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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Acts 18

 

 

Introduction

CHAPTER 18

THE END OF THE SECOND AND BEGINNING OF THE THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY (PAUL AND TIMOTHY)

1. Paul at Corinth; or, Meeting with New Friends (Act ).

2. A Year and Six Months at Corinth; or, Three Significant Events (Act ).

3. Paul before Gallio; or, a Case of Unsuccessful Persecution (Act ).

4. Paul's Return to Antioch; or, the Termination of the Second Missionary Journey (Act ).

5. Paul's Departure from Antioch; or, the Commencement of the Third Missionary Journey (Act ).


Verses 1-4

CRITICAL REMARKS

Act . Paul.—Omitted in the best texts. How long the Apostle stayed in Athens—Weiseler suggests fourteen days; Ramsay, three or four weeks—and how he came to Corinth, whether by land or sea, cannot be determined.

Act . Aquila born in Pontus.—Or, a man of Pontus by race. Though Pontius Aquila was a noble Roman name (compare Pontius Pilate), there is no ground for supposing that Luke has here fallen into a mistake. Ramsay suggests that Aquila may have been a freedman, since a freedman of Mæcenas was called (C. Cilnius) Aquila. That Aquila was born in Pontus Act 2:9 and 1Pe 1:1 render probable. Possibly his real name was Onkelos, but the Onkelos who translated the old Testament into Greek lived half a century later. Priscilla.—Diminutive for Prisca (Rom 16:3). That she was more energetic than her husband has been inferred (Ewald, Plumptre, Farrar) from her being mentioned first in several places (Act 18:26; Rom 16:3; 2Ti 4:19). Claudius.—The fourth Cæsar of Jewish origin (41-54 A.D.), a son of the elder Drusus, and therefore the nephew of Tiberius (see Act 11:28). During the last years of his reign the Jews were expelled from Rome—"Judæos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantes Româ expulit" (Suetonius, Claudius, 25). Schürer thinks the occasion of this edict was the violent controversies which then prevailed among Roman Christians about the person of Christ (Riehm's, Handwörterbuch des Biblischen Altertums, art. Claudius).

Act . Tentmakers.—I.e., not weavers of, but makers of tents from hair cloth. Most of the Rabbis had a trade by which they could earn their living. Hillel was a hewer of wood, Johanan a shoemaker, Nanacha a blacksmith; Jesus was a carpenter. The Jews after the exile held manual labour in high esteem. The man who neglected to teach his son a trade, said Rabbi Judas, practically taught him to be a thief.

HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Act

Paul at Corinth; or, Meeting with New Friends

I. His arrival in the city.—

1. His departure from Athens.

1. When? "After these things"—i.e., after the incidents recorded in the preceding chapter, his survey of the idolatrous city, and his address to its leading philosophers and counsellors, though how long after cannot be ascertained.

2. Why? Because the character of his mission required him to move on, but chiefly because in that renowned capital of philosophic triflers and superstitious idol-worshippers the good seed of the kingdom, which it was his business to sow, had found no congenial soil. It may be that Paul felt "disappointed and disillusioned by his experience in Athens," and recognised that he had gone far enough in the way of "presenting his doctrine in a form suited to the current philosophy;" it may even be that this was the reason why, on reaching Corinth, he "no longer spoke in the philosophic style" (Ramsay); it would, however, be an error to conclude that Paul left behind him in Athens no converts (see Act ), as undoubtedly a Christian Church was eventually established there.

3. How? Alone as to companionship, Luke having remained behind at Philippi, and Silas and Timothy at Berœa, or Silas at Berœa and Timothy at Thessalonica; or, if these latter had previously come to Athens, they were again on the way back to Macedonia (1Th ), or had not yet returned from it (Act 18:5). Sad as to his feelings, since he could not fail to be depressed at the decidedly cold reception which had been given to his gospel of a crucified and risen Saviour by "the Gentile Pharisaism of a pompous philosophy" (Farrar).

2. His journey towards Corinth. Whether he sailed from the Piræus to Cenchrea, a voyage of five hours across the Saronic bay, or travelled on foot the forty miles which separated the two cities, cannot be determined. Farrar suggests that "the poverty of the apostle's condition, his desire to waste no time, and the greatness of his own infirmities, render it nearly certain" that the sea route was that selected; but against this stands the circumstance that when he sailed from Berœa to Athens the brethren did not suffer him to go without a convoy (see Act ), whereas he was now alone.

3. His entrance into the city. This, which took place in A.D. 50, say Conybeare and Howson, was like passing "from a quiet provincial town to the busy metropolis of a province, and from the seclusion of an ancient university to the seat of government and trade" (The Life and Epistles of Paul, i. 355). Situated on the isthmus between the Ionian and Ægean seas, Corinth was in Paul's day the political capital of Greece, and the seat of the Roman proconsul. "It was not the ancient Corinth—the Corinth of Periander, or of Thucydides, or of Timoleon—that he was now entering, but Colonia Julia or Laus Juli Corinthus, which had risen out of the desolate ruins of the older city" (Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul, i. 554). The older city had been destroyed in B.C. 146 by the Romans under Mummius; the newer town was in B.C. 44 constructed by Julius Cæsar, who "sent thither a Roman colony, consisting principally of freedmen" (Strabo, viii. 6), "amongst whom were no doubt great numbers of the Jewish race" (Lewin). Distinguished for its wealth, the Julian city was no less renowned for its profligacy, the verb, to Corinthianise—i.e., to live like the Corinthians, having been from the days of Aristophanes used to describe a life of luxury and vice. Its temple of Aphrodite had a thousand courtesans for its priestesses. Its Isthmian games periodically attracted towards it, if all the athletes and geniuses, without doubt also all the scoundrelism of the empire. In short, as Farrar well expresses it, "Corinth was the Vanity Fair of the Roman empire, at once the London and the Paris of the first century after Christ."

II. His lodging in the city.—

1. The names of his hosts. Aquila and Priscilla, diminutive for Prisca (Rom , R.V.). "Probably Prisca was of higher rank than her husband, for her name is that of a good old Roman family" (Ramsay). (For conjectures as to who Aquila was, see "Critical Remarks.") The historian introduces him as a Jew, born in Pontus (see on Act 2:9), who had lately come from Rome in consequence of Claudius's edict (A.D. 50), which had banished all Jews from that city because, according to Suetonius, they were continually making a disturbance, being impelled thereto by one Christ (see "Critical Remarks.")

2. The attractions they had for him.

(1) They were Jews, and Paul never ceased to cherish a warm regard for his kinsmen according to the flesh. Even when they hated him the most fiercely he loved them the most tenderly (Rom ; Rom 10:1).

(2) They were tent-makers—i.e. of the same craft as himself. Every Jew was required to learn a trade, and that followed by Aquila and his wife was not the weaving of goats' hair into cloth, but the manufacturing of that cloth into tents. Such cloth was woven in both Cilicia, from which Paul came, and Pontus, to which Aquila belonged.

(3) Whether they were Christians before Paul met them (Kuinoel, Olshausen, Neander, Hackett, Spence, Farrar), or were converted by him in Corinth (De Wette, Meyer, Alford, Holtzmann), is debated. The former opinion is certainly not impossible, since the gospel may have been, and probably was, carried to Italy by some of the "sojourners from Rome" who had been converted at Pentecost (Act ). Yet as Luke does not represent them as having been Christians when Paul met them, the latter idea is quite as probable.

III. His occupation in the city.—

1. He worked for a living to himself (see 1Co ; 2Co 11:7). This

(1) of necessity, because, to begin with at least, he had no Christian converts to whom he could look for support, and because he declined to live by charity while his own hands could minister to his necessities; and

(2) of choice, because, as a rule, he preferred not to be burdensome to those he taught. Already he had observed this custom in Thessalonica (1Th ; 2Th 3:8), and afterwards he followed it in Ephesus (Act 20:34). Whether he worked for a wage or as a partner is left unrecorded; but in either case the profits were probably not large (2Co 11:9). "It was a time of general pressure, and though the apostle toiled night and day, all his exertions were unable to keep the wolf from the door" (Farrar).

2. He preached the gospel to others free of charge.

(1) In the customary place—the city synagogue, where the Jews, who had there long established a residence or recently found a refuge, were wont to assemble.

(2) At the usual times—on the Sabbaths, Paul probably requiring the weekdays to provide for himself things honest in the sight of men.

(3) After his peculiar fashion—with skilful argument and reasoning, proving out of the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

(4) To his ordinary audience—a mixed assembly of Jews and Greek proselytes.

