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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Acts 18

 

 

Verse 1

After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;

Paul, Arriving at Corinth, Takes UP his Abode with Aquila, ()

After these things Paul - or 'And he' (the authorities for both are about equal) Departed from Athens, and came to Corinth. This city, celebrated alike in classic and in the earliest Church history, was of the highest antiquity, reaching back to the earliest authentic Grecian history. It was situated on the isthmus between the AEgean and Ionian Seas, having right in front of it (on the south side) a natural citadel of rock rising 2,000 feet sheer up above the level of the sea, called the Acrocorinthus. It was a place of great military strength until, in its struggles with Rome, it was so ruined that it became as proverbial for its poverty as before for its wealth and magnificence. Julius Caesar, however, appreciating its great natural strength in a military point of view, and its advantages as an emporium of commerce, made it a Roman colony; and by the encouragement given to population, commerce, and art, it soon rose to even more than its former splendour. It became the capital of the Roman province of Achaia, and was the residence of the proconsul. It was this re-built Corinth that Paul now came to-the center of commerce alike for east and west, having a considerable Jewish population, and larger probably at this time than usual, owing to the banishment of the Jews from Rome by Claudius Caesar (Acts 18:2). Such a city was a noble field for the Gospel, which, once established there, would naturally diffuse itself far and wide. Yet Christianity had formidable enemies to overcome before it could secure for itself a footing in Corinth. It had to struggle equally against the speculative tendencies of the more intellectual class and the refined sensuality for which Corinth became a proverb even in Greece-a sensuality which was even clothed with a sacred character and employed in the services of religion.


Verse 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.

And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus - the most easterly province of Asia Minor, stretching along the southern shore of the Black Sea. From this province there were Jews at Jerusalem on the great Pentecostal day (Acts 2:9), and the Christians of it are included among 'the strangers of the dispersion,' to whom Peter addressed his First Epistle (1 Peter 1:1).

Lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla - or 'Prisca,' as the word is abbreviated in 2 Timothy 4:19. and (according to the true reading) in Romans 16:3. From these Latin names one would conclude that they had resided so long in Rome as to sink their Jewish family names.

Because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome. This decree is thus alluded to by Suetonius, in his Life of Claudius Caesar (100: 25): 'The Jews, as they were continually raising disturbances, at the instigation of Christ, he expelled from Rome' [Judaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantes Romae expulit]. (Chrestus for Christus, says Humphry, was a common mistake, according to Tertullian, Apol. 3.) But the inference which come have drawn from this loose statement of Suetonius-in which he appears to mix up events belonging to different times and occasions-namely, that these dissensions arose from disputes about Christianity between some zealous Jewish Christians already settled at Rome and their unbelieving opponents, is very precarious. Though there is reason to believe that Christian Jews were already settled in Rome, it is hardly conceivable that their numbers and influence were such as to produce commotions, provoking the emperor to banish the Whole race from the city.

And came unto them.


Verse 3

And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.

And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them. Whether this couple were converted before Paul made their acquaintance, or were won over to Christ through contact with him, is a question on which commentators are pretty equally divided. In favour of their previous conversion is:

(1) That no mention is made of their conversion by the apostle's instrumentality, which, in the case of persons occupying from this time forward so important a place in the apostolic history, we might have expected;

(2) That all we read of them suggests the idea of ripe Christians, rather than of new converts. (So Olshausen, Wieseler, Hackett, Lange.)

Against their previous conversion Meyer urges the following arguments (which are held conclusive by Baumgarten, Alford, Lechler, etc.):

(1) That, judging by this historian's manner, if Aquila had been a Christian before, he would have said, he found, not "a certain Jew,' but 'a certain disciple;' and,

(2) The sole reason given for his coming to live with him was his being of "the same craft;" and as the banishment of "all Jews" from Rome is said to have brought Aquila from Italy, we are to look upon him as up to this time simply a tent-making Jew.

