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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Acts 18

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XVIII.

Paul laboureth with his hands, and preacheth at Corinth to the Gentiles: the Lord encourageth him in a vision: he is accused before Gallio the deputy, but is dismissed: afterwards passing from city to city, he strengtheneth the disciples. Appollos being more perfectly instructed by Aquila and Priscilla, preacheth Christ with great efficacy.

Anno Domini 56.


Verse 1-2

Acts 18:1-2. To Corinth; Achaia Propria was a part of Greece, and Corinth the metropolis of Achaia Propria. It was a famous mart town; for, by standing in the middle of the isthmus, it had the trade of both the eastern and western seas, that is, through Asia and Europe. It was at first called Ephyre; but it had the name of Corinth from one Corinthus, who took and rebuilt it; and it had now gone by that name for several years. Cenchrea was its port or haven for the east or AEgean sea; as Jochoeum or Lechoeum was for the west or Adriatic sea. Corinth and Carthage had been destroyed by the Romans in one and the same year; a hundred years after which, Julius Caesar ordered them both to be rebuilt, and in a little time sent Roman colonies to them. From the colony which he sent to Corinth, were descended the Gentiles of that city, to whom the apostle now went and preached the gospel. Corinth was almost as famous as Athens for philosophers and orators, and made very great pretences to learning and wisdom; and being a place of such great trade and resort, it was a rich and luxurious city, even to a proverb. In this city St. Paul found Aquila, who was a Jew by nation, but by religion a Christian. See particularly Acts 18:26. He had lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla, because the Roman emperor Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome. Dio says that Claudius did not banish the Jews from Rome, but only prohibited their assemblies; but though that was in effect to banish all the most zealous and conscientious persons among them, Suetonius, who lived nearer the time, says, that he expelled the Jews from Rome, who were continually making tumults;Chrestus inciting them,or being the occasion of their disturbances. It is indeed a matter of dispute among learned men, whether by Chrestus Suetonius meant the Lord Jesus Christ or not: it is likely enough he might mean so; for he has in other places shewn himself peculiarly virulent against the Christians. But if he meant to say that Christ incited the Jews to make tumults at Rome, he could not possibly, I think, charge our Lord with doing it in person. One cannot suppose that Suetonius should so far mistake both in point of time and place, as to think that the Lord Jesus Christ was at Rome in the reign of Claudius Caesar, and that there he incited the Jews to tumults and seditions: he could therefore intend only to charge it upon Christ's doctrine and followers. That the Jews should make tumults, when Christianity began to spread in Rome, is not wonderful, if we consider their behaviour towards St. Stephen, towards the other apostles, and towards St. Paul himself: and when tumults were made, Claudius's timorous and suspicious temper would very naturally lead him to punish both the guilty and the suspected. However, neither Christ himself, nor Christianity, were in the least to be charged with being the criminal causes of those tumults, supposing they were the innocent occasion of them. If bigots and persecutors will abuse the holy, the virtuous, and the modest, for speaking the truth, and supporting it with proper evidence, such zealots are criminal, and not the innocent persons whom they persecute. This banishment of the Jews from Rome was not ordered by a decree of the senate, but of the emperor only; and therefore it died with him at the farthest: but as the Christians were then looked upon by the Romans to be only a sect of the Jews, it affected them no less than the Jews, while it continued. Josephus has no where particularly mentioned this edict; as it was enforced for so short a time only, he might partly for that reason omit it: but a more prevailing reason was, probably, that it reflected dishonour upon the Jews, and was therefore disagreeable to a Jewish historian; and if some dispute between the Jews and the followers of the Lord Jesus was really the occasion of this order, as Suetonius seems to affirm, that might be another reason for the silence of Josephus: for he was very reserved about the affairs of the Christians. See Dio, lib. 60: p. 669. Suetonius, in Vit. Claud. 100. 25 in Nero.


