Acts 18

Paul finishes up his second missionary journey in v. 22 and begins his third in v. 23. In this chapter, his ministry in Corinth and Ephesus takes center stage. Priscilla and Aquila make their appearance, so does the powerfully effective speaker Apollos, who received more theology about God and the fulness of the Spirit.

As I write in every introduction:

The translation and commentary are mine, just so I can learn. I also offer quick word studies. If you would like to see the verses in many translations, please go to biblegateway.com. And if you would like to study Greek with a short lexicon, go to biblehub.com, and click on the interlinear tab.

At the end of each passage and this post, I offer observations for discipleship. How can we apply these truths to our lives?

Links are provided for further study.

Let’s begin.

Paul Arrives in Corinth (Acts 18:1-4)

1 After this, he departed from Athens and went to Corinth. 2 He came across a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come with his wife Priscilla from Italy because Claudius had decreed that all the Jews should depart from Rome. He approached them, 3 and since they shared the same trade, he stayed with them and worked, for they were leather-workers by trade. 4 He dialogued in the synagogue each sabbath and was trying to persuade the Jews and Greeks.

Comments:

As usual, here is my heads-up: I don’t keep track of the history of these cities and regions because they can be found online. Also google Bible maps for Paul’s second missionary journey. I’ll just say that Corinth and nearby towns are estimated to have had about 200,000 inhabitants, even bigger than Athens. Therefore, it was a huge mission field for Paul, for his own times. It had the temple of Aphrodite sitting on a hill, where religious prostitution happened. The city was known, by reputation, for being debauched.

Keener’s list of details (slightly edited) attests to the harmony of Paul’s epistles and his second missionary journey, mostly the details here in Corinth (p. 450):

Aquila and Priscilla are a married ministry team (Rom 16:3; Acts 18:2, 26).

They use their home for God’s work (Acts 18:3; Rom 16:5) and are known in Corinth (1 Cor 16:19).

They have connections with Rome (Acts 18:2; Rom 16:3) and Ephesus (Acts 18:18-19; 1 Cor 16:19).

Paul supports himself by a trade while in Corinth (Acts 18:3; 1 Cor 1:14).

Paul said he came to Corinth in fear (1 Cor. 2:3) and trembling and Jesus told him not to fear (1 Cor. 18:9).

The conversion and baptism of Crispus (Acts 18:8; 1 Cor 1:14).

The participation of Timothy (Acts 18:5; 2 Cor 1:19).

The participation of Silas (Acts 18:5; 2 Cor 1:19).

Paul begins the Corinthian mission before Silas and Timothy arrive (Acts 18:1-4; 1 Thess. 3:1, 6).

Their arrival apparently supplies Paul’s financial needs (compare Acts 18:5 with 2 Cor 11:9; Phil. 4:15).

Paul ministered briefly in Athens en route (Acts 17:15-34; 1 Thess 3:1).

Both sources might mention the same Sosthenes (Acts 18:17; 1 Cor 1:1).

The Corinthian congregation probably included a Jewish element (1 Cor 1:22-24; 9:20; 10:32; 12:13; 2 Cor 11:22).

Later, Apollos goes to Corinth (Acts 18:24-28; 1 Cor 1:12; 4:15) and belongs to the same circle (Acts 18:26-27; 1 Cor 16:12).

Paul afterward visits Ephesus at length (Acts 18:19; 19:8-10; 1 Cor 15:32; 16:8).

1:

“he”: Paul.

As noted, the Corinthians had built a temple to Aphrodite, the goddess of strong sexual desire. It stood on a high summit. The Corinthians needed the gospel and the power and fullness of the Spirit to help them overcome their old way of life and live for God. Paul reflects their degraded lives in these verses, but he finishes with salvation their salvation and sanctification:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with other men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 6:9-11, NIV).

No wonder Paul walked into Corinth in weakness and great fear and trembling (1 Cor. 2:2). We must make a distinction between salvation, which can happen instantly, the moment the Spirit surges in the unbeliever and faith in Jesus arises in the heart. Then the new believer has a long, long road of holiness to travel towards becoming more and more like Jesus. This journey is called sanctification, the process of making holy: -ion (process) fic- (make) and sanct (holy). It can also be called discipleship.

Word Study on Disciple

2:

After this, Priscilla will often be named first, and Aquila second. Bruce speculates that she comes from the gens Prisca in Rome, a very prominent family. In other words Aquila married up, socially speaking. It is equally or more likely that she was named first because she took the lead in ministry. Both may be true. She was from a higher class and took the lead in ministry. If she really did come from a high-level family, then she was certainly educated.

Peterson:

Luke takes the opportunity to link his narrative about Corinth with a well-known event in Roman history [Claudius kicked Jews out of Rome.] The imperial edict banning Jews from Rome is recorded by historian Suetonius (Claud. 25.4) in these terms: ‘since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus … he expelled them from Rome.’ Chrestus may be a corruption of Christus [Christ], meaning that the Jewish community in Rome had become seriously divided over Christian claims about Jesus. However, Chrestus was a relatively common name at the time, and the man in question could have been a Jewish activist who had no connection with Christianity. There is no way of being certain about the meaning of this brief allusion…. The most likely date for that [expulsion] was in [Claudius’] ninth year, namely AD 49. Leaving Rome under such circumstances must have been a great trial for those concerned, but Luke shows how, in God’s providence, the coming of this couple to Corinth and then Ephesus advanced the work of the gospel significantly (vv. 18-28)

3:

Working and ministry. So many church planters want the church to support them, and that is legitimate (Acts 18:5; 1 Cor. 9:14; Gal 6:6). However, Paul’s trade was leather-working (or tent-making). New church planters will simply have to work at a job, before the new church can support them financially (1 Thess. 2:9; 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:7-10).

“leather-workers”: that is an expanded translation by Bruce’s suggestion (1990), but the literal Greek says “tentmakers,” and so say the standard translations I have read. You can decide.