But it has been answered to this, that the reason why he is called "a certain Jew" (rather than a disciple), is, that the writer is going to state what brought him from Rome to Italy, namely, the imperial decree which banished "all Jews" from Rome. To us this appears quite satisfactory. Indeed, this identical phrase, "a certain Jew," is applied to the Christian Apollos, Acts 18:24; and through the reason why the apostle went to stay with this couple was certainly not the man's Christianity, but his trade, we cannot deem this any evidence that he was not then a Christian. The reply to the first argument in favour of his previous conversion-that the writer wished to keep to the more important fruits of Paul's labour at Corinth-does not appear satisfactory; and the second argument is not answered at all-the improbability of this couple occupying so prominent a place in the subsequent history, if they were new converts at Corinth. The rapid progress which Paul made immediately after his conversion is a rare case. On the whole, we incline to the prior conversion of this couple. Be this as it may, they appear to have been in good circumstances, and after traveling much to have eventually settled at Ephesus. The Christian friendship now first formed continued warm and unbroken, and the highest testimony is once and again borne to them by the apostle.

And wrought. Every Jewish youth, whatever the pecuniary circumstances of his parents, was taught some trade (see the note at Luke 2:42); and Paul made it a point of conscience to work at that which he had probably been bred to, partly that he might not be burdensome to the churches, and partly that his motives as a minister of Christ might not be liable to misconstruction. To both these he makes frequent and sometimes touching reference in his Epistles. For by their occupation they were tent-makers. 'If the father of the young Cilician (says Howson) sought to make choice of a trade which might fortify his son against idleness, or against adversity, none would occur to him more naturally than the profitable occupation of the making of tents, the material of which was haircloth, supplied by the goats of his native province, and sold in the markets of the Levant by the well-known name of cilicium.'

He Labours with Little Success and much Opposition in the Synagogue, but Afterward for a Year and a Half with Great Success in a Private House ()


Verse 4

And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.

And he reasoned ('or discoursed') in the synagogue overt sabbath, and persuaded , [ epeithen (Greek #3982)] - 'sought to persuade'

The Jews and the Greeks , [ te (Greek #5037) Ioudaious (Greek #2453) kai (Greek #2532) Helleenas (Greek #1672)] - 'both Jews and Greeks;' that is, proselyte Gentiles, who attended the synagogue.


Verse 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.

And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia - that is, from Thessalonica, where Silas had probably accompanied Timothy when sent back from Athens (see the note at Acts 17:15),

Paul was pressed in the spirit - but the true reading is, 'pressed by the word.' [ too (Greek #3588) logoo (Greek #3056) is supported by most manuscripts, and these the oldest; 'Aleph (') A B D E, etc., with the Vulgate, and all the best versions: too (Greek #3588) pneumati (Greek #4151), only by H. and some others, and by indifferent version authority.] This, as the more difficult reading and so powerfully supported, is undoubtedly to be preferred; expressing not so much the apostle's zeal and assiduity in preaching it, as some inward pressure which at this time he experienced in the work (to convey which more clearly was probably the origin of the common reading). What that pressure was we happen to know, with singular minuteness and vividness of description, from the apostle himself, in his First Epistles to the Corinthians and Thessalonians (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-10). He had come away from Athens, as he remained there, in a depressed and anxious state of mind, having there met, for the first time, with unwilling Gentile ears.

He continued, apparently for some time, labouring alone in the synagogue of Corinth, full of deep and anxious solicitude for his Thessalonian converts. His early ministry at Corinth was coloured by these feelings. Self deeply abased, his power as a preacher was more than ever felt to lie in demonstration of the Spirit. At length Silas and Timotheus arrived with exhilarating tidings of the faith and love of his Thessalonian children, and of their earnest longings again to see their father in Christ; bringing with them also, in token of their love and duty, a pecuniary contribution for the supply of his wants. This seems to have so lifted him as to put new life and vigour into his ministry. He now wrote his FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS, in which the "pressure" which resulted from all this strikingly appears. (See Introduction to 1 Thess.) Such emotions are known only to the ministers of Christ, and, even of them, only to such as "travail in birth until Christ be formed in" their hearers. (It is the same word as is used in the well-known passage, "The love of Christ constraineth us," 2 Corinthians 5:14.)

And testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ - or, 'that the Christ was Jesus' (as the grammatical form of the clause more strictly is).


Verse 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.

And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment (see Nehemiah 5:13), and said unto them, Your blood be (or 'is,' or 'shall be') upon your own heads (see Ezekiel 33:4-9; Matthew 27:24-25).

From henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles - `the pagan;' just as he protested at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:46).


Verse 7

And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.

And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus - not changing his lodging, as if Aquila and Priscilla up to this time had been with the opponents of the apostle (as Calvin and Alford understand the expression), but merely ceasing anymore to testify in the synagogue, and henceforth carrying on his labours in this house of Justus, which, 'joining hard to the synagogue.' would be easily accessible to such of its worshippers as were still open to light. Justus, too, being probably a proselyte, would more easily draw a mixed audience than the synagogue. From this time forth conversions rapidly increased.


Verse 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.

And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house - an event (to use the words of Howson) 'felt to be so important that the apostle deviated from his usual practice (1 Corinthians 1:14-16), and baptized him, as well as Caius (Gaius) and the household of Stephanas, with his own hand.'

And many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. These were the beginning of the church of Corinth.


Verse 9

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

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


Verse 10

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

For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee. From this it would seem that these signal successes were stirring up the wrath of the unbelieving Jews, and probably the apostle feared being driven by violence, as before, from the scene of such promising labour. He is re-assured, however, from above.

For I have much people in this city - `whom (as Baumgarten correctly observes), in virtue of their election to eternal life, he already designates as His' (cf. Acts 13:48).


Verse 11

And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. This is meant to embrace the whole period of this his first visit to Corinth, and not merely of so much of it as has already been treated of. During some part of this period he wrote his SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS. (See Introduction to 2 Thess.)

At the instigation of the Jews, Paul is arraigned before the Proconsul, who, after hearing the case, dismisses it with contempt, and the head of accusing party is assaulted with impunity before the Proconsul ()


Verse 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,

And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia , [ anthupatou (Greek #446) ontos (Greek #5607)] - 'the proconsul' (see the note at Acts 13:7). The use of this term here is another striking confirmation of the historical accuracy of this book, since Tiberius had changed this province from a senatorial to an imperial one, and accordingly sent there a Procurator (as Tacitus states, Ann. 1: 76); but Claudius having restored its senatorial character (as we learn from Suetonius, Claud. 25), its proper governor would be, as here stated, a Proconsul (see the note at Acts 13:7). This Gallio was brother to the celebrated philosopher Seneca, Nero's tutor, who afterward passed sentence of death upon both of them.

The Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment-seat,


Verse 13

Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law.

Saying, This [fellow] (rather, 'This man') persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law - meaning the Jewish law: "your law," as Gallio, correcting them, somewhat contemptuously calls it (Acts 18:15). The charge probably refers to his not requiring his Gentile converts to be circumcised; and certainly it is a testimony to his success among them.


Verse 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:

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 - `had it been any wrong or villany,' that is, any offence punishable by the magistrate,

Reason would that I should bear - `I should in reason have borne' with you.


Verse 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.

But if it be a question - or, rather 'questions' (according to what is evidently the true reading)

Of words and names, and of your law , [ peri (Greek #4012) logou (Greek #3056) kai (Greek #2532) onomatoon (Greek #3686) kai (Greek #2532) nomou (Greek #3551) tou (Greek #3588) kath' (Greek #2596) humas (Greek #5209)] - 'of language and terms, and your own law.'

Look ye to it; [for] I will be no judge of such matters. (The "for" wants authority, and the clause is more spirited without it.) In this Gallio only laid down the proper limits of his office.


Verse 16

And he drave them from the judgment seat.

And he drave them from the judgment seat - `chased them from the tribunal,' or contemptuously ordered them out of court, annoyed at such a case.


Verse 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.

Then all [the Greeks]. The bracketed words, though they are in a majority of manuscript, are lacking in the three oldest manuscripts ['Aleph (') A B], and in the Vulgate version; and the probability is, that this being the obvious sense of the statement, the words were inserted as a marginal gloss, and afterward found entrance into the text. (Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles exclude them.) The parties who made the assault could be no other than Greeks, whose admission, uncircumcised, into the fellowship of believing Jews had enraged the unbelieving party of them and occasioned the prosecution.

Took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue - who probably succeeded Crispus on his conversion to the Christian Faith, though he my have been his associate in the same office: for, from Acts 13:15, it would appear that some synagogues had more than one ruler. He certainly had allowed his blind zeal to carry him so far as to head the Jewish mob that dragged Paul before the proconsul, and so might be said to deserve the rough handling which he now got.

