It is Hard to Say “Goodbye” – Acts 20:13-38

This past Sunday we had the experience at church of saying “goodbye” to our dear friends Tsiry and Barbara – thankful for the past three years, but sad to see the time expire and their return home to Grenoble, France. The passage today pictures a similar sort of farewell with deep emotions so many of us are well able to understand these days.

But first, Luke again explains some of the travel itinerary on this part of what is the 3rd missionary journey, which is included here with a map to illustrate how Paul was bypassing Ephesus in his haste to get to Jerusalem.

Paul’s Farewell to the Ephesian Elders – Acts 20:13-38

13 We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Chios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus.16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.

Rather than take the time to travel to Ephesus, Paul asks the elder leadership of the church there to meet with him at the relatively nearby coastal town of Miletus. His words to them comprise what is essentially a farewell speech. Paul rehearses the events of their several years together in that place – recalling the persecutions, the extensive teaching ministry, and all the hard work that had brought them together in mutual association.

He also warns them of the inevitability of the work of the kingdom of darkness to infiltrate, as he pictorially speaks of such as savage wolves ravaging a flock. He reminds these leaders that they must be vigilant about preserving the timeless truth, knowing that error would arise from within. These exhortations continue to this day to be wise counsel for leaders of churches.

But grieving the Ephesians most is the word from Paul that, as he heads toward inevitable persecution in Jerusalem and beyond, they will never see him again – in this world. They knell and pray (as always in the book of Acts), as Paul commits them to God and his care. The scene becomes very emotional, as the Ephesians accompany Paul to the very last steps of boarding the ship.

Relationships in Christ are indeed often very deep, especially when forged together in the inevitable challenges of mutual service – a sort of spiritual warfare in a dark world under the power of the Evil One. We are combat veterans together. Over 30 years ago as minister of music in a large Dallas church, I was especially close to the senior pastor. And when I parted from that place to serve at home on the east coast, we were both much affected at the departure. Though he continues, even as an elderly man now, to serve as the Chaplain at Dallas Theological Seminary, when I see him as I did just this past spring, it is as if no time has passed at all. And I can say similar things about many with whom I’ve served over the years. And this is all very appropriate. We are comrades together in an eternal, cosmic conflict – co-workers for Christ.

Friends, if you are not committed at a deep inter-personal level, but are only casually a part of the life of the church, you are missing the depths of relationships and service that is at once both required of you and personally beneficial for your well-being. Please bring both hands, both feet, your heart, your mind, and your soul.

17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

The Killer Sermon – Acts 20:1-12

I have often joked that the definition of preaching is the ability to talk in someone else’s sleep.

The lights at TSF are too bright for me to tell if I’m putting anyone to sleep, but I remember in my previous church there was a fellow who simply could not stay awake – for me, or anyone else for that matter. His wife made a career of poking him in the side, but they never changed from sitting in the third row.

After a paragraph of travel details that include a “we” from Luke writing this – indicating that he is part of the road team again – we pick up with the story of the church in a place called Troas. This must have been a big deal for these people to have the Apostle Paul himself staying with them for seven days. Surely there were multiple gatherings and lots of conversation – we can easily picture this happening. And on the final night, while Paul was preaching, a fellow named Eutychus falls asleep, dropping out of the 3rd-floor window and killing him upon impact in the street below.

OK… let’s sleuth this out a bit, as there are some hints about what is happening …

Clue 1 – I know you’ve never named a child or pet by the name of Eutychus, but it was a very common name at that time – especially for slaves. So it is presumable that this young fellow had worked all day and now at midnight it was really very late for such a tired guy.

Clue 2 – The upper room (always the largest in ancient houses) had many lamps. We can take from this that the large crowd and the burning lamps had depleted the oxygen supply a bit – even for the guy sitting in the window.

