Paul’s Second Missionary Journey (part one)
The Conflict over John Mark
Paul, always concerned about the spiritual welfare of his brethren in Christ, approaches Barnabas one day with a great idea—Let’s go back and check on all the brethren in the cities we stopped at during our mission trip! Barnabas was ready to go, and decided they should take John Mark. Paul was incredulous. Are you serious? I’m not going to ask the church to help support someone untrustworthy like him. I know he’s your cousin, but we’re not taking him along!1 Paul was so adamant about not taking Mark along that he and Barnabas—who had been partners in the work for perhaps five years or more—stopped working together at all.2
After Barnabas left with Mark to Cyprus to strengthen the churches he and Paul had planted there, Paul chose Silas, a brother from Jerusalem who had accompanied him to Antioch with the letter from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. Together, with the aid and blessing of the church in Antioch, they went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the congregations.3
Traveling over land, Paul returned to Derbe and Lystra—the latter being the place where an angry mob stoned him nearly to death. In Lystra, Paul found a young disciple named Timothy who was already well-known and well-respected in both Lystra and Iconium (both places where Paul was heavily persecuted).4 This young man would end up being one of Paul’s closest companions and friends for the rest of his life.
In a completely PR5 move, Paul took Timothy (a half-Jew) and circumcised him. He did this so that Timothy could have more influence with the Jews, access to speaking in their synagogues, and to show Timothy’s respect for the Law of Moses. But at the same time, Paul shared the letter from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, saying that Gentiles had no obligation to submit to any part of the Law of Moses. Because of the clear instructions and expectations for the Gentiles, and the show of respect to the Law for the Jews, Paul became all things to all men, and the church grew daily.6
The Macedonian Call
Paul, along with Silas, Timothy, and perhaps some others, traveled and preached through Phrygia7 and Galatia.8 He really wanted to go to the province of Asia (which included the massive city of Ephesus), but the Holy Spirit had other plans for him and told him not to go at that time.9 So instead, Paul heads north through the area of Mysia,10 and planned to enter the province of Bithynia, but again the Holy Spirit had other plans, and told him not to go there.11 So, instead, Paul and company went down toward the seaport city of Troas, where he met a doctor named Luke.12
While in Troas, Paul received a vision from the Lord: he saw a man from Macedonia begging him to “Come over into Macedonia and help us.” Immediately, he described the vision to Silas, Timothy, and Luke, and they all agreed that this was what God wanted, so they made plans to sail to Macedonia to preach the gospel.13
–Bradley S. Cobb
1 Colossians 4:10, NKJV. The KJV says that Mark is “sister’s son,” or nephew to Barnabas, but the Greek work means “cousin,” and is so translated in every major translation of the past 150 years (ASV, NKJV, RSV, ESV, NASB, MLV, etc.). The word eventually took on the sense of “nephew,” but not until many years after the New Testament was completed, according to Robertson, Vincent, B.W. Johnson, and others.
2 Acts 15:36-39. They worked together for a year in Antioch before making the trip to Jerusalem with aid for the churches in Judea; upon returning (no length of time is given for this mission), they worked again in Antioch until they were sent on their missionary journey, which took at least a year (most estimate it as 1½ to 2 years); they came back to Antioch and remained there a “long time” before the circumcision controversy raised its ugly head; they went to Jerusalem, preaching along the way; they returned from Jerusalem, and “continued in Antioch”; and it was “some days” later that Paul made the suggestion of leaving.
3 On the first missionary journey, Paul had sailed to Cyprus, and then after crossing the island, sailed to Asia Minor. On the second journey, since Barnabas had gone to Cyprus, Paul took the land route to Asia Minor, visiting congregations that he apparently planted, but which are not mentioned by Luke in the book of Acts. Luke’s purpose in writing did not include giving Paul’s every movement, but to give the history of the establishment of the church and the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire, and perhaps also as an aid for Paul’s legal defense before Caesar, showing his innocence in the matters of which he was accused. So it shouldn’t be a concern that no mention was made of Paul and Barnabas visiting cities in Cilicia and Syria and planting the church there.
4 Acts 16:1-2. This indicates that Timothy had been working with the churches in both cities, probably preaching.
5 Public relations.
6 Acts 16:3-5.
7 Acts 16:6. Phrygia is in Central Asia Minor.
8 Acts 16:6. “Galatia” was used two ways in the first century. One referred to the Roman province, and the other to a larger area describing the people who lived in that area, including the cities of Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Luke is using “Galatia” to describe the Roman province, which was to the north. This is certain because it was after leaving Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (ethnic Galatia) that Luke records them visiting Galatia.
9 Acts 16:6. It is important to note that Paul wasn’t forbidden to ever enter Asia—he did go there later on during this very missionary journey, and stayed there for three years. For a more detailed discussion of this forbidding, see this author’s book, The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts, comments on this passage.
10 Acts 16:7. Mysia is a Roman colony, never becoming an official province, that was at the north end of the province of Asia, along the Mediterranean Sea, and bordered the province of Bithynia. Troas was the chief city in this region. See Robertson’s Word Pictures on Acts 16:8.
11 Acts 16:7. Bithynia was a Roman province in the northwestern corner of Asia Minor. The Holy Spirit (some Greek manuscripts have “the Spirit of Jesus”) forbade Paul to go evangelize there, but it wasn’t because God didn’t want the gospel spread there. 1 Peter 1:1-2 shows that someone had gone to Bithynia and evangelized, and that many were converted. In AD 110-115, Pliny became governor of Bithynia, and in a letter to the emperor Trajan, wrote that there were many Christians in the area, to the point where most of the heathen temples had been abandoned. See International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Bithynia.”
12 The pronouns “they” and “them” are used until Paul arrives at Troas. Once Paul is in Troas, Luke starts using the pronouns “we” and “us” (see Acts 16:10), showing that he is now part of their company. The details of their first meeting and Luke’s conversion (most likely by Paul), we are not permitted to know, for this historian kept himself out of his writings as much as possible. Luke is called “the beloved physician” in Colossians 4:14. See the section in chapter one on the “Companions of Titus” for a fuller discussion of Luke.
13 Acts 16:10. The phrase “assuredly gathering” (KJV) means they all came to the same conclusion. Luke uses the pronoun “we,” showing that it was the group that came to the conclusion, and the group that made plans to leave for Macedonia. Obviously, it was at Paul’s urging, but they were all in agreement.