Acts: For the Cause of Christ #28

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #28

Title: Paul the Pastor

Acts 20:1-38

Review of 19:1-41

Last time we looked at Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. Paul spent the longest amount of time in Ephesus than in any other city during his recorded journeys. We saw that Paul was constantly working and proclaiming the gospel. We were reminded in Ephesus of the spiritual battles that we are in engaged in as Christians.

Here we see Paul continue his third journey and return to Jerusalem.

image from freebibleimages.org

Paul Gathers Funds for Judea – vv 1-6

After the riot was dispersed and calm had returned to the city, Paul gathered the disciples there and encourages them before he leaves for Macedonia. We get a brief statement that Paul went through Macedonia offering a word of encouragement and then went to Greece. But with a little detective work, we can glimpse parts of this journey from Paul’s writings. From passages in 2 Corinthians we see that Paul had sent Titus to Corinth, possibly with 1 Corinthians or the lost letter Paul had sent them. Since Titus was not at Troas, they met in Macedonia where Titus gave a good report helping to relieve concerns Paul had. During this time in Macedonia, Paul may have gone into the Province of Illyricum which is west of Macedonia and borders the Adriatic Sea, since Paul references himself ministering there in Romans 15. Paul may have also mentioned and began gathering the companions and relief fund to assist the needs in the Judean churches.

We see that Paul continued on into Greece/Achaia and this is generally thought to mean he returned to Corinth and spent 3 months there. During his time in Corinth, Paul wrote the book of Romans. Now Paul may have been planning on going back to Antioch in Syria before heading to Jerusalem, but the Jewish population in Corinth was plotting against him again, so he changed plans and returned by land back through Macedonia to Philippi. 

Here we get a list of names of men from churches in Macedonia and Asia who are with Paul traveling back to Jerusalem, but it is probable that these men are messengers from those churches with the relief funds to go to Judea. One man from Berea, Sopater, two from Thessalonica, Aristarchus and Secundus. We see one from Galatia, Gaius of Derbe, and two from Asia, Tychicus, and Trophimus. Now Timothy is listed and we know he is from Lystra in Galatia, but Timothy may have already been with Paul in Macedonia. There is no mention of a representative from Philippi, but that may have been Luke, as another “we passage” appears in verses 5 and 6. Timothy and the others leave for Troas before Paul and Luke. It is assumed the Luke rejoins Paul here at Philippi, as the last “we-section” ended at Philippi in chapter 16. Paul and Luke leave for Troas after the Feast of Unleavened Bread which immediately follows Passover. As we will see in a few verses, Paul wants to get to Jerusalem before Pentecost, so time was of the essence.

We see is this section that Paul continues to take a personal interest in the churches he planted or were planted by co-workers. When Paul had the chance to visit those churches he did so to encourage them to remain faithful to Christ and the gospel. We cannot be unfaithful to Christ or the gospel and do the work for the cause of Christ.

Paul’s Travels from Troas – vv7-16

Paul is finishing his stay in Troas. We are told they stayed seven days, then on the first day of the week, Sunday, the church met together. We don’t know when the early church moved their worship time to Sunday instead of Saturday, but we can assume that the why is to remember the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. In the account before us, it appears that the church met in the evening as their time of worship. As Paul may have already been receiving warnings about arriving in Jerusalem, and I think it is likely, Paul took the opportunity to encourage this church as well as to say good-bye.

image from freebibleimages.org

Paul was speaking, late into the night. We are told he spoke until midnight. Now there were no electric lights, no air conditioning or fans. The room was full of people, oil lamps burned adding to the heat, and it was very late at night. Nobody can blame Eutychus for being drowsy and falling asleep. He may have moved closer to the window to help him stay awake, but sleep overtook him. They were meeting on the third story, Eutychus fell back out of the window three stories and died. We don’t know how young Eutychus was, it is thought that he may have been a servant, so it is possible that he was between 8 and 14. Luke may have been one of the first to arrive on the scene and confirmed that Eutychus was dead. But then Paul arrived. Look at verse 10. Paul in a manner similar to Elijah in 1 Kings 17:21-22, bent over the body of the boy, embraced him and then declared Eutychus alive. Paul may have even prayed the prayer of Elijah, saying “LORD my God, please let this boy’s life come into him again”. 