Clue 3 – There was a lot of talking going on. This may shock the system of some you reading this, but, most of the world does not do church in mere 60- to75-minute increments. People returning from missions trips often remark about how long the services were at the local church of the people being served. This was true of our recent team in Kazakhstan, where each of an entire line of men sitting up front took a turn preaching.

You will note from the passage that the words “talking” or “talked” or “speaking” are used – along with the “breaking of bread.”  There are a variety of Greek words used in this passage that get translated very generically into English. To see it in the original, you would be able to discern that Paul’s conversations involved formal preaching, a sort of give-and-take teaching, and the simple conversation between friends.

Warning Note – So Paul goes down to the street and brings the young man back to life, which, yes, encourages the crowd. Yep, that would be pretty cool! But here is the warning:  If you die while I’m speaking, don’t count on me being able to bring you back … I’d suggest you just stay awake!

So what is the practical application of this passage?  What I see pictured here is the great body life that goes on when the church is gathered. So many of my favorite memories of church people I’ve grown to love in Dallas, Phillipsburg, and now Hagerstown, revolve around all the time together just hanging out and talking. This is valuable time! It is one of the great blessings of church family and community. And to gain this blessing, you’ve got to be there regularly … and when you come, you should not just run off and escape as soon as the service is over. That is not what church is about. Hang out with us! We’re really cool people! Think of it like Thanksgiving dinner where you would not run in just after the prayer, sit down and eat, and then rush off as soon as the apple pie was gone, would you?

Through Macedonia and Greece – Acts 20:1-12

20 When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. But we sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

Eutychus Raised From the Dead at Troas

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

Emphasizing the GOOD NEWS of the Gospel – Acts 19:23-41

Our reading today consists of the account of a riot in Ephesus that occurred over a disturbance about the statue of Artemis (called “Diana” in the King James – due to the later Latin influence of the name for this goddess). The belief was that this magnificent object had actually fallen from the sky many, many years ago. This was largely accepted as an undeniable fact.IMG_0778[1]

In my early ministry years in a more traditional church, it was the common experience to have an annual “Watch-Night Service” on New Year’s Eve. It could tend to be a rather long evening – meeting from 9:00-Midnight. So I would try to include a variety of items to break up the time. One observance was a yearly tradition that I began of looking back over the past year of church life, and with a David Letterman sort of “top 10 countdown” I would rehearse 10 very humorous events that had happened – the final winner getting the “Buchman Cup.”  This was a grotesque trophy that an awards shop friend would put together for me of the most bizarre collections of metal parts from around his business. As two examples of winners: one fellow won it for going to the hospital to visit his wife and newborn, and not realizing he went to the wrong hospital until he got to the information desk. Another guy won for coming into the service late, sitting down next to a woman with long blond hair, putting his arm around her … only to realize after several minutes that his wife of the same general appearance was actually seated three rows closer to the front. He tripped and fell to the floor while trying to quickly correct his error.

To give me a “payback” on this annual treat of mocking everyone else’s misfortunes, one year, after I made my presentation, the fellow with the mistaken wife incident walked to the front and presented me with the pictured trophy. As you all know, my wife is named Diana. And in an effort to be funny one time while preaching the text of today’s reading, I made some wisecrack about how the worship of the goddess Diana had transferred now to Harmony Township (where we lived). Well, Artemis/Diana is a rather … uh … well … uh … seductive goddess associated with fertility and … well … I can’t really say what else. I can’t even put a picture of the goddess here, but if you really want to see it, click HERE (warning … just sayin’).  Anyhow, my wisecrack came out all wrong, as it sounded like there were unspeakable things going on at my residence – hence the award.

Ephesus was famous as the location of the shrine of Artemis. People travelled from all over the ancient world to see it. And as with any tourist attraction, there was a thriving trinket business going on nearby. Having recently been in Paris, it is sort of like how one cannot practically get away from the Eiffel Tower without being hounded to buy some miniature trinket of the thing.

