ACTS OF THE APOSTLES CHAPTER 18
Eventually after all the happenings in Thessalonica, Berea and Athens, Paul without waiting for the arrival of Silas and Timothy went alone to Corinth to preach the gospel as he pressed on during this second mission trip. Sometimes, it might be necessary to labour alone. It would be best if there were fellow labourers serving together in the Lord’s harvest fields. So Paul laboured on to complete his mission trip and returned to his home church and then began another trip before the end of this chapter.
Acts 18:1: After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;
Acts 18:2: 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.
Acts 18:3: And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.
While Paul had to go to Corinth alone, the Lord had actually prepared fellow workers to serve with him. Providence always goes before those who trust the Lord’s leadership in their life when they walk in the perfect will of God. This husband and wife fellow gospel workers were forced out of Rome due to a change of political fortune in that capital city. Discrimination would always be there whether the educated people in this world believe it or not. Some pretend not to know discrimination exists. Some are naïve to believe that discrimination does not exist to their own peril. Whatever the change of political landscape, believers of the Lord would not waste time trying to change their fortune by challenging the powers that be. They move on and continue to labour for the Lord for they know that they are simply pilgrims and strangers on this earth doing the Lord’s will: For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. (Hebrews 13:14&15)
So Paul found this couple who were neither bitter nor wallowing in self pity although they were forced to leave their livelihood behind in the prosperous capital city of the empire. As they were of the same trade, Paul associated himself with them. While Paul was a missionary, he still made a living with his own hands. As such, he could write with all authority concerning labouring for the profit of others.
For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; (1 Thessalonians 2:9&4:11)
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12)
Hence it is sad to see some Christians who think that everyone owes them a living just because they claim they have surrendered their lives to serve the Lord. They become beggars instead of preachers of righteousness. Those who indulged in living on the support of others could easily succumb to blackmails from their supporters to do their bidding instead of doing the Lord’s will. While it is not unscriptural to receive financial support or support in kinds from fellow believers in Christ for the Lord’s work, the Christian worker has to remember that there is profit in labour whether spiritual or material comfort to keep the body and soul together: In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury. (Proverbs 14:23) As such, a Christian should always learn a skill to be able to make a living instead of depending on the church for support for his endeavours: And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful. (Titus 3:14)
Acts 18:4: And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.
Acts 18:5: And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.
Acts 18:6: And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.
With his financial needs taken care of, Paul continued to use the platform from the synagogue to reach out to the Jews first with the gospel. Paul had been faithful in discharging his duty to preach the gospel every Sabbath day in the synagogue while waiting for Silas and Timothy to arrive to join him. So when his fellow workers finally came, Paul was pressed in the spirit to testify to the Jews that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Messiah of the Jews. This was indeed much encouragement for Paul to see his fellow labourers in Christ. He had been labouring alone in Athens and now in Corinth for a while now. Of course, he hoped these Jews in the city would accept the Lord but from experience many Jews would oppose themselves and turn away from the Lord. Here these Jews even blasphemed and Paul took the cue that his time with them was up, warned them that they were responsible for their own fate and he moved on to the Gentiles.
Acts 18:7: And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.
Acts 18:8: And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.
Notwithstanding, Paul’s labour was not in vain in the Lord. A chief ruler of the synagogue and his household believed on the Lord. Many other Corinthians likewise believed and were baptized as well. Once again Paul found success among these people rather than those proud educated philosophers in Athens who idled away their time just to talk about everything under the sun with no perspective of eternity in view. The resurrection of Christ was nonsense to them and so they continued to indulge in their own mind worship and they bowed down to idols and even to the altar of THE UNKNOWN GOD thinking that this might deliver them from wrath to come. How silly to say the least.
The remarkable part about Paul’s success in the gospel ministry was to reach those people of influence and those people under such influential people would usually convert with them. The household of Cornelius and the jailor in Philippi are just some cases in point. In fact all the apostles and disciples dealt with adults and not children or young people who were impressionable at a tender age. That is why there are so many complaints from people in the world concerning Christian gospel workers targeting young children and teens in their evangelism and they do not take it kindly. They challenged Christians to deal with them instead. Reaching children and teens only would cause people in the world to become suspicious of the intentions of Christians and they wonder why Christians have no courage to talk to them about Christ instead.
While Paul may be successful in reaching the lost in this city, there was much discouragement and anxiety in the Lord’s work. Perhaps Paul was worrying over when he would be chased out and moved out to another city to start from scratch all over again. Paul did not manage to stay in Thessalonica for very long. It was sad that he had to leave his young converts to fend for themselves to go through so much tribulation from their enemies. He could not even stay long enough in Berea to establish those diligent Bible students either as he was forced to leave the city because of persecution. Having to deal with those aloof self-conceited philosophers in Athens was not very encouraging as well. It was very tiring physically having to endure abuses and beatings and mentally draining in dealing with persecution doing the Lord’s work. Just as Paul was in need of direction, the Lord spoke to him during his ministry with these Christians in Corinth.