Bruce on Paul meeting Priscilla and Aquila and their trade:

It was this [trade] that first apparently brought Paul into contact with them, for he himself had been apprenticed to the same trade. This trade was closely connected with the principal product of Paul’s native province, a cloth of goats’ hair called cilicium, used for cloaks, curtains, and other fabrics designed to protection against wet. In Judaism it was not considered proper for a scribe or rabbi to receive payment for his teaching, so many of them practiced a trade in addition to their study and teaching of the law [Bruce quotes Hillel Pirqê ‘Abot 4.7 and Gamaliel III, ibid. 2/2]. Paul, as a manner of policy, earned his living in this way during his missionary career (cf. 20:34; 1 Cor. 9:3-18; 2 Cor. 11:7; 1 Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:8) (1988, comment on vv. 2-3)

Bock says, however, that they were leather-workers but did not weave goat hair. Peterson agrees.

4:

“dialogued”: it is the verb dialegomai (pronounced dee-ah-leh-goh-my), and it means how I translated it. The NIV and NASB have “reasoned.” Excellent. Please feel free to discuss Scripture with people who may not know it or have a deficient understanding of it.

It is amazing that Paul went into the synagogue to preach the Messiahship of Yeshua (Jesus). But all of this was “new good news” to both Gentiles and Jews. They were hungry to hear the new claims that pointed to the truth about Jesus.

“was trying to persuade”: it comes from the verb peithō (pronounced pay-thoh), and in the imperfect tense, which in some contexts does not mean that a person succeeds. However, I believe Paul was more effective than this. Jesus had a large number of people in the city (vv. 9-10). And that’s why traditional Jews reacted so ferociously against Paul and his team (vv. 6 and 12-17).

Both verbs are in the imperfect tense, which suggests that the discussions were ongoing (HT: Bock, comment on v. 4).

GrowApp for Acts 18:1-4

A.. Paul worked while he ministered. Do you see your job as a ministry? Or do you work and minister at church? Tell your story of your contribution to church and his kingdom.

Paul Spends Eighteen Months in Corinth (Acts 18:5-11)

5 But when Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself to the word, witnessing to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 When they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his clothing and said to them: “Your blood be upon your head! I am clear! From now on I shall go to the Gentiles!

7 And he left from there and went into the household of Titus Justus, a God-fearer, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 And Crispus, the synagogue leader, believed in the Lord with his whole household, and numerous Corinthians heard and believed and were baptized. 9 In the night, the Lord told Paul in a vision, “Do not fear, but speak and do not keep silent, 10 because I myself am with you, and no one shall attack you to harm you, because a great number of people is mine in this city.” 11 So he settled in for one year and six months, teaching them the word of God.

Comments:

5:

Silas and Timothy brought resources (money) from Macedonia so that Paul could devote himself to preaching only. It is okay for a legitimate preacher to live on the offerings of God’s people. Now Paul could depend on the financial and practical support of Silas and Timothy.

“devoted himself”: it is the Greek verb sunechō (pronounced soo-nekh-oh), and it means be “held within the bounds or control” of someone or something. In other words, Paul was held or bound to the Word of God. Peterson teaches us that it could be translated as “constrained by the word. BDAG also has: “wholly absorbed in preaching.”

“word”: This is the very versatile noun logos (pronounced loh-goss), and here it means the message of the gospel, based on the Old Testament. In fact, the entire OT was the Word, but Paul focused on the Messianic prophecies. It is very effective to look them up and find out how Yeshua (Jesus) fulfilled them. So Paul was a “word guy.”

Here is a table of the Messianic prophecies:

Messianic Prophecies

At that link, there is a table of quoted OT and NT verses. Yet Jesus fulfilling the OT goes beyond to quoted verses. He also fulfills the patterns and concepts and themes of the OT, like the entire sacrificial system and all the covenants.

Back to logos. It is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.

I have repeated these comments throughout the entire commentary. Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level. Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to, also. Paul’s brief speech to the Gentiles, below, also has Bible-based logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.

People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, the book of Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.

On the other side of the word Word, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true.  Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.

“witnessing”: the verb is diamarturomai (pronounced dee-ah-mahr-too-roh-my), and it can also mean “bear witness to” or “testify.” In these contexts it always means witnessing or testifying through the power of the Spirit. Paul’s message to his co-Jews was simple: Jesus was the Messiah (or more grammatically correct, because of the article: “the Christ was Jesus”). In any case, let’s keep our message equally simple.

6:

“I am clear!”: it could be translated as “clean” or innocent.”

Shaking the dust off of their feet is what Jews did when they left pagan territory, so they could remove the ceremonial uncleanness. But the ceremonial uncleanness is not the point here because Paul was gesturing to Jews. Instead it means “you—not we—take responsibility for your decision!” It signifies that rejecting the kingdom of God is deadly serious. Nehemiah shook the dust out of the fold of his garments when he made the returning Israelites give back the property and children who were sold into slavery, in a promise that apparently required the shaking. “In this way may God shake out of their house and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied!” (Neh. 5:13, NIV). Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off their feet to the Jews in Pisidian Antioch when they rejected their kingdom, and the missionary pair left for Iconium (Acts 13:51).

Peterson is right: “This is not a decisive abandonment of ministry to Jews since he goes straight to the synagogue again when he arrives in Ephesus (v. 19). His pattern of speaking first to Jews and only later turning to Gentiles indicated a sense of prophetic obligation, expressed positively in terms of Is. 49:6 (cf. Acts 13:36-47). Ezekiel’s teaching about the duty of the watchman released Paul from his obligation ‘to the Jew first’ when he met strong public resistance within the Jewish community” (comment on. 6).

7-8:

Titius Justus indicates he was a Roman citizen (his nomen and cognomen). What was his praenomen? He may have been the Gaius who hosted the whole church (Rom. 16:23), and he may have been baptized by Paul (1 Cor. 1:14). (HT: Bruce, 1988, comments on vv. 6-7). Bock is not certain that Titius Justus was Gaius. In any case, “[t]he mention of Titius is the last mention of God-fearer in Acts” (Bock, comments on vv. 7-8).

In 1 Cor. 1:14, Crispus is said to be baptized by Paul.

“believed”: The verb is pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh), and it is used 241 times. It means to “believe, be convinced of something.” In a more specific definition it goes in a direction: “to have faith in Christ or God” (Mounce p. 61). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.

True acronym:

F-A-I-T-H

=

Forsaking All, I Trust Him

Here it is connected to “saved.”

Let’s discuss the verb believe and the noun faith more deeply. It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).

Word Study on Faith and Faithfulness

“heard … believed … were baptized”: people heard the message, which sparked faith in their hearts, and then they were water baptized. Water does not save, but Jesus does. Salvation goes beyond initial justification or initially being declared righteous. It involves one’s whole life. And being water-baptized for the washing away of sins means that water symbolically washes away one’s sins.

