The Expository Files


Silas ... Our Faithful Brother

Silas is one of the faithful men who made it his life's purpose to serve the Lord by being a companion of Paul and sharing with him the experience of evangelizing the first century world. He well understood the importance of spiritual matters. He obeyed and served after the pattern of the prophets of the Old Testament, often suffering imprisonment, shipwreck, and persecutions. He meant a lot to the efforts put forth by disciples of the first century. His life made an impact.

Early Mention
Though we know Silas best for being Paul's companion that is not how we are first introduced to him. First, we find him as a messenger for the church at Jerusalem, especially the apostles and elders there. We read: “Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas -- Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren,” (Acts 15:22).

He and Barsabbas were described as leading men of the church at Jerusalem. They were chosen to take the message to churches in Antioch, Syria and Celicia which was of particular concern to the new Gentile converts. Some had been requiring them to keep portions of the Law of Moses. This was condemned as words that lacked the proper source of authority: "Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls,” (Acts 15:24).

The brethren in Antioch were assured and encouraged, and Silas joined Barsabbas (also known as Judas) in instructing the brethren as teachers and as prophets (Acts 15:32-35). Silas remained on at Antioch as Barsabbas returned to Jerusalem. Also working at Antioch about this time was Paul and Barnabas, having returned from the first missionary journey. It is evidently here that Paul comes to know and appreciate Silas as a disciple and worker for Christ.

Paul Chooses Silas as a Companion
When Paul and Barnabas disagreed over taking John Mark with them on the second missionary journey, Barnabas and Paul split up. Barnabas took John Mark with him to spread the gospel in Cyprus while Paul took Silas with him to Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:37-41). Here, Paul met another young disciple who also joined the group. That young disciple's name was “Timothy”.

Paul and Silas to Europe
Instructed by the Lord to take the gospel from Asia Minor to Europe, Paul and Silas cross the sea and arrive at Phillipi. Lydia became the first of Paul's converts Europe. He and Silas stayed with Lydia in Phillipi where Silas was arrested along with Paul (Acts 16:11-40). This resulted in the conversion of the Philippian Jailer and his family.

Silas went with Paul to Thessalonica where there was trouble with the envious Jews (Acts 17:1-9). There was such danger from the threats of the enemies of the cross that they were sent away by night to Berea. When the Jews followed them to stir up trouble, Silas and Timothy stayed while Paul went on to Athens (Acts 17:10-15). Silas and Timothy later caught up with Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:5).

Silvanus or Silas: Same Man; Same Noble Endeavor
Silas continued to serve the Lord and the apostles. It is important to note that he is also called “Silvanus.” We find him preaching at Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:19) and also assisting Peter in the writing of his first epistle (1 Peter 5:12).

Silas evidently considered that teaching others the gospel was a great privilege. There's nothing you can do for a person that is more worthwhile than to tell them of Jesus. Note this passage: “...for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5-7). The “we” and “our” and “us” of these verses refer to Paul, Silas (Silvanus) and Timothy (see vs. 1).

It is the preaching and teaching of the same apostolic doctrine will result in numerical and spiritual growth, for it is the seed of spiritual growth. As Paul and Silas were revisiting the churches that had been established during his first journey, the Bible says this is what they were doing, and a maturing process was taking place as a result. “Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe. So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.” (Acts 16:4-5).

This is the proper diet for the church; not the religious creeds of men, not the philosophical fads of men, but the doctrine of Christ to the glory of God as delivered from God through those ordained as His apostles.

Something Silas understood was that he owed a great debt to Jesus. He could never pay him back, but he could devote his life to Him. Faith means to trust and obey. Make no mistake, we will be judged for the things we have done (Matthew 16:27). By God's grace, the bad can be taken away so that we may stand before the Judge as guiltless men and women.

God's promises are true. Silas (Silvanus) knew this. His message as well as his example included the idea of complete assurance in the promises of God. God's promises are always “yes” - that is, they will always be kept by Him. But as God is faithful, our word to you is not yes and no. For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us -- by me and Silvanus and Timothy -- was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. (2 Corinthians 1:18-20). May we have this same confidence, and may it perform the work in us that it did in Silas.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 17.2; February 2010