Verse 3

Acts 18:3. And because he was of the same craft, Aquila and Priscilla seem to have had a house at Corinth; for they had settled so far in that city, as to enter upon their usual employment, which was to make tents and pavilions of linen or of skins; such as in those hot countries they sometimes lived in during the summer season; such as travellers made use of when they had no houses or caravanseras to lodge in; and such as soldiers lodged in when encamped in the field. This was not only a gainful, but, according to Josephus, an honourable employment. St. Paul, having been brought up to this occupation in his younger days, went and lodged and worked with them. It has been frequently observed, that such of the Jews as had the most liberal education, and were the most zealous and diligent students of the law, were likewise very frequently trained up to some handicraft business. Hence one of the rabbies is surnamed the butcher, and another the baker; and this custom still prevails among the easterns. St. Paul's case, therefore, was not peculiar, nor his birth and education less liberal on that account. He might indeed, in his apostolic character, and even by the reasonof things, have expected that such as partook of his spiritual things, should have ministered to him in temporals. But though it was lawful, the apostle would not do it, because it was not always expedient: it might have given occasion for his enemies to say, that he compassed sea and land to make a gain of his converts; and that he sought what theyhad, more than their soul's benefit; and it might likewise have afforded a pretence to the false apostles to have demanded a maintenance; (see 2 Corinthians 11:7-20.) and to the slothful persons who embraced Christianity, to live in idleness, as if diligence and industry in some honest calling was no longer required of them. Whereas, now he could from his own example shew his converts, that such as would not work, when they were able, ought not to eat; at the same time that he cut off all occasion from the false apostles for demanding a maintenance under his example. And finally, by despising the pleasures, profits, and honours of this world, he gave mankind the most convincing proofs, among a thousand others, that he most cordially believed Christianity to be true; and that upon such strong evidences, as could leave no room for any reasonable doubt or hesitation. To this diligence and disinterested behaviour of his, he makes frequent appeals in his epistles, and that with the greatest justice and propriety; for what could more effectually have cleared him from all suspicion of carrying on a sinister and worldly design?


Verse 4

Acts 18:4. And he reasoned, &c.— Philo informs us, that many Jews inhabited Corinth, and the chief and best parts of Peloponnesus. And St. Luke in this place, as well as St. Paul in his two epistles to the Corinthians, has given plain intimation that there were several Jews in that city; for they had a synagogue there, into which the apostle went, as usual, every sabbath-day, and there he discoursed concerning the Christian doctrine, and laboured to convince — επειθε — both the Jews and devout Gentiles that it was true, and infinitely worthy of their regard. Among them was Epenetus, who was the first convert in Achaia, Romans 16:5 as the household of Stephanus was the first family converted there. The whole family of Stephanus was baptized by the apostle himself, and he also afterwards baptized Crispus and Caius; but he himself baptized no other of the Corinthians; he left that to his assistants, or to some of the first converts of the place; for the business of an apostle was not to baptize, but to preach the gospel, 1 Corinthians 14:17 and to plant churches.


Verse 5

Acts 18:5. And when Silas and Timotheus were come, &c.— St. Paul was at Corinth some time before his two assistants came up to him, and so long he frequented the synagogue; but when Timothy was come from Thessalonica, and Silas from Berea, and they had told him what success they had met with in watering the gospel which he had planted in Macedonia, he was pressed in the spirit, and grieved that he had hitherto preached to the Jews in Corinth with so little success; for which reason he resolved to push the matter in the synagogue there; and therefore, instead of merely reasoning and persuading in a more cautious manner, he asserted in the most bold, pointed, and awakening terms, that Jesus was actually the Messiah; which holy freedom, plainness of spirit, and flaming zeal, presently made the unbelieving Jews discover themselves. See the next verse, and Ezekiel 33:4; Ezekiel 33:8. 1 Kings 2:33. Matthew 27:25. Some explain the phase, which we render pressed in spirit, by "He was borne away by an unusual impulse in his spirit." Compare Acts 18:25; Acts 19:21. Romans 12:11.


Verse 6

Acts 18:6. From henceforth I will go, &c.— That is, "From henceforth I will apply myself to the Gentiles only in this city, and no longer fruitlessly attempt the conversion of you Jews."


Verse 7

Acts 18:7. Justus, From the account here given of this Justus, he was a devout Gentile,whomSt. Paul now converted through divine grace to Christianity at Corinth. The Jews had, in some places, houses annexed to their synagogues, for the entertainment of strangers and travellers: the house of Justus was probably of this kind; and it is likely that the apostle preferred the house of Justus to that of Aquila, because it was so nigh the synagogue, that he might give any of the Jews or Greeks an opportunity, if they pleased, to attend upon him more conveniently, or more privately.


Verses 8-11

Acts 18:8-11. And Crispus, St. Paul's labours in the synagogue had not been without some success; for Crispus, one of the rulers of the synagogue, embraced Christianity with his whole family; and afterwards manyother of the Corinthians, when they heard the Christian doctrine and the evidences of it, embraced the gospel, and were baptized, and were no doubt truly converted to God. His teaching so nigh the synagogueinthehouse of an uncircumcised Gentile, and his converting through grace and receiving the uncircumcised Gentiles into a full communion with the Jewish Christians, exasperated the unbelieving Jews, whichmight perhaps have discouraged even St. Paul himself; and as he had already planted a considerable church in that city, he might possibly begin to think of leaving the place, as having little expectation of bringing in any considerable addition to the number of converts which, under the divine blessing, he had hitherto made there. But to prevent his departure, and to encourage him in his work, the Lord Jesus himself appeared to him in a vision by night. I have much people in this city, Acts 18:10 means all those who would yield to be saved by grace, whatever their tempers and dispositions then were. See 1 Corinthians 9:11.


