(This chapter refers to events possibly between AD 49 and 51 – see verses 2, 11 and 12, mentioning Claudius AD 41-54, and Gallio AD 50-51)
Let’s read Acts 18 verses 1-17
1 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 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 Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.
When reading Acts we can perhaps assume that the only Christian missionaries at that time were those that we have been reading about. However, many hundreds of keen practising Jews who had gone to Jerusalem for Pentecost had returned home as keen practising Christians, forming church groups wherever they lived.
Fifteen years later the Christians in Rome were still active and it has been suggested that disturbances between Christians and traditional Jews finally led to some (probably the Christian Jews) being expelled. Aquila and Priscilla were among those, and from v18 we can assume that they were still eager to continue spreading the Gospel.
They were tent-makers, and as Paul also was (this is the only reference to Paul’s occupation as tent-maker) they formed a happy alliance.
4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
The synagogue had always been a fruitful place to win converts, and having to work for a living, his preaching opportunities were limited.
5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.
Maybe Silas and Timothy had brought funds with them to finance Paul’s preaching – or they could work to support him; now it meant that preaching could be full-time. But that made him much more obvious.
6 But when they 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 innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’
Naturally, going to his own people (Israel) was ‘easier’ but not without suffering! Now he deliberately turned to the Gentiles (temporarily – see v19, although ten years later, when he wrote the Epistle to the Romans, he described himself as a ‘Minister to the Gentiles’: Romans 15:16).
7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshipper of God.
How convenient to have a believer living next door to the Synagogue! Even more encouraging:-
8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptised.
So for now it seemed that Paul could continue preaching unopposed.
9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.’
Written, (and actually read by us) in a very matter-of-fact manner! But stop for a minute:
How amazed would you be to have the Lord speak to you in a vision?
How much would it encourage you?
Would anyone like to share visions they have had?
11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.
But as always there were those who objected to his teaching:
12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia (AD 50-51), the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. 13 ‘This man,’ they charged, ‘is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.’
Why was that a strange thing to do?
Knowing what Corinth was like (see introduction to 1 Corinthians 7) it seems strange to try to bring a charge like this to the Gentile, Roman, Proconsul – concerning how a god should be worshipped.
14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, ‘If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanour or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 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.’ 16 So he drove them off.
Gallio not only considered the charge preposterous but I get a sense that he had had dealings with ‘you Jews’ before, and he wasn’t going to be drawn into religious arguments.
17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.
Sosthenes had obviously been appointed in place of Crispus (v8) and perhaps he had roused the Jews to take this action. Unfortunately for him a roused crowd always seems to need a violent outlet for their anger, and perhaps Gallio thought that here the crowd’s action might make the Jewish leaders think twice before troubling him again.
Now read verses 18-23
During his extended stay in Corinth Paul probably wrote his letters to the church in Thessalonica (see 1 Thessalonians 8). He had probably written his letter to the Galatian churches sometime before this.
18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken.
Nothing can be gained by imagining what the vow may have been about, but it seems it was not an uncommon Jewish practice. Priscilla and Aquila had not yet established a fixed home for themselves in Corinth and appeared eager to join Paul in his evangelistic ministry (remember they had been Christian ‘troublemakers’ and so had been expelled from Rome).
19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, ‘I will come back if it is God’s will.’ Then he set sail from Ephesus.
The Ephesian Jews (and Gentiles) were obviously open to the Christian message and rather than spending time with them then, he left Priscilla and Aquila to carry on the work there.
22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.
Paul had amazing news of the spread of the Gospel everywhere he had been, and he felt he should first tell the ‘Mother Church’ and the Apostles still in Jerusalem. Having done that, he returned to his sending church in Antioch.
Finally read verses 23-28
23 After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and travelled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
Four or five years after Paul had returned, he set out on his third missionary Journey; returning to the churches he had first established, before moving on into Asia, and eventually arriving back in Ephesus.
24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervour and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John.
As we have seen before, there were other Christians who were also led to evangelise wherever they went. Here, a converted Egyptian Jew who knew his (Old Testament) bible well ‘spoke with great fervour’. But his baptism was based simply on repentance rather than faith in Christ and his finished work.
26 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.
Priscilla and Aquila were happy to ‘fill in the gaps’. Apollos would have recognised Jesus as the coming Messiah but it seems that he did not know that through the death and resurrection of Christ, his sins were forgiven and he could accept Jesus into his life by the Holy Spirit.
Now he was eager to move on, heading into Greece.
27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.
It seems that having arrived at the port of Corinth (Acts 19:1) he joined the church there and within a short time was accepted as a leader (See 1 Corinthians 1:12, 2 Corinthians 3:4-6).