Calvary Road Baptist Church


Acts 18.1-22

 The Apostle Paulís second missionary journey began shortly after the conflict with his colleague Barnabas over John Markís inclusion in the missionary team produced a rift that permanently broke up the team, Acts 15.39. Where people are involved, even godly and committed Christians, sin will always remain an issue to deal with. Paul, Silas, and the rest of his party, without Barnabas or John Mark, traveled through what is today Turkey, picking up young Timotheus along the way, and then Luke the physician. With the Holy Spirit first forbidding Paul and his party from preaching in one area, and then suffering them not to preach in another area, followed by Paulís Macedonian vision, we learn from these astonishing exceptions in Paulís life that the Holy Spirit most certainly does not routinely and normally lead Godís people by such means.[1] The Apostle Paul then planted a strong and faithful congregation in the impoverished Roman colony city of Philippi, where Luke records Paulís dealings with Lydia, the damsel with the spirit of divination, and the Philippian jailor, that led to the formation of that churchís core constituency. From those events, we see the most important question a sinner could ever ask, ďSirs, what must I do to be saved?Ē We also see the most appropriate answer to that question, ďBelieve on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,Ē Acts 16.30-31. Paul then moved on to the city of Thessalonica, where opposition was so fierce that he left after a bit more than three weeks, which occasion gave rise to Paulís first two inspired letters, First and Second Thessalonians, the new converts courses in the New Testament, being the only two books of the Bible that we can be certain were written to new Christians. After that, Paul came to the cities of Berea and Athens. Persecution forced Paul from Berea, though Silas and Timothy remained for a time, so he traveled to Athens alone. No significant persecution in Athens from the intelligentsia, but no great church started there either.

We now come to Acts chapter 18 and the end of Paulís second missionary journey, which lasted from about 49 AD to 52 AD, or roughly three years. There are some practical lessons we can learn from Lukeís record of Paulís ministry at the close of his second missionary journey:


Acts 18.1: ďAfter these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth.Ē

This is one of the few times that Paul actually left a city voluntarily, is it not? I already mentioned that there is no record that he was ever persecuted in Athens. This would lead me to think that before he made the 50-mile trip to the city of Corinth, he would have been confident that the Athenian church was stable enough to continue without his presence.

Acts 18.2-3: 2      And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.

3      And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.

If you look at this situation properly, you will realize that God turned the heart of the emperor of Rome to exile the Jews to good effect for Christians. Not only did this set up the meeting of Aquilia and Priscilla with Paul in Corinth, but it also resulted in Gentile Christian pastors assuming leadership of the congregations back in Rome after the Jewish Christian leaders had been expelled, which would open Europe to the gospel even more than it had been to date. Back to Aquila and Priscilla. My, how God would eventually use these two people. Unlikely that they were saved under Paulís ministry, since Luke does not record their conversions, they were still greatly influenced by Paul, who likely learned much about the city of Rome from these two. We know that he wrote the letter to the Romans during this year and a half stint at Corinth. We also know this Christian couple will develop into believers who will be instrumental in the ministry of the great gospel preacher Apollos later on. It is quite safe to say that during the time they fellowshipped with Paul during his stay in Corinth, they were initially somewhat immature Christians, not really even able to pull their own weight in serving Christ. Thus, this new situation that Paul is in, where a single mature Christian is serving God quite alone in a sin-sick city and with Christians who, though they were faithful, were not initially mature or seasoned enough to be a great help to the man of God. Still, God blessed.

Acts 18.4-6:    4      And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.

5      And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.

6      And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.

Notice the change that occurred in Paulís ministry when Silas and Timothy arrived on the scene. Before their arrival, when he had to go it alone with little help from a rather immature Christian couple, Luke tells us Paul ďreasonedĒ and ďpersuadedĒ the people attending the synagogue. He reasoned with them out of the Old Testament scriptures and he persuaded them about the things of this Messiah, which the prophets wrote about. However, when his two experienced ministry partners arrived, Luke records that ďPaul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.Ē The entire intensity and tenor of his ministry was changed upon their arrival. He was transformed from a man who could teach truth from the Word of God into a man who powerfully testified about the life transforming power of the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel, and he did it in such a way as to evoke a negative response from those who were not open to the truth and who were unwilling to turn from their sinful ways. I would like to draw your attention to the unalterable fact that Paulís evangelistic ministry did change when two men came into town that could and would pull their share of the load in building the church. I do not know exactly why his ministry became more vibrant, more courageous, more electric, but the fact is plain that it did. That this happened in the life and ministry of the great Apostle Paul, that it happened in the ministry of perhaps the greatest servant of God this planet has ever seen, leads me to the conclusion that during the course of ministry a Christian leader needs and must have the companionship of skilled and mature companions in order to function at peak efficiency. As well, with these two experienced Jewish Christian colleagues, he made the break from an exclusively Jewish focus in his effort in the synagogue, to the Gentile community in the city. It is likely that this refers to those Gentiles who had been attending synagogue worship, had come under the tutelage of the Law of Moses while attending, and were more open to the gospel message than the Jewish people had shown themselves to be. Later, of course, the gospel would reach Gentles who had never set foot in a Jewish synagogue.

Acts 18.7-11:  7      And he departed thence, and entered into a certain manís house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.

8      And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

9      Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:

10     For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.

11     And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Where before Paul had to fight against the foe called discouragement, with the persecution that arose in the face of increasing success in Corinth, he now faced a new enemy. It was one that he had perhaps never before had a problem with in his ministry . . . fear. This problem, which Paul had, was dangerous to his ministry, despite the fact that Crispus and many others believed and were baptized, actually posing such a threat that we should recognize as being very real. Very real because of the amazing measures which the Lord took to deal with Paulís fear. In spite of the tragedy of this great fear coming into the life of a servant of God such as Paul, we ought to be delighted for three reasons: The first reason to be pleased with this problem in Paulís life is because, being sinners, we actually like seeing bad things happen to other folks. It comforts us to know that we are not alone in our suffering and misfortune. The next two reasons for rejoicing at Paulís dilemma is because, #1, we can see the way the Lord dealt with his problem, and, #2, we can see the victory which the Lord gave Paul. This helps us to realize that whether the problem, which threatens our Christian service to God, is the same as Paulís was; His method of dealing with the problem in our lives will be similar to Paulís experience.

Notice the two methods God used to deal with problems that threatened Paulís Christian service. Let us personalize this and focus our attention on you instead of Paul:

The first method God uses to deal with the problem of fear in a believerís life is the method of command. Specifically, there are two commands, one dealing with your attitude, and one dealing with your actions. In Paulís case, the command dealing with attitudes goes like this . . . ďThen spoke the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid.Ē What irony that Paulís attitude problem would be fear. However, when you think about it, the Bible does say, ďYe that stand, take heed lest ye fall,Ē teaching us the servant of God is weakest in that area where he thinks himself to be strong.

Ÿ  Though Joshua was a mighty general, he fell down and whined like a baby to God when the Israelites were routed at Ai.

Ÿ  Though Solomon, in all his wisdom able to understand the thoughts and love of that infantís real mother when he proposed to divide the disputed baby by a sword, he fell in his area of strength. Wise to the ways off women, he was nevertheless, brought down to spiritual ruination by women.

There are other examples in the Bible that show us to beware of that area of oneís life where you might think yourself to be strong. Paul, serving most of his life with a sanctified disregard for his own life and limb, did become afraid in Corinth. The way God dealt with Paulís fear, and the way He deals with our service threatening problems is not by coddling us. No, God commanded Paul, ďBe not afraid.Ē We who are servants of God have no right to fear. We have no right to the kind of fear which paralyzes us into inaction, that is. We need to remember that we are soldiers in the Lordís army. The captain of our salvation is the Lord Jesus Christ. The king of our realm is the Lord of hosts. The kind of fear which would have prevented Paul from effectively serving Christ in Corinth, and the kind of fear which prevents most Christians from telling others about Jesus Christ, is either sin-inspired from within or Satan-inspired from without. Either way, we can read along with fearful Timothy the words penned by this same Apostle Paul. After he learned his lesson about fear, he wrote Second Timothy 1.6-8:

6      Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.

7      For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

8      Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.

Therefore, the first way in which God dealt with Paulís problem was via commands. The first command the Lord issued dealt with his attitude. Do you fear? God says, ďBe not afraid.Ē Do you worry? God says, ďBe careful for nothing.Ē After the command dealing with attitudes comes another command, this one dealing with actions. Thus, we ought to be quick to see the close connection that exists between right attitudes and right actions. As for Paulís actions, he is commanded both negatively and positively. The positive command is to speak. The negative command is to hold not thy peace. There is absolutely no way Paul could misunderstand the thrust of the Lordís words. Paul was a fruitful Christian, God wanted to make sure he stayed that way. In identical fashion, God has set each of us apart to be a witness of the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, telling folks of the Savior Who loved us enough to die for us. We are all to do what Paul did . . . to do our part to bring the lost to Christ. If Christians were in the habit of obeying Godís commands, we could stop right here. However, we do not, as a rule, obey God like we ought to. Therefore, God uses another method which further enables us to do what we ought to do anyway, and further shows us that God really does want to keep His servants serving.

The second method God uses to deal with a problem that threatens a Christianís service to God is the method of comfort. Not only does God command us to have the right attitude and actions that will enable us to serve Him, but He will also give us good assurance of His comfort while we serve Him. In Paulís case, He does this in three ways: First, Paul is given the comfort of Godís presence. How comforting that assurance should be, and has been over the centuries with the servants of God.

