5. Paul in Macedonia (Acts 15:36-18:22, 49-50 AD)

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Bartolomeo Montagna, detail from 'Saint Paul' (1482), oil on panel, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan, Italy.
Bartolomeo Montagna, detail from 'Saint Paul' (1482), oil on panel, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan, Italy.

5.1. Re-forming the Apostolic Team

The year is 49 AD. Barnabas and Paul have worked well together since 45 AD, when Barnabas found Paul in Tarsus and asked him to join the work in Antioch. They have visited Jerusalem twice together -- once to deliver a gift for the poor (46 AD) and again to contend for the Gentile mission at the Council of Jerusalem (49 AD). They have also undertaken the First Missionary Journey together (47-48 AD).

They are both Jews, steeped in Scriptures. Both are born outside of Judea -- Paul in Tarsus of Cilicia, Barnabas in Cyprus. Thus they are fluent in Greek and understand the Greek culture of foreign cities. They also have the confidence of the leaders in Jerusalem. And they have some experience under their belt in dealing with Gentiles -- both in Antioch and in other cities they have visited. In short, they are ideal missionaries.

After a few months back in Antioch, Paul has the missionary "itch." He suggests to Barnabas another missionary journey.

"Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." (Acts 15:36)

Paul has been corresponding with some of these churches. We presume that his Letter to the Galatians was written about 48 AD to four cities -- Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. (While Antioch and Iconium were ethnically Phrygian, and Lystra and Derbe ethnically Lyconian, they are all in the Roman province of Galatia, thus they are referred to as the Galatian churches.)

Controversy with Barnabas over Mark (Acts 15:37-39)39)

Both Paul and Barnabas have missions on their heart. But now they have a problem. Barnabas wants to take his cousin John Mark, but Paul doesn't think Mark is fit for missionary work.

"37  Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them. 38  Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted[166] them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement[167] that they parted company."[168] (Acts 15:37-39)

It bothers us to see two apostles fighting so much that they end a four-year partnership and go their separate ways. And it ought to. But they are just humans, like you and me. They have flaws. They have prejudices. And in Barnabas's case, Mark is family -- his cousin (Colossians 4:12).

It may well have been that God is working in the whole mess because he wants these two experienced missionaries to split up and double their ministry efforts. If you've read the Bible, you know the phrase, "this was of the Lord" (Judges 14:4; 1 Kings 12:15). It took persecution in Jerusalem to force Christians to carry the gospel outside their comfortable world (Acts 8:4). God can use even our messes!

Here is the outcome:

"39b Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40  but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41  He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches." (Acts 15:38-41)

Later in the New Testament, we nearly lose sight of Barnabas, though obviously Paul still holds him in high esteem.[169] There is every reason to believe Barnabas goes on to have a productive ministry. He is said to have been martyred in Salamis, Cyprus in 61 AD and is traditionally identified as the founder of the Cypriot Orthodox Church.

Mark reappears as a helper to Paul (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24) and is with Peter in Rome (1 Peter 5:13), reportedly using Peter's preaching as the basis for the Gospel of Mark.[170]

Silas (Silvanus), Missionary Partner

Paul chooses Silas as his missionary partner for the Second Missionary Journey. Silas is known as a prophet (Acts 15:32). He not native to Judea, probably born in one of the Roman or Greek cities of the Empire. He has been "leader among the brothers" in Jerusalem (Acts 15:22), and is sent by them to carry their authoritative letter concerning the Gentiles that we saw in Lesson 4.2.

Silas may be a "friendly abbreviation"[171] of his Latin name, Silvanus. Like Paul, Silas is a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37-38), which provides protection and advantages for travelers in foreign cities.

Paul observes him, as Silas uses his prophetic gifts in Antioch and "encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words" (Acts 15:32). So when it comes time to select[172] a missionary partner, Silas comes to mind. Though Silas comes with a lot of credibility from Jerusalem, clearly Paul is the team leader on this mission. Paul and Silas end up serving together for years.

Paul perhaps feels that it will be useful to have a leader of the Jerusalem church with him on this journey. In his letter to the Galatians, probably written a few months prior to embarking on the Second Missionary Journey, you can see that Paul's doctrine has been questioned by Judaizers in Galatia as not in step with Jerusalem. Now Silas can add his credibility to putting down this false doctrine.

Silas and Paul work together to strengthen the churches in Syria, Cilicia, and Galatia abound 49 AD. They go on to found churches in Macedonia -- at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. Silas is also active in ministry while Paul is in Corinth and helps in writing 1 and 2 Thessalonians from there. Sometimes Paul speaks in the first person ("I"), but occasionally it becomes "we," indicating both Paul and Silas.[173] They are together until at least 56 AD. Later, Silas seems to serve as the amanuensis or secretary employed by Peter in writing down 1 Peter. We can't be sure that this is the same Silvanus, but it probably is.

Strengthening the Syrian, Cilician, and Galatian Churches (49-50 AD)

Map: Tarsus of Cilicia
Map: Tarsus of Cilicia (Larger map)

Now Paul begins what we call the Second Missionary Journey (49-52 AD).

"[Paul] went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra." (Acts 15:41-16:1a)1a)

The Roman province of Syria comprises the area around Antioch that had been evangelized earlier. Since Paul had worked with Barnabas in Antioch from 45 to 49 AD (with time out for the First Missionary Journey), the people in these churches came to know him.

Paul and Silas also go through the Roman province of Cilicia and through Tarsus, his home town. They know him too, since he had spent a decade in Tarsus after his conversion (35 AD) until Barnabas found him and brought him to work in Antioch (45 AD). It's likely that Paul was engaged in ministry in and around Tarsus during that decade. But in our narrative, there's no mention of his time in Tarsus.

