Acts 18:1-11

Sunday Morning Bible Study

June 21, 1998

Introduction

After having some heavy persecution in Thessalonica and Berea, Paul had been escorted to Athens, where he preached to the philosophers on Mars Hill.

Paul is alone. Silas and Timothy are up north ministering to the Macedonian churches.

Paul now moves on to the next city.

:1-6 Witnessing in Corinth

:1 to Corinth

Corinth was a city located on a small strip of land that connected the northern part of Greece with the southern part. It was a world trade center because not only did all the north-south Greek trade have to go through it, but also all the east-west shipping went through it as well. Rather than risk sailing through the treacherous waters in the south of Greece, ships would dock in Corinth, be dragged the seven miles across the isthmus, and then be put to sea on the other end. Because of its importance as a trading port, Corinth was famous for itís Corinthian bronze, ceramics, and of course, as Ricardo Montalban would tell us, itís "rich Corinthian leather". The city boasted an outdoor theater that accommodated 20,000 people, and held athletic games second only to the Olympics.

In ancient times, the city had been a major power, but when it rebelled against Rome in 146 BC, it was wiped out. Julius Caesar rebuilt it a hundred years later in 46 BC, and had the city repopulated with freed slaves and poor people. Corinth eventually became the capital of Achaia (the southern part of Greece), and quickly grew to where, in Paulís time, it had a population of 200,000.

Its highest hill, called the "Acrocorinth" had the great temple of Aphrodite, with a working crew of 1,000 s. Every night, the ladies of Aphrodite would come down into the city and raise money for the temple. Corinth was a name synonymous with sin. The Greeks even had a term Korinthiazomai (lit., to act the Corinthian) which came to mean "to practice fornication." In the Greek plays, the part of a "Corinthian" was always that of a drunk. Archaeologists have dug up taverns on the south side of the marketplace, where theyíve recovered many drinking vessels.

:2 a certain Jew named Aquila Öwith his wife Priscilla

Aquila was from Pontus, which is an area in Asia, modern Turkey.

This couple isnít real prominent in Scripture, but they seem to pop up in the most interesting places, showing interest in others. It starts here where they show an interest in Paul, and ask Paul to stay and work with them.

When Paul eventually leaves Corinth, Aquila and Priscilla will accompany him to Ephesus, where he leaves them. (Acts 18:18-19)

While theyíre in Ephesus, theyíll meet a young preacher named Apollos, and take an interest in him. Apollos had some rough edges, but they take him aside, train him, and he becomes a powerful witness. (Acts 18:26)

When Paul comes back to Ephesus to visit, and then later writes a letter back to the Corinthians, he mentions that they have a church in their home there in Ephesus. (1Cor.16:19)

Later, when Paul is writing to the church in Rome, apparently Aquila and Priscilla had moved back temporarily to Rome, and once again, they had a church in their home Ė

(Rom 16:3-5 KJV) Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: {4} Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. {5} Likewise greet the church that is in their house...

Then finally, just before Paul is executed in Rome, he writes to young Timothy, now the pastor in Ephesus, where Aquila and Priscilla have moved back to. (2Tim.4:19)

Lesson:

Friends in ministry.

Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla seemed to be what we might call "friends". They had some things in common, being Jewish and tentmakers. But they had more than that, they had Jesus. And they served the Lord together.

Dale Carnegie once said, "You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."

Aquila and Priscilla were people interested in others. They didnít ask for love, they gave love.

Illustration

Little Chad was a shy, quiet young fella. One day he came home and told his mother, he'd like to make a valentine for everyone in his class. Her heart sank. She thought, "I wish he wouldn't do that!" because she had watched the children when they walked home from school. Her Chad was always behind them. They laughed and hung on to each other and talked to each other. But Chad was never included. Nevertheless, she decided she would go along with her son. So she purchased the paper and glue and crayons. For three whole weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made thirty-five valentines. Valentine's Day dawned, and Chad was beside himself with excitement! He carefully stacked them up, put them in a bag, and bolted out the door. His mom decided to bake him his favorite cookies and serve them up warm and nice with a cool glass of milk when he came home from school. She just knew he would be disappointed -- maybe that would ease the pain a little. It hurt her to think that he wouldn't get many valentines -- maybe none at all. That afternoon she had the cookies and milk on the table. When she heard the children outside she looked out the window. Sure enough here they came, laughing and having the best time. And, as always, there was Chad in the rear. He walked a little faster than usual. She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he got inside. His arms were empty, she noticed, and when the door opened she choked back the tears. "Mommy has some warm cookies and milk for you." But he hardly heard her words. He just marched right on by, his face aglow, and all he could say was: "Not a one -- not a one." Her heart sank. And then he added, "I didn't forget a one, not a single one!"

