It was after the uproar ceased that Paul sent for the disciples and took his leave with an exhortation before departing for Macedonia. He went through these regions, giving much encouragement, until he came to Greece where he stayed for three months. He detoured back through Macedonia because a plot against him by the Jews was discovered just before setting sail for Syria. Sopater of Beroea, the son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; as did the Thessalonians Aristarchus and Secundus, Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, as well as the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. These went on ahead to be waiting for us at Troas, but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and after five days we met up with them at Troas. There we stayed for seven days. - Acts 20: 1-6/transliteration by Bruce C Wearne.

Walking feet

ON THE MOVE: Paul traveled through the regions of Macedonia accompanied by a number of disciples.  PICTURE: Julia Freeman-Woolpert/

Paul gathered a group together to travel with him. His plans changed because his life was still in danger.

Luke doesn't tell Theophilus all the details. From the point in the story where the Roman proconsul ignored the physical abuse of Sosthenes, Luke clarifies why Paul adopted the strategy he took. It would assist Theophilis in a context where questions were raised about Paul's precise movements at this time.

Luke doesn't always spell out how long Paul stayed at any one place, and he seems to assume that his readers will already have a sense of the timing of events. We know of Paul's contact with Prisca and Aquila in Corinth and of his co-operation with Apollos. We are told of ongoing opposition, the trip to Syria (Acts 18:18) and after Paul's return we heard about the spiritual warfare in Ephesus. Some time before that, Paul had decided to leave the region, to visit Jerusalem. For him this was important and there was ongoing mutual assistance between the various sections of the expanding church. He had collected a significant amount of money and it had to be delivered. In his letter to the Romans we note Paul's plans of a visit to Spain after visiting Rome.

We don't know how much Theophilus knew. We can guess he knew about Paul's arrival and house arrest in Rome. If so, chapters 18 and 19 may be Luke's explanation of Paul's movements on his way to Jerusalem, in some way protecting Paul against unfavourable interpretations of his conduct, not least from within the Corinthian and Achaian churches. Did not accusations from Gentile parts reach the Sanhedrin and Roman authorities in Jerusalem? The precise strategic reasoning behind Paul's movements is not spelled out. Luke itemises Paul's movements and this may mean we are also reading some form of the evidence by which Luke supported Paul in his conduct in Asia, Macedonia and Achaia. Such accusations had to be refuted by the evidence of "two or three witnesses" and Paul was ready to stand his ground in any judicial fight (II Corinthians 13:1-2). Luke lists these witnesses as Paul's travelling companions. And Luke also tells us when he was accompanying Paul.

The churches, founded by the Spirit of Jesus, were fragile communities, facing many threats. They needed wise leadership and the support of other churches as part of a widening network. Paul taught them to deepen their responsibility for each other as much as to the apostolic fellowship in Jerusalem. As a record informing the churches in the region, Luke's account seems to have been written to protect and strengthen Paul's standing as one whom Jesus had sent, an apostle. Therefore we have this statement of his itinerary and the names of those who travelled with him. Luke knew that loyalty is eroded if accusations go unanswered. Most certainly this account seems to have been formed with a pastoral concern for the Christian churches Paul had helped to establish in mind.