Acts 18

As a reader of this article have you ever wondered if God knows in advance who will and who won’t accept his son as Lord and Savior? We find a verse addressing this question in this chapter of Acts.

There are several key points in Acts 18:

  1. Paul taught and remains in Corinth for some time
  2. Paul goes to Antioch for the last time; takes a vow
  3. Paul meets Aquila and Priscilla from Italy
  4. Paul along with his new companions from Italy go to Ephesus
  5. Paul begins his third missionary journey beginning in Galatia and Phrygia.
  6. Apollos, like Paul, becomes a great spokesperson and testimony.
Back2future

Back to the future.

Background: Back to the future! In the future from this point of time, Israelis were expelled from many places. We know of 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, the Spanish and Catholic Church had begun the inquisition; 1492 – 1503. The inquisition was little more than an attempt to rid Spain of Judaism and establish the Catholic Church as the one and only religion. Prior to this they had been expelled from their homelands both the Northern Kingdom of Israel (720 B.C.) and the Southern Kingdom of Judah 116 years later. In 19 C.E. Tiberius expelled the Jews from Rome. Now according to Acts 18:2, Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Italy, that is Rome sometime during his reign, 41 B.C. And 54 B.C. Interesting, back In 139 BC the Jews were expelled after being accused of Judaizing among the local Gentiles.

The expulsion by Emperor Claudius is why Priscilla and Aquila leave Rome and finally meet Paul. They originally lived in Italy but were now homeless. Paul had just left Athens and went to Corinth. This is where he meets them. Aquila and Paul were both tradesmen in tent making. Paul provided for his financial needs using his trade skills. He remained with his new found Jewish friends working at tent making together, but Paul every Sabbath went to the synagogue to teach Christ and salvation through him.

Life’s best revelations flash upon us while we abide in the fields of duty. Keep to your daily bread winning and amid your toils you shall receive great benedictions and see glad visions. … The shop or office or warehouse may become as the house of God. Do thy work and do it diligently: In it, thou mayest find rare soul fellowships, as did Aquila and Priscilla. (a quote from an unknown author)

As soon as Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia (v5), they find Paul in another precarious situation. It must have been a deep issue with Paul for upon the arrival of his friends from Macedonia, he (v6) “…when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” From now on I will go to the gentiles? If Paul was at the synagogue when he was confronting these Jews or Israelis of Judaism, he had but a short walk ahead of him. His next stop was at the home of Titius Justus. He lived next door to the synagogue.

Something happens between verses 7 and 8 but we are not told. Paul goes from shaking his garment as dust on the earth over the Jews rejecting his message to somehow convincing the ruler of the synagogue, Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, to follow Jesus as the true Messiah. Paul continued to preach Christ, many of the gentiles (Greek Corinthians). Many accepted the gift of God being Jesus Christ and were baptized.

bunch ofpeopleThis is where our opening question gets answered. God tells Paul in his vision that ”I have many in this city who are my people.” The fact that Paul is to remain even after telling the Jews in verse 6 that he would now take his message to the gentiles, suggest that “this city having many of God’s people” indicates these are gentiles to which God calls the “many.”

In a vision Paul is assured by the Lord that no harm will come to him at this time and to continue in his message in Corinth. He stays another 18 months most likely reaching the “many” revealed to him in his vision.

Then a new proconsul of *Achaia named Gallio comes to town. The leadership of the synagogue see this as an opportunity to challenge Paul in front of the Roman tribunal and the new guy, Gallio.

*Achaia is the southern end of the Greek peninsula territory extending into the Mediterranean Sea between the Aegean and Ionian Sea. Athens and Corinth are two cities within the territory of Achaia.

The Jews bring Paul before the Tribunal leader, Gallio. He immediately rejects their claims of Roman laws being broken by Paul. This only agitates him. He is insulted that this matter is not of Roman law but of Jewish law and was even brought before him. Were the Jews despised by the Greek gentiles? Now with the support of an insulted Gallio who had the accusers physically removed from his council, the Greek gentiles jumped on the opportunity to possibly settle old scores They beat then ruler of the synagogue, Sosthenes while still in front of Gallio. Gallio paid no attention to Sosthenes’ beating as if it was deserving of him.

JIV NOTE: Sometime between verse Acts 18:8 and 18:12 -17, the ruler of the synagogue had changed from Crispus to Sosthenes.

