The Council at Jerusalem
15 1 It wasn't long before some Jews showed up from Judea insisting that everyone be circumcised: "If you're not circumcised in the Mosaic fashion, you can't be saved." 2 Paul and Barnabas were up on their feet at once in fierce protest. The church decided to resolve the matter by sending Paul, Barnabas, and a few others to put it before the apostles and leaders in Jerusalem. 3 After they were sent off and on their way, they told everyone they met as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria about the breakthrough to the Gentile outsiders. Everyone who heard the news cheered - it was terrific news! 4 When they got to Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas were graciously received by the whole church, including the apostles and leaders. They reported on their recent journey and how God had used them to open things up to the outsiders. 5 Some Pharisees stood up to say their piece. They had become believers, but continued to hold to the hard party line of the Pharisees. "You have to circumcise the pagan converts," they said. "You must make them keep the Law of Moses."
6 The apostles and leaders called a special meeting to consider the matter. 7 The arguments went on and on, back and forth, getting more and more heated. Then Peter took the floor: "Friends, you well know that from early on God made it quite plain that he wanted the pagans to hear the Message of this good news and embrace it - and not in any secondhand or roundabout way, but firsthand, straight from my mouth. 8 And God, who can't be fooled by any pretense on our part but always knows a person's thoughts, gave them the Holy Spirit exactly as he gave him to us. 9 He treated the outsiders exactly as he treated us, beginning at the very center of who they were and working from that center outward, cleaning up their lives as they trusted and believed him. 10 "So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too? 11 Don't we believe that we are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us just as he did those from beyond our nation? So what are we arguing about?" 12 There was dead silence. No one said a word. With the room quiet, Barnabas and Paul reported matter-of-factly on the miracles and wonders God had done among the other nations through their ministry. 13 The silence deepened; you could hear a pin drop. 14 Simeon has told us the story of how God at the very outset made sure that racial outsiders were included. 15 This is in perfect agreement with the words of the prophets: 16 After this, I'm coming back; I'll rebuild David's ruined house; I'll put all the pieces together again; I'll make it look like new 17 So outsiders who seek will find, so they'll have a place to come to, All the pagan peoples included in what I'm doing. 18 It's no afterthought; he's always known he would do this. 19 "So here is my decision: We're not going to unnecessarily burden non-Jewish people who turn to the Master. 20 We'll write them a letter and tell them, 'Be careful to not get involved in activities connected with idols, to guard the morality of sex and marriage, to not serve food offensive to Jewish Christians - blood, for instance.' 21 This is basic wisdom from Moses, preached and honored for centuries now in city after city as we have met and kept the Sabbath."
22 Everyone agreed: apostles, leaders, all the people. They picked Judas (nicknamed Barsabbas) and Silas - they both carried considerable weight in the church - and sent them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas 23 with this letter: From the apostles and leaders, your friends, to our friends in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Hello! 24 We heard that some men from our church went to you and said things that confused and upset you. Mind you, they had no authority from us; we didn't send them. 25 We have agreed unanimously to pick representatives and send them to you with our good friends Barnabas and Paul. 26 We picked men we knew you could trust, Judas and Silas - they've looked death in the face time and again for the sake of our Master Jesus Christ. 27 We've sent them to confirm in a face-to-face meeting with you what we've written. 28 It seemed to the Holy Spirit and to us that you should not be saddled with any crushing burden, but be responsible only for these bare necessities: 29 Be careful not to get involved in activities connected with idols; avoid serving food offensive to Jewish Christians (blood, for instance); and guard the morality of sex and marriage. These guidelines are sufficient to keep relations congenial between us. And God be with you! Barnabas and Paul Go Their Separate Ways 30 And so off they went to Antioch. On arrival, they gathered the church and read the letter. 31 The people were greatly relieved and pleased. 32 Judas and Silas, good preachers both of them, strengthened their new friends with many words of courage and hope. 33 Then it was time to go home. They were sent off by their new friends with laughter and embraces all around to report back to those who had sent them. 35 Paul and Barnabas stayed on in Antioch, teaching and preaching the Word of God. But they weren't alone. There were a number of teachers and preachers at that time in Antioch.
Paul Separates from Barnabas and Begins the Second Missionary Journey
36 After a few days of this, Paul said to Barnabas, "Let's go back and visit all our friends in each of the towns where we preached the Word of God. Let's see how they're doing." 37 Barnabas wanted to take John along, the John nicknamed Mark. 38 But Paul wouldn't have him; he wasn't about to take along a quitter who, as soon as the going got tough, had jumped ship on them in Pamphylia. 39 Tempers flared, and they ended up going their separate ways: Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus; 40 Paul chose Silas and, offered up by their friends to the grace of the Master, 41 went to Syria and Cilicia to build up muscle and sinew in those congregations.
