ACTS CHAPTER 18.
Paul at Corinth. Acts 18, 1-17.
Aquila and Priscilla and the beginning of the work: V.1. After these things Paul departed from Athens and came to Corinth, v.2. 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. V.3. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them and wrought; for by their occupation they were tent-makers. V.4. And he reasoned in the synagog every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. V.5. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. V.6. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment and said unto them, Your blood be upon your heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. Paul had intended to wait for Silas and Timothy in Athens, but conditions caused him to leave this city before they arrived. He departed, journeying out, away from Athens, the city that took no interest in the Gospel-message. A little more than forty miles west by a good Roman road, on the isthmus between Hellas and the Peloponnesus, lay the city of Corinth, the capital of the Roman province Achaia, and the center of government and commerce. It was a rich and beautiful city, some of whose temples and public buildings ranked with those of Athens. Its wealth came pouring in through its eastern harbor, Cenchreae, on the Saronic Gulf, and on the west by way of the Bay of Corinth. But with all its external beauty, its wealth and fame, Corinth had become a byword for vice and infamy, for corruption and licentiousness. Centuries before, the Phenicians had established the worship of the Semitic goddess Astarte on the Corinthian Acropolis, and the open consecration of shameless impurity in the service of this temple of Venus, as the Roman name has it, almost passes belief. Nevertheless, Paul was acting with careful calculation when he chose this city as a missionary station, for it was one of the knots on the line of communication, the point of convergence for many subordinate roads. At Corinth also Paul could follow his usual method of gaining access to the people, since the commercial advantages of the city had attracted many Jews, and there was a synagog with a flourishing congregation. After Paul had reached the capital of Achaia, he found, not by deliberate search, but by chance, -he ran across, -a Jew by the name of Aquila, who hailed from Pontus in Asia Minor, a province southeast of the Black Sea. This man had but recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because the Roman emperor Claudius, in 50 A.D., had expelled all Jews from Rome by an imperial decree. So it must have been in the fall of this year that Paul met Aquila and his wife and made arrangements to lodge with them. Whether Priscilla was of high social rank, as has been conjectured, or not, and whether she had been the first to turn to Christ, or whether her husband had led her to the salvation which he had found first, cannot be definitely shown. But it is certain that she was very prominent in church-work, Rom. 16, 3; 1 Cor. 16, 19; 2 Tim. 4, 9, and that she had great fervency of spirit and much executive ability. The arrangement by which Paul boarded with these people proved to be mutually agreeable and satisfactory, for they were fellow-craftsmen, their trade being that of tent-makers. Very likely it was not necessary for them to weave their material themselves, since the finished product of Cilicia and other Asiatic provinces could easily be procured in a commercial city like Corinth. So Paul worked at his trade and earned his living during the week by the labor of his hands, chap. 20, 34. 35; 1 Thess. 2, 9; 2 Thess. 3, 8; 1 Cor. 4, 11. 12; 2 Cor. 11, 9; Phil. 4, 12; but on the Sabbath he followed his old custom of arguing in the synagog and trying to persuade both the Jews and the Greeks, the proselytes that attended the synagog worship. Whether Paul was ill at this time, or whether he lacked his usual fervor and aggressiveness: he seems, at any rate, not to have been able to make the usual impression upon his hearers. But with the coming of Silas and Timothy from Macedonia, who remained with him for at least a part of his stay, 2 Cor. 1, 19, being named also in the salutations of the two letters to the Thessalonians, a change occurred. Probably his two assistants brought him some financial support from the congregation at Thessalonica, for he was now entirely occupied with the teaching of the doctrine of salvation, devoting all his time and energy to preaching the Gospel as found in prophecy and fulfillment, and testifying with great power and success to the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah. As usual, this fearless proclamation precipitated a crisis. The Jews arrayed themselves in opposition to him and to his message; they not only abused Paul, but blasphemed his Gospel and the name of Christ. And therefore Paul solemnly and impressively shook out his mantle, shook the very dust of their synagog off his clothes for a testimony against them, telling them, at the same time, that their blood was upon their own heads, that they could hold no one but themselves responsible for their damnation. He knew that he was clean, innocent, free from guilt; he had done his full duty in their behalf, From that time forth he intended to go to the Gentiles. Whatever bloody end the inevitable divine punishment would bring to them they must ascribe entirely to their own hard-heartedness; his conscience absolved him from all further responsibility. Note: If all efforts to bring the Gospel to a certain region or city come to naught on account of the refusal of the inhabitants, the consequences of their opposition may well be announced to the people in terms similar to those used by Paul; for God is not mocked.
