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
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.
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
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.
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.
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?