Summary of Acts 18:1-22:
Paul next journeyed to Corinth where he met a tentmaker named Aquila and his wife, Priscilla, whom he stayed with and helped for a time. He preached every Sabbath in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks to accept Jesus. Having little luck after months of preaching, Paul one day announces he is giving up, telling the Jews it will be on their heads they haven’t accepted Jesus and he will turn to the Gentiles now.
Paul did have some success, converting Titius Justus and Crispus.
The Lord then encouraged Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you.” Paul stayed for another year and a half.
The Jews tried to attack Paul by bringing charges against him in Achaia in front of Gallio. Gallio dismissed the complaint, telling them to work out their squabbles on their own since the matter was within their (Jewish) own law. Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, was beaten because of it.
BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 17, Day 5: Acts 18:1-22
12) Paul was very discouraged, having just come from Athens where only a few converted, and the fact that he had been run out of town several times before this. Paul preached every day in the synagogue, but the Jews became abusive as well, and Paul got fed up and said it was on them whether they converted or not. He did have success at the house of Titius Justus. Paul was encouraged to keep going by God in a vision.
13) God spoke to Paul in a vision, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” It would be nice if God spoke to all of us and encouraged us in our dark days. However, through prayer and supplication, I am encouraged daily in my walk with Him. The promise of a better life is also encouraging.
14) Part personal question. My answer: Other believers know what we are going through and can offer words of advice to help us when we are struggling on this side of heaven. My family is who I depend on for support, encouragement, and community.
Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 17, Day 5: Acts 18:1-22
Now, this lesson is BSF at its finest. It has the perfect amount of examination of the Bible, coupled with how to apply God’s teaching to your life. Putting together a year-long Bible study is no walk in the park, and I love BSF for doing so. I think they, too, are still trying to find the perfect blend of Biblical study and personal application that many are seeking in this world in 2020.
End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 17, Day 5: Acts 18:1-22
Many scholars believe that when Paul reached Corinth, he was shaken and discouraged because of the little success he was having and of his fanatical opponents. They believe he resolved to make Christ the sole subject of his teaching and preaching while there.
Corinth was a major city of the Roman Empire, at an important crossroads of trade and travel. It was also a city notorious for its hedonism and immorality.
In Paul’s day, Corinth was already an ancient city. It was a commercial center with two harbors and had long been a rival to its northern neighbor, Athens. Corinth was a city with a remarkable reputation for loose living and especially sexual immorality. In classical Greek, to act like a Corinthian meant to practice fornication, and a Corinthian companion meant a prostitute. This sexual immorality was permitted under the widely popular worship of Aphrodite (also known as Venus, the goddess of fertility and sexuality). In 146 B.C. Corinth rebelled against Rome and was brutally destroyed by Roman armies. It lay in ruins for a century, until Julius Caesar rebuilt the city. It quickly re-established its former position as a center for both trade and immorality of every sort.
This is one of the important friendships of the New Testament – Paul and Aquila and his wife, Priscilla. Paul called them his fellow workers who had risked their own necks for my life (Romans 16:3-4).
“Priscilla is a diminutive form of Prisca, which is one of the great families of Rome. She was probably related to this family in some way.” (Hughes) In half the mentions of this New Testament married couple, Priscilla’s name is written first – which is said to be unusual.
Paul’s tentmaking was an important part of his ministry. Though he recognized his right to be supported by those he ministered to (1 Corinthians 9:7-14), he voluntarily supported himself in his missionary and preaching work so that no one could accuse him of seeking converts for the sake of enriching himself (1 Corinthians 9:15-18).
Fun Fact: In the modern missions movement, people call any work that a missionary does to support himself on the mission field tentmaking.
The Roman historian Suetonius wrote that Claudius banished Jews from Rome around 49 AD because they were “indulging in constant riots at the instigation of Chrestus.”
Paul was effective as he reasoned (discussed, debated) among the Jews and Greeks. The Greeks present in the synagogue were Gentiles interested in and sympathetic with Judaism.
Paul later described the character of his bold preaching in Corinth in: For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-16).