From the low plains of Cilicia, Paul and Silas climb the ancient road to reach the interior of Asia Minor, going through the Cilician Gates or Gülek Pass, a mountain pass through the Tarsus range to the Anatolian Plateau. It is a dangerous road that once had a fortress built to protect it. Later, Paul gives us an idea of what this and other journeys were like.

"26  I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked." (2 Corinthians 11:26-27)

Whether some of these hardships took place on the road through the Cilician Gates, we don't know.

Lystra, Derbe, and Iconium (Acts 16:1-5)

"1  He came to Derbe and then to Lystra.... 4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5  So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers." (Acts 16:1a, 4-5)

Paul and Silas visit the churches that Paul and Barnabas had founded here -- Lystra and Derbe. Iconium is mentioned in passing (Acts 16:2b). As you might recall, Paul was stoned in Lystra, and threatened with stoning in Iconium (Acts 14:1-21). But Paul returns fearlessly, and strengthens these growing churches. Judaizers have been at work in the Galatian churches. Now, he and Silas combat it face-to-face with the letter from the Jerusalem Council.

Young Timothy Joins the Apostolic Team (Acts 16:1-3)

As you might recall, Lystra had a Jewish synagogue, where Timothy's mother Lois, grandmother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5), and young Timothy, must have met Paul and Barnabas, and later became part of the Christian community. In the two or three years since the First Missionary Journey, Timothy has grown in faith and it has become obvious that God had called him to ministry.  

"1  [Paul] came to ... Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. 2  The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3  Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek." (Acts 16:1-3)

Timothy's mother is Jewish, but his father is Greek, and apparently hasn't converted to Judaism. As the son of a mixed marriage, Timothy hadn't been circumcised on the eight day as he would have if his parents were both Jewish (Leviticus 12:3). Clearly, the Jewish-Gentile compromise worked out at the Jerusalem Council does not require Gentiles to be circumcised. And this was true even before the Council (Galatians 2:3).

However, Paul wants to make Timothy part of the apostolic team. But to have an uncircumcised Jew in his party, Paul would have been viewed by Jews as supporting "apostasy and would no longer have been allowed to appear in any synagogue."[174] So with Timothy's consent, Paul circumcises him as a practical matter, so as not to distract seeking Jews from the core message of the gospel. It goes along with Paul's conviction.

"19 Though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.... 22b I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some." (1 Corinthians 9:19, 22, ESV)

Q1. (Acts 16:1-3) Why does Paul circumcise Timothy, even though his principles don't require him to? Why does Paul "become all things to all people" (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)? In what ways does the path of serving Jesus require humility rather than demanding our rights?


Let's pause for a moment and acquaint ourselves with Timothy, the newest member of Paul's team.

He is the child of a devout mother and grandmother, and is well versed in the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15). He is Paul's convert from his First Missionary Journey, his "true-born child in the faith" (1 Timothy 1:2), and is respected both in his own home church at Lystra as well as in Iconium (Acts 16:2). Before the team leaves the region, the elders gather, lay hands on him, and send him forth in prayer, accompanied by words of prophecy and the impartation of spiritual gifts (1 Timothy 1:8; 4:4).

Paul is mentor to him. He encourages and exhorts him to stir up the gifts God has given him (1 Timothy 4:4), to set a good example (1 Timothy 4:12-16), and to let no one despise his youth (1 Timothy 4:12). As he matures, Timothy is trusted with a number of sensitive missions on his own. Among these are:

  • Visiting and strengthening the Macedonian churches (Acts 19:22), both at Philippi (Philippians 2:19) and Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:1-3).
  • Visiting Corinth to smooth over a difficult relationship between the church and Paul (1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:10).
  • Visiting Ephesus, and serving for a time as pastor there (1 Timothy).

It also seems that he was imprisoned at some point (Hebrews 13:23). In short, he is an invaluable aide to Paul.

Finding God's Will (Acts 16:6-10)

After completing their mission to strengthen the Galatian churches, the apostolic party seems to be in Antioch of Pisidia, a major crossroads. Here's how I reconstruct what's going on.

Map: Paul's Second Missionary Journey (AD 49-52 AD)
Map: Paul's Second Missionary Journey (AD 49-52 AD) (larger map).

As you look at the map, you can see the boundaries of the Roman provinces. Contained within these provincial boundaries are ancient regions determined more by people groups than arbitrary borders. The region of Phrygia, for example, straddles both the Roman province of Asia and the province of Galatia, and Mysia is contained within the province of Asia.

They are given several instructions by the Holy Spirit.

1. Don't preach in Asia (Acts 16:6):6). Their original plan, I am guessing, was to head for Ephesus, a major city and capital of the Roman province of Asia. Paul and his party had been traveling the Via Sebaste (Imperial Road, Roman Road) constructed by the Romans beginning in 6 BC.[175] The Via Sebaste continues westward, the route that leads to Ephesus branching off from it. Going south would take them to Pamphylia, on the southern coast of Asia Minor, where they had evangelized on Paul's First Missionary Journey. The road north would take them through the province of Asia towards the Roman province of Bithynia and Pontus. But as they consider which way to go -- or perhaps have even started on the western road towards Ephesus -- God stops them.

"... Having been kept[176] by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia." (Acts 16:6, NIV)

The Spirit doesn't explain why. Just, "No." Much later on their Third Missionary Journey, they have a long and fruitful ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19), their original destination, but now isn't the time in God's plan.

2. Don't preach in Bithynia (Acts 16:7-8). So they travel north along the road from Antioch of Pisidia that will eventually lead to the Roman province of Bithynia/Pontus, and the great cities of Nicea, Nicomedia, and Chalcedon along the Black Sea. The apostles' road is within the province of Asia -- so, instead of evangelizing along the way, they continue without stopping to preach, since they've been forbidden to preach in Asia. Finally, they reach Mysia, a region in the north of the province of Asia. They haven't been forbidden to preach in the province of Bithynia/Pontus, so they make ready to cross the border -- and again the Holy Spirit stops them.

