About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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ch. 18:1-17    ch. 18:18-28

 In Corinth (ch. 18:1 - 17)

Paul left Athens on his own accord.  He was not driven out by persecution as he had been in the last few cities that he visited.  He went fifty miles west to Corinth.  Corinth was a very wealthy city because of its coastal location, having two harbors.  People from all over the known world would pass through this city to and from Rome.  You might say that it was a major connecting point from the east and west.  It also was a connecting point from Africa to the south.                                      

Because of the cities great wealth many people had slaves.  With wealth also comes poverty.  People would flock to Corinth in search of riches but many would not find it, thus, becoming poor and being taken advantage of by the rich.  We learn from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that most of his converts were from this poor class of people

The Roman games were held in Corinth.  Once again, many people flocked
 to Corinth to watch and participate in these games, but like many sporting events
 today, there was more to sports than the events.  The games were almost secondary
 to the parties around the city, which included public drinking and public sex orgies.   

Corinth was a multicultural city because of the influx of people from around the known world.  It was not as philosophical as Athens, but had a great many different types of religions.  The temple of Venus boasted of a thousand male and female prostitutes that were available for anyone passing through the city.  In fact the word “Corinthian” comes from a Greek word meaning “to practice prostitution”.  You can well understand the Corinthians Christians problems with sexual sins.  The verb "to Corinthianize" became synonymous with freedom of sexual expression.

It is important to understand that immoral sexual practices as understood in Christian terms were a part of pagan worship.  This is why there were so many prostitutes hanging out at these pagan temples.    

To me it is interesting that Paul wrote his letter to the Romans from Corinth .  I am almost sure that his teaching on the depravity of man, found in the first two chapters of Romans, was influenced by what he saw in Corinth.  This may have been part of his motivation to write to the Romans. 

As we see in Acts 18:1 and 2, while in Corinth, Paul met up with a Jewish man named Aquila and his wife Priscilla.  Like Paul, this couple was tent makers.  Paul stayed in Corinth for about eighteen months, most likely beginning in the fall of 51 A D or thereabouts.  Paul supported himself while in Corinth by working with this couple, and in so doing; they became Paul’s fellow workers in the ministry.

Concerning Aquila and Priscilla, Luke tells us that they were originally from Pontus, a Roman province bordering on the Black Sea, far away from Jerusalem and Antioch of Syria.  This couple did some travelling around and ended up in Rome but was forced to leave because of a Roman decree forcing all Jews out of Rome.  This decree was issued by the Caesar Claudius in 49 A D.  It prevented Jews from assembling in large crowds as well as kicking them out of Rome.  As a result of this decree, many Roman cities followed Rome's lead by not allowing Jews to assemble in large crowds, other than in their synagogues. 

We don’t really know when Aquila and Pricilla became Christians.  Maybe Paul led them to the Lord or maybe they were already Christians.  Acts 2:9 tells us that there were Jews from Pontus in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost.  Maybe they were part of that group.  Maybe someone came back to Pontus after Pentecost and led them to Jesus.  We just don’t know.      

While in Corinth for these number of months, Paul "reasoned" with both Jews and Greeks in the synagogue on every Sabbath day, as was his custom.  Luke also tells us in verse 4 that he tried to “persuade” both Jews and Greek converts to Judaism concerning the gospel.  Once again we note the word “reasoned”, and now the word “persuade”.  Paul was a preacher, but he was a teacher as well.  His teaching ability no doubt showed through in his reasoning process. 

Sometimes I feel that modern day Christians have laid aside the idea of reasoning with people, and trying to persuade them concerning the gospel.  This is probably for a number of reasons.  One might be that we believe it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people of the truth and so we just preach.  There's no doubt about the fact that it is the Holy Spirit's job to do the convicting of people's hearts, but the fact of the matter is that we work in conjunction with the Holy Spirit.  We speak while He convicts.  We are his mouth piece. 

Another reason for our lack of good intellectual reasoning is that many Christians today don’t understand the gospel or Biblical truth well enough to even begin to reason and persuade people to come to Jesus.  This should not be the case.  Nevertheless, Paul did both.  He reasoned and persuaded men and women to come to Jesus as the universal truth of the universe.  This was not a one time event with Paul.  He continued to do this in Corinth, every Sabbath in the synagogue.  This was his custom in every town and city he visited.

With post-modern thinking that is filtering into the church of late, there is a de-emphasis on teaching and on Biblical details.  The way post-modern Christians, if you can indeed call them Christians, are now viewing the Bible is that it is not a book to be studied.  It's only a book of inspiration.  It's a book that teaches healthy morality.   Paul knew no such thing.  For Paul, the Bible, or the Old Testament as he would have known it, was a detailed account of truth.  Because of this, he felt he had no other logical choice but to teach Biblical truth.  This should be our stand as well.       

