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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Acts 18

 

 

Verse 17

DISCOURSE: 1792

THE CHARACTER OF GALLIO

Acts 18:17. And Gallio cared for none of those things.

WE are assured that not one jot or tittle of God’s word has ever failed, or ever can fail. But, for the trial of our faith, and for the more abundant manifestation of his own truth and faithfulness, God is often pleased to let events of so dark a nature arise, that it shall appear almost impossible for his word to receive its accomplishment. Thus he did in relation to the Israelites in Egypt. He had promised to Abraham, that before the expiration of four hundred and thirty years, he would bring his posterity out of Egypt. The time appointed had just arrived, when he sent his servants, Moses and Aaron, to lead them forth; but, so far from succeeding in their efforts, they only augmented the labours and sufferings of their oppressed countrymen: and, when the very last day had arrived, they were plainly warned by Pharaoh, that, if they attempted to come into his presence again, they should die. What now must become of the veracity of God? Did his word fall to the ground? No: that very night did God send a judgment, which caused the Egyptians to thrust them out. In like manner did the Lord Jesus act towards the Apostle Paul. It should seem that Paul had felt discouraged at the little success of his labours during his long stay of a year and six months at Corinth; and that he had begun to yield to some desponding fears. Our blessed Lord, for his encouragement, appeared to him in a vision, and told him, he should be successful in planting a large Church there, and that “none should set on him to hurt him.” But behold, “when Gallic was deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment-seat, saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law.” Here it is manifest that they did “set on him,” and that too with the most brutal ferocity: but did they “hurt him?” No: the Governor would not listen to their complaints. This occasioned a great tumult in the court, insomuch that the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment-seat. Why did they not, in their rage, beat Paul? Why did they wreak their vengeance on a friend of Paul’s, and not on Paul himself? God’s word had been pledged for Paul; and therefore not a hair of his head could be touched. Gallic, who should have been Paul’s protector, “cared for none of those things:” but God cared for Paul; and it was impossible for man to “hurt him.” The indifference of Gallio left Paul entirely at the mercy of his enemies: but “the word of God could not be broken;” and therefore Paul was as safe from injury, as he would have been even in heaven itself.

The account here given of Gallio is deserving of particular consideration; and the rather, as very different opinions have been formed respecting it. We propose therefore,

I. To form an estimate of his character—

It is not so much from a single expression that we are to form our judgment, as from a view of all the circumstances under which he acted, and all the persons with whom he had to do. It will be proper to notice his character,

1. As exhibited in his conduct on this occasion—

[Gallio acted in a double capacity, as a man, and as a magistrate. In his official character, whilst we applaud his moderation, we think him highly deserving of blame. As a Governor, even if no reference had been made to him, he should have endeavoured to prevent an innocent man from being oppressed by an enraged multitude, and should have required the criminality of Paul to be established before any punishment should be inflicted on him: but when a direct reference was made to him for judgment, he should on no account have left him at the mercy of his enemies. What though he did not feel himself competent to decide the points at issue between them; he might easily see whether the points at issue were of such importance to the public welfare as to demand a judicial examination: and, if necessary, he might have appointed a commission of persons qualified to examine it under his sanction and authority. At all events, he should not have left the people to take the law into their own hands. In relation to Sosthenes also he was highly criminal: for a magistrate ought on no account to suffer such an open and flagrant violation of the law, as that which took place in the very seat of judgment. A magistrate should “not bear the sword in vain: he is God’s representative and vicegerent upon earth; and he ought to be both “a terror to evil-doers, and a praise to them that do well.” In shrinking from the execution of his office, whether through indolence or fear, he violates his duty both to God and man.

Nor do we more approve of him in his personal conduct, as a man. He had long heard of Paul, and of the wonderful exertions he made in propagating what he professed to be a revelation from heaven. We can make some allowance for a Governor, circumstanced as Gallio was, not sending to Paul to get information from him respecting the doctrines he preached: but now God had sent the man into his very presence; and Paul was actually about to declare those very truths, which Gallio should have earnestly desired to hear: yet when “God had given him this price to get wisdom, he knew not how to use it.” Here then we blame him exceedingly: his indifference here betrayed a total want of all religion, and an utter disregard of all that should have been interesting to an immortal being. The historian evidently intends to fix a stigma upon him; and Gallio well deserved it; and, as long as the world shall stand, he will be the representative of all who are regardless of their eternal interests.]

2. As compared with the other characters with whom he had to do—

[We pass over Sosthenes and his persecutors, because we cannot absolutely determine who they were: but we think that Sosthenes had shewn himself desirous of screening Paul; and that the Greeks were instigated by the Jews to vent their rage on him, because he, who, as ruler of their synagogue, might have been expected most warmly to espouse their cause, had now begun to take part against them.

The other two parties are the persecuting Jews, and the persecuted Apostle. In comparison of the former, Gallio appears to advantage: for they were seeking to destroy a man merely for his opinions, and for endeavouring, in a peaceful way, to disseminate those opinions; whereas he was tolerant, and refused to sanction so unreasonable a proceeding. He justly distinguished between gross violations of the law, which no government should tolerate, and certain differences of opinion which might consist with the undiminished welfare of society. As a friend to toleration therefore, he merits our applause: and we regret that those who professed themselves the people of God, were so inferior to a heathen in appreciating and upholding the rights of man.

But if we compare him with the persecuted Apostle, he sinks to the lowest state of degradation. Behold the Apostle! it was his “care for these things” that involved him in all his trouble: had he been content to go to heaven alone, he might have avoided all these bitter persecutions. But he knew the value of an immortal soul; and was “willing to endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they might obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” He went everywhere to find out men whom he might instruct in the way to heaven: whereas Gallio, with that very instructor in his presence, would not even trouble himself so much as to hear what he had to say. He accounted Christianity as no other than a strife about words, and therefore undeserving his notice. Unhappy man, to have so little concern for thine immortal soul, and such a brutish indifference about thine eternal welfare! The ox and the ass will condemn thee for thy stupidity and folly.]

Such being our estimate of Gallio’s character, we proceed,

II. To deduce from it some lessons of instruction—

His character not being wholly destitute of what, in a comparative view at least, may be approved, we shall deduce our lessons,

1. From the better part of his character—

[Two things we may learn from this; namely, not to indulge a spirit of intolerance; and, not to be carried away by popular resentment.

That a political necessity may exist for withholding certain privileges from some, is beyond a doubt: but nothing can justify the inflicting of pains and penalties upon any, on account of their religious sentiments. Man is, not only at liberty, but bound, to worship God according to his conscience: nor is any man in the universe authorized to obstruct him, unless there be something in his conduct contrary to good morals, or to the public peace. In the nation at large, this is well understood and practised: but amongst individuals there are many who would be as intolerant as the Jews of old, if the laws did not protect the persons who differ from them. This however is a hateful spirit, and on no account to be countenanced or indulged.

On the other hand, there are many who are too easily influenced by popular opinion; and who would rather consent to the oppressing of a religious character, than withstand the public voice in his support. But if we suffer the cause of Christ and his people to be run down, because we have not courage to defend it, we are more guilty far than Gallio: we are like to Pilate, who, to pacify the Jews, and save his own credit with the Roman emperor, delivered up Jesus to the will of his blood-thirsty enemies. True indeed, we ought not to proceed in the violent and haughty manner that Gallio did: there are different ways of doing the same thing: we may act with suavity, though we comply not with the requisitions made to us: and this is the way in which we should act, whenever any attempts are made to prejudice our minds against God and his people: we should resolutely withstand the efforts of ungodly men, and maintain against all opposition the immutable laws of equity and love.]

2. From that part of his character which is unquestionably bad—

[Here also we will mention two things; namely, not to be indifferent about the concerns of others, and not to be lukewarm in the concerns of our own souls.

Doubtless we are not to be “busy-bodies in other men’s matters;” but, on the other hand, we are not to say, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We are told “not to look every man on his own things; but every man also on the things of others [Note: Philippians 2:4.].” If in temporal matters we can benefit our fellow-creatures, we are “debtors to them,” to do them all the good in our power. And, if we may advance their spiritual interests, we should account no labours too great, nor any sufferings too heavy to be encountered in so good a cause. This sentiment has of late gained a currency in this kingdom, beyond all that could ever have been expected. What exertions have not been made in sending missions to the heathen; in disseminating the Holy Scriptures throughout the world; and in educating the children of the poor, that they may be able to read the words of life! For the children of Abraham also, that debased, but highly interesting people, are efforts now used; and, we trust, will be used to a yet greater extent amongst us. The concern expressed also through the land for our fellow-subjects in India is highly creditable to the nation. But still there is abundant room for the display of our benevolence in every place where our lot is cast: and we cannot but earnestly pray, that it may no longer be said of any amongst us, “They mind every man his own things, and not the things that are Jesus Christ’s [Note: Philippians 2:21.].”

But, in order to maintain a zeal for the good of others, we must begin at home, and cherish a concern for our own souls. To keep the garden of others will be of little avail, if we neglect to cultivate our own [Note: Song of Solomon 1:6.]. The salvation of our own souls must be our first and great concern: in comparison of this, the whole world should be of no value in our eyes. Let us then regard the Lord Jesus Christ, and an interest in him, as “the pearl of great price,” for which we are readily to part with all that we possess. “Whatever our hand findeth to do in reference to our eternal state, let us do it with all our might.” Let us “strive to enter in at the strait gate;” remembering, that “many seek to enter in, but are not able.” Let us bear in mind, that no rank or station of life can exempt us from the duty of “caring for these things.” About the things of this world we may relax our care: there are few who do not run into a criminal excess in their attention to them: in reference to them, we think no anxiety too great, no labour too abundant: whilst the interests of the soul are deemed unworthy of any care. We mean not that worldly things are to be neglected; but that, whilst we are “not slothful in business, we should be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”]


Verses 24-28

DISCOURSE: 1793

CHARACTER AND MINISTRY OF APOLLOS

Acts 18:24-28. And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 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. 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 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: for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

IT is a weighty saying of our Lord, “To him that hath, shall be given; and from him that hath not, shall be taken away that which he seemeth to have.” Universal experience attests the truth of this: the man who has talents of any kind will improve them by use, and lose them in a great measure by neglect. In religion especially this law of our nature obtains: indeed it obtains in religion more than in any thing else; because, in addition to the gain or loss which the cultivation or neglect of any thing will of necessity occasion, God himself will interpose in the things which relate to him, either to reward the observance of them by a further communication of his blessings, or to punish the neglect of them by a withdrawment of his grace. Of the former of these, namely, the increase of well-employed talents, we have an instance in the history before us. Apollos, when he began to serve the Lord, had but a very contracted view of the things which he proposed to teach: but God so ordered it, that his exertions in the cause of religion should introduce him to the acquaintance with Aquila and Priscilla, and be the means of bringing him to the full knowledge, and complete enjoyment, of the Gospel of Christ.

In the account here given of him, we notice,

I. His qualifications for the ministry—

These were certainly of the highest order: he possessed many qualities admirably suited to the work in which he was engaged. They were of two kinds;

1. Intellectual—

[He had a natural gift of eloquence; I say, a natural gift; because it was a faculty distinct from that which may be acquired by study. Some men have in the very constitution of their minds a facility of conceiving clearly, and expressing readily, whatever they wish to impart. Some, however learned they may be, can never acquire that which we call eloquence; they have some embarrassments which they cannot surmount, or some deficiencies which they cannot supply. Others, with very little learning, can talk fluently and perspicuously upon any subject on which they have bestowed the smallest attention. This is a valuable talent, especially to any one who is called to instruct or persuade others — — — and happy was Apollos in the pre-eminent measure of it which he possessed.

But, besides this, he was well versed in the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. “He was mighty in the Scriptures,” being able to bring them to bear upon any point which he wished to discuss, and to shew from them what was agreeable to the mind and will of God. “The word dwelt richly in him in all wisdom” — — — This also is of the utmost importance to one who undertakes to teach others, since the sacred volume is the armoury from whence he must take all the weapons for his warfare, and the treasury from whence alone he can procure the riches which he undertakes to dispense.]

2. Moral—

[He was “fervent in spirit;” glowing with zeal for the honour of his God, and ardently longing for the salvation of his fellow-creatures — — — This in a minister is indispensable: the difficulties which he will have to encounter are very great, and fervour of spirit is necessary to carry him through them; nor can he hope to be extensively useful to others, unless he lay himself out in the service of God to the utmost of his power.

