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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 13, 2006
Our study this morning in the book of Acts is very appropriate since our Vacation Bible School theme, Set Sail, was centered on the conversion and missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul, and that is the section of Acts we are currently studying. It is also appropriate in view of Pastor Carrero’s message last week concerning the Great Commission that Jesus gave His disciples, and hence to us as well. Our study today in Acts 18 will cover Paul’s example of being obedient to Jesus’ command to make disciples.
In Matthew 28:16-20 Jesus had called the eleven disciples together in Galilee. From John’s account of this time period following the Resurrection, we know that Jesus was busy giving final instructions to His disciples before the Ascension when He would return to heaven and send the Holy Spirit. Recall that the theme of the book of Acts is Jesus’ continuing ministry through the power of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of His disciples. Our study of Acts 18 this morning will show how God used Paul to bring the gospel to the city of Corinth and give us some insight and practical advice on how we can also be obedient to this command.
Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:18-20).
Jesus’ command was based on the fact that He had received from God the Father all power in heaven and on earth. Jesus has both the right to issue the command and the ability to empower those who obey Him to accomplish His commands. Obedience to Jesus is always based on His ability and not our own. All we need to have is the willingness to step out in faith and trust Him to do through us whatever He asks of us. If you want to be used by God, the issue is availability, not ability.
Jesus’ command is specifically to make disciples. Remember that a disciples is simply a student that has attached themselves to a teacher. The goal of the student is to become like their teacher. Jesus stated it that way in Luke 6:40 when He said, “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” That is also the very purpose for which God redeems people from their sins. He is conforming us to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29).
The command to make disciples, followers of Jesus Christ, is carried out in three successive steps. The first step is to go. That is the step that most Christians seem to be the most resistant to carry out. For a variety of reasons people are afraid to tell others about Jesus Christ, but all those fears eventually boil down to a fear of rejection and its consequences. It is faith and a personal relationship with Jesus that overcomes that fear because our trust in Him and desire to please Him becomes greater than what other people may think or do. You have to love the approval of God more than the approval of men (cf. John 12:43). That can be serious matter for Jesus said in Luke 9:26, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory.”
In order to make disciples, you cannot be passive and wait for people to come. Evangelism is not a job God has left to professional evangelists. The ministry of reconciling men to God is a ministry He has entrusted to every Christian (2 Cor. 5:18). That includes you if you are truly a follower of Christ.
The second step of making disciples is baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the personal and voluntary identification of the believer with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a public proclamation that the person they used to be has died with Christ and no longer lives, but Christ now lives in them and He has raised them up to walk with Him in newness of life (cf. Rom. 6 and Gal. 2:20). Infant baptisms and forced baptisms do not do this. They are ignorant baptisms that get people wet, but leave them in their sins with a false hope in a ritual rather than in the living Christ. If you have not been baptized since making a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, you need to be. It is a matter of obedience to Him.
The third step of making disciples is teaching them to observe whatsoever things Jesus has commanded. This is the time consuming part of discipleship and one in which every Christian will be involved throughout their lives. This involves not just the formal teaching times such as sermons, Sunday School, Bible studies and such, but also all the informal times of personal interaction with one another. That is actually were most of this takes place anyway. It is the interaction of each individual’s spiritual gift(s) with the other people in the church so all us are built up in the Lord. That is what church “body life” is all about – helping one another become more like Jesus.
That is what Paul was doing on his missionary journeys. He was going. He was baptizing. He was teaching them to observe the Lord’s commandments.
In Acts 18 we find Paul continues on to the next leg of his second missionary journey.
(Map) Ministry In Corinth (18:1-17)
Acts 18:1 After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. Let me give you some background on this city. ( Satellite Picture of Greece)
Greece is divided into two major parts by the long east-west gulf of Corinth. The southern part (the Peloponnesus or the Roman district of Achaia) ( Satellite Picture of Isthmus) was connected to the mainland by a low, narrow isthmus (four miles wide). ( Picture of Isthmus from Acrocorinth). Corinth was located on the southern end of that isthmus just below the Acrocorinth, an 1800 foot peak that over looked the isthmus. ( Picture of Acrocorinth from excavations). It was a natural center of commerce for both the east-west trade (Rome to Asia) and the north-south trade (Achaia to Athens). It had two ports – one at Lechaeum on the Corinthian gulf and the other at Cenchrea on the Aegean Sea. To avoid the very dangerous trip of sailing in the open Mediterranean, ships from Rome would travel in the safe water of the Corinthian gulf. Either the ship itself would be hauled overland or the cargo would be unloaded at Lechaeum and carried to Cenchrea where it would be loaded on another ship which would sail across the Aegean Sea to Asia and vica versa. ( Picture of old & new canal) A modern canal now speeds up transportation across the isthmus.
Corinth had been inhabited from ancient times and then destroyed in 146 B.C. because of its revolt against the rising Roman empire. ( Picture of Corinthian ruins) It was rebuilt in 44 B.C. under Julius Caesar by a colony of demobilized Roman soldiers. It very quickly became the seat of Roman power in the province of Achaia and regained its status as the richest and most powerful city of Greece.
Corinth had two patron deities. ( Picture of Temple of Apollo) Poseidon, god of the sea, and Aphrodite, goddess of fertility. The worship of Aphrodite is connected with the Phoenician Astarte or Astaroth of the Canaanites (Ashtaroth in the Bible).
( Picture of Temple of Aphrodite Ruin) The worship of Aphrodite involved cult prostitution. It boasted of a thousand female cult prostitutes. Their income was a major source of the cities revenues. There were also many long-haired male prostitutes for homosexuality was also rampant (Paul refers to them in 1 Cor. 6:9 & 11:14). This practice along with the general immorality common in port cities gave Corinth a wicked reputation. In fact the Greeks invented a word, “to Corinthianize,” which meant “to live an immoral life,” “to have intercourse with prostitutes,” and a “Corinthian girl” was a synonym for a prostitute. It was in Corinth that Paul wrote his description of pagan vice in Romans 1:18-32.
The worship of other pagan gods involved other various rituals including sacrifices and offering the meat as food for the gods. This is why Paul ends up spending so much time talking about meat offered to idols in 1 Cor 8 & 10:14f. Some of their rituals also involved getting caught up in emotionalism and losing themselves in the worship of their gods. In the case of Aphrodite it was to become lost in the passion of Eros. This was a striving to gain something they did not have which was a relationship and/or possession of the divine. The idea was to become consumed in the sensual passion of the moment and by that approach the divine.
( Picture of Corinthian Ruins) In such mystical approaches to worship people would get caught up in emotional hysteria. Plato & Virgil both record scenes of this sort of religious exercise in which the people would start shaking and fall to the ground babbling in ecstatic speech. In fact if this happened it was a sign that you had “arrived,” become adept in the mystery religion. Such was the religious climate of Corinth. This should not surprise us because such practice is common in most pagan religions both polytheistic (Hinduism, animism etc.) and monotheistic (Islam). Such practice also occurs in the syncrestic religions and Christian cults. That is why Paul addresses the topic in 1 Corinthians 12-14.
( Picture of Theatre) Corinth was also hosted the Isthmian games which were held every four year and which rivaled the Olympic games as the major festival for that time. Corinth had no university or famous philosophers, but it shared in the Greek passion for intellectualism (1 Cor. 1:18f). This tendency along with the immoral background contributed to the problems of the church located there.
It is into this immoral, pagan city that Paul arrives. How would he be able to reach such people? Look at verses 2-4.
Paul Works with Aquilla & Priscilla (2-4)
2 And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, 3 and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working; for by trade they were tent-makers. 4 And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
The first thing Paul did was to find others that shared his same basic beliefs, so he found some fellow Jews, Aquila and his wife, Priscilla. Next, he needed a job and since his trade was the same as Aquila and Priscilla he joined them in their tent making business.
As a footnote, it was the common practice of Jews of that time to learn a trade in addition to any other education they received. In Paul’s case, though he had received a formal education from the great Rabbi, Gamaliel, he had also been taught the trade of making tents. Though we tend to think of tents as only for camping, during that time period many people lived in tents, so the craft was an important one. It is also this passage that gives us the missions term “tent-maker” meaning someone that goes someplace to spread the gospel but they earn their living through some secular employment.
The mention of Claudius commanding the Jews to leave Rome gives us a time maker for this part of Paul’s journey. Though Aquila was a native of Pontus, which is in modern Turkey, he and Priscilla had been living in Rome. In A.D. 49 Emperor Claudius forced the Jews to leave there because, according to the Roman historian Suetonius, “they were continually rioting at the instigation of Chrestus.” A reference to the conflicts between Jews and Christians that were occurring at that time. This is also an indicator that Aquila and Priscilla may have already become Christians before coming to Corinth.
