Acts: For the Cause of Christ #23
Title: Paul’s Second Journey – Pt 1 – Let’s Go!
Review of 15:1-35
Last time we saw how some were trying to distort the Gospel of God’s grace by adding requirements of the law to salvation. We saw how the church in Antioch sought help for clarification from the Jerusalem church, how the issue was debated, and how it was decided that the law is not required for salvation. We saw the the news of God’s work of saving more gentiles in different areas was received with joy and praise. Now after sometime Paul seeks to go on another journey.
Planning – 15:36-41
Sometime after the Jerusalem council and the return to Antioch Paul and Barnabas begin planning a return trip to churches they had established in southern Galatia, and possibly visiting the churches in Cyprus as well. Barnabas seems to be on board, except he wants to bring John Mark along, again. Paul strongly disagrees on this point as he is unwilling to bring someone who has proved unreliable.
There is speculation from everywhere about the disagreement and ultimate division of these co-workers. Scripture doesn’t lay blame on either of these men, so I don’t seek to do so. I do think that a part of what was going on was that Barnabas was John Mark’s cousin (Col 4:10) and Barnabas’ name means “son of encouragement”. Barnabas may have been trying to help John Mark and was trying to encourage him to better serve in ministry.
There seems to be only one solution. Paul and Barnabas would not work together on this trip. Barnabas and John Mark leave for Cyprus, Barnabas’ home island. This may be to work with John Mark in a less intense mission field.
Paul feels he must get a new co-worker for this journey. He selects Silas, who either returned to Antioch or was sent for by Paul. Paul and Silas are sent out after being commended by the church. Why there was no note about this commending for Barnabas and Mark we don’t know. It may be that since Silas was from the Jerusalem church Antioch wanted to show their support so Paul and Silas represent two churches working together.
Though this disagreement was so sharp that they men could not work side by side, God used them in two different ministries, each advancing the gospel. Sometimes, that is what has to happen. Scripture shows that there appears to have been reconciliation between Paul and Mark (Col 4:10; Phile 24; 2 Tim 4:11) and with Barnabas (Col 4:10; 1 Cor 9:6).
Opening Journey – 16:1-5
Paul and Silas set out by travelling over land through the region of Cilicia heading west towards southern Galatia, strengthening any church they come to on the way. They come to the cities of Derbe and then Lystra. In Lystra they meet up with Timothy. Timothy is disciple with a good reputation in the churches in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wishes to take Timothy along with him. But there’s a problem.
Timothy is the son of a believing Jewish woman, Eunice (2 Tim 1:5) and Greek father. The wording and nuance of the language leads some to think that Timothy’s father had died before this point, how long ago is anyone’s guess. What’s the problem with Timothy? He wasn’t circumcised. Before Paul took Timothy along on the journey, he had Timothy circumcised. People criticize Paul for this decision after chapter fifteen’s discussion. However, the issue isn’t Timothy’s salvation, but Timothy’s not becoming an issue as the team ministers to unbelieving Jews. Paul is seeking to avoid another issue of disregarding Jewish customs and heritage. Judaism would view Timothy as an apostate Jew, being from a mixed heritage and not being circumcised. Paul, having Timothy circumcised, is showing that he seeks to reach out to Jews and show the link of the new faith to Jewish heritage, as well as giving Timothy credibility among the Jews the team will be evangelizing. So Paul is not acting contrary to the decision of the Jerusalem Council.
On a separate note. We should note, though not mentioned here, that Timothy’s mother Eunice seems to show a willingness to let her son go into the ministry. Our churches need be teaching parents that the ministry isn’t a bad vocation or calling. Our churches need pastors with no one to take the position. Our mission fields need missionaries with no one to go. Too many Christian parents downplay ministry. Too many Christian parents aren’t willing for their children to go into ministry. Whether it is a concern or fear for material wealth, “full-time ministry doesn’t pay” or concern for safety in foreign fields. Christian parents should be getting their children into the work of the ministry early and need to learn to trust God. Christian parents need to worship God and not the idol of their children.
Paul and team continue on. As they go through these cities they are reporting on the decision concerning Gentile salvation from Jerusalem. Possibly carrying a copy of the letter with them to read to each church. As they visited these churches they strengthened the churches and saw that these churches were active, vibrant and continuing to grow. Things seem to be going well, seem to be going to plan.
