Acts 15:36 - 16:5
Paul and Barnabas Separate
36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
In fact, if anyone suggests that Luke, writing this book, is trying to whitewash early church history, or make out that the apostles were fledged angels, they should think again. This is a shameful episode, and the fact that it stands in scripture should not make us afraid to say so. On the contrary, its scriptural status should be interpreted as a sign that the Bible itself is warning us against allowing such a thing to happen.
Timothy and Epaphroditus
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.
At the same time, Barnabas—the ‘son of encouragement’, living up to his name as usual—could no doubt see that John Mark was only a youngster and that he’d simply panicked on the previous trip. He had probably now had a chance to settle down, and needed another opportunity to show he was up to it this time. I’d be prepared to bet that Barnabas had spent a quiet hour or two with John Mark during the visit to Jerusalem. They were after all cousins, according to Colossians 4:10
Timothy Joins Paul and Silas
16 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
16:3 circumcised him. Although Paul adamantly resists the imposition of circumcision on Gentiles such as Titus (Gal. 2:3), Timothy’s status as the offspring of a covenantally mixed marriage (v. 1) would be questionable in the eyes of the Jewish community. Rather than risking a hindrance to Timothy’s ministry among those who might regard him as an uncircumcised Jew, Paul removes that obstacle (see 1 Cor. 9:19–23; 10:32, 33).
19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.