This week Jay is sharing the story of Acts 17, where Paul and Silas find themselves in Thessalonica. To help break this reading open a bit more I want to unpack the relationship of Paul’s ministry companions; particularly Silas.
At the beginning of Paul’s ministry we are told about Barnabas—the individual who helped to persuade Jesus’ followers of Paul’s conversion and commitment (Acts 9:26-27). The friendship between Barnabas and Paul is quite evident throughout Acts as they shared the Good News from city to city. Though in Acts 15 we are told of a disagreement between the two that ended their friendship, and they never saw one another again. The disagreement was not a theological issue, but rather one on travelling companions. On a previous trip Paul and Barnabas were accompanied by Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark (understood by some scholars as the evangelist who spoke the Gospel of Mark). Though travelling companions are always nice, Paul was not thrilled with the idea of John Mark joining them again as he had ‘ditched’ them half way through on their last trip. It was because of this disagreement Barnabas and John Mark headed in one direction, and we are introduced to Silas who journeyed with Paul and Timothy.
The relationship between Paul and Silas is one that has provoked conversations. We are told that their relationship was one where they were considered equals. (This is different to the friendship of Barnabas and Paul, as they held more of a mentor/protégé relationship. Similarly to the relationship of Paul and Timothy, as Paul assumed the role of mentor.) Over the time of their adventures, Paul and Silas experienced a lot, and they held each other up in mutual support and ministry.
We read of Paul and Silas being imprisoned in Philippi, thrown out of the city of the Thessalonica and forced out of Berea. It is no wonder their journey’s fill the pages of Acts — so many risky adventures can almost see Paul and Silas like a biblical Bonnie and Clyde (armed with the Good News rather than a pistol).
Paul and Silas truly did life together, a friendship of equal standing in personal life and in ministry. What is fascinating is how little we hear about Silas within scripture, as he is only ever mentioned side-by-side to Paul. Kelly Skilton