Tod Kennedy,  August 6, 2000

Main points of application or “So what?” from Acts 18

  1. Bible-based evangelism is the best method. Explain Scripture and give biblical evidence for what you say (Acts 17.1-4).
  2. “Tent-making” in order to support oneself in the ministry is at times necessary and very helpful; there are advantages, though, to having the freedom to study, teach, and shepherd the flock without the need to “make tents” (Acts 18.3-5).
  3. God often uses non-believing civil authorities to provide the national stability so that the word of God may be proclaimed (Acts 18.12-17).
  4. The supernatural Christian life is a life that does not depend on the rulers and political policies; they will change for the better or worse, but believers continue to live according to the Word of God, by faith, and by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 18.12-17).
  5. Everyone who does the work of an evangelist— especially missionaries to people in new locales—should continue make sure that new believers and new churches receive adequate Bible teaching and shepherding until they become spiritually self-sustaining (Acts 18.23).
  6. A knowledge of the word of God, graciousness, humility, willingness to learn, and a sense of divine responsibility help the members of the body of Christ prepare for service and to work together in service (Acts 18.24-28).
  7. The biblically prepared believer has the privilege of demonstrating the truthfulness of the Scripture to those who will listen (Acts 18.4, 19, 20, 28).

Summary Outline

  1. Acts 18.1-4. Paul left Athens and traveled to Corinth, which had become the capital of the senatorial province of Achaia in 27 B.C. Paul remained in Corinth from about A.D. March, 51 until September, 52. Corinth was an ancient city on the west end of the Isthmus of Corinth, the land bridge that connected the northern part of Greece (Athens and Thebes) with the Pelopennese,  the southern part of Greece (Sparta and Mycenae). He stayed with Aquila and Priscilla, Jewish believers who, along with all other Jews, had been evicted from Rome by Emperor Claudius in A.D. 51. Both Paul and Aquila were tent-makers; both used tent-making to support their ministries. It was the custom for a Rabbi to combine the study of the Torah with some trade. Rabbinic leaders thought that this was a good combination. Paul followed his usual habit of speaking about Christ in the synagogue every Sabbath.
  2. Acts 18.5-11. Silas and Timothy soon arrived from Berea of Macedonia (17.13-15). After they arrived Paul spent all his time studying and teaching the Word of God. Paul’s concentration on his ministry was possible because Macedonian believers brought gifts for his support (2 Corinthians 11.8-9) and they also were able to personally help Paul so that he could devote himself to his ministry. As was usual, most of the Jews violently rejected Christ’s salvation. Paul left the synagogue and moved his ministry next door  to the home of Titius Justice.  Some Jews did believe the gospel, which reminds us that believers may come from unexpected places. Crispus, the leader of the synagogue in Corinth, was one such person. The Lord Jesus Christ promised Paul a fruitful and protected ministry in Corinth, so he stayed there 18 months teaching the Word of God. We again see Paul’s emphasis on studying and teaching the Word of God—Bible teaching evangelism and Bible teaching for spiritual growth.
  3. Acts 18.12-17. It should not surprise us that once the gospel and Bible doctrine found a welcoming audience, the non-believing Jews went on the attack. This time Jews accused Paul before Proconsul Gallio. (A proconsul was the head of government in a senatorial province and Corinth was the capital of the senatorial province of Achaia. An inscription found at Delphi confirms that Gallio was proconsul of Achaia in A.D. 51/52 or 52/53, during Claudius’ rule as emperor.) The accusation was that Paul taught contrary to the Old Testament. Judaism was recognized by Rome, so the accusation was that Paul was promoting an illegal religion.  Much to the Jews’ disgust, Gallio took the view that Paul was teaching a variant of Judaism, which was legal. He told them that Paul was not a criminal and to solve their own theological problems, then threw the case out of court. These Corinthian trouble makers failed in their attack against Paul, so they attacked someone else whom they thought they could harm; they attacked Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue in Corinth and likely the believer mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1.1. Gallio, the governor, was the brother of Seneca. Seneca, the philosopher and advisor to Nero, along with Burrus, tried to influence Nero for good during Nero’s early reign. Gallio, therefore, had high standing in the empire; his decision set a precedent that would protect Christianity for the next decade. But rulers and policies change; by A.D. 62 Nero had turned tyrannical and murderous; his policy became clearly anti-Christian. In A.D. 65 he forced Seneca and Gallio to commit suicide. Nero’s torture of Christians because of the fire in Rome demonstrates how the change in rulers and policy can change the treatment of Christians. The supernatural Christian life is a life that does not depend on the rulers and political policies; they will change for the better or worse, but believers continue to live according to the Word of God, by faith, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Acts 18.18-22. Paul left Corinth for Syrian Antioch, the city of origin and final destination of his second missionary trip. Before he left, he had his hair cut at Cenchrea, a harbor city about eight miles east of Corinth, to end a vow he had taken. We do not know anything about this vow; it is out of character for Paul. It is likely that he took a simplified Nazarite vow (Numbers 6.1-21) for a  short period of time to demonstrate to the Jewish population of Corinth his dedication to God and the ministry for Christ. The two times Paul is associated with a Jewish vow he got into trouble (Acts 18.12-18 and Acts 21.22-36). Is there a lesson there for us? The church age is the age of “newness of life”  (Romans 6.4) and the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8.2) which Paul wrote about some 7 years later to the Roman believers. The only clear rituals that we observe are both related to the work of Christ and our faith in that work—water baptism and the Lord’s table. Priscilla and Aquila accompanied Paul as far as Ephesus where he taught for a short time. Paul went on to Caesarea and from there to Antioch, where he concluded this second missionary trip. Antioch was the third largest city of the empire after Rome and Alexandria. Pompey made Syria a Roman imperial province in 64 B.C., after his defeat of Mithradates in 66 B.C, near Nicopolis, south of the eastern part of the Black Sea.
  5. Acts 18.23. After a stay in Antioch, during which Paul would have thoroughly reported on his trip and taken the opportunity to teach God’s word to the believers in Antioch (Acts 14.26-28 and Acts 15.30-35), he began his third missionary trip. He began by applying his principle of returning to young churches in order to teach, encourage, and advise the believers (Acts 14.21-23). Everyone who does the work of an evangelist— especially missionaries to people in new locals—should continue make sure that new believers and new churches receive adequate Bible teaching and shepherding until they become spiritually self-sustaining.  This was Paul’s pattern and this is the command of Scripture (Acts 20.25-31).
  6. Acts 18.24-26. Priscilla and Aquila remained in Ephesus. They were soon joined by Apollos, a Jewish believer born in  Alexandria, Egypt. Apollos had a wonderful knowledge of  the Old Testament and, apparently, had learned from the ministry of John the Baptist. Apollos was enthusiastic about the Lord Jesus; he understood and clearly communicated the life and ministry of Jesus Christ to his audiences. He was a captivating speaker. Apollos had been baptized with the baptism of John. This baptism was different from the baptism of believers in the name of Jesus Christ. John was the herald of the Messiah King and the King’s long waited for kingdom (Mark 1.1-8; John 1.19-28). To be baptized with John’s baptism meant that one believed John’s message that the kingdom promises were about to be fulfilled through the promised Messiah.  Church age water baptism emphasized a believer’s relationship with Christ in Christ’s death to sin and resurrection to new life. The baptism of the Holy Spirit began after Pentecost and is unique to the church age; each believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and made a member of Christ’s spiritual body, the church (1 Corinthians 12.12-14). Apollos was deficient in church age doctrine. He did not understand water baptism of believers, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or the newness of life that each believer has through union with Christ and living by the power of the Holy Spirit. Aquila and Priscilla carefully took him aside and taught him the foundational church age truths that he was lacking. Apollos had been applying the doctrine that he knew and God blessed his ministry; now God used two servants to further instruct him. Priscilla and Aquila were very gracious in the way they helped Apollos and Apollos was very teachable. Good teaching, learning, spiritual growth, and ministry thrive when a knowledge of Bible doctrine combines with graciousness, humility, and willingness to learn. We strengthen each other.