See my post about water baptism:

Basics about Water Baptism

Once again we have summary verses about the effectiveness of the gospel of Christ and grace. Luke omits a lot of details that Paul fills in, in his two epistles to the Corinthians, later in his timeline. See v. 18 for how this works out in the Corinthians’ daily lives.

“and his household”: Acts is about salvation of entire households and meeting in those saved households (2:2, 46; 5:42; 8:3, but be careful of persecution in 8:3! 10:2; 11:14; 16:15, 31, 34; 20:20; 21:8). Pray for your entire family!

In Acts, Luke links receiving prayer languages with being filled with the Spirit in three explicit paradigmatic or exemplary instances, and one clearly implied paradigmatic and exemplary instance:

Are ‘Tongues’ the Sign of Baptism with Spirit in Acts?

Here in Corinth, Paul spent eighteen months there because Jesus appeared to him in a vision and told him that he had numerous people there (Acts 18:1-18). Luke never mentions any of the spiritual gifts, including prayer languages, but Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians spells out that these believers exercised them powerfully and frequently (1 Cor. 12:7-11; 14:1-40). Once again, Luke’s omissions.

This case and the ones at the above link are paradigmatic and exemplary because they illustrate that converts to the Jesus Movement or the Way had also to be filled with power and fire and this speaking gift.

However, Paul’s experience proves that Luke does not have to explicitly link the fullness of the Spirit and prayer languages every single time. Paul received the fulness of the Spirit, but his prayer language is not mentioned at that time (Acts 9:17-18). But we know that he used this gift very often (1 Cor. 14:18).

Luke expects us to fill his omissions with the power of the Spirit because the entire sweep or context of his book is charismatic. It is similar to his omitting water baptism in key places. Often he does say that new converts got baptized: Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 35-38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:14-15, 31-33; 18:8; 19:5), Yet in other cases water baptism is not brought up for new converts: Acts 9:42; 11:21; 13:12, 48; 14:1; 17:12, 34. Believe it or not, but during Paul’s and Barnabas’s first missionary journey, Luke does not record even one water baptism, even though many conversions were recorded. But we know they took place because this was standard practice. Luke requires us to fill in his omissions.

In the same way, Luke omits a lot of details about the power of the Spirit during Paul’s stay at Corinth. In contrast, here is a small list of the Spirit’s gifts and the Spirit’s power in the Corinthian church:

Paul did not go to them with Greek wisdom and persuasive words, but his message was with the demonstration of the Spirit’s power, “so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Cor. 2:4-5, NIV).

The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power (1 Cor. 4:20). This means spiritual power, as the Spirit flowed through Paul. As noted in the previous point, it included signs and wonders.

The Corinthians had prayer languages (formerly and archaically called “tongues”) that only their individual spirits understood without interpretations (1 Cor. 14:13-15).

They eagerly prophesied (1 Cor. 14:3-5, 31).

Paul said he spoke in his Spirit-inspired languages more than the Corinthians did (1 Cor. 14:18).

He said he wanted everyone to pray in their spiritual languages (1 Cor. 14:5)

He said not forbid this wonderful gift of spiritual languages (1 Cor. 14:39).

And of course they (potentially or actually) had the nine gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7-11).

What 1 Corinthians 14 Really Teaches

In Acts, Luke omits some of these details, but that is how all four Gospels and Acts are presented to us: elliptical (omitting details). But the entire context of Acts is Spirit-empowered and Spirit-filled. The entire book is very charismatic. Luke expects us to fill in the ellipses with the power of the Spirit.

It is like the anointing of Jesus at his water baptism with the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove (Luke 3:31-22; 4:18-19). From then on, Jesus worked miracles of nature and healing and demonic expulsion in the third Gospel, and Luke does not have to announce every time Jesus did those things: “Remember when I wrote that Jesus was anointed with the Spirit? He worked that miracle based on those verses!” Rather, Luke expects us to fill in those omissions with the power of the Spirit. Likewise, in the many cases of Christian witness from town to town in Acts, Luke expects us to fill in the omissions with the same empowerment because of Acts 2:1-4. And so Luke-Acts is all very charismatic, which is normative for the church throughout its history. Spirit-filled empowerment and anointing continues.

However, Paul’s experience proves that Luke does not have to link the fullness of the Spirit and prayer languages every single time. Paul received the fulness of the Spirit, but his prayer language is not mentioned at that time (Acts 9:17-18). However, we know that he used this gift very often (1 Cor. 14:18).

It is the argument of this commentary that when Luke does not record the gift of prayer languages or prophecies, both Spirit-inspired utterances, one in a language unknown to the speaker, while the other is known, then these gifts still prevailed. The Corinthian church is the perfect example. Here in Acts 18:1-17, Paul ministers in Corinth for eighteen months, and nothing is said about the fulness of the Spirit and prayer languages, but the Corinthians had them (and other gifts) in abundance (1 Cor 12-14). Luke expects us to fill his omissions with the power of the Spirit because the entire sweep or context of his book is charismatic.

It is similar to his omitting water baptism in key places. Often he does say that new converts got baptized: Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 35-38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:14-15, 31-33; 18:8; 19:5), Yet in other cases water baptism is not brought up for new converts: Acts 9:42; 11:21; 13:12, 48; 14:1; 17:12, 34. That’s why I have nicknamed him Luke “the Omitter” or “the Condenser.” Luke expects us to fill in these omissions.

9-10:

“vision”: the noun horama (pronounced as it appears and where we get our word panorama). It is mostly translated as “vision,” or it could be a supernatural sight (Matt. 17:19; Acts 10:3, 17, 19; 18:9). You’ll know it when you see it, with no room for misinterpretation. And Renewalists believe that visions still happen today. They get them all the time. It’s biblical. But your visions must be submitted to the written Word because your vision may not be right, but self-serving. In contrast, Scripture has stood the test of time. Your dream or vision has not. Scripture is infallible; your vision is not. See another similar appearance in Acts 23:11, but there it was apparently a personal appearance, not a vision.

