Acts 18 - Outline of Acts (MENU page)
- The previous chapter (Acts ch.17) closed with Paul in Athens, where he was waiting for Silas and Timothy to join him. They had been ministering together, in Berea, on Paul's second missionary journey. Paul had been forced to flee, leaving his companions behind, when enemies of the Gospel stirred up trouble, as they sought to eliminate his outspoken witness that Jesus is the Messiah for whom the Jewish people were waiting, as foretold in the Old Testament scriptures.
While in Athens, Paul had opportunities to present the Gospel of Christ in the synagogue, in the market place and also at Mars Hill, a center of intellectual and philosophical discussion. Paul, started where they were, with their uncertain reverence toward an unknown god. He presented the true and living God to them as the Creator of the universe and as the Lord of all that He created, including mankind. He declared that men are accountable to this Creator and Lord, who will judge the world according to righteousness, by Jesus, the man whom He has designated through His resurrection from the dead. Some had mocked. Some had procrastinated in evaluating these claims. But a few had believed, and had spent time with Paul, in order to learn more about their new found Savior and Lord.
Having planted the seed of God's Word, in Athens, and having nourished that which had sprouted, Paul felt the need to move on to another field, even though his travelling companions had not yet caught up with him. In doing so, he moves on from a university city, a seat of secular higher learning, to Corinth, which was the sin city of that day. It was a center of commerce, located on a narrow isthmus, with two important sea ports, Lechaeum to the west, and Cenchrea to the southeast. It was also the location of a great temple to Aphrodite or Venus, the goddess of sexual fertility, where worshippers consorted with a thousand "vestal virgins," who were nothing but religious prostitutes. The loose moral culture of Corinth was a constant danger for the church which was established there, as revealed by the issues which Paul addressed in his two letters to the Corinthian church, written five or six years after his first visit to the city (1Corinthians and 2Corinthians). As Paul entered into this new environment, he did not know what expect, but he was determined to proclaim the Gospel.
Like Paul we live in a culture that has forgotten the Lord. The foundations of society are crumbling, all around us. Things are so far out of order that it seems they can never be made right. Yet, the Lord has not asked us to straighten the world out. Rather, He has simply told us to be faithful in proclaiming the light of His Word in the darkness of this world.
- 1. After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;
2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla;
(because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.
3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought:
for by their occupation they were tentmakers.
- Aquila and Priscilla were from Pontus, a region of Asia Minor just south of the Black Sea,
- to which Paul might have gone, if the Lord had not blocked his way, calling him instead into Macedonia.
Aquila had been a businessman in Rome, until the Jews were expelled from that city by the emperor, Claudius, because the Jews had caused frequent disturbances. It is possible that these riots, like the one in Thessalonica, were caused by opposition to the Gospel of Christ. (Suetonius, c.100AD, a biographer of Claudius, wrote that the Jews rioted frequently at the instigation of 'Chrestus,' which may be a reference to Christ.)
Aquila and Priscilla were not believers when Paul met them. But he had been a stranger in a strange city, until he met folks with whom he had a lot in common. They were Jews, and they shared the same craft of tentmaking. In several of his letters, Paul mentions that he labored night and day, working with his own hands, in order to present the Gospel to others, at no expense to them. Today, the term "tentmaker missionary" is used of Christian workers who work for a living, in order to support their ministry work. Why do you work? Just to make money? or, to make your Lord known? Perhaps you are a tentmaker missionary and did not know it.
- 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.
5 And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia,
Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews [that] Jesus [was] Christ.
6 And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed,
he shook [his] raiment, and said unto them,
Your blood [be] upon your own heads; I [am] clean:
from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.
7. And he departed thence, and entered into a certain [man's] house, named Justus,
[one] that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.
8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house;
and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.
- ...he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath...-
- Week after week, in the synagogue, Paul opened the OT scriptures to show the Jewish people what was foretold concerning the person and work of their long expected Messiah (cp. 17:3). Although he had carefully laid out the case, apparently, he did not press the point that "Jesus is the Christ" until Silas and Timothy joined him. Then, Paul was compelled by the Holy Spirit to declare that the prophecies spoke of Jesus.
Many of the Jews, like those in Thessalonica, responded virulently to that message (v.6). Because of the hardness of their reaction, Paul determined, that while he was in Corinth, he would focus on reaching the Gentiles. (In other cities, that he would visit later, he would again enter into the synagogue and reason with them from the scriptures.)
Among those who believed, were Aquila and Priscilla, and Justus, who was "one that worshipped God." This description along with his Greek name, suggest that he had been a proselyte to Judaism. Having previously turned from idols to the true and living God, he was now led to faith in His Son.
Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, also believed. He is one of the few people that Paul personally baptized, although many took that step of identification with Christ. Paul's purpose was not to baptize, but to proclaim the Gospel message, because salvation is through faith in Christ, not through baptism, or any other ritual observance (1Cor 1:14-17).
- 9 Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision,
Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:
10 For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.
11 And he continued [there] a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
- Why was Paul given this vision? Weren't believers being added to the church daily?
- Yes, but Paul had vivid memories of his recent scourging and imprisonment at Philippi, and of the riots that had threatened his life in Thessalonica and Berea. Here, again, in Corinth, his enemies were threatening him viciously (1Cor 2:1-5). The Lord knew Paul's fear and trembling, and sought to reassure him: 'No one will hurt you. Keep proclaiming my Word. I have many people in this city.'