"7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow[177] them to. 8  So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas." (Acts 16:7-8)

Paul and his party receive a clear "No." They can't evangelize in the Roman provinces of Asia and Bithynia/Pontus. So they turn west towards Troas -- a port city on the Aegean Sea. (Troas itself is still in the province of Asia). They're probably frustrated -- maybe grumbling -- yet obedient. God, what are we supposed to do?

3. The Macedonian Vision (Acts 16:9-10). They spend the night in Troas. Finally, their direction comes.

"9  During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' 10  After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them." (Acts 16:9-10)

Paul has a dream -- or vision -- or whatever. In it, a Macedonian begs him to come to Macedonia and help them. Macedon, of course, had once been the realm of Philip II of Macedon (382-336 BC), father of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). But control passed in 168 BC from the Greek Seleucid Empire to the Romans. Macedonia was established as a Roman province in 146 BC, incorporating the ancient lands of Macedonia, Epirus, Thessaly, and parts of Illyria, Paeonia, and Thrace.

Paul, who has had years of experience following the Lord's direction, draws the conclusion from his vision that this is indeed a call from God.[178] They sail for Macedonia and have powerful ministries in the Macedonian cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. For more on this, see my book Listening for God's Voice (JesusWalk Publications, 2018).

Luke the Beloved Physician (Acts 16:10)

Look carefully at verse 10:

"We got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them." (Acts 16:10)

It's easy to miss unless you're looking for it, but in verse 10, the person changes from the third person ("they") to the first person ("we"). Tracing the use of "we" throughout Acts we find that , Luke, the author of Acts, seems to join the apostolic team at Troas and travels with them to Philippi, where he seems to stay. Then he rejoins the apostles at Philippi to take a gift to the church at Jerusalem. Some years later he joins Paul, who is now a prisoner, on his voyage -- by way of shipwreck -- to Rome.

Though Luke is mentioned by name only occasionally, he is a big player in the New Testament, writing both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. The Anti-Marcion Prologue to Luke (second century AD) passes on a tradition concerning the Gospel writer:

"Luke was an Antiochian of Syria, a physician by profession. He was a disciple of the apostles and later accompanied Paul until his martyrdom. He served the Lord without distraction, having neither wife nor children, and at the age of eighty-four he fell asleep in Boeotia [central Greece], full of the Holy Spirit."[179]

To Philemon Paul mentions him as  "my fellow worker" (Philemon 24). To the Colossians Paul describes him as "our dear friend Luke, the doctor" (NIV) or "Luke the beloved physician" (NRSV, ESV, KJV; Colossians 4:14). Colossians 4:11 implies that Luke is a Gentile. If so, he is the only Gentile writer of Scripture. He is present when Paul is imprisoned -- in Rome or Ephesus, we can't be sure (Colossians 4:14).

Certainly, he is with Paul in his last imprisonment, most likely in Rome. Luke is one of the most faithful members of Paul's apostolic team. We read in Paul's last letter:

"Only Luke is with me...." (2 Timothy 4:11)

Luke is a central figure in the movie "Paul, Apostle of Christ" (2018), concerning Paul's final imprisonment in Rome.

5.2. Philippi (Acts 16:12-40, 49 AD)

Map: Paul's Macedonian Ministry (Acts 16:6-17:15, 49-50 AD)
Map: Paul's Macedonian Ministry (Acts 16:6-17:15, 49-50 AD) (larger map)

Receiving a call in a vision from "a man of Macedonia," Paul's team hurries to respond.

"11  So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12  and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days." (Acts 16:11-12)

The village of Krenides had been captured by Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, and rebuilt as Philippi in 356 BC. The city was fortified, and included a 50,000 seat amphitheater. In 42 BC, the Romans made it a colony and many army veterans settled there. The city was given many privileges and immunity from taxation. Gold found nearby was mined. When the gold gave out, however, the importance of the city dwindled. While Philippi wasn't the capital of the region in Paul's time, it is considered a "leading city."

The strategy of the apostolic team has been to begin at a synagogue, where they declare that Jesus the Messiah had been crucified and raised from the dead. But there aren't enough men to constitute a synagogue in Philippi, perhaps because of the anti-Semitic attitude of the town (Acts 16:20-21). Jewish traditions require a minimum of 10 men, age 13 and up, to form a synagogue. What Jews there are pray on the Sabbath at a river bank, probably on Gangites River, along the Egnatian Road, just outside the city limits to the west, where archaeologists have discovered the remains of a colonial arch.[180]

"On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there." (Acts 16:13)

It seems that many of Paul's meetings with the new church are at this "place of prayer" along the river (Acts 16:1)

Lydia (Acts 16:14-15)

"One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message." (Acts 16:14)

Lydia's name means "kind" or "kindred spirit." She is a well-to-do businesswoman. Her home city of Thyatira was well-known for its technology of producing purple (Turkish red[181]) dye from madder root, rather than from shellfish. Taking advantage of her contacts and knowledge, Lydia has set up business in Philippi dealing in purple goods. She is described as "a worshipper[182] of God" rather than a Jewess, so she is a Gentile God-fearer, not a proselyte to Judaism.

Notice that God is credited with her conversion, not Paul.

"The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message." (Acts 16:14b)

None of us can take credit for our salvation. It is God's Spirit, through "prevenient grace," that takes off the blinders and helps us see the truth (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:4-5; 1 Timothy 2:25). "Prevenient grace" or enabling grace, is divine grace that precedes human decision.[183]

After she and members of her household are baptized, she invites the apostolic team to stay in her house while they are in Philippi (Acts 16:15).