Dreams and Visions: How to Interpret Them

“I myself am with you”: in Greek it is ego (I) eimi (am) (pronounced eh-goh ay-mee), and Greeks could say “I am with you” without “I.” So I get the sense from the Lord’s words that he was watching over Paul closely and carefully. Paul was physically abused by being stoned, almost to death, and he got a resurrection of sorts and walked right back into the city (Acts 14:9-10). He was beat five times by Jews (2 Cor. 11:24).

“is mine”: it could be translated “belongs to me.” God the Son scanned the hearts of every Corinthian and could see those whose heart would open up to his gospel while Paul was there. We should have no doubt that the Spirit empowered church reached out to people when Paul was not there. We will never be able to draw the line between God’s calling people and people’s free will to respond to the call. He wants everyone to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), and he calls everyone when they hear the gospel, but some people resist his call. So humans do not have enough free will to walk into God’s kingdom unassisted by the Spirit, but they have enough free will to resist the gospel of the kingdom, for all of their lives. Human free will is God’s gift to us, but we use it for better or for worse.

Peterson, quoting another scholar (Buckwalter), says of the vision: “Here, and in 22:17-21 and 23:11, the exalted Jesus behaves towards Paul ‘as deity supreme in power and knowledge and as one who is personally present.” (comment on vv. 9-11).

11:

“settled in”: it comes from the verb kathizō (pronounced kah-thee-zoh), and it s basic meaning is “to sit.” So I see Paul settling in for the long haul.

“word of God”: it is the noun logos, plus the prepositional phrase “of God.” Paul was a “Word guy.” People need the whole counsel of God and must be taught. It is not about flash and panache and shallow sermons. See v. 5 for a closer look.

GrowApp for Acts 18:5-11

A.. While Paul was ministering, he received confirmation through a dream that he was in the will of God. Has God ever encouraged you while you were moving towards his will? (You cannot steer a parked car.) How do you receive encouragement from God? Tell your story.

Paul Before Gallio (Acts 18:12-17)

12 While Gallio was proconsul over Achaea, the Jews, united in spirit, rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, 13 claiming, “This man wrongly persuades men and women to worship God contrary to the law!” 14 When Paul was about to speak up, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it was some crime or a bad, reckless act, Jews, it would be reasonable to be patient with you in this matter. 15 But since it is about controversial questions, words, names, and your law, look to it yourselves. I don’t intend to be the judge in these matters.” 16 So he dismissed them from court. 17 Then they seized Sosthenes, the synagogue ruler, and beat him right in front of the court, and Gallio did not care one bit about any of this.

Comments:

12:

“Gallio”: he was “a son of the elder Seneca, the rhetorician (c. 50 B.C to c. A.D. 40) and brothers of the younger Seneca, the Stoic philosopher (c. 3 B.C to A.D. 65). His name was originally Marcus Annaeus Novatus, but after his father brought him to Rome from his native Cordova [Spain] in the principate of Tiberius, he was adopted by the rhetorician Lucius Junius Gallio, and thereafter bore the name of his adoptive father. …. After holding the praetorship in Rome, he was appointed proconsul of Achaia” (Bruce, comment on v. 12). Bruce goes on to say that Gallio was appointed proconsul in the summer of A.D. 51. He left Achaia because of a fever and went on a cruise because of his health (before his proconsulship had expired?) After his proconsulship (A.D. 55) he took a cruise from Rome to Egypt. He was killed by Nero in A.D. 65.

Bock dates this episode in AD 51-52.

“united in spirit”: The Greek adverb is a compound, homothumadon (pronounced hoh-moh-thoo-mah-dawn). The first half is hom– and means “same,” and the second half is related to thum-, which means spirit and soul and heart, a lively spirit, much like a lion or hero in battle (in NT Greek it can be translated as “wrath,” even). It appears eleven times, and ten only in Acts (1:14; 2:46; 4:24; 5:12; 7:57; 8:6; 12:20; 15:25; 18:12; 19:29), and once in Paul (Rom. 15:6). Being united in spirit, whether for good or evil, is powerful. Unite for the good, which is the gospel.

Paul’s fellow Jews gave him such a tough time. It is remarkable that he did not give up on them and bypass the synagogue, instead of making a beeline towards it. But he believed God had not given up on the Jews, since they had received and wrote Scripture and had an Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12; Rom. 1:16; 4; 9-10).

“rose up”: it is the verb katephisetamai (pronounced kah-teh-fees-eh-ta-my): it is used only here in the entire NT, and it literally means “stand down upon” or “bring down upon” or “place down upon.” It works well with “united in spirit” and “brought him to court.”

“judgment seat”: it is the noun bēma (pronounced bay-mah) and it is used 12 times in the NT and literally means “a step or footsteps, space to set one’s foot on; an elevated place ascended by steps; a tribunal, throne” (Mounce, p. 1048). It is an official’s place or seat of judgment. Think of a judge sitting behind his “bench” today. Therefore it is often means “judgment seat.” Paul uses it in Rom. 14:10 for God’s judgment seat, and in 2 Cor. 5:10, for Christ’s judgment seat. It is clear where he got the image from—right here (and other places). In Acts 12:21, it is used of Herod’s throne, where he delivered a speech. Also see Acts 25:6, 10, 17.

13:

“wrongly persuades”: it comes from the verb anapeithō (pronounced ah-nah-pay-thoh), and it does indeed mean to “wrongly persuade.”

“worship”: it comes from the Greek verb sebō (pronounced as it looks), and it means to “worship” or “honor” or “fear” God.

“men and women”: the Greek is anthrōpos (pronounced as it looks), and it is broad enough to include humanity. It is incomplete to translate it as just “men.” We know from the Corinthian church that women were included.

14-16:

“speak up”: the Greek is literally “about to open his mouth.”

“reckless act”: it comes from the noun radioourgēma (pronounced rah-dee-oh-oor-gay-mah), and it combines radi– (easy, ready) and ourg-, which means to work (yes, we get our English word work from it). Together they mean to “do things in an offhanded, easy manner”; “to live an easy, lazy life,” to “take things easily.” Here it means to “behave recklessly, without thinking ahead, to do wrong casually.” But their accusation was false. Paul knew exactly what he was saying and thought ahead. He got revelations from the risen Jesus, after all.

“accept”: it can mean “bear with you” (in court) or “put up with you” (in court).

“court”: it is the noun bēma, and see v. 12 for a closer look.

