Acts Chapter Eighteen

 

Read Acts 18:1-11

 

v1.  “AFTER THESE THINGS PAUL DEPARTED FROM ATHENS, AND CAME TO CORINTH.”

 

            If we remember, Paul had given instruction for Silas and Timothy to come from Berea to him at Athens.  But Paul apparently left Athens before Silas and Timothy caught up with him and traveled the 45-50 miles west to the city of Corinth.  Corinth was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC and rebuilt by Julius Caesar in 46 BC; so the city that Paul visited was less than 100 years old.  The current city is a port and trading center of about 25,000 people and its location would indicate that the ancient city which has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries was a port and trading center as well.

 

v2.  “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.”

 

            Priscilla and Aquila are Jews that we find traveling and are apparently typical of Jewish tradesmen who moved all over the Mediterranean world making their living or fleeing persecution.  They were back in Rome when Paul wrote the Roman letter:

 

Romans 16:3  GREET PRISCILLA AND AQUILA MY HELPERS IN CHRIST JESUS:”

 

They were with him in the province of Asia when he wrote the first letter to the church at Corinth; the first place that he had met them.  The church met in their house.

 

I Corinthians 16:19  THE CHURCHES OF ASIA SALUTE YOU.  AQUILA AND PRISCILLA SALUTE YOU MUCH IN THE LORD, WITH THE CHURCH THAT IS IN THEIR HOUSE.”

 

and they were where ever Timothy was when Paul wrote his second letter to him and he wrote that letter from Rome.

 

II Timothy 4:19  SALUTE PRISCILLA AND AQUILA, AND THE HOUSEHOLD OF ONESIPHORUS.”

 

            This verse also allows us to date Paul’s second missionary journey to within a year or so because the decree given by Claudius Caesar for the Jews to leave Rome was given in about the year 49.  The Jews were not very popular in Rome and it is said that Caesar ordered them to leave Rome because they were always stirring up controversy and creating trouble.

 

v3.  “AND BECAUSE HE WAS OF THE SAME CRAFT, HE ABODE WITH THEM, AND WROUGHT: FOR BY THEIR OCCUPATION THEY WERE TENTMAKERS.”

 

            This is the first mention we have of what Paul, though highly educated, did for a living and Priscilla and Aquila were of the same craft or trade.  They made tents.  Perhaps Paul had even sought out those of his same trade when he went to Corinth because he needed to make a living.  History tells us that these tents were made of coarse goat hair woven to make the cloth and that this was a common occupation in the province of Cilicia where Paul originally came from.  Paul mentions several times that he supported himself, a practice that sound gospel preachers in this country will find to be more and more necessary if the current trends continue:

 

Acts 20:34  YEA, YE YOURSELVE KNOW, THAT THESE HANDS HAVE MINISTERED UNTO MY NECESSITIES, AND TO THEM THAT WERE WITH ME.”

 

I Corinthians 4:12  AND LABOUR, WORKING WITH OUR OWN HANDS: BEING REVILED, WE BLESS; BEING PERSECUTED, WE SUFFER IT.”

 

II Thessalonians 3:8  NEITHER DID WE EAT ANY MAN’S BREAD FOR NOUGHT; BUT WROUGHT WITH LABOUR AND TRAVAIL NIGHT AND DAY, THAT WE MIGHT NOT BE CHARGEABLE TO ANY OF YOU.”

 

v4.  “AND HE REASONED IN THE SYNAGOGUE EVERY SABBATH, AND PERSUADED THE JEWS AND THE GREEKS.”

 

            Paul is still following the rule that God gave him initially.  He goes first to the Jew and then tends to the needs of the Gentile Christians.  What about Paul going to the Jewish synagogue?  Does this constitute fellowship with them in the sense that we usually use the term?  If so, is that a fellowship problem?  If not, then why isn’t it a fellowship problem?  It doesn’t seem to be a problem because:

1.     Paul didn’t go to the synagogue to worship with the Jews but rather to reason with and persuade them to turn to Jesus Christ.

2.     His going there because that’s were the people were gathered that he could teach does not constitute approval or endorsement of their teaching.

 

v5.  “AND WHEN SILAS AND TIMOTHEUS WERE COME FROM MACEDONIA, PAUL WAS PRESSED IN THE SPIRIT, AND TESTIFIED TO THE JEWS that JESUS was CHRIST.”

 

            Silas and Timothy, as you remember, were left in Berea when Paul was escorted to Athens.  Paul’s escort went back to Berea with instructions for them to join Paul and they have now caught up with him.  Even though Paul is supporting himself in the tentmaker trade, they have also brought support for his work from Macedonia:

 

II Corinthians 11:9  “AND WHEN I WAS PRESENT WITH YOU, AND WANTED, I WAS CHARGEABLE TO NO MAN: FOR THAT WHICH WAS LACKING TO ME THE BRETHREN WHICH CAME FROM MACEDONIA SUPPLIED: AND IN ALL things I HAVE KEPT MYSELF FROM BEING BURDENSOME UNTO YOU, AND so WILL I KEEP myself.”