Due to this event at the Tribunal of Gallio, Paul remained in Corinth teaching, preaching and establishing a church of believers. Acts 18:18 tells us that Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla, probably along with Luke, Timothy and Silas, set sail to Syria (Ephesus) where Paul will end his second missionary trip. Something odd happens in verse 18 and without explanation by Luke. There was a custom back then to shave one’s head if he takes a vow. Verse 18 states that Paul took a vow while in Cenchreae and in route to Ephesus; shaving his head. The mystery is the vow. Luke does not define it and no where else in the bible is it explained. A guess at this point would be speculation. The vow spoken of ever so briefly is just another in indication of Paul’s dedication and determination.

Do we need support or more evidence of how Paul thinks? In verse 19 when this group reaches Ephesus, Paul leaves the others behind but enters the synagogue there; alone.

Whoever asked Paul to stay in Acts 18:20, be it where he was housed, those at the local synagogue, a new church body or his traveling companions, Paul declined and left Ephesus by ship to Caesarea. A Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria (Egypt), came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Old Testament Scriptures.

History is once again a place to go to enhance one’s bible understanding. Alexandria is located in north-western Egypt built by Alexander the Great and named after him. He took thousands of Jews from the lands of Judah relocating them in Alexandria. It should be of no surprise that by now someone of the character of Apollos would come from there. What is somewhat of a surprise is that he was a devoted believer of The Way, well studied in the Old Testament but not The Way of God and Jesus Christ. He knew well of John the Baptist but needed tutoring in New Testament ways. This became the responsibility of Aquila and Priscilla. They took him under their wing of instruction.

He was a powerful orator and could stand well against anyone in the synagogue or among the Jewish leadership proving that Jesus was the Messiah using Old Testament scriptures. Next in chapter 19 we discuss the receiving of the Holy Spirit.

Rev Dr. Jstark
November, 2018

Acts 17

Act 17:1 Now when they [Paul, Silas, Luke, Timothy and others] had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a of the Jews.

Act 17:2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures… (ESV)

Following Paul’s stop at Philippi where there was NO SYNAGOGUE he comes to a place where there is one. As is his custom and as it states in verse two, Paul “went in.” For three consecutive Sabbaths he speaks to those in attendance. He “reasoned with them from the scriptures.” Here is a point we often miss. The ONLY scripture that existed at this time was the Old Testament. The New Testament had yet to be written.

Traditionally Thessalonica was founded in c. 316 BCE by the Macedonian general Cassander who named it after his wife Thessalonike, daughter of Philip II of Macedon. This means that Alexander the Great was his brother-in-law. This city was a gem. It went from a backward village to a prosperous and significant city-state under King Philip. Even though its armies were eventually defeated by the Romans, the city itself kept its prosperity. This is what Paul saw in his visit in Acts 17.

jesus messiah

Messiah

Paul points out in Acts 17:3 that “This Jesus I proclaim to you is the Christ.” The word Christ is a direct translation of the word meaning Messiah. The Thessalonians ruled by Rome at the time of Paul and worshiped Rome’s many gods including the Roman Emperor… Nero! Eventually these forces would clash.

JIV NOTE: Nero is the Roman Emperor who eventually had Paul beheaded and Peter crucified. Paul’s grave markers still exist to this day in Rome. (National Geographic)

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2006/12/news-st-paul-tomb-found-rome/

Acts 17:4 specifically states that a few Jews, many Gentiles and a great number of women in

Thessalonica accepted Jesus as The Way. But, as in every place the disciples, Apostles, and followers of Jesus went to share their faith, the Jewish leadership rejected them and often openly attacked them. This is again true in Thessalonica.

Paul, Luke, Silas, Timothy (and perhaps a few others) stayed at the house of Jason in this city. The Jews went to the back allies of Thessalonica to gather a (paid) mob to protest their presence in their city. They went to the house of Jason demanding he throw out these “Christ followers.” He refused so the paid mob of back alley thugs dragged Jason to the authorities. Their accusation? These men protected by Jason claimed that their was another king by the name of Jesus. In verse 17:10 we find the first mention of someone(s) providing bond for their release.

Immediately upon their bonded release, Paul and Silas (with others) were sent packing to Berea. One would think a lesson should be learned by now, but guess where Paul and Silas go upon entering Berea? The local synagogue. Acts 17:11 states that “these Jews were more noble. They received the Word with a degree of eagerness.” How eager? They examined the (O.T.) scriptures daily. Not for devotions but for evidence of the Christ, probably in passages like Isaiah. Having left Thessalonica behind did not mean the Jews from there had forgotten about Paul and Silas. They sent men there to agitate the people of Berea.