Timothy Accompanies Paul and Silas
16 1 Paul came first to Derbe, then Lystra. He found a disciple there by the name of Timothy, son of a devout Jewish mother and Greek father. 2 Friends in Lystra and Iconium all said what a fine young man he was. 3 Paul wanted to recruit him for their mission, but first took him aside and circumcised him so he wouldn't offend the Jews who lived in those parts. They all knew that his father was Greek. 4 As they traveled from town to town, they presented the simple guidelines the Jerusalem apostles and leaders had come up with. 5 That turned out to be most helpful. Day after day the congregations became stronger in faith and larger in size.
Paul's Vision of the Man of Macedonia
6 They went to Phrygia, and then on through the region of Galatia. Their plan was to turn west into Asia province, but the Holy Spirit blocked that route. 7 So they went to Mysia and tried to go north to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn't let them go there either. 8 Proceeding on through Mysia, they went down to the seaport Troas. 9 That night Paul had a dream: A Macedonian stood on the far shore and called across the sea, "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" 10 The dream gave Paul his map. We went to work at once getting things ready to cross over to Macedonia. All the pieces had come together. We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the Europeans.
The Imprisonment at Philippi
11 Putting out from the harbor at Troas, we made a straight run for Samothrace. The next day we tied up at New City 12 and walked from there to Philippi, the main city in that part of Macedonia and, even more importantly, a Roman colony. We lingered there several days. 13 On the Sabbath, we left the city and went down along the river where we had heard there was to be a prayer meeting. We took our place with the women who had gathered there and talked with them. 14 One woman, Lydia, was from Thyatira and a dealer in expensive textiles, known to be a God-fearing woman. As she listened with intensity to what was being said, the Master gave her a trusting heart - and she believed! 15 After she was baptized, along with everyone in her household, she said in a surge of hospitality, "If you're confident that I'm in this with you and believe in the Master truly, come home with me and be my guests." We hesitated, but she wouldn't take no for an answer.
16 One day, on our way to the place of prayer, a slave girl ran into us. She was a psychic and, with her fortunetelling, made a lot of money for the people who owned her. 17 She started following Paul around, calling everyone's attention to us by yelling out, "These men are working for the Most High God. They're laying out the road of salvation for you!" 18 She did this for a number of days until Paul, finally fed up with her, turned and commanded the spirit that possessed her, "Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!" And it was gone, just like that. 19 When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square. Then the police arrested them 20 and pulled them into a court with the accusation, "These men are disturbing the peace - dangerous Jewish agitators 21 subverting our Roman law and order." 22 By this time the crowd had turned into a restless mob out for blood. 23 After beating them black and blue, they threw them into jail, telling the jailkeeper to put them under heavy guard so there would be no chance of escape. 24 He did just that - threw them into the maximum security cell in the jail and clamped leg irons on them.
25 Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn't believe their ears. 26 Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose. 27 Startled from sleep, the jailer saw all the doors swinging loose on their hinges. Assuming that all the prisoners had escaped, he pulled out his sword and was about to do himself in, figuring he was as good as dead anyway, 28 when Paul stopped him: "Don't do that! We're all still here! Nobody's run away!" 29 The jailer got a torch and ran inside. Badly shaken, he collapsed in front of Paul and Silas. 30 He led them out of the jail and asked, "Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved, to really live?" 31 They said, "Put your entire trust in the Master Jesus. Then you'll live as you were meant to live - and everyone in your house included!" 32 They went on to spell out in detail the story of the Master - the entire family got in on this part. 33 They never did get to bed that night. The jailer made them feel at home, dressed their wounds, and then - he couldn't wait till morning! - was baptized, he and everyone in his family. 34 There in his home, he had food set out for a festive meal. It was a night to remember: He and his entire family had put their trust in God; everyone in the house was in on the celebration.
35 At daybreak, the court judges sent officers with the instructions, "Release these men." 36 The jailer gave Paul the message, "The judges sent word that you're free to go on your way. Congratulations! Go in peace!" 37 But Paul wouldn't budge. He told the officers, "They beat us up in public and threw us in jail, Roman citizens in good standing! And now they want to get us out of the way on the sly without anyone knowing? Nothing doing! If they want us out of here, let them come themselves and lead us out in broad daylight." 38 When the officers reported this, the judges panicked. They had no idea that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. 39 They hurried over and apologized, personally escorted them from the jail, and then asked them if they wouldn't please leave the city. 40 Walking out of the jail, Paul and Silas went straight to Lydia's house, saw their friends again, encouraged them in the faith, and only then went on their way.