In Acts 18 Luke mentioned several workers active in the Church with Paul, giving background for some. It may miss our attention at first, but we don’t know if Aquila and Priscilla were already Christian disciples when they were exiled from Rome (v. 2-3). They were not just fellow tentmakers with Paul, he highly praised them, and a church met in their home (Romans 16:3-5). We know that Egyptians and Romans were present for the Pentecost event (Acts 2:10), so we should expect that some from those areas were present at every festival Jesus attended and perhaps learned from him all along. Logically people from those areas were present during the time John the Baptist ministered as well. There could have been people with imperfect understandings of God’s plans scattered across the empire, and outside it, waiting to encounter disciples. Alexandria was the second largest city in the empire (next to Rome) and had a very large Jewish population. No Bible book relates events there, so it basically disappears from our awareness. Apollos, from Alexandria, knew about Jesus, his identity and resurrection, but he missed some details involved with serving Jesus – particularly not having been baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection. Fortunately, Apollos met Priscilla and Aquila and they were able to take him aside and help him by explaining “the way of God more accurately.” This allowed Apollos to then be of great use to those who believed, through grace (v. 27-28).
It is hard to visualize quite what version of belief Apollos was getting by with before he met Priscilla and Aquila. He still valued his understanding as coming from God, and wanted to share it, as John the Baptist had done. We know he was teaching accurately “the things concerning Jesus,” but what does that leave out? Was he still depending on the Law to carry him along? He understood the idea of repenting, but did he have an idea of how he was supposed to arrive at forgiveness? Perhaps Apollos simply trusted God and moved forward, expecting things to become clear. We can be thankful that he did.
Dear Lord, thank you that as your servant I am not left uncertain about being forgiven. Please help me not to put any of the old weight of sin back on myself, let me accept that the past is in the past. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you, in whatever way it comes. Please help me to grow, not to accept staying as I am, but to seek to be more useful for you and for your people. Prompt me to accept the opportunities that come to me which are within my capacities. Help me to recognize your will. In the name of your son, Jesus, Amen.
What do you think it would mean for someone to try to live their life as a Christian aware of Jesus, and having repented, but without the Spirit? Do you think there is a limit on how long that would be able to last, or what a person could face and still attempt it?
Does it surprise you that Apollos was trying to spread the news he had, even though it was incomplete?
What do you see represented in the fact that Priscilla and Aquila “took Apollos aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately”? How do you visualize that event taking place? How long do you think it took, for example? How do you think they introduced themselves?
How often do you think about the fact that on a given day your situation may not be the most important, but someone else you are interacting with may greatly need your attention?
Do you think much about the idea that people today are trying to serve God with what they understand, and they are waiting to encounter someone willing to help them see the truth more clearly? Are you living in a way where you would feel open to speaking for Jesus if you meet one of those people?
(Sorry this wasn’t sent out til now…I thought it was posted this morning but it appears I shut my computer lid too quickly, or some other technical issue…here’s another try…)
Paul leaves Athens and arrives in Corinth at the start of Acts 18. Paul meets Priscilla and Aquila and works with them as tentmakers in Corinth. Paul visits the synagogue and tries to appeal to the Jews and Greeks. He was reviled in the synagogue and then shakes out his garments and declares that he will only speak to the Gentiles. Even with the ruler of the synagogue being converted he still faces danger in the city.
Paul had been chased from the towns of Thessalonica, Derea, and Iconium. I am sure Paul must have been wondering if this was his time to get chased from this city as well. The anxiety of knowing that in every new city he came to there was a chance of being thrown out of it and physical harm coming to him would have been a lot to bear.
God comes to Paul in a vision. God giving Paul this vision is an act of grace towards Paul. God is trying to comfort Paul and give him direction. God starts out with the simple statement of “Do not be afraid”. This feels a lot like Joshua 1.9. God gives Paul two more commands; Go on speaking and do not be silent. Paul has probably realized that most of his trouble befalls him when he speaks and he is not silent. The same thing is true of me except it normally isn’t because I’m preaching the gospel. God gives three commands and the unique thing about this vision is God also gives Paul three reasons why he should do those things.
We have plenty of commands of God and God very often gives us the reasons why we should follow his command. Sometimes we aren’t willing to look hard enough for the reasons but there are almost always reasons. Sometimes we won’t find out the reasons until later or maybe we find out the reasons why in the kingdom. There is an element of faith in following Christ.