Verse 12

Acts 18:12. When Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, The proconsul of Achaia,— 'Ανθυπατος. This is another instance of the great accuracy with which St. Luke expresses himself. The provinces of the Roman empire were of two sorts; Caesarean, or such as were subject to the emperor; and proconsular, or such as were subject to the people and the senate. Achaia was a proconsular province under Augustus Caesar. Tiberius, at the request of the Achaians, made it a Caesarean province. About eight years before the event here mentioned, Claudius restored it to the senate; and from that time a proconsul was sent into this country. Gallio was the present proconsul; and, though the country subject to him was all Greece, yet he was by the Romans called proconsul of Achaia. This Gallio was Marcus Annaeus Novatus, elder brother to the famous Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the Stoic philosopher, and Nero's tutor; but having been adopted by Lucius Junius Gallio, he was denominated after him. It was, most probably, by the interest of his brother Seneca that Gallio was made proconsul of Achaia; for Agrippina, who was wife to the emperor Claudius, and mother to Nero, had such an influence over her husband, that almost all things were managed according to her direction; and her son's preceptor would, it is most probable, be readily gratified in such a request for his brother. Seneca has described Gallio as a man of the most mild disposition, composed in himself, and benign and gentle to mankind in general; and his behaviour upon the following occasion, considering him to be a Heathen, agrees very well with the character that his brother has given him.


Verse 14

Acts 18:14. If it were a matter of wrong, &c.— If it were a matter of injustice, or mischievous licentiousness. Heylin reads the passage, If your accusation were for some act of injustice, or other immorality, I would hear you patiently, as reason requires I should.


Verse 15

Acts 18:15. But if it be a question of words But since your dispute is only about words, and names, and your own law, you must decide it yourselves. The truth is, that religious and civil affairs are of an entirely distinct nature; that the latter come under the cognizance of the magistrate; and that it is not his business to interpose in an affair relating to the former, any further than to keep the peace, and to allow all good subjects openly to profess their own religion, and to worship in their own way. Accordingly, when the apostle was going to speak, Gallio would not give him the trouble of making his apology, because he did not look upon him as a criminal: he told his accusers, that he would have nothing to do with their religious opinions, (the subject of which he had heard, no doubt, from the accusation which the Jews brought,) and determined not to concern himself with such things as did not come within his proper province. He therefore, not without threatening, ordered them to depart from the tribunal. "Would to God (says Dr. Benson,) that all princes, judges, and magistrates had always been of Gallio's mind, and discouraged such tumults, by protecting the innocent, and discountenancing persecutors, and so had left every one to judge for himself in matters of religion, which concern only God and man's own conscience!"—A commentator remarks, The names of the Heathen gods were fables and shadows; but the question concerning the name of Jesus is of more importance than all things else under heaven. Yet there is this, among a thousand other singularities in the Christian religion, that mere human reason, curious as it is in all other things, abhors to inquire into it."


Verse 17

Acts 18:17. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, The Jews did not pay a proper regard to Gallio's orders: they had indeed the power of scourging in their synagogues whom they thought proper, of their own nation and religion: but they were at present so enraged and insolent, as to seize upon Sosthenes, who had been one of the chief rulers of their synagogue, but was now, it is most likely, become a convert to Christianity, and tobeat him, — τυπτειν,— even before the tribunal. However, Gallio regarded none of these things; all their insolence could not provoke him to inter-meddle, as long as they beat only one of their own people; and though it was not in the synagogue, but before the tribunal, he chose rather to let it pass, as considering, very probably, the mutinous temper of the Jews, which rather increased by opposition.


Verse 18

Acts 18:18. Paul after this tarried, &c.— The apostle, thus screened by Gallio, remained at Corinth a good while longer; so that his stay in that city was in all about two years. Considering his unwearied diligence, and that he did not use to stay long in any place, unless he had a prospect of success, we may reasonably suppose that he had gathered a large church there: and from St. Luke's account, and especially from St. Paul's second Epistle to the Corinthians, it appears, that most of that church consisted of converts from among the idolatrous Gentiles. Silas and Timothy seem still to have continued at Corinth; but St. Paul, taking leave of the Christian brethren there, set out for Syria, and along with him Aquila and Priscilla. When they arrived at Cenchrea, the eastern part of the isthmus, St. Paul shaved his head, because he was under the Nazarite's vow (see ch. Acts 21:24. Numbers 6:18.); for to the Jews he became as a Jew, and made all lawful condescensions, in compliance with their prejudices, as we shall see in other instances in the progress of this history.St. Paul seems to have made this vow upon some remarkable deliverance from his enemies; perhaps, upon the account of Gallio's screening him from the fury of the unbelieving Jews; and possiblysome of the Jewish Christians at Corinth might also be in danger of throwing off Christianity itself, if St. Paul had not condescended so far in that or some other instances. It is evident that Judaizers did afterwards make a very great disturbance in that church; but whatever was the particular reason, it appears that St. Paul submitted to that Jewish custom. See particularly the next note. We must not, however, fail to observe here, that some very considerable critics think that this latter clause of the verse refers to Aquila. And for this construction's sake Castalio and Grotius observe, that the sacred writer seems to have named the wife before the husband. But it seems much more probable from the construction, that this clause, as well as the beginning of the next verse, must refer to the same person, that is, to St. Paul. And as to Priscilla's being named first, that is done elsewhere, where there could be no such reason inducing to it. See Romans 16:3. 2 Timothy 4:19. Some have imagined that Mephibosheth's vow during David's exile, 2 Samuel 19:24 might be something of the same kind with this of St. Paul.


Verses 19-22

Acts 18:19-22. And he came to Ephesus, For the short time that the apostle now continued at Ephesus, which seems to have been but one sabbath-day, he went into the synagogue, and discoursed with the Jews, and with such Gentiles as usually attended the synagogue service, concerning the Christian doctrine; but when they desired him to stay longer with them, he refused, and took his leave of them, telling them, Acts 18:21 that he must by all means go up to Jerusalem, upon the account of his being under the Nazarite's vow; for it was a maxim, that if any one had vowed the Nazarite's vow out of the land of Judea, he was bound to go into the land, and there fulfil his vow. The apostle added, that he chose to be at Jerusalem time enough to keep the approaching festival in that city; and this not from any apprehension that he was obliged in conscience to celebrate the Jewish feasts, but for the reason above given, and because he desired to seize that opportunity of meeting a great number of his countrymen at Jerusalem, to whom he might preach the gospel, or whom, if already converted, he might farther instruct, or might remove the prejudices which were groundlesslyimbibed against himself. Departing therefore from Ephesus, he sailed to Caesarea, from whence he went up to pay his respects to the Christian church at Jerusalem; which, as it was the mother-church, or the first of all the Christian churches, was, by way of eminence, called the church. When he had seen the Christians at Jerusalem, affectionately saluted them, and made his offering as a Nazarite in the temple, he left theplace, and went down to Antioch in Syria, and there ended his second apostolic journey. Concerning Ephesus, see the note on Acts 18:1 of the next chapter.


Verse 23

Acts 18:23. And after he had spent some time there, After St. Paul had made some stay in Antioch, he set out upon his third apostolic journey, and went through Galatia and Phrygia, καθεξης, from church to church, in that order in which he had founded them. As this would take him up a great deal of time, most commentators very reasonably allow four years for this journey; that is, from the year 54 to 58. Coming to Galatia, he gave those directions concerning charitable contributions referred to 1 Corinthians 16:1-2.


Verse 25

Acts 18:25. And being fervent in the spirit, The baptism of John, we find, ch. Acts 19:2 was attended with very imperfect instruction or divine illuminations; yet upon that baptism, and the grace he had received, Apollos, being a man of warmth and eloquence, is said to have preached the gospel ακριβως, that is, with a great deal of accuracy, study, and pains, according to the best of his light. It is very probable, that he returned to live at Alexandria soon after he had been baptized with John's baptism; and so had no opportunityof being explicitly acquainted with the doctrines of the gospel, as delivered by Christ and his apostles, till he came to Ephesus, and was taught them by these eminent Christians Aquila and Priscilla, who, in all probability, lodged in their own house, that they might the more familiarly and fully converse with him about them. See Acts 18:26.


Verse 27

Acts 18:27. Who—helped, &c.— The best comment on the words is what we are told elsewhere, 1 Corinthians 3:6. Paul planted, and Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. It is indeed true, both that the Corinthians had believed through grace, and that through grace Apollos helped them. The latter strongly implies the former, and the original words may possibly speak either. It appears from many passages in St. Paul's Epistles to the Corinthians, that several of the Christians there, charmed with the eloquence of Apollos, were ready to set him up as the head of a party, and to make invidious and foolish comparisons between him and the apostle who had been their father in Christ; and who, though he might have less volubility of speech, was, on the most important accounts, far superior to this eloquent and zealous teacher. See 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:4 to 1 Corinthians 8:13; 1 Corinthians 8:13; 1 Corinthians 4:6. Yet this occasioned no breach between Paul and Apollos; the latter of whom plainly appears to have come to Ephesus when St. Paul returned thither, and to have declined going to Corinth again, even when St. Paul would have persuaded him to it; probably to avoid any the remotest appearance of desiring to countenance any party which might have been formed in his own favour. See 1 Corinthians 16:12.


Verse 28

Acts 18:28. For he mightily convinced the Jews, The proper and full meaning of this passage seems to be as follows: "Apollos, with great judgment, earnestness and power, reasoned with the Jews in their public assemblies before all the people, confutingtheir objections, and plainlydemonstrating from Old Testament prophesies, which he was familiarly acquainted with (Acts 18:24.), that Jesus was indeed the promised, the only true Messiah, whom John the Baptist told them of, and they themselves had been expecting."

Inferences.—The divine wisdom and goodness are very observable from hence—in providing for those who are employed in the work of the gospel suitable associates and companions in their labours; and particularly happy are they, to whom God hath been pleased to give, as to the pious Aquila, such a companion in the nearest relation of life, as may help them forward in the way to heaven, and assist them in the service of religion while they continue upon earth.

God has always, in the treasures of his goodness, proper consolations for those who suffer, and who have recourse to him. How great a one is this—to meet with the company of an apostle,—of a St. Paul! Happy banishment, which is the occasion that these persons fall under the direction of such a man of God!

Much were the fatigues of St. Paul's life softened by the converse of such friends, who, no doubt, rendered the common business of life more pleasant, as well as the work of the Lord more delightful. We find them, while endeavouring to propagate the gospel, maintaining themselves (for reasons peculiar to their situation) by the labour of their own hands; and even Paul the apostle wrought with them: not because he had not a right to demand support, (for he strenuously maintains that right at large, in his address to these very Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 9:1-14.) but to shame his mean-spirited enemies, who accused him of acting on mercenary principles; and because he thought in his conscience, on some other accounts, that his fidelity to Christ would be so much the more apparent, and his labours, by this means, so much the more successful. And what faithful minister, who in his conscience apprehended that to be the case, would not choose to act as he did!

During this his temporal employment, we find St. Paul engaged, as usual, every sabbath-day, in discoursing to the Jews, and in demonstrating to them the truth of the gospel: and it is pleasant and edifying to observe, with what earnestness he applied himself to do it. His unwearied diligence in the ministry, though he received no manner of temporal advantage from it, is a tacit, yet emphatical condemnation of those, who enrich themselves out of the revenues of the church, while they do nothing at all in it, or that which is next to nothing: his zeal and charity are patterns which all pastors ought frequently to consider.

How melancholy is it to find the inveterate prejudices of his hearers prevailing over all the cogency of his demonstrations, and all the warmth of his address? Yet let us observe how he gave them up! with what grief mixed with just indignation at their folly and ingratitude! shaking his garments, and saying, your blood be upon your own heads! I am clean. Thus are impenitent unbelievers their own murderers; they bring upon themselves even the blood and destruction of their own souls. Grievous it is that it should rest upon them; but absolutely necessary, that they who are messengers of God to them, should take heed, if such must after all bleed by the sword of divine justice, that themselves may at last be found pure; for terrible beyond expression must it be, if, through a treacherous or neglectful conduct, the blood of such persons should be required at their hands.

The apostle's success among the Gentiles raised new opposition, and his infirmities frequently occasioned returning fears. But how graciously did our Lord interpose for his encouragement and support, assuring him of his protection, and promising him yet more abundant success! Blessed JESUS, thy grace was sufficient even for this thy servant, amidst all the labours of the ministerial and apostolical office, amidst all the internal as well as external difficulties which he had to encounter in the discharge of it! 2 Corinthians 12:9.

The tumultuous rage of the Jews is nothing surprising; for we have been accustomed often to read of it; but the prudence and moderation of Gallio are truly exemplary. That wise Roman well knew the extent of his office, and was aware that it gave him no title or pretence to dictate in matters of conscience, or to restrain men's religious liberties, so long as they abstained from injustice or mischievous licentiousness, by which the public peace might be disturbed, and the rights of society invaded. May God give to all magistrates such a spirit! the gospel will then, under the influences of divine grace, become an universal religion, and shew the world how little need it has of being supported by civil penalties; to which those are generally most ready to have recourse, who, like these Jews, are confounded by fair arguments.