And beat him before the judgment seat - that is, under the very eye of the judge. It is an interesting question whether this was the same Sosthenes as Paul associates with himself in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, calling him "Sosthenes our brother" (1 Corinthians 1:1), or quite another person. Meyer, Baumgarten, Alford, and Lechler think it in the last degree improbable that they were the same person; while DeWette and Howson, though concurring, write more cautiously. With them we once agreed; but considering that the only place in which "Sosthenes our brother" is mentioned at all is in an Epistle to these very Corinthians, and that there he speaks of him as one who would be quite well-known to them, we now think that Theodoret, among the Greek fathers, and after him Calvin, Bengel, Humphry, and Webster and Wilkinson, have reason on their side in pronouncing it every way probable that they were the same person. It is sometimes the most violent opposers of the truth who, when their eyes are once opened, are the readiest to yield themselves to it; perhaps the example of Crispus before him had weight; and to the once persecuting Saul such a convert, not to speak of the influence he would thence have, would be peculiarly dear.

And Gallio cared for none of those things - willing enough, perhaps, to see these turbulent Jews, for whom probably he felt contempt, themselves getting what they hoped to inflict on another, and indifferent to whatever was beyond the range of his office and disturbed his ease. His brother eulogises his loving and loveable manners, saying, among other things, that no man could be more beloved by anyone than he was by everyone. Religious indifference, under the influence of an easy and amiable temper, reappears from age to age.

Leaving Corinth, Paul Retraces his Steps, by Ephesus, Caesarea, and Jerusalem-Arriving at Antioch, He Completes his Second Missionary Journey ()


Verse 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.

And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while. But during this long residence at Corinth it would appear that he took missionary excursions into the interior of the province, and not without fruit; for whether the expression at the opening of his Second Epistle to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:1) - "with all the saints which are in all Achaia" - refer to little churches, or only to individual believers scattered through the province, it certainly implies that they were not few in number.

And then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria , [ eis (Greek #1519) teen (Greek #3588) Surian (Greek #4947).] - rather 'for Syria;' that is, for Antioch, its capital, and the starting-point of this mission to the Gentiles which he feels to be for the present concluded.

And with him Priscilla and Aquila. The order in which these names are here placed-the wife first-is the more remarkable, as it seems to be henceforward invariable (see the note at Acts 18:26; Romans 16:3; 2 Timothy 4:19. No doubt, the reason of it is to be found in her greater prominence and helpfulness to the Gospel. Silas and Timotheus accompanied him too, as also Caius (Gaius) and Aristarchus, as appears from Acts 19:22; Acts 19:29. Of Silas, as Paul's companion, we read no more. Probably (as Webster and Wilkinson conclude) he accompanied him as far as Jerusalem (from which he had come at first to Antioch, as one of the deputies of the council), and there remained. He appears to have after that put himself in connection with Peter, and the churches of Asia Minor, being mentioned by him for the last time in his First Epistle 1 Corinthians 5:12).

Having shorn his head. This may, according to the construction of the sentence, apply either to Paul or to Aquila. The Vulgate, Theophylact, Grotius, Meyer, and Howson, apply it to Aquila, partly as being the person immediately before mentioned, and partly regarding the act as too Jewish for Paul to have observed. But nearly every other critic and expositor regards it as obviously meant of Paul, the prominent person in this whole passage; and with them we agree.

In Cenchrea - it should be 'Cenchreae,' which was the eastern harbour of Corinth, about 10 miles distant, where (as appears from Romans 16:1) a church had been formed.

For he had a vow. That this was not the Nazarite vow (Numbers 6:1-27; and see the note at Luke 1:15) is next to certain. It was probably one made in one of his seasons of difficulty or danger. The shaving of the hair was no part of the ceremony of taking the vow, but a token of release from it after its objects were accomplished. And if, to complete the ceremony, he designed to offer the usual sacrifice within the prescribed thirty days (see Josephus, Jewish Wars 2: 15. 1), that would explain the haste with which he left Ephesus (Acts 18:21), and-if he failed to reach it in time-explain also the subsequent observance of a similar vow at Jerusalem, on the recommendation of the brethren (Acts 21:24). The present one at Corinth was voluntary, and shows that even in pagan countries he systematically studied the prejudices of his Jewish brethren.


Verse 19

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

And he came to Ephesus - the celebrated capital of Ionia, and at this time of Proconsular Asia. It was a place of great commercial importance, and became the metropolis of the churches of Asia Minor. It was a sail right across, from the west to the east side of the AEgean Sea, of some eight or ten days with a fair wind.

And left them (that is, Aquila and Priscilla) there. For the reason why this is specially mentioned here, see the note at Acts 18:26. But he himself entered into the synagogue - not to continue labouring there, but, taking advantage of the brief opportunity of the vessel's putting in there, to lift up his voice for Christ.