Acts 18:9: Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:
Acts 18:10: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.
Acts 18:11: And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
The Lord knows the limits of His servants labouring for Him. He assured His disciples and comforted them with much assurance with kind words: For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:30) Here in the quiet of the night, Paul received comfort and assurance from the Lord that all would be well with him serving the Lord in Corinth. Even the apostle Paul who had done so much for the Lord needed encouragement. The Lord told him not to be afraid. The mightiest saint does fear from time to time. Moses feared as well: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) (Hebrews 12:21) Even the Lord Jesus Christ having taken on the form of Adam feared too: Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; (Hebrews 5:7-9) It is nothing to be ashamed of when a saint is fearful. In fact, this would be rather healthy as this prevents the child of God from becoming presumptuous and getting himself into trouble when he strays outside of the will of God.
While Paul had been accustomed to abuses and persecution and getting in and out of jail often, continuous trials and tribulations could wear him down. Getting a beating would not be something pleasant to look forward to no matter how strong and spiritual a saint might think he is. Hence Paul was told not to hold back from preaching the gospel in that city and protection for him was guaranteed by none other than the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, there were many more people in the city that the Lord would deal with and grant them salvation. So years later Paul also wrote to the Christians in this city: There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13) So Paul continued with his ministry in the city for another eighteen months.
Acts 18:12: And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat,
Acts 18:13: Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law.
Though the Lord promised Paul protection in Corinth, this did not mean trouble would not come. As expected, the unbelieving Jews stirred up trouble and thought they could make use of the local authority to nail Paul. Their use of force to bring Paul before the judgment seat of the deputy of Achaia was to pressurize him to pass judgment against Paul. Once again, the complaints were religious in nature and they had nothing to do with violation of common law against individuals in that city. They could not stop Paul from winning converts from them and so they accused Paul for contravening their law on the worship of God.
Acts 18:14: 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:
Acts 18:15: 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.
Acts 18:16: And he drave them from the judgment seat.
Acts 18:17: Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things.
While Paul was brought to the court to hear charges against him, this time he needed not even defend himself for the Lord had promised protection for him. The Lord had touched the heart of this deputy and prevented him from succumbing to pressure of mob justice from these unreasonable Jews. What these Jews did not realise was that this court set up by the Romans was not meant to settle religious dispute and these Jews thought that they could impose their will on this court as though they were living in Jerusalem. They were soundly told off by the deputy who wisely stepped away from the quarrel these Jews had with Paul. He probably knew very well these Jews were only making use of him to do their dirty work and abused the due process of the court. Indeed he was not paid to be a religious judge but Roman judge to judge between right and wrong. Hence he immediately dismissed the court and the chief ruler of the synagogue who apparently wanted to do Paul harm was beaten up by the Greeks. Moreover the deputy could not be bothered with what happened to these accusers and so Paul was set free.
Acts 18:18: 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.
Acts 18:19: And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.
Acts 18:20: When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not;
Acts 18:21: 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.
Acts 18:22: And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch.
The Lord’s protection for him in the city of Achaia held true and Paul had not been to jail since his last encounter in Philippi two chapters ago that resulted in the conversion of the jailor and his family. So Paul continued to labour in the city for a good while and eventually bade his leave. He seldom had such good departure during this second mission trip where the way he had to leave was through persecution. This time at least he could leave on his own accord having grounded the believers in this city and moved on to the next city to preach the gospel. Notwithstanding, though Paul had spent much time with this church, the members were particularly burdensome where he had to write them two epistles to correct and instruct them on many issues pertaining to their walk with the Lord.
Having left Corinth, Paul made a vow in connection with observing a feast in Jerusalem. This time, Paul had additional fellow helpers with Priscilla and Aquila following him in the mission work. The next city where the gospel was preached was Ephesus where Paul succeeded in planting a flourishing work where elders were ordained into the ministry. His ministry at Ephesus also began with the Jews in the synagogue. He was quite well received and they had desired that he stayed longer with them but Paul had determined to keep the upcoming feast in Jerusalem could not stay on with them. He assured them he would go to them again according to the Lord’s will. Paul though an apostle of the Gentiles, he was very much Jewish at heart. His love for his Jewish brethren was commendable but this proved to be an obstacle in his ministry to the Gentiles in subsequent years when he had to spent much time and effort to deal with his trouble with the Jews and as such several precious years of his time was lost.