Who can help observing, from the conduct of these bigots, how apt ignorance and passion are to cause that to be looked upon as contrary to religion, which is the very spirit of it? We easily persuade ourselves, (unless God be of our council,) that what is contrary to our inclinations, is contrary to his law; and the pretence of his interests too often, alas! serves as a veil to cover the malice and obstinacy of men.

The whole conduct of the apostle teaches pastors to apply themselves particularly to those whom they have instructed; to cultivate the good planted among them by frequent and exact visitations, and to have a constant regard to the weak, who stand in need of encouragement from time to time. There are no sorts of labour which the pastoral charity does not embrace: behold we this charity in the great St. Paul; it looks upon the toil and fatigues of so many journeys and voyages as nothing,—but as duty and the truest delight.

It was well for the churches, that so promising and hopeful a fellow-labourer as Apollos was raised up both to St. Paul and to them. We see in this instance how profitable it is to study the word of God. To be fervent and courageous in spirit, to be eloquent and mighty in the scriptures, are happy talents for such as are devoted to the ministry. Would to God all that enter on this work among us may come forth with a zeal and courage like this; nay, and with a humility like that which, in Apollos, adorned all the bright talents with which he was endowed! What he knew, he zealously taught; what he did not know, he was ready thankfully to learn; and that not only from the mouth of an apostle, but of a fellow Christian in inferior life, from Aquila, yea, and from Priscilla too. Since that wise and pious woman knew the way of god through his grace, by longer experience and to greater perdition than Apollos, he was willing, amidst all his popularity and applause, to become her as well as her husband's disciple, and to learn from them both in private discourses those evangelic lessons, in which they were at present more skilful than himself.

From this circumstance we learn, that devout Christians may perform considerable services to the church of God, without being admitted to the sacred ministry, or taking upon them to speak in public. A solicitous concern for the interest of the church, and a constant application to those things which promote the glory of God, are to be found, and may well be exercised, in all states and conditions. Every good man, like Aquila, may have the zeal and spirit of the priesthood, though without the character, and may confer with his friends and neighbours to their mutual edification.

It was prudent in Apollos to take, as well as just in the brethren to grant, proper letters of recommendation, when he was going to the churches in Achaia, where he was a stranger; and well did he answer his recommendation, and make himself known among them by his valuable services. Mighty as he was in the scriptures of the Old Testament, he might well demonstrate from them to the Jews at Corinth that JESUS was the Messiah. Happy had it been for the church and synagogue there, had they known no distinguishing name but his. It is a fond and indecent partiality which leads one man to say, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos: and we may reasonably hope that this zealous evangelist expressed the same displeasure which the apostle himself did on the like occasion; (1 Corinthians 3:4.) and that he laboured with all his might to impress them with the thought, that neither he that planted, nor he that watered, was any thing, but God who gave the increase to both. May this important thought be more deeply impressed on the hearts both of ministers and people, that so all the glory may be rendered to him, from whom all our gifts and graces, and all our successes, proceed!

REFLECTIONS.—1st, St. Paul seems to have made no long stay at Athens. Probably the pride of philosophy promised little success to the gospel which he preached. He therefore next visited Corinth, a city celebrated through all Greece for its trade and opulence.

1. The apostle, unwilling to be burdensome for a maintenance, highly as he was entitled to the most liberal provision, worked for bread at his trade of tent-making; most of, if not all, the Jewish students being brought up to some handicraft business. Aquila, a converted Jew, with his wife Priscilla, who were of this occupation, being banished from Rome, with all the other Jews, by the jealous emperor Claudius; had settled at Corinth. To them, whom he found excellent people, and deeply versed in the things of God, he applied for work, and disdained not to labour for a subsistence—a noble instance of that disinterested zeal which burned in his bosom, and made him willing to undergo any hardship, to prevent the least prejudice that might arise, however unreasonably, against the gospel which he preached! Note; Those who are seeking a service, would do well to settle with persons from whom they are likely to reap good to their souls.

2. While he laboured six days in the week for a maintenance, he visited the synagogue every sabbath, where he reasoned with the Jews and Grecian proselytes, proving from the scriptures with unanswerable arguments the doctrines which he preached, and silencing all their objections; and persuaded them to embrace the salvation which was in Christ Jesus; and, with respect to many, not without success. And being still more animated by the coming of Silas and Timothy, who brought him the glad tidings of the establishment and increase of the churches which he had planted, he urged with greater warmth and earnestness the grand truth, that Jesus was the Christ, the promised Messiah, and that there was no salvation out of him; grieved to behold the obstinate infidelity of the Jews, and mightily constrained with love towards them, and desire after their conversion. Note; a true zeal for Jesus, and love for immortal souls, will give warmth, energy, and spirit to our discourses.

