Acts 16-18

After the Jerusalem Council and a season edifying the believers in Antioch, Paul requested of Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit the brothers in every town where we have preached the message of the Lord, and see how they’re doing” (Acts 15:36). Luke reported the events of the mission geographically, following Paul and company from Syria as far as Macedonia and the provinces surrounding the Aegean Sea. Many of the cities named in Luke’s report later received correspondence from Paul—epistles that compose much of the New Testament. During Paul’s second journey, the Old Testament shaped his ministry partnerships and defense of the gospel.

(1) In Acts 16:3, Paul had Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman, circumcised before Timothy accompanied him on his second missionary journey. From the time that the Lord instituted circumcision as a covenant with Abraham in Gen 17:1-16, circumcision represented faithful participation in the people of God. Abraham circumcised Ishmael and the rest of his household (Gen 17:1-14), and then Isaac when the boy was eight days old (Gen 21:4). Moses’ wife Zipporah circumcised her son because the Lord threatened Moses’ life (Exod 4:24-26). When Moses established the Passover celebration, he commanded that only circumcised foreigners could partake with Israel (Exod 12:43-48). Because the men of the wilderness generation had not been circumcised, Joshua made them submit to the command before entering Canaan (Josh 5:1-9). When Paul visited Lystra with the good news of the Jerusalem Council—that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised—he found a disciple of note named Timothy. Timothy’s parents were of mixed race and Timothy had not been circumcised according to the custom of his mother’s heritage. Having just been an integral part of the Jerusalem Council, Paul sought to pacify Jew/Gentile tensions. If Timothy were to be accepted in the Jewish synagogues where Paul was headed, Timothy needed to be circumcised. Paul did not require Titus to be circumcised since Titus was of pure Greek descent (Gal 2:1-5).

(2) In Acts 17:22-30, Paul confronted idolatry in Athens by retelling the Old Testament narrative of creation, the tower of Babel, commands against idolatry, and the day of judgement. Paul proclaimed that since God created the universe and gives life and breath to all living creatures, He is Lord of all and does not live in any temple (Acts 17:24-25). Paul’s portrayal of God reflected Genesis 1-2, Psalms 19 and 33, and the numerous Old Testament commands against idolatry (Exod 20:4-6; 32:1-10; Num 25: 1-15; Deut 5:8-10). In Acts 17:26, Paul noted that from one man God created all nations that have spread out over the earth. God scattered humanity by confusing their language after they built the tower at Babel (Gen 11:1-9). In Acts 17:30-31, Paul told the people of Athens that God appointed a day of judgement, reflecting the prophets’ expectation of the Day of the Lord (Isa 13:4-11; 24:21-22; Jer 46:10; Ezek 30:3-4; Joel 3:12-14; Amos 5:18-20; Zeph 1:14-18; 3:8). But Paul stated that on the day of judgement, the Lord would render His verdict upon each individual based upon their faith in Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 17:31). When Paul mentioned Jesus’ resurrection, some scoffed but others, both men and women, believed (Acts 17:32-33).