Be a friend. But go beyond that. Be a friend in ministry.

:2 Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart

In AD 49, Emperor Claudius kicks 20,000 Jews out of Rome. The historian Suetonius said the decree came because "the Jews were in a state of constant tumult at the instigation of one Chrestus" (perhaps referring to Jesus?).

:3 of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought

wrought Ė they worked together

This gives us a peek at how Paul was able to support himself on his missionary journeys. He worked.

:4 he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath

reasoned Ė dialegomai Ė ("dialog") to converse, discourse with one, argue, discuss. This seems to be one of Paulís main ways to begin to communicate the gospel in a city. We donít see the connection in English, because the same Greek word is translated into English different ways ("reasoned", "disputed", "preached")

We first saw the word when Paul "reasoned" with the Jews in Thessalonica (Acts 17:2). Later, he "disputed" with the Jews in Athens (Acts 17:17). Weíll see him "reason" in Ephesus (Acts 18:19; 19:8,9), and "preach" in Troas (Acts 20:7,9).

Lesson:

Take time to dialog when sharing the gospel.

It seems that too often we get the idea that sharing the gospel means to get up and give some memorized bunch of words, without paying any attention to what the people are saying or thinking.

Sometimes itís quite appropriate to "preach" at people. But sometimes itís good to give them a chance to talk about their ideas, and then respond to them. Thatís "dialog".

:5 Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia

Thereís more here than meets the eye. When Silas and Timothy show up, they show up with financial help.

(2 Cor 11:8-9 NIV) I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. {9} And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so. (see also Phil.4:15)

:5 Paul was pressed in the spirit

Some versions read "word" here instead of "spirit". (NAS - Paul [began] devoting himself completely to the word). Either way, the point is that Paul was "pressed" to witness more.

pressed Ė sunecho Ė to hold together with constraint, to press on every side

The word isnít used all that many times (12x), but one place that itís used is in a place where Paul was talking about his motivation for ministry:

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ constraineth us Ö

Lesson:

Let love be the reason.

Godís love for you. Your love for God. Godís love for the people.

Love is the reason for our ministry.

:5 and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.

testified Ė diamarturomai Ė to testify; earnestly, to thoroughly witness. His witness is to show to the Jews that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah.

Paul wasnít the only one witnessing though, 2Cor.1:19 tells us that Silas and Timothy were too.

:6 And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed,

they opposed themselves Ė antitassomai Ė to resist; to arrange in battle array.

Paul began to see that these people were digging in for battle.

:6 he shook his raiment

This was a symbolic act to show that you didnít want to have any further dealings with another person. This was something Jesus had taught His disciples. (Mat.10:14)

Lesson:

If they just want to argue, move on.

Thereís no reason to drag it on and just make things worse.

:6 Your blood be upon your own heads

Paul is pulling from the picture of the watchman spoken of by Ezekiel:

Ezek 33:1-6 Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, {2} Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: {3} If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; {4} Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. {5} He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. {6} But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.

This is quite a frightening passage, to think that the blood of others might be required of us if we do not warn them. Just what does this mean? Iím not sure, but Iím not sure I want to find out either.

Lesson:

Do your part. Speak up.

Your responsibility isnít to make people accept the message, itís just to deliver it.

But keep in mind your motives!

Too often people will be encouraged to witness by using this passage, and then people go out fearful for their own sakes, and sharing out of fear rather than out of love.

(1 Cor 13:1-3 NKJV) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. {2} And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. {3} And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

:7-11 The Corinthian church is born

:7 Justus Öwhose house joined hard to the synagogue

Justus Ė or, in some versions, "Titus Justus" (or Titius Justus). Some scholars think this manís full name was Gaius Titus Justus (Rom.16:23)

Paul left the synagogue, but moved his meeting place to a house next door to the synagogue.

:8 Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed

chief ruler of the synagogue Ė this was the guy who had the duty to select the readers or teachers in the synagogue, to make sure that things ran correctly.

Crispus Ė He was one of the few people that Paul had baptized in Corinth

(1 Cor 1:14 KJV) I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius

Apparently Paul allowed Silas and Timothy to baptize the other believers.