Success in preaching to the Gentiles: V.7. And he departed thence, and entered into a certain manís house named Justus, one that worshiped God, whose house joined hard to the synagog. V.8. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagog, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. V.9. Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace; v.10. for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee; for I have much people in this city. V.11. And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the Word of God among them. Having gone out from there, from the synagog, having departed, removed himself, from the midst of the blaspheming Jews, Paul was not long at a loss for a suitable meeting-place. He entered at once into the house of one Titus Justus, a God-fearing man, a proselyte, evidently a Roman citizen of some influence and means, through whom Paul could gain access to the educated classes of the city. The action of the Jews, therefore, instead of harming the apostle, redounded to the benefit of the Gospel, as often happens. The location of the house of Justus was also favorable, since it adjoined the synagog, and was thus convenient of access to both Jews and Greeks. And that not all the Jews joined in blaspheming the Gospel-message is apparent from the fact that the ruler of the Corinthian synagog, Crispus, in this crisis came forward boldly for the cause of the Lord; he believed on the Lord with his entire house, with all the members of his family and his household, his children and his servants, 1 Cor. 1, 14. And the movement gained in force, for many of the Corinthians, Gentiles, when they heard the Word, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and were baptized. The spread of the new faith was gradual, but continuous. The decisive action of Paul in confessing his Lord had not hindered, but furthered the course of the Word. And he was now strengthened in his aggressive labor by a vision by night in which the Lord told him not to be afraid of the continued malicious opposition of the Jews nor of any other danger, but to continue speaking and testifying, and by no means to hold his peace, never to stop. And this command the Lord reinforced by the encouraging promise that He Himself, the almighty God, was with him, and that no one would lay hands upon him to do him harm. Any one under the protection of the Lord is more secure than if all the armies of the world were summoned and arrayed in his defense. And in Corinth, as the Lord said, He had a great many people who were yet to be gained by the preaching of the Gospel. God knew that His merciful will in their case would be carried out, that they would learn to believe in their Savior Jesus Christ. Thus the Lord, in the midst of the Corinthian people, whose moral plane was as low as that of any city in the empire, had chosen a congregation to be sanctified through the blood of Christ, by faith in His salvation. Christianity here wrought its miracle, as one commentator has it, for in Corinth the Gospel was put to a supreme test, and nowhere did it triumph more gloriously. And though God chiefly chose the lowly among the people, 1 Cor. 1, 26. 27, His call included also men of high station, a Crispus, a Gaius, a Stephanas, and an Erastus, the public treasurer of the city, Rom. 16, 23. With such splendid success attending his labors, Paul dwelt, settled, in Corinth for the time being; he carried on a quiet and settled work of establishing the congregation and seeing it grow in faith and sanctity, his entire stay consuming a year and six months. The Word of the Lord he preached, no foolish fancies of his own imagination or of manís philosophy; for the latter will never build the Church of Christ, no matter how attractively it may be presented.
The insurrection at the time of Gallio: V.12. And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment-seat, v.13. saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law. V.14. 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; v.15. but if it be a question of words and names and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters. V.16. And he drave them from the judgment-seat. V.17. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagog, and beat him before the judgment-seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things. Gallio became proconsul of Achaia and took charge of the affairs of the province in the summer of 51 A.D., almost a year after Paul had come to Corinth. ďAnother proof of St. Lukeís accuracy. Achaia from B.C. 27 (when it had been separated from Macedonia, to which it had been united since B.C. 146, and made into a separate province) had been governed by a proconsul. In A.D. 15 Tiberius had reunited it with Macedonia and Mysia, and it was therefore under an imperial Zegatus as an imperial province. But a further change occurred when Claudius, A.D. 44, made it again a senatorial province under a proconsul.Ē72) Evidently the Jews thought this a propitious time to inaugurate a tumult, for they arose against Paul with one accord, as one man, and led him to the judgment-seat of the proconsul. They may have thought that the new proconsul would want to make a favorable impression and gain the good will of all his subjects at once, and therefore would grant their request. Their charge against Paul was that he, against the law, was persuading the people to worship God. The wording of the accusation showed great skill, for in a certain sense the word ďlawĒ might include both the Roman law and the Jewish law, the first being fixed by the government, the second being permitted by a special decree. In stating that Paulís teaching was illegal, they meant to convey the impression that he was spreading a prohibited religion, while in their own hearts they had reference only to their ceremonial law and to the traditions which they held sacred. So the Jews here made use of boldness mingled with cleverness. Paul was just about to open his lips to make a suitable