To this was added that most amiable of all graces, humility of mind. Notwithstanding his natural talents and eminent acquirements, he was willing to be instructed by any one who could advance him in the knowledge of the Lord. Aquila was only a mechanic, and not invested with the sacred office of a teacher: yet when he and his wife Priscilla invited Apollos to their house in order to “expound to him the way of God more perfectly,” Apollos thankfully accepted their invitation, and diligently availed himself of their instructions. This is an excellence rarely found in persons who are high in popular estimation: the admiration with which they are honoured, too often puffs them up with vain conceit, and indisposes them to learn from those, whom they regard as their inferiors in station or attainments: but the more rarely such docility is found, the more highly should it be appreciated, and the more carefully should it be maintained.]

Thus endowed, he greatly distinguished himself by,

II. His ministerial exertions—

He improved for God whatever talents he possessed—

[When he was only partially “instructed in the way of the Lord,” and knew nothing more than what he had learned from John the Baptist, he instructed others to the utmost of his power with great boldness, and diligence. The doctrines which John the Baptist had preached were in direct opposition to the habits of the world, and were sure to call forth the enmity of those who would not part with their sins: but Apollos feared not the face of man; but both “spake” in private, and “taught” in public, and that too with unremitting activity, the things which he considered as of such vital importance to the welfare of mankind. When he himself was more fully instructed, he desired to extend the sphere of his labours, and to proceed to Corinth, to supply, as he was able, the place of Paul. Then especially did he make Christ the one great theme of all his discourses. “The things of the Lord,” as far as he understood them, he had before declared: he had warned men of the Messiah’s advent, and had called them to repent, in order to get their hearts duly prepared for a suitable reception of him: but now he saw, not only that the Messiah was come, but that Jesus of Nazareth was he, and had done and suffered all those things which had been predicted of him. Thus, in the scope of his ministrations, he determined, with the Apostle Paul, to “know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified:” and, though we have not the same occasion to prove the Messiahship of Christ, since that is universally acknowledged amongst us, yet are we called to magnify the importance of that truth, and to commend it to men’s attention, as the source of all their happiness.]

In his labours he was useful to many souls—

[He “mightily convinced the Jews,” so as to stop the mouths of some of the more obdurate, and to bring the more candid of them to the acknowledgment of the truth. Nor were his labours of little service to the Church of God: on the contrary “he helped them much, who had believed through grace.” It was through the operation of divine grace alone that any had believed: “whether Paul planted, or Apollos watered, it was God alone that gave the increase:” but still, it was no slight benefit to the garden of the Lord to be watered by such a hand as his: and no doubt he contributed greatly both to the growth and fruitfulness of those trees of righteousness which God’s right hand had planted.]

Address—

1. To those who labour in the ministry, or are preparing for it—

[Let Apollos serve as a guide for you. If you possess good natural talents, account it your honour to consecrate them to the service of your God. And, in the employment of them, do not inquire where you may gain most credit to yourselves, or most consult your present ease and interests, but inquire rather where you may do most good; and be ready to exercise your ministry wherever the providence of God may call you. Moreover, if called to labour where a more honoured servant of the Lord has gone before you, do not draw back through a pretended sense of your own insufficiency; but be willing to have your talents and services undervalued, and to be nothing yourselves, that God may be all in all.]

2. To those who have received good by the ministry—

[To God you must ascribe the praise for all that you have received; since to whomsoever you are indebted as an instrument, the benefit proceeds from God alone, who “gives to every man” according to his own sovereign will and pleasure. It is possible that you who have long known the Lord, may be called to attend the ministry of one who may be comparatively a novice in the ways of God; and you may be tempted on that account to despise him in your hearts, and to lower him in the estimation of those around you. This, alas! is the conduct of many; but it is a most sinful conduct, and utterly unworthy of their Christian profession. Instead of indulging such a proud contemptuous spirit, you should rejoice in every appearance of good, and endeavour to impart to him a fuller knowledge of the truth. This would render good service both to God and man: and it is a service which all may render, if only with meekness and modesty they watch for an opportunity, and look up to God for his blessing on their endeavours. And who can tell how “much you yourselves may be helped” afterwards by him, to whom you have been helpful in the first instance? It is worthy of observation, that Aquila did not commence preacher at Corinth, notwithstanding his clear knowledge of the Gospel, and notwithstanding Paul had just left the place: he did not think himself authorized to take on him an office to which he was not called: but he laboured in private conversation, and was made eminently useful in that way: and we cannot but recommend to every one amongst you, whether male or female, to imitate this pious couple in a modest unassuming carriage, and in an affectionate concern for the best interests of mankind.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Acts 18:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/acts-18.html. 1832.

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