And reasoned, [ dielexato (G1256), or 'discoursed'] with the Jews. The word is not (as in Acts 17:2 and Acts 18:4) in the imperfect tense, denoting continuous action, but in the aorist, expressing a transient act, for the reason just mentioned. He had been forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the word in "Asia" (Acts 16:6); but he would not consider that as precluding this passing exercise of his ministry when Providence brought him to its capital; nor did it follow that the prohibition was still in force.


Verse 20

When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not;

When they desired him to tarry longer time with them. The Jews seldom rose against the Gospel until the successful preaching of it stirred their enmity; but there was no time for that here.

He consented not;


Verse 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.

But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast (probably Pentecost (Wieseler)), that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. The fulfillment of this promise is recorded in Acts 19:1.

And he sailed from Ephesus.


Verse 22

And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch.

And when he had landed at Cesarea (leaving the vessel there), and gone up (that is, to Jerusalem), and saluted the church. In these few words does the historian despatch the apostle's FOURTH VISIT TO JERUSALEM after his conversion. The expression 'going up' is invariably used of a journey to the metropolis; and thence, naturally,

He went down to Antioch. Perhaps the vessel reached too late for the feast, as he seems to have done nothing in Jerusalem beyond 'saluting the church,' and privately offering the sacrifice with which his vow (Acts 18:18) would conclude. It is left to be understood, as on his arrival from his first missionary tour, that 'when he was come, and had gathered the church together, he rehearsed all that God had done with him' (Acts 14:27) on this his SECOND MISSIONARY JOURNEY.

Remarks:

(1) The language of the apostle, in taking leave of the synagogue of Corinth - "Your blood be (or is) upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles" - is so strong, that one is apt to conclude that, having opened a place of meeting of his own at the house of Justus, he never thereafter entered the synagogue, but commenced a purely Christian service, and perhaps at the regular hours of Jewish worship. But though we have no certainty on the point there are the strongest grounds for questioning this.

(a) It would have certainly soon come to be known among the Jews, far and near, that he had entirely broken with them, and this would have shut him out from all access to them; and as it was to prevent this that he circumcised Timothy before taking him with him on this journey, it is not likely that he would so soon act upon a policy the very opposite.

(b) As the mention of Justus' house being situated "hard by the synagogue" is immediately followed by the statement that "Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house," it is hardly credible that the worship of the two places went on at the same time, or even that they stood in an entirely hostile attitude to each other; nor is it easy to believe that the new meeting would have been allowed to continue for such a length of time undisturbed as it appears to have done, with its members continually increasing. But if we suppose that all the apostle meant to intimate in the synagogue was, that from that time forth he would dispute no more with them there; if we understand him to have continued his attendance at the synagogue, though only as a simple worshipper, and held his own meeting, perhaps, at the close of the synagogue services-thus enabling, and indeed enticing as many of the worshippers as still desired to hear him, to drop out of the one place into the other; and finally, if he made it understood that he was no enemy of "Moses and the prophets," but only their faithful interpreter, in preaching Him who came not to destroy, but to fulfil, and was the true "Hope of Israel:" - all becomes intelligible. We can then understand how Crispus, though the ruler of the synagogue, might think it no inconsistent thing, when his services at the synagogue were over, to listen to the expositions of Paul at his own meeting, until, unable to resist the conviction that Jesus was the Christ, he yielded himself to baptism. And as the apostle would thus be free from at least captious opposition, and be at liberty to expatiate in his own mighty way on the unsearchable riches of Christ, the number of the believers would thus be steadily increased, until, with large accessions of Gentiles, the unbelieving party could no longer stand it, but took their usual course of raising a commotion, and dragging the apostle before the magistrate as a disturber of the peace. This, too, would account for his having the same access to the Jews of other places as before, notwithstanding his apparent secession at Corinth. Perhaps others might learn from this not to be too precipitate in severing themselves entirely even from corrupt systems with which they have been long connected, and to try first the effect of faithful testimony for the truth, and next, the effect of initiatory measures of separation, when no hope of general reformation appears to remain.

