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Bible Commentaries

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Acts 18



Verses 1-28

Chapter 18


Its very position made Corinth (Greek #2882) a key city of Greece. Greece is almost cut in two by the sea. On one side is the Saronic Gulf with its port of Cenchrea and on the other is the Corinthian Gulf with its port of Lechaeum. Between the two there is a neck of land less than five miles across and on that isthmus stood Corinth. All north and south traffic in Greece had to pass through Corinth because there was no other way, Men called her "The Bridge of Greece." But the voyage round the southern extremity of Greece was a voyage of great peril. The southernmost cape was Cape Malea and to round it was the equivalent of rounding Cape Horn. The Greeks had a proverb, "Let him who thinks of sailing round Malea make his will." Consequently the east to west trade of the Mediterranean also passed through Corinth, for men chose that way rather than the perilous voyage round Malea. Corinth was "the market place of Greece."

Corinth was more than a great commercial centre. She was the home of the Isthmian Games which were second only to the Olympic Games.

Corinth was also a wicked city. The Greeks had a verb, "to play the Corinthian," which meant to live a life of lustful debauchery. The word "Corinthian" came into the English language to describe in regency times a reckless, roistering buck. In Greece if ever a Corinthian was shown on the stage he was shown drunk. Dominating Corinth stood the hill of the Acropolis. The hill was not only a fortress; it was a temple of Aphrodite. In its great days the temple had one thousand priestesses of Aphrodite who were sacred prostitutes and who, at evening, came down to the city streets to ply their trade. It had become a proverb, "Not every man can afford a journey to Corinth."

This was the city in which Paul lived and worked and had some of his greatest triumphs. When he was writing to the Corinthians he made a list of all kinds of wickedness. "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God." And then comes the triumphant phrase, "and such were some of you" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). The very iniquity of Corinth was the opportunity of Christ.

IN THE WORST OF CITIES (Acts 18:1-11 continued)

18:1-11 After this Paul left Athens and came to Corinth. There he found a Jew called Aquila, who was a native of Pontus, but who had newly arrived from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had decreed that all Jews must leave Rome. Paul went in to these people, and, because they had the same craft as he had. he worked with them; for they were leather workers to trade. Every Sabbath he debated in the synagogue and he won over both Jews and Greeks.

When Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul proceeded to devote himself entirely to preaching and he kept testifying to the Jews that Jesus was God's Anointed One. When they opposed him and spoke blasphemous words he shook out his raiment against them and said, "Your blood be on your own head; I am clean; from now on I will go to the Gentiles." So he removed from there and went to the house of a man called Titus Justus, who was a worshipper of God, and whose house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the president of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians listened and believed and were baptized. The Lord said to Paul in a vision by night, "Stop being afraid; go on speaking and do not be silent, because I am with you and no one will lay hands on you to hurt you, for many people are mine in this city." He settled there for a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Here we have a vivid light on the kind of life that Paul lived. He was a rabbi and according to Jewish practice every rabbi must have a trade. He must take no money for preaching and teaching and must make his own living. The Jew glorified work. "Love work," they said. "He who does not teach his son a trade teaches him robbery." "Excellent," they said.. "is the study of the law along with a worldly trade; for the practice of them both makes a man forget iniquity; but all law without work must in the end fail and causes iniquity." So we find rabbis following every respectable trade. It meant that they never became detached scholars and always knew what the life of the working-man was like.

Paul is described as a tent-maker. Tarsus (Greek #5019), was in Cilicia (Greek #2791); in that province there were herds of a certain kind of goat with a special kind of fleece. Out of that fleece a cloth called cilicium was made which was much used for making tents and curtains and hangings. Doubtless Paul worked at that trade, although the Greek word used means more than a tent-maker; it means a leather-worker and Paul must have been a skilled craftsman. Always he gloried in the fact that he was a burden to no man (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8; 2 Corinthians 11:9). But very likely when Silas and Timothy arrived they brought a present, perhaps from the church at Philippi, which loved Paul so much; and that present made it possible for him to devote his whole time to preaching. It was in A.D. 49 that Claudius banished all the Jews from Rome and it must have been then that Aquila and Priscilla came to Corinth.

Just when Paul needed it God spoke to him. Often he must have been daunted by the task that faced him in Corinth. He was a man of intense emotions and often he must have had his hours of reaction. But when God gives a man a task to do, he also gives him the power to do it. In the presence of God Paul found his courage and his strength.


18:12-17 When Gallio was proconsul of Asia, the Jews got together to make an attack on Paul. They brought him to the judgment seat and said, "This man seduces men to worship God contrary to the Law." When Paul was going to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, "You Jews, if this were a matter of crime or of wicked misbehaviour I would of course listen with patience to you; but if this is a question of talk and words and a law observed by you, see to it yourselves. I have no wish to be judge of these things." So he drove them from his judgment seat. And they all took Sosthenes, the president of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio took no account of these things.

