(16) A Tale of Two Missions
Paul traveled with Barnabas on his first missionary journey through Asia (Galatia). The church spread among Jewish synagogues and Gentile believers. As Paul gained in popularity, synagogues of the Way attracted followers and donations, and other Jewish leaders began to foment opposition. Meanwhile observant Christian Jews began to complain that Paul wasn’t making real converts since the Gentiles weren’t being circumcised. Opposition grew from without and within the Christian community, and eventually Paul and Barnabas attended a conference in Jerusalem where new rules were laid out. Does this remind anyone of modern situations where churches grow and split?
One Message, Two Missions
1. Read Acts 15:36-41. Paul’s second missionary journey begins with another split. Why might Barnabas want to take John Mark (Read Acts 13:13, Colossians 4:10)? Why might Paul not want to travel with him?
2. Barnabas and Mark go to Cyprus. Why is that a logical direction for them to take (see Acts 4:36)? Does God object to our being logical?
3. Where do Paul and Silas go? Why are they the logical choices for that part of the mission trip? (Silas is sometimes translated Silvanus – a Roman name)
4. Are splits and disagreements necessarily a bad thing?
1. Paul and Barnabas fled from the Jewish leaders to Lystra and Derbe during their first journey. Now Paul heads back with Silas. But do you remember what happened there the first time? (Read Acts 14:8-13)
2. Read Acts 16:1-5. We all know Paul wrote a letter to Timothy. But Acts lets us meet the future church leader when he’s just a young man. Why might Christianity have been particularly attractive to him, given what we know about the area and its faiths?
3. What message is Paul carrying to the churches, and why doesn’t that stop him from circumcising Timothy?
4. Do you think it makes sense that Paul’s message from Jerusalem strengthens the churches? Can you think of a message which might strengthen the modern Christian church, or might have strengthened it in recent years?
The Macedonian Person
1. Paul is obviously encouraged by the church’s growth and hopes to travel further. Why might he be more likely to go North toward Asia rather that West into Europe?
2. Read Acts 16:6-10 Why is Troas a logical place for Paul to hear a Macedonian voice?
3. Why is it a logical place for Luke to join Paul’s party?
4. Read Acts 16:11-15 How do you feel on learning the first “Macedonian man” to respond to Paul is a woman? (The name Lydia might just mean “Woman from Lydia.”)
Magic, Kindness, and Power in the Ancient World
1. Read Acts 16:16-18. Does this remind you of an event in the Gospels? (Read Luke 4:34-36).
2. Read Acts 16:19-20 Paul responds the same way Christ did. Is he being kind to the girl?
3. Paul and Silas end up in jail. What are their (many) crimes (Read Acts 16:20-21)? Are they guilty?
4. Read Acts 16:25-26. Earthquakes weren’t so uncommon, but having an earthquake happen exactly when you need it to is pretty rare. How does this highlight the difference between God’s power and demonic power?
5. Peter was led out of jail by an angel. Lacking any angel guides, Paul just stays where he is. Why is this an act of kindness (Read Acts 16:27-32)?
6. We’re only given a tiny fraction of Paul’s sermon to the jailer. How do you imagine the scene? (Read Acts 16:33)
7. If only Luke, the physician, had been there, he could have cared for their wounds. But Luke doesn’t reappear until Paul is sailing back from Philippi to Troas on the return trip from his third missionary journey (Read Acts 20:5-6). What do you suppose Luke might have been doing?
8. Read Acts 16:35-40. The magistrates thought they had all the power. In the end, they don’t even have the power to set Paul and Silas free. Is Paul being kind to Lydia when he goes back to her house? What different sorts of kindness are there?
On to Thessalonica
1. Read Acts 17:1-4.Thessalonica is a logical next destination – it’s on the main trade route south from Philippi. Why might Paul march off along such a busy route?
2. How long did Paul and Silas stay in Thessalonica?
3. Non-Christians often tell us that Paul is anti-women. Are they justified in that belief?
4. Read Acts 17:5-10. Why did Paul and Silas leave Thessalonica?
Off the Beaten Track
1. Read Acts 17:10-12. Berea is not a logical next destination. The trade route continues west, but Paul and Silas go south to a town Cicero describes as being “off the beaten track.” Why might they have chosen this route?
2. Did you notice, women are being listed among the converted again?
3. But things go “wrong” again? Read Acts 17:13-15. Why might this not have been wrong in God’s plan? And why do you think Paul got shipped out without his friends?
4. Where are Barnabas and Mark all this time? (Read Colossians 4:10, 2 Timothy 4:11, Philemon 1:24. Tradition says Barnabas continued as a leader of the church, and was martyred in Syria. He appeared to the bishop of Cyprus in a dream and told him where to find his bones. Barnabas’ body was found holding a copy of Matthew’s gospel, which was presented to the Emperor at Constantinople, who gave in return an imperial purple cloak, a replica of which is worn by the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus.