Scriptures

Acts 18

Introduction

“After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. “There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them”. Acts 18:1-3

In Corinth

In the previous chapter we left the apostle Paul boldly preaching in Christ’s Name to the so called wise men of Athens. And as usual we found those who were convinced and believed that God was the creator of all things and we also found those who weren’t convinced and didn’t believe.

Luke didn’t explain why Paul left Athens or how he journeyed on to Corinth. Maybe Paul had grown weary of the so called intellectuals of Athens who continually wanted to hear more but refused to obey.

But the journey of some forty miles could have been made in two days on foot or one day if one sailed but which ever route they took, the final destination was the city of Corinth.

When we think of the city of Corinth, honesty is not the word which most people would use. Corinth was the capital and chief city of Achaia which is in the area we would now call Greece. And Corinth became such an important city because of its location just one and a half miles south of the Isthmus of Corinth. It was able to control that four mile wide neck of land.

The city also commanded the eastern port of that peninsula, Cenchreae, Acts 18:18, and so to save time and avoid the one hundred and fifty miles of dangerous waters around the tip of Greece, ships would unload their goods on one side of the peninsula and have them carried to the other side.

Some smaller ships were even pulled across and placed in the water on the other side. Therefore, Corinth was a trading centre by land and sea.

But it was also strategic militarily speaking. The Roman minority in Corinth was a strong force in the population, as this was one of the colonies established by Julius Caesar.

The commercial prospects caused a large group of Jews to settle in the city but Greeks also played a great role. Because of the seaport and commerce, many other nationalities mixed with the above mentioned major groups.

But if Corinth was well known for anything, it was well known for its corruption.

Charles Pfeiffer, in Baker’s Bible Atlas, writes, ‘Greeks, Romans, Jews and adventurers from the entire Mediterranean world came to Corinth for trade and vice in all its forms. ‘To live like a Corinthian,’ became synonymous with a life of luxury and licentiousness.’

The immoral nature of the city was added to by the temple of Aphrodite, goddess of love, which was located in Corinth. A thousand, priestesses of the goddess served as prostitutes who were available for the free use of temple visitors.

So that’s the background to the city of Corinth and I think that’s important for us to understand because it helps us understand what Paul is about to face.

In Corinth, Paul found two Jews, Aquila, who was from Pontus which was a province between Bithynia and Armenia, and his wife Priscilla, who was also known as Prisca, 2 Timothy 4:19.

And Luke reports they, and all other Jews, were driven out of Rome by the Emperor Claudius which one commentator suggests was around AD 49. Have you ever been to a place which just frightens you? Corinth was a place just like that.

Corinth must have been a frightening place to go even for Paul because he tells us, ‘I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling,’ 1 Corinthians 2:3. The apostle Paul, as great as he was, was not without his periods of despondency.

In the Greek New Testament, it literally reads, “stop being afraid’, 1 Corinthians 2:3. The implication clearly is that Paul was struggling with his spirit at this time, and the Saviour came to his aid, Psalm 56:4.

We can only imagine Paul arriving in Corinth, alone and with little or nothing to eat but like all good Jews, Paul had been taught a trade and immediately found two Jews who had the same occupation with whom he could live and work with.

Whether his fellow leather workers were Christians as of yet is not known, and I say leather workers because tent making included any type of leather work in Paul’s day.

But Paul’s later writings do make it clear that these two became special friends and allies of the apostle as he preached the Gospel of peace, Romans 16:3.

Whatever God asks us to do, wherever God asks us to go, we need to have the same mindset as Paul when he looked at Corinth and thought to himself, ‘I am afraid of this place, I am afraid of these people but I will go and trust God.’ ‘After all what can mortal man do to me?’

God understands fear and He will help us and protect us when we trust Him but when God takes us to frightening places or situations, we need to trust that God will hand us anything we need for His purpose, Psalm 23:1-4.

God has set the stage for next part of Paul’s journey, and the preaching in Corinth.

“Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.” Acts 18:4-8

As we have seen time and again, Paul first preached in the synagogue in Corinth and it was during this time that Silas and Timothy once again joined his company. And it seems that Silas may have come from Berea, while Timothy more than likely arrived from Thessalonica, 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2.

It was around about the time of their arrival when Paul became fully occupied in telling the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. And when the Jews rejected the truth and spoke against the Lord, Paul began to preach to the Gentiles.

And so off he went to the house of Justus which was next door to the synagogue where Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed and was baptized by the apostle’s own hands, 1 Corinthians 1:14.

But it wasn’t only Crispus who believed and was baptised, those in Crispus’ family and many other Corinthians also believed and were baptized, Matthew 28:19-20.

I can’t for the life of me work out how anyone can study the Book of Acts and not understand the importance of baptism. It’s all over the book, we can’t miss it unless of course we don’t understand the importance of it.

Fear is a very real feeling, but God does understand, He understands when we are frightened and He certainly understood when the apostle Paul was afraid in Corinth. In fact God was so aware of Paul’s fear, he speaks to him through a vision.

“One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.” Acts 18:9-11

Luke says that God was aware of Paul’s fear and so He reassured him, in a vision, and encouraged him to continue preaching in Corinth, Psalm 27:1 / Hebrews 13:5 / 2 Timothy 1:12.

