The Life of Silas (Part 2)

Apostle of the Antioch Church

After fulfilling his mission in Antioch, Silas was allowed to go home, but he decided instead to stay in Antioch for a while, working with the congregation there.*[1]  After some time had passed,*[2] Paul thought it would be good to go back to the congregations he and Barnabas has planted during their first missionary journey as apostles of the church in Antioch.  Barnabas agreed, and wanted to take his nephew, John Mark with them—the same John Mark who had abandoned them on that first journey.  This didn’t sit well with Paul, and so they split from each other.  Barnabas took John Mark with him, and Paul chose another man who he had been able to get to know: Silas.*[3]

We do not know when Paul and Silas first met.  They might have met during their youth in Jerusalem;*[4] they might have met for the first time when Saul tried to join the disciples in Jerusalem shortly after his conversion; it may well have been that they didn’t meet until the gathering in Jerusalem to discuss whether Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised.  Regardless of when they first met, the probably had plenty of conversation on the way from Jerusalem to Antioch with the letter; and Paul would have been impressed with Silas’ desire to teach and preach the gospel to Jew and Gentile alike.*[5]

When Paul and Silas left Antioch, they were “recommended” [literally, “delivered”] to the grace of God by the brethren there.  That is, they were sent out for this work by the church in Antioch, who prayed and probably helped finance to help the work.  Silas was now an apostle of the church at Antioch.*[6]

Paul and Silas’ first stops were the churches of Syria and Cilicia.  Paul didn’t visit these churches on what is generally called his “first missionary journey.”*[7]  However, his visiting of these churches is logically and biblically explained by two facts: (1) the letter which was sent with Paul, Silas, Barnabas, and Judas was addressed to the Gentile Christians in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia;*[8] and (2) Paul had done evangelistic work in the area of Syria and Cilicia fourteen years before the events of Acts 15 (Galatians 1:21-2:1).

-Bradley Cobb

[1] *Acts 15:34 is absent in some Greek manuscripts, but it is much more likely that it was accidentally omitted by a scribe than it is that someone intentionally inserted this sentence into the text (as some claim).

[2] *Luke simply says, “some days,” which doesn’t give us a clear time lapse.  It could have been just a few weeks, but multiple months seems more likely.  The longer period of time is supported by the fact that John Mark has appeared on the scene again, when last we saw, he was in Jerusalem (Acts 13:13).  Some have suggested that Silas had gone back to Jerusalem and perhaps returned to Antioch with Peter (Galatians 2).  Others have suggested that Silas and Mark returned to Antioch together around the time of the events of Acts 15:36-ff (see International Standard Bible Encyclopedia entry on “Silas”).

[3] *These events are described in Acts 15:36-40.

[4] *This is nothing more than guesswork, since we do not know how old either man was—there may have been a decade or more difference in their ages.

[5] *Silas encouraged and strengthened the Gentile Christians in Antioch (Acts 15:32) after having been a prominent member of the church in Jerusalem, which was primarily [if not completely] comprised of Jews (Acts 15:22).

[6] *This same phrase, “recommended to the grace of God” is used to describe the role of the Antioch church in the work of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14:26.  Since they were “apostles” (14:14) of the church in Antioch (see also 13:1-4) by means of this “recommending,” then Silas was also an apostle of the church in Antioch on the basis of Acts 15:40.

[7] *Luke is very detailed in recording the missionary travels of Paul.  Syria and Cilicia are not mentioned in the first missionary journey at all.

[8] *See Acts 15:23.  Luke records that the letter was read in Antioch, and the Christians there were “confirmed” or “strengthened.”  But there was no record of any of these four men making it outside of that city until Paul and Silas went to Syria and Cilicia.  This hypothesis is proven true in Acts 16:4-5.

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