Paul and Barnabas Disagree on John Mark: Part 3 of 3
by John Lowe
40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
“And Paul chose Silas.”
It was NOT wise to travel alone in those rough and ready times, so, now that Barnabas was gone, Paul turned his attention to who should accompany him. Several people came to mind, but he chose “Silas,” one of the official representatives from the Jerusalem council in taking the council’s decrees to Antioch (Acts 15:22), one in good standing with the mother church in Jerusalem, and with the churches blessing (compare verse 40 with 14:26), they set out by land for the cities of southern Galatia. Silas was mentioned in the Jerusalem letter, so his presence would give added weight to it as he presented it to the Galatian churches. His ministry at Antioch had been much appreciated by the church there and had given Paul an opportunity to size up the man. Then, too, Silas seems like Paul to have been a Roman citizen, something well worth considering in the light of official opposition that might be encountered. He could claim the same protection as Paul if the occasion demanded it. Being a Jew gave him access to the synagogues. In the end, Silas proved to be a wise choice. Silas, whose Roman name (in Greek) is Sylvanus (2 Corinthians 1:19), now assumed the role of “supporting cast” that Barnabas had played, though he would never attain the stature of Barnabas. He is never called an apostle (14:14), but he was a prophet fully capable of preaching and teaching the scriptures. He may have commended himself to Paul for four reasons; his readiness to deal sympathetically with the Gentile believers, he was well known in Antioch, his possession (implied in 16:37) of Roman citizenship and because Silas served as Peter’s amanuensis2 it may be concluded he was skilled in the Greek language. That no mention is made of Barnabas and Mark being similarly sent out with a blessing means nothing except that Paul is now the center of Luke’s attention.
“And departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.”
As at the commencement of the first missionary journey so now at the beginning of the second, Paul sought the blessing and prayer fellowship of the church before leaving. In some things, Paul could be fiercely independent. However, he never set himself up as a free-lance missionary. Though called and commissioned by the Lord, he did not act in isolation and independence from his brethren. All Christian workers need the support, fellowship, and prayers of the church. We are members of the Body of Christ, after all, and members one of another. Then, too, Paul must have been scarred by his recent quarrel with Barnabas. He needed to know that his brethren still had full confidence in him. They did. They commended him to “the grace of God,” and Silas, too.
God changes his workmen, but His work goes right on. Now there were two missionary teams instead of one! If God had to depend on perfect people to accomplish His work, He would never get anything done. Our limitations and imperfections are good reasons for us to depend on the grace of God, for our sufficiency is from Him alone “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” (2 Corinthians 3:5).
41And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.
As they journeyed to Galatia, Paul and Silas had the opportunity to visit as many churches of Syria-Cilicia as lay on their route. Though we are told nothing in detail about the founding of Christian churches in these districts, verse 23 implies their existence, and Paul himself may have had a hand in establishing some of them. Luke again uses the word that suggests that this was a “preaching tour,” and in this way (together with the reading of the letter from the council) these churches were strengthened (15:32; 14:22).
The emphasis is now obviously on Paul. He is now clearly in command. Paul was a born leader, and, like many other such men, impatient of those who questioned his authority. Silas was a patient follower. The church needs both.
They went northward through “Syria and Cilicia,” visiting the churches along the way. Since the “apostolic decrees” were originally addressed to all the churches in “Syria and Cilicia” (15:23), one would assume that Paul and Silas shared these with them. This is all the more likely since Silas was one of the two originally appointed by the Jerusalem church to deliver the decree’s (15:22). It would seem that they passed through Paul’s hometown of Tarsus in Cilicia, though nothing is said of that. But what thoughts and longings must have been in Paul’s heart as he trod the familiar streets of his own boyhood town! Then on into the rugged interior, crossing the Tarsus range by way of the Cilician Gates. At length, they arrived at Derbe and then at Lystra. A glance at a map will show that Paul was following quite a different route than the one taken on his first missionary journey. He now visited in the reverse order the cities to which he had been before. Everywhere he went he found the churches are thriving. There was little reason for him to stay. His goal was to encourage and exhort. No doubt copies of the Jerusalem letter were left with each church, and Silas added his own confirmation of the decision of the council. We can well believe that any Judaizers in the area kept a very low profile at this time.
The subject of supreme interest in the second missionary journey of Paul is the invasion of Europe. Once again, the circle widens, and we see the apostle crossing the boundary line and going into Europe. The call of the “man of Macedonia” was answered, and the gospel of Jesus Christ carried “to the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The invasion of Europe was not in the mind of Paul, but it was evidently in the mind of the Holy Spirit.
1Dissembled. Disguise or conceal one's true feelings.
2 Amanuensis. A literary or artistic assistant, in particular, one who takes dictation or copies manuscripts.