October 12, 2019
Daybreak: Acts 18:1-22
“Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace.” (Acts 18:9)
Since the days of the Early Church, there have been those who have spoken boldly for God in a setting of mockery and derision. One such incident occurred during the 1700s in the country of Prussia.
Frederick the Great, who ruled Prussia from 1740 to 1786, was widely known as an agnostic and scoffer against religion. One night, with members of his staff gathered around him, the king began making crude jokes about the Son of God until the whole place was filled with laughter. One of his most trusted officers, General Von Zealand, was among those present. Von Zealand was a devout believer, and after listening to the mocking comments for a time, he finally arose and solemnly addressed the king: “Sire, you know I have not feared death, you know I have fought for you in thirty-eight battles, and thirty-eight battles I have won; but, sire, my hairs are grey, I am an old man, and I shall soon have to go into the presence of One greater than thou — the mighty God, who saved me from my sin, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom you are blaspheming against. Sire, I cannot stand to hear my Saviour spoken of as thou has spoken of him. I salute thee, sire, as an old man who loves the Savior, on the edge of eternity.”
The room went deathly still. What would be the fate of one who rebuked the king with such boldness? Perhaps those present wondered if the old officer’s life hung in the balance in spite of his years of faithful service. Finally the king responded. With a voice that shook, he said, “General Von Zealand, I beg your pardon, I beg your pardon.” In moments, the whole company quietly exited the room.1
God himself must have given courage to that venerable Prussian general, enabling him to stand before his king and scoffing fellow officers, and boldly declare his faith in his Savior, Jesus Christ, whom they were blaspheming.
In today’s text we read of another individual who took a stand for Christ among people who were expressing blasphemous opposition: the Apostle Paul. After his arrival in Corinth, Paul’s preaching had been met with fierce rejection by the Jews. In times past, he had been beaten, imprisoned, driven out of cities, and persistently attacked by Judaizers for his message. Now, in light of the uproar his teaching had stirred in Corinth, Paul no doubt needed courage from God to continue.
God did not fail His servant. In our focus verse, we read that God spoke to the Apostle in a night vision, telling him, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace.” That encouragement helped Paul go on preaching in Corinth for another year and a half, until he began his third missionary journey.
Throughout the history of the church, Christians have defended their faith against the attacks of those who deride, doubt, or challenge it. They do not speak out to demonstrate their great oratorical skills or intellectual abilities, but to honor the One who is King of their lives.
We may never be required to stand for God before a mocking crowd of army officers or violent religious leaders. However, we will need to take a stand for God somewhere! Perhaps our opportunity to declare our faith will be before our peers in the classroom, our employer, or an unbelieving family member. Whatever the situation, we can be sure that God will give us the needed courage. He did that for Paul, and He will do so for us!
Today’s text covers Paul’s stay in Corinth during his second missionary voyage. The dating of an inscription referring to Gallio (see verse 12) found on archaeological ruins at Delphi suggests that events in this portion of Scripture likely took place from the spring of A.D. 50 to the fall of A.D. 51. Insight into Paul’s feelings after his arrival in Corinth can be found in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. It is thought that Paul wrote the books of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, among the earliest letters of the New Testament, during this time.
Verses 1-4 described Paul’s early days in Corinth. The distance between Corinth and Athens, where the Apostle previously had been preaching, is about fifty-five miles; it is likely Paul walked. Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia and a cosmopolitan trade center. Dominated by a Temple to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and war, the city was known for its vices and corruption.
The Apostle lodged in Corinth with Aquila and Priscilla, Christian Jews driven from Rome by anti-Jewish policies, who shared his avocation of tent making. As was his custom, he began his outreach efforts there by “reasoning” or discoursing in the synagogue, though he likely also used his workplace as a forum for witnessing. His audience was comprised of both Jews and Gentiles who worshiped with the Jews.
Verses 5-11 relate that Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, which was an encouragement to Paul (see 1 Thessalonians 3:6-7). However, his intensified outreach efforts in the synagogue met with opposition by Jewish religious leaders, so the Apostle shifted his focus to the Gentiles. The shaking of his raiment in verse 6 was a symbolic gesture of renunciation, demonstrating that God had turned away from the Jews because of their rejection of Him.
Due to the increasing hostility of the Jews, Paul moved his center of operations to the home of Justus, a devout Gentile who resided next to the synagogue. Justus’ name indicates that he was a Roman citizen, which would have given the small Christian congregation some status in the city. The subsequent conversion of Crispus, a leader of the synagogue, no doubt inflamed the Jewish religious leaders even more; this is suggested by the fact that God sent reassurance in a night vision to Paul instructing the Apostle to stop being afraid, and to go on speaking (the literal meaning of verse 9).
Verses 12-17 describe Gallio’s response to Paul’s ministry. Gallio was the governor of Achaia and the brother of Seneca, the philosopher, and tutor to Nero. The inscription “judgment seat” (verse 12) can still be seen on ruins of ancient Corinth.
The word “persuadeth” in the charge against Paul in verse 13 actually has the sense of evil persuasion, as in “seduction” or “misleading.” Although the Jews’ anger at Paul was based on a religious difference, they attempted to convey that he had broken Roman law. Gallio, however, saw through their duplicity and refused to judge the matter. The Greeks, perhaps venting their wrath at the Jews who had caused the turmoil, proceeded to beat Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue who replaced Crispus after his conversion.
Verses 18-22 indicate that Paul remained in Corinth for a while longer, and then traveled to Ephesus with Aquila and Priscilla. After a short stay in Ephesus, he returned to Jerusalem to “keep this feast” — likely either Passover or Pentecost.
(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV. The witness “unto the uttermost part of the earth”
C. The second missionary journey of Paul
3. The ministry in Achaia
b. The ministry in Corinth (18:1-17)
(1) Arrival in Corinth (18:1-4)
(2) His ministry to the Corinthians (18:5-11)
(3) The trial before Gallio (18:12-17)
4. The ministry on the return to Antioch (18:18-22)
a. In Cenchrea (18:18)
b. In Ephesus (18:19-21)
c. In Antioch (18:22)
A Closer Look
- What was the command of Claudius that forced Aquila and Priscilla to relocate in Corinth?
- When Paul told the Jewish leaders that because of their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah, he would go to the Gentiles, what do you think he meant by the statement, “I am clean”?
- What are some ways God has encouraged you or someone of your acquaintance in the face of persecution or rejection?
God can and will give us courage to stand up for Him, even when those around us are unreceptive, ridiculing, or hostile.
1 J. Wilbur Chapman, Present Day Parables (Cleveland, OH: F. M.
Barton, 1900), Pg.47, E-book
- Acts Introduction
- Acts Complete Amplified Outline
- The Family of Herod the Great chart
- Paul's Journeys maps
- Daybreak Unit PDF (Luke, Acts, James, Galatians, Romans)
- Discovery Unit PDF (Luke, Acts, James, Galatians, Romans)
- Discovery Teacher's Guide Unit PDF (Luke, Acts, James, Galatians, Romans)
- Unit Binder Cover