Acts 15:36-18:22


The record of the second missionary journey comprises a very important phase of the book of Acts. There are several important aspects to this record; but undoubtedly the outstanding aspect of the entire narrative of the second journey of Paul is that of the advance of the gospel into the continent of Europe. And this progress of the gospel must be linked directly to the theme of the book of Acts, namely, that it is a record of the things which Jesus continued to do and to teach after His exaltation. He Who had prophesied to His apostles that they would he witnesses unto Him “in Jerusalem and to the uttermost parts of the earth,” Himself fulfills that prophecy. And that this progress of the gospel is directly a matter of His doing, not only as to the control thereof hut also as to its very execution, is certainly emphasized strongly in this section. Let us bear this in mind, and look for indications of this truth as we study the present section.

I. Preparations for the Journey, 15:36-40.

A. The Original Plan, vs. 36.

1. The time:

a. The text says indefinitely, “some days after.”

1) Some days after what?

2) About how long a time was this?

3) Why the delay?

b, Had Paul and Barnabas spent some time in Antioch prior to the council at Jerusalem? cf. 14:28.

c. In the light of all this, approximately when did Paul go on his second journey?

2. What was Paul’s original purpose with respect to this journey?

a. Whom did he ask to go along? May we assume he meant this?

b. According to vs. 36, did Paul at this time have any intention of going to Europe, or, in fact, of going beyond the scope of their previous labors?

c. At the beginning, then, was this intended to be a missionary journey, or a sort of church visitation tour? What accounts for this? Did the apostle have no concern for further mission work?

B. The Contention about John Mark, vss. 37-39.

1. What was the occasion of the contention between Paul and Barnabas? vss. 37, 38?

a. What does the language indicate concerning Barnabas?

b. Does the expression concerning Paul’s attitude bespeak as strong an attitude, at least at the beginning?

c. Does the narrative say anything as to a reason on the part of Barnabas? Was there any reason for bias on his part?

d. Did Paul have a reason for his stand? Was it justifiable?

2. What was the outcome of the contention?

a. Was the progress of the gospel hindered by the contention?

b. Were Paul and Barnabas permanently estranged?

c. Were Paul and John Mark permanently estranged?

3. How is to he judged about this contention?

a. From a human point of view? Was it sinful or not?

b. Are there any indications in the passage as to who was right?

c. Remembering that also this contention falls under the providential direction of the Lord, can anything he said as to His purpose with this disagreement between the two great missionaries?

4. Where did Barnabas and Mark go?

a. Can this departure for Cyprus be explained?

b. Is Barnabas heard of again in the, book of Acts?

C. Paul’s Substitute Plan, vss. 40, 41.

1. Whom did Paul choose in the place of Barnabas?

a. Is there connection between vs. 34 and vs. 40?

b. Can you mention any reasons why Silas would be a proper partner for Paul on this second journey, and that too, in distinction from Barnabas?

2. Did Paul carry out his original plan in full?

a. What part of his itinerary was different?

b. What was undoubtedly part of the reason for this change of route?

c. Which churches did they visit first?

1) Are these churches mentioned earlier in the book?

2) Were they churches organized by the apostle?

3) What is meant by “confirming the churches”?

II. To Troas, 16:1-10.

A. Visitation of the Churches in Asia Minor:

1. Timothy.

a. How is it to be explained that at this time they visit Derbe and Lystra first?

b. Whom did Paul desire as a companion in his labors?

1) What was peculiar concerning Timothy’s parentage?

2) What is of special note concerning his mother? vs. 1.

3) How is it to he explained that Timothy was not circumcised previously? Was his father probably dead at the time of Paul’s visit now?

4) What does it mean that Paul circumcised him “because of the Jews”?

5) Was this action necessary?

6) Is it to be justified in the light of the recent decision of the Jerusalem council?

7) Why should the apostle want such a youthful companion?

2. Labors among the established churches.

a. What cities are meant in vs. 4?

b. What special item is mentioned in connection with the visits to these churches? Were these decrees meant for them also?

c. What else did the apostle do in these churches?

d. Were his labors blessed?

B. Led to Troas, 16:6, if.

1. What is meant by “Phrygia and the region of Galatia”?

a. What cities are included in this region?

b. Had Paul then come to the point where he would face the question as to where next to go?

2. Guided by the Spirit:

a. Where did Paul evidently have in mind to go? What is meant here by “Asia”?

b. Who forbade them to preach in Asia?

1) How did this prohibition take place?

2) Did not the Lord want the province of Asia evangelized? Was it not evangelized?

c. Where did they naturally turn when forbidden to preach in Asia?

1) Were they allowed to preach in Bithynia? Why not?

2) The best reading in vs. 7 speaks of the “Spirit of Jesus.” Is this any different than the “Holy Ghost” in vs. 6? Why difference of terminology?

3) Was not Bithynia to be evangelized? Was it evangelized by Paul?

d. Is it correct to conclude that the only place left for Paul to go was Troas?

e. What does this bit of history teach us concerning the time and place of the preaching of the gospel? Where in our Reformed confessions is this mentioned?

C. The Vision at Troas:

1. What is a vision?

2. What were the contents of this vision?

a. How did Paul recognize the man as a Macedonian?

b. Where was Macedonia in relation to Troas?

c. What did the Macedonian man ask of Paul in the vision? How does Paul understand this “help”?

d. Does this request in the vision indicate a readiness and a longing on the part of the Macedonians to hear the gospel?

1) If so, whence did this longing arise?

2) If not, what is the meaning of the request?

e. Who called Paul and his company to preach the gospel in Macedonia? Did they understand the vision thus also?

3. According to vs. 10, who evidently was now with Paul, Silas, and Timothy?

4. What was the result of the vision which Paul saw? vs. 10.

(to be continued)

Originally published in:

Volume 18 Number 3 April 1958