Well, the preaching of the gospel by this articulate fellow named Paul had caused such a conversion of people in Ephesus and Asia, that the silversmith business of Artemis objects was much afflicted. This created a stir, which led to a union meeting, which led to a small riot, which became a large riot … to the extent that another of the top 100 most humorous passages of Scripture is included – saying about the noisy mob that “Most of the people did not even know why they were there.”

The city clerk, who recognizes the dim view that the Romans would have of such a mob, steps forward with a voice of reason and quiets the crowd. The interesting point of his series of remarks is to say that Paul and his followers had not maligned the goddess or committed any crimes … so shut up and go home!

It appears clear in this passage that the success of the gospel proclamation was the good news of salvation – the fulfillment of Scripture that God had wrought through the work of Jesus Christ. Certainly the Christians had a negative view of the goddess, idol worship, and the associated immorality, but the focus of their preaching was on the positive message of Jesus Christ and the eternal life to be found in him.

So while there are times where we have to speak the truth about the evils of the culture of our day – and surely they are abundant – it is better for us to remember that the power of the gospel is in the positive message it presents. Perhaps if we focused more on that, Evangelicals would not so much be thought of as a stodgy group of Neanderthals who only know and talk about what they are against.

The Riot in Ephesus – Acts 19:23-41

23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”

28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.

32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

Overwhelming Power – Acts 19:1-22

Ephesus was a major seaport city in Asia on the western coast of what today is Turkey. It no longer exists as a major metropolis in the fashion of the past as the harbor is totally gone, but was in its prime at the time of Paul as the 3rd largest city of the Roman Empire – populated by over 300,000 people.

It was in Ephesus that the power of God in the expansion of the church and gospel message was particularly evidenced. Here, the Word of God was powerfully preached and honored.

In reading through this passage, one is struck with the way that God simply took charge by displays of his power and authority. Clearly it was God’s plan to bless and expand this church community toward the growth of the church in this entire city and region.

As at the end of the previous chapter in the account of Apollos, we see again some believers who were familiar with God’s truth to the extent of the teaching of John the Baptist. They gladly receive Paul’s additional instruction, are baptized, and the Holy Spirit comes in the same fashion as in previous examples of a new work of grace.

The powerful teaching ministry that ensues is in a place called the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This was likely a building of some substantial size, as the word for a “lecture hall” denotes a place of leisure – but for the culture of the day, a great lecture was great leisure and fun. (I like these folks and that makes sense to me!) Of course, all of this occurred following the typical scenario of getting tossed out of the synagogue.

Of all the Graeco-Roman cities visited by Paul, Ephesus was the most inhabited by magicians, sorcerers, and charlatans of all types. This therefore explains the miraculous work of God through Paul in particular, as displays of greater power than that associated with the occult powers that did exist from demonic elements of the kingdom of darkness.

You’ve gotta love this passage in verses 13-16. Someday, if I live long enough, I’m going to write a book called “The Top 100 Most Humorous Passages in the Bible.”  This paragraph is going to be a part of it! Having heard Paul’s power displayed by casting out inferior demonic powers “in the name of Jesus,” some Jews went about doing the same thing with the same formula. But on one occasion, they ran into a nastier evil spirit than most. This demon answered the command by saying, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?”  That is hilarious! And then the guy that the spirit inhabited went berserk and beat the tar out of them!

But all of these events were orchestrated by God to expand the church. The passage goes on to speak of the way that everyone in the city and region heard the gospel – likely gaining fame and notice through these powerful displays. One in particular is that of the burning of certain magic lore books and scrolls, the value of which was 50,000 pieces of silver. If the coin being mentioned was that representing a day’s wage, the comparative value for today would be about seven million dollars!

Though we possess in our day the completed Word of God, and displays of power such as are seen in Ephesus are not the normative way God works in our world, it is appropriate to remember that this power does still lay at the root of our faith and the truth it represents.