  7. Acts 18.27-28. Apollos’ ministry became more effective. He believed that he should go to Corinth. The believers in Ephesus, including Priscilla and Aquila, supported him in this decision. They wrote an introductory letter to the Corinthians. When Apollos got to Corinth, he taught the believers. He also had a wonderful apologetics ministry to Jews; he used Scripture to answer their questions about the Messiah and clearly showed that Jesus was the Messiah.

Dictionary of Bible Doctrine

  1. 1.       Apollos was a Jewish believer born in Alexandria, Egypt. He had a wonderful knowledge of  the Old Testament and, apparently, had also learned under the ministry of John the Baptist. He had only been baptized with the baptism of John, which meant that he believed John’s message that the kingdom promises were about to be fulfilled through Jesus, the promised Messiah (Mark 1.1-8; John 1.19-28). Apollos was a captivating speaker and was enthusiastic about the Lord Jesus. He spent some time in Ephesus in about AD 52 or 53. He taught what he understood about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ to his audiences, even synagogue audiences  (Acts 18.24-26). He was not very familiar with church age doctrine, including church age water baptism of believers, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the newness of life that each believer has through union with Christ and living by the power of the Holy Spirit. While he was in Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla carefully took him aside and graciously taught him “in the way of God more accurately.” The Bible does not specify which doctrines they taught him, but the contexts of Acts 18-19 and 1 Corinthians seem to indicate that Aquila and Priscilla instructed him on the distinctions between Israel and the church, about John’s baptism and church age believer’s baptism, about the eternal life gospel, about the doctrine of Christ, and possibly other basic Christian life doctrines. Apollos humbly received their instruction  (Acts 18.26). As a result, in about AD 53, Apollos went to Corinth where he became more effective for the Lord (Acts 18.27). While in Corinth, he used Scripture to demonstrate to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 18.28). Paul recognized Apollos as a leader and valuable fellow-worker for the spiritual growth of the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 3.4-6, 22; 4.6). Apollos became very prominent at Corinth, so much so that when the church split into factions, one faction claimed to follow Apollos (1 Corinthians 1.12-14). The carnal Christians became such a problem in Corinth that Apollos left; Paul encouraged him to return (1 Corinthians 16.12). Paul, near the end of his own life, spoke highly of Apollos (Titus 3.13). Apollos teaches us many things: the importance of humility; spiritual enthusiasm; eagerness to learn Bible doctrine; a willingness to work together in the ministry with other believers; the value of biblical preparation so that one may teach the Word of God—especially to demonstrate from the Scripture that Jesus is the Christ—and the value of a sustained ministry over many years. Spiritual growth and service for Christ thrive when a knowledge of Bible doctrine combines with graciousness, humility, willingness to learn, and enthusiasm for teaching the Word.
  2. Baptism is a word used many times in the New Testament and is often misunderstood. The Greek word “to baptize” is baptizw, which means to dip, immerse, plunge, overwhelm, and so to identify with something. There are at least seven different kinds of baptism mentioned in the Bible. Three are wet baptisms and four are dry baptisms. The three wet baptisms use water: 1. The baptism of John meant that one believed John’s message that the kingdom promises were about to be fulfilled through Jesus, the promised Messiah (Mark 1.1-8; John 1.19-28); .2. The baptism of Jesus by John was a one-time only baptism. This baptism identified Jesus with God the Father’s plan that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, the savior of the world, and the king of Israel (Matthew 3.13-17; Luke 3.21-22); 3. Church age water baptism emphasized a believer’s relationship with Christ in Christ’s death to sin and resurrection to new life (Matthew 28.19; Acts 8.12 and 16; Acts 16.33; 1 Corinthians 1.13-17). The following four baptisms are dry baptisms: 1. The baptism of the Holy Spirit began after Pentecost and is unique to the church age; each believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and made a member of Christ’s spiritual body, the church (1 Corinthians 12.12-14); 2. The baptism of Moses occurred during the Exodus. Israel was baptized into Moses when the nation went through the Red Sea and was led by the cloud during the day; the nation was identified with Moses, their leader (1 Corinthians 10.2); 3. The baptism of the cup is a figure of speech which Jesus used to identify himself with his suffering and death on the cross. Jesus said that both James and John would also drink his cup, by which Jesus meant that they would suffer severely for him (Mark 10.38-39; Mark 14.36; Matthew 20.22-23; Luke 12.50); 4. The baptism of fire is a reference to some kind of judgment upon those who reject Christ as Messiah. It will probably be fulfilled at his second coming to earth (Matthew 3.10-12; Luke 3.16-17). Mark 1.8 and John 1.33 are parallel passages and omit the baptism of fire because they also omit the judgment material that Matthew and Luke contain.