(5) With the old effect—that he persuaded—i.e., won over to believe—a number of both classes of his hearers.

Lessons.—

1. The providence of God in fetching Aquila and Paul to Corinth at the same time—Aquila to lodge Paul, and Paul to convert or establish Aquila.

2. The facility with which God's people can recognise each other even in a foreign country.

3. The power of the gospel to secure converts even in a debauched and drunken city like Corinth (1Co ).

4. The duty of all, not excepting ministers, to provide things honest in the sight of men.

5. The dignity of labour.

6. The glory of being a Christian.

HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

Act . Aquila and Priscilla.

I. Husband and wife.—A beautiful example of the marriage union.

II. Joint workers in trade.—A happy illustration of individual independence and family co-operation

III. Willing entertainers of Paul.—A bright specimen of hospitality and kindness.

IV. Fellow-believers in Christ.—Whether before or after they met Paul, they became Christians. A sweet instance of the marriage union being sanctified by grace.

V. Earnest teachers of Apollos (Act ).—A noble pattern of Christian zeal.

Act . Paul in Aquila's Workshop.

I. An example of manly independence.—Rather than depend on others, the apostle would work for his living (1Th ).

II. A pattern of Christian humility.—Though an apostle he did not disdain to labour with his hands (2Th ).

III. An illustration of sincere piety.—Providing things honest in the sight of men (2Co ).

IV. An instance of religious zeal.—"Diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord" (Rom ).

Act . Aquila and Paul; or, Christian Companions.

I. Are always desirable, but especially in strange cities.

II. Are often providentially brought together.—As in the case of Aquila and Paul.

III. Are commonly helpful to one another. As these were.

IV. Are mostly parted with regret. As doubtless these were when Paul left Aquila and his wife at Ephesus (Act ).

Act . Christian Journeymen on their Travels.

I. The dangers in the foreign country.—The temptations in luxurious Corinth.

II. The acquaintance by the way.—Aquila meeting with Paul.

III. The work at the trade.—Honest toil a great safeguard against temptation.

IV. The care for the soul.—Sanctification of the Sabbath and worship of God.—From Gerok.

Act . Work and Worship; or, Week-days and Sabbath-days.

I. Week-days for work and Sabbath-days for worship.—This their distinctive characters. All attempts to reduce both to one platform unscriptural, and therefore foredoomed to failure. As the work of week days must not be encroached upon by worship, so the worship of Sabbath-days must not be hindered by work.

II. As the work of week-days does not exclude worship, so the worship of Sabbath-days must not exclude work.—If week-day work prevents worship, then week-day work is excessive. If Sabbath worship leaves no room for works of necessity and mercy, then Sabbath worship is in danger of becoming burdensome as well as formal.

III. Week-day work should prepare for Sabbath worship, and Sabbath worship for week-day work.—The man who has spent his week-days in unlawful idleness is not likely to employ his Sabbath in worship. He who devotes Sabbath to the duties of religion is most likely to prove a vigorous, industrious, and faithful worker throughout the week. "Weekly labour creates hunger and thirst after Sabbath-rest and Sabbath-fare. Sabbath sanctification imparts strength and pleasure to the daily work of the week."—Gerok.


Verses 5-11

CRITICAL REMARKS

Act . Pressed in spirit.—According to the oldest authorities this should be was held together by the word, συνείχετο τῷ λόγῳ—i.e., either earnestly occupied with the business of preaching (Bengel, Holtzmann, and others), or wholly seized upon and constrained by the word within him (R.V.).

Act . Your blood be upon your own heads.—Compare 2Sa 1:16; 1Ki 2:33; Eze 3:18; Eze 3:20; Eze 33:4; Eze 33:6; Eze 33:8.

Act . Justus.—The oldest MSS. waver between Titus Justus (R.V.), Titius Justus, and simply Justus, who, however named, is not to be identified with Titus (Wieseler).

Act . By a vision.—Compare Act 16:9; Act 23:11. The words addressed to Paul remind one of Isa 62:1.

Act . A year and six months.—Paul's whole sojourn in Corinth was three years (Act 19:31).

HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Act

A Year and Six Months in Corinth; or, Three Significant Experiences

I. Renewed activity in preaching.—

1. Brought about by the coming of old friends. Though Paul was of more heroic mould than to sink beneath the pressure of external circumstances, however severe (Php ), though he could testify for Christ without other aid than that Christ extended, whether in the Areopagus before Athenian philosophers (Act 17:22), or at Cæsarea before Festus and Agrippa (Act 26:1), or at Rome before Nero (2Ti 4:16), he was nevertheless in a high degree dependent on the sympathy of others. During the absence of Timothy and Silas he felt lonely both in Athens and in Corinth, while there is good ground for thinking that his strength was at this time somewhat weakened through his thorn or stake in the flesh (1Co 2:3), and perhaps also through the severe privations he chose to endure rather than accept support from his friends in Corinth, where his enemies were numerous (2Co 11:8; 2Co 12:13 et seq.; 1Co 9:12). Consequently, though he never for a moment dreamt of abandoning his holy work of preaching, he nevertheless toiled along as if a heavy burden lay upon his spirit. Accordingly when, after the lapse probably of some weeks, or it might be months, Timothy and Silas arrived from Macedonia, the former from Thessalonica bringing cheering tidings of the faith and charity of his dear friends in that city and perhaps also such material assistance from them as helped to relieve him from the necessity of manual labour (1Th 3:6), and the latter from Berœa (Act 17:14), possibly with equally cheering intelligence about the Church there, and with gifts of love from Philippi (Php 4:15; 2Co 11:9), the load lifted from his heart so that he bounded forward in his work with revived alacrity and zeal, as if the word had seized upon him (see "Critical Remarks") and constrained him with a holy violence, impelling him to greater diligence, fervour, and prayerfulness than before (compare 1Co 9:16).

2. Manifested in special efforts to gain his countrymen. Though designated specially as the minister of Christ to the Gentiles, Paul never could forget the fact that the Jews were his kinsmen according to the flesh, or neglect an opportunity of seeking their salvation. Hence this fresh outburst of missionary zeal which seized upon him was directed specially to them. With redoubled energy and impassioned earnestness he laid before them the proofs from Scripture that Jesus was the Christ. (For the manner of his preaching see 1Co ; and for its matter 1Co 15:3.) Not that he neglected others; but these were his first care (Luk 24:47; Rom 1:16).

II. Renewed opposition by the Jews.—

1. Its secret spring. Nothing local, or accidental, or personal to Paul such as his "contemptible presence or speech" (2Co ); but the innate hostility of the human heart to a gospel of salvation by grace and through faith without works (1Co 2:14), and the irreconcilable antagonism of the Jewish heart to everything and every one that challenged the validity of Moses' law, as understood and practised by them, or accused them of ignorance and sin in rejecting Jesus as Messiah.

2. Its bitter violence. Like defeated controversialists generally when they cannot answer their opponents, and like their co-religionists at Antioch (Act ) and afterwards at Ephesus (Act 19:9), they betook themselves to abusive language, railing against the apostle and blaspheming God and Christ (compare 1Co 12:3).

3. Its necessary consequence. Paul discontinued his efforts to persuade them.

(1) His symbolic action. "He shook," or shook out, "his raiment"—i.e., shook out the dust from its folds, as in Antioch of Pisidia he had shaken the dust from his feet (Act ), for a testimony against them.

(2). His solemn declaration. "Your blood be upon your own heads; I am pure; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles." By this he gave them to understand that the responsibility for their destruction, both as a people and as individuals, would rest entirely with themselves, that he regarded himself as in no way involved in their guilt, and that henceforth he would preach exclusively to the Gentiles (compare Act ; Eze 33:5-9).

(3) His public withdrawal. From that day forward he no more frequented their synagogue, no more proclaimed to them the words of eternal life, no more invited them to believe. Having made their election, they were now by him left to the tender mercies of Heaven. So far from being again pressed to accept salvation, they would no more be troubled. Practically by Christ's ambassador they were judicially abandoned.

III. Renewed consolation from God.—

1. The opening of a new door. When the synagogue was closed against the apostle, the house of a Greek proselyte, Justus, or Titus Justus (R.V.), opened to give him welcome, as afterwards at Ephesus the school of Tyrannus was placed at his disposal, when excluded from the synagogue (Act ). There does not appear to be sufficient ground for identifying this individual who befriended the apostle in Corinth with Titus, or supposing that Paul left Aquila's house and went to lodge with Justus. What Luke designs to say is rather this, that while Paul continued lodging and working with Aquila, he preached on the Sabbaths in the house of Justus, who resided hard by the synagogue, so that the Jews and proselytes, if they chose, might still come to hear him. In the action of Justus Paul would undoubtedly delight to see the guiding hand of his glorified Master (Rev 3:7).