Paul in Ephesus – Acts 19:1-22

19 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit whenyou believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

21 After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.

Friends on the Journey – Acts 18:1-28

One of the striking features of reading again through the book of Acts is to see the regular and consistent nature of opposition and persecution. The gospel is a radical message. We also highlighted this thought in the sermon yesterday (in the passage about Paul and Silas in prison), speaking of the fact that opposition is to be expected and is honestly a rather normal experience for the Christian witness. But along with that point, we also taught that one of the joys along the journey of the Christian life is the friendships that are built – so that we really do not walk the path alone.friends on the journey

In today’s passage we meet a couple of the dearest of such friends that the Apostle Paul met along his journey – a couple named Priscilla and Aquila. Every Jewish boy was taught some sort of trade that could either be a life occupation or, at least, something that one could fall back upon when need might arise. Paul knew the trade of tent-making, as did Priscilla and Aquila … so this circumstance accounts for their meeting one another in Corinth. It is easy to imagine the hours of working together and talking – time where Paul could converse in detail about the things of God’s work through Jesus Christ.

Again, in this ancient crossroads city of Corinth, Paul runs into conflict – or perhaps we should say that the gospel message runs into conflict with Jewish teachings – and Paul gets blamed. Among the Jewish converts was the actual leader of the synagogue, named Crispus. On this occasion as the Jews bring their complaint, the Roman civil authority shows no patience for it, seeing it as simply some internal Jewish debate. Instead of Paul getting beaten, it is the new ruler of the synagogue (Sosthenes) who takes a whipping from the crowd, probably mostly Greeks.

After 18 months of teaching in Corinth, Paul hits the missionary road again, taking Priscilla and Aquila with him to the next stop in Ephesus. As we know from the earlier conflict with Barnabas, Paul was fussy about who were his fellow missionary “roadies.”  He had no patience for wimps! Priscilla and Aquila were certainly not that! In fact, Paul left this couple there to work with the new ministry in that city. On this trip, Paul would only stay a short time in Ephesus (looking ahead we know that he will return for a longer sojourn), but now he travels on to a variety of other places as indicated in the text.

Luke brings another important new character onto the stage – a highly-educated university fellow named Apollos. He was from Alexandria in Egypt, which was a center of education. As a man who would stand and teach in the synagogue, his messages were true to the Old Testament Scripture; and he was accurate about the messiah in the same vein of teaching as was heralded by John the Baptist. However, he was unfamiliar with the rest of the story and its fulfillment in Jesus. Priscilla and Aquila take him aside and explain all of this to him. Get the picture here? Tentmakers are teaching the slick university dude! And it works. Apollos becomes a great early spokesman for the cause of the Gospel and heads out on his own tour of proclamation. The message is really spreading now in every direction.

As I see the relationships of these early Christians who had to strive together in hostile conditions, it surfaces what has become one of the great burdens of my heart – that modern American Christians do not feel and understand the rich blessing of mutual association together in the local church. I have seen the different attitude that is necessary for believers together in local churches situated in cultures where evangelicals are a tiny and often despised minority. These Christians live in dependent, covenant relationships with one another (in places like France, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and even England and Scotland … to name a few of the places where I’ve personally seen this).  They truly need each other desperately; their lives are deeply intertwined. The worship wars don’t find much traction, and there are no other nearby churches to hop about. There is a plus side to persecution and opposition, as it sorts out important values rather quickly and well. But in any event, we do well to love and appreciate God’s give of the brothers and sisters in Christ around us with whom we have the great privilege of being sojourners together in this world.

In Corinth – Acts 18:1-17

18 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God.Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. 13 “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.”

14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” 16 So he drove them off. 17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.

Priscilla, Aquila and Apollos – Acts 18:18-28

18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken. 19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.

23 After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervorand taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.

The Three Results of Gospel Preaching – Acts 17:16-34

While Paul is waiting for his travelling companions to join him in the cultural center of the Roman world, he notes that the city of Athens was “full of idols.”  This was no expression of exaggeration whatsoever. The city had hundreds upon hundreds of idols, and some ancient writers said there were more idols than people!

