Exhorting and Strengthening
Acts 15:30 So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. 31 When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement. 32 Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words. 33 And after they had stayed there for a time, they were sent back with greetings from the brethren to the apostles. 34 However, it seemed good to Silas to remain there. 35 Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. (NKJV)
The time is A.D.49. Paul, Barnabas and Titus have come to the church in Jerusalem from their home church in Antioch, Syria to attend the meeting of the Jerusalem Council. The topic of discussion was should new Gentile believers be required to be circumcised like the Jews were required to be under Mosaic Law. A group of Jewish believers were engaged in this false teaching.
The Jerusalem Council headed by James, the brother of Jesus, concluded their discussions and arrived at a decision. The Gentile believers would not be required to be circumcised.
The ruling of the Jerusalem Council was decreed in the form of a letter, which was carried back to the Gentiles at the church in Antioch, Syria. Since Paul and Barnabas were members of the church in Antioch they were charged with carrying the letter back to their church. Judas, aka Barsabas, and Silas, short for Silvanus, accompanied them along with other members of the Jerusalem church.
In this passage, we see that the party has arrived at Antioch and delivered the letter to the church (v. 30). After reading the letter, the church rejoiced, and was consoled by the words (v. 31). The Gentile Christians were relieved that they would not be required to follow the Jewish tradition of circumcision.
Additionally, Judas and Silas, who were also prophets, “exhorted and strengthened” them by confirming them as Christians, according to the original Greek (v. 32). After they stayed “for a time” they were excused by the church and allowed to return to Jerusalem (v. 33). The original Greek for verse 33 reads that “they were let go with peace”, not that they actually departed. Perhaps only Judas departed, along with the others who had accompanied him from Jerusalem.
It appears that Silas decided to stay in Antioch (v. 34). The original Greek reads “it seemed But to Silas to remain there.” Verse 34 is omitted by the oldest manuscripts. Likely it was added to the King James translation to support verse 40, wherein Paul invites Silas to accompany him on his Second Missionary Journey. However, if verse 33 does not call for the conclusion that Silas actually returned to Jerusalem, this addition to the King James translation would be unnecessary.
So it seems to this writer that Silas stayed in Antioch. However, there is also the possibility that he returned to Jerusalem and then shortly made the lengthy trip back to Antioch to join Paul in his missionary journey.
Paul and Barnabas continued on in Antioch, “teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also” (v. 35). However, soon they would begin another missionary journey.
This passage highlights the preaching of the word to the congregation in Antioch. First Judas and Silas exhorted and strengthened them. Next Paul and Barnabas ministered, and then many others followed suit.
It is important that many people in the church become involved in ministry. The pastor should not be asked to shoulder this burden all by himself. As Christians, we are all ministers. We should be exhorting and strengthening each other.
Online Bible Commentary