2. The accession of a new friend. Whether Justus was at this time a believer or not cannot with certainty be inferred from Luke's words. If, as is most likely, he was not, the probability is that he ultimately became a convert. But the withdrawal or exclusion of Paul from the synagogue led to the decision of Crispus its ruler to cast in his lot with the new cause, in which act he was followed by his whole house. Already Paul had gathered converts in Corinth, "of humble and most probably of slavish origin," the first of these being—not Epænetus (Rom ), where the true reading is of Asia—but the household of Stephanas (1Co 16:15). The conversion, however, of one so prominent as Crispus and of his family, whom, as well as the household of Stephanas, Paul baptised with his own hand, either because of their importance or because of the absence of his assistants (1Co 1:15-16), could not fail to exert a powerful and happy influence on the side of the gospel and on the heart of Paul. Most likely this contributed to the success of Paul's ministry in Justus's house, many of the Corinthians who heard him there having believed and been baptised, which again led to the prolongation of his ministry in Corinth for a year and six months.

3. The enjoyment of a new vision. In some respects this differed from each of the other visions granted to Paul. The vision at Damascus (Act ), like that in the temple at Jerusalem (Act 22:18), occurred at midday; this, like the vision at Troas (Act 16:9), took place at night. In the vision at Troas a man of Macedonia appeared; whereas in this, as in the Damascus and Jerusalem visions, it was the form of the glorified Redeemer that was seen. The purpose of the Jerusalem vision was to counsel Paul to flee from the city; the object of this was to make him stay in Corinth.

(1) The Lord exhorted him to banish fear and preach the gospel with all boldness: "Be not afraid, but speak," etc., a suitable word for one whose ministry had been up till then carried on "in weakness and in fear and in much trembling" (1Co ).

(2) The Lord assured him of His constant presence and protection, saying, "I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee," or if they do their purpose shall be defeated (compare Act ). The like promise had Christ given to the twelve (Mat 28:20).

(3) The Lord revealed to him that many would be converted by his ministry: "I have much people in this city," not already, but about to be converted, a cheering announcement for one who was probably beginning to think his labours in the gospel might be in vain.

Learn.—

1. The impassioned earnestness with which the word of God should be preached.

2. The certainty that a faithful minister, should he not convert others, will at least clear himself.

8. The fearful retribution that will eventually overtake those who oppose themselves and blaspheme.

4. The justification of preachers in leaving those who persistently refuse to accept the gospel.

5. The extreme unlikelihood of faithful preaching having no saving result.

6. The consolation God can give His discouraged servants.

7. The assurance that such have of God's presence with, and assistance of them in their work.

HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

Act . "I am Clean"; or Thoughts About Ministerial Responsibility.—A minister may hold himself free from responsibility for his hearers.

I. When he has faithfully preached the gospel to them.—

1. Clearly, so that they can understand it.

2. Fully, so that they are made acquainted with the whole counsel of God contained in it.

3. Fervently, so that they are impressed with a sense of its importance and urgency.

II. When he has solemnly warned them of their danger in rejecting it.—When he has reminded them—

1. Of their guilt in refusing to believe.

2. Of their certain condemnation unless they do believe.

3. Of the possibility of being abandoned because of declining to believe.

III. When he has exhausted every available means for securing their acceptance of the truth.—Though Paul turned himself to the Gentiles he did not entirely desert the Jews. They were still at liberty to visit the house of Justus. Doubtless many of them did this. So ministers should never cease to labour even for those who reject and oppose the truth.

Act . The Conversion of Crispus.

I. Unexpected.—Because of his being a Jew and its occurring after Paul had left the synagogue.

II. Scriptural.—Brought about by the preaching of the word.

III. Influential.—Leading to the conversion of all his house and of many of his neighbours.

IV. Sincere.—Proved by being baptised and opening his house to Paul.

Act . God's Hope for His Workers.—"For I have much people in this city." It is very evident that the apostle came to Corinth in a state of great depression. His work had seemed almost a failure in Athens; and should he fail likewise at Corinth? He says afterwards, writing of his entrance among them, "I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling" (1Co 2:3). Nor was his early experience in that city calculated to dispel his fears; for the Jews, to whom first he preached the gospel, bitterly opposed, and blasphemed. It was, therefore, with a heavy heart that he turned to the Gentiles—such Gentiles as had mocked at the gospel in the city which he had just left.

I. Both human instinct and Divine guidance had led the apostle Paul to concentrate his efforts on the populations of great cities.—Damascus, Antioch, Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens—these had already been his spheres of labour; and Ephesus, Jerusalem, and Rome were to feel his power. Meanwhile, the great city of Corinth was to absorb his time and care for some eighteen months. Great cities have played a very important part in the history of the world, both in ancient and in modern times. Nineveh and Babylon, Memphis and Thebes, Athens, Carthage, Rome—how much do these names stand for, as representative of the changing fortunes of the world in the ages of the past! And to-day great cities are of more and more account, as affording home and industry and power to the thronging populations. Great cities have had, and have still, their various objects of interest and wonderment, affording almost inexhaustible material for the entertainment of the curious, and the research and study of more serious minds. So Corinth had its Isthmus—called "the bridge of the sea," and "the gate of the Peloponnesus"—across which, about the time of the apostle's visit, the Emperor Nero attempted to cut the canal which, left incomplete through all the centuries, has just been opened from sea to sea; the great rock Acropolis, rising abruptly from the shore to the height of two thousand feet; the two harbours, of Cenchreæ and Lechæum; the temple of Neptune, hard by; and all that beauty of situation and structure which led to its being called "the Star of Greece."

II. But though the apostle would not be insensible to these things, the attraction of Corinth, as of the other great cities that he visited, was not in any way external or adventitious greatness or charm.—Nor is it any such attraction that makes the great cities of to-day of so absorbing an interest to the thoughtful mind. Said Dr. Johnson, of the London of a hundred and thirty years ago, "If you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts. It is not in the showy evolutions of buildings, but in the multiplicity of human habitations which are crowded together, that the wonderful immensity of London consists." And his biographer, commenting on the remark, says, wisely enough, "I have often amused myself with thinking how different a place London is to different people. They whose narrow minds are contracted to the consideration of some one particular pursuit view it only through that medium. A politician thinks of it merely as the seat of government in its different departments; a grazier, as a vast market for cattle; a mercantile man, as a place where a prodigious deal of business is done upon, 'Change; a dramatic enthusiast, as the grand scene of theatrical entertainments; a man of pleasure, as an assemblage of taverns. But the intellectual man is struck with it, as comprehending the whole of human life in all its variety, the contemplation of which is inexhaustible." So it was the quick, busy, eager, multifarious human life of Corinth that made the city of such interest to the apostle; that made it, if we may say so, of such interest to Him who spoke to Paul of the "much people" there.

III. It was not, however, even the human interest of Corinth, under such aspects as would present themselves to other visitors, that made the supreme demand on the apostle's regard and care; nor, vast and various as they were, did these more secular interests of the city call forth the emphatic declaration of the Lord Christ. But there was one interest which was indeed supreme, in the regard alike of Christ and of Paul; an interest which, wherever men do congregate, is still so paramount in the eyes of all who have learned anything of the true import of human history and human destiny—the relation of men to duty, to God, to eternity. And it is the vision of these invisible but so real relations, men's relations to the infinite, that invests with so thrilling an interest all the doings, and aims, and desires of the multitudes that make up the teeming life of our great cities.

IV. This brings us to what is indeed God's hope, as held forth in gracious encouragement to all who work in behalf of the gospel of the kingdom for their fellow-men.—God's hope? And who but the Divine Christ could have had hope of Corinth? So busy, so wealthy, so gay—and so utterly wicked, in its unblushing sensuality of sin, that "to Corinthianise" meant to give one's self up to the worst abominations of immorality! But, "I have much people here," said Christ; for, through all their eager alertness of industry and commercial enterprise, and beneath their superficial gaiety, and even deep down in the reeking corruption of the people's sin, did He not see that many hearts were weary of self-seeking, and aching despite their gaiety, and sick of the sin to which, nevertheless, they were selling themselves body and soul? Ah, their very despair of any good was the secret of Christ's hope for that people. For over against their utmost sin and shame the apostle was to set forth God's utmost and most holy love, as manifested in the Cross. Nor could any inferior power avail to move them. "Christ for England, and England for Christ"—this must be our watchword, and we shall not watch, and work and wait in vain. And in like manner, when we look out upon the seething millions of the great cities of the world, and equally when we regard the needs of those who live in smaller towns, and in villages, and in remote, solitary places, we must listen, as Christ says, "I have much people here."—T. F. Lockyer, B.A.

Act . Great Things in Corinth.

I. Fervent preaching.—Constrained by the word Paul testified.

II. Violent unbelief.—On the part of the Jews.

III. Solemn judgment—Pronounced against the opposers. They were self-destroyed.

IV. Glorious mercy.—The gospel offered to the Gentiles.

V. Unexpected deliverance.—Justus's house opened.

VI. Marvellous success.—"Many hearing believed, and were baptised."

VII. Heavenly consolation.—Paul's vision of the Lord by night.

Act . Thoughts for the Night of Ministerial Despondency.

I. The heavenly master from whom the faithful minister holds his commission. The Lord (compare Act ).

II. The holy duty which that Master has imposed on His servants. To speak and hold not their peace (compare Act ; Isa 58:1).

III. The encouraging arguments against fear supplied by the Master to His servants.

1. His presence with them (compare Mat ).

2. His protection of them (Mat ).

3. His preparation for them. Having souls waiting to receive their word.

4. His prospering of them. Promising their labours should be successful.

Paul's Midnight Vision at Corinth; or, The Lord's interview with His servant.

I. A sublime manifestation: The Lord's appearance to Paul.—

1. The reality of this appearance. Unless on priori grounds of objection to the supernatural the historic credibility of what is here narrated cannot be assailed.

2. The timeliness of this appearance. It came when Paul was in some degree depressed. Man's extremity is ever God's opportunity.

3. The object of this appearance—to cheer the heart and embolden the spirit of the apostle.

II. A magnificent exhortation: the Lord's commandment to Paul.—

1. Not to be afraid. Either of himself suffering injury or of his cause suffering defeat. Paul, though habitually courageous and hopeful, obviously laboured at the moment under some apprehension as to both of these contingencies.

2. But to speak. Manfully, openly, continuously, holding not his peace, but, like an old Hebrew prophet, crying aloud and sparing not, lifting up his voice like a trumpet, showing the Jews their transgression and the Gentiles their sins (Isa ).

III. A cheering consolation: the Lord's assurance to Paul.—

1. Of companionship. "I am with thee": a promise which had been given of old to Abraham (Gen ), to Isaac (Gen 26:24), to Jacob (Act 28:15), to Moses (Exo 33:14), to Joshua (Jos 1:5), to Israel in exile (Isa 43:2); a promise which had been renewed to the disciples by Christ before His ascension (Mat 28:20).

2. Of protection. "No man shall set on thee to harm thee." This promise also had been given to ancient Israel collectively (Psa ; Pro 2:7; Isa 32:2; Isa 32:18; Isa 33:16; Isa 33:20; Zec 2:5; Zec 2:8), was renewed to the Church of Christ (Luk 21:18), and is now repeated to the apostle.

3. Of success. "I have much people in this city." As Elijah of old, in a time of despondency, had been assured that Jehovah had seven thousand faithful adherents who had never bowed the knee to Baal (1Ki ), so is Paul now informed that Jesus had many souls in Corinth who were only waiting to be gathered into His kingdom by the preaching of His gospel.

Act . The Secret of Ministerial Success.

I. Much prayer.

II. Much patience.

III. Much trust in God.

IV. Much diligence in work.—Quesnel.

The Word of God.

I. "In complete sense the Word of God is alone the living, historical person, Jesus Christ, understood and explained in the Divine spirit, and according to His own word and will. On this account are also the words and discourses of Jesus, since these are inseparable from His person and activity, to be included and considered as the Word of God.

II. "Whilst, however, Jesus Himself in His person, in His works and words, as in His sufferings and death, is the Word of God, at the same time also in a derived sense is the proclamation of Him the Word of God. That is, the gospel of Christ and of His kingdom (Act ), at first only orally diffused, later also laid down in writing, becomes recognised in Christendom as the Word of God in a special sense, in distinction from all preparatory, prophetic words of God as from all sorts of subordinate revelation. In this sense has Jesus Himself often and clearly spoken, and the whole New Testament agrees therewith. This gospel is, in its contents, firm and unassailable, homogeneous and all-embracing; in its formulation manifold and many-formed, as every really living, spiritual great thing is; and exactly, because it is homogeneous and living, also in every individual part somehow germinally contained. Hence it can be shortly described as the divine and gracious will which has appeared in Christ, as the proclamation of God's salvation work, as the Word of Christ the crucified (1Co 1:23), as the Word of grace (Act 14:3; Act 14:7; Act 20:24; Act 20:32), as the Gospel of grace and repentance (Act 20:21), as the Word of reconciliation (2Co 5:19), or as the Revelation of the divine mystery (1Co 4:1; Eph 6:19); or otherwise designated according to some one particular item of its contents. According to its peculiar contents, therefore, is it not so much a theoretic doctrine, as a joyous message adapted to the actualities of life, and consists principally of promises and assurances of heavenly rights and possessions, conjoined with admonitions and serious warnings which correspond to those gifts and promises."

III. "Consequently in derived sense is every oral and written proclamation, which teaches men to understand the person and work of Christ, inasmuch as it prepares them for this, speaks of it, leads to it, and teaches men to use it, Revelation or the Word of God. Hence also of preaching in public worship, as of every written or printed exposition of the gospel, the expression Word of God can be used. But above all does the title Word of God belong both to the whole of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, and, according to its inner sense or its understanding in graduated fashion, to particular scriptures or to their particular expositions. This meaning of the Biblical canon also becomes through this clear and practical, that in the public church doctrinal preaching the Holy Scriptures must in some way be constantly assumed asits basis."—Bornemann, §47.

Act . Paul's preaching at Corinth.

I. The place of his preaching.—

1. The Jewish synagogue. According to his custom. Dictated probably by three motives.

(1) To find a proper starting ground for his work. The Jews knew the Scriptures, and were looking for the Messiah.

(2) To secure the conversion of his countrymen. Paul loved his kinsmen, and longed for their conversion.

(3) To prevent misunderstanding of the nature of Christianity. Christianity not antagonistic to, but development and completion of Old Testament religion.

2. The house of Justus. To this Paul withdrew when expelled from synagogue. In so doing Paul

(1) followed the example of Christ;

(2) showed that Christianity was not confined to special places (Joh ); and

(3) kept within earshot of his countrymen.

II. The subject of his preaching.—That Jesus was the Christ, Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1Co ), which signified—

1. That Jesus of Nazareth had been the Messiah promised to the fathers—to Abraham as a seed, to David as a son, to Israel as the Lamb of God.

2. That salvation was attainable only through His Cross. Not through his teaching alone, though "Never man spake like this man" (Joh ), or through His example alone, though "He left us an example that we should walk in His steps" (1Pe 2:21), but through His blood (Eph 1:7).

III. The manner of his preaching.—

1. Biblical. Out of the Scriptures. The proper basis of all right preaching.

2. Reasoning. Addressing himself to the intellect. Paul knew the value of great ideas. The road to the heart lies through the understanding.

3. Fervent. Paul was no drone or dullard, no merely formal talker or polite essay reader, but a speaker aglow with holy enthusiasm.

4. Fearless. Resulting from

(1) his confidence in the message he delivered;

(2) his reliance upon God's promise of protection; and

(3) his hope of ultimate success.

IV. The result of his preaching.—Twofold.

1. Opposition. Jews resisted. Not difficult to see why. If Paul was right then Jesus had been their Messiah, and they had been guilty of awful sin in rejecting Him.

2. Success.

(1) He gained a friend in Justus.

(2) He secured a large number of converts, amongst whom were Aquila and Priscilla, Titus Justus, Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, Sosthenes, Crispus's successor, Stephanas and his house, Gaius, Paul's host, Erastus, the city chamberlain.


Verses 12-17

CRITICAL REMARKS

Act . Gallio.—Gallio became proconsul towards the end of Claudius's reign, about A.D. 53. His character, as depicted by ancient writers, corresponded with that revealed in Luke's narrative. "He was the very flower of pagan courtesy and pagan culture—a Roman with all a Roman's dignity and seriousness, and yet with all the grace and versatility of a polished Greek" (Farrar). Eusebius asserts that he committed suicide towards the end of Nero's reign, before the death of his brother Seneca; but as Tacitus (Annals, xv. 73) reports him alive after that event, Dion Cassius is more likely to be correct in saying that he was put to death by order of Nero. Deputy, or proconsul of Achaia.—See on Act 13:7. Achaia, which included all Greece south of Macedonia, was a proconsular province under Augustus; under Tiberius an imperial province with a procurator (Tacitus, Annals, i. 76); under Claudius after A.D. 44 a senatorial province with a proconsul as governor. Another instance of Luke's accuracy. Made insurrection.—Rather, rose up.

Act . This fellow.—The expression correctly enough states the feelings of disdain entertained by Paul's prosecutors, though the word "fellow" has no place in the original.

Act . All the Greeks.—The best texts have simply all, though "the Greeks," not "the Jews" (Ewald, Hofmann, Schürer), is the proper supplement.

HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Act

Paul before Gallio; or, a Case of Unsuccessful Persecution

I. Persecution attempted.—

1. The prime instigators of this hostile movement. These were the Jews whom Paul had defeated in argument, causing them to oppose and blaspheme (Act ), and from whom he had separated by withdrawing from their synagogue and exercising his ministry in the house of Justus (Act 18:7). To this antagonistic course they were doubtless incited by a variety of motives, as, e.g.,

(1) their hatred of the gospel;

(2) their dislike of Paul the apostate Rabbi;

(3) their chagrin at the conversion of Crispus; and

(4) their annoyance at the favour which the new cause was finding among the Greeks. "It must be acknowledged," says Ramsay (St. Paul, etc., p. 256), "that Paul had not a very conciliatory way with the Jews when he became angry. The shaking out of his garments was undoubtedly a very exasperating gesture; and the occupying of a meeting-house next door to the synagogue, with the former archisynagogos as a prominent officer, was more than human nature could stand.… It is not strange that the next stage of proceedings was in a law court." Perhaps not; but this seems hard on Paul, who would have been almost superhuman if he had not sometimes lost his temper with his much-beloved countrymen.

2. The exact date of this hostile movement. "When Gallio was the deputy, or proconsul, of Achaia," A.D. 53 (see "Critical Remarks"). Under Tiberius an imperial province governed by a procurator, Achaia, when Claudius assumed the purple (A.D. 44), was restored to the Senate and ruled by a proconsul. Gallio's predecessor had ended his term of government, and Gallio himself had just entered on office, when this persecution arose. The Jews had probably been tempted to try this assault upon their obnoxious countryman because of Gallio's inexperience and reputed easiness of character, the first of which might make him willing to curry favour with the Jews, while the second might lead him to believe their complaints without investigating whether these rested on any good foundation. Originally called Marcus Annæus Novatus, and afterwards known as Lucius Junius Annæus Gallio in consequence of having assumed the name of Lucius Junius Gallio, a friendly rhetorician who had adopted him, Gallio was brother to the well-known philosopher Seneca, who wrote of him: "No mortal man is so sweet to any person as he is to all mankind," and "even those who love my brother Gallio to the very utmost of their power yet do not love him enough"—language which, if it could scarcely be accepted as unimpeachable evidence of Gallio's merit, at least testified to the strength of Seneca's affection.

3. The special form of this hostile movement. A unanimous "insurrection," or uprising of the Jewish populace against the apostle, in which, having arrested him, they fetched him before the governor's tribunal, as their kinsmen in Thessalonica had dragged him before the city rulers (Act ), and as the owners of the divining maid in Philippi had brought him and Silas before the magistrates (Act 16:20). The accusation in this case ran in different terms from the indictments in those. At Philippi the apostle had been charged with subverting Roman customs in religion; in Thessalonica the complainants urged that he had acted contrary to the decrees of Cæsar; here at Corinth the impeachment alleged that he persuaded men to worship God contrary to law—not of the empire (Spence, Plumptre), but of Moses (Conybeare and Howson, Farrar, Alford, Hackett, Holtzmann, Lechler), since under Roman rule Judaism was a religio licita, and Paul's teaching in his countrymen's eyes constituted a violation of the Hebrew Lawgiver's precepts.

II. Persecution foiled.—Arraigned before the judgment seat of Gallio—a chair or tribunal, three times mentioned in the story, from which Roman justice was dispensed—Paul was about to open his mouth in self-defence, when Gallio interrupted him, quashed the proceedings, and so protected the apostle, but lost to the world and the Church a speech which the latter at least would willingly have heard.

1. The ground of his procedure he made clearly known to the prosecutors.

(1) The case they had brought before him lay not within his civil jurisdiction. Had it been a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, an act of injustice or legal injury, such as fraud or dishonesty or wicked crime—i.e., a moral offence or deed of wickedness—he would have felt it his duty to bear with them and investigate their charges.

(2) The case, however, was altogether outside his functions. So far as he could see, it concerned questionings or disputes about a word, or doctrine (Hackett), about names, as, e.g., whether Jesus had been rightly or wrongly called Messiah, and about their own law, whether it was correctly observed or not; and these were affairs they could look to themselves. As for him, he had no mind to be a judge of such matters, even if they lay within his judicial domain, which he practically acknowledged they did not. To infer that his action was in any way dictated by secret sympathy for the Christian religion would be, to say the least, extremely hazardous.

2. The end of his procedure was that he summarily quashed the indictment, announced that the prosecutors had no case, and ordered the lictors to clear the court. "We may be sure they made short work of ejecting the frustrated, but muttering, mob on whose disappointed malignity, if his countenance at all reflected the feelings expressed by his words, he must have looked down from his lofty tribunal with undisguised contempt" (Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul, i. 569).

III. Persecution reversed.—Before the court was cleared the tables were turned.

1. The ruler of the synagogue was trounced. The Jews who had hastened before the governor's tribunal in hope of seeing Paul scourged reluctantly beheld their own leader beat. This leader was Sosthenes, who had probably succeeded (Act ) if he had not been a colleague of Crispus. There is no solid reason for supposing (Theodoret, Calvin, Ewald, Hofmann) him to have been the Sosthenes our brother mentioned in Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (Act 1:1).

2. The parties who trounced him were the mob. Not the Jews (Ewald, Hofmann), who suspected their champion had bungled their case through secret sympathy with Paul—which, by the way, forms the ground for supposing him to be "Sosthenes our brother." Certainly not the Christians, who, had it been they, would have behaved most unworthily (Mat ), but the Gentiles or Greeks, who may have been impelled to such a violent demonstration, either because Sosthenes showed himself refractory and unwilling to depart from the basilica, or because they felt indignant at the Jews for having trumped up a baseless accusation against an innocent man, whom besides, through his having withdrawn from the synagogue, they regarded as in a manner belonging to themselves.

3. The governor looked on with indifference. "My lord Gallio," as his brother styled him, was as completely unconcerned about the whipping which the Greeks gave to Sosthenes as he had been about the charges of the Jews preferred against Paul. Perhaps the whipping was, after all, not a violent affair. "So long as they were not guilty of any serious infraction of the peace, it was nothing to him how the Greek gamins amused themselves" (Farrar). If, however, it amounted to bodily injury, then Gallio's supercilious contempt was not only wrong in itself but stood in flagrant contradiction to his pompous speech (Act ).

Lessons.—

1. The lies told against Christianity and Christians by their enemies.

2. The true province of the civil magistrate, secular affairs.

3. The retribution which often comes on those who devise evil against others.

4. The indifference of many to both religion and morality.

HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

Act . A Court Scene in Corinth.

I. The place of judgment.—The agora or market place. Justice should always be dispensed in public, in order to prevent abuses.

II. The person of the prisoner.—Paul, a preacher of the gospel. Preachers have often been called upon to answer for their crimes in publishing the good news of salvation.

III. The terms of the indictment.—That Paul taught men to worship God contrary to law. It is no sin either to worship God or to teach men so; yet are all ways of worshipping God not equally right.

IV. The rank of the prosecutor.—Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue. The Church's dignitaries no less than the world's great men have sometimes been found in the ranks of persecutors.

V. The character of the judge.—Gallio, an indifferent and haughty cynic. Rank and power often lead to such unbecoming dispositions.

VI. The issues of the trial.—

1. To the prisoner, acquittal.

2. To the prosecutor, a beating.

3. To both, perhaps, the unexpected.

A Remarkable Trio; or, a character study.

