Day Three Hundred Thirty-One, Acts 15-18
Today we pick back up with Pauls' second missionary journey, which has one of my favorite stories about Paul, which I'll get to eventually. But in an effort, once again, to refresh my memory, I'll try to recount a little fo the details of each stop on this trip.
You may recall that on the first journey, Paul and Barnabas were accompanied by John Mark for a time, but when they reached Pamphylia, Mark decided to go back to Jerusalem. So when Paul and Barnabas were preparing to go ona second journey, Barnabas wanted to take along Mark, but Paul disagreed strongly, since Mark had left them previously.
Paul and Barnabas disagreed so strongly about this that they couldn't come to any sort of a compromise, so they decided to go their separate ways. Barnabas took Mark (who was his cousin) and sailed for Cyprus, while Paul chose Silas to accompany him as he went throughout Syria and Cilicia.
Paul goes back through many of the cities he went to on his first journey. He goes through Derbe and Lystra, where he had previously been stoned and left for dead. This time in Lystra, he meets a young man named Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer. Timothy had been taught by his mother and grandmother, and the believers in that area spoke well of Timothy. Paul took him along with them on their journey, and Paul would affectionately refer to Timothy as his son in the faith. (There are a few others that Paul refers to in this way, but one would believe that none of htem had quite the relationship with Paul that Timothy did. The last words we have of Paul's--his dying words, so to speak--are in the form of a letter to Timothy.)
While Paul is traveling in this region, he receives a vision one night from a man in Macedonia asking him to "Come to Macedonia and help us." So Paul goes there, and while in Philippi, he is imprisoned. At about midnight, he and Silas are in jail, singing hymns and praying, when there is such a violent earthquake that the prison is shaken, the doors are opened, and their chains fall off. Paul and Silas keep the guard from harming himself; in fact, they teach him about Jesus, adn he and his whole househodl believe and are baptized. I do love the fact that the next day when Paul is released, he causes a little bit of a scene, refusing to leave quietly after being mistreated, despite his Roman citizenship.
Next Paul and Silas go to the city of Thessalonica, where they stay at the home of a man named Jason. They teach and have some success, as some Jews believe, along with some of the Gentiles. But of course, same old story, some of hte Jews become jealous and they stir up trouble. There is a riot, and Jason is dragged out before the city officials being accused for housing Paul and Silas.
So Paul and Silas leave Thessalonica and go on toward Berea. I love what Luke says about the Bereans, that they "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." May God give me a heart to search the Scriptures in the same way!
However, the Jews from Tehssalonica hear about Paul's work in Berea, so they go there to cause trouble for him tehre too. At this point, Paul leaves Silas adn Timothy in Berea, and he goes on by himself to Athens. This is my favorite of all Paul's stops on his journeys, because he is in such a great city of learning, and has such an incredible opportunity to speak with the philosophers of that day, who are intrigued by his message.
Paul is greatly distressed by all of the idol worship in this city. But he notices one altar with the inscription, "To an unknown god." Paul preaches my favorite sermon of his, as he says to them, "What you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
Such power-packed theology in that short, little message...He gives us life and breath and everything else...we are His offspring...He wants us to seek Him and reach out for Him...He isnot far from any one of us...it is in Him that we live and move and have our being!
The story of Paul's time in Athens is a little anticlimactic, as he has a little success...a few converts...that is all that is really said. He leaves from Athens and goes on to Corinth, where he will eventually be rejoined by Timothy and Silas. Paul meets Aquila and Priscilla, who are Jews and believers, and they are tentmakers by trade, as is Paul. So Paul stays with them and works with them. The Lord gives Paul success in Corinth, so he stays there, establishing a church, for quite some time.