Lesson 9

The Second Missionary Journey

(Acts 15:30-16:40)
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Introduction: Last week we discussed the conflict over circumcision. The church resolved the conflict, put its resolution in writing, and Paul and Barnabas delivered the resolution to the believers in Antioch. Almost immediately after that conflict was resolved, another conflict arose between Paul and Barnabas. This was not a theological dispute, but a conflict over personnel. What happens when you have conflict among the leadership of the church? Is this a failure of faith? Does it mean that someone is unqualified to be a leader? Or, is conflict to be expected? Can it be a good thing for the church? This week our study of the Bible includes a major conflict among church leaders. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Return From Conflict


    1. Read Acts 15:30-31. How does the church in Antioch react to the resolution of the controversy over circumcision? (The members are encouraged. Undoubtedly, a large number of them were Gentiles.)


      1. What is your normal reaction to the resolution of a controversy? (It is natural to want it to end and to be encouraged when it does.)


    2. Read Acts 15:22 and Acts 15:32-33. This is our first introduction to Silas. What do we learn about him? (He is a leader, he is able to encourage the believers, and has the gift of prophecy.)


    3. Read Acts 15:35-38. What is Paul's concern about taking John Mark with them? (Read Acts 13:13. John Mark had traveled with them before, but he decided he did not want to continue. It appears he did not enjoy the hardship.)


      1. Do you have sympathy for John Mark? (Just after John Mark left, we learn in Acts 14:19 that Paul was stoned - and the people thought that he had died from the stoning! No doubt most readers would like to avoid that!)


    4. Read Acts 15:39. Commentators say that Barnabas was the uncle of John Mark. Who do you think is right in this dispute? Is Barnabas biased because of the family relationship? Is Paul forgetting that God gave humans a second chance?


      1. Read Proverbs 25:19. What does this counsel about taking John Mark?


      2. Read Colossians 4:10 and 2 Timothy 4:11. Who does this tell us was right in this dispute between Paul and Barnabas? (It turns out that John Mark becomes a reliable worker, so much so that Paul even asks for his help.)


      3. What good things come out of this dispute? (We now have two missionary teams instead of just one. John Mark is "rehabilitated" and proves to be a dependable gospel worker.)


      4. What bad things come out of this dispute? (We cannot say for sure, but Paul and Barnabas are a powerhouse pair. That is lost. Perhaps splitting them up is good because it allows them to train new missionary leaders.)


    5. Read Acts 15:40-41. Is the church taking sides in this dispute or does it condemn the dispute? (We don't have enough information to know. When Paul leaves with Silas, the members give them their support.)


      1. We never again read anything about Barnabas in Acts. Why does the story follow Paul instead of Barnabas? Is that proof of the church taking Paul's side?


  2. Holy Compromise?


    1. Read Acts 16:1-3. The Church just resolved the circumcision issue. Paul was one of the strong voices against circumcision. Why does Paul circumcise Timothy? (If you review our study of Acts 15, the issue was about circumcising Gentiles. Nothing in Acts 15 suggests that circumcision is a bad thing.)


      1. Is Timothy a Gentile? (The Mishna (230 AD)says that your status as a Jew depends on your mother, but your tribal affiliation depends on your father. How far this rule goes back in time is not clear. Leviticus 24:10-11 mentions such a situation. On the one hand, Leviticus refers to this "mixed" son as being "among the Israelites." On the other hand, it distinguishes between "him and an Israelite." Of course, Timothy's mother should not have married a Gentile. Deuteronomy 7:1-5.)


    2. Look again at Acts 16:3. What reason does this suggest for circumcising Timothy? (Peer pressure! "The Jews" caused Paul to do this.)


      1. Is Paul someone with no spine? Has he no principles for which he will stand? (Read 1 Corinthians 9:20-21. Paul's highest principle (among those he mentions)is to win converts to the gospel.)


      2. The Willow Creek Church in the United States is famous for evangelizing people who are outside of any church structure. Yet, I often read criticism of those who would study its evangelistic methods. What would Paul say about the Willow Creek methods?


  3. Human Trafficking


    1. Read Acts 16:6-10. On two occasions the Holy Spirit seems to physically prevent Paul and his fellow travelers from going in a certain direction, but another time He sends a vision to Paul? Why do you think the Holy Spirit operates in these different ways? Why not just send a vision? (Perhaps Paul is like us, we don't always listen carefully to the Holy Spirit.)


    2. Read Acts 16:13-14. Paul normally seeks out the town synagogue as a starting point for sharing the gospel. Why does he start with a "place of prayer" by the river? (Paul observes Sabbath as a special day of worship apart from his seeking out the local synagogue. It also suggests that Philippi might not have had a synagogue.)


      1. What lesson do we find in the way Paul approaches a new city? (He looks for people who are already attuned to God. He has additional light, and he believes (no doubt led by the Holy Spirit), that it is best to start with those who already have some sort of relationship with God.)


  4. Human Trafficking


    1. Read Acts 16:16-18. This raises at least two troubling questions:


      1. Why does an evil spirit advertise salvation?


        1. Does this mean that Satan will sometimes use a method to undermine the gospel that seems positive on its face?


      2. Why does Paul cast out the evil spirit only when he becomes annoyed? Why not help the girl immediately?


    2. Read Acts 16:19-22. This system of "justice" is troubling. Is the charge against Paul and Silas true? (It is not the actual complaint of the slave owners. However, to the extent that Christianity is not an approved religion, it is true.)


    3. Read Acts 16:23-25. If you were severely beaten, and then had your feet put in stocks, would you be singing hymns?


    4. Read Acts 16:26-28. How is Paul able to control the other prisoners? (Something seems to be left out of the story. We are told that the other prisoners are listening to his singing. There must have been some dialog between Paul and Silas and the other prisoners.)


    5. Read Acts 16:29-31. Who else has been listening to Paul and Silas? (The jailer.)


      1. When Paul told the jailer what he must do to be saved, why didn't he add in to treat the wounds of those who are beaten and not put their feet in stocks? (Belief in Jesus is the gospel message.)


    6. Read Acts 16:32-34. What does the jailer do as a result of his conversion? (He washes their wounds, feeds them, and is baptized. Joy fills his life.)


    7. Read Acts 16:35-40 and Matthew 5:39-40. Is Paul violating Jesus' command in the Sermon on the Mount? (Read John 18:22-23. We see that both Jesus and Paul assert their legal rights. How we should understand Jesus' teaching about turning the other cheek is not clear to me if we assume that Paul and Jesus followed this teaching.)


    8. Friend, conflict is sometimes hard to avoid. Paul faced it in the church, he faced it in his relationship with Barnabas, and he faced with the local human traffickers and authorities. Will you ask the Holy Spirit to turn the conflicts you face into something that advances the gospel?


  5. Next week: The Third Missionary Journey.

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