So Paul managed to reach Jerusalem via Caesarea in time for the feast. He met up with the church at Jerusalem as well. No doubt this was another round of briefing the brethren there to rejoice with him for all that were accomplished for the Lord. Gladly, his arrival at Jerusalem was incident free as the Jews in many cities outside of Jerusalem wanted him dead. No doubt those in Jerusalem would do him harm as well if his arrival was given much attention as the Jews there had probably heard about the damage he had caused the Jews outside of Israel. Having kept his vow he descended to his home church at Antioch. This one verse covered Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem and concluded his second mission trip when he returned to his home church at Antioch.
Acts 18:23: 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.
How long Paul spent his time with the church at Antioch was not known. The last time he and Silas were sent away with the blessing of the church for his second mission trip after Barnabas left the church with John Mark. This time not much was mentioned about another sent off party and Silas was not in the picture either. So Paul began his third mission journey covering those initial cities to strengthen the disciples there. By now, those churches Paul had started would be running on their own and no doubt with the arrival of Paul to encourage them, these churches continued to grow from strength to strength. So this verse concluded the activities of the apostle Paul and the focus was now moved to a new member coming unto the scene joining the fray with the gospel adventure.
Acts 18:24: And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
Acts 18:25: 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.
Acts 18:26: And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
Another Jew named Apollos made his entry into the records of preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This man was not mentioned to be a Pharisee like the apostle Paul. He was born in the city of learning at Alexandria where his life and training were shaped by the environment there. He was mentioned to have come to the city of Ephesus to preach. The remarkable records about him were that he was an eloquent man and he was also mighty in the Scriptures. These were obviously ideal character traits of a preacher. Moreover, his disposition was that of a fervent spirit and he taught diligently the things of the Lord though he was not having the perfect knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. All that this man had heard of was till the baptism of John the Baptist commanding men everywhere to repent. He was taking up the ministry of John the Baptist many years after he had left the scene including the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ that eluded him.
So Aquila and Priscilla heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue of the Jews in Ephesus concerning the baptism of John the Baptist for the remission of sin. Instead of blasting him for being a heretic for preaching a different gospel where believers in the Lord had moved on the gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, Aquila and Priscilla took him aside and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. This husband and wife team had been with Paul for a while and they no doubt had been instrumental in the Lord’s work with Paul. They were mature individuals and could help others who were imperfectly grounded with the knowledge of the Lord. They did not behaved self-righteously before those who were not well taught in the Lord. They were indeed fellow helpers in the gospel work.
Unfortunately, many Christians full of head knowledge would mock and ridicule those who are not well taught and learned in the Scriptures of the Lord. They lack patience in dealing with weaker Christians and they tend to destroy rather than build up believers in the Lord. Aquila and Priscilla demonstrated patience and wisdom in dealing with this man from Alexandria who was much eloquent and fervent in the spirit preaching the Baptism of John. They did not seek to offend Apollos but to build him up in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were not intimidated by the outward disposition of Apollos nor were they upset with him for not knowing the gospel of the Lord more perfectly. Their effort paid off when Apollos having been instructed in the right way of the Lord more perfectly became a mighty preacher of the gospel labouring in the Lord’s harvests fields as well. There was certainly no jealousy of capabilities among the Lord’s servants in the spiritual arena fighting the Devil and his cohorts. The better the servants of the Lord were trained, the better it was for everyone labouring for the Lord. It would be indeed a great encouragement for another mighty soldier of the Lord fighting the spiritual warfare shoulder to shoulder claiming territories from Satan.
Acts 18:27: 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:
Acts 18:28: For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
There was no embarrassment of the part of Apollos either when he was taught more perfectly of the way of the Lord by Aquila and Priscilla. This man though mighty in Scriptures and eloquent in sermon delivery was a humble man and a faithful servant of the Lord. Having served in the city of Ephesus, he was going to Achaia to preach the gospel of Christ. The brethren having observed his manner of life among them recommended the disciples at Achaia to receive him.
Apollos was proven to be a great help to the church at Corinth so much so that some Christians there started comparing him with the apostle Paul. Years later Paul had to write to deal with them not become followers of men. Notwithstanding the ministry of Apollos did have a great impact on those believers in Corinth for he mightily convinced the Jews and publicly showing by the Scriptures that the Lord Jesus Christ was their Messiah. Perhaps some of those Jews who were trying to harm Paul might have converted under the ministry of this eloquent man sent by the Lord.
At this point, the church at Jerusalem had indeed taken a backseat for a while and all the gospel activities were now focused on the Gentiles with some Jews in the cities of the Gentile lands becoming converts as well. Besides the apostle Paul, Barnabas, Silas Timothy, Aquila and Priscilla and now Appollos were on records as pioneers in the Lord’s work winning the lost and building up Christians everywhere outside of Israel. There was no turning back of the gospel clock as the saints continued their onward march to claim lands from the influence of Satan all over the world. The offence of the gospel was unstoppable and many more would come to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
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