Even in 'sin city,' God was drawing to Himself "such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). Therefore, Paul stayed on at Corinth for 18 months, even when the opposition took legal action against him.
- 12. And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia,
the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul,
and brought him to the judgment seat,
13 Saying, This [fellow] persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law.
14 And when Paul was now about to open [his] mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews,
If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O [ye] Jews, reason would that I should bear with you:
15 But if it be a question of words and names, and [of] your law, look ye [to it];
for I will be no judge of such [matters].
16 And he drave them from the judgment seat.
17 Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue,
and beat [him] before the judgment seat.
And Gallio cared for none of those things.
- Gallio was a Roman proconsul, the governor of Achaia.
- His brother, Seneca, a prominent philosopher in Rome, had been tutor to Nero. Nero would later murder them both. However, at this time, because of Gallio's position and connections, any ruling by him would set an important precedent.
- The Jews "made insurrection against Paul..."
- That is, they rose up against him with hostile intent, and brought him to the judgment seat, over which the governor presided. Gallio refused to hear the Jew's case against Paul: "This fellow persuadeth men to worship contrary to the law." By "the law," they meant the Mosaic Law. Gallio's opinion was that it was not proper for secular law to rule on religious matters. As he saw it, this was a matter of separation of church and state. By the way, just as it is today, the secular law which protected Paul also tolerated and protected all kinds of wickedness, under the umbrellas of religious and personal freedoms.
Gallio had the Jews violently removed from his court, and did not intervene when the Greeks abused Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue... a position he had probably taken after Crispus lost it, due to his faith in Christ. Apparently, it was not long afterwards that Sosthenes also believed, since Paul refers to him as "Sosthenes, our brother" in his first epistle to the Corinthian church (1Cor 1:1).
- 18. And Paul [after this] tarried [there] yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren,
and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila;
having shorn [his] head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.
- Cenchrea was the port city, several miles southeast of Corinth.
- ...for he had a vow...-
- Paul had taken some form of a Nazarite vow (described in Numbers ch.6). Was Paul wrong to do this? After all, he was quite vocal that believers are no longer under the Law, but are to live by Grace (eg. Gal 3:1-5). Although religious ritual has no saving merit, it can express true worship, if entered into with the right heart attitude. (Just as we approach the Lord's table, in worship of our Savior and in thanksgiving for what He has done, not in order to receive merit for our coming or by our partaking.) Perhaps Paul took this vow as a way of thanking God for guiding and protecting him during his long and fruitful ministry in Corinth.
- 19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there:
but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.
20 When they desired [him] to tarry longer time with them, he consented not;
21 But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem:
but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.
22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church,
he went down to Antioch.
23 And after he had spent some time [there], he departed,
and went over [all] the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.
- In verses 19-23, Paul's second missionary journey comes to its end, and his third missionary journey begins.
- His brief stop in Ephesus whetted the appetite of some to hear more of his message. While Paul continued his journey to Jerusalem, Priscilla and Aquila remained in Ephesus, for the purpose of teaching the new believers.
- After Paul arrived at the port of Caesarea, he "went up" (ie., to Jerusalem).
- From there he "went down" to Antioch where he reported to his sending church.
- Verse 23 marks the beginning of his third journey.
- He starts by retracing his previous route, to visit and strengthen the churches in the regions of Galatia, Phrygia... and beyond.
- Meanwhile, the text takes us back to Ephesus and the ministry of Aquila and Priscilla.
- 24. And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria,
an eloquent man, [and] mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord;
and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord,
knowing only the baptism of John.
26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue:
whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto [them],
and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
27 And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia,
the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him:
who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:
28 For he mightily convinced the Jews, [and that] publickly,
shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
- Apollos was a Jew with a Greek name.
- He was from Alexandria, a city established by Alexander the Great in Egypt. It had become a center of scholarship, which boasted the world's largest library. A Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, had been produced here about 200 years earlier. Less than a hundred years after Paul's time, Alexandria would become the dominent center of Christian thinking, and would retain that postion for the next two centuries. During that time, early church fathers such as Athanasius, Tertullian and Augustine would live and work there.
Apollos himself was a well educated man. He was "eloquent," ie., a man of letters, a man of words. He was full of knowledge and he was able to express it well.
He had been "instructed in the way of the Lord," meaning that he had been thoroughly schooled in the Old Testament scriptures. He was "fervent in spirit" or passionate about passing this knowledge on to others.
His teaching was "diligent," meaning that it was precise and accurate. He spoke "boldly" in the synagogue. His message would not have been opposed by his hearers. So, here the word "boldly" does not infer bravery in the face of opposition, but rather that he spoke with great freedom of expression and with assurance of his subject matter.
His teaching was excellent up to the extent of his knowledge. Acquila and Priscilla recognized his potential and also the limitation of his knowledge. They took him home and "expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly." They 'laid out for him what the scriptures said about the Messiah' (as Paul had done in Acts 17:3, where 'alleging' is from the same root word as 'expounded'), 'more perfectly' or with greater precision and accuracy.
Now, with an even stronger foundation in God's Word, Apollos went on to Achaia, strengthening believers, and also arguing powerfully and irrefutably that "Jesus was the Christ."
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