Where to Go Now – 16:6-12
Though we are not told, I think it is safe to assume that Paul and the others made to Pisidian Antioch and ministered there as well. Here they have finished the preliminary portion of their journey to visit the churches in southern Galatia. Now they must decide where they are heading to next. It appears they wanted to head southwest. Why? Verse 6 tells us that the Holy Spirit had forbid them from ministering in the Province of Asia. From Pisidian Antioch they could have taken the road that leads to Colossae, Laodicea, then to the capital of Asia, Ephesus. These are large cities. Paul is probably thinking that these fields are ready for harvest. But somehow, we are not told the specifics, the Holy Spirit prevented them from going in that direction. Paul will get to Ephesus another day, Colossae and Laodicea will be evangelized later. Plan A is tabled.
Plan B, seems to have started out okay. Verse 7 starts with them having headed north towards Bithynia. Why go this way? In the dual-province of Bithynia and Pontus they could go to other major cities such as Nicomedia (the Roman capital in Bithynia), Nicaea, and the city Byzantium (later called Constantinople). At this point they are probably in one of two cities that border Mysia and Bithynia. However we are told the the Spirit stops them again and does not allow them to head north. Scripture does not tell us if Paul ever makes it north, but we know that Peter writes his first letter to disciples that are spread out in the northern portion of Asia Minor including Bithynia and Pontus. Plan B is tabled.
Was there a Plan C? I don’t know. The group may have discussed their travel plans to determine where they should head. I wonder if they were getting discouraged or confused about this journey. Where to go to next. They make it the city of Troas. Troas is a major seaport for the northwest of Asia Minor on the west coast as it had a man made harbor. It is located about 10 miles south of the ancient city of Troy. Troas was made a Roman Colony by Augustus. They can go no further west unless they enter Greece. Greece is what the Lord wants for them. Paul is given a vision or a dream one night. In that dream, a man from Macedonia is pleading with Paul saying, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!” Macedonia is the northern portion of Greece.
The next morning Paul discussed this vision with Silas, Timothy, and Luke. Verse 10 is the first of the “we” passages. The writing changes from third person to first person from here until verse 17. There is debate over when Luke joined the team. Some think he was in Antioch since the beginning, others think he was an itinerant doctor that went back and forth between Troas and Philippi and joined Paul here in Troas. We don’t know for sure. What’s important at this point is that the team discussed Paul’s vision and decided that the Lord was intending them to go to Macedonia and evangelize there. The set sail from Troas and stop at the island on Samothrace for the night and then set sail for the port of Neapolis. It is assumed they had favorable winds for this two day journey, as in 20:5-6 we see it took five days for a return trip. Neapolis was the major port for Macedonia and served Philippi which was about 9 miles further inland. Philippi and Neapolis were connected on the famous Roman highway, the Egnatian Way which connected the Adriatic in the west to the city Byzantium in the east. Paul and the others were heading to Philippi. Philippi, we are told was a Roman Colony and an important city in the Macedonian province. They stayed in Philippi for several days.
“[There is a story] of an old Scottish woman who went from home to home across the countryside selling thread, buttons, and shoestrings. When she came to an unmarked crossroad, she would toss a stick into the air and go in the direction the stick pointed when it landed. One day, however, she was seen tossing the stick up several times. ‘Why do you toss the stick more than once?’ someone asked. ‘Because,’ replied the woman, ‘it keeps pointing to the left, and I want to take the road on the right.’ She then dutifully kept throwing the stick into the air until it pointed the way she wanted to go!” Today in the Word, May, 1989. (http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/w/will_of_God.htm 3/29/19)
What if Paul did as that Scottish woman in the story did? What if Paul went the way he wanted to go or planned to go instead of heeding to the will of the Lord? This section shows that we as Christians must be sensitive to the Lord’s leading. We must be in prayer constantly as well as in the Scriptures on a regular basis. We must also have a willing and humble spirit before the Lord. If we know that the Lord wants us to do something, we need to do that. Sometimes it may even seem strange or disappointing. Paul and Barnabas took different paths in the beginning of our passage. I’m not going to say who was right or wrong, but we should note that God used that division to further the gospel in with two ministries instead of one. It seemed like Paul had plans to get to large and important cities where the gospel could spread, but God took to another direction. Paul gets to major cities in Greece instead of Asia Minor, and will later in this journey be able to proclaim the gospel in Athens.
What plans do you have that God seems to be blocking? What plans does God have for you? What plans does God have for us here in this church?