Welcome to our continued Journey through Acts. Today, we are reading and studying Acts 18.
Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There we are told lived a couple, Aquila and his wife Priscilla, who left Italy because Claudius ordered the Jews to leave Rome. Paul, Luke tells us, stayed and worked with them because he was a tentmaker just as they were.
During this time Paul attended the synagogue and taught the message about Jesus Christ, debating with Jews and Greeks.
Paul was rejoined by Silas and Timothy in Corinth. At the time they came to him, he was preaching the gospel to the Jews, testifying to them that Jesus is the Messiah. However, they refused the message. Paul became upset and grieved over their response to the good news and he shook his robe and told them
…“Your blood is on your heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Acts 18:6
Their grievous and blasphemous attitudes led to Paul’s “decision” to preach to the Gentiles only. You may recall the Lord telling Ananias that Paul would be His instrument to the Gentiles before Paul even regained his sight.
Paul was only coming to the conclusion of the Lord’s call for his ministry. As difficult as the attitudes of the people may have been, they were ultimately not the reason Paul would go to the Gentiles.
In the same way, the circumstances in our lives will align to God’s call for us. It may seem as though we are responding to what is taking place, but if we are following closely with God, we are walking in His purpose for our lives.
The text seems to indicate that Paul then left the synagogue and went to Titius Justus’s house next door. Titius was a worshipper of God, and although he faced opposition and ridicule, we see fruits from Paul’s teaching. We’re told that many of the Corinthians believed and were baptized, to include Crispus the leader of the synagogue.
After these events, Luke tells us:
Then the Lord said to Paul in a night vision, “Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent. For I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to hurt you, because I have many people in this city.” Acts 18:9-10
What an amazing encouragement this must have been to the apostle Paul. I can only imagine that he was deflated, upset, discouraged by the response of the Jews to the gospel. His harsh response to their rejection of the message seems to have been made as a final resort.
But the Lord in a vision came to bring the apostle the encouragement that he needed at this moment in his ministry.
God’s message to him was to press on, to keep teaching, to continue to share the good news boldly, fearlessly.
Because the Lord was with Him. The Lord’s protection was on him…and the Lord had already placed people in Corinth to protect him.
What a remarkable comfort!
And we know that Paul was encouraged to keep teaching, to keep on sharing the good news, as he stayed in Corinth a year and six months teaching the word of God among the Corinthians (Acts 18:11).
And the Lord did as He told Paul. The Jews tried to ensnare him and bring him before the authorities on charges that he was attempting to persuade the people to worship God contrary to the law, but these accusations fell on deaf ears. Gallio refused to become involved, as the accusations brought against Paul charged him with neither legal or moral wrongdoing.
Paul’s Brief Visit at Ephesus, Acts 18:18-23
Paul stayed in Corinth for a while, then he departed for his return to Antioch. Priscilla and Aquila accompanied him to Ephesus.
In Ephesus, Paul preached in the synagogue and engaged in discussion with the Jews. They welcomed Paul and asked him to stay longer but he declined, in hopes to visit them again, Lord willing.
Paul’s choices here really caught my attention.
Paul left Corinth after struggling with the Jews there. They wanted to deliver Paul to the authorities and presented charges against him as we saw earlier…yet under the direction of the Lord, Paul stayed. He stayed a while.
Now, here we see him in Ephesus, in the company of Jews who welcomed his message and dialogued with him, inviting him to stay awhile…and he declined.
I can’t help but think how our modern views of missions and evangelism as a whole would suggest a different course of action.
We have a tendency to stay where it is comfortable and where we are welcome, myself included.
Paul had plans to travels to other cities, teaching and encouraging the churches that were already established. This plan took precedence over his immediate comfort in Ephesus.
In the next verses, we see him traveling to Caesarea, then Antioch. He spent some time in Antioch and set out again to strengthen the disciples.
Teaching Apollos, Acts 18:24-28
Priscilla and Aquila were still in Ephesus when a fervent and eloquent Jew by the name of Apollos arrived there. Apollos was zealous for the things of God and he spoke and taught with great passion.
Apollos however only knew of John’s baptism, and this is the message that he taught boldly in the synagogue.
Luke records that Aquila and Priscilla invited him into their home and there, they explained the whole story to him.
Apollos knew of the good news leading to Christ, and the couple helped him come along and grow in his knowledge and understanding.
Apollos learned from them and corrected his wrong teaching. He went on to continue to preach the good news of the gospel boldly. The disciples at Ephesus helped him get to Corinth, where he preached the message boldly in the synagogue, demonstrating through Scripture that Jesus is the Messiah.
God clearly gifted Apollos with the gift to teach and persuade. However, even the most gifted teacher needs to know the right doctrine. Apollos had talent but he needed to come to know the fullness of the message about Jesus Christ. Aquila and Priscilla privately offered him the teaching that he needed in order for him to be an effective conveyor of the message.
Application to Us
1. Convenience should not weigh too heavily in our decisions of where to go and who to teach about Jesus Christ. Choosing to be where he was accepted, or where his teaching was accepted, would have meant that Paul would not stay long in Corinth. However, the Lord encouraged him to stay the course and there he remained for a year and a half.
2. We do not have a High Priest who is does not empathize with our weaknesses. Paul, clearly faced a discouraging crowd in Corinth. His message was met with animosity, and he was tempted to turn his back on the Jews altogether. Yet, we see the Lord Himself speaking to him in a vision, encouraging him to stay in Corinth and to continue to teach. The Lord surely knew that this encouragement was needed at that very moment. In the same way, the Lord is concerned for us; and, when we grow weary of doing good and we see no fruit to our evangelism, righteous living, truthfulness at work, fervor in raising our children, whatever the case might be, He reaches out to us through His Word or the kind words of a loved one, or a simple phone call, or text message and we know that He sees us and are encouraged to go on. In my experience personally and talking with others, I can say that the Lord is faithful to send us comfort to continue in the path of righteousness.
3. Use the word in teaching and correction. Aquila and Priscilla took Apollos into their home and instructed him in the fullness of the message about Jesus. Their private instruction of Apollos is a model to follow in correcting erroneous thinking. Apollos’s doctrine was incomplete and the couple helped him, without embarrassment or opposing him publicly.
4. Be open to instruction. Apollos grew from the instruction he received from Priscilla and Aquila. He went on to preach the fullness of the message. While we have to be mindful of which advice and teaching we take heed to, we should be receptive to correction that has its basis in scripture.
1. How did this chapter instruct your understanding of mission?
2. How has the Lord used you to instruct another? Or used another to instruct you?