click here to see translations of this devotionalScripture reading – Acts 18; Acts 19
Our two-year chronological reading of God’s Word returns to the Book of Acts, with the focus of today’s study being Acts 18 and 19. (Note, I have adjusted the published reading schedule, as I desire to make a smoother transition in our daily study.)
Acts 17 found Paul teaching and preaching in Athens (17:15), that great and ancient city known as the center of academia. There, in Athens, Paul had boldly debated the philosophers of the day (17:16-21), and standing on Mars’ hill, proclaimed God as Creator, and “Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (17:24). He concluded his message, declaring the judgment of God (17:30-31a), and the resurrection of Jesus Christ “from the dead” (17:31). Some of Athens mocked Paul preaching “the resurrection of the dead,” while others desired to hear more, and others believed (17:32-34).
Departing Athens, Paul journeyed to Corinth (18:1), a city some 40 miles west of Athens, and an important, wealthy city on the Mediterranean Sea. Ancient Corinth is notable in the Scriptures as a place of learning, and great wickedness. In Corinth, the apostle joined himself to a couple, Aquila and Pricilla, who would become lifelong friends and with whom Paul would labor in the craft of making tents (probably for the Roman soldiers of the day, 18:2-3). As was his custom, Paul began preaching “in the synagogue every sabbath” (18:4), and “persuaded [convinced] Jew and the Greeks [who had become proselytes of Judaism]” (18:4).
Having sent for Silas and Timothy, Paul declared Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah of the Old Testament Scriptures (18:5). Many in the synagogue resisted the Gospel, and railed against Paul and the others (18:6a). The opposition was so great, the apostle declared, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles” (18:6). Departing, Paul went to the house of Justus, a Gentile who lived next door to the synagogue (18:7). He was followed by “Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue,” whose public faith in Christ would have certainly shaken the Jews of the synagogue (18:8a). Indeed, we read, Crispus was joined by “many of the Corinthians [who] hearing believed, and were baptized” (18:8).
A Heavenly Assurance (18:9-12)
The portrait many have of Paul is that he was a bold, fearless preacher, and yet he was not a man without fear (2 Corinthians 1:8-10). Having suffered afflictions and persecutions, God answered Paul’s fear through a nighttime vision, saying, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: 10For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city” (18:9-10).
How did Paul respond to God’s assurance? He remained in Corinth another 18 months, “teaching the word of God among them” (18:11).
A Jewish Insurrection and Public Hearing Before Gallio (18:12-17)
Certain Jews opposed to Paul stirred up an insurrection, and hauled the apostle before Gallio, who was the deputy or proconsul of the district of Achaia (one of two provinces that were created by Rome out of the ancient Greek empire, 18:12). Corinth was the capital city of Achaia. Those Jews were determined to destroy Paul, and brought him before Gallio’s “judgment seat,” where they accused him, saying, “This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law” (18:13).
Gallio, having no interest in Jewish matters, their doctrines or laws (18:114-15), refused to hear the charges against Paul, and “drave them [the Jews] from the judgment seat” (18:16). Rejected by the Roman authority, the Greeks turned their wrath upon “Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things” (18:17). By the way, this is the same Sosthenes whom Paul would later number among believers and his fellow-minister (1 Corinthians 1:1).
Sometime later, Paul departed Corinth, and determined to go up to Jerusalem to observe one of the feast (perhaps the Passover, 18:21). Thereafter, his return to Antioch marked the conclusion of his second missionary journey (18:22-22)
Closing thoughts – Acts 18:23-28 marks the beginning of Paul’s third missionary journey. Luke’s account of that journey was briefly interrupted by his account of the riot that soon after took place in Ephesus (19:21-41). (An event I hope to discuss at a future time.)
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