I. Paul, the representative of religious zeal.

II. Sosthenes, the incarnation of religious intolerance.

III. Gallio, the type of religious indifference.

Sosthenes and Gallio; or, Paul's accuser and judge.

I. The accuser.—Sosthenes.

1. His person. Successor of Crispus. Perhaps afterwards with Paul in Ephesus and Macedonia (1Co ).

2. His motives. Mixed.

(1) Responsibility for the dignity of the synagogue.

(2) Anger at Crispus's defection.

(3) Displeasure at Paul's success.

3. His action. Having caused Paul to be arrested, he brought the apostle before Gallio's judgment seat. Often easier to defeat a man at law than to overcome him in logic.

4. His indictment. He accused Paul of persuading men to worship contrary to the law. No civil crime imputed to Paul. Charged with propagating illegal tenets in religion.

II. The judge—Gallio.

1. A remarkable man. Brother of Seneca.

2. A remarkable character. A person of talent and great amiability.

3. A remarkable utterance. "If, indeed, it were a matter of wrong," etc. Explain what this means (see "Critical Remarks" and "Homiletical Analysis").

4. A remarkable blunder. Looking on with indifference while Sosthenes was being maltreated.

Gallio's Action.—"This action of the Imperial government in protecting Paul from the Jews, and (if we are right) declaring freedom in religious matters, seems to have been the crowning fact in determining Paul's conduct. According to our view, the residence at Corinth was an epoch in Paul's life. As regards his doctrine, he became more clearly conscious of its character, as well as more precise and definite in his presentation of it; and as regards practical work, he became more clear as to his aim, and the means of attaining the aim—namely, that Christianity should be spread through the civilised—i.e., the Roman—world (not as excluding, but as preparatory to, the entire world, Col ), using the freedom of speech which the Imperial policy as declared by Gallio seemed inclined to permit. The action of Gallio, as we understand it, seems to pave the way for Paul's appeal a few years later from the petty, outlying court of the procurator of Judæa, who was always much under the influence of the ruling party in Jerusalem, to the supreme tribunal of the empire."—Ramsay, St. Paul, etc., pp. 259, 260.

Act . Gallio's Behaviour.

I. How far it was right.—

1. In declining to interfere in the settlement of religious questions.

2. In expressing his readiness to investigate civil complaints.

II. How far it was wrong.—

1. In not troubling himself to arrive at the truth about Paul.

2. In taking no cognisance of injustice towards Sosthenes.

Gallio, the Civil Magistrate.

I. His judicial equity and impartiality.

II. His legal intelligence and discrimination.

III. His moral and religious indifference.


Verses 18-22

CRITICAL REMARKS

Act . Having shorn his head at Cenchrea, for he had a vow.—The uncertainties connected with this passage are three:

1. Whether Aquila (Kuinoel, Meyer, Wendt, Zckler) or Paul (Augustine and most moderns) is here referred to.

2. Whether the hair shaving signified the assumption of or releasing from a vow.

3. Whether the vow was a regular Nazarite or simply a private vow, analogous to that. Most interpreters hold that Paul was the person who shaved his head; that he did so in order to release himself from a vow he had taken in Corinth; that the vow was, if not in all respects a Nazarite vow, at least a private vow analogous to that which bound him along with abstinence to let his hair grow for a certain period—in this case till he left Corinth; that if it was a Nazarite vow Paul might have taken it without compromising his Christian liberty (compare Act ), and might have been able to release himself from it without waiting till he reached Jerusalem (see further in "Homiletical Analysis"). That such vows were practised among the heathen numerous instances show. Diodorus (Act 1:18) mentions them among the Egyptians; while Homer (Iliad, xxiii. 140-153) records similar acts of Peleus and Achilles. Josephus (Wars, II. xv. 1) notices a like vow which Agrippa's sister Bernice paid in Jerusalem.

Act . Ephesus.—On the Cayster, which falls into the bay of Scala Nova on the western coast of Asia Minor. Dating back probably to B.C. 1044, Ephesus from its foundation "increased in importance till it became the chief mart of Asia Minor"; while its magnificent temple of Diana "never ceased to attract multitudes from all parts." It ultimately fell into the hands of the Romans B.C. 41 (Modern Discoveries on the Site of Ancient Ephesus, pp. 13-17).

Act . And he left them there.—Not meaning that Paul left Aquila and Priscilla in the town while he went into the synagogue (Alford), or that he henceforth quitted their society and devoted himself to the heathen (Wendt, Holtzmann), but signifying that he left them behind in Ephesus when he set sail for Cæsarea. The best MSS. omit the words I must by all means keep this feast which cometh at Jerusalem, and they are now commonly regarded as an insertion modelled after Act 20:16. But as they occur in some important texts, and explain the phrase "having gone up" in Act 18:22, it will do no harm to retain them—the feast being in this case either Passover (Ewald, Renan) or Pentecost (Wieseler).

Act . The Church.—In Jerusalem is meant, not in Antioch (Kuinoel, Blass). An impossible interpretation, for two reasons:

1. The phrase "went down" is never used of a journey from a coast town to an inland city like Antioch. One regularly goes down to a coast town (compare Act , Act 14:25, Act 16:8, etc.).

2. The terms "going up" and "going down" are used so frequently of the journey to and from Jerusalem as to establish this usage (Ramsay). The historic credibility of this journey to Jerusalem is challenged (Weizscker, Wendt, Pfleiderer, Holtzmann, and others) because it does not appear to be mentioned in Galatians, and along with that the truthfulness of the narrative which speaks of a first brief sojourn in Ephesus (Act ) and a second longer visit at a later date (Act 19:1). But neither does Galatians mention the journey in Act 11:30, unless this be that referred to in Gal 2:1, in which case Galatians omits all mention of the visit in Act 15:2. Yet both of these are historical.

HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Act

Paul's Return to Antioch; or, the Close of his Second Missionary Journey

I. Departure from Corinth.—

1. After a somewhat prolonged stoy. At the time of Sosthenes's attempt to persecute Paul, the apostle, according to one view (Meyer), had been eighteen months in Corinth, when the failure of that attempt, the consequent notoriety his cause obtained, and the success which attended his labours, induced him to "remain yet many days" with his converts. According to the common interpretation (Alford, Lechler, Wendt, Hackett, Spence) the year and six months of Act embraced the whole period of his residence in that city. In either case, in addition to preaching and founding churches in the town and neighbourhood (2Co 1:1)—as, e.g., in Cenchrea (see Rom 16:1)—he occupied a part of his time in writing letters to the Thessalonians (the First and Second Epistles).

2. With affectionate leave takings.

(1) Of his colleagues, Silas and (most likely also) Timothy, though the latter is found with him again in Ephesus on his third missionary journey (Act ).

(2) Of his new friends—Stephanas and Crispus, with their households, whom he had baptised with his own hands (1Co ); Gaius, whom he also baptised (1Co 1:14), and with whom he lodged on his next visit (Rom 16:23); Fortunatus, Achaicus, and Chloe (1Co 1:11; 1Co 16:17); with Erastus, the city chamberlain, and Quartus, a brother (Rom 16:23).

(3) Of the general body of converts, among whom were not many wise, or mighty, or noble, but only weak, ignorant, humble, and poor people (1Co ), whom he had tended as babes in Christ (1Co 3:2), whom he regarded as his spiritual children (2Co 6:13), and for whose welfare he continued ever after to be solicitous.

3. Accompanied by dear friends. What induced Aquila and Priscilla to leave Corinth is not recorded. Perhaps they desired to enjoy longer the society of Paul, or to proceed to their home in Pontus, though circumstances, guided by providence, led to their being detained at Ephesus (Act ); but whatever may have been the motive which prompted them, their company would, without question, be helpful to Paul.

II. Embarkation at Cenchrea.—

1. The harbour of Corinth. Cenchrea, Kichries, ten miles distant from Corinth, formed its eastern port, from which ships sailed to Asia; Lechum, its western, for vessels bound to Italy, lay upon the other side of the Isthmus. At Cenchrea a Christian Church was early planted, presumably by the apostle's labours (Rom ).

2. An incident before sailing. Either Aquila (Grotius, Kuinoel, Meyer, Conybeare and Howson) or Paul (Augustine, Calvin, Bengel, Olshausen, Neander, Alford, Hackett, Plumptre, Spence, and others) shaved his head in consequence of having a vow. The only reasons for supposing that Aquila was the person who thus released himself from his vow are that the name Aquila immediately precedes the participle "having shorn," and that one feels a difficulty in perceiving why Paul should have entangled himself with such a worn-out Jewish custom while founding a Christian Church in Corinth. But

(1) There does not appear sufficient cause for Luke recording anything about Aquila's vow, the principal actor in the story being Paul.