(2) If the apostle came home to Antioch, after his first missionary tour, brimful of intelligence which could not fail to thrill his bearers, as he "rehearsed all that God had done with them, and (particularly) how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles," what must have been the feelings of his auditors as he related to them the details of his second journey, now concluded! Doubtless, there was now no such novelty in the accession of the Gentiles as had given such interest to the former mission. But this mission had a novelty of its own, perhaps hardly less thrilling-the plantation of the Gospel in Europe; and that not in obscure and uninfluential places, but in the important capital of eastern Macedonia (Philippi), in the populous and stirring capital of its western division (Thessalonica), and in the great capital of Achaia, the seat of so much Greek culture and refined sensuality-Corinth. Those who heard the narrative of these great triumphs of the Gospel must have seen in them the evidence of a power which nothing could withstand, and have beheld in spirit the mystic Warrior on his white horse, with the crown that was given him, going forth conquering and to conquer (Revelation 6:2). And with such feelings, what enlargement and elevation of soul must have been imparted to the brethren at Antioch, and how ready would they be to encourage still further the great missionary work! And is it not thus that the two great departments of the Church's work act and re-act upon each other-spiritual life within begetting the irrepressible desire to impart itself to those that are without, and the tidings of success in the ingathering of those that are afar off warming the affections, quickening the energies, and enlarging the whole character of the Church at home?

Visit to the Churches of Galatia and Phrygia ()


Verse 23

And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.

And after he had spent some time there (but probably not long), he departed - little thinking he was never more to return,

And went over (or 'through') [all] the country of Galatia and Phrygia. Galatia, being the region that would first be come to-proceeding in a northwesterly direction from Antioch-is here mentioned before Phrygia; whereas in Acts 16:6, as Phrygia would be first entered, the order is the reverse.

In order - meaning, probably, in the order in which the churches lay [ kathexees (Greek #2517) = 150: efexees, an exclusively Lucan word, being used by no other New Testament writer, but by Luke five times - Luke 1:3; Luke 8:1; Acts 3:24; Acts 11:4 - and here]. These places were now visited, as would seem, for the fourth time. From the Epistle to the Galatians we may gather that proceedings, some of them painful, must have taken place in connection with certain of these churches. On the omission of all details of the visitation of these churches of Asia Minor, see the note at Acts 16:6. One thing lay near the apostle's heart on this journey-the raising of a contribution for the poor saints of Palestine from all the Gentile churches, to be by him carried to Jerusalem and presented to the church there, as an offering of love and token of oneness with their Jewish brethren. An understanding that something of this kind should be done had been come to even at the council of Jerusalem, as a means of cementing the two great sections of believers; and the apostles tells the Galatians that this was a scheme into which he eagerly entered (Galatians 2:9-10).

Accordingly, we find him referring to it both in his First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:14) and in his Second (2 Corinthians 8:1-24; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15), and in his Epistle to the Romans (Romans 15:25-26): see also Acts 24:17. It was in immediate connection with this interesting object, and with the view of having their contributions ready on his arrival, that he now directed all the churches of Galatia and that of Corinth to establish a regular collection on the first day of every week (1 Corinthians 16:1-2); which has ever since that time probably been converted into a public usage throughout all Christendom-though it cannot be shown that the public weekly offering is quite the same as the "laying by himself in store" [ par' (Greek #3844) heautoo (Greek #1438)] which the apostle enjoins. (See the notes at 1 Corinthians 16:1-2.) Timotheus and Erastus, Gaius and Aristarchus, appear to have accompanied him on his journey (Acts 19:22; Acts 19:29; 2 Corinthians 1:1), and, from 2 Cor. we may presume, Titus also.

Episode concerning Apollos at Ephesus and Corinth ()

This is one of the most interesting and suggestive incidental narratives in this precious History. It is introduced here, apparently, as occurring about the time at which the historian has arrived.


Verse 24

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

And a certain Jew named Apollos - a contraction from Apollonius (in which form the Cambridge manuscript writes it), as Silas from Silvanus, etc.

Born at Alexandria - the celebrated capital of lower Egypt, on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean; and called after its founder, Alexander the Great, who, three centuries before Christ, planned it out to be the metropolis of his western dominions. As a site for such a purpose it was magnificent; and such were its resources, that by degrees it rose to immense population and wealth. As might be expected, its population was a very mixed one. The Greek element predominated; but Jews were there in great numbers-Philo, who lived there near about this time, reckons them then at a million; native Egyptians also formed, of course, part of the population; and in addition to these there were representatives of almost every other nation. Nowhere was there such a fusion of Greek, Jewish, and Oriental peculiarities; and an intelligent Jew, educated in that city, could hardly fail to manifest all these elements in his mental character.

