Acts 18:1 – 18:22
A. God’s place
50 miles from Athens to Corinth, rival city to Athens, largest in Greece at the time. Like Ephesus, it was at a crossroads between main route between East and West and several sea lanes. Two ports, one on the Aegean Sea, the other on the Adriatic. Had been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times, re-established as a Roman colony in 46 B.C. Populated with retired soldiers, freedmen, followers of various mystery cults from all over the empire.
- Aphrodite – goddess of love and beauty, to
- Apollo – multi-faceted god, known primarily as the god of music and prophecy, and to
- Asclepius – demigod (half god, half mortal) of medicine
Numerous temple prostitutes employed by city officials; commercial as well as “artistic” center, high cost of living, the “Paris” of ancient Greece. “to Corinthianize” came to mean “to live a sexually immoral and licentious lifestyle”; a “Corinthian girl” was one who sold her services. Although it had a scandalous reputation, probably no more immoral than any other commercial and cultural center.
Yet in midst of licentiousness God had “many people in the city”. Place of God’s appointment for Paul to begin another church beginning with Aquila and Priscilla. It’s easy to imagine that Paul’s assessment of the situation there in Corinth paralleled his first reaction in Athens – the task is so great, overwhelming in its magnitude; numbers of people, depth of depravity, countrymen ignorant of the Good News.
B. Paul’s work
1. to the Jew first v. 4-5
in the synagogue every Sabbath
both Jews and Greeks
“wholly absorbed with” the task of preaching the Word; completely captive to the task
reasoned, persuaded, testified
It is perfectly true, of course, that argument alone is quite insufficient to make a man a Christian. You may argue with him from now until the end of the world; you may bring forth the most magnificent arguments—but all will be in vain unless there is one other thing: the mysterious, creative power of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. But because argument is insufficient, it does not follow that it is unnecessary. Sometimes it is used directly by the Holy Spirit to bring a man to Christ. But more frequently it is used indirectly. J. Gresham Machen, “Christian Scholarship and the Defense of the Faith”
2. then to the Gentiles v.6
after clear rejection by Jewish leaders; their blasphemy showed their hardness of heart and to persist in trying to persuade them would only add to their condemnation. Consistent with Jesus’ teaching that it’s OK to give up trying to convince those who over time show their impenitence. See Mat_7:6 “don’t cast your pearls before swine” Mat_10:14 “If they will not hear your words, …shake off the dust from your feet.”
3. Christ alone v.5
1Co_1:17 1Co_1:22-24 1Co_2:2 1Co_3:10-11
- Sent to preach Christ, the Gospel, the Cross
- Christ in contrast to the pantheon of false gods
- the Good News proclaimed freely in contrast to dubious mysteries revealed to a select few “insiders”
- the true merit of Another in contrast to the empty merit of the sinner
4. a church split v.7
…when a church, through error in doctrine or in practice, ceases to represent fairly “the gospel of the kingdom”, when it so modifies its own constitution, or so turns away from the law of Christ as to make reform impracticable, then all who still hold the Head should withdraw themselves, and form a new body in harmony with the apostolic rule; and the responsibility of the division will rest with those who have abandoned or perverted the truth, not with those who leave the recreant church. Alvah Hovey, Evils of Infant Baptism
5. temporarily bi-vocational v.3, 5
At first, Paul labored in his trade during the week and taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath. But when Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea), Paul gave himself entirely to preaching the gospel of salvation. His two companions brought him a monetary gift from the churches in Macedonia (II Cor. 11:9; Phil. 4:14–15), so that the need to perform manual work lessened. Paul learned from his companions that the believers in Thessalonica were doing well (I Thess. 3:6). Hendriksen, NTC
C. God’s grace
God’s graciously cared for Paul by giving him:
1. co-laborers “on the ground”: Aquila and Priscilla v. 2-3
Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus [Another form of Christus; see Tert. Apol. 3 (at the end). It is uncertain whether Suetonius is guilty of an error in chronology or is referring to some Jew of that name. The former seems probable because of the absence of “quodam”. Tacitus, Ann. 15.44, uses the correct form, Christus, and states that he was executed in the reign of Tiberius], he expelled them from Rome. Suetonius, Life of Caesar: Claudius
Luke’s reference to the imperial edict seems to indicate that Aquila and Priscilla were Christians when they left Rome. This assumption is strengthened by the fact that in his writings, Paul does not consider them his first converts in Achaia (1Co_16:15). Also, when Paul sought lodging in Corinth after arriving from Athens, he would have preferred to stay with Christians. For these reasons, we conjecture that Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla formed the nucleus of the Corinthian church. Hendriksen, NTC
2. respite from persecution – vv. 9-11foiled Jewish efforts to have him punished by civil authoritiesdirected attention inwardly so they persecuted their own instead of Paul
- Jdg_7:22 Gideon and the Midianites
- 1Sa_14:15-20 Saul and the Philistines
- 2Ch_20:22-23 Jehoshaphat, the Ammonites and Moabites
3. fruit for his labors v.8, 10b
The church was well enough established after 18 months that Aquila and Priscilla could leave with Paul without crippling the Gospel work.
Perhaps Crispus, the synagogue leader ( ἀρχισυνάγωγος , archisunagōgos ) because of his existing knowledge base and leadership ability “stood in the gap” along with Gaius, both of whom Paul baptized. 1Co_1:14
The name Gaius occurs five times in the New Testament (Act_19:29; Act_20:4; Rom_16:23; 1Co_1:14; 3Jn_1:1). When Paul spent the winter in Corinth, where he composed his letter to the Romans, he stayed at the house of Gaius (Rom_16:23). We suspect that this Gaius is the same person Paul baptized when he founded the Corinthian church. Hendriksen, NTC
D. Our response
1. target the most unlikely yet most needy areas
God has not completely abandoned any population center. See Rev_5:9 God has providentially prepared the target area by moving people of his choosing around on the world stage: think Mary and Joseph, Priscilla and Aquila, their travels to Bethlehem and Corinth propelled by political situations far beyond their control. God has providentially prepared individuals within the target area to receive the Gospel message.
2. equip and send “self-sufficient” church planters
It may mean that learning a trade will be a necessary part of preparation for Christian ministry as we look to the future. Certainly there is a shortage of skilled labor in the land [Canada]. Or it may mean picking up some other skills or finding ways to use the interesting array of gifts that church planters must possess if they are going to be successful to supplement their incomes. As someone who has planted a church I know that having adequate financing is a big part of the equation. I also know that God can supply our needs in all kinds of ways. But I also know that our present way of doing things is not working very well. It is too slow and cumbersome. …As we attempt to go forward from here we may discover that a recovery of biblical doctrine may need to be joined to a fresh look at how things were done in those early days of the Christian church when a small and socially insignificant group of believers turned the world upside down! Kirk Wellum
3. God will protect the planter where He has a great harvest planned
We must not presume upon God’s providence yet we must advance with bold confidence in the cause of Christ and His Kingdom.
by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend
O Church Arise and put your armour on
Hear the call of Christ our Captain
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength that God has given
With shield of faith and belt of truth
We’ll stand against the devil’s lies
An army bold whose battle-cry is Love
Reaching out to those in darkness.