For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough

18:1.  “After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;”

“After these things,” refers to the Apostle’s experience in Athens where only a few responded to the Gospel.  It was very different in Corinth, for there many responded, and a church was formed, which later became the recipient of the two letters from Paul, which we know as the Epistles to the Corinthians, and which contain such a wealth of teaching.

We have here a demonstration that God’s ways are not man’s.  From a human viewpoint Athens seems far more likely to have furnished converts than Corinth, for the Athenians were relatively moral, and inclined to discuss such matters as philosophy and religion, whereas the Corinthians were rich, and busy with business, and in addition were notorious even in a generally immoral world, for their gross immorality, particularly in connection with the worship of Venus.  But as the Lord Himself declared, He had come, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, Mt.9:13.  Their very immorality may have rendered the Corinthians more ready to acknowledge their need of salvation.  

Corinth means satiated, and the name reflected the character of the people, for the name Corinthian had become a synonym for depravity.  Athens means uncertainty, a name which also reflects the character of the Athenians, who were always looking for some new thing.

18:2.  “And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.”

From the vantage point of today we can review those lives lived almost two thousand years ago, and see how perfectly God was ordering circumstances to accomplish His own purposes.  Their faith enabled them to live in the assurance that all things were under God’s control, so that they enjoyed peace even in the midst of circumstances little calculated to induce peace.  Whatever other lessons we may learn from what has been recorded of them, one at least is obvious: from such histories as theirs, and from such Scriptures as Ro 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,” He would teach us to walk in the enjoyment of that same peace.  How often we rob ourselves of it by failing to remember that He does indeed work all things (even the seeming tragedies of life) together for His own glory, and our good.

It is highly unlikely that the emperor Claudius had any knowledge of Aquila and Priscilla, or of the fact that his decree banishing them from Rome, would be used of God to give these two a place of honorable mention on the page of Scripture, and his own a place of infamy as the persecutor of God’s people.  No man need fear to leave the ordering of his life in God’s hands.

“... and came unto them.”  There has been a question as to whether Aquila and Priscilla were believers, or simply religious Jews before their contact with Paul.  Everything points to their being believers before they met him; and the lesson God would teach us in Paul’s coming unto them has to do with fellowship.  Only the disobedient believer can enjoy the company of unbelievers.  Men of “like precious faith” tend to find one another.

Aquila has three meanings (1) Hebrew, I shall be nourished, (2) Latin, an eagle, (3) Greek, immovable, the propriety of their meanings being apparent when we remember that as those who obeyed God, they were assured of His sufficiency to meet their every need, His grace enabling them to “mount up with wings as eagles,” Isa 30:41, and to stand immovable on the Rock, Christ.

Priscilla means little old woman, but I regret being unable to see the spiritual significance of her name.

18:3.  “And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tent-makers.” 

They were of the same craft in more senses than one, for the Lord’s business was the principal business of all three.  And Paul’s abiding with them tells us that the friendship was no mere casual thing: it involved every aspect of their lives.  This kind of fellowship is little known today amongst God’s people.

“... and wrought (worked).”  They were no impractical dreamers or idlers, but people who, when required, worked with their own hands to supply the necessities of life, even while they labored fervently in the Lord’s business.  It is instructive to note also that Paul’s being an apostle didn’t exempt him from the necessity of also working with his hands to supply his temporal needs.  The reality of their faith and their loyalty to God were tested by the daily circumstances of life, just as are ours, the only difference being that their lives were far more difficult than ours.

There is special significance to their being tent-makers, for the tent speaks of the pilgrim character of those who are pilgrims and strangers on the earth, passing through the wilderness of this world on their way home to heaven.  Lot, type of the carnal Christian, dwelt in a house in Sodom, but Abraham, the man of faith, dwelt in tents.  The pilgrim lifestyle is also little practiced today.  We manifest far more the characteristics of earth dwellers in the worst sense of the word.

18:4.  “And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.”

While based on faith, Christianity is by no means an unreasonable thing, except to the natural mind, which refuses to even examine the Scriptures.  The truth is that the more one studies Scripture, the more reasonable does the Christian’s faith become.

