Acts 18:12-18

Sunday Morning Bible Study

June 28, 1998

Introduction

Paul has been working his way south through Greece where he finally comes to Corinth.

Corinth was a large, important city, being the capital of Achaia. It was also the most immoral city on earth at that time. It was known for its many taverns and for great drunkenness. Up on the hill overlooking the city was the temple of Aphrodite, home to 1,000 prostitutes. Every night the ladies would come down into the city to earn wages for their goddess. And yet, as Paul found out, God had "much people" in the city. The Lord would save many in Corinth, so that a few years later Paul would write,

1 Cor 6:9-11 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!

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

You may feel like you are too far from God to ever be able to come back. It just isnít true. God can save and change even you.

Paul would stay another year and a half in Corinth. Itís during this time that he writes two letters to the Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians.

:12-17 Problems in Corinth

:12 And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia

deputy Ė literally, "proconsul", a governor appointed by the Roman senate.

Gallio Ė his brother was a Stoic philosopher named Seneca, who was the tutor to Nero. Gallio was a man of culture and refinement, characterized by friends as a friendly, witty, and lovable person. He was proconsul of Achaia in AD 51.

:12 and brought him to the judgment seat

Under Roman law, Judaism was a "licensed religion". Christians at this time had a measure of protection, realistically being a "sect" of Judaism. But the Jews were complaining that these Christians werenít Jews.

:14 when Paul was now about to open his mouth

Paul doesnít even have to defend himself.

:14 If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness Ö

"Iíd pay attention to you if this were a serious criminal matter Ö"

:15 I will be no judge of such matters

The secular governor, did not want to get involved in this dispute about religious things.

:16 And he drave them from the judgment seat.

Lesson:

God is able to protect you.

Early in his ministry in Corinth, Paul had begun to be afraid. But Jesus had made a promise to Paul:

(Acts 18:9-10 KJV) Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: {10} For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.

Now we see one of the ways that Jesus protected Paul while in Corinth. God used the Roman governor, without Paul even having to say a word.

God promises His protection to us:

(Psa 91:1-5 KJV) He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. {2} I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. {3} Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. {4} He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. {5} Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

Sometimes Godís protection comes in dramatic ways:

Illustration

This happened in 1956 during the Mau Mau uprisings in East Africa. The story is told by veteran missionary Morris Plotts: A band of roving Mau Maus came to the village of Lauri, surrounded it, and killed every inhabitant, including women and children--three hundred people in all. Not more than three miles away was the Rift Valley Academy, a private boarding school where children were being educated while their missionary parents worked elsewhere. Immediately upon leaving the carnage at Lauri the Mau Maus came with spears, clubs, torches, and bows and arrows to the school, bent on destruction. You can imagine the fear of those children at the school. Word had already reached them about the destruction of Lauri. There was no place to flee. The only resource was prayer. Out in the night, lighted torches were seen coming toward the school. Soon there was a complete ring of these terrorists about the school, cutting off all avenues of escape. Shouting and curses could be heard coming from the Mau Maus. Then they began to advance on the school, tightening the circle, shouting louder, coming closer. Suddenly, when they were close enough to throw a spear, they stopped. They began to retreat, and soon they were running into the jungle. A call had gone out to the authorities, and an army had been sent in the direction of the school to rescue the inhabitants. But by the time the army arrived, the would-be assassins had dispersed. The army spread out in search of them and captured the entire band of raiding Mau Maus. Later, before the judge at their trial, the Mau Mau leader was called to the witness stand. The judge asked him, "On this night did you kill the inhabitants of Lauri?" The leader replied, "Yes." "Was it your intent to do the same at the Rift Valley Academy?" "Yes." "Well then," asked the judge, "why did you not complete the mission? Why didn't you attack the school?" The leader, who had never read the Bible and never heard the gospel, replied, "We were on our way to attack and destroy all the people at the school. But as we came closer, all of a sudden between us and the school there were many huge men, dressed in white with flaming swords. We became afraid and we ran to hide!"

Sometimes Godís protection comes in simpler ways Ė

Illustration

Corrie Ten Boom in The Hiding Place relates an incident where she and her sister, Betsy, had just been transferred to the worst German prison camp they had seen yet, Ravensbruck. Upon entering the barracks, they found them extremely overcrowded and flea-infested. Their Scripture reading that morning in 1 Thessalonians had reminded them to rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances. Betsy told Corrie to stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters. Corrie at first flatly refused to give thanks for the fleas, but Betsy persisted. She finally succumbed. During the months spent at that camp, they were surprised to find how openly they could hold Bible study and prayer meetings without guard interference. It was several months later when they learned that the guards would not enter the barracks because of the fleas.

Sometimes Godís protection comes by taking us through difficult times.

The writer of Hebrews talks about the great men and women of faith who experienced great victories. But there were others who also had great faith, and through their faith were able to endure.

(Heb 11:36-37 NIV) Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. {37} They were stoned ; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated--

Godís desire is that we learn to trust our future to Him, no matter how He decides it should turn out. We need to trust him like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego:

(Dan 3:17-18 KJV) If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. {18} But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

:17 the Greeks took Sosthenes Ö and beat him

A man named Crispus (18:8) had been the ruler of the synagogue, until he became a Christian. Now the new ruler, Sosthenes, has his attack on Paul backfire. The secular Greeks, frustrated at the trouble that the Jews were stirring up over the Christians, took this new synagogue ruler, and had him beaten.

Whatís fascinating is another mention of Sosthenes in Scripture Ė

(1 Cor 1:1 KJV) Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

If this was the same guy (and after all, Paul is mentioning his name to the church in Corinth), then sometime after this beating, the guy became a Christian!