An eloquent man - turning his Alexandrian culture to high account as a speaker,

And mighty in the scriptures - his eloquence enabling him to express clearly, and enforce skillfully what, as a Jew, he had gathered from a diligent study of the Old Testament Scriptures. Lechler thinks it probable that, as an Alexandrian, he was indebted to the school of Philo both for his method of Scriptural interpretation and for his eloquence. But the Platonic character of Philo's school of Old Testament interpretation was so alien from anything which would have led to a humble reception of Christian truth, that we rather wonder at that excellent man and able critic making such a concession to the modern enemies of the truth; nor can we imagine Apollos to have had almost anything in common with that school, except its rooted faith in the supernatural foundation of the Jewish Religion and in the inspiration of the Scriptures, and a love of biblical interpretation.

Came to Ephesus - on what errand is not known; but probably to exercise his gifts in opening to his Jewish brethren the truths which he had received; perhaps, also, to inquire into the truth and character of those events which had gives so new a complexion to the doctrine of Christ since he received it, and of which he could hardly fail to have heard at least something.


Verse 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.

This man was instructed in the way of the Lord - that is, the Lord Jesus (according to the usual phraseology of this book), not God the Father, as Lechler understands it, as if Apollos had known little more than God's design to send a Redeemer to Israel.

And being fervent in the spirit. Having a warm heart, and conscious, probably, of his gifts and attainments, he burned to impart to others the truth he had himself received.

He spake and taught , [ elalei (Greek #2980) kai (Greek #2532) edidasken (Greek #1321)] - the tense here used implying continuousness from meeting to meeting. This took place at Ephesus, where Apollos had come. And, since the Jews of Ephesus had only gotten as much of the Gospel from Paul on his late visit as he could impart to them while his vessel lay at that port, and which served only to whet their appetite for more (Acts 18:19-21), they would the more readily listen to the expository eloquence and fervour of Apollos, in the same direction, so far, as the teaching of Paul.

Diligently , [ akriboos (Greek #199)] - rather 'accurately,' or 'soundly.' (It is the same word as is rendered 'perfectly,' in Acts 18:26.) Of course this means only 'accurately' so far as his knowledge went, as is evident from what follows:

The things of the Lord - but the true reading is, 'the thing of Jesus.' [This is the reading of 'Aleph (') A B D E, etc., of the Vulgate, of both Syriac versions, and most others; and so Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles. The received reading has only inferior support.]

Knowing only the baptism of John. He was instructed, probably, by some disciple of the Baptist, in the whole circle of John's teaching concerning Jesus, but no more: he had yet to learn the new light which the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost had thrown upon the Redeemer's Death and Resurrection, as appears from Acts 19:2-3.


Verse 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.

And he began to speak boldly (or 'with freedom') in the synagogue This seems to imply that the And he began to speak boldly (or 'with freedom') in the synagogue. This seems to imply that the 'speaking and teaching' of the previous verse had been at more private meetings, and that having thus cautiously felt his way, he afterward began to discourse in the synagogue.

Whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard. The proper order here, we think, is, 'Priscilla and Aquila' (see the note at Acts 18:18). [The majority of manuscript, it is true, concur with the Received Text; but 'Aleph (') A B E have Priscilla first, with the Vulgate, etc. So Lachmann and Tregelles, though Tischendorf abides by the received order. Meyer and Lechler think the reversed order was transferred to this verse from Acts 18:18; but internal evidence-founded on the usage of other uudoubted passages, and seeming to point to some superiority in Priscilla-appear to us to turn the scale in favour of her name being first here also.]

They took him unto them (privately) - that is, to their own house; joying to observe the extent of Scriptural knowledge and evangelical truth which he displayed, and the fervency, courage, and eloquence with which he gave it forth.

And expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly - opening up those truths, to him as yet unknown, on which the Spirit had shed such glorious light. One cannot but observe how providential it was that this couple should have been left at Ephesus when Paul sailed thence for Syria; and no doubt it was chiefly to pave the way for the better understanding of this episode that the fact is expressly mentioned by the historian in Acts 18:19. Nor can one help admiring the humility and teachableness of so gifted a teacher in sitting at the feet of a Christian woman and her husband.


Verse 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:

And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia - of which Corinth, on the opposite coast (see the note at Acts 18:1) was the capital; there to proclaim that Gospel which he now more fully comprehended. If it be asked why he wished to go into Achaia, Lechler replies, that 'a delicate reserve might prevent him, after being fully instructed, from again coming forward in Ephesus, where he had already appeared with such unripe and defective knowledge. But since "the brethren" of Ephesus wrote to the disciples of Achaia, "exhorting them to receive him," as is stated in the very next clause, we can hardly doubt that they were quite cognizant of the enlargement of his views, and, so far from thinking less of him for it, joyfully furthered his desire to go to a field more suited to his gifts. The probability rather is, that Aquila and Priscilla, knowing fully the nature of the Corinthian field, convinced him that it opened up a richer sphere for the special style of his teaching than Ephesus, where the ground had as yet been scarcely broken, and that the handful of believers there, concurring with them, joined them in this letter of recommendation.

The brethren. We had not before heard of such, gathered at Ephesus; but the desire of the Jews there to whom Paul preached to retain him among them for some time (Acts 18:20), and his promise to return to them (Acts 18:21), seem to indicate some drawing toward the Gospel, which, no doubt, the zealous private labours of Priscilla and Aquila would ripen into discipleship.

Wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him - a beautiful specimen of 'letters of recommendation' (as Acts 15:23; Acts 15:25-27; and see 2 Corinthians 3:1), by which, as well as by interchange of deputations, etc., the early churches maintained active Christian fellowship with each other.

Who, when he was come, helped them much (was a great acquisition to the Achaian brethren), which had believed through grace. If this is the right way of rendering the words, it is one of those incidental expressions which show that faith's being a production of God's grace in the heart was so current and recognized a truth that is was taken for granted, as a necessary consequence of the general system of grace, rather than expressly insisted on. In this sense the words have certainly been understood by the majority of interpreters. But Grotius, Bengel, Olshausen, Meyer, Webster and Wilkinson, and Lechler, connect the words "through grace" with Apollos, not with the Corinthian converts-translating thus: 'who, when he was come, helped them much through grace who had believed;' and though once disinclined to this, we now judge it to be the true sense of the statement. For what the historian tells us is not that Apollos helped the believers at Corinth, by operating successfully on themselves-to the enlargement of their knowledge, the furtherance of their faith, their growth in grace: in that case it might have been quite natural to tell us that it was those whom the grace of God had first brought into subjection to Christ who were thus furthered in the divine life by Apollos. But the whole service which the historian says Apollos rendered to the Corinthian believers, "when he was come" - or, on his first arrival-consisted in his adding to their numbers from without, or at least bearing down all opposition from their Jewish adversaries. And since the whole stress of the statement is laid upon the success of Apollos' labours among the unbelieving Jews, it seems more natural to understand the historian to mean that it was "through grace" that Apollos carried all before him in his discussions with them, than that he should have meant to tell us that those who were believers long before he arrived had "believed through grace."


Verse 28

For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

For he mightily convinced the Jews , [ eutonoos (Greek #2159) diakateelengcheto (Greek #1246)] - 'stoutly bore down, 'foiled' or 'confuted' them: the expression is very emphatic.

And [that] publicly , [ deemosia (Greek #1219)] - not in the synagogue merely, for in that case it would have likely been named (as in Acts 17:1-2; Acts 17:10; and Acts 18:4; Acts 18:19; Acts 18:26), but in some other public place;

Showing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ - or (according to strict grammatical form), 'that the Christ was Jesus,' which, when compared with Acts 18:25, seems to imply a richer testimony than with his partial knowledge he was at first able to bear; and the power with which he bore down all opposition in argument is that which made him such an acquisition to the brethren. Thus, his ministry would be as good as another visitation to the Achaian churches by the apostle himself (see 1 Corinthians 3:6); and the more as, in so far as he was indebted for it to Priscilla and Aquila, his ministrations would have a decidedly Pauline cast. But though "when he came," or on his first arrival, he seems to have laid himself out almost exclusively for those that were without-`helping them which had believed' chiefly in this way-we can hardly suppose that this would last very long; and as the apostle expressly reminds the Corinthians that Apollos "watered" what he himself had "planted," we thus gather that after awhile this distinguished teacher applied his special gifts to the building up of the work of God within the Church, taking it up where Paul had left it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Acts 18:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/acts-18.html. 1871-8.

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