As usual the Jews sought to make trouble for Paul. It was very likely that it was when Gallio first entered into his proconsulship that the Jews attempted to get him to act against the Christians, trying to influence him before he was settled in. Gallio was famous for his kindness. Seneca, his brother, said of him, "Even those who love my brother Gallio to the utmost of their power do not love him enough." and also, "No man was ever as sweet to one as Gallio is to all." The Jews sought to take advantage of Gallio but he was an impartial Roman. He was well aware that Paul and his friends were not guilty of any crime and that the Jews were trying to use him for their own purposes. At the side of the judgment seat were his lictors armed with their official rods and he ordered them to drive the Jews from his Judgment seat. The King James Version translates the latter part of Acts 18:17, "Gallio cared for none of those things." That has often been taken to mean that Gallio was uninterested, but its real meaning is that he was absolutely impartial and refused to allow himself to be influenced.

In this passage we see the indisputable value of a Christian life. Gallio knew that there was no fault which could be found with Paul and his friends.


18:18-23 After Paul had remained there many days longer he took leave of the brethren and sailed away to Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila went with him. At Cenchrea he had his head shorn for he had a vow. They arrived at Ephesus and he left them there. He himself went into the synagogue and debated with the Jews. They asked him to stay a longer time but he would not consent to do so, but he took leave of them saying, "God willing, I will come back to you again." and he set out from Ephesus. When he had landed at Caesarea he went up and greeted the church and then came down to Antioch. When he had spent some time there he went away and he went successively through the Galatian country and Phrygia, establishing all the disciples.

Paul was on the way home. His route was by Cenchrea, the port of Corinth, and thence to Ephesus. Then he went to Caesarea; from there he went up and greeted the church which means that he went up to see the leaders at Jerusalem; after that he went back to Antioch from which he had started.

At Cenchrea he had his head shorn because of a vow. When a Jew specially wished to thank God for some blessing he took the Nazirite vow (Numbers 6:1-21). If that vow was carried out in full it meant that for thirty days he neither ate meat nor drank wine; and he allowed his hair to grow. At the end of the thirty days he made certain offerings in the Temple; his head was shorn and the hair was burned on the altar as an offering to God. No doubt Paul was thinking of all God's goodness to him in Corinth and took this vow to show his gratitude.


The story of the Third Missionary Journey begins at Acts 18:23. It began with a tour of Galatia and Phrygia to confirm the brethren there. Paul then moved on to Ephesus where he remained for nearly three years. From there he went to Macedonia; he then crossed over to Troas and proceeded by way of Miletus, Tyre and Caesarea to Jerusalem.

THE ENTRY OF APOLLOS (Acts 18:24-28 continued)

18:24-28 A Jew called Apollos, who was a native of Alexandria and a man of culture, arrived in Ephesus. He was able to use the scriptures to great effect. This man had been instructed in The Way of the Lord. He was full of enthusiasm and he told and taught the story of Jesus with accuracy, but he knew only the baptism of John. This man began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him they took him and more accurately explained the way of God to him. When he wished to go over to Achaea the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to make him welcome. When he had arrived he was of great help to those who had believed through grace, for he vigorously confuted the Jews in public debate. demonstrating through the scriptures that Jesus was the Anointed One.

Christianity is here described as The Way of the Lord. One of the commonest titles in Acts is: "The Way" (Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9; Acts 19:23; Acts 22:4; Acts 24:14; Acts 24:22), and that title shows us at once that Christianity means not only believing certain things but putting them into practice.

Apollos came from Alexandria where there were about one million Jews. So strong were they that two out of the five wards into which Alexandria was divided were Jewish. Alexandria was the city of scholars. It was specially the place where scholars believed in the allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament. They believed that not only did the Old Testament record history but that every recorded event had an inner meaning. Because of this Apollos would be exceedingly useful in convincing the Jews, for he would be able to find Christ all over the Old Testament and to prove to them that the Old Testament looked forward all the time to his coming.

For all that there was a lack in his training. He knew only the baptism of John. When we come to deal with the next passage we shall see more clearly what that means. But we can say now that Apollos must have seen the need for repentance and have recognized Jesus as the Messiah; but as yet he did not know the good news of Jesus as the Saviour of men and of the coming of the Holy Spirit in power. He knew of the task Jesus gave men to do but he did not yet fully know of the help Jesus gave men to do it. By the words of Aquila and Priscilla he was more fully instructed. The result was that Apollos, who already knew Jesus as a figure in history, came also to know him as a living presence; and his power as a preacher must have been increased a hundredfold.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Acts 18:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". 1956-1959.

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