Establishing the Philippian Church

We're not told much of Paul's ministry in Philippi, only that, "We remained in this city some days" (Acts 16:12b). But the church Paul and Silas establish there brings them immense joy over the years, as Paul's Letter to the Church at Philippi attests:

"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy." (Philippians 1:4)

"My brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown...." (Philippians 4:1a)

Paul revisits Macedonia again in 57 AD (Acts 20:1; 1 Timothy 1:3), and again the following year (Acts 20:3, 6). In his letter to them, it is obvious that Judaizers are spreading their doctrines there (Philippians 3:2-3).

Financial Partnership with the Philippian Church

Contributions from the church at Philippi, and working as a tentmaker, later enable Paul to minister in Corinth without asking the locals for anything. In his Letter to the Philippians, written while in custody (perhaps in Ephesus, perhaps in Rome), he writes:

"3  I thank my God every time I remember you. 4  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now." (Philippians 1:3-5)

"Partnership" (NIV, ESV), "sharing" (NRSV), "fellowship" (KJV) is koinonia, "association, communion, fellowship, close relationship," here, perhaps, even "gift" or "participation, sharing."[184] At the end of Philippians, it is clear that he is talking about monetary gifts:

"Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared (koinōneo) with me in the matter[185] of giving and receiving, except you only." (Philippians 4:15)

They send gifts to Paul conveyed by a Philippian citizen Epaphroditus (Philippians 4:18), who becomes part of Paul's apostolic team as a "fellow worker" (Philippians 2:25). Indeed, Paul scolds the Corinthian church, whom he serves free of charge:

"I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you." (2 Corinthians 11:8)

For more on this, see Lesson 6.3.

Exorcism of a Slave Girl (Acts 16:16-19)

Late in Paul's ministry in Philippi, a demon-possessed slave girl begins to follow Paul around, shouting:

"These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." (Acts 16:17)

She keeps this up day after day. Now what the demonic spirit in her says is true. But it is damaging to the ministry. It's kind of like a presidential candidate being loudly endorsed by the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan or some Nazi party. You don't want to be endorsed by people who society identifies with evil or pagan prophecy. So one day, Paul becomes particularly annoyed.

"Finally Paul became so troubled[186] that he turned around and said to the spirit, 'In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!' At that moment the spirit left her." (Acts 16:18)

Was he responding to the Spirit's prompting in this action, or his own human reaction to this degrading spectacle. We're not told. Of course, those watching see a powerful demonstration of the Holy Spirit's superiority over the evil spirit that has demonized the girl. But the reaction effectively ends Paul's and Silas's ministry in Philippi.

Of course, that isn't the real end. God shows his hand in Paul and Silas walking out of jail with an apology from the town leaders. But were getting ahead of ourselves. Paul and Silas immediately go to the next town to evangelize there. Ultimately, the Philippian church continues to progress and do well. You and I probably spend too much time second-guessing things we have done that come with pain. "If only...." Better that we should trust God who can take what is designed as evil against us and turn it into good for Jesus' sake (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20). We'll talk more on spiritual warfare in Lesson 8.

Thrown into Jail (Acts 16:19-40)

It turns out that the slave girl is making money for her owners as a fortune teller, and without the evil spirit behind her fortune-telling, she is useless to them. The money flow stops. In their anger, her owners complain to the authorities and make up charges about Paul and Silas being Jews -- playing on the strong anti-Semitism in this city -- and accuse them of "throwing our city into an uproar" (Acts 16:20). A mob then attacks them and the magistrates order them flogged and thrown in jail.

That night, there is an earthquake that loosens all the prisoners' chain attachments to the walls of the jail. It also shakes so severely that the prison doors open. Jesus sets his people free!

The jailer is at the point of suicide, knowing he will be executed if his prisoners escape. Paul stops him and reassures him. The jailer, realizing the power of God at work, asks:

"'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'  They replied, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved -- you and your household.'" (Acts 16:30b-31)

That night Paul preaches to the jailer's whole family, who are baptized before dawn. The jailer cleanses the apostles' wounds, brings them into his house, and feeds them. We read of this jailer:

"He was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God -- he and his whole family." (Acts 16:34)

Oh, the joy of salvation![187]

The story concludes with the town magistrates having to publicly escort Paul and Silas out of town. They had beat them illegally, since they are both Roman citizens, and now must humble themselves.

The Power of Praise (Acts 16:25; Philippians 4:4-9)

Let's pause in the narrative to consider the amazing practice of the apostles, and what we can learn from them. One choice verse of this story has encouraged me all my adult life.

"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them." (Acts 16:25)

Paul and Silas, are unlawfully beaten and bloody, bodies wracked with pain, arms and legs shackled to the prison wall. And, yet, at midnight they are praying and singing praise. Amazing!

So often we praise the Lord when things are going well, but we grumble and are depressed when we are undergoing struggles. Paul and Silas had discovered what Don Moen and Paul Overstreet put to music in the song, "God is Good (All the Time)."[188]

We'll look at this passage in greater detail in Lesson 8.3, but it fits nicely here. The Philippians have seen Paul under stress. When he writes to them later from prison he reminds them:

"4  Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:4-7)

Yes, we are all subject to stress. We can't pretend it doesn't exist. So we rejoice in God (not in the evil).[189] God never fails us. He never leaves us (Romans 8:28; Matthew 28:20). So we rejoice in Him. We pray about everything. And we focus our mind on worthy things (Philippians 4:8).

The Philippian Christians have observed Paul's response to stress. Now he urges them to imitate him.

