The Book of ACTS
James J. Barker
THE APOSTLE PAUL ON THE GO
- We saw that the apostle Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half (18:11).
- While at Corinth, Paul wrote his earliest New Testament epistles: I and II Thessalonians.
- Acts 18:18 that when he left Corinth he sailed for Syria.
- Paul sailed from the port of Cenchrea, which was the eastern harbor of Corinth (18:18). Cenchrea is also mentioned in Romans 16:1, which indicates that a church had been organized there. Paul wrote to the brethren at Rome, "I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea."
- Paul wrote this only a few years after his visit here in Acts 18.
- Acts 18:19 tells us Paul stopped off at Ephesus. Priscilla and Aquila stayed in Ephesus (18:19; cf. 18:2, 3, 26).
- Acts 18:21 says Paul's plan was to go to Jerusalem for the feast which was soon to occur. Luke does not specify which feast, though many commentators believe he was referring to the Passover. Paul knew there would be great soulwinning opportunities during that feast.
- Acts 18:22 says Paul "landed at Caesarea...and saluted the church...(and) went down to Antioch."
- He "spent some time there," and then he departed, "and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples" (18:23).
- These few verses indicate that Paul kept himself very busy. He was always on the go, preaching, winning souls, discipling new converts, and establishing new churches. And writing epistles!
- Lord willing, we will look at these various stops this evening, as well as the other interesting events recorded here in Acts 18.
THE DEPUTY GALLIO (18:12-17).
- Gallio was from a prominent Roman family. His father was Seneca the Elder, and his brother was the philosopher Seneca the Younger (aka Seneca the Stoic), the tutor and later the advisor to the emperor Nero.
- The Scofield Study Bible refers to Gallio as "the careless Gallio," because of his refusal to get involved in a Jewish religious dispute.
- Perhaps "careless" is not the right word. Gallio extended his protection to the Jewish religion as one of the religions recognized by the Roman government, but he dismissed the claim of the Jews that their law was binding upon Paul or others.
- However Gallio was careless in the sense that he was not interested in Paulís message. It seemed unimportant to him that Paul went about the country preaching the Gospel of Christ (18:14-16).
- Paul's accusers charged him with giving the name of "Christ" (Messiah) to Jesus. To Gallio, this was merely "a question of words and names" (18:15). To him it was not a legal matter.
- So Gallio drove away the Jews who accused Paul, but he turned away from Paul also. Sadly, that meant turning away from God. The offer of salvation in Christ is a crisis, a time for decision. It may never be repeated. We can only wonder if Gallio was ever again brought into contact with Paul or other Christians.
- Secular historians say that about ten years after his encounter with Paul, Gallio committed suicide.
- By all historical accounts, Gallio was pleasant and kind. Charles Ryrie says he "is characterized in extra-Biblical writings as an amiable, witty and lovable person" (The Acts of the Apostles).
- The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says, "In the eyes of the proconsul, the only law universally applicable was that of the Roman code and social morality: under neither was the prisoner chargeable; therefore, without even waiting to hear Paul's speech in his own defense, he summarily ordered his lictors (Roman officers) to clear the court...Gallio has often been instanced as typical of one who is careless or indifferent to religion, yet in the account given of him in Acts, he merely displayed an attitude characteristic of the manner in which Roman governors regarded the religious disputes of the time (compare also Lysias; Felix; Festus). Trained by his administrative duties to practical thinking and precision of language, he refused to adjudicate the squabbles of what he regarded as an obscure religious sect, whose law was to him a subtle quibbling with 'words and names.'"
- The Jews accused Paul of propagating an illegal religion, and they wanted the Roman authorities to help them eliminate it. This is the same tactic used throughout the centuries by the Muslims, the Roman Catholics, the Hindus, and other religions. They try to use the strong arm of the government to stamp out Christianity.
- Of course, this is the work of the devil, the god of this world. Satan uses spiritually blind, unregenerate religious people to hinder the spread of the Gospel.
- W. Graham Scroggie says he uses legalism (vss. 12 & 13), secularism (vss. 14-16), and heathenism (vs. 17).
- Paul was "about to open his mouth," when Gallio said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you" (18:14).
- According to Strong's Concordance, the words "wicked lewdness" means "wicked knavery, rascality, villainy." If Paul was guilty of villainy (e.g., assault or theft), Gallio said he would deal with it but he had no interest in what he considered a religious dispute among Jews -- "a question of words and names, and of your law" (18:14, 15).
- Gallio drove the Jews "from the judgment seat" (18:16). The beating of Sosthenes followed Gallio's dismissal of the case (18:17). John Phillips said, "Here was a golden opportunity (for the Gentiles) to vent some of their bottled-up dislike of Jews" (Exploring Acts).
- Sosthenes succeeded Crispus (18:8) as the chief ruler of the synagogue. This Sosthenes is mentioned in I Corinthians 1:1 -- "Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother."
