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Commemoration of Silas, fellow worker of St. Peter and St. Paul

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Feb 10 is a day commemorating Silas, Fellow Worker of St. Peter and St. Paul. Of this saint of God, the Commission on Worship on the LCMS website comments,

“Silas, a leader in the church at Jerusalem, was chosen by Paul (Acts 15:40) to accompany him on his second missionary journey from Antioch to Asia Minor and Macedonia. Silas, also known as Silvanus, was imprisoned with Paul in Philippi and experienced the riots in Thessalonica and Berea. After rejoining Paul in Corinth, he apparently remained there for an extended time. Beyond that there is little further mention of Silas and his association with Paul.” (Commemorations, Biography)

Another description, from Treasury of Daily Prayer, offers these additional words,

“Sometime later he (Silas) apparently joined the apostle Peter, likely serving as Peter’s secretary (1 Peter 5:12). Tradition says that Silas was the first bishop at Corinth.”

These words of comment leave us little to go on with reference to Silas.  It is a given that Paul and Peter both knew him, and that he served the Lord with them according to his calling.

We don’t know about his background like we do with Paul, formerly named Saul.

We don’t know his father or mother, his home country, or his occupation, if he had one prior to his conversion or after.

Little is given about this commemorated man of God.

Curiosity here, though, does not lead the faithful to speculations, lofty or not.  What we can know with certainty of any name referenced in the Bible is that which God reveals in that Word.  This alone is the “rule and norm,” our litmus by which all be tested.

Even here, however, we are left with limited knowledge of the man called Silas.

But to end speculation and wandering curiosity, we are simply left to ask, “What does God say?”—and then—“what does this mean?”—a good Lutheran question, to be sure, but qualified with an “according to the Word alone.”

Too often, the meaning of a thing is not left “as-is,” having confidence alone placed on the bare Word of God as given.

Rather, personal assumptions and sinfully contrived notions and “interpretations” are purported to reveal the true meaning, if not definitively, at least partially, “to me.”

Ego-centeredness and self-interest aside, we can only speak with certainty of Silas as given by Holy Scripture, and as mentioned earlier, there is little to go on, or so it would seem.

The name Silas occurs a total of 13 times, and only in the New Testament book of Acts.

That’s it!

Nowhere else does the name Silas occur.

Additionally, however, commentators connect the name Silvanus to Silas, which adds four more hits to the one today commemorated, once in 2 Corinthians, once in each of the two letters of Paul to the Thessalonians, and once in Peter’s first epistle.

This makes for a total of 17 instances where the name Silas, and Silvanus, appear in the New Testament writings.

In the latter four non-Acts occurrences of the name Silvanus, no lengthy narrative accompanies the name.

In Acts, the findings are quite distinct.

Without laboring you with more numbers, references to the man Silas in Acts connect readily to specific narratives and joined with the apostle Paul.

The first reference to Silas in the book of Acts is in relation to the Jerusalem synod of Chapter 15.

This is where “certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’” (Acts 15:1 NKJ).

And also, where, “Some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise (the converted Gentiles), and to command them to keep the law of Moses’” (Acts 15:5 NKJ).

The church came together and definitively said, “No… we believe and confess that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they” (Acts 15:11).

In other words, not by being circumcised according to the Law of Moses is eternal life, but through faith in the Christ Jesus preached from Holy Scripture, whom Peter and Paul preached.

Silas doesn’t appear a main speaker of the meeting proper, like Peter had.  In fact, Silas doesn’t appear to speak at all there.

Yet, the apostles and elders, with the whole church (Acts 15:12), did send Silas, along with Paul, Barnabas, Judas, and Barsabas to Antioch with the letter, crafted to “Not trouble those form the Gentiles who are turning to God” (Acts 15:19).

Silas was known among them, among the “men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26).

Also, he with Judas were considered by Luke to be “leading men among the brethren” (Acts 15:22 NKJ).

With Judas, Silas was to “Report the same things” of the letter “By word of mouth” (Acts 15:27).

This Silas did.

Judas and Silas “Exhorted the brethren” in Antioch, “With many words and strengthened them,” records Luke, relaying also that both were “leaders” and “themselves prophets” (Acts 15:32).

This meant that Silas spoke. Prophets speak.

Words not spoken by Silas at the Jerusalem synod were spoken elsewhere.

So, God gives His servants to speak as He will, where He will, with the Words to proclaim.

In the same chapter of Acts 15, Silas is the one who Paul chooses over Barnabas, to accompany him in visiting the brethren where they had “preached the word” (Acts 15:36).

This was where Paul and Barnabas contended about John Mark going with them, though he “had not gone with them to the work” (Acts 15:38).

Paul and Barnabas parted ways, the latter taking John Mark to Cyprus, the former taking Silas, “Being commended by the brethren to the grace of God” (Acts 15:40).

Next, we hear of Paul and Silas imprisoned, for the simple reason that Paul exorcised a demon from a girl, and her masters could no longer profit from her fortune-telling (Acts 16:19).

Of Paul and Silas, their accusers stated, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; “and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe” (Acts 16:20-21 NKJ).

The preaching of Jesus is not politically correct.  Nor is the true doctrine accepted by all, neither is godly work recognized as such by the world.

The devil fights against Christ and seeks to silence and suppress the truth however he might.

Yet, Paul and Silas, in prison, prayed and sang “hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).

In the midst of their ordeal, they blessed God.

And in the midst of their ordeal, a jailer heard, asking, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).

The answer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

The jailer and his household were baptized.  They believed God.

In two successive chapters, chapters 17 & 18, we find the remaining places where Silas is named in the book of Acts.

In chapter 17, Paul and Silas, still together in accompaniment, traveled to Berea, where the Jews “were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:10-11).

And, “Many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men” (Acts 17:12).

In chapter 18, when Paul was in Corinth, it was after “Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia” that Paul “was constrained by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 18:5).

What the Lord reveals of Silas in these passages is not at all insignificant.  The Lord had Silas right where He wanted him to be.

Silas was God’s servant, a member of the household of God.

It was not Silas who was running the show or plotting out how he would serve.  It was God directing, God leading, God moving, God giving.

In such giving, moving, leading, and directing, so God’s servant served.

Though it is true that we know little of Silas’ background, life, personality, etc., we know what God makes known.  And what God reveals of Silas manifests, not Silas, but God and His work, God’s salvation and redemption.

By God’s grace and work, the Lord grant you the same. Amen.

 

Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, Your servant Silas preached the Gospel alongside the apostles Peter and Paul to the peoples of Asia Minor, Greece, and Macedonia.  We give you thanks for raising up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of Your kingdom, that the Church may continue to proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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