:8 many of the Corinthians hearing believed Ö

History tells us that Silas would be the first permanent pastor and that the church continued at least until the seventh century.

:9 Be not afraid

or, "stop being afraid".

I think sometimes we get the idea of Paul as being some sort of super hero who isnít afraid of pain or death. There are times when he has the grace to say things like Ė

(Acts 21:13 KJV) Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

But I think itís unrealistic to think that he was never afraid.

Jesus doesnít say things to us for no reason at all. I believe Paul was beginning to be concerned for his safety once again.

Jesus tells Paul not to be afraid because Paul was afraid. Jesus tells Paul not to be silent because I think Paul was thinking about quitting.

A.T. Robertson writes Ė

"Paul knew only too well what Jewish hatred could do as he had learned it at Damascus, Jerusalem, Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Thessalonica, Berea. He had clearly moments of doubt whether he had not better move on or become silent for a while in Corinth. Every pastor knows what it is to have such moods and moments."

Lesson:

Donít be afraid. Donít quit.

There are times after God has opened doors, that the enemy tries to close them. But there are also times when we close doors because we get discouraged and quit.

Iíve heard that pastor Chuck will often tell pastors who are discouraged in their ministry to just give it another six months.

:9 but speak, and hold not thy peace:

hold not thy peace Ė or, "donít be silent"

:10 For I am with thee

The Lord tells Paul that the reason Paul should not be afraid, but to go on and keep speaking, is because the Lord was with him. Itís His presence that should be comforting to us.

Lesson:

There is someone left who cares.

Itís not that hard to fall into such a depression that you feel as if nobody cares, as if everyone is against you.

Elijah Ė 1Kings 19

Elijah had actually been having quite a successful ministry. When he asked God for a drought, God brought a drought for 3 Ĺ years to the land. When Elijah called all the people together on Mount Carmel for a showdown with the prophets of Baal, the prophets were embarrassed when Baal didnít answer, but Elijah prayed a simple prayer and fire came down from God to consume the sacrifice. Then Elijah had all the prophets of Baal put to death. But after this great victory, there came a hint of an attack Ė

1 Ki 19:1-2 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. {2} Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.

Just the word of a threat from Jezebel was all Elijah could take. He crumbled in fear and ran for his life. He wanted to die. Until God showed up.

1 Ki 19:9-12 And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? {10} And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. {11} And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: {12} And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

After Elijah heard the still, small voice, he would begin to get his direction again from God. Basically, God told him to get back to work.

God would even remind him that he wasnít the only one left, God still had 7,000 guys waiting in the wings!

What was Elijah told to do when he felt that he was all alone and everyone was against him? He was told to go to the mount and be with the Lord!

Once he was on the mount, he didnít get anything from the wind, earthquake or fire, he had to wait until he got to the "still small voice" to hear from the Lord.

Are you discouraged? Go stand on the mountain! We too often run to our friends for a pat on the back, but we need to learn to receive the ultimate encouragement from the ultimate encourager, God Himself.

Isaiah 41:10 Fear thou not; for I [am] with thee: be not dismayed; for I [am] thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

:10 and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee

set on thee Ė epitithemi Ė to put upon; to make an assault on one

The last time Luke had used this word, it was when Paul and Silas were in Philippi,

Acts 16:23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast [them] into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

I wonder if this was part of Paulís fear.

:10 for I have much people in this city.

God knew that there were people in the city of Corinth who would be turning to Him.

Isnít this amazing, considering how Corinth was known as such a wicked city?

Later, to the Corinthians themselves, Paul would write,

(1 Cor 6:9-11 KJV) Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, {10} Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. {11} And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Lesson:

Donít give up on them.

You may d ones that seem so far from accepting the Lord. Hang in there. Keep praying. Keep loving them. Keep sharing with them.

:11 And he continued there a year and six months

This may not sound like a lot of time, but it was the second longest stay that Paul would have in a single church. Only in the church at Ephesus (Acts 19:10, a little more than two years) did he stay longer before moving on. If youíd like a little more flavor of what was going on in Paulís life at this time, read the letters of 1&2 Thessalonians, both of which were written during Paulís stay in Corinth. His work in the area extended beyond the city of Corinth itself because we know that there was also a church established at Cenchrea (Rom. 16:1), which was the eastern seaport of Corinth located on the Aegean coast.