3. When he found all his labours for them rejected with scorn, and returned with reviling; that they opposed with determined obstinacy what they could not answer, and blasphemed that divine Redeemer whom he preached unto them; with just indignation he shook his raiment, and, abandoning them to their wilful impenitence, said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean, having given you solemn warning, and laboured to rescue you from that guilt and ruin which you are terribly and surely bringing upon your souls: from henceforth, since all my words are ineffectual, and rejected by you, I will go unto the Gentiles; not doubting but they will give the gospel word a more welcome reception. Note; (1.) They who wilfully oppose the gospel, exasperated, instead of convinced, go on often to add blasphemy to impenitence. (2.) It is a comfort to a faithful minister to be at least conscious that he is free from the blood of all men. (3.) Woe unto those, against whom the very ministers of grace shall rise up in judgment to accuse and condemn them.

2nd, Having solemnly warned the Jews of the danger and ruin which would be the consequence of their impenitence, he departed.

1. From the synagogue he went to the house adjoining, which belonged to one named Justus, a proselyte, whither those who desired to hear him might resort. And though the generality of the Jews rejected his preaching, yet he saw rich fruits of his labours, Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, being converted to the faith, with all his house: and many of the Corinthians, hearing the gospel, believed and were baptised. Note; Though some reject the gospel, it is a great comfort to a minister's soul to see others not only hear it with attention, but embrace it with affection.

2. Amidst all St. Paul's discouragements, the Lord is with him to support and comfort him, and by a vision in the night animates him boldly to persevere, saying, Be not afraid of the opposition and malice of the Jews; but speak, and hold not thy peace; with all diligence, fidelity, and zeal, declaring the gospel, deterred by no menaces or opposition of the most malignant persecutors: for I am with thee, to support, protect, and prosper thee in all thy labours; and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee, restrained by a secret over-ruling hand from injuring your person, or silencing your ministry; for I have much people in this city, not because of any absolute decree of unconditional election to eternal life, but because Christ saw that they were disposed to believe, and by faith become his people; as elsewhere (John 10:16.) he calls them sheep, who would hereafter believe on him. Note; (1.) If God be with us and for us, we need not be intimidated by the many or the mighty who may rise up against us. (2.) They who are labouring for Christ, though they be not visited with night visions, shall find internal divine supports ministered to them amidst all their tribulations.

3. Encouraged by this declaration, the apostle continued at Corinth, preaching the gospel with unwearied diligence and fervent zeal, and seeing numbers daily added to the church, though there were many adversaries. (See 1 Corinthians 16:9.)

3rdly, Though God had promised to save the apostle from hurt, he does not engage to exempt him from the malicious efforts of his enemies.

1. The Jews, as they had elsewhere done, raised an insurrection, and in a popular tumult dragged St. Paul before Gallio the proconsul, who was the brother of the famous Seneca, and is said to have been of the most sweet and gentle disposition, and universally beloved. Their accusation against the apostle was, that this fellow, so contemptuously do they speak of him, persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law; and because they were allowed the exercise of their religion by the edicts of the Roman emperor, they pretend that it was highly criminal for any Jew to worship God any other way than they did.

2. St. Paul was just going to make his defence, and shew the falsehood as well as malignity of the accusation: but Gallio, understanding that it was a merely religious matter, refused to interfere, and dismissed the cause, saying, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, where any injury had been done, or theft or immorality committed, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you, and do you justice, indecently clamorous as you are: but if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, whether Jesus, whom Paul preaches, be your Messiah, and what obligation there lies on him, or those whom he teaches, to worship God after the law of Moses, look ye to it, and end such disputes among yourselves; for I will be no judge of such matters, it is no concern to me how any man worships God, while he approves himself a good subject, and disturbs not the peace of the state. And he drave them from the judgment-seat, expressing his displeasure at their troublesome and impertinent clamours. Note; Magistrates are bound to right the injured; but, where the accusation is evidently frivolous or malicious, such causes should be discountenanced and dismissed.

3. Exasperated at their disappointment, the unbelieving Greeks took hold of Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, St. Paul's friend, and afterwards his fellow-labourer, 1 Corinthians 1:1 and to vent their resentment, they beat him before the judgment-seat, in the face of the governor. And Gallio cared for none of those things, rather choosing to wink at the affront and injustice, than embroil himself with an enraged populace.

4thly, After a long abode at Corinth, and seeing abundant success of his labours, we have,

1. The apostle's departure. Having taken a solemn farewell of the brethren, he set sail for Syria, Priscilla and Aquila accompanying him, having shorn his head in Cenchrea; for he had a vow; willing, as far as was lawful, to comply with the Jews, that he might gain them the more readily to hear him. Note; In all indifferent matters we should become all things to all men, in order, if it please God, that we may by any means gain some to the knowledge of Christ.