(2) If Aquila had been under such a vow as is here referred to he must have proceeded to Jerusalem, and either shaved there in the temple, or, if the modification of the law permitted him to shave at Cenchrea, he must still have carried the hair to the temple and burnt it in the altar fire (Numbers 6).

(3) If the vow spoken lay on Paul, it need only be remembered that Paul, though a Christian," was still a Jew, and delighted, when able, without compromising his evangelical liberty, to observe Jewish customs—thus to the Jew becoming a Jew in order to gain the Jews (1Co ).

(4) It is not certain that Paul's vow was that of a Nazarite; but even if it was, the act performed was intended not as an assumption, but as a discharge of the vow.

(5) More than likely the vow bound him to a modified asceticism as a sign and means of more earnest spiritual consecration, and was assumed as a visible expression of gratitude for the protection and success he had experienced at Corinth.

3. The destination of the voyagers. Immediately Syria, ultimately for Paul Jerusalem and Antioch.

III. Sojourn in Ephesus.—

1. The sail across the archipelago. With a favourable wind this may have been accomplished in two or three days, though Cicero once spent fifteen on a voyage from Athens, to Ephesus, and thirteen on the return trip. As the ship threaded its way among "the Isles of Greece" many ancient historical associations may have presented themselves to the mind of the apostle; but if they did (which is doubtful), the thoughts they occasioned have not been recorded, and probably were not expressed.

2. The landing at Ephesus. The ship, which was seemingly bound for Syria, would not stay long in the harbour of Ephesus, but Paul and his companions disembarked, and made their first acquaintance with the famous ancient capital of Ionia, at that time the metropolis of proconsular Asia, the seat of a flourishing trade, the centre of the worship of Diana (Act , which see), and afterwards the Christian metropolis of Asia Minor (see "Critical Remarks").

3. The work in the city. Priscilla and Aquila no doubt followed their ordinary calling as they had done at Corinth, but Paul betook himself to preaching in the synagogue and reasoning with the Jews—according to his work, losing no opportunity of making known the gospel of the grace of God to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. Though not stated there would doubtless be here, as elsewhere, proselytes attached to the synagogue.

IV. Voyage to Cæsarea.—

1. After a brief stay in Ephesus. So favourable an impression had he made upon his countrymen in that large commercial and intellectual but superstitious city, that his hearers would willingly have persuaded him to remain amongst them some time longer. This, however, they were unable to do, "He consented not."

2. With kindly farewells to his countrymen. Amongst these he had presumably made numerous friends and perhaps not a few converts, and from these he tore himself only under the constraint of a higher duty. For reasons not explained he deemed it incumbent on him to be present at the approaching festival in Jerusalem—either the Passover (Ewald, Renan), or more likely Pentecost (Wieseler), rather than Tabernacles, which would have made the voyage too late—and so he told his kinsmen.

3. Promising to return. If God should permit (compare Jas ). A promise soon after fulfilled (Act 19:1).

4. Unattended by his recent companions. That Priscilla and Aquila remained behind in Ephesus appears to be the import of the clause—"and he left them there" (see "Critical Remarks"); and that they stayed behind the context shows.

V. Visit to Jerusalem.—

1. The certainty of this visit. Having landed at Cæsarea (see Act ), he went up, not from the harbour to the town (Kuinoel, Blass), but from Cæsarea to Jerusalem. Compare the usual mode of expression (Act 11:2, Act 15:2, Act 21:12; Act 21:15, Act 24:11, Act 25:1; Act 25:9; Gal 2:1-2; Mat 20:18; Mar 10:32-33; Luk 2:42; Luk 23:31; Luk 19:28; Joh 2:13; Joh 5:1; Joh 7:8; Joh 7:10; Joh 11:55; Joh 12:20). It forms no valid objection to this visit that it is not mentioned in Galatians 2. The number of this visit. The fourth; the others having been—the first (Act 9:26), the second (Act 11:30), the third (Act 15:2).

3. The object of this visit.

(1) To keep the feast (see "Critical Remarks"). Whether he arrived in time for this is not told.

(2) Perhaps to complete his vow by burning his hair in the temple.

(3) Possibly to salute the Church there, which he did.

VI. Return to Antioch.—

1. How long he had been absent. Uncertain. According to one computation (Wieseler) about three years, giving six months for Paul's journey between Antioch and Troas, six months for his work in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berœa, eighteen months for his stay in Corinth, and six months for the voyage from Corinth to Ephesus and Cæsarea, and the travel to Jerusalem and back to Antioch. 2. Why he returned. Because Antioch was the place from which he had been sent out, and was now practically become the Church's missionary centre.

3. When he left. After a brief stay. When he did depart it was probably for ever. No intimation is preserved of his having ever again visited the city. Antioch is not again mentioned by Luke.

Learn.—

1. That earthly friendships should never be allowed to hinder the onward movements of God's servants and Christ's missionaries.

2. That legitimate vows voluntarily undertaken should be religiously paid.

3. That promises made by Christian people should be faithfully kept.

4. That missionaries ought to stir up the home Churches by frequent rehearsals of missionary intelligence.

5. That for the true apostle of Jesus Christ there can be no rest so long as it is day.

HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

Act . Vows in the Religious Life.

I. Are perfectly legitimate under the gospel.—Though not enjoined in the Scriptures of the New Testament, Paul's example may be regarded as giving them a quasi sanction.

II. Concern things which are, in themselves, morally indifferent.—Whatever is already commanded lies outside the province, within which a vow is permissible.

III. Should never be undertaken rashly.—Otherwise unnecessary burdens may be laid on weak consciences.

IV. When made should be faithfully performed.—Better not vow than having vowed neglect to pay.

Act . Keeping the Feast—a Communion Sermon. "I must by all means keep this feast" (the Lord's Supper) "which cometh at Jerusalem."

I. Because of the commandment I have received.—"This do in remembrance of Me" (Luk ).

II. Because of the company I shall meet.—Christ and His friends who are also my brethren (Joh ).

III. Because of the benefit I shall receive.—Spiritual nourishment and growth in grace (Joh ).

IV. Because of the good I shall do.—By

1. Confessing Christ before His Church and in sight of the world.

2. By encouraging my fellow-disciples to be steadfast in the faith.


Verses 23-28

CRITICAL REMARKS

Act . The region of Galatia and Phrygia.—See on Act 16:6.

Act . A certain Jew named Apollos—a diminutive or pet name for Apollomos, which occurs in Codex D. (Ramsay). Born at Alexandria, or an Alexandrian by birth, he had probably received "the Jewish Grecian education peculiar to the learned among the Jews of that city, and acquired great facility in the use of the Greek language" (Neander). The success of his labours in Corinth is attested by Paul (1Co 1:12; 1Co 3:5-6). Luther's conjecture that Apollos was the author of Hebrews is not without probability (Beyschlag, Plumptre). Alexandria.—The chief maritime city, and long the metropolis, of Lower Egypt, was founded by Alexander the Great, B.C. 332, and built under the superintendence of the architect who rebuilt the temple of Diana at Ephesus. Under Ptolemy Soter it became the seat not only of commerce, but also of learning and the liberal sciences. The LXX. translation of the Old Testament Scriptures was made in Alexandria, B.C. 280. Philo was born there, B.C. 20. In A.D. 39 the Jews in Alexandria were subjected to horrible persecutions by Ptolemy Philopator, because their co-religionists in Jerusalem had resisted his attempt to enter the temple there. Mark is said to have introduced Christianity into Alexandria.

Act . The things of the Lord should be the things concerning Jesus.

Act . Aquila and Priscilla.—The names should be reversed, as in Act 18:18. "The unusual order, the wife before the husband must be accepted as original; for there is always a tendency among scribes to change the unusual into the usual" (Ramsay).

Act . The brethren—i.e., of Ephesus—wrote exhorting the disciples in Achaia to receive him.—Better, the brethren (at Ephesus) encouraged (him) and wrote to the (Corinthian) disciples to receive him. Holtzmann finds the right explanation in the old reading of Codex D: "But some Corinthians residing in Ephesus who had heard Apollos requested him to cross with them to their native city; and the Ephesians consenting to this proposal, wrote to the disciples in Corinth to receive him."

Act . Helped them much which had believed through grace.—According to another translation, helped much through grace them who had believed (see "Hints"). And that publicly might be connected with the participle following, as thus: publicly showing, or in public showing—i.e., in their synagogues as distinguished from their private homes.

HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Act

Paul's Departure from Antioch; or, the Commencement of the Third Missionary Journey

I. On the way for Ephesus.—

1. The time of starting. After Paul had spent some time, obviously not long, in Antioch; either because of his impatience to be at his chosen lifework, carrying the gospel into regions beyond, or because he desired to get back as soon as possible to Ephesus, or because the unpleasant encounter with Peter (Gal ), which most critics insert here, rendered it desirable for him to quit Antioch. It was now about the end of 54 A.D., or the beginning of 55 A.D.

2. The line of travel. Through the country of Galatia and Phrygia (see on Act ). Probably passing north from Antioch through the Cilician Gates, visiting Tarsus on the way, and calling in upon the Churches of Lycaonia, Pisidia, and Pamphylia, though these are not mentioned. At any rate, he seems to have entered Galatia first and borne down on Ephesus through Phrygia.

3. The business of the journey. "Strengthening" or "establishing all the disciples," confirming the Churches and exhorting the believers (compare Act ; Act 15:32), perhaps also counselling them to "remember the poor," and instructing them how to lift contributions for this purpose (1Co 16:1-2).

4. The names of his companions. Not stated. But obviously Silas did not attend him on this occasion—possibly having stayed behind in Jerusalem, from which he had first started out with Barnabas (Act ), and where he originally held a leading place among the brethren; or having been left behind by Paul at Corinth (see Act 18:18). Whether Timothy accompanied him at the outset is not clear, though on reaching Ephesus the two are again together (Act 19:22). In Ephesus also Erastus, the chamberlain of Corinth (Rom 16:23), shows at his side (Act 19:22), having probably joined the apostle in that city. Probably also Titus, though not named in the Acts, travelled with Paul on this third missionary tour (see 2Co 8:6; 2Co 8:16-24).

II. What occurred at Ephesus in the meanwhile.—

1. The arrival of a distinguished stranger.

(1) His name. Apollos, an abbreviation of Apollonius,

(2) His nationality. A Jew.

(3) His birthplace. Alexandria in Egypt, "the emporium of Greek commerce from the time of its foundation, where, since the earliest Ptolemies, literature, philosophy, and criticism had never ceased to excite the most intellectual activity; where the Septuagint translation of the Scripture had been made, and where a Jewish temple and ceremonial worship had been established in rivalry to that in Jerusalem" (Conybeare and Howson, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, i. 36). (See "Critical Remarks.")

(4) His reputation. A learned or eloquent man, especially in the Scriptures, in the understanding and exposition of which he was mighty. He had "probably been well trained in the rhetorical schools on the banks of the Nile" (Conybeare and Howson, ii. 7).

(5) His knowledge. He was "instructed or taught by word of mouth in the way of the Lord," perhaps by one of John's disciples, or by John himself, whose ministry he may have attended. He knew the things of the Lord or concerning Jesus—i.e., from the standpoint of John, whose baptism alone he had received. That he was not acquainted with the later facts of our Lord's history—as, e.g., His death and resurrection, with all the doctrinal significance these contained—seems hinted in the narrative, which, however, may admit of his acquaintance with the person and work of Jesus as taught by John.

(6) His piety. He was frvent in spirit (compare Rom ); of a glowing religious disposition and ardent zeal in promoting the spread of the gospel as understood by him.

(7) His activity. He taught carefully, and began to speak boldly in the synagogue.

2. His meeting with Priscilla and Aquila.

(1) The place where this occurred was most likely the synagogue. "When Priscilla and Aquila heard him."

(2) The impression made upon Priscilla and Aquila by his eloquent Scripture expositions was that he sincerely believed in the Messiah whom John had proclaimed, but had not a perfect knowledge of the facts of Christ's history or an accurate understanding of the plan of salvation which was grounded on them.

(3) Accordingly they undertook to expound, and in point of fact did expound to him, the way of God more carefully. Whether Priscilla and Aquila had first learnt the story of the Cross in Rome from Pentecostal pilgrims, or in Ephesus from Paul, cannot be decided (see on Act ), neither can it be ascertained whether Apollos had been baptised by John or his disciples, or whether, if he had been, he was a second time baptised. The incident in Act 19:1-7 would suggest rebaptism in the name of Christ if that ordinance had previously been administered to him.

3. His departure from the city. After learning the way of God more accurately he conceived the design of crossing over into Achaia.

(1) His reasons for doing so may have been "a delicate reserve which prevented him from coming forward again in Ephesus, where he had already appeared with such unripe and defective knowledge" (Lechler), or a desire from what he heard of the Corinthian Church from Priscilla and Aquila to labour there, or both.

(2) His way was smoothed for him by the brethren at Ephesus, who, willing to part with their eloquent teacher for the good of Corinth, encouraged him (not exhorted the Corinthians), and gave him to the Church there "letters of commendation" (2Co ).

(3) His resolution was providentially stamped as right by the success which attended his ministry in Achaia, which was both helpful to them who had believed through grace, and effective in defending the truth against the Jews, whom "he powerfully confuted and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ."

Learn.—

1. That an imperfectly enlightened Christian may be instrumental in doing much good.

2. That persons of eminent parts may be greatly helped in the religious life by individuals of obscure position and slender gifts.

3. That private Christians may sometimes do the work of theological colleges and ecclesiastical boards.

4. That ministers of eminent gifts, grace being equal, may be expected to do better service in the Church than ministers of lesser endowments.

5. That Christian Churches should diligently seek out and train those among them who appear best fitted for the ministry.

HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

Act . Apollos: a Model Preacher.

I. Eloquent in speech.

II. Mighty in the Scriptures (Act ).

III. Fervent in spirit (Act ).

IV. Courageous in heart (Act ).

V. Humble in mind (Act ).

VI. Unwearied in service (Act ).

VII. Powerful in reasoning (Act ).

Act . The Way of the Lord.

I. A Divine way. The same as the way of God. The two expressions imply the doctrine of Christ's divinity.

II. A Prophetic way. Foreannounced by prophets and teachers of the Old Dispensation. The Messianic element in Old Testament prophecy.

III. A Scriptural way. The value of Old Testament Scripture as a testimony to Christ. The Old Testament the basis and support of the New.

Act . Growth in Christian Knowledge.

I. Necessary for all, even for the gifted (Act ).

II. Attainable by humble desire of learning (Act ).

III. Fruitful, by blessed working for God (Act ).

Act . All of Grace.

I. The faith of the Christian believer (compare Eph ).

II. The success of the Christian minister (compare 1Co ).

Act . The Biography of Apollos.

I. The details of his early history.—

1. By descent a Jew. The honour and privilege of having been descended from Abraham (Joh ; Rom 3:1; Rom 9:4-5).

2. By birth an Alexandrian. An additional privilege to be born in a great centre of light and civilisation. How much more to be cradled in a Christian land!

3. By talent an eloquent or learned man. Neither possible without a combination of remarkable powers, clearness of perception, retentiveness of memory, readiness of reproduction, quickness of emotion.

4. By religion a half Christian. Distinguished at this stage by three things:

(1) his large acquaintance with Scripture;

(2) his position as a disciple of John; and

(3) his activity as a preacher.

II. The story of his conversion to Christianity.—

1. How providentially it was brought about. By meeting with Aquila and Priscilla who, on their way to Pontus probably, had stayed at Ephesus. So the hand of God is in every man's conversion, though not always as plainly seen.

2. How humbly it was brought about. By no special manifestation of Christ, such as Paul enjoyed. By no angel ministers like those who were commissioned to lead the Eunuch and Cornelius into the light. Not even by an apostle like Paul or by an evangelist like Philip. But by two private and comparatively obscure Christians, named Aquila and Priscilla.

3. How quietly it was brought about. No vulgar noise or sensational appeals. Simply quiet teaching. Imparting the truth and allowing it to do its own work.

III. His subsequent career as a Christian preacher.—

1. He began with his own people. As Christ commanded His disciples to begin at Jerusalem (Luk ); and as Andrew first found his own brother (Joh 1:41).

2. He passed over into Europe. Visited the Churches in Achaia, and specially that of Corinth, where he laboured in the house of Justus among the people Paul had gathered—and laboured so successfully that a party rallied round him as if he had been a rival of the apostle (1Co ), which he was not. Nor was Paul ever jealous of him, since he was afterwards in Paul's company when the First Epistle to the Corinthians was written (1Co 16:12).

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Acts 18:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/acts-18.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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