Since the necessities of life were taken care of, Paul continued his normal practice of going to the synagogues and reasoning with the Jews there every Sabbath. Paul was fulfilling the principle of taking the gospel to the Jews first.
Paul Teaches the Word (5-11)
Testifying to the Jews (5)
In verse 5 we find that the arrival of his co-workers allows Paul more freedom in the use of his time. 5 But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul [began] devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.
With the arrival of Silas and Timothy, Paul is able to devote himself completely to the word and witnessing. This was probable due to them bringing the necessary financial support that would allow him the time to concentrate on proclaiming the word of God. Until that time he, like most everyone here, had to work some other job to earn his living expenses, but even then he kept his priority of telling others about Jesus Christ. Ministry is to be done regardless of financial support. The amount of financial support only allows more time to be devoted to ministry.
Turning to the Gentiles (6-7)
As in other cities, it did not take long for some of the Jews to reject the gospel message. 6 And when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood [be] upon your own heads! I am clean. From now on I shall go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he departed from there and went to the house of a certain man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. 8 And Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.
This is the same pattern we have seen in other cities. Some Jews receive and accept the message while others resist and reject. In the case of some of those in Corinth, as in Pisidian Antioch, some of them were so strong in their rejection that they were even blaspheming. Paul also followed his same pattern after this and turned to the Gentiles. This included abandoning the synagogue even though Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, had become a Christian. Instead, Paul was teaching in a house that was next to it. The man who owned the house, Titius Justus, is described as a “worshiper of God” meaning that he was a gentile who was seeking the true God, but he was not yet a disciple of Jesus Christ. The exciting thing is that as result of this that many Gentiles were also believing and being baptized. The first two steps of making disciples was being accomplished.
Comfort from the Lord (9-11)
In verses 9-11 we find that the Lord encouraged Paul in what needed to be done while preparing him for what was to come. In view of the rejection and difficulties Paul had been through since arriving in Europe, this encouragement was probably greatly needed.
9 And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid [any longer], but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10 for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city. ” 11 And he settled [there] a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
For the next year and a half Paul continued on with these folks in the third step of discipleship in teaching them. We can safely assume Paul continued his normal practice of preaching the gospel and seeing new believers being baptized, but the emphasis on the text here is on his teaching them. The reaction in the next section of the text demonstrates that Paul was being effective.
Opposition from the Jews (12-17)
Paul Brought before Gallio (12-13)
But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, 13 saying, “This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.”
The number of people being affected by Paul’s teaching finally irritated the Jews to the point of rising up against him and accusing him of teaching contrary to law. Since the charge is brought before the Roman proconsul it is probably a reference to Roman law and not Mosaic Law. Under Roman law, you could not practice a religion unless you had government permission. The Jews did have Roman permission to teach their beliefs, but the Christians did not have such specific permission. Christianity had been viewed as a branch of Judaism. Here we find the Jews trying to distinguish Christianity as a separate religion which would be operating outside the bounds of Roman law.
The mention of Gallio also gives us another date marker of when this occurred. An inscription in Delphi indicates that Gallio was proconsul during the years A.D. 51/52 or 52/53.
Gallio Rebuffs the Jews (14-16)
14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you; 15 but if there are questions about words and names and your own law, look after it yourselves; I am unwilling to be a judge of these matters. ” 16 And he drove them away from the judgment seat.
Before Paul can give a defense, Gallio throws the case out of his court. He sees this as an internal religious dispute and not a matter for Roman law and he drives them away from the judgement seat. ( Footnote: (Picture) This is the “judgement seat” is the Bema Seat which Paul uses as an analogy in 2 Corinthians 5:10 for the judgement seat of Christ before which believers will be recompensed for their deeds in the body).
The Beating of Sosthenes (17)
17 And they all took hold of Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and [began] beating him in front of the judgment seat. And Gallio was not concerned about any of these things.
Sosthenes eventually becomes a Christian (1 Cor. 1:1), but at this point he is the leader of the Synagogue and the one that would have been most likely to present the case against Paul. There is some question about exactly who it is that beats him The text simply says “all took hold.” There are some that say it is the other Jews because Sosthenes did such a poor job in making his case against Paul, but that then brings up the question of why Gallio would then be so unconcerned about this civil unrest? It appears this may be his court officials who are forcibly clearing the court of those bringing such a frivolous case and wasting Gallio’s time.