God’s reasons for why Paul should obey his commands are that God is with him. God being with you may result in a kind of fearlessness. God’s next reason why is that no one will attack Paul to harm him. This statement must have relieved a lot of anxiety from Paul. God’s third reason why is that God has many in this city.
God makes good on his promises to Paul. In verses 12-17 Paul is brought before the proconsul of Achaia, the ruler of that region, by the Jewish rulers and the new ruler of the synagogue. He is accused of persuading people to worship God contrary to the law. Just as Paul was about to speak the proconsul says that because it is a quarrel about words and there is no wrongdoing that he refuses to rule on this. The proconsul drives all of Paul’s accusers away. The mob that had formed ends up beating the new ruler of the synagogue, one of Paul’s enemies, in front of the proconsul.
When we follow God’s lead and direction it will put us into positions where we get to see God work in situations. This situation for Paul worked out well for him. He didn’t even need to do anything to get out of the situation. He relied on God and God worked it out. The proconsul responded in his favor before Paul spoke. God was clearly at work in this situation because after that his enemy, the ruler of the synagogue, ended up being killed by the mob. His enemy was killed by the people who had originally intended to kill him.
When we join God in what He is doing we will see this provision for us as well. There will be suffering and some pain but there will also be moments where we get to see God do God things and experience Him through those events. That’s part of what makes Christianity so exciting, fulfilling and awesome.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Can you think of a time you didn’t speak up for God, perhaps because of fear or discomfort? What promises of God might you have missed out on with that failed opportunity?
When have you had the pleasure of “see(ing) God do God things and experience(ing) Him through those events”
What can we learn from Apollos and Priscilla and Aquila later in this chapter?
It is interesting how some people basically stay in one place all their lives and others seem to travel about quite frequently. No one can accuse the apostle Paul of being a homebody! In Acts 18 we notice that Paul travels quite extensively staying in one place for a little while, and then traveling to another place. Sometimes the places he traveled to received the gospel message with readiness and welcomed him, and at other times he received more hostile treatment. Everywhere he went he shared the gospel message. About the first thing he would do each place he went was to go to the synagogue and teach there about Jesus being the promised Messiah and way to salvation.
Among his travels he met Priscilla and Aquila and they were strengthened in the faith. So much so that later when Paul travelled on to a new location without them they were able to teach another man named Apollos more clearly about the gospel. It seems whether near to home or far away these early Christians were ready and willing to share the message with whoever would listen and believe. They were truly ready to give an answer in season for the hope they held within them.
We should be ready and willing just as they were to give an answer for the hope that we hold within us. Whether God gives us the opportunity to travel from place to place, or whether He asks us to be the light within our own community. Our willingness should always be present, just as it was with the early Christians, to share the hope we have in Christ.
-Pastor Merry Peterson
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –2 Samuel 17-18 and Acts 18
Acts 18 details the cities that Paul visited on his way from Jerusalem to Greece and some of the highlights in those cities. While in Corinth Paul again has issues with the Jewish community there and instead finds a Gentile man named Titius Justus who was a worshiper of God. Paul also has a vision from God in which God says,
“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.” (Acts 18:9,10)
I understand why Paul would need this encouragement with the number of cities that he had been thrown out of after annoying the local Jewish population with his message.
What I find interesting is the fact that Paul is the first missionary to set foot on the continent of Europe and just recently we read about the first convert in the area, yet even in this “heathen” land filled with idols and false gods God is working in people’s lives and has people who worship him. These people do not know the gospel and need to hear about Jesus desperately, but even without that knowledge they are seeking God and worshiping him. We see this today in many of the mission fields that we send people into. The people do not know about Christ, but it is obvious that God has been working in their community to prepare them to hear. This is why it is so important that we get out there and evangelize. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
Then while traveling in Ephesus in modern day Turkey, Paul runs into a man named Apollos who was a Jew that knew his scriptures (Old Testament) thoroughly and knew only the message of John the Baptist. With only this information he was boldly speaking about Jesus and the fact that he was the son of God. He was off on some things, but he was on fire for God and was running with it.
These verses are encouraging because they show that you do not need to have everything figured out theologically in order to follow God. You don’t need a master’s degree or years of training for him to be working in your life. Now I do think that seeking truth should be an important part of any believer’s life, but all that is needed to get started with God is faith in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit to work in your life.