In our study of Acts chapter eighteen, we look at Paul's second missionary journey and the spread of the gospel in Europe. This chapter tells us of Paul's efforts at evangelism in one of the toughest places of that day. Corinth, which was a part of the Roman Empire, was probably the most wicked city of that period in history. It was a place where people went to live it up as sex and pleasure was indeed a religion there. There was a temple there to "Aphrodite the goddess of love" and at the time there was over a thousand prostitutes there for the use of the worshipers. As always, Paul went to the city and preached the message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He showed them that there was hope for them even in this most wicked of places and people came to the Lord!
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After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.
After proclaiming the Gospel in Athens, a city that was open to all of the latest ideas and a thinker's place, Paul moves on to Corinth. Corinth was totally different from Athens in that the people there weren't all that concerned about the latest ideas. It was a party place and the people didn't go there to discuss ideas.
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.
Since Paul's regular missionary companions were not with him, he met and stayed with this husband and wife team. Aquila and Priscilla are mentioned several times in the Bible and they are always mentioned together. They were Jewish Christians that had been forced to leave Rome and they let Paul stay with them and he trained them in the faith. They became a wonderful team of teachers as we see in other parts of the Word.
Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
So, Paul held a regular job as a tent maker for six days and on the seventh day he went to the synagogue. This is the same Paul that has traveled all over building the church and you would have thought that he would have the right to financial support and not have to be a tent maker but he chose to work so as not to be a burden on anyone. If we spend less time worrying about our rights and more time actually serving (as Paul & Jesus did) lives will be changed. As usual, he went to the synagogue to try to get the Jewish people to see the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, and 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.'
When the Jews would not listen and became abusive, Paul moved on to share the good news with the Gentiles. You may say that Jesus would never turn His back on anyone but Paul's actions are in line with what Jesus said when He sent the disciples out into the world (Matthew 10 and Luke 10). This can serve to remind us that we are not called to save others as only Jesus can do that and God must call them but we are to boldly declare the Gospel just as Jesus and Paul did. When people reject the message and become abusive, we too are released from responsibility.
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.
So, Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of a believer. Paul did not leave the synagogue in defeat as we see that even the synagogue ruler and his entire household believed. The local synagogue of this day was overseen by elders and they often appointed a ruler. This ruler was a layman (not a priest) and he cared for the building and its contents as well as selecting the people who would take part in the service on the Sabbath. So, when Paul left the synagogue, we see that the ruler went along and they continued to meet at this house for worship and learning the Word of God. This would be what we consider today a "house church" and in many areas of the world it is the only way that believers get together for worship.
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.
Paul must have been wavering in his mind about sharing the gospel here because the Lord spoke to him to reassure him. This can remind us that we are all human and, like Paul, sometimes we may question whether we want to do as the Lord has shown us or give up. We can take comfort in the fact that even Paul went through this but the Lord comforted him and will do so for us as well. Paul was also reassured in that the Lord told him that he had "many people in this city". We can also take comfort in the fact that God is in control and He knows his people. Even though Paul did not know how many people from that city God was calling to himself, God knew from the beginning of time.
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.'
Isn't God and His timing just awesome? In the passage before, we saw that God had strengthened and encouraged Paul and now we see why. In this passage, we see that the Jews stepped up their opposition. The basic charge they were bringing against him was that he was telling people that they can be saved through Jesus Christ and cannot fulfill the law on their own. All of it was true but it went against the established system.
Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, 'If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor 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.
Don't you just love it when you see God take care of his own? Here is another example of that as Paul was hauled into court by the synagogue leaders but, just at the right time, God handled the situation. Not only was Paul protected but his accuser took a beating. We are God's children and He loves us more than any earthly father could because God IS love. Therefore, we can rest assured that He is watching over us in all situations and He always has our best interests at heart.
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.
When he left Corinth, Priscilla and Aquila went with him to the area of Syria. This was a couple that had come to faith in Christ and worked with Paul. Evidently the example that he presented, inspired them to continue to work with Paul elsewhere. Paul had made a vow to have his hair shaved off and so he did so before he left. God takes vows very seriously so we are cautioned to count the cost and not make a vow unless we are going to keep it.
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.
So the group made their way to Ephesus and Paul once again preached in the synagogue. This time they wanted to hear more but Paul did not stay. This may seem strange but evidently God had placed on his heart to travel to other places. He left Priscilla and Aquila there to tend the believers and went on his way.
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 traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
Now, we see why Paul kept moving and what God had placed on his heart. Instead of staying in one place he traveled around strengthening the groups of believers. Although it would have been good to stay in Ephesus with his fellow workers, Paul knew that it was best to travel to all of these groups and build them up in the faith. This is a good lesson for us in that we too must constantly seek the face and will of God so that we do not settle for what is good but trust and obey God knowing that He knows what is best.
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 fervor 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.
This passage introduces us to a Jewish man who accepted Christ and went about sharing that faith with others. We are told that he had a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament but we are not told who taught him or how he came to accept Christ. God was using him and his teaching was accurate but lacking as he only spoke of the water baptism (repentance and forgiveness). Priscilla and Aquila heard him speak and noticed that he did not speak of the Spirit and so they invited him to their home and taught him. The teaching about the Spirit was crucial as that is the power given us to walk the walk of faith. (Remember that Jesus told the disciples that they "will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you" (Acts 1:8). Apollos was humble enough to listen to the instruction and correct his teaching. Even today, there are many whose teaching is lacking as they do not teach about the Spirit. We, like Priscilla and Aquila, have a duty to tell them the truth and we can follow their example in that they did so in private.
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.
Achaia is the southern part of Greece and, after Apollos received the knowledge from Priscilla and Aquila, he wanted to go and share it there. He was able to debate the Jews there and prove to them from the Old Testament that Jesus was the promised Messiah.