Luke tells us in verse 5 that Silas and Timothy caught up with Paul in Corinth .  When they arrived, Paul stopped making tents and devoted himself to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was their Messiah.  It is quite possible that Silas and Timothy did some work to help with the finances of the ministry.  Paul would have made some money making tents before Silas and Timothy came, that would have went towards their upkeep, but it is clear that after Silas and Timothy arrived, Paul devoted his time to teaching.

When preaching to the Jews, Paul taught that Jesus was their Messiah.  This was the right approach since Jews everywhere were waiting for the arrival of their long awaited Messiah who would deliver them from the hands of their enemies, and in this case, at least for the most part, that was Rome .  Paul did not speak to Gentiles in terms of the Messiah because they were not waiting for a Messiah.  He used a different approach to them as we saw in Acts 17.  

As in most cities the Jews who disagreed with Paul stirred up trouble.  As we see in verse 6, the Jews in Corinth were no different than in most other places.  The text states that they abused Paul.  Paul, in disgust, shook the dust off his clothes which symbolized his disgust.  This was a common practice in this culture.  He said to the Jews, "your blood be on your own head…"  This meant that Paul viewed himself no longer responsible to the Jews and their eternal destiny.  They had rejected the truth of the gospel as he preached it and in so doing their eternal destiny was their own choice.  He had done his best.  They had made their choice.  Their salvation was not Paul’s problem any longer.

Furthermore Paul says, “from now on, I will go to the Gentiles”.  This is not the first time Paul has said such a thing.  In Acts 13:47 he said the same thing, yet he still went to the Jews first every time he entered a new city. 

In verse 7 we see that after saying this Paul left the synagogue and went next door to a God-fearing Jewish convert who came to the Lord, named Titius Justus. This appears to be where Paul taught for the rest of the eighteen months he lived in Corinth .

Among other people in Corinth who believed in Jesus was the ruler of the synagogue named Crispus, as we see in verse 8.  Luke tells us that his whole family believed and were baptized.  Once again we see a whole family believing, and once again I need to point out that this does not support the false teaching known as "household salvation", meaning, if the father gets saved in his whole family is saved because of his faith.  The simple truth is that in this culture, those in the family would follow the father's lead.  If Jesus was good enough for the father, because of respect for the father, Jesus would be good enough for the family.  Each and every individual in the family would come to Jesus and trust Him on their own.       

In verses 9 through 12 Luke describes a vision that Paul had.  In this vision the Lord said, "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, because of this vision Paul stayed a hole eighteen months teaching and preaching to the people of Corinth.  It might be quite possible that the Lord saw that Paul was feeling down over what had been happening in every town he visited.  Paul just needed some encouragement which was provided by this vision.  We should note that the words of this vision applied only while Paul was in Corinth for these eighteen months.  Paul did run into many tough times after he left Corinth.  He ended up being executed for his association with Jesus.   So, it is clear to me that this vision was specific to Paul's stay in Corinth.   

Even though the Lord gave Paul this encouraging vision, it did not mean that Paul would not experience trouble on account of the Jews, as I've just said.  In verse 12 Luke says that the "Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him to court".  The charge was speaking against the Law of Moses. 

In verses 14 to 17 Paul was ready to defend himself but Gallio, the proconsul in charge of the province of Achaia, was not ready to hear him.  He figured this was a religious matter, a matter of words, names and Jewish Law, not a criminal matter.  He therefore dismissed the case.

This non-trial was important in early church history.  According to Roman law, Judaism was a legal religion and therefore had to be tolerated.  Christianity was not a recognized religion by Rome.  Christianity was viewed as a sub-sect of Judaism.  Therefore, at least for the time being, and this would change, Paul had the freedom to continue to preach and teach in Roman cities without reprisal.    

A man named Sosthenes, one of the synagogue rulers, was beaten up by some people.  It appears that he was the spokesmen for the attack against Paul and when he failed his task to get Paul arrested people were upset with him. Luke says that "they all turned on Sosthenes".  The pronoun "they" most likely refers to the Jews.  Some say "they" were the Greeks, but I don't think so.  Whatever the case, Sosthenes was beaten up with the knowledge of Gallio, who did nothing about this situation. Gallio did Paul one huge favour.  Paul could now continue on his mission of preaching Jesus.

Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos (ch. 18:18 - 28)

In verse 18 Luke tells us that Paul finally left Corinth on his way back home to Syria.  Aquila and Priscilla went with him, although they did not go all the way to Syria, but stayed in Ephesus. 

Verse 18 tells us that before Paul set sail he had his hair cut off.  In our English versions it seems clear to me that the word "he" refers to Paul, although some scholars say that it may be Aquila that had his head shaved.  The shaving of ones head was a Jewish custom to begin and end a vow.  Beyond this, we have no real clue to just why Paul made a vow or what kind of vow it was.  Some suggest it was the Nazirite vow while others suggest it was a Thank vow where men would shave their heads, eat no meat and drink no wine.