There was also a significant Jewish population, so Paul used the opportunity to speak in the synagogue while also connecting with people in the Agora – the marketplace. The Agora in Athens was a particularly colorful place – sort of like the social center of the ultimate university town. Here, every idea under the sun was exchanged and debated, and Luke gives a parenthetical comment that the folks milling about this area loved to spend their time doing nothing but talking and listening to the latest ideas.

When they called Paul a “babbler,” it was not a compliment! The Greek word literally translates to “seed-picker” and pictures a bird in the marketplace, flitting from seed to seed and making a meal of a wide variety of scraps. Paul seemed to be talking about gods they had never heard of … called Jesus and Anastasis (resurrection) – ideas of a strange sort all thrown together.

So they asked him to speak at the Areopagus, which was both the name of a location as well as a council who met at that place in order to evaluate the validity of the ideas circulating around the city.

So Paul launches into a lecture/sermon. His introduction made reference to well-known facts about the idols in Athens. He first noted there certainly were a lot of them, and this therefore indicated a religiously-interested people. And secondly, he referenced one in particular (most likely there were many more) with the inscription as to an unknown god. Being very thorough and not wanting to offend any god about whom they did not know and erect a statue, the Athenians made some “generic” statues to unknown gods in hopes that these deities would be placated. So Paul therefore said that he wanted to make known to them what they had essentially admitted they did not know!

The God that Paul proclaimed was one who did not need to be served and brought objects of worship for sustenance; after all, Paul’s God was the creator who made everything. Clearly, the Creator is not dependent upon anything or anyone! Mankind is a part of God’s creation, as Paul even validated this idea by quoting from two of their own famous philosophers – Epimenides and Aratus. Paul further declared that mankind is dependent upon the creator God and should seek to know him. And now, this God has set a day of judgment, having evidenced proof of his greatness by sending his Son Jesus to die and raise from the dead.

As it does to this day among the intellectual elites of our culture, the idea of the resurrection set off a reaction, mostly negative … though not entirely. The response is threefold: many, probably a majority, sneered at the idea as ridiculous, some said they would like to hear more on another occasion, and a few became followers – including even one of the members of the Areopagus named Dionysius.

Three Responses

The takeaway from this passage is to understand that the preaching of the gospel will always have these three responses. Due to the lost condition of mankind who are blinded by sin and far from even a sense of needing to know God, a majority are going to reject the message of salvation. Along the way, there will also always be those who are struggling with the issues of the gospel message, still pondering and attempting to understand and evaluate it. We today often refer to these folks as “seekers.”  And as well, by God’s grace and sovereign work, there will be some who step out in faith and receive the message of truth. The final group is likely the smallest, and they are not seen on every occasion; but God uses the foolishness of preaching to bring them to salvation in him.

So we should not be discouraged by the difficulties of gospel proclamation, or that the majority of people resists and rejects, as this is normal. And it is truly a cause for great rejoicing when some indeed have that light of truth go on in their minds and hearts, and they become followers of Christ and sojourners with us in his body, the Church.

In Athens – Acts 17:16-34

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “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 human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[b] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[c]

29 “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 human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 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 everyone by raising him from the dead.”

32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

The Spiritually Numb and the Spiritually Noble – Acts 17:1-15

Today’s reading will add two more towns to the list of those from which Paul is expelled. Both of these – Thessalonica and Berea – are places from which strategic advances for the gospel could go forward once a strong church was planted in each.

Thessalonica was about 90 miles to the southwest of Philippi. With a stronger Jewish presence in this city (as evidenced by a synagogue) Paul followed his normal custom of beginning there with the Jews on the Sabbath day. And he surely used other days to connect with Gentiles in varied ways and places.

Paul used the Jewish Scriptures – the Old Testament – to prove that Jesus was the long-promised Messiah. Though there were certainly more than a few converts from the Jews, it is rather apparent that it did not comprise a majority; but the numbers were sufficient to create jealousy and subsequent conflict. It appears the number of Gentiles and “prominent women” who believed were actually more in number than the Jews who chose to follow Christ.

It was not really Paul who caused a riot, but using the tactics maybe more common to another Saul – Saul Alinsky and Rules for Radicals – the Jews incite a mob scene by engaging the ubiquitous townie trouble-makers, and blame it upon the missionary team. Not finding Paul and Silas, they rather drag their host – a man named Jason – before the authorities with a variety of increasingly common trumped-up charges. The result is that Jason and some of the other believers had to post a bond – giving money that would only be returned upon conditions being met. Those conditions likely included that there be no public upsets coming from this, and that Paul and Silas be sent on their way.

So Paul and Silas do leave and travel about another 50 miles to a place named Berea. Again Paul goes to the synagogue to carry on an evangelistic appeal through the Jewish Scriptures. The response in Berea was much more positive for the gospel message – as the folks here were spoken of in the passage as more “noble” … meaning they were genuine in their desire for truth and worked hard with the Scriptures to verify the accuracy of Paul’s teaching. Many did believe and follow, along with a good number of Gentiles. But before long, the bad element from Thessalonica had heard of Paul now preaching in Berea … followed him there, and made sufficient trouble for Paul to need to hit the road again. This time the journey would take him to no less than Athens.

There are two types of Jews presented in today’s reading. There was the group comprising the majority of the Thessalonica synagogue – those we may term as spiritually numb to truth and change. They liked things the way they were more than they liked researching to know the depth of God’s word. The second group comprised those who were seen by so many in Berea. They were open to change and truth, but not so open as to not weigh what was said and taught against that which was written in the Scriptures. They were spiritually noble in this regard.

So are you “numb” or “noble” spiritually speaking? It is easy to be numb; you don’t have to do anything but hold onto your traditional notions without growth or examination. Or are you noble in the sense of holding firm to convictions, while also looking to grow and examine everything against the truth of God’s Word? The Scriptures are pretty clear about what God prefers.

In Thessalonica – Acts 17:1-9

17 When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.

But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.

In Berea – Acts 17:10-15

10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

13 But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14 The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.

Thrown out of Town – Again! (Acts 16:16-40)

Over the years, I have seen a number of humorous “resumes” written for the Apostle Paul, as if he were a pastoral candidate for a local church staff position. Imagine a resume that said:

“I have many qualifications. I’ve been a preacher with much success, and also had some success as a writer. Some say I’m a good organizer. I’ve been a leader most places I’ve been. I am over 50 years of age, but I have never preached in one place more than three years. In some places I have had to leave town after my work caused riots and disturbances. I must admit I have been in jail three or four times, but not because of any wrongdoing.

The churches I have preached in have been small, though located in several large cities. I sometimes have trouble getting along with local people and leaders; some have threatened me and even attacked me physically. I am not too good at keeping records. I have been known to forget whom I have baptized. However, if you can use me, I shall do my best for you.”

So, would you hire that guy? As in Iconium and Lystra on the first journey, Paul (and Silas) is going to get tossed out of town.  Here’s why …

Paul and Silas encounter a slave girl who has an occult power to predict the future, thus earning money for her owners. This inner spirit (in the original language named “Python”) recognizes the party as connected to the Most High God, and following them around makes such pronouncements. Though this would seem at first glance to be an endorsement, it is not helpful, since the pantheistic Gentiles would not associate this beyond Zeus or something of that sort in their own understanding. You gotta love how Paul is said to become “so annoyed” that he commanded the creepy spirit to exit right out of her!

Along with the spirit’s departure also went the owners’ means of income. Now they were annoyed! Dragging Paul and Silas before the civil authorities with a variety of charges, the Roman crowd is pleased with a public flogging of the pair. Additionally, they are thrown into prison to face further charges from a higher council.