  3. Ministry refers to the believer’s individual Christian way of life within God’s plan, with emphasis on serving God (Ephesians 4.12-16; 1 Corinthians 12.4-7; 1 Peter 4.10-11). God has a production plan for each believer, and that plan forms the basis for his ministry (Ephesians 2.10). Effective ministry is dependent upon the preparation of the believer (Ephesians 4.12) and upon the controlling ministry of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5.16-6.1; Ephesians 5.18). The preparation for service comes through the equipping ministry of the pastor-teacher (Ephesians 4.12-16) and through practice using the spiritual gift in service (Hebrews 5.121-14). Spiritual gifts provide the specialized ability for the ministry of each believer (Romans 12.3-8; 1 Corinthians 12; 1 Peter 4.10-11). In order for a ministry to be effective, it must be carried out in conjunction with the love spectrum (1 Corinthians 13.1-7) which is related to the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5.22-23). We participate in the blessings of ministry when we serve with divine love (1 Corinthians 13.1-7) and walk by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5.16, 22-23).
  4. Missions is the spiritual ministry that takes the gospel to people who live in geographical regions (foreign missions or home missions) where the gospel is not accurately  proclaimed; “regions beyond” were Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 10.16 (Matthew 28.19-20; Acts 1.8; Romans 1.14-16; Acts 13-28 is Luke’s record of the missionary trips; Ephesians 4.11-16). The purpose of missions is 1. to proclaim the good news that eternal salvation is a free gift to all who will believe in Jesus Christ as savior, 2. to teach the new believers Bible doctrine for spiritual growth and ministry, 3. to help the indigenous believers to form a local church, select a pastor-teacher and deacons, and begin to grow and serve Christ. The missionary will then repeat this process with other people in the same, similar, or different regions. Missionaries ought to revisit the new churches on occasion in order to encourage and teach the believers until they are self-sufficient. Missionaries should be sent out from a home local church and be supported by that church and possibly by other churches in that geographical area. Missionaries ought to return to their own local church to report on their ministry and to be taught and further equipped by the pastor-teacher. A missionary ought to have one of the public communication spiritual gifts: evangelist, teacher, or pastor-teacher. Missionaries must be biblically grounded in all Bible doctrine, but especially the gospel, grace, faith, and basic Christian life doctrines (occupation with Christ, knowledge of the Word, faith-rest, confession of sin, spirituality, prayer, and ministry).
  5. Witness by teaching the Bible means to communicate God’s Word to the listener so that the listener can understand the message and choose to believe or reject it. To better communicate, one ought to take into account the listener’s frame of reference. Stephen, in Acts 7, teaches us the value of presenting the biblical message within the listeners’ frame of reference and within an historical context. He began with the origin of the Hebrew nation, God’s choosing of Abraham. By the time Stephen had finished, the audience could not argue with him; the well-known history had convicted them. Paul witnessed for Christ to the Athenian philosophers by presenting truths from God’s Word. When he spoke with them about Christ, he took into account their own understanding about the gods (Acts 17.16-33). Apollos, in Corinth, used the Word to demonstrate to Jews that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 18.28). We often assume too much on the part of our audience: we need to make sure they understand the context or flow of history and doctrine so that they become convinced of the truth of the message; we need to make sure that we relate the truth to their understanding or frame of reference; we also need to make sure that we use Scripture when we witness about Christ and teach Christian life truth.