The Attempt: Day 18

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Paul is working 6 days a week and preaching on the Sabbath in the synagogue.

This is one of the most fascinating paragraphs in Acts:

1). Claudius expels Jews from Rome. One historian said it was because of Jewish riots over a dispute between the Jews about Christ. So, in a way, another diaspora; this time Jews not dispersed from Jerusalem, but from Rome. Priscilla and Aquila find their way to Corinth and make tents.

2). Introducing, Priscilla and Aquila. They will be mentioned by Paul several times in his writings, and in just a few paragraphs they are going to factor in Luke’s narrative in this very chapter in a huge way; but there is no mention of their conversion to Christianity. Many readers think it’s implied that they were believers when Paul met them. I don’t know why. It seems to me to be equally plausible they were converted by Paul during this time.

In the ’87 version this couple, Priscilla and Aquila were one of my favorites. You’ll hear Michael and Marta singing one of my favorite love songs.

Aquila means “eagle”. Priscilla is a nickname for Prisca. They are the Eagle and Prissy.

Lisa gets a kick out of this song because I always told her it was about us. Lisa says, “But you have Priscilla saying that she wouldn’t exist if Aquila wasn’t so wonderful. What are you implying?” It’s just a silly love song in a musical. What musical would be complete without silly love songs?

5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching…

This is interesting. Paul made tents with Priscilla and Aquila until Silas and Timothy arrived.

Here you see the ruins of the marketplace in Corinth. It was called the Agora. Hundreds if not thousands of artisans had fled to Corinth, a crossroads on the Mediterranean, and set up shop in buildings like this. Paul met Aquila outside a building like this almost 2000 years ago. They begin working together, but when Timothy and Silas come, Paul quits tent making.

One implication is that once they arrived, Silas and Timothy made the tents and Paul preached full time. The other would be that Silas and Timothy had funds that provided for all three of them. At any rate, Paul stops supporting himself with his tent making skills and gets back to preaching non-stop.

…testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Though this seems to already be the practice; this is the first time Paul emphatically announces to the synagogue his mission to the gentiles.

7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”

This has been a theme passage for me many times. God always has more people in a city than we are aware of.

11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

Other than Antioch, this is the first extended stay Paul has been able to have; and it seems divinely inspired.

12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. 13 “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.”

14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” 16 So he drove them off. 17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.

This is a mystery. No explanation is given anywhere for what caused the crowd to turn on Sosthenes, other than, they were ready to give somebody a whipping and if not Paul…

And is it a coincidence that when Paul writes to the Corinthians, in his greeting he says a guy named Sosthenes is with him? Whoever that Sosthenes was, it seems as if he was somebody the church in Corinth knew.

If Sosthenes became a disciple, what a track record for synagogue rulers in Corinth!

First Crispus converts.

Paul shakes his clothes out at the abusive synagogue brethren and says, “I’m doing to the gentiles.” He moves his meeting next door to one of the devoted Jewish synagogue members who now apparently becomes a believer and a house church leader, Titius Justus; possibly even the care taker of the synagogue. Titius tosses the keys to Crispus, “Here you go. It’s all yours.”

Crispus says, “What do you mean? My family and I are all coming with you!” And he tosses the keys to Sosthenes. Sosthenes looks at the keys, at the folks leaving with Paul and then at the angry crowd he’s now standing in front of. Meet the new boss.

Not long after that all these abusive ones from the synagogue hook up with all the Jewish folks in town that they can stir up and together they all make a united attack on Paul and take him before Galio, the proconsul. Galio says, “I’m not getting involved in this. It’s about your law and stuff; settle it yourselves. I’m not getting involved.” Then with a wave of his hand soldiers push the crowd away from him.

Somewhere in that scuffle I can hear Sosthenes say, “You know what, guys…? I think maybe we ought to listen to Paul one more time–” and that’s when the crowd grabbed him and beat him.

Then, just a little while later that same day, he shows up at Titius Justus house. They’re singing “We Shall Overcome”. Crowded room. They see Sosthenes and abruptly stop singing. He hobbles in, looks around… Paul and Crispus are side by side. They are the first to make a move, and they part just enough to give Sosthenes some room… he meekly slips down on the floor between them and as he sits, he groans from the beating. Paul hands him some advil as Crispus shares a hymnal. Singing resumes. Welcome to the club.

18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken.

This was possibly a Nazarite vow, I think; but it certainly was an example of Paul trying his best to be all things to all men. Part of the Nazarite vow was to not cut your hair, so why shave your head? You’d shave your head first when you began the vow and then for the duration of the vow you’d not cut it again.

19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church…

I think Paul shaving his head had something to do with him planning this visit to Jerusalem. But so little is said of this visit, other than he greeted the church. But I believe he had especially planned and thought out how he wanted to appear on this occasion and shaved his head, maybe taking a Nazarite vow.

On a future visit, Paul gets to Jerusalem, in a few chapters from now,  and the brothers will ask him to sponsor 4 other men who are beginning the vow.  He may be ending his vow at this time, in the temple, in Jerusalem; but all of this, I believe, was an attempt to do what he could to not further alienate his Jewish brethren, both in and out of the church.

…and then went down to Antioch.

23 After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

How is this possible? That Apollos could be instructed about Jesus accurately but only know the baptism of John so long after the baptism of the great commission has been instated? To me, this is fascinating. From the next series of verses a little more insight is given. When you read the last 2 verses in a moment, you’ll see that Apollos is going to go to Achaea and once there he will refute the Jewish objectors; proving from the scriptures that Jesus was the messiah. Somehow, nearly two decades after the ascension, we have a man who knows the story of Jesus and how he fulfilled all prophecy, but has somehow missed the Pentecost message.

When Priscilla and Aquila explained the way of God more adequately, we see no argument. This is equally fascinating. The open and accepting mind of Appolos not only sets an example for the kind of hearts we all should have; but it also proves how sensible baptism in the name of Jesus is.

27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.

Today’s Take Aways:

1). Staying strong in your convictions doesn’t mean that you can’t have an open heart and an open mind. You may just learn, as Apollos did, that there’s more to the truth than you were ever aware of.

2). Write a love song for someone. It might make you look good.

Let’s pray:

Dear Lord,

Thank you for the truths that you’ve revealed to us. Help us to understand your way better and better as the years go by; but always help us to keep a humility of heart and eagerness of spirit to learn. If we need to be corrected, please do it gently. If we need to rebuked, please don’t spare us, get it over with. And help us to have the willingness to try and be all things to all men when possible.

Please Lord be with our sick, and please help those of us attempting to turn the world upside down with our songs.  I prya

Steve has been a minister for almost 5 decades; and for more than 40 years married to the wife of his youth and partner, Lisa. Steve has spoken in Madison Square Garden. He's swam the Hudson River to raise money for his favorite charity. He’s the writer, producer and director of an award winning short film. He’s an author, speaker, and father whose messages are hilarious, soulful and life changing. When he's not trying to sell, ride or make friends on a motorcycle, you can find him in Portland, Oregon where he is happily serving with the https://portlandchurch.org

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