They return to the upper room and continue their meeting, as we see Paul speaking until daybreak. It is possible that this second reference to breaking bread may not be the Lord’s table, but may have been a late snack or, if they hadn’t had the fellowship meal the usually accompanied the Lord’s Table, they may have been enjoying the meal at this time. I think this time was more laid back and focused on fellowship. At daybreak, Eutychus went home alive and the church was encouraged.

Paul sent Luke and the others by ship to the next port at the city of Assos, but Paul walked the 20 or so miles and met them there. Paul may have stayed a little longer in Troas to finish some farewells, or he wanted to spend the time alone with God. I think Paul may have already been receiving warnings about the danger for him in Jerusalem, and that he took the time walking to Assos to pray and spend time with God. The next few verses (14-16) describe the group’s island hopping along the Asian cost in the Aegean Sea. We see Paul skipped past Ephesus and went to Miletus instead. He wanted to visit, to encourage and say farewell in that region as well, but he was trying his best to get to Jerusalem by Pentecost and the clock was ticking. You’ll remember that Pentecost is 50 days after Passover, at this point in Miletus at least 24 days have passed. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, five days sailing to Troas, seven days in Troas, and another 5 days between Troas and Miletus.

Here we see the importance of regular attendance to church and staying awake. Warren Wiersbe made the following observation: “Perhaps each of us should ask ourselves, ‘What really keeps me awake?’ Christians who slumber during one hour in church somehow manage to stay awake during early morning fishing trips, lengthy sporting events and concerts, or late-night TV specials” (Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Daring. © 1988, p84).

We all see Paul’s care for individuals in the church as well. We said earlier that Paul was returning to Jerusalem to bring the offerings raised by these churches to the needy Christians in Judea. Paul not only wanted to build up the churches through preaching and teaching but through the care of individuals as well.

Paul’s Farewell and Charge to the Ephesian Elders – vv17-38

Paul the others stopped in Miletus. Miletus is about 30 miles south of Ephesus. In the pre-Roman days, Miletus held more importance than Ephesus. Miletus sits on a small peninsula and had three harbors operating. From Miletus Pauls for the Elders of the Ephesian church. Paul had spent two and a half to three years with these men ministering to and alongside them. If this was going to be the last he saw them, he wanted to do so face-to-face and give them one final charge.

Paul begins his address in verses 18-21 by reminding them of his history with them, that since the beginning of his third journey he was determined to be in Ephesus. He reminds them that he served God with humility and through trials and plots from the Jews. He reminds them that he taught publicly and privately and didn’t discriminate between Jew or Gentile. He taught anyone who would listen the way of salvation. 

In verses 22-25 he tells them that his future is uncertain, but it appears that hardships await him and that he will likely not see this group again. We don’t know how the Holy Spirit was warning Paul, it could have been with prophets in similar ways to what we see in 21:10-11. But Paul was determined to remain faithful and he knew that he was innocent before God no matter what happens in Jerusalem. In the following verses (26-27), he explains why he was innocent. 

Starting in verse 28 Paul begins to issue his challenge to the Elders from Ephesus. The first thing I see here is that Paul is addressing these men as pastors and leaders. We are told in verse 17 that they are elders of the church. Here in verse 28, Paul calls them overseers, this is the same word in 1 Timothy 3, sometimes translated bishop. Still, here Paul tells them to shepherd the flock, this is the same word and language Peter uses in 1 Peter 5 when he addresses church elders. Acts 20 is key to understanding pastoral ministry and we see these terms used interchangeably, referring to one office with 3 titles. The other things we see here are that these pastors not only need to guard the flock, that is the church, but themselves as well. Pastors need to be aware of the dangers to the church. 

Paul continues in verse 29 with what some of those dangers will be [read 29]. In the immediate context, Paul is concerned that once he is out of the picture in Ephesus and the other surrounding churches, that false teachers and others wishing ill for the churches will come and lead some astray and seek to destroy the churches. Paul tells them that even some of the men there before him would begin teaching false doctrine, he can also mean individuals from the congregation causing division, seeking power, or being false teachers themselves. So Paul tells these pastors to be alert, not to be careless, and to remember his example of constantly teaching and warning every day for those three years he spent in Ephesus.

Verses 32-35 Paul uses himself as an example to these pastors . In verse 32 he warns them not to be shallow. Paul commends these men to God and God’s Word. Pastors need to spend time in prayer and the Word as much as the everyday Christian, if not more. Verse 33 Paul reminds them not to covet. It is easy to see the wealth of other people and to want it for yourself and it can be more difficult for those in full-time ministry when their church members have a level of wealth, but the pastor, missionary, full-time Christian worker should be a servant leader and not given to covetousness. In verse 34 Paul reminds them that he literally worked for everything he had and still devoted himself to teach and preach daily. There are other passages that teach that the church should care for its leaders, and think the other point here is to not be lazy. Pastors should not only be willing to do the work but when it is time to work, they do the work and earn what they receive. 

Then in verse 35, he reminds them that selfishness has no place in ministry. Christian service is not about receiving, but giving. Paul quotes Jesus’ own word of “it is better to give than to receive”. Now you’re not going to find those words in any of the gospel accounts. “This saying is one of the agrapha, a term, used to describe sayings of Jesus which are not recorded in the four gospels. That thee were many such can hardly be doubted” as John 21:25 tells us (Kent Jr., Homer A. Jerusalem To Rome © 1972, p158).

Paul finishes his time with the Ephesian Elders by praying with and for these beloved coworkers. It was difficult for everyone to say goodbye. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place, they took turns hugging him and as was the custom a affectionate kiss on the cheek. They were all grieving because as far as anyone knew at this point, Paul could have been going to his death, and he nearly did. But his friends escorted him to the ship and he sailed for Jerusalem.

Paul here was not only concerned for the churches, or the individual members of the churches, but for the leaders of the church. Just as churches and their members need to be encouraged and challenged, so do their leaders and pastors.

Conclusion:

Warren Wiersbe said of Paul’s meeting with the Ephesian Elders, “…is unique in that it reveals Paul the pastor rather than Paul the evangelist or Paul the defender of the faith” (Wiersbe, p85). I think he is right, but I think we can expand that statement. How we see Paul in Acts 20 is not Paul the evangelist as in chapters 13, 14, and 17; not Paul the apologist as is in chapters 22, 23, 24, and 26, but here we see Paul the pastor. Caring for multiple flocks, individual sheep, and fellow shepherds.

You’re thinking, “that’s great for you, but not all of us are pastors or leaders”.

We need to encourage each other to remain faithful to Christ and the gospel. We cannot be unfaithful to Christ or the gospel and say we are for the cause of Christ.

We need to be intentional and regular in our church attendance.

The church is built of individuals that need each need specific care and attention.

We need to be praying with and for each other. We need to be invested in each other to pray for our church and one another.

Even pastors need prayer and encouragement as we guard and tend to the flock.

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #27

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #27

Title: Ephesus

Acts 19:1-41

Review of 18

Last time we saw Paul’s time in Corinth. How the Lord encouraged and protected him for 18 months of ministry. We saw how God uses different people in different ways for the ministry. We were reminded that God is faithful and trustworthy, He will do what He says He will do.

Paul in Ephesus – vv 1-10

Luke returns our focus back on Paul and we find him in Ephesus. We see that he traveled overland again came to Ephesus from the east. He arrived sometime after Apollos had left and was in Corinth. Paul has now arrived in Ephesus, has probably met up with Priscilla and Aquila again, and he begins his ministry in Ephesus which last more than two years.

The City

Ephesus was the major city in Asia during Roman times. It was the Roman capital for the province, a major commercial center, and port, and boasted a quarter of a million populace. That population put them just behind Rome. Ephesus was a free Greek city so they had their own senate/assembly for self-rule, though the city held the home the Roman governor for the province.

Ephesus held a large Jewish community, partly because they were given privileges from a partisan of Julius Caesar which was later confirmed by Augustus. No wonder Paul made this city his headquarters for his third journey, and why Luke comments in verse 10 “that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks heard the word of the Lord”.

12 Disciples of John the Baptist

Apparently somewhat early in his time there, Paul comes across 12 disciples of John the Baptist. These twelve seem to be a distinct group of Jews that was unknown to Apollos or Priscilla and Aquila. They are evidently introduced to him as disciples, but something, maybe the Holy Spirit, causes Paul to ask if they had received the Holy Spirit. In his interaction with them, Paul must have noticed that their understanding of the basic Christian tenants was deficient in some way. They respond no. It is generally thought that an implied ‘given’ should be read with the text. Meaning that these disciples of John hadn’t heard that the Holy Spirit had been given, as in John 7:39 where we read, “…Those who believed in Jesus were going to receive the Spirit, for the Spirit had not yet been given…” The word given there is implied and added in many versions.

Paul then asks how they were baptized, and the answer with John’s baptism. The baptism of repentance in preparation of the coming Messiah. He explained that Jesus had come, completed his mission, returned to the Father and had sent the promised Holy Spirit. This meant the baptism these twelve undertook was no longer adequate. We’re not told, but I am assuming that Paul then baptized these disciples in Christian baptism and after laying his hands on them, they received the Holy Spirit in a way similar to the pentecost experience. These disciples may have helped form the core of the Ephesian church, may have continued on as missionaries, may have been included in the group of elders that meet with Paul in Miletus in Acts 20.

Synagogue and Lecture Hall

Paul, again, starts with the Jewish synagogue. For three months, Paul was debating and reasoning with Jews about the kingdom of God, that is the death and exalting of Jesus. It took three months before the many of the Jews became hardened and wouldn’t believe. They began slandering the Way, the name for the church, to slander the Way is to slander the gospel and the Savior. Paul could no longer teach in the synagogue in Ephesus. 

Paul moves his public teaching to a lecture hall. It is unclear who Tyrannus was, as there hasn’t been any building found in the Ephesian ruins with this name attached to it. It is possible that Tyrannus was a philosopher or lecturer that used that hall regularly or the building’s owner who rented it to Paul. There is a tradition in the Western and Byzantine texts that Paul used the building from “the fifth hour until the tenth hour”, from 11 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. There may be some truth to this as it was common in the region that that time would be used for a meal and rest, similar to the siesta culture. This means Paul could have done his leatherworking during the early part of the day like many businesses and then devoted those five hours to his teaching. This teaching arrangement continued for two years. 

During these two years, it appears that Epaphras had “evangelized the cities of the Lycus valley Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis-cities which Paul evidently did not visit in person…Perhaps all seven of the churches of Asia addressed in the Revelation of John were also founded about this time” (Bruce, F.F., NICNT: The Book of the Acts, © 1988, p366). The whole province was greatly evangelized during this time.

Ephesus and the Occult – vv 11-20

Since Ephesus was a major city it was like many of the other cities with its many idols and false religions, but Luke also tells us that the spiritual battle here was on several levels.

Paul

God used Paul in many ways proclaim the gospel and Christ. In Ephesus, God uses Paul to do many miracles and healings. Paul was even able to send sweat-rags and aprons to those possessed or in need of healing. This seems to parallel Peter healing those who fall under his shadow in chapter 5. The word handkerchief or facecloth here, what is meant is a sweat-rag that may have been worn on the head or wiped the sweat from one’s face. This and the apron were used by tradesman in their work, like Paul in his leatherworking. Whether these items belonged to Paul or were brought from the sick and possessed is unknown, but the power that healed was not in the items but in the name of Jesus.

Imitators

Ancient practitioners held Jewish magicians in high respect as it was believed they had especially effective spells to use. “Ephesus was the hot place o ministry for a number of itinerant Jewish exorcists. This may correspond to the fact that this city had a reputation for being a center for magical and occult practices. These men apparently developed special ability in effectively dealing with evil spirits” (Arnold, Clinton E., Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Acts, © 2002, p193). So popular was Paul and the name of Jesus, that Jewish itinerant exorcists began using Jesus’ name in their formulas and incantations. 

In this instance the Luke records, the sons of Sceva attempt to employ the name of Jesus. We do not know anything about Sceva other than what is mentioned here. He may have been the head of a priestly family or used the term chief priest or high priest as an advertising ploy to add prestige to his exorcism business. His seven sons attempted to exorcise a demon by saying, “by the Jesus that Paul preaches”. The names of Jesus and his apostle were known to this spirit, but these seven men were nothing to this spirit. The man possessed using abnormal strength attacked these men, beat them, injured them and tore their clothes. These men were fortunate to get away with their lives, having learned not to misuse the name of Jesus.

Burning books

The incident with Sceva’s sons spread throughout the whole city, “and filled those who heard it with awe; this name, invoked by Paul and his colleagues with such beneficial effects, was plainly not to be trifled with” (Bruce, p369).