“The debate is over issues that reach back into Judaism and the Hebrew Scriptures. Gallio is seen as a fair, impartial judge of the matter, although his later indifference to Sosthenes’ beating makes Luke’s portrait more complex. There is an element of indifference and hastiness in Gallio that will be unlike later investigations, but the instinct that this new faith is not a threat to Rome and is about Jewish issues is correct, in Luke’s view” (Bock, comments on vv. 14-15).

17:

They wanted to punish Paul through Sosthenes because the new faction called the Way (see v. 25) or Christianity was a threat to the old traditions. We should have no doubt that Paul’s preaching included some of 2 Cor. 3, where he says that the old law of Moses had some glory in it, but it was nothing contrasted with the glory of the gospel through Christ and his New Covenant. Is it any wonder that they took offense at Paul? If you preach the gospel to close followers in other religions, like Judaism or Islam, expect some blowback.

“court”: it is the noun bēma, and see v. 12 for a closer look.

GrowApp for Acts 18:12-17

A.. Sosthenes experienced an injustice without help from the authorities. What is your response when the legal system lets you down? Do you get bitter or better?

Hasty Visit to Ephesus and then onwards to Antioch (Acts 18:18-23)

18 Paul stayed on a fair number of days and took his leave from the brothers and sisters and sailed off to Syria, with Priscilla and Aquila, after he cut his hair at Cenchrea, for he made a vow. 19 They landed at Ephesus, and he left them there, while he himself entered the synagogue and dialogued with the Jews. 20 Although they asked him to stay a longer time, he declined; 21 instead, he took his leave, saying, “I shall return again to you, God willing.” He set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he came to Caesarea, and after he went up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch. 23 He spent some time there and went through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, place to place, strengthening all of the disciples.

Comments:

18:

“brothers and sisters”: in this context, the Greek word “brothers” can include “sisters,” much like our word mankind can include women. (The word humankind is better.)

Why cut his hair? He let it grow long for a duration of a vow, probably a private vow, but not a Nazarite vow which could only be taken in the Holy Land (Num. 6:18; see Num. 6:1-21). Bruce suggests: “The fulfilment [of his vow] was an act of thanksgiving—possibly for the divine promise of verse 10, which had been confirmed by his preservation from harm throughout his Corinthian ministry” (comment on v. 18)

Two scholars, Bruce and Bock, in my Sources section, below, say it was an ordinary vow and not a Nazarite vow (see quoted verses, below). Keener, Peterson, and Schnabel are not sure, inconclusive. Polhill seems barely to favor the Nazarite vow but notes some problems.

However, Longenecker speculates that Paul did take a Nazarite vow, writing:

Evidently, it may be conjectured at some time during his residence at Corinth—perhaps at its beginning when he was depressed—Paul had taken a Nazarite vow to God as he asked for intervention. And now, having seen God’s hand at work in Corinth and a thriving church established there, Paul was determined to return to Jerusalem to fulfill his vow by presenting his hair as a burnt offering and by offering sacrifices in the temple (cf. 21:26). The vow could only be fulfilled after a thirty-day period of purification in the Holy City (cf. m. Naz. 3:6), according to the more lenient ruling of the school of Shammai). (comment on v. 18)

Peterson insightfully writes about the significance of the vow for Paul’s relation to the Jewish community and the law and his liberty in the gospel of Christ:

Paul voluntarily continued certain Jewish practices because he did not see them to be inconsistent with his new status in Christ. Nevertheless, his lifestyle and his whole focus on salvation through faith in Christ must have raised many questions about the continuing role of the law for Jews in the messianic era. Making a vow and shaving the head when it was completed was a way of demonstrating his trust in God and showing loyalty to the tradition of Israel, without compromising his gospel message. Perhaps such gestures allowed Paul to talk more feely with fellow Jews about the gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 9:20). (comment v. 18)

Paul was free in regards to all these laws, but he wanted to reach out to his co-Jews, so he demonstrated that he still loved Israel by following some lighter customs, like a vow. But in no way does he argue that law keeping is the pathway towards being righteous before God. Only faith in Christ can do this (see for example Phil. 3:2-11; Rom. 4:9-12; Gal. 6:11-16).

I prefer Bruce’s and Bock’s view. Paul took an optional ordinary vow. Here are the verses:

21 If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. 22 But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. 23 Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the Lord your God with your own mouth. (Deut. 23:21-23, NIV; see also Deut. 30:1-16 for private, non-Nazarite vows).

Those verses describe a simple vow without rigid complications of the Nazarite vow. I don’t see Paul getting involved in the rigidity and complications of the Nazarite vow.

But you can decide on your own which vow he took. Schnabel has the right idea: “Certainty is impossible. Luke makes nothing of Paul’s vow in his subsequent narrative.”

19-21:

As usual, per his custom, he entered the synagogue (Rom. 1:16), in the major city of Ephesus. But he was in a hurry to leave, even though they asked him to stay for more dialogue. He declined their request. How many of us would turn down a speaking engagement? Finally, I like how Paul tagged on “God willing.” His life was in God’s hands, not his own plans and dreams and schemes. He did in fact return to Ephesus (19:1). God will get you to where you are called to be, eventually. Surrender to his plans. He knows what is best for you.

22:

Luke omits his visit to Jerusalem, but it is implied. The verbs “went up” and “went down” in context are used to arrive and depart from Jerusalem. Also, Luke said he went to visit “the church.” This does not refer to Caesarea, but the church in Jerusalem. Once again, maybe the reader can see why I have nicknamed him Luke “the Omitter” or “the Condenser.”

Commentator Schnabel offers this table for Paul’s five visits to Jerusalem and the missionary work in between.

Year Occasion for Visit to Jerusalem
31/32 Conversion of Saul
32-34 Missionary work in Arabia and in Damascus
33/34 First visit (Acts 9:26-20), three years after Paul’s conversion
34-44 Missionary work in Syria and Cilicia (eleven years)
44 Second visit (Acts 11:27-30): taking gifts to the poor, eleven years after the first visit
45-47 Missionary work on Cyprus and in Galatia
48 Third visit (Acts 15:1-29): Apostles’ Council, three years after the second visit
49-51 Missionary work in Macedonia and Achaia
51 Fourth visit (Acts 18:22): three years after the third visit
52-56 Missionary work in the Province of Asia and visit to Achaia
57 Fifth visit (Acts 21:15-17): collection visit, six years after the fourth visit
57-61 Arrest in Jerusalem and imprisonment in Caesarea and in Rome
Schnabel, p. 455

The fourth visit is relevant to this verse here. This is an excellent timeline, without being crowded with details. Focused and clear.

“church”: It is singular here. It is stunning how rapidly the gospel was spreading in Israel—may it spread as quickly and widely even today in Israel. The church, wherever it is found, should be unified as one. In Greek it is ekklēsia (pronounced ek-klay-see-ah) and the meaning has roots in both Hebrew and Greek. It literally means “the ones called out” or “the called out” or “the summoned” who gather together. It describes an assembly or gathering.

Some extra-enthusiastic and super-confident Renewalists say that from this definition, they can “legislate” events to happen (or something). Of course, they overstate the basic meaning of the word outside of the church context. Just because an assembly can legislate in the pagan world does not mean Christians can now do this in the Spirit world. Further, another legislative body was the Council (boulē, pronounced boo-lay), the upper chamber of the rich landowners. They had to approve of the lower chamber’s legislation. If we take the historical context too far, then where is the Council? So, to judge from the historical context, the church as the ekklēsia cannot legislate. Instead, these extra-human-centered Christians should simplify things and ask God for his intervention. Prayer to our loving Father is sufficient, without complications or convoluted trends and ideas that promote human-centered power.

Let’s look more deeply at the rich term. BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, has a long discussion, but let’s look at only one subpoint.

By far the most Scriptures where ekklēsia appears comes under this definition: “congregation or church as the totality of Christian living and meeting in a particular locality or large geographical area, but not necessarily limited to one meeting place” (Acts 5:11; 8:3; 9:31; 11:26; 12:5; 15:3; 18:22; 20:17; see also 12:1; 1 Cor. 4:7; Phil. 4:15; 1 Tim. 5:16; Jas. 5:14; 3 John 9). “More definitely of the Christians in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1; 11:22; 15:4, 22; see also 2:47) in Cenchreae (Rom. 16:1); in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1); Laodicea (Col. 4:16; Rev. 3:14); in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1); Colossae (Plm. 1, subscript). Plural churches (Acts 15:41; 16:5; Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 7:17; 2 Cor. 8:18, 23; 11:8, 28; 12:13; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 23, 29; 3:6, 13; 22; 22:16); the Christian community in Judea (Gal. 1:22; 1 Thess. 2:14); in Galatia (Gal. 1:2; 1 Cor. 16:1); in Asia (1 Cor. 16:19; Rev. 1:4, 11, 20); in Macedonia (2 Cor. 8:1).

Please see these posts for BDAG’s fuller definition:

What Is the Church?

Bible Basics about the Church

Fellowship is so important for believers. Don’t believe the lie circulating in American society, particularly in social media, that not going to church is good enough. People who skip constant fellowship are prone to sin and self-deception and satanic attacks. We need each other.

This link has a list of the famous “one another” verses, like “love one another.”

What Is Fellowship?

Further, since American Christianity is undergoing discussion on the sizes of churches, let me add: the earliest Christian community met either in houses (Acts 2:46) or in Solomon’s Colonnade in Jerusalem (Acts 3:11; 5:12) or a large number in Antioch (11:26), which could hold a large gathering—call it a mega-church—and presumably in mid-sized gatherings. Size does not matter, since it varies so widely.

Moreover, one thing that impresses me about all those above references, is that the apostles, as they planted churches, were guided by the Spirit—always—and they were also deliberate about setting them up and establishing them. Planning is Scriptural. So wisdom says: listen to the Spirit and plan. Listen as you plan and be ready to drop your plans at a moment notice, when the Spirit says so. God will grow the church as we proclaim the good news.

Here is a table of the cities and their regions during Paul’s (and his team’s) second missionary journey:

City Region
Antioch Syria
Unnamed cities Cilicia
Derbe Lycaonia
Unnamed city Opposite Mysia
Troas Mysia
Unnamed city Samothrace
Neapolis Macedonia
Philippi Macedonia
Amphipolis Macedonia
Apollonia Macedonia
Thessalonica Macedonia
Berea Macedonia
Athens Achaia
Corinth Achaia
Cenchreae Achaia
Ephesus Lydia
Caesarea Judea
Jerusalem (probably) Judea
Antioch Syria
Bock, pp. 587-88

I like Bock’s tables because they put these unfamiliar names in chronological order of Paul’s second journey.

23:

Paul begins his third missionary journey here. He systematically and thoroughly visited the towns in southern Galatia, strengthening the disciples who had been saved under his ministry. Then he will return to Ephesus (19:1). We should be just as thorough and systematic as he was in our ministry. We may not be church planters, but we can imitate Paul’s love and church-centeredness.

“disciples”: in Acts, it always means believers in Jesus. The noun is mathētēs (singular and pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG says of the noun (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”

Word Study on Disciple

Before Luke continues his historical record about Paul’s third missionary journey, Luke provides a small vignette about Apollos and Priscilla and Aquila. Very nice. And very significant.

GrowApp for Acts 18:18-23

A.. Paul strengthened people in the faith. How have you strengthened people in your circle of friends and family?

B.. Paul ended his promise with the phrase “God willing.” Have you surrendered your plan to God’s will?

Apollos (Acts 18:24-28)

24 A Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, a learned man, powerful in Scripture, landed at Ephesus. 25 He had been trained in the path of the Lord, and alive in the Spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the story of Jesus, understanding only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and laid out before him the path of God more accurately. 27 When he intended go through Achaea, they encouraged him and wrote to the disciples so that they would welcome him. He arrived and greatly helped those who had believed through grace. 28 He powerfully refuted the Jews publicly, by demonstrating from the Scriptures that the Messiah was Jesus.

Comments:

24:

“learned”: it is the adjective logios, and it is connected to the noun logos, and see v. 5 for a closer look at the stem log-. It could mean “educated.” Interestingly, Bruce (1990) suggests he was a businessman; maybe, but I don’t think so. Orators and rhetoricians (both professional speakers or “speechifiers”) used to travel around the Greek East giving speeches before the people’s assembly (lower chamber) or council (upper chamber) and dazzling them with their opinions on various policies. Some even denounced slavery or prostitution, for example. Their Greek was strong and their reasoning powerful. They came across as educated far above the average Greek. No doubt a professional orator or rhetorician who came from Alexandria, Egypt, would boast that his city had a huge library and he studied there and attended various schools and learned the art of speaking, as well as the classics of Greek poetry, like Homer, and philosophy, like Plato and Aristotle. They attended lectures from the top minds of their days.

