The Problem: Those from Syrian Antioch: Part 8

by John Lowe
(Laurens, SC)

30 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:

31 Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.
32 And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.
33 And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles.
34 Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.
35 Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.


Introduction

The letter brought from Jerusalem by the delegation caused quite a stir at Antioch. When Barnabas and Silas read the letter and confirmed it personally a great cloud was lifted from the minds and hearts of the believers in Antioch, and this really opened the way for renewed labors in which many gifted brethren taught and preached the word (35). The risen Lord was conferring abundant and varied gifts on His church (Ephesians 4:7-13).


Commentary
30 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:

Paul and Barnabas and the other delegates (the delegation which in verse 2 had been appointed to go to Jerusalem.), strengthened by the addition to their number of Judas and Silas as delegates from Jerusalem sent expressly to confirm the report of Paul and Barnabas (v 32), returned to the church of Antioch.


31 Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.

Upon their arrival, the church was assembled and the letter read in the presence of all. Every one found its message “encouraging1,” undoubtedly because it confirmed their practice of accepting the Gentiles without demanding circumcision and the obligations of the Torah, which would have been burdensome for gentiles to carry. Thus Barnabas lived up to his name (Son of Consolation, or Exhortation). We can well imagine what an anxious time it was for the Gentiles in the Antioch church. There is nothing harder than waiting, especially when a critical decision is expected. The hours and days seem to drag, and always the nagging thought persists: “What if the news is bad?” Hope and despair battle for the victory. The letter then was read amid great rejoicing, since it reassured them of their status. Its demands were apparently accepted without any objections, (they may already have been doing these things under instruction from their own leaders). We do not know what had happened to the Judaizers. Perhaps they had already left, knowing full well their phony credentials would soon be exposed. Or maybe they were still there, hoping that Judaistic sentiment in the Jerusalem church, which they knew to be strong, would prevail. In any case, the letter exposed and discredited them. Not that they changed their minds or gave up their goals. Such men rarely do. But for the time being at least they were effectively suppressed.

On his second missionary journey, Paul shared the letter with the churches he had founded on his first missionary journey. The result was a strengthening of the church’s faith and an increase of their number—“So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers” (Acts 16:5).

Comfort and Consolation. There is “consolation” and comfort in the gospel; there is nothing but condemnation in the Law. The Law condemns. The Law is a mirror. When I look into it, I say “O, Tom, you are ugly! You have fallen short of the Glory of God.” But the gospel says, “Come on to God. He wants to receive you. He will save you by His grace.” It is a comfort, you see.


32 And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.

The Greek word which is rendered here as “exhorted” is contrary to the imposition the Judaizers attempted to practice on them. The expression “many words” means that Judas and Silas had a lot to say in support of the communication from the Jerusalem church. For one thing, they “confirmed them”—opening up, no doubt, the great principle involved in the controversy which has now been settled of gratuitous salvation, or the purification of the heart by faith alone (as expressed by Peter; verses 9, 11).

As prophets, Judas and Silas were able to go beyond their role of interpreters of the Jerusalem Conference and to further strengthen and encourage their brothers and sisters at Antioch. In the New Testament, prophecy is primarily the gift of inspiration whereby one delivers a word from God that addresses the present needs in the life of the church.


33 And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles.

Judas and Silas were well received in Antioch and remained there some time, ministering to the church through their gift of interpretation. Judas and Silas did more than confirm the contents of the letter. They remained on in that dynamic church to minister the Word to the Lord’s people, being gifted in the Word themselves. They had a strengthening ministry, one much needed after the weakening and divisive false teaching of the Judaizers. When they departed, they were sent off with the ancient blessing of shalom2, asking that the peace of God would abide with them. The word “peace” expressed a desire for well-being in all areas of their lives.

For Judas and Silas, their experiences in this new, largely Gentile, young, and growing church must have been somewhat different and exciting after the sedate and stuffy atmosphere in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, evangelistic fervor had given place to exclusivism and concern over non-essentials. For these men to be around a large group of Christians still excited about their salvation, still enthusiastic about winning souls and world missions, and still woefully ignorant, comparatively, of all the majesty and meaning of the Scriptures must have been revolutionary.


34 Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.

It is evident that Paul and Silas got along well together. Silas must have liked Paul and enjoyed working with him. So he stayed there at the church in Antioch. He must have been excited about working with these Gentile believers. At any rate, he stayed.

Verse 34 is one of the Western readings that found its way into the Textus Receptus3 and from there into many of the 16th and 17th-century translations. It is the consensus of textual criticism that it was not in the original text of Acts and is thus omitted in modern translations. It reads: “But Silas decided to remain with them. Only Judas departed.” Undoubtedly the scribe responsible for this addition wanted to solve the problem of Silas being present in Antioch again in verse 40. When he did so a much more serious conflict was created with verse 33, which clearly states that they (plural) both returned to Jerusalem. There really is no problem with verse 40 anyway, because it takes place sometime later (v. 36), allowing plenty of room for Silas to return to Antioch from Jerusalem.

Though some of the texts question the validity of verse 34, it would not be surprising if Silas decided to stay on at Antioch.

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