“Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:1).
by David Rice
The beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey is summarized in Acts 15:41, the last verse of that chapter, “He went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.” Paul’s companion on this occasion was Silas. After the council at Jerusalem convened to discuss the place of Gentile believers within the church (Acts 15), the apostles and elders chose Judas Barsabas, and Silas, “chief men among the brethren,” to accompany Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch. They were sent to confirm to the brethren there, together with Paul and Barnabas, the findings of the council (Acts 15:22, 24, 25, 27-29).
“Some days after” this, Paul and Barnabas determined to again visit brethren “in every city” they had served on their first journey, to exhort and confirm them in the faith. However, a difference of opinion arose. Barnabas wished to take his nephew John Mark in their company, but Paul, remembering that John Mark had left them on the first journey, thought otherwise. John Mark, who later authored the Gospel of Mark, ultimately proved to be a Christian man of sterling service, as Paul himself later observed. In his last epistle, Paul said, “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
However, the difference of opinion was “sharp,” leading Paul and Barnabas to choose separate companions and proceed in different directions. Barnabas took John Mark and sailed to Cyprus, while Paul took Silas and journeyed overland through Turkey. Thus their honorable difference was overruled for good, for their productive output was doubled.
Derbe and Lystra
“Then came [Paul] to Derbe and Lystra” (Acts 16:1). This is a good rendering of the text, but many versions rephrase it to give the sense, “Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra” (NIV). Travelling overland from Antioch, one would encounter Derbe first, and then Lystra.
Derbe was the farthest extent to which Paul and Barnabas reached on their first mission, visiting there after Paul had been stoned in Lystra. After Derbe they had returned to Lystra before retracing their steps to previous locations they had served. Thus, Paul’s visit to Lystra on his second missionary journey was
actually his third visit there.
In Lystra there was the young man Timothy, son of a Jewess who had married a Greek. Timothy was well reported of by brethren in Lystra and Iconium. Paul would have met him on his first visit, and late in life, Paul reminded Timothy that he had “fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra” (2 Timothy 3:10,11).
Paul invited Timothy to join them on their trip. This rich experience for Timothy nurtured him through good examples and devoted service, and he later became useful in guiding other brethren in the Christian faith. According to early Christian records, Timothy later became pastoral leader of a large congregation at Ephesus, where even the aged Apostle John would eventually reside.
At each ecclesia on their journey, Paul and Silas, now joined by Timothy, “delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders … at Jerusalem” (Acts 16:4). This joined the mind of these fledgling congregations together with their predecessors in the faith. It elevated their perspective to the brotherhood as a whole, and instilled respect for the apostolic leadership in Israel.
Leading of the Holy Spirit
Though Ephesus would later house a large congregation, apparently at this time there was none there. Paul’s inclination to visit such a major metropolitan area with the Gospel was thwarted by circumstances, which Paul accepted as the direction of the Spirit of God (Acts 16:6). It would be different on his third missionary journey. Then Ephesus would sprout as a major center for Christianity, with Paul spending three years there. Later, Ephesus would be marked in Revelation as the first of seven churches in Asia. But on Paul’s second missionary journey, God had other purposes.
So it is for many brethren in Christ. We may have good intentions, plans, and hopes, but we should thankfully accept the higher wisdom of God when our wishes do not prosper. We follow opportunities where they open, trust God for some productive benefit, exercise thoughtful patience, and enter the work open to us.
Paul then “assayed to go into Bithynia,” northwestern Turkey, “but the Spirit suffered them not” (Acts 16:7). God had something else in mind. Paul continued west until reaching the coast at Troas, where he could go no further. There, at night in a dream, Paul was beckoned by a man from Macedonia to come
across the waters (Acts 16:9), which he, Silas, and Timothy, did.
Passing through two smaller towns, they pressed on to Philippi, “the chief city of that part of Macedonia,” seeking a gathering of Jewish believers more likely to be in a larger city. On the Sabbath day they found a gathering of worshipping women, among whom was Lydia, a seller of purple. She and her household were baptized, and she constrained Paul and his companions to stay in her household while they preached in the area. She was from Thyatira of Asia Minor, where Paul had not been able to travel earlier — all in God’s plan. Later an ecclesia would begin in Thyatira also.
