Paul’s Continued Journeys – Acts 18
Read the Passage: Acts 18
As Acts 17 concluded, Paul was still in Athens. After teaching at the Areopagus, Paul departed Athens and made the short 65 mile westward trip to Corinth. While Athens was the cultural capital of Macedonia, Corinth was the commercial capital. Corinth is located on an isthmus that connects northern and southern Greece. Both land travelers going north and south in Greece, and sea travelers going east and west from the Aegean Sea to the Adriatic Sea, would pass through Corinth. Among other things, the city of Corinth was known for its transient population, the sinful vices available, and the temple of Aphrodite, which is said to have housed 1,000 temple prostitutes. In Acts 18:2 Paul met a couple named Aquila and Pricilla, who shared both his occupation and his Christian faith. Aquila and Pricilla would become Paul’s close friends, and are mentioned by name 5 additional times in Scripture.
When in Athens, at Acts 17:15 Paul had sent for Silas and Timothy from Berea. Paul had then sent Timothy back to Thessalonica (cf. 1 Thess. 3:1–2) and Silas to the same general area, possibly to Philippi. They then re-joined Paul in Corinth. As was his pattern, Paul began his ministry in Corinth by reasoning in the synagogue (cf. Acts 18:4). When his message was rejected, Paul declared his intent to minister to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 18:6). This is a significant event in Paul’s ministry, for we only read of one additional time when Paul reasoned in a synagogue, and that was at his next stop in Ephesus (cf. Acts 18:19). Paul lodged with a Gentile convert named “Justus,” who may be the same man whom Paul calls Gaius at Rom. 16:23. Through Paul’s effective ministry, the ruler of the synagogue, whose name was Crispus believed and was soon baptized (cf. 1 Cor. 1:14).
At Acts 18:9–10 we read that Paul received a vision from the Lord, directing him to continue on with his ministry in Corinth. Note that this is the third of six visions Paul received, which are mentioned in the book of Acts (cf. Acts 9:3–6; 16:9–10; 22:17–18; 23:11; 27:23–24). This event also signifies a change in Paul’s ministry pattern. Earlier, Paul’s general pattern was to stay in a city for a relatively brief period. After this vision, however, Paul resided in Corinth for 18 months (cf. Acts 18:11) and would later stay in Ephesus for three years (cf. Acts 20:31). At Acts 18:12–17 Luke records an occasion when Paul was brought before the proconsul, by the Jews, and charged with unlawful acts. The case was dismissed, which resulted in the Greeks assaulting a Jewish man named Sosthenes, who was later converted and became a friend of Paul (cf. 1 Cor. 1:1).
After the public unrest in Corinth, Paul departed the city—although not immediately—and headed toward Jerusalem. Luke records that Aquila and Pricilla accompanied Paul, and that he cut his hair off at Cenchrea. This was likely an indicator that Paul had earlier taken a Nazarite vow, perhaps related to his ministry in Corinth (cf. Num. 6:5, 18). The traveling party then arrived in Ephesus, the largest city in Asia Minor. For the last time on his mission journey, Paul entered the city synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. Luke does not record the effect of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus; however, he does indicate that Paul’s stay here was brief, as he desired to reach Jerusalem before the Passover. Apparently, Aquila and Pricilla remained in Ephesus, for a church later met in their house (cf. 1 Cor. 16:19). Paul traveled to Jerusalem, and then Antioch, marking the end of his mission journey.
Acts 18:23 marks the beginning of Paul’s third missions journey, the details of which are reported through Acts 21:16. This journey occurred between AD 53–57 and would entail Paul re-visiting many of the cities he visited on his second mission journey. After traveling though Galatia and Phrygia, Paul eventually arrived in Ephesus (cf. Acts 19:1). Aquila and Pricilla had been ministering in Ephesus since Paul’s earlier visit to the city. Luke reports that in Ephesus they had encountered an eloquent speaker named Apollos, who had been instructed in the way of the Lord, yet was a disciple of John the Baptist. Aquila and Pricilla furthered Apollos’ theological education. Apollos then departed for Achaia and eventually taught in the church in Corinth (cf. 1 Cor. 1:12). He would later become one of Paul’s ministry companions (cf. Titus 3:13).
- In what ways are Paul’s mission trips in the book of Acts an example for believers? How ought we to determine if we should participate in a missions trip?
- Like Paul, have you ever had the experience of having a fellow believer in your place of employment? If so, how did this affect your work?
- How can we know when, if ever, it is appropriate to cease or to redirect gospel ministry? What are the determining factors in regard to effective ministry?
- As is reported in Acts 18:17, why do you think the Greeks attacked the ruler of the synagogue after the failed attempt to charge Paul with civil crimes?
- Given that Apollos was an eloquent speaker (cf. Acts 18:24), and Paul was not a good speaker (cf. 1 Cor. 2:1), how were they both effective ministers?