Interlude before Paul's Second Journey

Introduction to Paul's Second Journey

After the first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch. This was about 46 A.D. They stayed a "long period of time" at Antioch (Acts 14:28). This is another sample of Luke's sense of time. Of course, they would have been filling their cup with preaching and administering to the new converts. Paul was probably waiting for direction from God on his next step. As we know, Paul did get his direction.

There is a question that will never be answered but is considered important. Did Paul write Galatians during the time between the first missionary journey and the Jerusalem Council? Obviously, since there is a question, some scholars believe yes and some no. If it were written then, it was the first recorded letter of Paul. It would have been written about 47 A.D. The noted Pauline scholar F.F.Bruce says yes. The thought is Jewish believers from Jerusalem came to Antioch some time after Paul and Barnabas returned from the first journey. The believers learned of churches in Galatia that were started by Paul and Barnabas. They wanted to go there to bring the Gentile converts under the Mosaic Law. Paul found out about this wrote a letter to the Galatians. It appears the most accepted view is Galatians was written during the third journey about 55 A.D. More on this when discussing in detail the letter to the Galatians.

Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1 - 29)

During this time (47 - 48 A.D.), the Jerusalem Council took place. This is a very important meeting that set some of the very foundational beliefs of early Christianity. In Luke's eyes this was as important as the conversion of Paul. You may see the word Judaizer in writings. These were Jewish Christians. They had, in Paul's opinion, a twisted opinion of what a Christian should believe.

The Judaizers believed they were from God's chosen people to whom the Messiah was promised. Who should know more than they what a Christian should believe? They saw no reason to forsake the Jewish Law or ways. Even before Jesus, the Jews had ways of converting people to Judaism. These people were called the proselytes. These proselytes were complete converts including circumcision. Why shouldn't the new converts to Christianity still be required to fulfill the Mosaic Law? Jesus was a Jew also. The bottom line to the Judaizer is a Gentile to become a Christian must first become a Jew. Some of this requirement might have also been political. After Herod's death in 44 A.D., Judea became again a Roman province. The Zealots, today's activists, were hostile to Romans and other Jews in collaboration with Gentile overlords. Therefore, some of the church might have found it advisable to become "complete" Jews as proof of "Jewishness". The Gentile converts did not know at the time of conversion of this requirement. One can imagine the turmoil this raised with the Gentiles. Were they really acceptable as Christians without following the Mosaic Law? The problem was so great, Paul, Barnabas, and others went to Jerusalem to confer with the other apostles. This was also from where the Judaizers came. There also was a possibility of splitting of churches in Jerusalem and Antioch if this problem was not settled.

Immediately, the problem was brought out into the open in the Jerusalem church. Luke tells us (Acts 15:5) the persons bringing up the problem were Pharisees. There was much dispute (Acts 15:7).

Then Peter spoke reviewing his experiences with Cornelius and the heavenly apparition he had (Acts 10:1 - 11:18). Peter understood that the law had been an unbearable yoke to the Jews and that Jews as well as Gentiles were saved by grace.

Paul and Barnabas spoke about the wonders and miracles brought to the Gentiles.

James, probably the brother of Jesus, spoke. James was probably the presiding officer at the session. Acts and Galatians refer to James as the chief elder in Jerusalem. His opinion was to release the Gentiles of the Mosaic Law. He referenced the Old Testament (Acts 15:13-21) to illustrate his understanding of the Gentile salvation. James recommended the Council write a letter to the Gentile Christians (v 20). This letter would say the Gentiles would have to abstain from only four prohibitions:
  • idolatry
  • fornication
  • things strangled
  • blood

If these prohibitions were upheld, it was believed a better fellowship between Gentile and Jewish believers would result. Out of respect for Hebrew believers, Gentile believers were encouraged to refrain from anything pertaining to idolatry. The precedent for the warning against the eating or drinking of blood (haimatos, Greek.) was the Old Testament view that the soul of the flesh is in the blood and that to consume blood would be offensive to a strict Jew. The hunter who takes beast or bird for the table must "pour out its blood and cover it with dust" (Lev 17:13). The process of making meat kosher involved the immediate removal of blood after slaughter. Today we recognize that septic poisoning begins in the bloodstream shortly after death. This is one of the many instances in which the Mosaic Law anticipated health factors which modern science has only recently discovered.

The appropriateness of these items are in great debate; especially the third and fourth items. These restrictions were apparently based on Lev 17:10-14. However, these were generally considered ceremonial and temporary; not of a permanent nature required for a decision of this magnitude. Even now, interpreters criticize the Council for Christian misinterpreting. J.Gresham Machen suggests the Council meant Gentile believers to voluntarily limit their liberty on these two issues. Probably Jews and converted Gentiles alike considered these items offensive.

The final outcome of the Council was the Gentiles had freedom to be Christians without becoming Jews. Judas Barsabas and Silas were chosen to return with Paul's company to confirm the written letter and represent the church of Jerusalem (Acts 15:23-29).

Separation from Barnabas (Acts 15:30 - 39)

Paul, Barnabas, Judas, Silas, and the company returned to Antioch. They gathered the church and read the letter. There was rejoicing by the Gentiles that the problem was solved. Judas and Silas spent "some time" (again Luke's indefiniteness) in Antioch preaching. They were to eventually leave Antioch and return to Jerusalem. However, Silas remained and was to become Paul's new traveling companion.

Paul discussed with Barnabas returning to the churches started on their first missionary journey. Barnabas was ready and so was John Mark who, since his departure in the first journey, had since joined Barnabas again. Barnabas wanted John Mark to join them. Paul did not. Paul did not feel Mark should have another chance after having left them once before. The disagreement was so great, they decided to split up and make two teams: Barnabas and John Mark, and Paul and Silas. Barnabas would go to his native country (remember he was a Cypriot) and Paul would go to Cilicia to the Galatian churches.

Who was right? Probably both. Maybe this was destiny. John Mark did redeem himself to Paul (Col 4:10; 2 Tim 4:11). There is a tradition that says John Mark was a co worker of Peter. He perhaps also wrote the second gospel. In Galations, we will discuss another possible cause of the disagreement with Barnabas (Gal 11-14).