Philippi

About halfway through his second missionary journey, Paul arrived at the city of Philippi. “The Roman colony of Philippi (Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis) was an important city in Macedonia, located on the main highway leading from the eastern provinces to Rome. This road, the Via Egnatia, bisected the city’s forum and was the chief cause of its prosperity and political importance. Ten miles distant on the coast was Neapolis, the place where Paul landed after sailing from Troas, in response to the Macedonian vision. As a prominent city of the gold-producing region of Macedonia, Philippi had a proud history. Named originally after Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, the city was later honored with the name of Julius Caesar and Augustus” (Philippi in the Time of Paul, p. 1705).

A significant event that probably turned the tide in Paul’s favor in this particular missionary trip was his imprisonment at Philippi. As result of casting a demon out of a female slave, Paul and Silas were arrested and according to Acts 16:22-24, “the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.” The brutal treatment Paul and Silas received was likely meant to deter them from settling down in Philippi. Because they were staying in the home of Lydia, a Philippian citizen “whose heart the Lord opened” (Acts 16:14), Paul and Silas may have been perceived to be a threat to the undisputed cultural dominance the Romans had achieved at Philippi.

Paul and Silas’ miraculous deliverance from prison not only shocked the Philippian jailor, but also caused the magistrates that had beaten them to rethink the position they had taken. Luke tells us that “at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was an earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed” (Acts 16:25-26). Afterward, the keeper of the prison “brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), and the next morning, “the magistrates sent the sergeants, saying, Let those men go” (Acts 16:35). Paul’s response showed that he was emboldened by the jailor and magistrates’ changes of heart and wanted to make the most of this turn of events. When he was told he was free to go and instructed to leave Philippi peacefully, Paul refused to go unless the magistrates came and gave him a public escort (Acts 16:37). In other words, Paul wanted it to look like he was a hero and that he had won the respect of the Philippian officials, which he apparently had.

Team building

Paul’s second missionary journey, which took place approximately A.D. 49-52, encompassed a much larger territory than his first expedition did. The initial purpose of Paul’s trip was to visit the believers in every city that he and Barnabas had previously preached the gospel in (Acts 15:36), but a conflict between Paul and Barnabas caused the two to go their separate ways. Luke’s description of the incident suggests that the leadership role had become an issue, and at that point, Paul was unwilling to follow Barnabas’ direction. Luke stated, “And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; and Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.

The break up of Paul and Barnabas’ ministry partnership may have seemed like a problem at first, but it actually led to a much better outcome in the end. Because Mark was left behind, he joined up with Peter and eventually wrote the second book of the New Testament titled “The Gospel According to S. Mark.” It is likely that most, if not all of Mark’s factual data came directly from Peter who was a member of Jesus’ inner circle of friends, as well as, the primary leader of the church located in Jerusalem. Paul’s selection of Silas to travel with him may have been the reason why his second trip was much more aggressive than his first, covering approximately twice the amount of territory than his first missionary journey did (Paul’s Second Missionary Journey, p. 1588). When Paul and Silas arrived in Lystra, they were joined by Timothy, “the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts:16:1-2).

The fourth person to join Paul’s missionary team was the author of the book of Acts, Luke. The transition in the language from they to we suggests that Luke joined Paul’s team in Troas. It says in Acts 16:8-10, “And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.” Timothy and Luke were key members of Paul’s missionary team that stayed with him throughout the rest of his life. The final book Paul wrote, 2 Timothy was addressed to “my dearly beloved son” (2 Timothy 1:2) indicating Paul and Timothy developed a very close personal relationship. In that book, which was written while Paul was in prison waiting to be executed, Paul said, “Only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11), suggesting Luke was not only Paul’s partner in ministry, but a faithful companion until his death.

Paul’s calling

The first church that formed outside of Jerusalem was in Antioch. It became a hub of missionary activity and was probably known for its strong leadership and collaborative approach to preaching the gospel. Among those listed as prophets and teachers in Antioch was Barnabas and Saul, whom Luke identified as the first missionaries (Acts 13:4). He said, “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2). The Greek word translated separate, aphorizo (af-or-id’-zo) meant that Barnabas and Saul were being ordained to preach the gospel in a new capacity (G575/G3724). They were not going to stay at Antioch, but would be traveling to locations specified by the Holy Spirit. The Greek word translated called, proskaleomai (pros-kal-eh’-om-ahee) means “to call toward oneself that is summon invite” (G4341). You could say that Barnabas and Saul’s calling was an opportunity for them to work with the Holy Spirit in a similar way to what the twelve apostles did with Jesus while he was on Earth.

Barnabas and Saul’s departure from Antioch was an act of obedience as well as an act of faith. The first missionary journey, which took place A.D. 46-48, covered a distance of almost 1,000 miles, but it started out as just a sea voyage to the island of Cyprus where Barnabas was originally from. Luke recorded, “So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister” (Acts 13:4-5). John, who was surnamed Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark, was Barnabas’ cousin (note on Acts 13:5). He may have joined Barnabas and Saul as an assistant of some type, perhaps because of his writing ability and knowledge of the Greek language. Even though he was not called to preach the gospel, John Mark may have been filled with the Holy Spirit and utilized as a record keeper of the divine messages Saul (Paul) received from the Lord.

During this first missionary journey, Luke noted the transition from using the name Saul to Paul in his encounter with a sorcerer named Elymas. Luke stated, “But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, and said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:9-10). Paul’s bold confrontation of Elymas may have been a result of his confidence in having been called to the mission field or the filling of the Holy Spirit. The ordering of names in the Bible usually denotes rank or seniority of the individuals. After this incident, “the order in which they are mentioned now changes from ‘Barnabas and Saul” to “Paul and Barnabas'” (note on Acts 13:9). This could have been due to the fact that at this point Paul began taking the lead in preaching the gospel and was the primary person the Holy Spirit was communicating with.