Devotional # 58. 10/28/13. Paul in Corinth.
This week’s Reading: Acts 18:1-28.
Introduction. Last week we discussed the differences between three different groups of people:
the religious but hypocritical Thessalonians, the godly Beareans searching the Bible and the philosophizing Athenians. This week Paul settles down in Corinth and we meet quite a few interesting believers.
vv. 1-4. Paul leaves Athens and moves on to Corinth. Here we find that Paul had learned a trade (a job) in the past which was making and repairing tents (or possibly “leatherworking” (Source 1). This is an important thing to remember because people could say Paul was lazy, just living off of what others gave him as he went from city to city. But when there was work and time he did work. Nowadays some pastors don’t work at all outside of the church and other pastors only work outside the church and don’t get paid from the congregation. This just depends on what God calls each to do. But with this verse (v. 3) there is Biblical proof for both lifestyles. Interestingly “in the modern missions movement, people call any work that a missionary does to support himself on the mission field ‘tentmaking’ (Source 2). Notice Paul spoke weekly to “both Jews and Gentiles” at the local church.
5-8. Silas and Timothy travel to Corinth and meet up with Paul. They brought good news of how the Thessalonians had matured and how the church was doing so this was the point when Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians. We just read in verse 4 that Paul was speaking to Gentiles and Jews but now he specifically speaks to the Jews in the area. But they are angry that he said Jesus was God (an indirect inference since only God can be blasphemed) so they reject his teachings. And Paul gets fed up with them. He had been sent to the Gentiles and obeyed but he also had tried to explain things to the Jews. Now he changes his focus. It wasn’t that he gave up on the Jews, as we see with Crispus being saved, but Paul directed himself towards what the Holy Spirit had called him to do (Acts 13, Devotional 53). The conversion of Crispus must have made news since he was a very influential leader in the synagogue. It’s neat how this section also includes the conversion of a Gentile who lived next door named Justus.
vv. 9-11. Paul is probably frustrated and the implication is that he’s scared. Guzik says he may have been scared the persecution would cut his ministry short here or that the incredibly sinful worldliness of Corinth would affect him (Source 2). Up until now Paul’s M.O. has been to move from town to town but the Holy Spirit speaks to him and tells him he can have some safety and security for a year and a half. Notice he isn’t told no one will bug him but he is told that they won’t succeed (as we’ll see in the next section). In 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 Paul describes his bold preaching in Corinth which came from this time.
vv. 12-17. This is a parenthetical story that happened during the year and a half Paul was in Corinth. A man named “Gallio was proconsul [governor] of Achaia” and the Jews brought Paul to the “judgment seat” which was in the city square across from the governor’s house where he tried legal cases. The Jews want him to sentence Paul so that he leaves their city alone. But, in a scene reminiscent of Jesus’ trial, Gallio says that this isn’t his problem because it has to do with a cultural disagreement. Sadly the Gentiles who are in league with the Jews grab a man named Sosthenes and beat him. Who is Sosthenes? This is a question that has puzzled many scholars. I have heard that he was possibly a protector of Paul, probably a Christian but definitely another “ruler of the synagogue.” It is possible he is the same from 1 Corinthians 1:1. It appears that those beating Sosthenes did it in front of Gallio showing their disrespect of his office: “if he would not be their executioner, they would be their own judges” (Source 3). But even more pathetic is the fact that Gallio, a person in a position of power, did not stand up for God’s people as they were beaten in front of him. Of course we wouldn’t expect much from a pagan governor who doesn’t know the love of the Lord but the disregard and indifference make us question what kind of base ethics he had.
vv. 18-21. So as the year and a half drew to a close Paul takes off with Pricilla and Aquila (the couple from the beginning of this chapter, v. 2) and they go to Cenchrea. Although it is implied that the next verse refers to Paul’s hair being cut the reality of it is that the original manuscripts don’t tell us whether it was Aquila or Paul (Source 3). Either way it was a Nazarite vow and if it was Paul it would make sense if he was fitting in with other Jews there since in 1 Corinthians 9:20 he says, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Another theory is that he was thanking God for helping him through the “difficult time in Corinth” (Source 1). Then they move on and after leaving the couple in Ephesus, he preaches in the synagogue. They enjoy his speaking and ask him to stay longer but he says he can’t stay. This makes sense because if a person took a Nazarite vow and had their head shaved away from Jerusalem then they had to appear at the temple in Jerusalem within 30 days (Source 1).
vv. 22-28. Here we are introduced to Apollos who we will hear more about but it is interesting that he was “mighty in the Scriptures.” He was a Jew who was traveling around preaching John the Baptist’s message. He didn’t know that Jesus was the Messiah and that He had fulfilled John’s prophesies. He probably had heard about Jesus but all he knew was that John the Baptist was right and had spoken from God. Remember Pricilla and Aquila were left in Ephesus? Well, they had an active ministry in the city and they hear Apollos and take him aside and explain the fulfillment of the Scriptures. What an exciting time! I bet there was a visible change in Apollos’ countenance when he finally put the pieces together. John had preached repentance from sin so Apollo preached repentance from sin. But that wasn’t enough. Once you repent from your sin you must accept Jesus’ ransom on the cross. Apollos gobbles it up and becomes an even more influential (not to mention complete!) preacher. It was similar to Paul’s conversion where he had known the Old Testament so well that when it was fulfilled he was able to explain it clearly. It would be like knowing the alphabet inside and out, backwards and forwards and then one day someone telling you that words could be made with those letters! Your whole life would have meaning and you would be able to explain it in detail.
Conclusion. This devotional is neat because we see the humanity of Paul (angry at the Jews, afraid, shaving his head in a vow, etc.) but we also see that he gets his power and direction from the Holy Spirit. I think during this time he really saw how God had control of his surroundings. Even at this point Paul probably doesn’t know about Apollos who becomes one of the great preachers in the early church, but God is always training up his people to do His work.
Source 1: John MacArthur, the John MacArthur Study Bible, pp. 1666-1668.
Source 2: David Guzik, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Act/Act_18.cfm?a=1036001
Source 3: Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, NT, p. 508.