Event(s): Paul arrives and ministers at Corinth; Paul returns to Antioch, The ministry of Apollos
Today’s Text: Acts 18:1-28
Tomorrow’s Text: Acts 19:1-22
Located about 50 miles away from Athens, Paul continues his journey onto Corinth. The largest city in Greece at the time, Corinth was about 20 times as big as Athens. Corinth was home to the temple of worship to Aphrodite, known as the Greek goddess of licentious love. Therefore, the city was infamous for its sensuality, sexual immorality and “sacred” prostitution. The temple boasted some 1,000 religious prostitutes who “served” in the temple, emerging each evening to offer themselves to men as an act of worship to this goddess.
“[In Corinth], Archaeologists have also discovered the remains of temples dedicated to: Melkart, the god of sailors; to Apollo, the god of music and poetry; and to Asclepius, the god of healing; and there were others.” –Expository on the book of Acts
Acts 18:3 “so because he was of the same trade…” Paul, this incredibly gifted apostle and teacher of the Gospel, also had a “full time job.” It was improper for a rabbi to receive money for teaching, so to support himself, he worked as a tentmaker. Even as he sewed tents, he shared the truth of the gospel with those who worked with him – in this case – Aquila and Priscilla.
“Apart from occasional gifts (Phil. 4:15ff), Paul’s practice was to be self-supporting by working at his trade and not to be dependent on the charity of church members . . .” William Neil, Bible Scholar
Acts 18:6 “your blood be upon your own heads” This basically meant that the people, having heard the gospel, but rejecting it, were bringing judgment on themselves.
Acts 18:8 “then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord…” Paul had left the Jews and gone right next door to the house of Justus (vs 7). What was happening right next door to the synagogue was so irresistible and undeniable that even the ruler of the synagogue believed.
Acts 18:9 “Do not be afraid…” Paul’s ministry here in Corinth had gotten off to a rough start. He needed some encouragement so that he could keep on going and not be tempted to “keep silent” when he faced rejection. Certainly, the stoning, beatings and imprisonment he had faced previously were still fresh on his memory. God, in His mercy and grace, comforts and encourages Paul via a vision, addressing his apparent fear and doubt. As a result, Paul continues on here in Corinth for a year and six months.
Acts 18:10 “I am with you..” Throughout the Bible, (not just Acts) we find a consistent promise from God whenever His children are in the midst of trial. It’s the promise of His presence.
Acts 18:17 “all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him…” Verse 8 tells us that Crispus was the ruler of the synagogue. Most scholars believe that Sosthenes may have served alongside him in the synagogue, or perhaps even succeeded him after Crispus got saved.
Acts 18:18 “He had his hair cut off…for he had taken a vow.” There are many different speculations as to what exactly this vow identified. Our author, Luke, does not go into detail on this. So instead of getting too caught up in the details of this vow, it may suit us better to simply recognize that Paul was at a place in his journey where things were intensifying. He most likely did this as a way to draw closer to God, and probably abstained from certain food items. This act of cutting his hair off can be interpreted an outward display of an inner commitment to an even greater level of purity.
Acts 18:26 “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” What humble hearts. They didn’t get offended or call him out in the middle of his message. They didn’t embarrass him or treat him with contempt. They acted respectfully, lovingly, and taught him patiently. Likewise, Apollos didn’t think too highly of himself to received this instruction; he was teachable.
We are all growing in our walk and in our knowledge of the things of the Lord. We must remain humble and reject having a “know it all” attitude – on either the delivering or receiving end.
If we zoom out for a moment and take a big-picture view of what we’ve covered in the life of Paul thus far, we’ll notice that the work and ministry God called him to grew in effectiveness as well as in level of challenge. So many people look at the life of Paul and think – I could never do some of the things that Paul did! I have such a long way to go! But it’s important to remember, God meets us where we’re at and grows us from there. We are being transformed, from glory to glory, from grace to grace. We are all in the process of learning more and developing greater spiritual strength and endurance. The more we grow, the more we are able to walk in and carry.
Most of us can probably think of areas we’d like to grow in and most of us are probably aware of the gaps we have in our understanding. However, we can’t let that stop us from acting upon and sharing with others what we already know to be true about God. (Just look at the example of Apollos in this chapter – his life was making a great impact before he learned of the baptism of the Holy Spirit!) So as we come across the “big things” we read in the book of Acts, let’s allow them to inspire our faith to grow more, to pursue God more, and to trust Him more to fill the gaps. But in the meantime, as God reminded Paul in verse 9 & 10, let our comfort and confidence be in knowing that God is with us, and that we shouldn’t be afraid, or keep silent. Let’s be committed to letting our light shine and celebrate where we’re at in the journey.