- Whether he was saved before or after his beating is not clear, but more than likely he was saved later on.
AFTER TARRYING THERE A GOOD WHILE, PAUL LEFT CORINTH (18:18).
- Paul had to quickly leave some cities (Thessalonica, Berea) that he had visited because of fierce opposition from the Jews.
- But because of Gallio's refusal to back them up, the Jews in Corinth were unable to have Paul arrested, and they could not drive him out of town.
- Furthermore, the Lord Himself assured Paul that he was safe in Corinth (18:9-11). In any event, it was soon time for Paul to move on, so he departed from the port at Cenchrea (18:18).
- While in Cenchrea, Paul -- for some unstated reason -- had taken a vow (18:18). Why Paul made this vow, or on what occasion, Luke does not say.
- It was common for the Jews to make vows to God, "as an expression of gratitude or of devotedness" to God's service, "when they had been raised up from sickness, or delivered from danger or calamity" (Barnes' Notes).
- Furthermore, there is reason to think that Paul made this vow in an effort to convince the Jews that he did not despise the law of Moses, and that he was not their enemy (cf. Acts 21:18-24).
- In accordance with custom, and in compliance with a law which was not wrong in itself, Paul might have made this vow, "in order to conciliate them, and to mitigate their anger against the gospel" (Barnes' Notes).
- Since the Bible does not give us any details on this vow, it is all a matter of conjecture. For example, some commentators think Paul took a Nazarite vow because he cut his hair (18:18).
- In any event, Paul did nothing wrong and his vow may have helped him win Jews to Christ (cf. I Cor. 9:19-21).
PAUL VISITED EPHESUS (18:19).
- At that time Ephesus was the most important commercial city in Asia Minor, the capital city of the Roman province of Asia.
- Ephesus was also a very idolatrous city. Their temple of Diana was one of the seven wonders of the world.
- Acts 19:24 says a certain silversmith named Demetrius made a lot of money making silver shrines for Diana. He stirred up the other idol-makers in Ephesus, telling them Paul's preaching was bad for business.
- Acts 19:28 says, "And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians."
- Ephesus was a busy city full of swindlers, magicians, conjurers, fortune-tellers, crooks, drunkards, and prostitutes. There were also many Jews in Ephesus, and as was his custom, Paul entered the synagogue to preach (18:19).
- The Jews in the synagogue liked Paul's preaching and wanted him to continue teaching them the Gospel, but "he consented not" (18:20).
- However, Priscilla and Aquila stayed in Ephesus for a while (18:18, 19, 26). Apparently their ministry allowed Paul to keep on moving, though he did return to Ephesus (cf. 19:1).
- Paul wanted to hurry on to Jerusalem, in order to "keep this feast" (18:21), probably the Passover.
- Paul told them, "but I will return again unto you, if God will" (18:21). "If God will" (cf. James 4:13-17). It was God's will, and Paul did return (Acts 19:1, 10).
- "And he sailed from Ephesus" (18:21b).
- Paul's next stop was Caesarea, a town on the Mediterranean mentioned frequently in the book of Acts (18:22).
- It is not clear what is meant by, "and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch" (18:22b). Since Paul was eager to get to Jerusalem, he probably "saluted the church" there.
- Furthermore, in the Bible people are always said to go "up" to Jerusalem and to go "down" when leaving Jerusalem (cf. Acts 11:2; 15:2; 21:4, 12, 15; 24:11; 25:9).
- Paul returned to Antioch, his sending church, thus concluding his second missionary journey (18:22; cf. 13:1-4; 15:30, 35-41).
- After a brief stay at Antioch, Paul began his third missionary endeavors, traveling northwest into Asia Minor.
- Paul revisited the churches of Galatia and strengthened the believers in the face of a threat posed by the Judaizers described in his epistle to the Galatians.
- Before concluding, I would like to say a few words about Gallio, the deputy of Achaia (18:12).
- Referring to Gallio's missed opportunity, H.A. Ironside said, "But Gallio did not think it even worth his while to give the apostle Paul an opportunity to declare his message. How much he lost; how different his after-history might have been if on that day, though he silenced Paulís accusers, he had turned to him and said, 'Now, Paul, tell me what it is you are preaching! What is this message about a crucified God that you are carrying throughout the world? I understand you are telling men that you have the only message of life for lost sinners. Tell me about it.'
- "If Gallio had only been concerned enough to hear Paulís message, patient enough to listen to it thoughtfully and carefully! For as we trace his history in secular volumes we find that at last he became a thoroughly disillusioned man, who found that the world could not satisfy, and who possibly committed suicide. It seems sad indeed that this well-meaning, amiable man, this gracious and kindly philosophical Roman governor, should have no interest in the gospel of God!
- "Are there not a great many like him today -- people scattered throughout the world who are amiable and kind, who have a certain interest in the welfare of others, and yet do not think the gospel of God worthy of their consideration?" (Acts).