Paul, 1 Pet. 2. 21.
The lesson for us is to seek God’s will and then to pursue it, despite personal cost. In the next article, we will begin to discover the great price Paul paid for his obedience, when he finally reached Jerusalem.