reply to this sophistical charge when Gallio gave the Jews an answer which showed that he drew a hard and fast line between a charge of unlawful action against the state and against Jewish law and custom. He explained that if it were a case of an unlawful action, of a breach of state law, or if it were an actual crime, a moral wrong, with which they were charging Paul, he would sustain them, he would look into the case, according to right and justice. But so far as any discussion regarding a word and names of their law was concerned, they would have to see to that themselves; he did not propose to act as judge in such matters. Gallio was not altogether clear in his mind what the whole controversy was about; he may have heard some references to the Word of God, to the name of Jesus, to the customs and usages of the Jews. And it was not necessary for him, in his capacity as secular judge, to be familiar with these matters. But he certainly proved that the high praise bestowed upon him by the historians, in calling him a man of admirable integrity, amiable and popular, was not misplaced. In this he might well serve as an example to state officers everywhere, in showing them that the business of the state deals with transgressions of the second table of the Law only, and should not interfere with the exercise of religion. The prompt and energetic action of the proconsul, not only in rendering a clear opinion without the least delay, but also in dismissing the importunate Jews with some sharpness, in clearing the court, made a very favorable impression upon the people that were gathered in the forum, and turned the tide of popular prejudice in favor of Paul. The Greeks that were present immediately laid hold of Sosthenes, the successor of Crispus as the ruler of the synagog, and gave him a sound thrashing in full view of the judgment-seat, and Gallio took no official notice of the beating, assuming, no doubt, that there was some bitterness against the Jews which might find its vent in this comparatively harmless way. And thus, in accordance with the Lordís promise that no harm should befall the apostle, the purpose of Gallio to confine himself strictly to his business of proconsul was a means of saving Paul from persecution and probably even death.
The Return Trip to Antioch and the Beginning of the Third Journey. Acts 18, 18-28.
From Corinth to Antioch: V.18. 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. V.19. And he came to Ephesus and left them there; but he himself entered into the synagog, and reasoned with the Jews. V.20. When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not, v.21. 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. V.22. And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch. After the unsuccessful uprising of the Jews, which must have occurred in the fall of 51 A.D., Paul remained in Corinth a matter of another half year, many days, as Luke reports, showing that there was no more difficulty, but that the Gospel could be preached freely. Then, however, he made his farewells to the brethren and embarked for Syria, he set about to make his voyage, with Syria as his goal. Priscilla and Aquila, his hosts and dear friends, accompanied him. Note that Luke places the womanís name first, as the more active and energetic in the work of the Lord. They went down to the eastern harbor of Corinth, the town of Cenchreae, first, for here the ships landed that carried on the trade with Asia. Before going aboard, Paul had his head shaved and took the hair along with him, for he had a vow which he intended to pay to the Lord, probably on the coming Passover festival in Jerusalem, Num. 6, 13-21.73) He had been under a Naziriteís vow, and now resumed the regular cutting of his hair, which, according to special provisions intended to cover just such cases, could then be taken to the door of the Temple and burned there. Paul, as a Jew, still observed the customs of the Jewish law and tradition which did not interfere with the exercise of the Christian religion. In the same way Luther did not permit iconoclastic motives to govern him, but retained such customs of external worship as are not in themselves sinful. Sailing eastward from Cenchreae, Paul and his companions crossed the Aegean Sea, with its many beautiful and historic islands, a distance of some 250 miles, to Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia, a city which he had intended to visit in the beginning of the present journey. Here the apostle left his companions, who probably intended to stay here a while for the purpose of assisting in mission work. Paul himself, while his ship was in the harbor for some days, could not deny himself the pleasure of visiting the synagog on the Sabbath, since he was desirous that others should partake of his hope of eternal salvation through the merits of Jesus. To this end he argued with the Jews from the Scriptures, not without making an impression upon them, for they begged him to remain there for a longer time. But he felt constrained to refuse the invitation and therefore bade them farewell, saying that he must by all means celebrate the coming festival, most likely that of the Passover, in Jerusalem. But he comforted them with the promise that he would return to them, if it was the will of God. Note the example which Paul sets with his conditional promise. Leaving Ephesus, Paul continued his voyage around the southwestern coast of Asia Minor, thence past the little isle of Rhodes in a southeasterly direction, leaving Cyprus on the left, till the ship reached Caesarea, the city of the centurion Cornelius. Without delay he made the trip up to the mountains where Jerusalem was, located (altitude about 2,500 feet), saluted the congregation, paid his vow, attended the festival, but then left at once to travel overland down to Antioch, where he doubtless received a glad welcome from the church. It was the end of his second long missionary journey, on which he had been absent for almost three years.
