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Acts 18

Thursday Evening Bible Study

February 6, 2014


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved? Target 4400 words

On the day of Pentecost, the church was born. It began with the Holy Spirit filling the believers. As the apostles preached about Jesus, the church began to grow.

By chapter seven, the church was beginning to experience persecution. Stephen was the first one to die for his faith. One of the main men behind the persecution was a man named Saul. But when Saul headed for the city of Damascus to pursue the Christians there, he was knocked off his horse by a bright light and he met Jesus. Saul is more well known by his Roman name, Paul.

By chapter 10, the gospel began to reach even the Gentiles, starting with a Roman Centurion named Cornelius.

In chapter 13, we began a new section of Acts as we began to focus on the ministry of Paul.

Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey took them from Antioch of Syria, through the island of Cyprus, up into the area of Galatia, and back again.

Paul and Barnabas then went to the church council in Jerusalem where the leaders wrestled with the concern over whether the Gentiles needed to become Jews to be truly saved.

The verdict was that salvation is through faith alone, and circumcision was not necessary.

We’ve now seen Paul and Silas off on the second missionary journey.

Play Paul’s Journeys map clip

They started off visiting the churches of Galatia that they had planted, then made their way northwestward through Mysia to Troas.  Then they hopped across the Aegean Sea to the area of northern Greece known as Macedonia.  From Macedonia they headed south, eventually to Athens where we last saw Paul.

18:1-17 Corinth

:1 After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth.

:1 went to Corinth

We aren’t told why, but Paul moves on to Corinth.  He is still on his own, Silas and Timothy won’t join up with him until he’s in Corinth.

Corinth is about 50 miles southwest of Athens. 

It was located on a narrow strip of land that connected the northern part of Greece with the peninsula called the Peloponnesus.  All land commerce going north and south had to pass through Corinth.  Because sea travel around the southern end of the Peloponnesus was dangerous, all sea commerce traveling from the east and west also passed inland through Corinth.  
While Athens was cultured and dignified, Corinth was known for commerce and low morals.  It was something like a cross between San Francisco and Las Vegas.  There was a tall hill that overlooked the city, and on top of the hill was a temple for Aphrodite, the goddess of love.  Every night 1,000 temple prostitutes would come down from the hill and raise money for the temple.
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.
Corinth was the capital of Achaia (all of southern Greece) and a Roman colony like Philippi.

Play Corinth map clip

:2 And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them.

:2 a certain Jew named Aquila

Aquila was born in Pontus, in northeastern Turkey.

He and his wife had recently been in Rome, but were now in Corinth.

They are quite the world travelers like Paul.

:2 Claudius had commanded …

Emperor Claudius had made this edict evicting the Jews somewhere around 49 or 50 A.D.

Suetonius (a.d. 69?=140), a biographer of Roman emperors, talked about (Life of Claudius, 25. 4) the constant riots of the Jews at the instigation of Chrestus. One suggestion is that the name Chrestus is a reference to Christ.  Perhaps the Jews were causing trouble with the Christians?

:3 So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers.

:3 they were tentmakers

Both Paul and Aquila had the same secular job background.  They made tents.


Work is good

From time to time Paul had to fall back on his trade to make a living.  While Paul was in Thessalonica he apparently had been working a job at the same time:
(2 Th 3:7–9 NKJV) —7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, 9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.
Paul wrote this because there were some people in Thessalonica who thought the world owed them a living…
(2 Th 3:10–12 NKJV) —10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.
During this initial time in Corinth before Silas and Timothy catch up to him, Paul is working hard to support himself.

:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.

So Paul is making tents during the week and on Saturday he preaches in the synagogue.

Paul is following his practice of preaching the gospel first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles.

:5 When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.

:5 Paul was compelled by the Spirit

Silas and Timothy arrived, they apparently bring some financial help from the Macedonian churches, allowing Paul to quit his “day job” and devote more time preaching about Jesus. (Phil. 4:15). 

(Php 4:15 NKJV) Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.