Return Trip to Antioch (18:18-22)
18 And Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow.
Though opposition is rising, it does not force Paul to leave. He stays in Corinth “many days longer” before finally leaving for Syria with Priscilla and Aquilla going with him. He departs from Cenchrea, which is the eastern port on the Corinthian isthmus, after having his hair cut for he was keeping a vow. This was probably a Nazirite vow usually given in thanks for God’s blessings and deliverance (Num. 6:2-13). The vow was usually for a specific period of time though some, like Samson, did live under such a vow for life.
This practice seems to startle some Christians, but it must be remembered that Paul is still Jewish. This ceremony would have been of great meaning and importance to him personally. It was something he did voluntary.
( map) From Cenchrea to Ephesus.
19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 And when they asked him to stay for a longer time, he did not consent, 21 but taking leave of them and saying, “I will return to you again if God wills,” he set sail from Ephesus.
Paul only gives one message in the synagogue in Ephesus even though he was asked to stay longer. This may have been due to the vow he was keeping, but he would return again if God so willed. He left Aquila and Pricilla in Ephesus where they would minister for some time before Paul would make a return.
( map) From Ephesus Paul sailed to Caesarea.
22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and went down to Antioch.
When Paul landed in Caesarea he “went up and greeted the church.” This is a reference to going to Jerusalem. Since it is on a mountain ridge you always “go up” to it. From there he would then “come down” from it and go back to Antioch to give a report to the church there that had sent him out.
Paul’s ministry in Corinth is another example of his being obedient to the Great Commission. He went out to those that were unsaved and proclaimed the gospel to them. He baptized those that responded. He then taught them to obey all the Lord commanded. He did this regardless of personal economic condition. If he had to work to meet his living expenses, he would do that. If outside finances would allow him to devote more time to ministry, he would do that. He did it regardless of the response of those who heard him. Some responded positively, believed, were baptized and formed a church. Such responses were sources of great joy. However, some rejected him passively while others rejected actively, sometimes even violently. Such responses certainly must have brought on a range of emotions for Paul. But Paul’s concern was not how he felt about the response. It was being faithful to the Lord and pleasing Him. He would leave the response of the people in the Lord’s hands. He would leave even his safety in the Lord’s hands. The same needs to be true for each of us.
What is your response to the Great Commission? What is your involvement in making disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ? If you do not know what it should be, then start with prayer that God will reveal it. He will. If you know it more or different than your current involvement, then commit yourself to obey and follow the Lord’s leading. If you are doing what the Lord desires, then praise Him for every opportunity and encourage others along the way that each may become like our Lord.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Keep count of how many different times a reference is made to making disciples. 2) Talk with your parents about what it means to make disciples and how you can be part of doing it.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What is the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20)? What are the steps to carrying out its command? What is its relationship to the book of Acts? Where is Corinth? What was its significance in the Ancient world? Who were the main pagan gods at Corinth? How did this affect their culture? What was the moral climate like in Corinth when Paul arrived? What are some of the problems that developed in the Corinthian church because of that background? What did Paul do first when he got to Corinth? Why was that important? Why was Paul making tents? What principle does that give us about ministry? When was Paul able to devote himself to ministry full time and why? What principle does that give us for ministry? How long was Paul in Corinth? Why? What was the reaction of the Jews to the gospel? The Gentiles? Why did the Jews bring Paul before Gallio? What did they hope to accomplish? Why did Gallio through the charges out of court? What possible years could this have taken place? Why was Sosthenes beaten? What else does the Bible say about Sosthenes? When and why did Paul leave Corinth? Why did Paul have his hair cut? Was it right for him to do that? What is your personal response to the Great Commission? How are you involved in making disciples of Jesus Christ? Does anything need to change in your life? If so, what and who will you have help you make those changes?
Sermon Notes – August 13, 2006
Establishing Disciples – Acts 18:1-22
The Great Commission
Ministry In Corinth (vs. 1-17)
Background (vs. 1)
Paul Works with Aquilla & Priscilla (vs. 2-4)
Paul Teaches the Word(vs. 5-11)
Testifying to the Jews (vs. 5)
Turning to the Gentiles (vs. 6-7)
Comfort from the Lord (vs. 9-11)
Opposition from the Jews (vs. 12-17)
Paul Brought before Gallio (vs. 12-13)
Gallio Rebuffs the Jews (vs. 14-16)
The Beating of Sosthenes (vs. 17)
Return Trip to Antioch (vs.18-22)
Cenchrea (vs. 18)
Ephesus (vs. 19-21)
Antioch (vs. 22)
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