Paul, being the chief spokesperson for this missionary group was again spirited out of Berea to Athens but Silas and Timothy remained behind. Once Paul was in Athens he called for Silas and Timothy to join him. A good personal review of Athens and their culture would benefit anyone at this time but that is not the goal of this article. Athens was a city of many gods (idols) including one to the unknown god.

athens-Athens was a place of famous philosophers and speakers. There was a high place called the Areopagus upon which philosophies and philosophers were given center stage. People listened and questioned those given the platform. Great men of historical renown stood on this same place as now did Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke. Those present obviously did not know anything about this Jesus, crucifixion, resurrection and salvation. EVIDENCE? Acts 17:19 & 20 state: (ESV) And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.”

Here is when Paul points out that these people were very religious and open to understanding as they had an alter designated to the unknown god (17:23). Paul continues by explaining who God and Jesus are. They created all things and were master over all. But when he spoke of the resurrection of Jesus, some began to mock, but others wished to hear more of this “unknown God.”

So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Late night Bible Study

STUDY THE WORD for yourself!

JIV point of bible study: Whenever the bible identifies a proper name, place, or event it is there for a study reason. Dionysius, the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris. All others are left unnamed. The Holy Bible does not mince, mix or add words for the purpose of filling a page or chapter. The true student sees this then researches them to add to his or her understanding. Memorizing or even learning how to pronounce them adds little. Researching them adds to our understanding of each and every bible setting.

Rev Dr. Jstark – November 2018

Acts 16

Beaten up for Christ than asked by their torturers for forgiveness. This is the essence of Acts 16. Also, note the often used word “WE” in this chapter. This means that Luke was a part of this missionary journey of Paul and Silas as he uses the inclusive pronoun “WE.”dna

We also find and are introduced to the young Timothy in this chapter. He is the son of a Jewish woman and a Greek father. Usually the Jews of Judaism would see him as a Samaritan; one of mixed blood; often detested by pure DNA Jews of Israel. The half breeds are the ones who basically made up the the Samaritans but this discussion is reserved for another article.

This picture is of the Samaritans of today dressed in their traditional garb. They are half Israeli and half something else. There is much to explain how this works even in today’s attitudes of Israelis, most Jews of Judea back then and perhaps those of Israel today.

We will revisit this at a later time…knowledge first then understanding.

Young Timothy was renown for his gentle attitude and firm belief in God. He was a believer in The Way of Jesus Christ. For some reason not explained that well, Paul knowing the issues between Samaritans and the full blood Jews took Timothy and circumcised him as a young adult. This is usually something that is done on the 8th day after birth. Remember that his father was Greek, not Israeli. It most likely had something to do with keeping the fundamental Jews off his back and eventual ministry.

Acts 16:4 explains that the letter to which we referred to in our previous article on Acts 15 was in Paul and Silas’ possession. It regarded the idea of requiring circumcision for salvation. This is what is referred to as a hmm-moment in scripture. Guesses are speculative.

The next verse in Acts 16 Paul shares this good news from the council in Jerusalem that “no circumcision required” for salvation. They were sanctified in their faith. Then Acts 16 (Luke is author) states that “they added to their numbers daily.” This is not a measure of those attending church services but of those who became followers of Christ. There is a significant difference. To simply add to the rolls of membership is to unequally yoke unbelievers with believers. This makes for compromise and political correctness therefore an additional reason even original church groups establish denominations and conditional (building) church worship.

Paul in verse 6 wished to go to the area of Galatia but for some reason the Holy Spirit refused him. Another bible hmm-moment. This too we will discuss in a later article. The same is true in verse 7. Paul wished to go to Bithynia but again the Holy Spirit refused them.

The following verse states that “Paul then had a vision to go to Macedonia.” How do we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit? Even though Paul wished to go to Galatia and then Bithynia he didn’t via the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Then in a vision the same Holy Spirit points him to Macedonia. On all three occasions the word “immediately” (v8) comes to mind. He and his colleagues didn’t sit back and debate the pros and cons. They didn’t question the Holy Spirit. They immediately responded to a “NOT” then to a “GO” (v8); no attempt to find excuses… [to not teach a SS class perhaps?]