The power of the gospel is greater than those playing with magic. Many of the practitioners converted to Christianity and openly confessed what they did and what their spells were. In the magical theory, the power of the spell was wrapped in its secrecy, by openly revealing what the spell was and how it was used, these new disciples were making these spells worthless. Many of them also gathered their “magic books” the scrolls and papyri that held their spells and held a bonfire. “The special connection of Ephesus with magic is reflected in the term ‘Ephesian letters’ for magical scrolls” (Bruce, p369). They added up the value of the scrolls that were being burned based on the local market, and it came to 50,000 silver coins or drachmae. That is roughly the combined year’s wage of 150 people. The burning of the books was a sign of casting off, of disowning their old way of life. 

Artemis of the Ephesians – vv 21-41

Paul was encouraged and decided that to go back through Macedonia and Achaia before returning to Jerusalem (it is suggested that this trip was to collect the love offering for the churches in Judea as mentioned in 1 Cor 16), he also resolved to go to Rome. Perhaps he was encouraged to see the great victories Christ was having over the idol worship and practice of the occult in Ephesus and thought Rome needed a good dose of Christianity as well, but there was still a big issue in the city of Ephesus, and her name was Artemis.

Artemis

Artemis of the Ephesians was one of the most well-known cults in the ancient Mediterranean world. This goddess is not the Greek goddess of the hunt with the same name, as the Greek goddess was a chaste maiden, and the Ephesian Artemis was similar to the mother goddess of ancient Asia Minor. Artemis was the main deity of the city of Ephesus. “As a mother goddess, Artemis possessed fertility and reproductive power that caused the earth to blossom with life of all kinds. She was the goddess of childbirth and a nourishing mother to all. Animals and wildlife were also a part o her domain and under her control” (Arnold, p198). The temple for Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The cult was woven into the daily life and culture of Ephesus. The Ephesians were very protective and proud of their patron goddess.

Silversmiths

The silversmiths and some other craftsmen made a large profit in creating and selling small shrines of Artemis. These were more than just small statuettes but depicted the goddess sitting on her throne in the temple. The problem they were having was because of the spread of Christianity in Ephesus and the surrounding area, their profit was falling, and the demand for these idols was falling. 

Verse 26 gives us an insight into the mass success the gospel was having in the city. We also see that many were turning to Christianity directly from idol worship. This is a major change in lifestyle for these new converts and it was affecting the economy of the city, or at least the wallets of some of the craftsmen.  Demetrius a silversmith had gathered many craftsmen together and began persuading them that they shouldn’t let the Lady of Ephesus be slandered or their businesses fail.

Riot

Fueled by Demetrius’ words, the crowded began a riot. The enthusiasm for Artemis spread from the craftsmen to many of the citizens. Once the rest of the citizens were added to the craftsmen the theater was the natural place to go with such a large crowd. The theater in Ephesus could hold 24,000 people. We don’t know how many people were involved in this riot, but it was probably in the thousands, as Luke commented that the city was in confusion, or the whole city was in an uproar.

On their way to the theater, the crowd was able to get a hold of Gaius and Aristarchus, two of Paul’s companions, and dragged them along. Even though the crowd hadn’t grabbed Paul, when he knew what was going on Paul wanted to go the theater and try to make a defense and reason with the mob. However, some of the disciples kept him from going and even some of the influential and ruling members of the city that were friendly toward Paul sent messages to him to stay away.

So many people were there in the riot that everybody was shouting something different and many didn’t even know why they were there. But a group of the Jews were and to make sure they could distance themselves from Paul, who was a Jew and Jews were knows to not worship Artemis, sent Alexander to make their case. We don’t know who this Alexander is, we have no more direct information about him. When he got up to make his defense the people weren’t going to listen. They recognized him as a Jew, which meant he didn’t worship Artemis, he may have seemed too eager to make a defense or some of th crowd may have thought he was the cause fo the issue. Before he could speak, the crowd began a two-hour chant of “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

After two hours the city clerk quiets the mob down to speak. Now the city clerk was the head or executive officer of the civic city council. He was essentially the city mayor. But he was also the liaison between the Roman provincial government, which resided in Ephesus, and the city council. He would be held responsible by the Romans for this riotous assembly, and the city may receive severe penalties because of it. He tells them that there is no reason to worry or act like this. The Lady of Ephesus is known all over, and everyone knows the statue was sent from heaven. The men grabbed and dragged along weren’t guilty of any crime, they didn’t steal anything from the temple, they did nothing sacrilegious against Artemis. The clek reminds them if there were any real charge to be made, the courts were ready to hear it, or find some other legal way to get the issue taken care. He reminds them that they are endangering the city of Roman consequences for an illegal assembly that is disturbing city. After the crowd and listened to the clerk, he dismissed them, possibly in the same way he would have for a legal assembly, and they went home.

