Relationships – Paul and Silas

So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
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.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 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. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

  • Acts 15:30-41

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. 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.” 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.
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. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 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. 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. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

  • Acts 16:16-30

As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 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. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
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. The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.

  • Acts 17:10-15

A Quote

[Acts 16:22]: magistrates. Every Roman colony had two of these men serving as judges. In this case, they did not uphold Roman justice. They did not investigate the charges, conduct a proper hearing, or give Paul and Silas the chance to defend themselves. beaten. This was an illegal punishment since they had not been convicted of any crime. The officers (v. 35) under the command of the magistrates administered the beating with rods tied together in a bundle. Paul received the same punishment on two other occasions (2 Cor. 11:25).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary

What Do We Know about their Relationship?

Silas was a trusted member of the Jerusalem church of believers.  The Apostle Peter praises Silas as a trusted brother and says that the letter of 1 Peter could not have been done without Silas.

Silas and Judas (not Iscariot) were sent with Paul and Barnabas to ensure that the letter regarding the treatment of Gentiles would be passed on to the Antioch church, and beyond.

When Paul and Barnabas go different directions, Paul chooses Silas to go with him.  They are soon joined by Timothy.

While there are others in their group, Paul and Silas are singled out to receive the punishment for exorcising the devil from the woman outside Philippi.  They were beaten illegally and imprisoned illegally, at least not according to Roman Law.

While the first mission trip of Paul did not lend itself to the team splitting, that is not the case here with Silas and Timothy staying while Paul went ahead to Athens where he requested they meet up again.

What Can We Infer about their Relationship?

Some think there is a contradiction in Acts 15.  Silas and Judas have the information they need to return to Jerusalem.  The church at Antioch releases them so they can return.  Paul and Barnabas then disagree.  They split up and Paul takes Silas with him.  This is no contradiction.  Just because Judas and Silas were released, that does not mean that they immediately left.  We have nothing in the record that Paul did not go back to Jerusalem to find Silas, but the most likely scenario is that the split happened soon after Judas and Silas were allowed to leave.  And Paul either stopped Silas from leaving or sent a messenger to catch him before he had gone very far.  Judas and Silas were given the gift of prophecy, and Silas may have anticipated the need to help Paul.  Regardless, they only needed Judas to return to give the message to the church in Jerusalem.

It is on this trip, the second of Paul’s journeys, that the book of Acts shifts from third person, he or they, to first person plural, we.  Since Luke is writing this book, we can infer that Luke joined them in Troas during this journey.

But when we get to Philippi and specifically Thyatira where Lydia lived, commuting from there, there are at least four, but only Paul and Silas are singled out to be beaten and imprisoned.  We could infer that the group travelled separately, but a better inference is probably that Paul and Silas were the obvious leaders of this group.  Paul and Silas seem to get equal punishment.  Thus, while Paul is portrayed as a powerful speaker, Silas was probably equal in eloquence and power.

In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?

As with any of these stories, there is a lot that can be added to fill the gaps.  The book of Acts only mentions Silas once more.  Many of the Pauline letters mention Silas because Silas is with Paul when he writes the letter.  With Paul mentioning that he wrote a specific letter in his own hand, that creates a gap filler in that Paul did not always do that.  With Peter saying that he could not have written 1 Peter without Silas’ help, Paul may have used Silas as a scribe, as it seems he may have also done with John Mark.

But to reduce Silas to a scribe would be unkind and not consistent with his contribution.  We could write books on what happened to each of Paul’s companions.  They seemed to become messengers during Paul’s time in prison.

What Can We Learn from this Relationship?

We never know when our plans might change.  I was told that by my parents many decades ago.  The next sentence was usually, “pack extra underwear.”

But more seriously, not that clean underwear should be less serious, we should be prepared to hear God’s call.  Silas went with Paul from Jerusalem to Antioch.  He might have said to his loved ones, “I’ll be back in a month.”  It was a long walk, but about fifteen days, averaging 20 miles per day.

We do not know what Silas left behind in Jerusalem.  But we do know that Silas had the gift of prophecy.  His heart was tuned to listen to God.  And when he heard, he obeyed, no matter the consequences.

And having little knowledge of Paul before he left Jerusalem, this step of faith was a great one for Silas, and for Paul.

What Have We Learned thus far?

We have learned to:

  • Own our own mistakes and not blame others.
  • Be faithful to God, and worship properly, in the proper spirit.
  • Go to God in prayer, especially before any major decisions.
  • Do not show favoritism among family members, but always go to God.
  • Forgiveness is extremely important for none of us are perfect except for God.
  • Beyond physical love, there are other expressions of love, and respect is very important.
  • A relationship requires maintenance, nurturing, and an acceptance of the roles.
  • Be humble and listen to wise advice, and even wait when necessary.
  • At times, we must be bold and trust God, and we must obey.
  • And to love, love, and love.
  • Be trustworthy.  Trust is required.
  • And don’t worry.  God has this situation, and He has us in the palm of His hand.
  • And remember to forgive others and confess our sins.
  • And never go against what God instructs us to do.
  • And truly believe that God can show you mercy and accept the mercy offered.  Yet remember that it is indeed mercy.
  • Not blindly trust our buddies from our youth as advisors and there may be emotional ties that make their advice sound better than it is.
  • Understand that good cannot compromise with evil.
  • And sometimes you have to weather the storms, both in the home and in the world of public opinion.

A Closing Prayer

We look to You for guidance.  We do not know when that next person that we meet will be a person that will change the trajectory of our lives.  We must strive to listen to You, Lord, and obey.
In Thy Name we pray,

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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