Calvary Road Baptist Church

“PAUL’S SECOND MISSIONARY JOURNEY BEGINS”

Acts 15.36-16.10

 After the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead in a glorified human body, He ascended on several occasions. However, on the occasion of His final ascension to His Father’s right hand on high, His disciples asked Him, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1.6. He responded, first, by saying, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth,” Acts 1.7-8. “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight,” Acts 1.9. There He has remained, and will remain, until the time of His second coming.

Of course, the Day of Pentecost with the promised baptism of the Holy Spirit came and the gospel message was strongly preached in Jerusalem. That is recorded in the first seven chapters of the book of Acts. Acts chapters 8-12 records the spread of the gospel into surrounding Judea and to Samaria just to the north. Because of persecution in Jerusalem, Christians scattered, many of them who were saved on the Day of Pentecost and soon after now returning to the cities they originally came from, preaching to Jewish people back home and to Gentiles.

Our attention is diverted from Jerusalem to Antioch, and in Acts chapter 13 and 14, we read of the Apostle Paul’s first missionary journey. The journey began, as a team comprised of Barnabas and Saul, along with John Mark the nephew of Barnabas. Along the way, Luke’s record shows three changes: First, Saul is now identified as Paul, switching from his Jewish name to his Roman name. Second, Paul becomes the prominent leader of the team, by virtue of both the order in which their names are listed and the leadership role assumed when handling sensitive situations. Finally, John Mark abandons the team to return home as they about to enter a dangerous region and at a crucial time in their efforts.

When they returned to Antioch, unscrupulous men from Jerusalem began to teach that circumcision was required of Gentiles to be saved. Recognizing the seriousness of the problem, Paul and Barnabas traveled to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and church leaders to settle the important matter, and then returned to Antioch. The doctrinal matter being settled, and with everyone and all the churches clear on the issue of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, apart from works of the Law, life returned to normal and Paul and Barnabas served God in the Antioch congregation with many others.

We now come to the time in Christian history when Paul embarks upon his second missionary journey, with some remarkable and even surprising developments, unfolded along three lines of inquiry:

 First, TAKE NOTE OF THE PERSONNEL CHOSEN FOR THE JOURNEY

 In Acts 15.36-40, Luke records the events that unfolded:

 36     And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.

37     And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.

38     But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.

39     And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;

40     And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.

 Verse 36 is not unexpected. Paul knows that one cannot expect what one does not expect, so there is a need not only to hold those he had brought to Christ in the past accountable, but also to teach them things they were too immature or too inexperienced to be able to receive at the time of the first missionary journey.

Neither is verse 37 unexpected: “And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.” Anyone whose nickname is Barnabas, son of consolation, might be expected to want to give John Mark a second chance by taking him on their next missionary journey, especially since John Mark was Barnabas’ nephew. After all, God is God of second chances.

However, Paul disagreed, verse 38: “But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.” Did Paul deny that God gave second chances? Not at all. Was Paul opposed in principle to giving second chances? I see no indication of that in God’s Word. However, this young man had abandoned them at a crucial time on an extremely important mission. What does the Bible say about confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble? “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint,” Proverbs 25.19.

The result was that Paul and Barnabas parted company, verse 39: “And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus.” Tragic, is it not, that these two wonderful men of God could no longer work together? Barnabas took Mark with him back to his home island of Cyprus, and he is never again mentioned by Luke. Why the conflict? On the surface, it seems like a simple disagreement between two mature men about the usefulness of bringing an immature fellow with them who has already shown himself unreliable. Paul thought the mission too important to risk taking someone who had shown himself to be a quitter, while Barnabas disagreed. A Christian’s spiritual makeup usually influences whom he wants to agree with in this matter, Paul or Barnabas. With those tending toward being more compassionate favoring Barnabas in wanting to give John Mark a second chance, and those who are a bit more mission conscious favoring Paul. I might suggest that the continued focus on Paul’s ministry by Luke shows whose side God was on. The recommendation of Silas by the brethren, in verse 40, suggests the church sided with Paul, as well. What is frequently overlooked, however, is that Barnabas balked at Paul’s leadership in this instance, which was uncharacteristic, until you keep in mind that Barnabas had been a Christian longer than Paul, Barnabas was the one who brought Paul into the company of the apostles early on when no one trusted him, and Barnabas had both sought out Paul to work with him in Antioch and initially provided leadership on their first missionary journey. Couple that with the fact that John Mark left the first missionary journey when Paul’s leadership was becoming more prominent, and it may very well be that John Mark left because he did not like who was now in charge of the team. He signed on with his uncle in charge, but it came to be that Paul was looked to more for leadership. Perhaps Paul’s underlying reason for refusing John Mark’s company was his feeling that a team is not well served by divided loyalties and John Mark would certainly be tempted to question Paul’s leadership in the future. It was probably a good thing that Barnabas and Paul parted company at this point, where little real damage to the cause of Christ would occur. However, it is sad to me that Barnabas was not humble enough to want above everything else to be a colleague of the most important Christian who ever lived, and whose future Barnabas already had insights about. In the future, John Mark would make the smart choice, the spiritual choice, the right choice, and seek to rejoin Paul rather than continue with his uncle. When John Mark was ready, Paul would give him the second chance he had proven himself ready for, Second Timothy 4.11.