 

Because Paul now has the monetary support required, he no longer needs to practice his trade and make a living so he can now devote full time to teaching and preaching Jesus Christ.  The scripture says he was “pressed in the spirit” or “constrained by the word” (ASV) and this simply means that he was totally engrossed by the gospel.  He can now totally dedicate his time to its spread and propagation to the extent that he did not allow the work to be delayed or hindered in any way.  This level if dedication probably is what brought on the activity in the next verse.

 

v6.  “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.”

 

            Many of the Jews refused to accept Paul’s teaching.  They apparently even engaged in arguments, language of reproach, the Holy Spirit tells us that they blasphemed.  What does that word mean?  It means to speak of God irreverently, or to revile God.  Was it God the Father that they reviled?  No rather God the Son, Jesus Christ.

            In the face of this kind of opposition Paul realizes that he wasting valuable time and follows the direction Jesus gave to the 70 disciples in the limited commission:

 

Matthew 10:14  “AND WHOSOEVER SHALL NOT RECEIVE YOU, NOR HEAR YOUR WORDS, WHEN YE DEPART OUT OF THAT HOUSE OR CITY, SHAKE OFF THE DUST OF YOUR FEET.”

 

            He also tells them that their blood would be on their heads, what does he mean?  He is clean of any responsibility for their undone condition, they will lose their souls, they have denied God the Son, even blasphemed him and will bear the consequences of their actions.  But he, Paul, has fulfilled any responsibility he had to them.  So now he turns to the Gentiles.

 

v7.  “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.”

 

            So Paul now leaves the synagogue at Corinth and goes to a house owned by a man named Justus, a man that we’re told worshipped God, which means that he was probably one that Paul had converted from the synagogue members.  This house was “joined hard to the synagogue”; I think we would say that it was attached to the synagogue, the building the Jews used to worship.  The ASV tells that this man’s name was Titus Justus but whether he was the evangelist Titus to which Paul wrote we’re not sure.

 

v8.  “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.”

 

            One of Paul’s converts was the chief ruler of the synagogue, Crispus; as we note in one of Paul’s letters to Corinth later:

 

I Corinthians 1:14  I THANK GOD THAT I BAPTIZED NONE OF YOU, BUT CRISPUS AND GAIUS;”

 

This man was probably the ruler up to the time he was converted to Christ.  The man named Sosthenes, who we read about in the seventeenth verse as ruler of the synagogue, was probably appointed or chosen to replace him.  Luke goes on to simply record that Paul’s work was successful as many hearing believed, and were baptized.

 

v9.  “THEN SPAKE THE LORD TO PAUL IN THE NIGHT BY A VISION, BE NOT AFRAID, BUT SPEAK, AND HOLD NOT THY PEACE:”

 

            We don’t know why Paul was afraid, it’s not the normal situation that we find the apostle in is it?  But don’t we all need encouragement from time to time?  Doesn’t even the strongest of those that you know need someone to turn to, lean on and provide support for them to carry on at times?  You may not have had the opportunity to see them when they’re down but understand; everyone needs some encouragement occasionally and here Jesus provides Paul with the encouragement he needs.  hold not thy peace”, keep preaching.


v10.  “FOR I AM WITH THEE, AND NO MAN SHALL SET ON THEE TO HURT THEE: FOR I HAVE MUCH PEOPLE IN THIS CITY.”

 

            Jesus appears to Paul in the night in a vision to provide this encouragement but really he’s was only repeating what he had told all of us earlier.  After Jesus gave us the Great Commission, what did he tell us?

 

Matthew 28:20  …LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, even UNTO THE END OF THE WORLD.  AMEN.”

 

Perhaps even the situation was that someone was threatening Paul at this time. Jesus specifically tells him that no physical harm would come to him.  He also told him that he had much people in this city, there were many yet to be converted and many were with the church at Corinth as it grew mighty in numbers.

 

v11.  “AND HE CONTINUED there A YEAR AND SIX MONTHS, TEACHING THE WORD OF GOD AMONG THEM.”

 

            Paul spent at least a year and a half in this city, and the context of this verse would indicate that he stayed that long after the vision.  Some scholars seem to think that he was probably there a couple of years, for he labored before the vision and then also for some time after the disturbance recorded in later verses.  He also preached outside of Corinth in the local area as we see by the mention later of Cenchrea.  The city of Corinth had two harbors; one was a small city called Cenchrea and located about six miles east of Corinth.

 

Read Acts 18:12-17

 

v12.  “AND WHEN GALLIO WAS THE DEPUTY OF ACHAIA, THE JEWS MADE INSURRECTION WITH ONE ACCORD AGAINST PAUL, AND BROUGHT HIM TO THE JUDGMENT SEAT.”