“powerful in Scripture”: Apollos should be seen in the context I just described, even though he might not have experienced every facet of that intellectual life. Most importantly, he was steeped in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX and pronounced sep-TOO-ah-gent), which is the third-to-second century, BC, translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. And of course Apollos probably knew Hebrew too.

“powerful” here comes from adjective dunatos (pronounced doo-nah-tohss), and it means “mighty, able, strong.” Apollos was a “Word guy.” He used Scripture to reason about the Messiah. No doubt he used Messianic prophecies. Please see a table of the Scriptures, written out.

Messianic Prophecies

25:

“path”: it comes from the noun hodos (pronounced hoh-dohss). It means the “path” or “road” or “way.” In Greece today, it is the standard word for street (and road), and you will see street signs with “od.” or St. with the name of the street. John the Baptist, through the OT prophet Malachi, launched the idea: “Prepare the way (hodos) of the Lord!” (Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23). Jesus said the road (hodos) to life is narrow (Matt. 7:14). And Jesus said he is the way (hodos), the truth, and the life (John 14:16). He is the road way to God.

“alive”: it comes from the verb zeō (pronounced zeh-oh), which is related to the noun life (zoē and pronounced zoh-ay). Some translations have “fervent,” but it could mean burning with zeal.

“Spirit”: in Rom. 12:11 it means “living or alive in the Spirit,” as in Holy Spirit. Bruce says it mean the same thing here and translates it “aglow with the Spirit.” I agree because the Greek wording is the same. Apollos was alive or living or glowing in the Spirit. It is possible not have be baptized in the name of Jesus and still have the Spirit in someone. Be wary of locked-down systems of salvation. The only essential or nonnegotiable is the Spirit causing one to be born again (John 3:3) and confession that Jesus is Lord and believing in the heart that God raised him from the dead (Rom. 10:9-10). In any case, could it be that Priscilla and Aquila introduced him to the baptism in the Spirit, subsequent to his saving faith in the Lord, after he was instructed in the way of the Lord? I say yes.

“story”: literally the word is “things,” but I expanded the translation, because his Jesus’s ministry and life and his ministry in the first-century church (and today) is a storyline. Apollos was speaking the story of Jesus accurately, but not completely accurately. He had gaps in his knowledge.

“baptism of John”: Jews who were touched by John’s baptism traveled around and landed at Alexandria (or Apollos may have heard about it in his own travels). But he must have been born again through the ministry of Messianic Jews, because he was alive in the Spirit.

In Acts 19:1-7, Paul went to Ephesus and met disciples who heard only the baptism of John. No doubt they had heard Apollos’s preaching, which was focused on only John’s baptism. Paul had to update their knowledge, much like Priscilla and Aquila did for Apollos here in this verse and v. 26. They received the fulness of the Spirit and spoke in heavenly languages. It is probable that Apollos got the fulness of the Spirit just as the Ephesian disciples did too—prayer languages.

“But Apollos combined great knowledge of the scriptures with a masterly skill in expounding their messianic content, and this was coupled with a spiritual fervency—an expression which probably denoted not so much an enthusiastic temperament as possession by the Spirit of God (which is what it means when used by Paul in Rom. 12:11)” (Bruce, comment on vv. 24-25).

26:

“boldly proclaiming”: it comes from one Greek verb parrēsiazomai (pronounced pah-rray-see-ah-zoh-my), and it combines boldness and speech. Apollos’s was emboldened and did not cower in fear. You know the Spirit is flowing through you when you have boldness. God has not given you a spirit of fear or timidity (2 Tim. 1:7).

Of course Priscilla and Aquila instructed him in the baptism in the name of Jesus. The fact that they took him aside, probably means a meal in their house (Keener p. 469). Priscilla is named first, indicating her higher status and taking the lead in instructing him (Keener, ibid.).

I like Bruce’s statement on Priscilla and Aquila’s further instruction of Apollos: “But Priscilla’s and Aquila’s procedure was admirable: how much better it is to give such private help to a teacher whose understanding of his subject is deficient than to correct or denounce him publicly!” (comment on v. 26).

No drama, and no drama kings or queens among church leaders, please.

But can their instruction go more deeply?

Apollos went right to the synagogue in Ephesus, and the text does not say he got persecuted. Why not? Did he understand the grace of God to its fullest? Did he teach a lot of law? Did he know about the Jerusalem Council and its letter that diminishes the law of Moses’s rules (Acts 15)? Some say he was not Spirit-filled, but v. 24 disagrees.  Note that in v. 27 he greatly encouraged the believers in Achaia, where Corinth was, in the grace of God. It would have been a disaster for Paul’s ministry in Corinth if Apollos had taught to incorporate the law too strongly and broadly in Christian salvation, because 2 Cor. 3 is Paul’s declaration of the diminishment of the old law. But let’s not go overboard on the absence of evidence (no persecution).

Apollos is not said to receive Christian water baptism. But it is a sure thing that he did, sooner or later. (Recall that throughout Paul’s and Barnabas’s first missionary journey Luke does not record one baptism.) Recall v. 8: “And Crispus, the synagogue leader, believed in the Lord with his whole household, and numerous Corinthians heard and believed and were baptized.” Once again, Luke’s nickname: “the Omitter” or “the Condenser.” He omits because he assumes that water baptism was done. His readers should fill in the blanks and not build a federal doctrinal case out his omissions. Water baptism was simply done. Period. Apollos was baptized.

27:

“helped”: it comes from the verb sumballō, and it means to come or even be strongly thrown together and help each other. Picture unity of purpose.

“they wrote”: it is always good to have a church send you out. If God ever leads you to pastor a church, don’t be an independent operator. Get sent and get help! And don’t welcome fly-by-night, wandering evangelists who have no roots in a local church. And be sure the church is established and not one that the independent operator started to be a “yes-church” to him.

“believed” see v. 8 for more comments.

“through grace”: “through could be translated “by,” but I chose a literal translation. The noun comes from the Greek charis (pronounced khah-rees) and has these meanings, depending on the context: graciousness, attractiveness; favor, gracious care, help or goodwill, practical application of goodwill; a gracious deed or gift, benefaction. In some contexts, it means “exceptional effects produced by divine grace,” in other words, empowerment to accomplish a task. In this case it means his ability to do wonders and great signs. God gave him the grace and power to accomplish them.