Imprisoned, Beaten, and an Earthquake
Being grieved for some days by a damsel possessed of a spirit, Paul finally cast out the spirit. This incensed her masters because by this they lost their means of gain. Thus, Paul and Silas were accused, beaten, and cast into an inner prison. At midnight an earthquake broke open the prison cells. However, rather than fleeing, Paul and Silas remained. The fearful jailor, having heard their hymns of praise, took them home to clean their wounds and feed them. That night he was baptized, together with his household, committing themselves to Jesus through the Gospel preached by his extraordinary prisoners.
Being Roman citizens, whose rights were violated, they were released the next day. Paul and his company would next serve in Thessalonica, escape from there under threat, and find a synagogue of noble believers at Berea. Paul then fled persecution to Athens and delivered his speech to Gentiles at Mars Hill, leaving a small ecclesia there. He went to Corinth for “a year and six months” because God had “much people” there that He wished to bring to Christ (Acts 18:10,11). At Corinth Paul found Aquila and Priscilla, recently purged from Rome as Jews, and now brought into Christ. Even “Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed … with all his house, and many … believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8).
Paul was arraigned by his enemies to face “Gallio … deputy of Achaia,” who acquitted Paul, who thereafter left for Jerusalem. En route, he stopped at Ephesus, but being pressed to “keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem,” he sailed from Ephesus with plans to return later, which he did on his third missionary journey.
In all of this, Paul’s single-minded purpose was to spread the faith of Jesus Christ to Jews and Gentiles, and to establish brethren in the faith. Paul’s epistles to the Thessalonians, Corinthians, and Philippians expand on his fervent pastoral concern for those he served. The lashes, imprisonments, riots, and accusations he endured would have tempered his character and fidelity. Paul was fully committed, as were his companions, Silas and Timothy. Our experiences are less arduous. May their ardor enhance our determination in whatever opportunities we have to serve God, Jesus, the Truth, and our Brethren.
Pictures and Symbology
The lives of God’s earnest people in holy writ were often intertwined with pictures that they were unaware of, illustrations of greater things in the Divine Plan. Paul’s three missionary journeys picture for us three waves of activity in the Gospel Age, culling out the Church of Christ. (1) The first wave of activity takes us up to the Reformation, (2) the second wave from the Reformation to the harvest, (3) the third wave a picture of the Gospel Age Harvest.1 Our comments here focus on symbolism respecting Paul’s Second Missionary Journey.
The difference of opinion between Paul and Barnabas, in the conduct of their work, finds a parallel in the Reformation work. In particular, we remember the visit of Ulrich Zwingli to Martin Luther. Hoping to combine their activities, they were unable to reach an agreement, so their labors proceeded independently. Probably the double effort was more productive than a single effort may have been.
(1) See The Herald, “A Distressing Storm,” January 2019, and “Paul’s Voyage to Rome,” January 2018, the early parts of each article, for an overview.
Paul, Barnabas, Luther, and Zwingli, were all diligent, devoted brethren. But in each pair, the one sometimes considered the most earnest did not have the better position. For the good conduct of John Mark supported the trust of Barnabas in him — and Zwingli had better clarity on the difference between him and Luther. This is so, even though Paul was an apostle, and Luther was a messenger. At least one lesson we may take from this is for strong, faithful, and mature brethren, to listen thoughtfully, carefully, to others.
When Paul and Silas crossed the sea westward, to a new land of opportunity, we may symbolically see the transit of the Gospel westward, across the Atlantic, in the sixth stage of the Church, to a new land where the harvest would later flourish.
After that push westward came the earthquake of the French Revolution, freeing prisoners of conscience by the breakup of Papal rule in Europe. The earthquake timed at midnight (Acts 16:25) reflects that the French Revolution was a token of the approaching last plague of Exodus, which also struck at midnight.
The wide scope of Paul’s service in the second missionary journey, with just a visit to Ephesus at the end, foreshadows the wide expansion of the Protestant message, in preparation for the harvest later to come.
One of the chief links between the Old World and the New World was William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, where the Harvest work would begin. The godly principles he propounded became the founding principles for a new government in the land of liberty — in preparation for the Harvest work to follow.