 

            Trouble rears its ugly head again.  Apparently during all this time the local city government was either sympathetic to Paul or they just didn’t care enough for the Jews to be able to create a problem.  But when the local government changed, as is not at all unusual, even in this day; they sought the help of the new governor to rid themselves of this man Paul.  Gallio had been appointed deputy or proconsul of this province now so the Jews made insurrection against Paul and bring him before this ruler.

            We’re told by history scholars that this Gallio was a brother of Seneca, a famous teacher of the Stoic philosophy, one who participated in the education of the Caesar’s, specifically Nero.  These rulers held court or made themselves available to judge matters, usually in the market places, and thus exercised their rule over the city in this fashion.

 

v13.  “SAYING, THIS fellow PERSUADETH MEN TO WORSHIP GOD CONTRARY TO THE LAW.”

 

            Now what law were they concerned about?  Gallio would have nothing to say or do about the Mosaic law under which the local synagogue worshipped so it can’t be that law.  But rather; we have the same accusation that was used by Paul’s enemies in Philippi.  The only religion that was to be taught was the religion sanctioned by the Roman government, or that had been recognized by the laws of Rome.  This is the same thing that is in effect in China today.  If you teach or preach there with official approval you a member of that catch all protestant denomination called by many the “Church of China.”  Anyone who does mission work there legally does to as members of this denomination. This new sect of Christians in Corinth had no such authority from Rome to teach, so the Jews were asking Gallio to stop Paul as a one who was in violation of Roman law.

 

v14.  “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.”

 

            Paul stood ready to defend himself and the teaching of Jesus Christ as always but he didn’t get an opportunity this time.  Gallio cut them off.  As noted above he was a brother to one of the more famous Stoic philosophers and probably fairly well educated himself.  He perhaps had even heard of Paul and Paul’s teaching and knew something about him.  He tells them that if this fellow had really done something wrong then he would deal with it, he would “bear with them”, but that’s just not the case here.

 

v15.  “BUT IT IF BE A QUESTION OF WORDS AND NAMES, AND of YOUR LAW, LOOK YE to it; FOR I WILL BE NO JUDGE OF SUCH matters.

 

            If the only thing that Paul was guilty of concerned the Mosiac Law or their religion then they should look after those things themselves and he would have nothing to do with it.  He had better things to do than sit in judgment over a dispute between two religious groups, they should settle their own disputes.

 

v16.  “AND HE DRAVE THEM FROM THE JUDGMENT SEAT.”

 

            He drove them away.  He cleared his court room.  This bunch of rabble rousers were making trouble over something that he did not see any reason to become concerned about.  So he gave the order to clear these people out of his court so he could deal with the things he needed to deal with as the ruler of this Roman province.

 

v17.  “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.”

 

            Apparently they didn’t clear out fast enough, or perhaps they stayed to argue the decision made by Gallio.  So, Sosthenes, as the chief ruler of the synagogue and probably the spokesman who brought the charges against Paul, was beaten by the Greeks.  This was probably done by the officers that kept order in the court acting within the authority given them as they physically cleared the building.  And we’re told that “Gallio cared for none of those things”; what does that mean?  He didn’t care.  He had no time for these Jews and their squabbles.

 

Read Acts 18:18-23

 

v18.  “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.”

 

            We’re not certain how long Paul continued in Corinth but the scripture says it was a good while.  When he did decided to go he took Priscilla and Aquila with him and they set sail with the intent of returning to Antioch of Syria, the place that Paul and Silas had left to begin this journey, probably as much as three years ago.

            We’re told here that Paul had shorn his head as he had taken a vow.  What kind of vow Paul had taken we’re not told, we’re also not told why he had shorn his head when he took the vow.  It was not unusual for Jews to take a vow and Paul being a Jew understood God’s attitude toward those who did vow a vow.  They were to keep it, just as we’re to keep any promise we make to God or anyone else.

 

Numbers 30:2 “If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.”

 

            While the Law given through Moses is not bound on us today, it’s only logical that God would expect no less of those who would make a vow, of promise, or commitment to him today as he did from the Israelites of old times.

 

v19.  “AND HE CAME TO EPHESUS, AND LEFT THEM THERE: BUT HE HIMSELF ENTERED INTO THE SYNAGOGUE, AND REASONED WITH THE JEWS.”

 

            Their boat or ship took the normal route across the mouth of the Aegean Sea and landed at the first available port on the other side on that trade route.  This is the first time Paul has been in the city of Ephesus, which is a few miles inland.  He was prevented from teaching in this region earlier by the Holy Spirit.  He goes to the synagogue and reasons with the Jews there and he leaves Priscilla and Aquila there.