"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me -- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:9)

Someone has said, "Praise is the language of faith." Paul was a worshipper -- in every circumstance -- and so are we! (Ephesians 5:19-20; James 5:13; Colossians 3:16).

"16  Be joyful always; 17  pray continually; 18  give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Praise is one of the tools of spiritual warfare that we'll consider more deeply in Lesson 8.3.

Q2. (Acts 16:25; Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) Why do you think we are commanded to "Rejoice always"? What is our natural tendency when we're under stress? What does rejoicing and thanking have to do with faith? In what circumstance do you find difficulty praising God?

5.3. Ministry in Thessalonica and Berea (Acts 17:1-15, 49-50 AD)

Map: Paul's Macedonian Ministry (Acts 16:6-17:15, 49-50 AD)
Map: Paul's Macedonian Ministry (Acts 16:6-17:15, 49-50 AD) (larger map)

Overnight, Paul and Silas have been beaten bloody, have seen a miraculous release via earthquake and judicial reversal, have baptized an entire family into the faith, and have been escorted to the edge of Philippi. Their ministry in Philippi is over -- for now -- and so they move on, along the Egnatian Way, a main highway of the Roman Empire.

"When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue." (Acts 17:1)

Amphipolis is an important city, capital of Macedonia Prima, but they pass it by, probably because it doesn't have a synagogue.

Synagogue in Thessalonica

Thessalonica is a principal city of Macedonia. Once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Thessaly, in Paul's day it is the capital of the entire province of Macedonia. It was situated on the main thoroughfare, the Egnatian Way, surrounded by a fertile alluvial plain.  Lying at the north end of the Gulf of Salonika, which opens into the Aegean Sea, it is the chief seaport for Macedonia. Later, because of its situation, it becomes the second largest and wealthiest city of the Byzantine Empire. Even today, it is one of Europe's chief transportation hubs.

As we've seen several times, Paul's favorite approach in a new city is to begin by proclaiming Christ in the local Jewish synagogue.

"2  As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3  explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. 'This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,' he said." (Acts 17:2-3)

Three verbs describe his approach:

  • "Reasoned" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "argued" (KJV) is dialegomai, from which we get our English word, "dialogue." It means, "to engage in speech interchange, converse, discuss, argue," especially of instructional discourse that frequently includes exchange of opinions.[190]
  • "Explaining" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "opening" (KJV). The word means, "explain, interpret," and "open" in the sense of "he opened to us the Scriptures" (Luke 24:32).[191]
  • "Proving" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "alleging" (KJV). The word means "to place before," then, "to set forth in teaching," specifically in the middle voice, "to demonstrate, point out."[192]

Paul isn't being argumentative in a negative sense. But he is presenting new and difficult ideas to the Jews. Instruction, proving, dialogue, argument, give and take, and debate are the ways people process new ideas, to see if they fit. In this case, "he reasoned with them from the Scriptures." The Old Testament Scriptures, which all Jews had in common, are the basis of a wide-ranging discussion that extends over three Sabbaths.

Paul' message is simple, but difficult for Jews to accept:

"That the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. 'This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,' he said." (Acts 17:3)

The problem is that the Jews traditionally viewed the Messiah as a conqueror who would free the Jewish people from foreign domination and bring into being the promised Kingdom of God, reigned over by David's victorious descendant. You can see how "Victorious Messiah" doesn't seem to fit with "Suffering Messiah." A suffering, crucified Messiah is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron. But that is Paul's message. We'll examine this Message of the Cross in greater detail at the conclusion of this lesson.

Success and Persecution (Acts 17:4-9)

Paul's three-Sabbath disputation in the synagogue at Thessalonica yields big results for the Kingdom.

"Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women." (Acts 17:4)

The synagogue is split. Some Jews believe, but a very large number of the God-fearers are convinced. The "prominent women" who believe seem to be "women of high station in the city, wives of principal citizens."[193] Losing the allegiance of such women to the synagogue means a loss of status and income in this powerful city. The Jews are livid!

"But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city." (Acts 17:5)

They accuse the apostles of causing "trouble all over the world." Moreover, they accuse  Paul and Silas of being disloyal to the Roman emperor, "saying there is another king, one called Jesus" (Acts 17:9). As a result, the city officials are in turmoil. That night, the new believers send Paul and Silas away to protect them.

Later, when Paul is in Athens, he sends Timothy back to Thessalonica to encourage them (1 Thessalonians 3:2). Paul, who confronts his opponents face-to-face in the synagogue and brings people to faith, is no longer welcome. But Silas and Timothy, who are not nearly so controversial and confrontational, work with the believers to disciple them and establish them in the faith after Paul has gone on (Acts 17:14-15; 18:5). One plows and plants, others water and weed, but both are important (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). Evangelism and discipleship are a team effort.

Affection for the Thessalonian Believers

A few months later, while in Corinth, Paul writes two letters to the Thessalonians that indicate his deep affection for them, recounting the time they had together.

"4  For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5  because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6  You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7  And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia." (1 Thessalonians 1:4-7)

Paul recalls,

"7  We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8  We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us....

13  And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe." (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, 13)

Paul may be confrontational, but he also has a tender, endearing side. And just because Paul is driven out of town doesn't indicate lack of success. He also encourages them to stand fast during times of persecution, using himself as an example.

"1  You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. 2  We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition." (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2)

Berea (Acts 17:10-15, 50 AD)

"As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea." (Acts 17:10a)

Berea (present-day Verria) was a small and ancient city about 45 miles (70 kilometers) west of Thessalonica. Cicero called it "a town off the beaten track,"[194] because it wasn't on one of the main Roman roads. Centuries later, Diocletian (Emperor 284-305 AD) made Berea one of two capitals of the Roman province of Macedonia. In Paul's time, however, it was small, but still large enough to have a significant Jewish community and a synagogue.