“... in the synagogue,” assures us that it was still the Jewish age, and God was still calling Israel to repentance in order that they might receive the millennial kingdom.  The “every sabbath” tells us that Paul’s ministry was no sporadic activity.  There was a steadfastness about him we would do well to emulate.  It is the steady consistent walk that wins the crown.  Paul, having put his hand to the plow, did not look back.  Like His Lord, Who set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem to finish His Father’s work, Paul kept his eye on the Bema.  It is the one great safeguard against being turned aside by the false allurements of the world, for it is only in the light of that judgment seat that the things of earth can be properly evaluated.

One reason we see so few persuaded is that we try so little to persuade them.  And the fact that both Jews and Greeks were among his converts, reminds us that Israel’s day of grace, though almost ended, was not yet over, but unlike the beginning, the Gentiles were now being brought in, and the day was fast approaching when Israel’s autonomy would be brought to an end, national unbelief robbing them of the millennial kingdom, and forcing God to withdraw the offer of it until a day still future, but near, when the terrible Tribulation judgments will bring national repentance, and see a believing remnant inherit the kingdom.  It is solemn to remember that had we the spiritual wisdom to discern the signs of the times, we would see that the day of grace for the Church has also almost run its course.

18:5.  “And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.”

Upon arriving in Athens, Paul had sent for Silas and Timothy (ch 17:15), but apparently they hadn’t caught up with him until now.

“... pressed in the spirit,” is misleading, for all other translations make it clear that it was the preaching of the Gospel that was Paul’s pressing concern, and apparently that work was beginning to take more and more of his time.  It is emphasized too that no small part of his work was his attempt to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Christ, their long-promised Messiah.  This was an imperative, for apart from that belief there could be no salvation for Israel.  That is why we find so much emphasis in Acts on the fact of the Lord’s resurrection, His death and resurrection having both been foretold by the prophets. 

18:6.  “And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.”

The Jews would not listen, and having hardened their own hearts, God, His patience exhausted, was now about to make that hardening permanent, as He had done with Pharaoh.  His warning to all men is, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man,” Ge 6:3; “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy,” Pr 29:1.  It is a terrible thing to quench and grieve the Holy Spirit to the point where He turns away, not to return.  See also Romans 1 for other references to God’s giving people up to their sin without hope of salvation. 

This is the second time that Paul turned from a company of Jews.  The first time was 13:46, and the last time was 28:28.  We see here God’s reluctant departure from that rebellious nation, as long ago He departed from Jerusalem with the same reluctance, see Eze 10.

At Calvary they had assumed responsibility for the blood of Christ: now Paul makes them responsible for their own, soon to be spilt at the hand of Titus in AD 70.  He couldn’t have done so, however, had he not first preached the Gospel to them.  Once a man has heard the Gospel, he is then responsible for what happens to his soul, Ez 33:9.  He, however, who fails to warn the sinner, incurs guilt, see Ez 33:7-9.  Paul could say, “I am clean,” only because he had warned them.  His turning to the Gentiles warns us of the terrible danger of rejecting the Gospel.  Every believer is the recipient of blessings which unbelievers have refused. 

18:7.  “And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshiped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.”

He was a proselyte, known also as Titus Justus, and appears to have been a believer, possibly converted as a result of Paul’s preaching.  His house being “joined hard to the synagogue” means simply that it adjoined or was next door to the synagogue.

18:8.  “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.”

If the Gospel was clear enough to convince the chief ruler of the synagogue, there was no excuse for the unbelief of the other Jews. 

It may not be presumed that his household were saved through his belief, for Scripture makes it clear that no man can believe for another, Ps 49:7.  Each member of his household believed for himself.  It cost Crispus much to become a Christian, for not only would he lose his high office, but he would also suffer ostracism.  From the perspective of eternity, however, the loss was small, for “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mk 8:36.

The many Corinthians who believed were not persuaded by Paul’s worldly wisdom, for 1 Co 2:1-5 tells us that he purposely avoided an appearance of being wise in worldly knowledge, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”  This is to be the pattern for our own preaching.  Worldly wisdom will save no one.

“... and many of the Corinthians hearing believed,” reminds us of the responsibility we have to preach the gospel, for, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?  and how shall they hear without a preacher?” Ro 10:14.  A question we might will ask ourselves is, How many are likely to be converted as a result of hearing the gospel from me?

The fact of their being baptized reminds us of the importance of this ordinance.  No believer should refuse to be baptized, not because baptism will make him any more saved, but because the evidence of a true conversion is an obedient life, and baptism is one of the first acts of obedience.