 

v20.  “WHEN THEY DESIRED him TO TARRY LONGER TIME WITH THEM, HE CONSENTED NOT;”

 

            The Ephesian Jews wanted Paul to stay with them longer but he has set his purpose to return to Antioch and does not consent to stay.  He has a specific purpose in mind for which he must return.

 

v21.  “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.”

 

            We don’t know which feast he needs to keep in Jerusalem but it probably had something to do with the vow mentioned earlier in this chapter.  So he tells them goodbye and sails on, again leaving Priscilla and Aquila there to continue the work started.  He also leaves them with a promise to return, but return when?  He will return if and when God wills.  We understand the frame of mind we all are to have concerning things of this nature, if God wills, we will do thus and so.  As we’re instructed:

 

Hebrews 6:3  AND THIS WILL WE DO, IF GOD PERMIT.”

 

James 4:14-15  WHEREAS YE KNOW NOT WHAT shall be ON THE MORROW.  FOR WHAT is YOUR LIFE?  IT IS EVEN A VAPOUR, THAT APPEARETH FOR A LITTLE TIME, AND THEN VANISHETH AWAY.  FOR THAT YE ought TO SAY, OF THE LORD WILL, WE SHALL LIVE, AND DO THIS, OR THAT.”

 

v22.  “AND WHEN HE HAD LANDED AT CAESAREA, AND GONE UP, AND SALUTED THE CHURCH, HE WENT DOWN TO ANTIOCH.”

 

            Paul sails to Caesarea on the Mediterrean coast of Samaria, goes up to Jerusalem, completes his business there and then goes to Antioch, as was his intent.

 

v23.  “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.”


            So we have Paul spending some time at Antioch but, with what we would probably call itchy feet, he doesn’t stay long; but leaves again on the third of his missionary journeys.  He returns again to the churches in the province of Galatia and Phrygia and goes to them in order, or from first one congregation then to another teaching, strengthening and edifying them.

 

Read Acts 18:24-28

 

v24.  “AND A CERTAIN JEW NAMED APOLLOS, BORN AT ALEXANDRIA, AN ELOQUENT MAN, and MIGHTY IN THE SCRIPTURES, CAME TO EPHESUS.”

 

            We’re introduced to another man who taught the word of God, Apollos.  He was born in Alexandria, what is that city famous for?  It was a center of Jewish learning, it was the place where the Septuagint was translated.  As a center of learning it rivaled Athens, especially in terms of religion, and exceeded Jerusalem in many ways as the seat of Jewish thought at that time.

            Apollos was an eloquent man (ASV uses learned) and knew the scriptures; that is the Old Testament scriptures, as the new was just being written.  This man comes to Ephesus and starts teaching.

 

v25.  “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.”

 

            This state of being instructed in “the way of the Lord” is the same terminology used by Luke to describe his friend Theophilus to whom he writes his epistle and the record we’re studying:

 

Luke 1:4  THAT THOU MIGHTEST KNOW THE CERTAINTY OF THOSE THINGS, WHEREIN THOU HAS BEEN INSTRUCTED.”

 

            Apollos was also fervent in spirit, he couldn’t let the word of God just lie idle in his mind; he had to do something with it.  So he spake and taught diligently but his instruction was somewhat lacking wasn’t it?  He knew only of the baptism of John, he did not know about Jesus Christ.

 

v26.  “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.”

 

            Apollos did not know that his knowledge of God’s Word was incomplete and he taught what he knew.  We’re told that he spoke boldly; we’re told earlier that he was fervent in spirit, he was a worker; someone who could and would do whatever was needed to serve God the best way he knew how.  Aquila and Priscilla heard about him, they had been with Paul, perhaps even Christians in Rome before meeting Paul, we don’t know when or where they were converted.  But they knew that Apollos’ instruction was incomplete so they took him aside and we’re told “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”  They took him aside and taught him what he needed to know about Jesus Christ adding that knowledge to the knowledge of the teachings of John that he already had.

 

v27.  “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:”

 

            The scripture says after he was properly instructed.  And he listened well to the teaching he received didn’t he?  He didn’t tell them the he was Professor Apollos from the center of Jewish learning at Alexandria and he knew more about this business than these traveling tentmakers; did he?  He accepted their instruction and when it came time for him to move on and he went into the province of Achaia, the brethren at Ephesus wrote him letters of recommendation and we’re told that when he arrived there he helped them much.  Would it be such today that we as teachers should have such a legacy as this; that men would write letters recommending our teaching as true to the Book and faithful to God that we might do good where ever we go.

 

v28.  “FOR HE MIGHTILY CONVINCED THE JEWS, and that PUBLICLY, SHOWING BY THE SCRIPTURES THAT JESUS WAS CHRIST.”

 

            We’re told further that Apollos was mighty in convincing the Jews that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the one for whom they had been searching for centuries.  That he did it publicly and by the scriptures.