The brethren endorsed Silas, the man Paul chose to take with him, and they departed with the good wishes of the congregation, verse 40: “And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.”

 Next, TAKE NOTE OF THE CHURCHES REVISITED

 41     And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

1      Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:

2      Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.

3      Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.

4      And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.

5      And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.

 It may be that Paul wanted to return to the churches God used him to establish to strengthen them, to provide additional instruction he earlier did not have time for, and to make sure they had not been adversely affected by the kind of false teachers that had caused him so much trouble in Antioch. Notice verse 1, and the comment is made about a racially mixed young man named Timotheus: “Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek.” In the same region where he had been stoned on his first missionary journey, God had raised up this young man with a Jewish mother and a Greek father, who had been converted under Paul’s preaching during the first missionary journey.[1]

Paul was very favorably impressed with the young man, and wanted to bring him on the mission. However, there was a problem. Timothy was not circumcised: “Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.” Had not Paul recently traveled to Jerusalem to insist that circumcision was not required for salvation? Yes, he had indeed done that. Did not Paul preach that salvation is by grace through faith, apart from any works of righteousness? Yes, he most certainly did. Why, then, did he circumcise Timothy? Timothy was not circumcised of necessity, but of convenience. He was already a Christian, and well established in the Christian community. However, the unsaved Jewish population knew his father was a Gentile. Therefore, to eliminate an obstacle of Jewish resistance to Timothy’s ministry, Paul circumcised him. This done, the missionary team proceeded on their way and carried with them the results of the Jerusalem church meeting, and the letter that had been written to communicate their decision, verse 4: “And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.”

Verse 5: “And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.” What a wonderful time, and what great blessings they enjoyed as they ministered to the churches. I wonder if Paul’s heart was ever heavy because of Barnabas’ rash decision to part company with him. I am sure that it was.

 Finally, TAKE NOTE OF THE CALL TO EUROPE

 6      Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,

7      After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.

8      And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.

9      And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.

10     And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

 The phrase “immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia” is our clue that Luke has now joined Paul’s missionary team. Before he joined the team Luke typically referred to “them” and “they.” Now, he makes reference to “we.” Additionally, there are three astounding events recorded in this passage:

First, in verse 6, they “were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia.” By Asia is meant Proconsular Asia, a Roman province whose capital was Ephesus. Paul, obviously, went to Ephesus later in his ministry, but at this point, the Spirit of God stopped him.

Second, in verse 7, “they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.” Again, the Spirit of God said or did something quite unusual, quite out of the ordinary, perhaps some kind of revelatory miracle, to prevent Paul and his party from going somewhere.

Third, and finally, verse 9: “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” This we know to be a vision, since we are so told. Paul receives a vision one night urging him to come over into Macedonia, to enter for the first time what we refer to as Europe.

What are we to make of these three events? I think your conclusions greatly depend on the kind of man you think the Apostle Paul is at this point in his life. My own opinion is that the Apostle Paul is godly, spiritually mature, and constantly employing the best means God has provided him for making wise decisions and both doing God’s will for his life and for bearing fruit as he goes along. If that is the case, why is it that during the course of his regular prayer and devotional life Paul did not receive what most who claim to be Christians would expect, the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit for giving him insights into what decisions he should make and what places he should go? The fact that he was forbidden by the Spirit to preach the Word in Asia, suffered not to go into Bithynia, and then urged by a special vision in the night to go to Macedonia, shows that Paul did not receive leadings and guidance during the normal course of his life, or he would not have received these three very special revelations. Think about it. God does not work miracles when His will is accomplished by other means. Neither does He work miracles to impress those already strong in faith. Miracles are for those very weak in faith, for those without faith, and for those opposed to God who need to be strongly impressed. I am convinced that God miraculously intervened in Paul’s ministry because He wanted Paul to make a decision that Paul would never have arrived at under ordinary circumstances. This intervention was for the purpose of changing the course of history. The reason for the miracles of guidance for Paul? Because God does not provide guidance concerning where to go and what to do for people as a general rule, but leaves us to grow in wisdom so that we might make good decisions in our lives.

 Three matters in our text tonight may have surprised you a bit. First, there was the bad decision made by Barnabas and what seems to be his stubborn insistence on taking his nephew with him, even if it meant breaking up a good and accomplished team. As well, if normally spiritual Barnabas made a bad decision (I think his decision was a bad one), does that not argue for Christians exercising wisdom in discerning God’s will rather than receiving some type of supernatural nudge? Second, Paul’s circumcision of Timothy, a surprise to some in light of his insistence on circumcision not being necessary for salvation, displays Timothy’s willingness to sacrifice for the cause of Christ instead on standing on his rights (which would have limited his effectiveness among Jewish people). Finally, there is the evidence from the Spirit’s interposition in Paul’s normal decision-making process that suggests the Spirit does not normally “lead” and “guide” people in the way many think He does.

Next week, by God’s grace, we will examine Paul’s entrance into Europe, Macedonia, and the city of Philippi, where he saw brought to Christ the most satisfying fruit of his ministry.



[1] 1 Timothy 1.2; 1 Timothy 1.2



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org