18:9.  “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:”

There are other references in Acts to God’s communicating with His own at night, when others slept, reminding us that while the unconverted are spiritually asleep, and in nature’s darkness, He communicates with His own through His Word.”  It is to be remembered, however, that until AD 70 it was still the Jewish age when He communicated with men through visions, and other miraculous means, but during this Church age He does not communicate by any means other than through the indwelling Holy Spirit’s use of Scripture.

“Be not afraid,” is the same encouragement as was given to Joshua just prior to the conquest of Canaan, Jsh 1:9.  Fear is one of our most formidable enemies.  “The fear of man bringeth a snare,” Pr 29:25.  The fact that fear is linked with speaking reminds us that almost invariably it is fear of man that keeps us from declaring the gospel: we fear being laughed at.  God’s command to Paul was “... speak, and hold not thy peace,” and it is His command to you and me also.

The assurance “Be not afraid,” may have been to allay possible fear on Paul’s part that Jewish opposition might result in his having to leave Corinth, as it had in other places.

18:10.  “For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.”

The assurance of God’s presence was all Paul needed, and it is all we need.  Nothing can happen to us apart from His permission, and when He does permit seeming harm to come to us, it is for His own glory and our ultimate good, as it is written, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,” Ro 8:28.

“... for I have much people in this city,” announces, not predestination, but foreknowledge.  God knows in advance who will, and who will not believe the gospel. 

18:11.  “And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” 

The clear implication is that this was an exceptionally long time for him or any of the Apostles to remain as long in one place, a fact that refutes the notion of one man’s remaining permanently in one church to do all the evangelizing, teaching or preaching.  It emphasizes also the need of teaching sound doctrine.

18:12.  “And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat,”

The pattern of Jewish opposition repeats itself.  They would neither go into the kingdom themselves, nor suffer others to do so.  The pattern repeats itself today, for there is no one more vehemently opposed to the preaching of the Gospel than the Jew, unless it be organized religion which presents similar intense opposition.  And as always, they sought to make the civil authorities their instrument.

18:13.  “Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law.”

Unlike the persecution in Thessalonica (Ac 17:7) where they charged the Apostle with violation of Roman law, it was their own Jewish law they claimed to have been broken here in Corinth.  The pattern remains the same.  Organized religion still labels wrong the presentation of any way to heaven other than through the keeping of the law.  Man in his folly will cling to a law which can only condemn him, while spurning grace, the only thing that can save him.

18:14.  “And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you:”

This is a demonstration of the sovereignty of God at work.  He makes the unbelieving Gallio Paul’s defendant.  Well might the poet write, “Why should I ever careful be, since such a God is mine.”  No one should ever hesitate to leave the ordering of his life in God’s hands.  It is safer there than anywhere else. 

18:15.  “But if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters.”

It is to his credit that he would not permit the Jews to manipulate him.  In this he stands in sharp contrast with Pilate, and others, e.g., Herod, Ac 12:3, and Felix, Ac 24:27.

18:16.  “And he drave them from the judgment seat.”

18:17.  “Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat.  And Gallio cared for none of those things.” 

Sosthenes appears to have been the successor of Crispus, see verse 8; and if he is the same as the Sosthenes of 1 Co 1:1, then he too became a convert.  As to whether Sosthenes was beaten by Jews or Greeks, there is no good reason not to accept the KJ version which clearly declares it to have been by Greeks (non-Jews), a circumstance which seems to imply that the Jews were less than popular in Corinth.

“And Gallio cared for none of these things” has led some commentators to paint him as an indolent official, whereas history records that he was a kind and amiable man.  It is to his credit that, unlike Pilate and others, he would not allow the Jews to manipulate him.

18:18.  “And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.”

There seems to be little support for the claim of some that it was Aquila, not Paul, who had taken the vow; besides which the problem is less with the identification of the man, than with the fact of the vow itself, for whether Paul or Aquila, the question remains, Why was the vow taken at all?  The difficulty, however, disappears when we remember that it was still the Jewish age in which the millennial kingdom was being offered Israel - and that in the millennium, the Levitical ritual will be resumed, but with a different character.  In the past it was anticipative; in the millennium it will be commemorative - the literal animal sacrifices being then the means by which not only Israel, but the nations, will express their worship for the Christ, who by His death, has fulfilled the anticipative types of that ritual.  As noted already, the Levitical ritual was still the valid method for believing Jews to express their worship between AD 32 and AD 70, the only difference from the past being that they also commemorated the Lord’s death by eating the Lord’s supper on the first day of each week, the two forms being complementary, not mutually exclusive.