"10b  On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11  Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Acts 17:10b-11)

The Bereans are remembered as "more noble" (NIV, ESV, KJV), "receptive" (NRSV), a word which first means, "high-born," but here, "pertaining to having the type of attitude ordinarily associated with well-bred persons, noble-minded, open-minded."[195]

The NRSV "more receptive" catches the idea. Whereas the Thessalonians examine the Scriptures with Paul on three successive Sabbaths, the Bereans study "every day." They demonstrate great "eagerness" (NIV, NRSV, ESV) or "readiness of mind" (KJV).[196] The result is excellent, especially among the Jews.

"Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men." (Acts 17:12)

All seems to go well until the Jews of Thessalonica hear that Paul is there and send agitators, forcing Paul to flee. Again, Silas and Timothy aren't seen as inflammatory, so they are allowed to continue their quiet work with the new believers (Acts 17:13-15). Paul is conducted by the believers east to the coast of the Aegean Sea and from there they sail with him south to the great Greek city of Athens. We'll examine Paul's ministry in Greece in Lesson 6.

Illyricum / Dalmatia (Romans 15:19; 2 Timothy 4:10)

Roman Provinces in Paul's Day (map)
Map: Location of Dalmatia and Illyricum, Roman Provinces in Paul's Day (larger map)

There's a tantalizing mention of Illyricum in Paul's letter to the Romans:

"So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ." (Romans 15:19)

The Roman province of Dalmatia, was once part of the Roman province of Illyricum. The province was later split (we don't know the exact date) into Dalmatia (to the south) and Pannonia (to the north). The province of Dalmatia borders the province of Macedonia, so it's possible that Paul visited this province during his Macedonia ministry. We do know that he sends Titus to Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10). The question partly depends on how one understand the preposition "to" (merchi) in the phrase "around to Illyricum," which means "as far as." Does Paul mean as far as "up to the border of Illyricum" or "including Illyricum." We don't know for sure, but Titus going to Dalmatia suggests that Christian work had been done there, perhaps by Paul himself.

5.4. The Message of the Cross

We've looked at Paul's Macedonian ministry. Now it's time to reflect on some of the important things we've seen -- and which are written to these churches.

Paul's task in the synagogue of Thessalonica (and, indeed, in synagogues in all the cities he visits) is to do something similar to Jesus' task on the evening following the resurrection, while on the road to Emmaus -- to help people make sense out of his crucifixion and resurrection according to the Old Testament Scriptures.

"26  'Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?' 27  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:26-27)

And by the Sea of Galilee after his post-resurrection miracle of the catch of fish.

"45  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46  and said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.'" (Luke 24:45-46)

Preaching the Cross in the Synagogue at Thessalonica (Acts 17:2-3)

"2  As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3  explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. 'This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,' he said." (Acts 17:2-3)

Let's consider in greater detail the three chief points of Paul's message in the synagogue at Thessalonica.

1. "The Messiah had to suffer." I have no doubt that Paul expounded to them from the great Suffering Servant passage of Isaiah 53.

"5  But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6  We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:5-6)

10  Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring;
he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11  Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12  Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:10-12)

Notice that the One who bears our sin is also victorious -- he divides up the spoils of his victory. Isaiah 53 is also the basis of Jesus' own declaration about the meaning of his death -- especially Isaiah 53:10.

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)

The reason the Messiah has to suffer is so that he might atone for our sins. No doubt, Paul presents what we call the Doctrine of the Substitutionary Atonement -- that Jesus died in our place, bearing our sins, not his own.

"6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6-8)

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

"For what the law was powerless to do ... God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering." (Romans 8:3)

John and the writer of Hebrews also teach this understanding of the atonement (1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 4:10; Hebrews 9:28). Peter put it this way:

"Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." (1 Peter 3:18a)

Jesus clearly understood both the necessity of his death and his resurrection prior to Holy Week -- and told his disciples this three times -- but they would not listen (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19). They couldn't comprehend it! For more on this see Appendix 4. Metaphors of Salvation.

2. "The Messiah had ... to rise from the dead." No doubt, Paul supports his declaration of Jesus' resurrection from Messianic passages in Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 55:10; and Psalm 16:10, as do the apostles immediately after Pentecost. David died and his body decayed, Paul argues, but God's Holy One (Psalm 16:10), "the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay" (Acts 13:37). We'll explore the resurrection further in Lesson 6.4.

3. "Jesus ... is the Messiah." Once Paul establishes from Scripture that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead, now he must prove by evidence and personal testimony that this Jesus of whom he speaks is the Messiah himself. The proof, of course, is that this Jesus rises from the dead.

As we have seen in Lesson 3.3, Paul sums up this simple three-point presentation of the gospel to the Corinthians.

"3  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me." (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

Christ, and Him Crucified (1 Corinthians 1:21; 2:2)

One of the most difficult, troubling, teachings is that the Messiah was crucified. You'd expect preachers to soft-pedal the most difficult issues. Once Paul calls it "the offense of the cross" (Galatians 5:11). But Paul doesn't avoid it. To the Corinthian church, Paul makes two statements that indicate the preaching of a crucified Messiah is basic. Rather than an embarrassment, it must be declared unashamedly.

"18  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.... 23  We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24  but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-24)

In the next chapter he comes back to this again.

"For I resolved[197] to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2)

To the Roman church, he writes:

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Romans 1:16)

This seems strange, at one level. The Jews stumble over the oxymoron of a crucified Messiah. The Greeks think the whole idea is foolishness. But Paul declares it anyway in both the synagogues of the Jewish diaspora and to Gentiles in the great cities of Macedonia, Greece, and the province of Asia.

Q3. (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-24; Romans 1:16; Acts 17:2-3) Why might Paul be tempted to underemphasize a "crucified Messiah" when preaching to the Jews? Why are we sometimes tempted to tell others how great it is to follow Christ while not telling them the other aspects of the gospel? Why is it so important that we are honest about the gospel?

The Message of the Cross

In the Book of Acts, the cross is only hinted at.

  • The noun "cross" appears only once (Acts 2:23).
  • "The tree," as a Jewish euphemism for the cross appears three times (Acts 5:30; 10:39;13:29).
  • The verb "crucified" appears only three times, all on the lips of Peter (Acts 2:23, 26; 4:10).

Yet it is clear that the crucified Messiah is a strong theme -- indeed, an indispensable component -- in Paul's preaching. Look at the ways Paul talks about the cross in his letters.

1. Paul often refers to the event of Christ's actual crucifixion for our sins.

  • "Christ died for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:4)
  • "The cross of Christ" is folly to the perishing.  (1 Corinthians 1:17-18)
  • Christ humbled himself to the point of death, "even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:8)
  • "We preach Christ crucified." (1 Corinthians 1:23)
  • "Know nothing ... except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2)
  • "Before your very eyes that Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified." (Galatians 3:1)
  • "The rulers of this age ... crucified the Lord of Glory." (1 Corinthians 2:8)
  • "He was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God." (2 Corinthians 13:4)

2. Paul views the cross as a cosmic event, with the event of Christ's crucifixion changing the whole order of things.

  • "Making peace by the blood of his cross." (Colossians 1:20)
  • "Nailing to the cross" the demands of the Law. (Colossians 2:14)
  • "Triumphing over [powers and authorities] in the cross." (Colossians 2:15)
  • "Reconcile [Jews and Gentiles] through the cross." (Ephesians 2:16)

3. For Paul, "cross" sometimes becomes shorthand to represent the whole gospel of Jesus Christ .

  • "Enemies of the cross of Christ." (Philippians 3:18)
  • "Offense of the cross." (Galatians 5:11)
  • "Persecuted for the cross of Christ." (Galatians 6:14)
  • "Never boast except in the cross." (Galatians 6:14)

4. The cross also becomes a metaphor to indicate repentance and sanctification in the Christian life.

  • "Our old self was crucified." (Romans 6:6).
  • "I have been crucified with Christ." (Galatians 2:20)
  • "Those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature." (Galatians 5:24)
  • "The world has been crucified to me and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14b)

But it doesn't stop there.

5. Paul refers to Christ's blood shed in the context of the Jewish system of sacrifices of atonement.

  • "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement (literally, "propitiation"), through faith in his blood." (Romans 3:25a)
  • "We have now been justified by his blood." (Romans 5:9a)
  • Blood and Christ's crucifixion on our behalf is represented by the wine of the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:25, 27).
  • "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins." (Ephesians 1:7a)
  • "You who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ." (Ephesians 2:13)
  • "Making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1:20)
  • "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:2)

Sadly, there is a certain stream of "progressive" Christianity that rejects the idea of Christ's sacrifice as a blood atonement. They see this as a repulsive and primitive belief that should be rejected by modern believers. In their churches they never sing songs that include the word "blood." The Lord's Supper tends to be seen as a fellowship meal, rather than a remembrance of Christ's death on the cross for sins.

While theologians have come up with several "theories of the atonement," the New Testament is strongest on the understanding that Jesus took on himself the punishment that we deserve for our sins and that his death on the cross served as an atoning sacrifice for sins. We can't reject one of the basic tenets of Paul's preaching because it offends us. We have to accept Paul on his own terms.

And his terms are these:

"We preach Christ crucified." (1 Corinthians 1:23-24)

"I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Though the cross isn't mentioned much in Acts, for Paul this is a big deal. A passion! A paradox! And the power of the Gospel (Romans 1:16).

We struggle with sin, and sometimes may wonder how God can forgive us again and again and again. God forgives us because Jesus the Messiah came specifically to die for the sins of the world (John 3:16) -- your sins and my sins. We may despair, but it is finished, Christ's death for sin, once for all. "It is finished!" Done! Over! And in sin's place, we have righteousness and the love of a Father for his redeemed children.

"Amazing love, how can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?"[198]

Q4. (Romans 3:25; 5:6-8; 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Mark 10:45; 1 Peter 3:18a) What is the Substitutionary Atonement? How is this such good news? How does it give us assurance in our struggles with sin?

Lessons for Disciples

  1. Disagreements among church leaders are unfortunate. But out of it God can even work his blessing. Both Barnabas and Mark go on to be greatly used by God, even after splitting from Paul at the beginning of the Second Missionary Journey (Acts 15:37-39).
  2. Paul humbles himself before both Jews and Gentiles in order to save as many as he can (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Paul circumcises Timothy not because he must according to principle, but to avoid letting a minor issue obscure the message of the gospel (Acts 16:1-3).
  3. Seeking and following God's will is paramount. Paul's team is prevented from preaching in Asia, as well as Bythinia-Pontus, before Paul has a vision in Troas leading him to go to Philippi (Acts 16:6-10). We must patiently listen for God's voice.
  4. We must continue to praise God, no matter what attack comes against us. Example: Paul and Silas end up in a Philippian jail. But even in that attack, God can give victory. We must continue to trust God and praise him (Acts 16:19-40) Praise is the language of faith (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
  5. We must never deemphasize essential elements of the gospel, just because our hearers have trouble believing them. For example, Paul preaches a crucified Messiah even when it is difficult for the Jews to accept. He preaches the resurrection even when it is difficult for the Greeks to accept (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-24; Romans 1:16; Acts 17:2-3).
  6. The basics of the gospel are that the Messiah Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
  7. Paul clearly teaches the Substitutionary Atonement, that is, that Jesus died in our place as a sacrifice for our sins (Romans 5:6-8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 8:3)

Available in paperback, PDF, and Kindle formats.