It might have also helped having his friends with him and encourage him about how things had been going in Macedonia (1Th. 3:6-8).

(1 Th 3:6–8 NKJV) —6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you—7 therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. 8 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.

These things might have been a part of how the Holy Spirit worked to “compel” Paul.


What moves you?

There are a lot of things that move us.
Sometimes it’s fear.
It might be the fear of getting caught that moves me to change my ways.
It might be the fear of having a heart attack that causes me to change my eating and exercise habits.
It might be the fear of a loved one dying without Christ that motivates us to finally share with them.
Those aren’t totally bad reasons to be motivated.
compelledsunecho – to hold together; to compress; to constrain, oppress, of ills laying hold of one and distressing him
Paul used this word in writing to the Corinthians:

(2 Co 5:14–15 NKJV) —14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

The love of Christ was demonstrated toward us when He died for us.

For Paul, that love “compelled” him.

:6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

:6 he shook his garments

This was a symbolic act to show that you didn’t want to have any further dealings with another person.  This was something Jesus had taught His disciples.  (Mat.10:14)

(Mt 10:14 NKJV) And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.


If they just want to argue, move on.

There’s no reason to drag it on and just make things worse.

:7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue.

:7 who worshiped God

worshipedsebomai – to revere, to worship

Justus was not a Jew, but was a Gentile “God-fearer”, a Gentile who worshipped the God of the Jews.

Justus opens his home and it becomes the place where the Christians are meeting.

:8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.

:8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue

Crispus and his entire family came to believe in Jesus.

:8 many … hearing, believed … baptized

There was a beautiful revival breaking out on Corinth with many coming to Christ.

Paul would write to the Corinthians later …

(1 Co 1:14–17 NKJV) —14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. 16 Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.

Paul didn’t do a lot of the baptizing in Corinth, probably leaving that up to Silas and Timothy.  He did baptize Crispus, and perhaps because of his role as having been the leader of the synagogue.

:9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent;

:10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”

:9 Do not be afraid



Paul knew what difficulty in ministry was all about.
It always seemed that just as things began to take off in a city, he would be attacked and be forced to move on. God reassures him that things will be different in Corinth.
A.T. Robertson writes –
“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.”
Elijah knew what it was to be discouraged.  After he had called down fire on Mount Carmel and had killed the prophets of Baal, he ran away.
(1 Ki 19:4 NKJV) But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”
Jeremiah was known as the “weeping prophet”.  He lived in a time when people would not listen to God’s words:
(Je 15:18 NKJV) Why is my pain perpetual And my wound incurable, Which refuses to be healed? Will You surely be to me like an unreliable stream, As waters that fail?
Paul would write back to the Thessalonians during this time:
(2 Th 3:1–2 NKJV) —1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.

:10 I am with you


God’s presence

There were plenty of times when it was appropriate for Paul to run, but this wasn’t one of them.
When you feel discouraged and feel like quitting and running, have you taken time to find out what God says?
What if this is the time God wants you to stand put and draw near to Him?
Elijah ran from Jezebel, but he ran to God.  And God sent him back into action.

:10 for I have many people in this city

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

Isn’t this amazing, considering how Corinth was known as such a wicked city?

Later, to the Corinthians themselves, Paul would write,

(1 Co 6:9–11 NKJV) —9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.


Don’t quit too soon

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.

:11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

:11 he continued there a year and six months

This will be Paul’s longest stay so far in any place he’s planted a church.  Perhaps this is one reason why his letters to Corinth are so long and detailed.

The only place he will stay longer in will be Ephesus.

Bible Students, mark your Bibles:  Write “Paul writes 1&2 Thessalonians, AD 51”

:12 When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat,

:12 Gallio …proconsul of Achaia

Remember that Corinth was the capital of the region known as Achaia, the southern part of Greece.

Gallio is the secular governor over Achaia.

Gallio was characterized by contemporaries as a likeable and witty person.  He was also the brother of Seneca, the great Roman philosopher.

