16 May 2015

Acts 16:1-15

“... being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.” (v. 10b)

Psalm: Psalm 9:1-10



In today's passage we are introduced to Timothy, one of Paul's partners in his missionary trips. It is interesting that the interaction described here follows on from the first ever church council meeting in Jerusalem, which set out how Gentile (non-Jewish) believers should relate to the law of Moses. The council meeting determined that Gentiles should not be burdened with Jewish laws, except in two areas relating to food and one relating to sexual morality (Acts 15:29). Timothy himself is in an in-between position with a Jewish mother and a Gentile father, so he is technically Jewish, but has not been circumcised.

Paul takes the decision to have Timothy circumcised - there is no indication what Timothy, as an adult, thought of this! Paul does this to avoid a negative reception from Jewish people in mission areas. They presumably already knew that Timothy was not circumcised, as they knew that his father was a Gentile. Paul's decision to circumcise Timothy is interesting, because the ruling of the Jerusalem council was that it was not necessary (Acts 15:19), but in doing so Paul avoided a potential stumbling block when Timothy was working with him to promote the gospel (good news of Jesus). This was an exception to his own rule in 1 Corinthians 7:18, "Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision". Paul's decision shows us how important it was to him that his message should be unhindered and shows him putting into practice his principle of being "all things to all people, that I might by all means save some" (1 Corinthians 9:22).

Strangely, the biggest 'obstacle' to Paul's missionary journeys in this passage is from the Holy Spirit, who forbids him to "speak the word" in Asia (v. 6). The same thing happens when he tries to go to Bithynia (on the shores of the Sea of Marmara which connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea). He has more success in proclaiming the good news in Macedonia where "the Lord opened [Lydia's] heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul" (v. 14).


To Ponder

  • What are your thoughts on the rulings of the council of Jerusalem?
  • What contact do you have with people of mixed backgrounds who have links to two distinct traditions?
  • How conscious are you of the Holy Spirit shutting some doors and opening others?

Bible notes author

Julian Bond

Julian works for the Connexional Team as the grants team leader. Previous to that he was the director of the Christian Muslim Forum, which is built on friendship between a group of Christians and Muslims, showing how faith is a catalyst for good relationships and welcomes the 'other'.