He promised that Paul would not be harmed and assured him that there were many more who would obey the Gospel, Isaiah 57:13 / Philippians 4:19 / 2 Timothy 1:7.

Paul realised that and trusted God to help him overcome that fear during his time in Corinth. And so, with the promise from God, Paul continued preaching in Corinth but as we are about to read, his trials are far from over.

“While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court.” This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.” Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanour or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law-settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” So he had them ejected from the court. Then they all turned on Sosthenes the synagogue ruler and beat him in front of the court. But Gallio showed no concern whatever. Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken.” Acts 18:12-18

Luke tells us that the Jews brought Paul to the judgment seat before Gallio when he was proconsul of Achaia. And they accused Paul of preaching contrary to Moses’ law, but Gallio drove them out without trying the case because it did not have anything to do with Roman law.

And so, some of the Greeks seized Sosthenes, the new ruler of the synagogue, and beat him up before Gallio’s judgment seat without the proconsul taking any notice.

But despite all those beatings and difficult times for Paul he continued to work in Corinth for some time before leaving the brethren and sailing for Syria with Priscilla and Aquila.

Luke also tells us that Paul took a vow in Cenchrea and had his hair cut off. Why? it probably relates to a form of what the Bible calls the Nazirite vow, Numbers 6:1-21.

This vow was practiced among the early Christians and we’re going to read about it again in Acts 21 when we get there. But why did Paul take this vow and shave his head? It was offered in gratefulness for deliverance from danger.

Remember that Paul was afraid, terribly afraid hence why the lord spoke to him in a vision. Paul trusted God to be with him and when God delivered him from all the events of Corinth, Paul was grateful. And he expressed that gratefulness to God by making a vow which consisted of shaving off his hair.

Paul after showing his gratitude to God, moves away from Corinth and returns to Antioch.

Priscilla, Aquila And Apollos

“They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. When he landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and travelled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.” Acts 18:19-23

It seems from our text that Paul spent a short time preaching in the synagogue in Ephesus and he promised to return if it was God’s will and so left Priscilla and Aquila and sailed on to Caesarea. He made a quick trip to Jerusalem and then went to Antioch and after some time, he went on to strengthen the churches in Galatia and Phrygia.

Let me say a few words about Paul’s choice of words here. When Paul said to the Ephesians, ‘f it is God’s will, I will return’, he understood who was directing His life.

Too many times I hear Christians making directions for themselves in life because that is the way they are determined to go. Too many times I hear Christians making plans without even considering if this is God’s will for them or not.

Every decision, big or small we make, needs to be made with the question, ‘is this God’s will?’ Because like Paul we need to remind ourselves of whom exactly it is, that is directing our lives, Luke 12:16-21 / James 4:13-15. Everything we do as Christians, should be directed by the will of God.

So Paul is off encouraging the churches elsewhere but Luke goes on and introduces us to a man named Apollos.

“Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervour and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. “Acts 18:24-28

Luke tells us that at Ephesus, an Alexandrian Jew named Apollos, who was an eloquent speaker, began to preach about Jesus.  And he tells us that Apollos was knowledgeable in the scriptures and very accurate in his teachings about Jesus. But notice Luke says that Apollos only knew about John’s baptism.

We’re going to say a few words about this in a moment but meanwhile Apollos began to boldly preach in the synagogue. And apparently, Priscilla and Aquila heard him there and recognized his inadequate understanding of baptism, so they took him aside privately to more fully instruct him in the ways of the Lord.

Apollos then decided to go into Achaia and the brethren wrote him a letter of recommendation. And it was in Achaia, that he was able to give great assistance to the brethren through using powerful arguments from God’s word to show Jesus was the Christ.

Apollos serves as a good example of a preacher and teacher of the Word of God who means well and is very sincere but has it wrong. But when Apollos travelled to Ephesus, and began speaking ‘boldly in the synagogue’, Aquila and Priscilla heard him and realized that he still was advocating the baptism of John the Baptist as it looked forward to the coming of Christ.

Obviously Aquila and Priscilla knew that John’s baptism no longer was valid because it has been supplanted by the baptism commemorating Christ’s death and burial.

Apollos was sincere, but he was sincerely wrong. That’s why Aquila and Priscilla ‘invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately’.

And when his error was pointed out, he corrected it and subsequently continued with his preaching and teaching about Christ, apparently with much success, since, upon his arrival in Achaia. In other words, Apollos was a good teacher but nevertheless, he taught error.

When he was shown his mistake he possessed an attitude of humility, and a love for the Truth, that caused him to make the necessary correction.

And that’s a wonderful example for all who would be teachers of God’s Word. Does the fact that he taught an error necessarily make him a false teacher? No, I don’t believe it does. Apollos wasn’t a false teacher because when he learned of his mistake, he changed his teachings accordingly.

And although the text doesn’t tell us about his baptism ‘into Christ’, Matthew 28:19-20 / Romans 6:1-3, we know it must have happened because Luke tells us about another group of people in Ephesus who had only received John’s baptism in the very next chapter.

Go To Acts 19

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness."

Galatians 5:22

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