The beginning of the third missionary journey: V.23. 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. V.24. and a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. V.25. 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. V.26. And he began to speak boldly in the synagog; whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. V.27. 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; v.28. for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ. Paul had probably reached Antioch in the early summer of the year 52, but he did not spend much time there. His zeal for the Lord and the Gospel did not permit him to rest. Even before the heat of the summer set in, he was once more on the way, traveling overland over the same route which he had taken on the previous journey, chap. 15, 41, through Syria into Cilicia, and from there by way of the Gates of Cilicia into the Lycaonian plateau. Here he continued his missionary journey through Southern Galatia, in the districts of Lycaonia and Phrygia, through Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch. Judging from the rapidity of his journey, as indicated in the words of Luke, Paul must have found all the churches of these regions in such a condition that a longer visit on his part was not necessary. Still he made good use of every opportunity to admonish, encourage, and confirm all the disciples, urging them earnestly to cling to the faith in the Lord Jesus as it had been delivered to them. Paul, with his energy and with his capacity for work, is a model missionary for all times; he did not spare himself in the labor of his Lord. But while he was spending the latter part of summer and the early fall in the center of Asia Minor, events in Ephesus were preparing the way for his labors in that important city. For a certain Jew by the name of Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, his parents and forefathers having lived in that Egyptian city for many years, thus making him a native of Alexandria, though a Jew by descent and education, came to Ephesus, settled there for a time. He was both eloquent and learned, and well read in the Scriptures; he was at home in them and could adduce the most important passages in any emergency and in the defense of any doctrine. This man had received catechetical instruction in the way of the Lord; he knew the divine plan of salvation which aimed at the redemption of Israel; while he was not acquainted with any other baptism but Johnís, he may have known a good deal of Christís words and deeds as gained from such accounts as Egyptian Jews brought back from their visits to the Jewish capital. But what he lacked in accuracy of knowledge, he fully made up in fervor. He was burning in his spirit with zeal for the Lord, and he made it his regular custom to speak and teach the things concerning Jesus Christ with all accuracy; both in private conversation and in public discourse he set forth the facts which had been taught him as exactly as he could. Weak as he was in Christian knowledge, he began to speak freely even in the synagog, for he had the courage of his convictions. And Aquila and Priscilla, who had not found it necessary to separate themselves from their countrymen at Ephesus, hearing him speak, showed fine tact and solicitude in his behalf. They recognized his excellencies as well as his deficiencies, and therefore took him with them and set the way of the Lord before him with greater exactness, supplying what he still lacked in knowledge from the information which they had gained from Paul. That was a fine indication of the right spirit toward a brother that was still weak in knowledge; and the fact that Apollo accepted this service in the spirit in which it was rendered shows that he was not puffed up with pride over his abilities and knowledge. Some time afterwards, therefore, after he had been thoroughly established in the full Christian knowledge, when he planned to go over into Achaia, to Corinth, for a stay of some time, the Christian brethren of Ephesus wrote a letter of recommendation for him, urging the disciples in the Greek capital to make him welcome. This service of love deserves to be imitated a little oftener in our days; for not only the relatives and close friends, but all Christian brethren should take an interest in the spiritual welfare of such as remove to a different part of the country. But the example of Apollo is also significant, for he at once sought out the brethren in Corinth, and in conference with them proved of great aid to them that had become believers by grace. What Paul had planted Apollo watered; but it was God that gave the increase. His grace worked faith in the hearts of the believers, as it does to this day. The success of Apolloís labors was due in no small measure to the fact that he, powerfully, vehemently, argued down the Jews; he confuted them, even if he could not convince them; for before all the people, in public meetings, he demonstrated from the Scriptures, from the Old Testament writings as they were universally accepted by the Jews, that Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth, who was crucified at Jerusalem, could be no one else than the Christ, the Messiah of the world. It is a blessing, a gift of God, if a teacher of the Church has the ability to confute the gainsayers and to bring out the glorious facts of salvation with the proper force.
Summary. Paul labors at Corinth under the special protection of God, returns to Antioch by way of Ephesus, Caesarea, and Jerusalem, and sets out upon his third missionary journey, Apollos doing some advance work for him in Ephesus.