Could it be that after this guy was beaten, instead of cheering on the Greeks, Paul went to the guy and comforted him, leading him to the Lord?

:18-23 Back to Antioch

:18 sailed thence into Syria

Paul is heading back to his home church in Antioch of Syria, but heíll get there a round about way, by first sailing to Ephesus, then to Caesarea, Jerusalem, then north to Antioch.

:18 and with him Priscilla and Aquila

Paul leaves his good friends in ministry in Ephesus.

It is not certain whether Silas and Timothy are with Paul or not.

The last we hear of Silas is in Corinth. Silas is mentioned as helping Paul write 1&2 Thessalonians, but those too were written during the first stay in Corinth. Early church history records Silas as becoming the first pastor over the church in Corinth, perhaps he stayed there.

We will see Timothy again in Acts 19:22.

:18 having shorn his head in Cenchrea

He got a haircut in Cenchrea.

Cenchrea Ė Keep in mind that Corinth was located on the narrow strip of land between two seas. Cenchrea was the eastern harbor of Corinth, about 7 miles to the east, located on the Aegean Sea. Apparently Paul had established a church in this seaside town (Rom.16:1).

:18 for he had a vow

This seems to have been a Nazarite vow.

Num 6:2-5 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: {3} He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. {4} All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk. {5} All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.

It would appear that Paul had at some point earlier, made a special commitment to God, and now, as he is leaving Corinth, he has completed his vow, and he cuts his hair.

Aspects of the Nazarite vow:

1. Separation to God.

It was a vow to separate yourself from certain worldly things, to separate yourself to God for His service for a time. This is the heart of the vow. This is what the vow is all about, a commitment to God.

2. Abstinence.

It was marked by abstinence from alcohol, even to the point of not even eating anything that came from a vine (even raisins!). This is the practical part of the vow, the part that enables the person to serve the Lord in a stronger way.

The Bible doesnít condemn drinking alcohol, it condemns drunkenness. The people in Bible times actually drank wine. Jesus drank wine.

But thereís an aspect of serving the Lord in which God doesnít want us to serve "under the influence" of anything except His Spirit.

This seems to be the problem that Aaronís two sons, Nadab and Abihu had (Lev.10).

When the tabernacle had first been set up by Moses in the wilderness, and fire had come down from God to consume the sacrifice on the altar, Nadab and Abihu figured they needed to be doing something useful (being priests), and so they rushed into Godís presence with incense. But God hadnít asked them to do that. And sent fire to consume them.

Later, God tells their dad, Aaron:

Lev 10:9-11 Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: {10} And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; {11} And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.

Itís Godís desire that those who serve Him have a clear head. They need to be able to tell the difference between what is good and what is not. This doesnít happen when a personís head is clouded with alcohol.

There is a sense in Scripture in which God gives you, a Christian, the freedom to have a glass of wine with dinner, as long as it doesnít cause someone else to stumble. But if you want to be used greatly by God, in His way, then I would encourage you to stay as far from it as you can.

3. Visible commitment (Long hair)

The outward sign or "badge" of the Nazarite was their long hair.

God could have made the sign to be a little red dot that you put under your left arm. But the point of the sign was to let others know that you were serving God.

People notice when your hair gets longer and longer and longer. Theyíll ask why youíre growing your hair out. Youíd have an opportunity to share that you have committed yourself to serving the Lord.

Samson was one of the most famous Nazarites. His strength wasnít in his hair, it was in his commitment to God that the hair represented!

Now a days, long hair doesnít mean quite the same thing, but the principle is still the same. People should be able to see your commitment to the Lord. It isnít something you can hide in a closet. It isnít one of those things thatís "just between me and God".

It would seem that Paul had made a vow of separating himself unto the Lord during his missionary trip. Now that his trip was over, he cuts his hair.

Lesson:

The usefulness of a committed life.

Whatís difficult for us to see here is exactly what kind of effect this vow had on Paulís ministry. We donít know at what point he took this vow.

Paulís second missionary journey had been a tough one. It started after the split up between he and Barnabas. Then there was that time, after going through the churches in Galatia, where he traveled for some 300 miles without having a clear direction from God. When they finally arrived at Philippi, and the ministry started to get going again, Paul ended up being beaten and thrown into jail. Probably his worst opposition came in the next town, Thessalonica. When he got to Berea, things went okay at first, but then the Thessalonian Jews showed up and he was run out of town. After some time in Athens with the philosophers, he wound up in Corinth.

Yet in Corinth, Paul seems to have a measure of victory, being able to stay for a full year and a half. Could the breakthrough in Corinth have been related to the vow? I think itís a possibility. It is in Cenchrea, on the way out of Corinth that Paul ends his vow. There is power in a committed life.

Samuel

Before Samuel, God had been silent for quite awhile. There was much corruption in the religious leadership of Israel.

1 Sam 3:1 And the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was precious (rare) in those days; there was no open vision.

Samuelís mother, Hannah set the tone for his life of commitment.

1 Sam 1:11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.

Samuel wasnít a prophet who did lots of miracles, but his ministry was powerful because God spoke through him.

1 Sam 3:19-21 And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. {20} And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD. {21} And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD.

I think at least part of this is attributable not because Samuel had long hair, but because he was separated for Godís use.

There is usefulness in a life that is separated from things that can hurt us:

2 Tim 2:21-22 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. {22} Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Itís hard to say "no" to the kinds of lusts and temptations that the world has to offer. But if you do, you may find yourself uncommonly useful to the Lord.