The Second Missionary Journey: On Purpose, Messy and Spirit-Led
As we study Acts, one of the most glorious applications that can be overlooked is an intent of the larger narrative itself due to getting caught up in the little narratives that make up the whole. We can miss the forest for the trees.
One of the great purposes of Acts is that we see Father, Son and Spirit leading his church well.
Everything that happens in our text today is a work of God leading his people well.
What may look like difficulty is truly a difficulty, but it’s one Jesus brought about to lead and train his people.
We can take that directly to ourselves today and realize that Jesus is leading us. Jesus will not fail us.
We will encounter difficulty and we will mess up, but Jesus will never fail, and if we will hear and obey we will see the great and glorious King at work in and around and through us.
Let’s turn to our text today and see what the Lord has for us.
What do we see? What does it mean?
Occasion of the second missionary journey 15:36, 41; 16:4-5
Checkup – “see how they are”
Strengthen – “strengthening the churches” … “strengthened in the faith”
Growth – “so the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.”
- Paul and Barnabas feel a “fatherly” affection for the gospel work they had done, and that led to them wanting to checkup, build up and grow the work.
- Paul (must assume Barnabas too, although not mentioned specifically after verse 39) strengthens the churches in the faith.
This means they taught these churches about Jesus and the implications of following Jesus!
See Galatians (Jesus alone), Ephesians (In Christ and Jesus rules the heavelies), Philippians (The humility of Jesus and imitating that example), Colossians (The supremacy of Jesus), 1 & 2 Timothy (Implications of the Scriptures and the kingdom on overseeing the church), Titus (same as 1 & 2 Timothy), 1 & 2 Corinthians (How to repent and follow the superior wisdom of Jesus as opposed to sin)
- The result of checking up and strengthening the churches is growth!
Being strong in doctrine and practice will lead to growth!!
Great Commission ministry is messy 15:37-40
Here we see Paul and Barnabas separate over a strategic difference in ministry. This is not evil and it is not wrong.
It’s clear from Colossians 4:10, 2 Timothy 4:11 and Philemon 23-24 that Barnabas, Paul and Timothy worked together for the same goals for the same kingdom although not always together as mission team teammates.
“Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him)…” – Colossians 4:10
“Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” – 2 Timothy 4:11
“Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.” Philemon 23-24
- Paul and Barnabas have a “sharp” disagreement. This means it was not a sweat and calm discussion. It was intense and driven by two different giftings/personalities.
- Paul is an apostolic/visionary/start up/let the others make it run kind of guy.
- Barnabas is called an apostle in Acts 14:14 but in the “witness to the gospel as one sent” kind of way not the “start things up from the beginning, find and develop giftings” kind of way. Barnabas is an encourager.Acts 4:36-37 “Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
- The different wirings of the ministry leaders led them to go separate ways in this particular ministry endeavor.
Mentoring leaders in ministry 16:1-3
Paul comes to where he was stoned and left for dead and is introduced to a young disciple who is spoken well of by the church.
It is impossible to know for sure, but it is quite possible that Paul’s example of ministry and suffering has been a model off of which young Timothy has based his work.
Timothy is fruit from Paul’s suffering for the gospel.
Paul takes Timothy and has him circumcised. Why?
“Another helper of Paul’s who joined the work at this time was Timothy. Of mixed race, he was for some reason not circumcised as an infant. But the Jews reckon Jewishness through the mother’s line rather than the father’s, so Timothy became circumcised in order not to seem a Jew who had rejected God’s covenant. If his parentage had been reversed, Timothy would not have been regarded as a Jew and things might well have been different. Circumcision itself was a matter of indifference to Paul, as long as Gentiles were not being told that their salvation depended upon it (see Gal. 5:6; 6:15). The agreement reached in Jerusalem was not an easy one, and a dispute could easily have arisen again. Saying that Gentiles did not need to become Jews was one thing, but if Paul was seen to be teaching that Jews shouldn’t act like Jews either, there would have been trouble (see below on 21:20–25, where it is clear that despite such precautions, many Jews believed that Paul was against the law, even for Jews). As it was, the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.”
- It was important that Paul and Timothy uphold the gospel and put no stumbling block in anyone’s way.
- Paul’s life and teaching were leading Timothy, and Timothy comes along with Paul and Silas and he learns. He will become an elder at Ephesus!
Holy Spirit led ministry 16:6-10
Paul had plans but Jesus had THE plan.
Paul’s frustration in not being able to enter certain regions was not due to demonic activity, but due to Jesus frustrating his way.
Jesus revealed his plan in a vision / dream in the night and he rightly concluded that the frustration they had encountered was Jesus leading them to the right place of work.
What do we do with this?
- We have to strive to do a better job of checking up on our global work that is established and continuing to sow into it with labor and anything needed by our people on the ground.
- In everything we do, sound biblical teaching is vital to the health of kingdom work.
- We must strive to practice the implications of our sound biblical teaching.
- We have to be ok with not working with some people because they have a different ministry model. This is not evil. This is actually wisdom at work to leverage Holy Spirit gifting for ministry effectiveness and to maintain long-term relationships.
- It’s vital to mentor and raise up the next generation of leaders wherever God gives us ministry.
- It’s vital to be gospel centered and culturally aware at the same time.
- We must find the balance between obeying what is written and waiting on Jesus to open opportunity to lead our obedience rather than us smashing down walls on our own.
- We must not be too quick to place ministry hindrance on Satan. It may be Jesus leading us in “triumphal procession”.
Psalm 147:1 “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and a song of praise is fitting.”
 Conrad Gempf, “Acts,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1090.