Conclusion:

Today we were reminded of the power of the Holy Spirit. Later in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church, he reminds them that the Spirit is the seal and guarantee of their salvation. The Holy Spirit is how God marks each Christian as His possession. (The greatness of salvation Eph 2:1-3:13)

We also how that there needs to be a sharp distinction between the new life a Christian leads and their old sinful life. What do you or I need to get out of our lives that is sinful?  (The Old and New Life Eph 4:17-5:21)

We were also reminded that mob rule and anarchy are unbiblical. As citizens, we need to obey our governments and laws. And within the church, we need to have unity and not division. (Unity Eph 4:1-16)

We were reminded that as Christians we have entered into a spiritual war against Satan and his fellow fallen angels. We need to renounce all forms of spiritism, occultism, and remember that demons didn’t go away when the ancient world went away. (Christian Warfare Eph 6:10-20)

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #26

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #26

Title: Paul’s Encouragement – 2nd Journey Pt3 – Acts 18:1-28

Review of 17:1-34

In chapter 17 we looked at how Paul focused his gospel presentation on the Christ’s resurrection. It was the focus in Thessalonica where he used the OT to show the Jews that Christ had to suffer, die, and be raised to life, though they chose not to listen. He repeated the presentation in Berea where the Jews trusted the Scripture and many took Paul’s message as from God, though trouble was coming when Thessalonian Jews came to Berea. Even in Athens, a center for paganism and philosophy, Paul focused on God raising Christ from the dead. 

In our passage today, we follow Paul to another major city in Greece. A city where he spent the majority of this journey preaching and teaching.

Paul in Corinth – vv 1-11

Temple of Apollo – biblepicturegallery.com

Corinth

Paul headed to Corinth after his address in Athens. Corinth was the Capital of the Province of Achaia (Greece). It was a major city as it connected the Grecian mainland and the Peloponnese. It formed a triangle with the port cities of Lechaeum in the north and Cenchrea in the south. You may recognize the city name of Cenchrea as the place Phoebe is mentioned to serve in the church there in Romans 16. These cities connected the Aegean Sea with the Adriatic Sea, the Province of Asia with Italy. Corinth was a strategic place for Paul to spread the gospel as merchants, sailors and soldier all passed through as they went from one port to another.

Priscilla and Aquila

After arriving in Corinth. Paul quickly met and befriended Aquila a Jew from Pontus and his wife Priscilla. They had recently come from Italy and Claudius had issued a decree expelling all Jews from the city of Rome. We know that this occurred in the year AD 49. This couple is mentioned at least three times in Paul’s writings, 1 Cor 16, Rom 16, and then 2 Tim 4. It is possible that these two were already Christians when Paul met them here in Corinth as there is no mention of their conversion or baptism in our passage. 

Paul met them, befriended them and they gave him a place to stay as they had the same trade, tentmakers. The word here actually refers to more than just tentmaking, but working with leather. Paul’s home region of Cilicia was known for its working with goat skin. 

Synagogue Ministry

Since Corinth was so big and had so many travellers going through it Paul was sure to go to Synagogue every Sabbath and reason with the Jews and Greek proselytes. Then after a some time Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia. Since we do not have recorded in Acts what Silas and Timothy were doing in Macedonia, some speculate based on comments in the epistles of Paul. Homer Kent Jr believes, “(1) Silas and Timothy had been left behind in Berea with instruction to meet Paul at Athens (17:14-15). (2) They did meet Paul as planned (17:16; 1 Thess 3:1). (3) From Athens Timothy was sent to Tessalonica to encourage the church (1 Thess 3:1-2). Silas also must have gone to someplace in Macedonia, perhaps Philippi (18:5). (4)Both men rejoined Paul at Corinth, bringing a report from Thessalonica (1 Thess 3:6) and a gift (2 Cor 11:8-9, Phil 4:15). It was at this time that Paul wrote First Thessalonians, and shortly after he probably wrote Second Thessalonians from Corinth also” (Kent Jr, Homer A. Jerusalem to Rome, © 1972 p142). After Silas and Timothy joined Paul in Corinth, Paul doubles his efforts. Some translations read he was compelled in the spirit, while others say he devoted or occupied himself with preaching to the Jews. Either way Paul focused on presenting Jesus Christ as the Messiah to Jews. 