Chained, beaten, with feet in stocks – the pair breaks out into praise, prayer, and songs of worship at midnight. The captive audience for this concert consists of the other prisoners and the jailer. In an area known for earthquakes, a tremor of sufficient magnitude rocks the prison door open, as the chains fall also from the prisoners’ limbs. Suddenly awakened, the jailer wrongly presumes his charges have escaped – for which he will lose his life. But the prisoners have not gone, and his suicide contemplation is averted.

Fully alert now and targeted by God’s grace, he sees these missionaries as genuine emissaries of God, consistent with the songs and prayers he had earlier heard. His question of how to be saved is answered, and he and the members of his household all believe and surely become the initial cornerstone members of the church in Philippi.

The next day as the civil authorities decide to release the missionary pair, Paul and Silas refuse to be so commonly discharged. As Roman citizens, they have endured an illegal beating, in that the authorities acted on the presumption that they were mere Jews making trouble. Now the authorities are annoyed by the situation, fearing the trouble they may have carelessly brought upon themselves. And so they ask Paul and Silas to just get out of town.

Though there are many applicational lessons in today’s reading, the portion of greatest interest for our series is to note the prayer and praise of Paul and Silas while in the midst of suffering and persecution. This, of course, is not normal behavior. Our testimony for Christ is greatest when we display our confidence and comfort as sourced in a world beyond this one – the eternal reality of our relationship with God through Jesus. And this abnormal trust is particularly evident when we pray and worship. The watching world is struck by the reality of a relationship they do not possess – one they often in some way recognize as that God-shaped vacuum of the soul that only Christ can fill. Prayer – connected with worship – is not only a necessary and comforting spiritual exercise of personal and corporate benefit, it serves also as a powerful witness to the world beyond the family of faith.

Paul and Silas in Prison – Acts 16:16-40

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling.17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed 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.

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”

37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”

38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.

God’s Manifest Destiny (Acts 16:1-15)

You have probably heard the phrase, “Go West, young man!”  This was the quote of the famous 19th century newspaperman and author Horace Greeley – who greatly favored American expansionism to the west in the then-popular concept of Manifest Destiny. While the justice of this era of American expansion may be debated, God had a manifest destiny for the Gospel message to spread to the west. And today’s passage records one of the great moments in world history – when the message of Christ went from Asia to Europe.

Our verses in today’s reading contain a lot of travel details (see map at bottom). We quickly see where Paul and Silas pick up a new partner in Timothy. This occurred in Lystra – the same place where, on the first missionary journey, Paul was stoned, believed to be dead, and dragged out of the city. He dusted himself off and went back into town to finish his sermon, and it was then that Timothy was saved and came to belief in Christ. (Actually, I don’t really know if that is how it happened – I just made that up! But in that he is later called by Paul “my disciple in Christ,” it would appear certain that he came to faith during the prior ministry of Paul in that town.)  Here, in Luke’s fashion, he briefly introduces Timothy – a young man who will be a major player later in the Acts narrative.

The churches of the South Galatian region were revisited, and Paul used the opportunity to encourage them with the decisions of the Jerusalem Council (chapter 15) and to continue to build them up in the faith.

d36

This is a picture I took in 1999 while on a boat crossing the Bosphorus in Istanbul – a narrow body of water separating Asia and Europe.

But as they travelled on to the northwest, it seemed that the Spirit was closing door after door that one would presume to be open! It is a pattern of the Christian experience that when God closes doors, it is to move us on to a greater open door we might not have otherwise found on our own. And so Paul and his companions travel all of the way to the Aegean Sea – to the town of Troas. Here we see in verse 9 the first mention of the pronoun “we,” which certainly indicates that Luke himself had now become a part of the travelling team.

In Troas, Paul has a dream that he understands to be from God – a vision of a man of Macedonia calling to him to come there. This is the region of northern Greece; and to travel there would require a several day trip by sea. The group ends up in Philippi – a significant Roman city named after the father of Alexander the Great, Philip of Macedon.