Ÿ  Godís assurance of His presence was given to Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage, in Exodus chapter 3.

Ÿ  Then when Joshua assumed the leadership over Israel at the death of Moses, God again promised His presence as the Israelites entered the Promised Land.

Ÿ  To a fearful Gideon at the prospect of leading 300 Jews against the multitudes of the Midianites, God promised His abiding presence, in Judges chapter 6.

Ÿ  Assurance was given to Jeremiah when he was called to prophesy against an apostate population in the land of Judah, in Jeremiah chapter one.

In all these instances, and in many more, God comforted the fearful with the words, ďI will be with thee.Ē With Paul and with us, the Old Testament assurances are but an anticipation of the promise made by the Lord Jesus Christ when, standing on the Mount of Olives, He said, ďAnd lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age.Ē Can fear rightly prevent us from seeking the salvation of the lost? Not rightly, it canít. Oh, maybe some Christians will never overcome the fear of witnessing . . . but they will never be able to justify their paralysis either. The comfort of His presence is just too assuring for that.

The second assurance of comfort given to Paul was the assurance of physical protection. Although the guarantee of physical protection is not given to every servant of God, it does bring to mind a Bible principle which does always apply: Satan will not be allowed to bring any physical harm to the servant of God unless God specifically allows it for His own purposes. We learn this in a study of the life of Job, and it is a tremendous comfort. We are protected when protection is needful. However, when physical ailments come, if they come, God has allowed them because they will be somehow beneficial. It could be that, during a time in his life when Paul simply wasnít able to endure any more physical abuse, God said, ďSon, I know you cannot take it right now. Donít worry.Ē This goes along with First Corinthians 10.13, which teaches us that God will never let anything come our way that we cannot deal with. The final comfort is the comfort of His people. The Lord said, ďFor I have much people in this city.Ē The Savior wanted to take care of Paul, and He wanted him to continue his service for the benefit of others. According to Ephesians 4.11-12, Paul was a gift which Jesus Christ gave that Corinthian church to help them grow so they too could serve Christ. As Paul had a part in their lives, so we have an effect on lives that cross our paths. For their benefit, as well as our own, God wants to keep us serving Him. That ought to comfort us.

Verses 12-17 records some of the events that transpired during the remainder of Paulís time in Corinth:

12     And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat,

13     Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law.

14     And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you:

15     But if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters.

16     And he drave them from the judgment seat.

17     Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things.

Achaia refers to what we normally think of as all of Greece. Gallio was the Roman who was responsible for the region. Though the Jews made insurrection against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, Gallio would have none of it and dismissed the charge as an internal religious dispute. Of interest to us, however, is the beating the Jewish ruler of the synagogue received from the Greeks. Back in verse 8, we are told that Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, was converted to Christ, with this Sosthenes apparently succeeding him. However, in First Corinthians 1.1, Paul writes ďPaul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother.Ē Thus, this man, too, was converted to Christ while a ruler of the Jewish synagogue in Corinth, and may very well have been a Christian at the time of his beating for appearing before Gallio to defend Paul against his accusers. That would have incensed Paulís opponents, leading to this manís beating. Since First Corinthians was written while Paul was visiting the brethren in Philippi, Sosthenes had no doubt later accompanied the apostle to that city.


Aquila and Priscilla sail with Paul and his co-laborers, Acts 18.18-21:

18     And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.

19     And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.

20     When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not;

21     But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.

Though some think Aquila shaved his head before the group sailed from Cenchrea, which was the port city that served Corinth, it is likely that Paul shaved his head, for a reason no one is precisely sure about. Paul had no obligation to keep a Nazaritic vow, being free from the Law as a Christian. However, he might have voluntarily chosen to do something to enhance his testimony among the Jews in some way. Perhaps it was related to his entry into the Ephesian synagogue and reasoning with the Jews, verse 19. Verse 20 reveals they wanted him to remain a while longer with them. However, he was determined to be in Jerusalem in time for a feast. Therefore, he sailed.

Paul wraps up his second missionary journey by going to Caesaria, his home church of Antioch, and then visiting the brethren in the regions of Galatia and Phrygia, Acts 18.22-23:

22     And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch.

23     And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.

A brief stop in Caesaria. A considerably longer time giving a report to the congregation at Antioch, which is what missionaries do. The second missionary journey concluded, Paul busied himself strengthening the brethren in Galatia and Phrygia.

Though greatly used by God, we have seen this evening that Paul was a man who found the help of other committed Christians to be very helpful. Do what you can do to be such a man as Silas was and as Timothy was and as Luke was. Each a very different man, but each so important to Paulís life and ministry.

[1] Acts 16.6-10

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.