Paul and Barnabas have now returned to Syrian Antioch and have continued to preach and teach there. However, Paul feels called to return to the “churches” that they started in central coastal region of Turkey (hereafter referred to as Galatia). Barnabas agrees with this notion, but he wants to take John Mark with them, which causes a huge argument between Paul and Barnabas. This argument causes Paul and Barnabas to spilt up and go their separate ways. Barnabas takes John Mark with him to Cyprus and Paul returns to Galatia. And we are going to see two new characters join the action: Silas and Timothy.
Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.—15:36-41
Paul and Barnabas disagreed over John Mark, who had deserted the apostles previously (Acts 13:13). The argument was so fierce that Paul and Barnabas spilt up. Barnabas took John Mark to his homeland of Cyprus, while Paul took Silas overland to Galatia. Paul and Barnabas eventually reconciled and forgave each other. Later, Paul considered John Mark a trusted helper. Paul mentions that John Mark was with him while he was imprisoned (Colossians 4:10), and at the end of his life (while in Rome), Paul said that John Mark was helpful to him (2 Timothy 4:11). Later, John Mark became closely associated with Peter. Church tradition holds that John Mark was Peter’s interpreter in Rome and that John Mark’s Gospel (Mark) is based on Peter’s preaching. John Mark is an encouraging example for anyone who has suffered failure.
The other lesson we should learn here is this: At times, strong disagreements will occur among believers who truly love the Lord and one another. When these cannot be settled, it is best to agree to disagree and let God teach and work his will in the lives of all concerned. Differences in opinions that lead to a separation, as in the case of Paul and Barnabas, must never involve a lingering bitterness, resentment or hostility. Both and Paul and Barnabas continued their for God with his blessing and power.
Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.—16:1-5
Timothy and his family were likely converted by Paul on the first missionary journey. The ground for circumcising Timothy was the fact that his heritage was well known. To other Jews, Timothy was considered of Jewish descent because his mother was Jewish, so remaining uncircumcised would have been an unnecessary stumbling block to Jewish listeners as Paul and Timothy ministered to them. To Gentiles, Timothy was considered a quasi-Jew because, though his father was Greek, his family raised him in the Jewish faith. Paul’s practice of beginning evangelism in the synagogue made Timothy’s circumcision a matter of wisdom with no saving significance. After being circumcised, Timothy joined Paul in telling the good news of the council’s decision.
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.—16:6-10
The Phrygia and Galatia region refers to the area west of Lystra and Derbe. A major theme in Acts is that the expansion of Christianity was not a work of human beings but the work of God. Paul’s effort met with hinderance until he received the Macedonian vision, a major turning point in the book of Acts. In Acts 16:10 the pronoun shifts from “he/they” to “we,” suggesting that Luke joined the team at Troas. The reports throughout these “we” sections are those of a participant in the events. And that is where we will pick up tomorrow as Paul and his team across from Asia into Europe, marking a major turning point in not only church history but world history.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Ezra 4:24-6:22, 1 Corinthians 3:5-23, Psalm 29:1-11 and Proverbs 20:26-27
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