His work had some pay off. Some believed. The leader of the synagogue and his house believed the Lord, this man was Crispus who Paul mentions in 1 Cor 1:14 as being baptized by Paul. But many of the Jews were again abusive, belligerent, and blasphemous. Paul had had enough with the Jews in Corinth. Look at verse 6 [read 6]. Paul had told them that he had done what he was supposed to, he proclaim Jesus Christ and the gospel to the Jews, but they resisted so he turned again to the Gentiles, and we see in verse 8 that many of the city’s people turned to the Lord. Verse 6 says Paul shook out his clothes. He shook the dust of the synagogue from his cloak, he as leaving and didn’t even want the synagogue dust to come with him. This is similar to what he and Barnabas did when they were kicked out of Pisidian Antioch, and the first thing I thought of as a cultural equivalent today is brushing the dust off your shoulder.

Paul may have been worried or concerned now. Things are following the pattern of his first journey again. Go to the Jews, get some converts, Jews get upset, Jews cause an issue, Paul gets beaten or arrested, or both, and/or kicked out of town. But in verses 9-10 the Lord encourages Paul. These verses echo OT passages in Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.” and Jeremiah 1:8 “Do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to rescue you. This is the Lord ’s declaration.” This vision from the Lord must have greatly encouraged Paul. And the pattern broke here in Corinth. Paul was able to stay for about 18 months. He, Silas, Timothy, and probably Priscilla and Aquila were able to help establish, teach, train, and disciple the new Christians in the city. The Lord still encourages His workers today, through the completed revelation of the Scripture. The Lord through the Holy Spirit and the reading of Scripture, the fellowship of believers encourages His followers during difficult times.

I came across a quote just yesterday that was shared by a fellow pastor, and I felt worked well with this passage:

“You feel like quitting, like giving up. You can’t understand why the road doesn’t get easier, why God doesn’t remove the stones and straighten the path. If God did that, you might never get to the top, because the bumps are what you can climb on.” – Warren Wiersbe

Possible Problem vv 12-14

Gallio the Proconsul

Sometime after Paul had received the vision of encouragement from the Lord, the Jews united against him and brought him to the judgement seat of the proconsul of the Province of Achaia. Gallio is thought to have begun his consulship in the middle of AD 51, from this we can assume that this incident happened near the end of Paul’s time in Corinth. Previous judgements, like in Thessalonica, had their limitations and boundaries. But if the provincial governor ruled against Paul, this would affect the whole of Greece, and other governors would have a precedent to follow. This could have hindered the growth of the church or increased the persecutions the church faced in the first century.  The claim was that Paul was acting contrary to the law, whether that “meant Jewish law or Romans law is not clear” (Kent, p143). We may not need to distinguish between the two laws, because Judaism had the freedom to be practiced and make converts, so Paul’s accusers were saying he was going against Judaism and therefore outside Roman law.

Paul was about to make a defense, but he didn’t get the chance. Gallio wasn’t going to listen to the Jews. He tells them that this is nothing he needs judge since they are not charging Paul with any real serious crime. Gallio seemed to know that the Jews are out to get Paul for religious reasons, turns the table on them. He considered Christianity as a branch of Judaism, so this was nothing but an internal matter for the Jews, sound familiar? Maybe sound like Pilate and the chief priests? 

Gallio dismissed the cases and forces the Jewish leaders out of the tribunal area. The Jews may not have wanted to let this go, they may have been creating a disturbance leading Gallio to forcibly remove them. Sosthenes the new Synagogue leader, was beaten. We don’t know if this was an intentional order from Gallio or something else. The pattern was broken. The Lord told Paul he would be protected in Corinth, and Paul was. The Lord turned the tables and spared Paul the beating while allowing a Jewish leader to be beaten in a similar manner that Paul had experienced on previous occasions.

