The Second Missionary Journey
The Apostolic Council, which was studied in the last lesson, was an important step in the progress of Christian liberty. By it the Judaizers were definitely repudiated, and salvation was based upon faith alone apart from the works of the law. But many practical difficulties still remained to be solved.
This question faced the apostle Peter on a visit which he made to Antioch after the Apostolic Council. At first he answered the question in the interests of Gentile freedom; he allowed the unity of the Church to take precedence over the devotion of Jewish Christians to the ceremonial law. He held table companionship, therefore, with the Gentile Christians, and he did so out of true conviction with regard to the new Christian freedom. But when certain men came to Antioch from James, Peter was afraid to be seen transgressing the ceremonial law, and so began to withdraw himself from table companionship with his Gentile brethren.
Peter's action, because of its inconsistency, endangered the very life of the Church. Peter had given up the keeping of the ceremonial law in order to hold table companionship with the Gentile Christians. Then he had undertaken the keeping of the ceremonial law again. Might not the Gentile Christians be tempted to do the same thing, in order to preserve their fellowship with the greatest of the original apostles? But if the Gentile Christians should begin to keep the ceremonial law, they could not fail to think that the keeping of the ceremonial law was somehow necessary to salvation. And so the fundamental principle of Christianity—the principle of salvation by Christ alone apart from human merit—would be given up. The danger was imminent.
But God had raised up a man to fight the battle of the Church. Absolutely regardless of personal considerations, devoted solely to the truth, the Apostle Paul withstood Peter before the whole Church. It is exceedingly important to observe that Paul did not differ from Peter in principle; he differed from him only in practice. He said to Peter in effect, "You and I are quite agreed about the principle of justification by faith alone; why, therefore, do you belie your principles by your conduct?" In the very act of condemning the practice of Peter, therefore, Paul commends his principles; about the principles of the gospel the two chief apostles were fully agreed. Undoubtedly Peter was convinced by what Paul said; there was no permanent disagreement, even about matters of practice, between Peter and Paul. Thus did the Spirit of God guide and protect the Church.
Acts 15:36 to 18:22
Soon afterward Paul went forth from Antioch on his "second missionary journey." Acts 15:36 to 18:22. Journeying with Silas by the land route to Derbe and to Lystra, where Timothy became his associate, he then apparently went to Iconium and Pisidian Antioch and then northward into Galatia proper, that is "Galatia" in the older and narrower sense of the term. Finally he went down to Troas, a seaport on the Ægean Sea. At Troas he must have been joined by Luke, the author of The Acts, since the narrative in Acts here begins to be carried on by the use of the first person, "we," instead of "they," thus showing that the author was present.
Setting sail from Troas, the apostolic company soon came to Philippi in Macedonia, where an important church was founded. At last Paul and Silas were imprisoned, and although they were released through divine interposition and by the second thought of the city authorities, they were requested by the authorities to leave the city.
Arriving at Thessalonica, Paul preached in the synagogue, and founded an important church, chiefly composed of Gentiles. But after a stay shorter than had been intended, persecution instigated by the Jews drove Paul out of the city. He went then to Athens, where he preached not merely in the synagogue but also directly to the Gentile passers-by in the market place.
At Corinth, the capital of the Roman province Achaia, embracing Greece proper, large numbers of converts were won, and Paul spent about two years in the city. Not long after the beginning of this Corinthian residence, he wrote the two Thessalonian Epistles.
The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians
The First Epistle to the Thessalonians was written just after Paul had received his first news from the Thessalonica church. He had been obliged to leave Thessalonica before he had intended. Would his work in that city be permanent? Would the converts remain faithful to Christ? These were serious questions. The Thessalonian converts were living in the midst of a corrupt paganism, and Paul had not had time to instruct them fully in the things of Christ. Every human probability was against the maintenance of their Christian life. But at last Paul received his first news from Thessalonica. And the news was good news. God was watching over his children; the great wonder had been wrought; a true Christian church had been founded at Thessalonica. The letter which Paul wrote at such a time is very naturally a simple, warm expression of gratitude to God. At the same time, in the letter, Paul comforts the Thessalonians in view of the death of certain of their number, gives instruction about the second coming of Christ, and urges the converts to live a diligent and orderly life.
The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians was written very soon after the former Epistle. It reiterates the teaching of I Thessalonians, with correction of a misunderstanding which had crept into the church with regard to the second coming of Christ.
QUESTIONS ON LESSON XIX
- What practical question arose at Antioch after the Apostolic Council?
- How did Paul show the agreement in principle between himself and Peter?
- What was the inconsistency of Peter's action? Did Paul necessarily condemn Jewish Christians who continued to observe the ceremonial law? What principle was at stake at Antioch? What does Paul in his Epistles say about Peter after this time? Was there any permanent disagreement?
- Why did Paul separate from Barnabas at the beginning of the second missionary journey? What does Paul say afterwards about Barnabas? Was there any permanent disagreement between Paul and Barnabas or between Paul and Mark?
- Describe what happened at Troas, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth.
- What was the occasion for the writing of I Thessalonians? of II Thessalonians?