In verse 12 we find Paul and company in Philippi, a city named by Alexander after his father, King Philip. This is about 400 years after this fact in history. What few recognize is this Philippi is a colony occupied mostly be retired Roman soldiers. The word for colony is kolōnia; i.e. Latin for “Roman colony for veterans.” Philippi was not a stronghold of Jews, priests, Pharisees, and dominated by a synagogue. It was a colony of retired Roman soldiers. This is why in the following verse Paul and his entourage sought a place to pray being that it was Sabbath and no synagogue.

They found a pleasant place by the river only to discover that a group of women also saw it as a pleasant place to gather. One of these women was Lydia, a dyer and seller of purple garments. This is the color of status in Roman culture. She was not from Philippi but Thyatira. Verse 15 tells us she had a house in the Philippi area. Today Thyatira is Akhisar, Turkey.

Lydia was a worshiper of the God of Israel but did not know or understand the salvation offered through Jesus Christ. She overheard Paul preaching or teaching, perhaps just sharing his testimony. She wanted to be baptized. She was and her “household” followed in this action. This suggests that in her household already existed God fearing believers.

Acts 16:16-18 we find that a fortunetelling slave-girl, without doubt demon influenced or possessed, loudly and persistently proclaimed that Paul and company were of “the most high God.” This went on for several days. Finally Paul turns to her and said to the evil spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” The evil spirit came out of her; no longer a fortuneteller. He owners were devastated as she was a profiteer for them.

Instead of being hauled before Jewish leaders in a Synagogue (as there was none in Philippi) her owners hauled Paul before the Roman magistrate. Verse 21 of Acts 16 has a deep message other than Paul being accused of doing good but not of Roman custom/tradition. We must add that verse 17 states that a crowd joined Paul’s accusers inaguringhim in front of the magistrate. Their fear of Rome was great so imagined and real violations may bring retribution upon them.

How often have we seen but do not recognize that when a church of today has become politically correct and fallen away from teaching depth bible studies, a voice such as Paul’s arouses some in their congregation. Others follow suite in attacking that voice spoken in truth? Then just as did the magistrates in this bible passage, church leaders show outrage over what? That someone stepped outside of their church/community service “customs and traditions.”

Paul and Silas were thrown into prison after being verbally and physically attacked. The jailer was ordered to “guard them with their lives.” Such was Roman conditions for guards. If they failed to guard their prisoners, they paid for it with their own lives. This is where we get the statement… GUARD IT WITH YOUR LIFE. That first night in prison and as Paul and Silas were singing praises to God and Jesus, an earthquake struck the area. Not just an earthquake but a “great earthquake.” The prison doors fell open and any prisoner could have walked out. As the jailor was about to take his own life knowing his consequence for a great escape would be death, Paul shouted out… “Do yourself no harm as we are all [hapas] here.”

This testimony of Paul and Silas now brought fruit for their labors. The jailer wanted what they had as they lead by example and continued praising God almighty. They didn’t try to flee through the open prison doors. The jailer pleaded on knees to Paul. Some may say his plea was out of gratitude for not escaping. Reading the text closely it was for spiritual reasons the guard appealed to Paul and Silas.

He washed their open wounds, fed them and accepted Jesus as his Savior, Lord and God, only then discovering that they were also Roman citizen by birth. The magistrate had violated Roman law. Again, fear of Rome came upon them. From this particular bible passage we can get the statement…”Do you know who we are?”

Paul did not let it rest as there are consequences. When the next morning the Roman leaders of Philippi determined no law was broken by Paul, Silas , Luke, etc, and that Paul was a Roman citizen, they order their immediate release. Paul refused to leave until the public also recognized their violation of human or Roman law. He required the accusers come, apologize and then escort them out of prison.

Rev Dr. Jstark

November, 2018

Acts 15

how when whyHow, when, or why did differing denominations enter the early Christian church of believers? We find in Acts 15 one of the reasons for this split be it conscious or consequential; but mostly due to tradition. We see this in the opening verse of Acts 15:

And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, saying, Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved.”

…”except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses ye cannot be saved?” Paul and Barnabas took issue with this. The “men” who came from Judea are not even identified. This means the messengers themselves are of little value but their message needs to be addressed. Already in the early church we have man-added conditions for salvation. The beginnings of denominational differences.