In verse 19 we note that when they arrived in Ephesus Paul once again goes into the synagogue to reason with the Jews.  On two prior occasions Paul after being irritated and rejected by the Jews, he told them that he would now go to the Gentiles, but, here we see him heading off to the synagogue the first time he enters this city.  Paul still wanted his people to find Jesus.   

As we see in verses 20 and 21, the Jews in Ephesus did not seem to be opposed to Paul since they asked him to stay longer so they could hear more of what he was saying.  Paul declined to stay but promised to return, as long as it was God’s will. We see here that Paul was concerned about doing the will of the Lord Jesus.  Christians today often use the words "will of God" pretty loosely, but not Paul.  He was serious about doing God's will, even if it meant leaving people who were interested in hearing the gospel, as was the case here.  It's thus clear that God would have us do something or go somewhere despite the fact that on the surface we'd be leaving a good opportunity to preach the gospel.    

Ephesus was a major city in the area.  It was the capital city of the province
of Asia and very much a busy city with much activity in religion and commerce.
Timothy stayed here for a long time as one of the church leaders.  The apostle John
spent the last years of his life here and wrote his gospel and his letters here.  John
became the leader of the church in Ephesus.

In verse 22 Paul sets sail for Caesarea, which is on the coast of the Roman province of Judea.  It was the capital city of Judea.  The text states that when Paul reached Caesarea he went up and greeted the church and then he went down to Antioch, which was his home base.  On the surface, you might think that Paul greeted the saints in Caesarea , but a little background to the wording suggests otherwise.   Any Jew that went to Jerusalem would say that he went up to Jerusalem, even though the direction might be down.  Jerusalem was situated on hills and that is why Jews always said they went up to Jerusalem.  Therefore, once Paul arrived in Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and then he went down to Antioch , even though, geographically Antioch would be considered up.  It would also be considered up from Caesarea as well.  It has been suggested that this whole trip took Paul about two years, roughly from 51 to 53 A D.

In verse 23 Luke tells his readers that Paul spent some time with the brothers in Antioch and then set off once again on his third missionary trip.  Luke specifically says that he wanted to strengthen the disciples in the churches he had established in Galatia and Phrygia .  So, now for the third time, Paul went to see the churches he had established.  He did have great concern for these communities of believers.  I believe that if you understand Paul's motivation in life, you'll understand that Paul was not going to these churches as some great apostle wanting to show off his apostolic authority.  He had great love for these people.  His motivation was pure.   

Verse 24 reverts back to Ephesus before Paul arrives there on this third missionary trip.  Aquila and Priscilla have already moved to Ephesus.  A man named Apollos from Alexandria Egypt now is introduced into Luke’s narrative.  He is a very educated Jewish man.  It's interesting to note that this man, although being a Jew, had a Gentile name.  He was named after a Greek god.  Just why this is the case, no one knows.

Apollos knew some things about Jesus and was teaching these things in the local synagogue, yet there was something missing in his teaching.  Verse 25 tells us that what he did teach was correct, but there was more that he needed to teach.  Apollos only knew some things about Jesus.  What he knew was concerning "John’s baptism".   Apparently he had met up with some of John’s disciples and they told him the message that John preached.  This message would have been the fact that the Messiah would soon come and that all men must repent.  Apparently Apollos only new that message.  He did not realize that Jesus had already come, ministered to His people, died, rose from the dead, and returned to Heaven. 

In verse 21, when Aquila and Priscilla learned what Apollos was teaching, "they explained to him the way of God more adequately".  Obviously what Aquila and Priscilla taught him was about the life of Jesus, up to and beyond Pentecost. 

We will see in Acts 19 that Apollos was not the only one that new only about John’s message.  There were others in Ephesus like him, maybe due to his preaching.

Once receiving this understanding Apollos wanted to continue to preach about Jesus.  In verse 27 Luke says that he wanted to go to Achaia to preach so the brothers in Ephesus wrote a letter of recommendation for him to take along with him.  These letters were often written in the early church as letters of introduction to churches to support the person coming to them.     

In Achaia Apollos "vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate…"   We see Apollos mentioned in Paul’s first letter the Corinthians, along with Peter.  Placing his name alongside of Peter’s as one of importance shows us how effective and how important Apollos became in the early church.  Using the words "vigorously refuted in public debate from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ" reminds me of Paul himself.

You might notice in verse 26 that Priscilla’s name is mentioned before Aquila ’s this time.  Because of this, among other things, many believe that Priscilla was the one who did most of the teaching to Apollos, but that's a bit speculative. 

One thing we should note about Apollos is that many people believe he wrote the book of Hebrews.  We don't know this for sure because the book of Hebrews doesn't tell us who wrote it.  Many believe Paul wrote Hebrews, but we can't be sure of that either.  Whatever the case, we can be sure that Apollos was educated well enough that he could have written the book of Hebrews.   



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