On the Sabbath day, the group goes to a place along the river – a place known to be a spot for prayer. And there they meet a business woman named Lydia, who is described as a worshipper of God. Though not a proselyte, she was one who believed and worshipped the one true God, and the Lord brought the truth of the Gospel to her and her household … and to the European continent!

Lydia was apparently very successful in the purple cloth industry that was especially associated with her hometown of Thyatira, producing a highly-valued product in the Roman world. Her hospitality is immediately evident as she hosts the missionary team. Philippi would be among the finest of the churches founded by Paul, consisting of people who were generous in supporting God’s work – as we read in Philippians 4:15-16 …

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 with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.

God’s expansive grace reverberates down through the corridors of time and across the centuries to our own day. And his desire continues to be that we too look for those open doors he will supply for us to press through and share the message of Christ’s work with those who are yet to know God personally.

Timothy Joins Paul and Silas

16 Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 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. As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Paul’s Vision of the Man of Macedonia

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 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.

Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi

11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that districtof Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

13 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. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

Relationship Splits – It Happens, Even to Good People – Acts 15:36-41

Today’s rather brief passage is one of those where we would wish to have a few more details about exactly what transpired between Paul and Barnabas. In writing this account, Luke is working to tell the beginning of the story of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul. And so it is necessary for him to explain why Barnabas did not participate, but rather, a new figure by the name of Silas becomes Paul’s travelling companion.

In short, Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement of significant proportions. It was all over John Mark (yes, the guy who would later write the Gospel of Mark), who had abandoned them on the first journey – apparently in some moment of personal weakness. Here is today’s reading:

Disagreement between Paul and Barnabas – Acts 15:36-41

36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

When it says in this text that it was a “sharp disagreement,” there is no way to get the original Greek words to water it down – this was a significant conflict, enough to cause them to part ways and work separately.

Paul was standing on principle. Though we don’t know the exact reason why John Mark departed, it was a scar that Paul could not get past. Maybe it was a personal failure? Or perhaps it had to do with John Mark’s possible discomfort at the Gospel going to the Gentiles? Maybe he even caused some of the trouble in Jerusalem by being an eyewitness reporter of these events? That would certainly rile a person of principle like Paul, for in this scenario, John Mark would have been challenging the core of the Gospel message of grace.

On the other hand, Barnabas was standing on the value of personal restoration. Some might argue that this was because John Mark and Barnabas were cousins (Col. 4:10); though being a person of grace and encouragement of others fits the entire Scriptural portrait of Barnabas. Paul himself could not have originally been aligned with the early church leaders apart from the gracious, visionary intervention of Barnabas. Barnabas saw the potential in John Mark, whereas Paul could not get beyond the problem.

I reconcile this as simply the outworking of two very different personalities with differing gifts. Though Paul had certainly a large compassion for lost people, he was a fellow who particularly highly valued truth, hard facts, and principles. Barnabas, while standing for truth repeatedly in biblical passages, valued people so highly – having a heart for seeing believers restored and reused in greater capacities than ever before.

These personalities sometimes have difficulties working together. As I’ve written previously, I relate to Barnabas most especially among biblical characters. And in my ministry life, I have a number of times had conflictual issues most often with other leaders who lean in the opposite direction toward the hard line on principle. I have sometimes been the last person standing in defense of someone – a couple of times when there really was no substantial defense remaining.

The fact is this: each of these personality proclivities needs the other. The “truth first people” need to be challenged that we are all such a mess saved only by God’s great grace, that none of us have much merit apart from Christ. But the “people-oriented, gracious types” need to be reminded that there are hard principles that genuine believers must honor in order to walk rightly with the Lord in the light of truth.

The fact is that all of these guys went on to serve the Lord well. We see Paul sending greetings to John Mark later on; and this passage in Galatians (2:12-13) shows the high esteem Paul had for Barnabas: (writing about a time he confronted Peter) … For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

God has a place in His vineyard for all of us to work for Him with the gifts He has given each one. And we need to value one another, even if we are not always working side by side.