2. His arrival at Ephesus, the chief city of the pro-consular Asia. There, as his custom was, he entered into the synagogue of the Jews, and reasoned with them concerning the great truths of Christianity. But his stay was very short, as he wished to hasten to Jerusalem: and therefore, leaving Aquila and Priscilla there, though they, and probably the other Jews, desired him to make some longer abode with them, he set off on his journey to Jerusalem; but with God's permission he engaged to return to them again, and make some longer stay among them, to dispense that gospel which they seemed desirous to hear. Note; As all our motions are under the divine Providence, a gracious soul determines nothing absolutely, but adds to all its purposes, if it please the Lord.

3. Sailing from Ephesus, he arrived at Caesarea; where landing, he went to Jerusalem, and saluted the church, inquiring of their welfare, and gladdening them with the tidings that he brought.

4. From Jerusalem he departed for Antioch, the most celebrated Gentile church, whence he had been at first sent forth, and whither now the second time he returned with still more joyful accounts of the progress of the gospel. After some time spent there, he proceeded on a third visitation, going over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples, confirming them in the faith, encouraging them to persevere, and suggesting the strongest motives and arguments to engage them to take up the cross, and patiently in well-doing to approve their fidelity to their blessed Lord and Master.

5thly, While the apostle was on his travels, under a promise of returning to Ephesus, the Lord was raising up in that place an eminently useful minister in the person of Apollos.

1. The account given of him is, that he was a Jew by birth, a native of Alexandria in Egypt, a man of singular abilities, possessed of a fund of solid learning, and endued with a most persuasive faculty of elocution, deeply read in the scriptures, and every way highly qualified for the work of the ministry. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord, and, as far as John's ministry went, had embraced the principles of the doctrine of Christ; and so far as his knowledge reached, being fervent in the spirit, and impressed with a warm zeal for God's glory, and the salvation of mankind, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, with much study and pains, according to his best light; knowing only the baptism of John, who spake of the approaching Messiah, and exhorted all men to prepare for his reception. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue, with great freedom of speech and intrepidity of mind, fearless of the faces of men—a noble pattern for our imitation! and happy is it for that people, to whom the Lord is pleased to send such a helper, whose heart, enriched with grace, zealously longs for their salvation; and whose gifts of wisdom and elocution enable him in the most engaging and powerful manner to urge upon the conscience the truths that he preaches.

2. Aquila and Priscilla with pleasure heard him, and, observing his simplicity and zeal, they invited him to their lodging; and being far more experienced and enlightened Christians, they expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly, which it seems he never had an opportunity of being thus informed of before, having probably lived at Alexandria till now; and he immediately embraced the whole gospel, as soon as he heard it. Herein we may observe, (1.) The gracious conduct of Aquila and Priscilla. Though far more experienced in the truths of God, they attended the ministry of Apollos, encouraged him in his work, and helped him greatly by their private conversation. Older Christians should thus be ready to assist young ministers with their advice, and to countenance them in their labours. (2.) The great teachableness of Apollos. Though a man so ingenious, learned, and eloquent, he disdained not to sit as a scholar at the feet of a poor tent-maker and his wife, and to learn of them the good ways of God. Thus should young ministers covet the acquaintance of more aged and wiser Christians: and much, very much, may be learned from conversing with many poor old men and women, despicable as they may appear in the eyes of scientific pride. (3.) Whatever our attainments are, we should never think ourselves too wise to learn. They who truly know most, will covet to know more; and will have their ears open to those who can expound to them the way of God more perfectly.

3. When, after some stay at Ephesus, Apollos was disposed to pass into Achaia, to preach the gospel there, particularly at Corinth, the brethren recommended him by letter to the churches in that country, as an able and faithful servant of the Lord Jesus; and when he came thither, he helped them much which had believed through grace, establishing their faith, comforting their hearts, and building them up on that foundation which Paul had laid; for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, in their synagogues and before all the people, shewing by the scriptures, with the most convincing arguments and closest application, that Jesus was Christ, the true, expected Messiah, by faith in whom alone salvation could be obtained. Note; (1.) Though we have true faith, yet we need help and quickening, that we may be more confirmed and established in the truth. (2.) They who are put in trust with the gospel, should be able to defend the great truths which they preach, and from the scriptures, with all zeal and meekness, to convince gainsayers and confirm the faithful.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Acts 18:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/acts-18.html. 1801-1803.

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