Father, thank you for men and women who have gone before us proclaiming the gospel clearly, without watering it down. Thank you for the sacrifices they made to declare it and write it down for us. And thank you for Jesus, who died for our sins and was raised for our justification! Hallelujah! Amen.

Key Verses

"The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message." (Acts 16:14b, NIV)

"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now." (Philippians 1:3-5, NIV)

"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them." (Acts 16:25, NIV)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4, NIV)

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6-8, NIV)

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV)

"For what the law was powerless to do ... God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering." (Romans 8:3, NIV)

"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures." (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, NIV)

"We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles." (1 Corinthians 1:23, NIV)

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Romans 1:16, NIV)


[166] "Deserted" (NIV, NRSV), "withdrawn" (ESV), "departed" (KJV) is the verb aphistēmi, "to distance oneself from some person or thing," here, "go away, withdraw" (BDAG 157, 2a).

[167] "Sharp disagreement" (NIV, ESV), "disagreement became so sharp" (NRSV), "contention was so sharp" (KJV) is paroxysmos (from which we get our English word "paroxysm" -- "fit, attack, outburst"), "incitement, a stirring up," here, "a state of irritation expressed in argument, sharp disagreement" (BDAG 780, 2).

[168] The verb is apochōrizō, "separate" (BDAG 125), a compound verb: apo-, "from" + chōrizō, "separate oneself from, go away, depart."

[169] 1 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 2:13, and perhaps 2 Corinthians 8:18-19.

[170] Papias, as cited by Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3.39.15. 

[171] Bruce, Pauline Circle, chapter 3.

[172] Epilegō, "choose, select someone" (BDAG 374, 2), in the middle voice, as here, "to choose for oneself" (Thayer 240, 2).

[173] Bruce, Pauline Circle, chapter 3.

[174] Martin Hegel, Acts and the History of Earliest Christianity (English translation, SCM Press, 1979), p. 64, quoted in Bruce, Pauline Circle, chapter 4.

[175] The eastern end of the Via Sebaste began in Derbe, then it passed through Lystra, Iconium, Pisidian Antioch, and continued west, almost to the Meander River valley, along which they would then travel to pass through Colossae and Laodicea, and finally cross over to Ephesus.

[176]  "Kept" (NIV), "forbidden" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is the Aorist tense of kōlyō followed by an infinitive, "forbid or prevent someone to do or from doing something" (BDAG 580, 1).

[177] The words "not allow" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "suffered them not" (KJV) are the negative particle ou plus the Aorist tense of the verb eaō, "to allow someone to do something, let, permit," with the negative, "prevent, not permit" (BDAG 269, 1).

[178] "Concluding" (NIV, ESV), "being convinced" (NRSV), "assuredly gathering" (KJV) is symbibazō, from "to cause to coalesce, to join together, put together," then by extension, "to put together in one's mind, to compare; by comparison, to gather, conclude, consider"(Thayer, 595, 2), here, "to draw a conclusion in the face of evidence, conclude, infer" (BDAG 956, 2).

[179] Quoted in Bruce, Pauline Circle, chapter 5.

[180] G.L. Borchert, "Philippi," ISBE 3:836.

[181] Alizarin crimson comes from madder root, and is used to this day to dye cotton and wool, especially in Indian fabrics.

[182] "Worshipper" is sebō, "worship" (BDAG 918, 1).

[183] John Wesley popularized the phrase, "prevenient grace," from the Latin word verb that means "to come before."

[184] Koinonia, BDAG 553, 1, or perhaps meanings 3 and 4.

[185] "Matter" (NIV, NRSV, KJV) is logos, "word." While it can have the connotation, "the subject under discussion, matter, thing" (BDAG 600, 1ε); here it probably means, "computation, reckoning" (a sense used in commercial affairs) (BDAG 600, 2a).

[186] "So troubled" (NIV), "greatly/ very much annoyed" (ESV, NRSV), "grieved" (KJV) is diaponeomai, "to feel burdened as the result of someone's provocative activity, be (greatly) disturbed, annoyed" (BDAG 235). Also used in Acts 4:2. "To be troubled, displeased, offended, pained," (cf. colloquial English to be "worked up'" (Thayer, p. 141).

[187] Acts 2:46; 8:39; Isaiah 12:1-3; 55:12; 61:10; Luke 15:24; Romans 5:2, 11, 13; 1 Peter 1:6-8; Psalm 51:12; 13:5; 35:9.

[188] Don Moen and Paul Overstreet, "God is Good (All the Time)," © 1995, Integrity's Hosanna! Music.

[189] To pray, "Thank God for the cancer that is destroying my body," is wrong. So it is wrong to thank God for the evil of persecution and its evil perpetrators -- even though God can use illness and persecution.

[190] Dialegomai, BDAG 232, 1.

[191] Dianoigō, BDAG 234, 2. This is a compound verb: anoigō, "to open," + dia, with the idea of distribution, "to open by dividing, to open thoroughly" (Thayer, p. 140).

[192] Paratithēmi, BDAG 772, 2b.

[193] Bruce, Acts, p. 343.

[194] Cicero, In Pisonem 36.

[195] Eugenēs, BDAG 404, 2.

[196] Prothymia, "exceptional interest in being of service, willingness, readiness, goodwill" (BDAG 870).

[197] "Resolved" (NIV), "decided" (ESV, NRSV), "determined" (KJV) is krinō, "judge," here, "to come to a conclusion after a cognitive process, reach a decision, decide, propose, intend" (BDAG 568, 3).

[198] Charles Wesley, "And Can It Be That I Should Gain?" (1738).

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