His ruling in the case of Paul would set a legal precedent that would greatly help the work of the gospel.

:12 the Jews with one accord rose up

The unbelieving Jews are trying to cause trouble for Paul.

:13 saying, “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.”

:13 to worship God contrary to the law

This the Jewish accusation against Paul.

The “law” they are referring to is the Jewish Law of Moses, not a Roman law.

:14 And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you.

:15 But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters.”

:16 And he drove them from the judgment seat.

:16 he drove them from the judgment seat

Judaism was a “licensed” religion in the Roman Empire. 

Christianity took advantage of this legal protection because it was for the most part considered to be a “sect” of Judaism.
The Jews are trying to say that Christianity is not a part of Judaism because it violates their interpretation of the Law of Moses.

This would be like a Christian taking a Mormon to court and trying to make a judge declare that the Mormons are not Christians.

We may know that to be true, but a secular judge doesn’t want to have anything to do with making a decision like that.

Gallio isn’t about to get involved in lawsuits within Judaism.


God’s protection

Earlier, when Paul was afraid…
(Ac 18:9–10 NKJV) —9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”
And now we see this being fulfilled.  God has protected Paul.
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.

:17 Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things.

:17 Greeks took Sosthenes … beat him

Apparently after Crispus became a Christian, Sosthenes became the “ruler” of the synagogue.

He is apparently the one heading up the attack on Paul before Gallio.

The Greeks didn’t like what Sosthenes was doing and they beat him.

Note:  When Paul writes his first letter to the Corinthians, there is a fellow named “Sosthenes our brother” writing the letter with Paul.  Could this be the same man?  Could he have become a Christian after this?

(1 Co 1:1–2 NKJV) —1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

18:18-23 Back to Antioch

:18 So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.

:18 sailed for Syria

Paul’s home church in Antioch is in Syria.

Paul takes his fellow tentmakers on the first leg of the journey.

:18 Priscilla and Aquila were with him

It is possible that Paul leaves Silas and Timothy in Corinth. He takes Priscilla and Aquila with him.

There may be others traveling with Paul as well.  Paul had a habit of taking people along with him on his journeys. (see Acts 19:29; 20:4)

:18 Cenchrea

Play Corinth to Ephesus map clip

Cenchrea is the eastern port city for Corinth on the Aegean Sea.
Paul is going to take a boat from Cenchrea to Ephesus.

:18 hair cut

It seems that Paul had taken the vow of a Nazirite (Num. 6), dedicating himself to God for a season of time. 

The most famous Nazirite was Samson.
The vow of a Nazirite involved not cutting the hair, but it also involved abstaining from wine or anything made of grapes, as well as not touching any dead things.
The Nazirite vow didn’t have to be for a lifetime, but just a period of time.
Nazir” means “consecrated” or “devoted”, someone who has been “separated” for God’s use.
This is very similar to the concept of “holiness”, being set apart for God’s use.

When did Paul take this vow?  One idea is that he took it in Corinth, perhaps somehow connected to the Lord speaking to him about the work in Corinth (18:9-10).

Paul’s “devotion” was his commitment to Corinth.
Paul is getting his hair cut not because he is done being committed to God, but because his commitment tied to Corinth is ending.


A committed life

It’s good to commit yourself to what is right.
I wonder if this season of fruitfulness in Corinth hasn’t come out of this time of special commitment.
We often make the mistake of thinking that Samson’s strength came from his lack of haircut.  It came from his commitment to God.
One thing about a Nazirite – their commitment was obvious.
You could tell by the long hair.
Can people tell you are committed to God?  Can they see it?
There is supposed to be something public about our belief in Jesus.
(Mt 10:32–33 NKJV) —32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.

:19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.

:19 he came to Ephesus

We’ll talk more about Ephesus next week.

Paul is only going to spend a brief time in Ephesus on this trip, but he will be back.

Eventually, Ephesus will be the city that Paul will spend the most time in and develop the strongest church in.

As Paul leaves Ephesus, he leaves behind Priscilla and Aquila.