Paul Heads Home

Paul and the team stay in Corinth for awhile longer, but then Paul left to return to Antioch in Syria. We are told that Priscilla and Aquila go with him, but there is no mention of Timothy or Silas. We can only speculate on Timothy and Silas, they may have been sent back to Thessalonica with one or both of Paul’s letters. They may be returning with Paul, but Luke doesn’t mention it for some reason. We don’t know, but Priscilla and Aquila do go. They head down to the southern port of Cenchrea. There Paul shaves his head because of a vow. Some think this is reference to a Nazirite vow, but the hair is not cut until the Nazirite vow had been completed, not before. I think this is something similar to the Nazirite vow, a vow Paul had made out of thankfulness to the protection that was promised in verse 10. Paul may have been in a bit of a rush as to get to Jerusalem to complete his vow and make his offering of thanks to the Lord.

They stop for a short time, maybe a day, in Ephesus on the other side of the Aegean Sea. Paul, had to go to synagogue here. He knew he wouldn’t be able to spend long, but he needed to bring the gospel to the Jews in Ephesus. Remember this may have been his intended place of ministry when he left Galatia about two years previous. He goes and debates or reasons with the Jews. They become intrigued and ask him stay but he has to decline. Now translations add a phrase in verse 21, “by all means it is necessary to keep the coming festival in Jerusalem” before we read that Paul promises to return if God wills. It is possible that this festival was Passover, and he wanted to complete his vow before keeping the Passover that year. Priscilla and Aquila are left in Ephesus, we don’t know if that was their plan or if Paul wanted to leave them so they might be able to start a church or if there was a small number of converts the couple may have stayed to help establish them. Either way they remain there in Ephesus, and we’ll see them again in just a moment. 

Paul continues and lands in Caesarea, the dominant port on the Mediterranean for Judea. Paul heads to Jerusalem to greet the church and complete his vow. After some time in Jerusalem he heads back to Antioch. There he reports on the ministry as he had been gone for roughly two years. Luke is summarizing to put Paul on pause, but after a time in Antioch Paul again heads through southern Galatia to visit and strengthen those churches before continuing into Asia and heading towards Ephesus. 

Apollos Comes to Water vv 24-28

Apollos

Luke briefly returns to Ephesus to introduce a new minister of the gospel. Luke tells us of Apollos. A Jew from Alexandria on the coast of Egypt. He was knowledgeable in the Scriptures and was eloquent in his discussions and preaching. He was in Ephesus preaching of the Messiah, there was just one problem. He only knew of John’s preaching of the coming Messiah and the call to repentance. Somehow he never heard the truth about Jesus.

More Accurate

Apollos went to the synagogue and spoke boldly what he knew. It is safe to count Apollos with the OT saints, he hoped for the Messiah and had not rejected him and had believed what John had preached, but Aquila and Priscilla took him aside and filled in the gaps. He apparently accepts the truth and is welcomed into the church at Ephesus. After some time he wants to go to Greece and continue to evangelize. The church in Ephesus sends with him a letter of introduction for the churches in Greece.

Apollos to Water in Corinth

Apollos arrives in Greece, and we see in 19:1 he goes to Corinth. He is of great help to the churches in Greece, and we know he had a fruitful ministry in Corinth as well. Not only was he evangelizing, but he was doing the work of an apologist was well as he publicly defended the faith and the messiahship of Jesus to the Jews. Paul had planted in Corinth, Apollos came to water and help nurture.

Conclusion:

Today we saw how the Lord gave encouragement to Paul. The Lord promised to protect Paul in Corinth, Paul may also have been encouraged to meet Priscilla and Aquila there which started their friendship. Today, we may not receive a vision from the Lord, but we have the ministry of Holy Spirit and the complete Word of God to lean on.

We were reminded that the Lord is faithful and trustworthy. Paul was promised that no one would harm him in Corinth so he could do the work of the ministry there. Paul was protected against another Jewish plot to do him harm and tried to slow the gospel. But the Lord used an unbelieving Roman governor to discipline the Jews in Corinth and protect Paul.

We saw how the Lord uses different people in ministry. Paul began the work in Corinth and just got things started in Ephesus, he planted. Priscilla and Aquila were probably used to help teach and deepen the understanding of those in the churches, and they certainly helped Apollos. Apollos continues the work in Corinth or as Paul himself wrote in 1 Corinthians, “Apollos watered”. Apollos defended the faith against the unbelieving Jews in Corinth and continued to help minister in the church. 

Every Christian is important to the work of the ministry, to the Cause of Christ. What are you doing?