When Timothy came, he brought news about how the Christians in Thessalonica were remaining steadfast in the faith (1 Thessalonians 3:6-10). This brought Paul great joy, spurring him on in ministry (Paul was compelled by the Spirit). He answered back by writing 1 Thessalonians from Corinth.
According to 2 Corinthians 11:8-9, while Paul was in Corinth, financial support arrived from the Christians in Philippi, and he was able to put aside tentmaking for a while and concentrate more fully on the task of building the church in Corinth.
Paul strongly sensed his responsibility to preach to the Jews first (Romans 1:16), but when his message was rejected, he wasted no time in going to the Gentiles.
Paul shook out his clothes so that not a speck of dust from the synagogue would remain on them, much less his sandals. This was a dramatic way of expressing his rejection of their rejection.
Crispus was one of the few in Corinth whom Paul personally baptized (1 Corinthians 1:14).
Paul was afraid, fearing that here in Corinth his work would be cut short by either opposing Jews (as in Thessalonica and Berea) or by the highly-charged worldliness around him.
It could also be don’t be afraid of God, since many in the Old Testament feared God when He spoke to them.
In approaching Gallio, the Jews of Corinth tried to stop Paul’s preaching work in the entire province. He correctly saw that the government has no role in attempting to decide religious matters
Gallio looked the other way when angry Gentiles beat Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue.
Unlike previous cities, Paul wasn’t forced out of Corinth. He stayed there a good while, fulfilling the promise Jesus made to him in Acts 18:9-10.
Paul developed such a deep friendship and partnership with this married couple that they decided to go with him as decided to head east back to Jerusalem and then Antioch.
Vow of Nazirite
The vow was almost certainly the vow of a Nazirite (Numbers 6). Usually this vow was taken for a certain period of time and when completed, the hair (which had been allowed to freely grow) was cut off and offered to the Lord at a special ceremony at the temple in Jerusalem.
The purpose of the vow of a Nazirite was to express a unique consecration to God, promising to abstain from all products from the grapevine, to not cut one’s hair, and to never come near a dead body.
Paul’s performance of this vow shows that Jewish opposition to his preaching had not made him anti-Jewish. He never forgot that he was Jewish, His Messiah was Jewish, that Christianity is Jewish, and that Old Testament forms and rituals might still be used to good purpose. Apparently, though Paul was adamant that Jewish ceremonies and rituals must not be required of Gentiles, he saw nothing wrong with Jewish believers who wished to observe such ceremonies, presumably if their fulfillment in Jesus was also recognized.
William Barclay suggests that Paul’s motive was gratitude. “No doubt Paul was thinking of all God’s goodness to him in Corinth and took this vow to show his gratitude.” But the purpose of a Nazirite vow seems to be more of consecration than thanksgiving. Perhaps the intense worldliness of Corinth made Paul want to express his dedication and separation unto the Lord more than ever.
By tradition, a Nazirite vow could only be fulfilled in Judea. Paul began this vow at Cenchrea, not in Judea. Paul’s adoption of the vow out of the bounds dictated by Jewish tradition could indicate a desire to practice a more purely Biblical observance of Jewish rituals.
Paul wanted to preach in Ephesus some two years earlier, but was prevented by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6). Now, the Holy Spirit gave him the liberty to preach in this important city, and great results were seen.
God has a special timing for everything in our lives. If Paul could have discerned it, the Holy Spirit was really saying, “wait” when he wanted to go to Ephesus, instead of “no.” Sometimes God says, “wait” and He always knows what He’s doing when He says it.
Aquila and Priscilla stayed at Ephesus, seemingly at Paul’s request. Something good started at Ephesus, and Paul wanted the work to continue with his trusted friends.
When it says that Paul had gone up and greeted the church, it means he went up to Jerusalem and fulfilled his Nazirite vow in the temple.
Leaving Jerusalem, Paul returned to his home church in Syrian Antioch. They must have been pleased to have Paul return and tell of all his work over the previous three years or so.
And so Paul’s second missionary journey ends.