The nature of the vow isn’t explained, nor is it important.  What is important is to realize that it was still the Jewish age, and the Jewish form of worship was that which God had ordained for believing Jews, but not for believing Gentiles, during the era between AD 32 and AD 70 when the millennial kingdom was still being offered to Israel.

Why Priscilla’s name occurs here before that of her husband Aquila, is unknown, but has led to the suggestion, unwarranted, that she was a better teacher than he, or that she was the more dominant personality.  God has not given any woman the gift of teaching, nor is there a word in Scripture to indicate that this godly woman ever displayed anything other than the scripturally enjoined submission to her husband.  See further comments on verse 26.

18:19.  “And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.”

“... and left them (Aquila and Priscilla) there” is somewhat ambiguous.  It means simply that upon arriving in Ephesus, Paul took advantage of the ship’s docking there, to go into the synagogue, and according to his custom, preach to the Jews, and then continued his journey, leaving Aquila and Priscilla behind in Ephesus.

His entering into the synagogue was according to his custom of preaching first to the Jews, for it was still the Jewish age.  The kingdom was still being offered to Israel; and his reasoning with them reminds us that there is no one to whom the gospel should have been more reasonable than the Jews, for all that had befallen Christ at their hands had already been foretold in their Scriptures.  It was the height of illogic for them to refuse the witness of Scripture; and it is no less illogical for men today to refuse that same witness.

18:20.  “When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not;”

18:21.  “But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will.  And he sailed from Ephesus.”

While some question the legitimacy of the phrase “I must by all means keep this feast that cometh at Jerusalem,” it is to be noted that in verse 22 Paul did indeed visit Jerusalem after leaving Ephesus.  It may be that those contending for rejection of the clause are being influenced by their failure to recognize the validity of the Levitical ritual for believing Jews during that period which God clearly intended to be one of preparation for the setting up of the millennial kingdom. 

18:22.  “And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch.”

Nothing is told us of what transpired during this brief visit with the Jerusalem assembly, a silence which some have construed, very wrongly, as “proof” that Paul was wrong.  There is not one word in Scripture which even hints that he was wrong in anything he did after becoming a believer.

18:23.  “And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phyrgia in order, strengthening all the disciples.”

This emphasizes the need to strengthen the faith of believers by continually reminding them of God’s promises, and of the rich eternal inheritance that is theirs through Christ’s death and resurrection.

18:24.  “And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.”

Eloquent means educated or cultured, while “mighty in the scriptures” means filled with, excelling in, the knowledge of scripture, and skillful in the use of it.

18:25.  “This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.”

His having been instructed in the way of the Lord, or the Christian faith, indicates that he was a believer, but one whose knowledge apparently hadn’t gone beyond that which related to the gospel as preached by John the Baptist, that is, the call to Israel to believe in Christ in order to be forgiven, and thereby fitted to enter the millennial kingdom.  He appears to have been unaware of the fuller truths of salvation for the Gentiles as well as the Jews, and the promise of heaven rather than the millennial kingdom.

His partial lack of knowledge, however, didn’t lessen his zeal to preach the gospel, a fact which rebukes our failure to preach the gospel with the same fervor.

18:26.  “And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”

Aquila and Priscilla’s taking “him unto them” means that they took him into their home, and instructed him more fully relative to the Christian faith.

This may not be taken as implied permission for a woman to teach, since God has forbidden her to do so.  There is nothing to indicate that Priscilla joined in the teaching given Apollos by her husband.

18:27.  “And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:”

The decision to furnish a letter of commendation to the saints in Achaia, on behalf of Apollos, fulfilled the requirement that we know those who labor amongst us.  It is a dangerous practice to accept a man simply on the basis of his own recommendation.  God’s command is, “... know them which labor among you,” 1 Th 5:12.

The description of the believers who benefitted by his ministry, as those who “had believed through grace” reminds us that salvation is all of grace - God’s bestowing undeserved blessing.

18:28.  “For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.”

It was essential to the conversion of the Jews that they learn this truth.  But Apollos’ convincing them “from the scriptures,” raises the question of how he did it; and the answer isn’t hard to find: Christ is revealed in all the Scriptures, no less clearly in the typology of the OT than in the literal language of the New, as it is written in Lk 24:27 relative to His conversation with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on the day of His resurrection, “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”  It is to be remembered that at that time not a word of the NT had been written.

[Acts 19]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough