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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Acts 18

 

 

Verses 1-28

Acts 18:2. Claudius had commanded all jews to depart from Rome. Suetonius says that this was on account of Chrestus, [Christ] who continually excited disturbances. This edict was issued in the ninth year of Claudius, and in the year of the Lord 49. The inference we draw is, that the jews of Rome were playing the same game with the christians that had long been played in Jerusalem; and by consequence, had got themselves, and it is probable, all the christians of Hebrew extraction, banished from the city. See his history of the twelve Cæsars. Claud. cap. 23. Dion says that Claudius only shut up their places of worship.

Acts 18:3. Because he was of the same craft, a tent maker, he abode with them and wrought with his hands. In those warmer climates, the gentry, during the sultry season, had pavillions in their gardens, which in that line gave employment to the people. By a late act of parliament, a clergyman may now hold the plow; but I think only a few of the curates avail themselves of this liberty. The rabbins sometimes had trades. Dr. Lightfoot cites rabbi Juda, the great cabalist, who is called Hhajat, or a craftsman.

Acts 18:6. When they opposed themselves and blasphemed, both Paul and Christ; he shook his raiment, and said, your blood be upon your own heads; alluding to the witnesses who were required to lay their hands on the heads of culprits before they were stoned. The words seem to import more than is said, that if the Hebrews had embraced the gospel, the Lord would have preserved them as a nation in wealth, and power, and glory. But that hope was now lost, as indicated in the next words — “Henceforth I will go unto the gentiles.”

Acts 18:10. I am with thee. The Lord here most graciously encourages Paul to persevere in his work by three arguments; because he was with him, because no man should hurt him, and because he had much people in Corinth. The pious jews and greeks were numerous; many were “disposed to eternal life,” and therefore the shepherd must abide by the flock.

Acts 18:12. When Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, now an aged, wise, and venerable man. We marvel that a man of his rank should hear causes of so little importance; but such was the character of ancient manners. Gallio, as well as his brother Mela, was brother to the great Seneca, tutor of Nero. All those three illustrious brothers, it would seem, were stoics and infidels, but unfixed and wavering in their minds. Seneca had advised Nero to put his mother Agripina to death, an action which must have grievously afflicted his conscience; and so much so, that he resolved the old Seneca should taste the bitter cup. Something presently happened, and a message was sent to the old philosopher, that he had leave to die! Seneca turned coward. Seneca delayed. Nero hearing that he was still alive, sent an officer to know how long he wished to live. On hearing that, he opened the veins of his hands and feet, and died, in his hundred and twentieth year. Jerome gives us certain letters which passed between St. Paul and Seneca, which are named by Eusebius, by Augustine, and others, and presumes that the apostle became known to that philosopher while Gallio was in power; but doubts are entertained of the authenticity of those letters. Seneca’s atheism probably contributed to the ruin of Nero, and the miseries of the empire; and yet he wavered about infidelity. He writes to Polybuis, Ne ita invideris fratri tuo, quiescit tandem liber, tandem tutus, tandem est eternus — Fruitur nunc aperto liber cœlo. “Be not so depressed about your brother; he has gained at length the place of freedom, safety, and eternal repose. He now enjoys a spacious and open heaven.”

Acts 18:21-23. He sailed from Ephesus, landed at Cæsarea, and when he had gone up to Jerusalem and saluted the church, and had recited to them what God had wrought in all the Grecian provinces, as he had in chapter 15., related the work in all Proconsular Asia, he took his grand northern circuit to visit the churches in Antioch, Galatia, and Phrygia, and then, as in Acts 18:24, came to Ephesus again. Old Phrygia is not in the map of Paul’s travels, because the Romans had divided it into smaller provinces, as stated in chap. Acts 16:6. What a journey; a third journey of two thousand miles! We can only repeat our regrets that we have no journal of a man, who in labours was more abundant than all his brethren. But after the churches were once planted, his labours in preaching, and his pastoral discipline might have much similarity of character. Nevertheless, a journal of Paul would be in estimation above all gems. Usher places this journey in the fifty fifth year of Christ.

Acts 18:24. A certain jew, named Apollos, born at Alexandria. There was in Ephesus a little synagogue of John’s disciples, who did not forsake judaism, but kept up the institutions of John the baptist. This young man, it is likely, had joined them, or some branch of John’s disciples in some other city, as in the following chapter. To him the good family showed the old testament full of Christ, as first predicted to suffer for our sins, and then to enter into his glory: Acts 17:3.

REFLECTIONS.

We may here remark, the great love that St. Paul had to the gospel of Christ. He wrought with his hands, both here and elsewhere; the rabbins enjoined every man to have some trade, for no man in the vicissitudes of life can be sure of fortune. He laboured to set an example to the flock, for many invidious jews were ready to suggest that he preached Christ for money. Paul did this to cut off occasion from those that sought occasion. He and Barnabas were the only apostles that worked; and this did not degrade them, as most of the rulers of the synagogues had some trade or business. But his working was small; we find him making excursions through Achaia. Ministers however, who have full employment, must not serve tables, but wholly devote themselves to their work; and this apostle asserts their full right to live by the ministry. 1 Corinthians 9:14.

We must admire the plain dealing of St. Paul with the incorrigible jews. His preaching in the synagogue was clear and conclusive; he showed the old testament to be full of Jesus. His sufferings for Christ were great; his labours were indefatigable, and distinguished by piety, morality, and a zeal correspondent to his mission. Their unbelief therefore had no excuse, and their blasphemy was intolerable. What could he do but charge their blood on their own head, and turn to the gentiles. Let ministers learn of him to deliver their own souls; and if wicked men will pull down vengeance on their own heads, God will spread his work among men of better minds.

Gallio, a wary and prudent Roman, is a model to magistrates in scorning to be the fiery agent of religious persecution: the bar of justice is more concerned with actions than with opinions. Yet in a religious view, had he listened to the gospel, he had been more commendable. We have many Gallios who fill the bench of justice, and some of them men of strong minds; but to use the mild words of the late Mr. Wilberforce, “the half of them are but coldly affected to christianity.”

We admire the wisdom and care of providence in providing ministers for the work. Apollos had received the baptism and doctrine of John; so had the twelve disciples at Ephesus. He had followed the light; and now, by the sweet and engaging conversation of Aquila and Priscilla, he was introduced into all the glorious mysteries of the gospel of Christ. Thus a most valuable man, adorned with wisdom and eloquence, was added to the church. Let all men therefore honestly follow the light they have, and God in due time will perfect them both in knowledge and love.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Acts 18:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/acts-18.html. 1835.

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