THE CUSTOM OF MOSES??? Here is a hint of early denominational ism. The custom of Moses has nothing to do with the New Testament salvation message. Men, not one man, came from Judea and preached this “condition of salvation.” That means they were not alone in their thoughts but were something like an early type of missionary but with a wrong message; a condition of salvation added to the burden of wanna be believers. The bible gives but one condition for salvation; believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (to be and to live). No works or conditions other than the blood of Jesus Christ covering and washing clean our record; repent and believe.

Acts 15:2 tells us that Paul and Barnabas “had no small discussion with them” but took the issue to Jerusalem for counsel. They went directly to those who had spent a good deal of time alongside Jesus on earth. They sought their input. When they did they discovered some of the culprits. It was those who had been steeped in Judaism. Those converted to Christianity but were traditional Pharisees. They wanted to hang onto their traditional worship routine. We find this in verse 5. “…Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.” Now from where did they get this condition? TRADITION JUDAISM!

Acts 15:6 is an example of what Isaiah 1:18 tells us. Acts 15:6 states (ESV) The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. Isaiah 1:18 states (ESV) “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Two things glare at us from the passage in Isaiah. First: the Lord states that reasoning is a good thing to settle differences. The second point, there is no condition of circumcision included in what the Lord states per Isaiah.

butting heads.jpgActs 15:7, depending upon the translation one uses, this verse can read like this “discussion was nothing short of an argument. The word used in some translations is disputing or arguing. The Greek is best stated in the ERV or KJV…”to consider…” (eidō). The elders and Apostles reasoned together, not one side arguing their point; a point that planted the seed of denominational positions or differences.

Beginning in Acts 15:7 Peter takes the floor and explains it all in something like a summary judgment or conclusion. Many Jews still thought that salvation was just for them; not for the Gentiles. We discussed this in an earlier Acts article in this website. This was the Roman Centurion Cornelius and Peter encounter found in Acts 10. Peter points out to the gathering in Jerusalem that any additional inclusion or practice outside of the blood of Jesus Christ and one giving his or her life to follow Jesus would be an “added yoke.” In fact, Peter offers a significant warning in Acts 15:10…”WHY ARE YOU PUTTING GOD TO THE TEST?” A small but significant insight is also found in this same verse. Peter calls ALL BELIEVERS “disciples.” Since the word disciple (mathētēs) simply means learner or student, we can now conclude that as believers we are to be students of the Word of God; i.e. Bible disciples.

Something too often overlooked by many including theologians is found in Acts 15:14…

Simeon (not Simon Peter) relates how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name.”

to take from them…” In other words, Simeon points out that there is really no spiritual DNA difference between the Jews (12 Tribes of Israelis) and Gentiles. God took from [within] the Gentiles a people and made them special. He called them Israelis through Abraham, Isaac and who God renamed Jacob ISRAEL Simeon points out that there is no spiritual DNA difference among all men but (v20) point out a way of living that is honoring to God. All come from Adam and Eve; Noah.

Acts 15:22 finds agreement among the council and they send out preachers and teachers to all mankind. The council writes a letter of explanation to be take to the Gentile believers.

Act 15:25 We have heard that some men have come to you from our group. What they said troubled and upset you. But we did not tell them to do this.

Act 15:25 We have all agreed to choose some men and send them to you. They will be with our dear friends, Barnabas and Paul.

Act 15:26 Barnabas and Paul have given their lives to serve our Lord Jesus Christ.

Act 15:27 So we have sent Judas and Silas with them. They will tell you the same things.

Act 15:28 We agree with the Holy Spirit that you should have no more burdens, except for these necessary things:

Act 15:29 Don’t eat food that has been given to idols. Don’t eat meat from animals that have been strangled or any meat that still has the blood in it. Don’t be involved in sexual sin. If you stay away from these, you will do well. We say goodbye now.

All is not as it might seem between Paul and Barnabas now in Antioch with the Gentiles and group of new believers. Paul suggests he and Barnabas return to the cities where they had built a body of believers to check on them. Barnabas wished to take John Mark along; the one who had left their group early in the first missionary trip. Paul did not want him (John Mark) to come along probably believing he would be an anchor of sorts only to leave them once again to return home. Acts 15:39 does point out that the issue of whether to bring or not to bring John Mark along became contentious. This divided the two into four men. Paul took Silas and Barnabas took John Mark (the Mark of the Book of Mark) both going back to visit the established churches but in a reverse direction. Barnabas and Mark begin in Cyprus. Paul and Silas begin in Syria; i.e. Paul’s second missionary journey and another different opinion in the church.

Rev. Dr. Jstark – November 2018