:20 When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent,

:21 but took leave of them, saying, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” And he sailed from Ephesus.

:21 keep this coming feast

Possibly the Passover feast.

Paul was a good Jewish boy who tried to keep as many of the “feasts” as he could, getting to Jerusalem whenever he could to celebrate.

:22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch.

:22 Caesarea … Antioch

Play Ephesus to Antioch map clip.

Paul will set sail from Ephesus to the port city of Caesarea, head up to Jerusalem to celebrate the “feast”, then head back to his home church in Antioch.

:22 he went down to Antioch

This ends Paul’s “Second Missionary Journey”.

He’s been gone for a couple of years and has traveled over 2700 miles.

18:23 Third Missionary Journey

:23 After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.

:23 he departed

Paul now begins his “Third Missionary Journey”

Bible Students:  Write “AD 53 – 3rd Missionary Journey” here.

:23 Galatia and Phrygia

Play Third Journey starts map clip

Paul’s third journey starts like his last one did, going back through the churches he had started with Barnabas on his first journey.

We’re now going to take a brief (five verses long) break from Paul and see what’s been going on in Ephesus.

18:24-28 Apollos

:24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.

:24 Apollos … Alexandria

Play Apollos map clip

While Paul is somewhere around Antioch of Pisidia, we meet Apollos, who was born in the Egyptian city of Alexandria.  He’s going to make his way to Ephesus.  Eventually he will make his way to Corinth in Achaia.

:24 Alexandria

Alexandria was one of the great cities of the ancient world.  It was known for its great Jewish scholars.  This was where the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, was made several hundred years earlier.

:24 eloquent … mighty in the Scriptures

Apollos was a good speaker (eloquent), good with his words.

He is also well studied in the Old Testament Scriptures.

:25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.

:25 ferventzeo – to boil with heat, be hot; fervent in spirit, said of zeal for what is good

:25 taught accurately the things of the Lord

I wish we had a little more detail from Luke as to what he means by this.

What Apollos knows about the Lord, he knows accurately.
But he doesn’t know everything.

:25 he knew only the baptism of John

I’d like to suggest that what Apollos knew only went as far as John the Baptist doing his public ministry and telling people that the Messiah was coming.

He may not have heard yet that the Messiah had come.

He apparently didn’t know about the baptism of the Holy Spirit (we’ll see this next week).

:26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

:26 they took him aside

I find it interesting that Aquila and Priscilla were in the synagogue listening to Apollos speak.

There was no separate “church” meeting in Ephesus yet.


Quiet confrontation

Aquila and Priscilla could have rebuked Apollos publicly for his lack of knowledge.
Instead, they take him aside and help complete his education.
I would assume this might include more teaching about who Jesus was as well as the work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said,
(Mt 18:15–17 NKJV) —15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

I’m not sure that Apollos would fall into the category of someone who has “offended”, but Jesus lays out a good principle.

Go to a person quietly first.

:27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace;

:28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.

:27 to cross to Achaia

Apollos was a travelling man.  He wanted to preach in Achaia, and that meant Corinth.

It seems that Aquila and Priscilla wrote a letter of introduction to the Corinthian church (where they had been with Paul), letting them know that Apollos was an OK guy.


Carnal division

Apollos is going to have a great ministry in Corinth.  Later when Paul writes back to the church and they had begun to have their little internal squabbles over who their favorite preachers were.
(1 Co 1:12 NKJV) Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.”

This wasn’t Apollos’ fault.  When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he mentioned that Apollos was with him, and he wasn’t that interested in visiting Corinth any time too soon.

(1 Co 16:12 NKJV) Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to come to you with the brethren, but he was quite unwilling to come at this time; however, he will come when he has a convenient time.

The idea of having “favorites” is a bit on the fleshly, carnal side.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
(1 Co 3:1–7 NKJV) —1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? 5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

God is going to use people in our lives.  That’s a good thing.

But it’s important that our eyes stay on God, not on the person.