Let’s go deeper, by repeating part of what I wrote in the post Do I Really Know God? He Is Gracious. Mounce in his Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words teaches us about the Hebrew and Greek words. The Hebrew noun ḥen (pronounced khen) “describes that which is favorable or gracious, especially the favorable disposition of one person to another” (p. 302). The Greek noun further means “the acceptance of and goodness toward those who cannot earn or do not deserve such gain” (p. 303). The verb in Hebrew is ḥanan (pronounced khah-nan) and means to be gracious, “to show mercy favor, be gracious” (ibid.).

Here is a quick definition. God’s grace means he gladly shows his unmerited goodness or love to those who have forfeited it and are by nature under a sentence of condemnation.

Good news! We do not have to suffer condemnation for our past sins because God hands us his grace. God initiates grace and then we believe.

What Is Grace?

Grace to You

Law versus Grace

“powerfully”: the Greek adverb is eutonōs (pronounced yew-toh-nohss), and it is used only twice in the NT: here and Luke 23:10. It means “powerfully, vehemently, and vigorously.” It must have been great to see these discussions. Do preachers today have this kind of Scripture knowledge combined with vigor and verbal power? I see a few on Christian TV, but very few.

“refuted”: it is a verb used only here in the NT: diakatelegchomai (pronounced dee-ah-kah-teh-lehg-khoh-my), and its basic meaning is to convict someone of a falsehood, to belie, and even to disgrace. Here it means “refute, confute.”

“demonstrating”: it comes from the verb epideiknumi (pronounced eh-pee-dayk-noo-mee), and it means “to point to” or “show.” Luke uses it in Acts 9:39, when the women were showing Peter the clothing that Tabitha-Dorcas made. Here it means to “demonstrate or prove,” as in an argument.

Once again Apollos used Scripture to show that Jesus was the Messiah. Here is a table of the Scriptures, written out:

Messianic Prophecies

At that link is a table of quoted verses in the OT and NT, but Jesus fulfills more than just quoted verses. He also fulfills themes and concepts and types and shadows and even entire systems, like the temple sacrifices and the temple itself.

GrowApp for Acts 18:24-28

A.. Apollos was learned in Scripture and he helped people through his preaching. Do you see the connection between knowing Scripture and encouraging people? How is your knowledge of Scripture and your ministry to people?

B.. People believed through grace (as distinct from law keeping for salvation). Tell your story of God’s grace leading you to salvation.

Observations for Discipleship

When I went to Greece and later to Italy, I was “impressed” with how they seem to be rude and curt and eager to debate. But they did not consider themselves to be rude or curt. It was normal for them. I see this going on in Acts 18.

I heard a mega-church pastor say on Christian TV: “God has not called us to be right, but effective.” Effective? Absolutely true. And if by “right” he means having a snotty, superior attitude, then he is also correct. We are not called to have those bad attitudes. But if “right” means searching the Scriptures and reaching the right conclusions, then the pastor does not follow the way of Paul or Apollos, who would disagree with him. Even the pastor’s words invite us to conclude that he is right! We must be thoroughly trained in doctrine, so we can walk on the right path.

Paul and Apollos were very deeply immersed in debating and reasoning and discussing and even “powerfully confuting” their opponents. Christians in the English-speaking world too often run from these discussions. In a way, I understand it. When two or three men disagree and discuss, it can bring up bad feelings in the listeners, but maybe the listeners need to understand this side of the Christian engagement in the world: a wrestling match for truth.

The best example is Jesus. Maybe millions believe that throughout his ministry he did not answer his challengers. He did, however. Where do they get this bad idea? The source must be at his trial. Is. 53:7 says he did not open his mouth before his accusers, but was like a lamb going to slaughter, and Peter repeats the same idea (1 Peter 2:22-23). (See Matt. 27:12-14; Mark 14:60-61; 15:4-5; John 19:8-9.) Yes, at his trial he did not defend himself or argue his case with the purpose of exonerating or clearing himself of the death sentence. He could have called twelve legions of angels (Matt. 26:53). Instead, he was called to die for the sins of the world, so he let the unjust events take their course and remained silent in the sense of no self-defense. However, during his ministry he often replied to verbal challenges from the Pharisees and teachers of the law. He answered back and defeated them in their debate (Mark 2:6; 2:16; 7:1-5; 8:31; 9:14; 10:33; 11:18, 27-28; 14:1, etc.).

So now the application is clear. Call on the Spirit to enliven your mind and soul to enter into discussions about Jesus and the Scriptures. He is the Messiah, and numerous Scriptures lay out the details.

It is biblical to get into debates and discussions with unbelievers and even fellow-believers, and it is unrealistic to expect this would not happen. Pray that it is done in love, and pray that God will give you the perfect words to break down the resistance of the unbelievers. That is the word of wisdom mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:7-11. He will grace you with this gift and shine it through you because he loves people!

Finally, Apollos had an effective but incomplete ministry and walk with the Lord. Priscilla and Aquila clarified matters for him. Then he reached the church at Corinth. No doubt he learned more about the Holy Spirit’s power through the gifts God distributes (1 Cor. 12:7-11). This means that Apollos too either received more of the Spirit when he was there, or he had already received more power and fullness when he was with Priscilla and Aquila and then shared his gifting with the Corinthians. Maybe all of this is true for everyone.

Renewalists believe that the infilling and empowerment of the Spirit can happen throughout the believer’s life. The same can happen to you, the reader, right now!

SOURCES

Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Baker Academic, 2007.

Bruce, F. F. Acts. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1988. (I also used his earlier work Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Commentary, Eerdmans, 1951, 1952, 1990, 3rd ed.).

The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger. United Bible Society, 2014.

Keener, Craig, S. Acts. New Cambridge Bible Commentary. Cambridge UP, 2020.

Longenecker, Richard N. Acts. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 2007.

Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Tyndale, 1980.

Parsons, Mikeal C. and Martin M. Culy. Acts. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor, UP, 2003.

Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 2009.

Polhill, John B. Acts. New American Commentary. Vol. 26. Broadman and Holman, 1992.

Schnabel, Eckhard, J. Acts. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2012.

Works Cited

 

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