Read: Acts 18
Acts 18 details the return to Antioch at the conclusion of Paul’s second missionary journey. The chapter starts in Athens, but doesn’t stay there long. If we just take a moment to pause and look at locations, city names, and the one reference to how long Paul stayed in a city, we realize that Acts 18 represents a significant amount of time.
Paul went from Athens to Corinth (1), staying at least 1 year and 6 months (11). He set sail for Syria (18), stopped at Ephesus (19), and continued to Syria landing in Caesarea (22a). He went up [to Jerusalem] and greeted the church (22b). He went down [up and down refer to the elevation of Jerusalem] to Antioch (22c). He left Antioch on the third missionary journey heading through Galatia and Phrygia (23). While the map below ends at verse 22, “Galatia and Phrygia” is the green above Pamphylia representing the churches at Lystra and Iconium.
Acts 18 has Paul on two continents and spans more than two years. In that time, Paul experienced the boredom of travel. He endured the hum-drum of work. Yet, in the midst of the day-to-day challenges of life, he passionately pursued people. Often, we think, “I can never be like Paul.” We read these stories like a fast-paced action novel where Paul races to convert the lost, has great success, and leaves a wake of riots and revivals.
Part of that is true, God specially used Paul. Sure, the Bible speaks of going and taking the message of the Gospel to those who haven’t heard, but we can’t focus on the work over there while neglecting our opportunity right here—As you go to work, as you go to school, as you go to youth sports, as you go to the grocery, as you go walking in your neighborhood…make disciples. We are not Paul, but we can passionately pursue the people around us.
Paul’s evangelism efforts in Corinth bore fruit, “many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.” Paul even received a promise that he would not be harmed. However, he was taken before the proconsul, Gallio. God’s promise was verified and Paul was not harmed. However, the synagogue leader, Sosthenes, was.
It’s possible that Sosthenes is the same as 1st Corinthians 1:1 and he was beaten for his Christian sympathies. It’s also possible that Luke is recording some poetic justice that the leader of Paul’s accusers was beaten because of Gentile anti-Semitism that existed (remember in verse 2 all the Jews had been expelled from Rome). In either case, Christians are not always promised protection as Paul was in verses 9–10.
Finally, in verse 24, we’re introduced to a young evangelist named Apollos. Although he was “eloquent” and “competent in the Scriptures,” he had more to learn. Priscilla and Aquila discipled him and increased the accuracy of his witness. He became a great evangelist using the (Old Testament) Scripture to refute the Jews and proclaim the Jesus is the Christ.
In Acts 18, we see excitement and the mundane. We see the fruit of evangelism and the danger of a fallen world. We see the passion of youth, the authority of Scripture, and the need for discipleship. Surrounding Paul, we see deep Christian relationships with Priscilla and Aquila as well as the arrival of Silas and Timothy, not to mention all those unnamed souls encouraged by the apostle. Paul was great, but we have everything we need to be great too.
In Acts, we often fail to consider how much time passes between the various events that take place. How does it hit you that there is often significant time between events?
By: Tyler Short
Good word today Tyler!
“As you go to work, as you go to school, as you go to youth sports, as you go to the grocery, as you go walking in your neighborhood…make disciples. We are not Paul, but we can passionately pursue the people around us.”
This is so true Tyler. We don’t have to walk more than 50 yards out our front or back doors to reach our mission field. Regarding significant time between events: I have lived in Lexington nearly 43 years since arriving at UK in the Fall of 1978. The only person I knew in town was my older brother who was also a student at UK. I have been amazed how God has brought people in and out of my life through relationships over the years from being a college student, to being newly married, to becoming new parents, etc. As God brings people into my “mission field” I strive to bear witness to Jesus and the impact He has had on my life. I’ve learned that God will use every experience in life, good & bad, to help you share Jesus with people. Everyone around us needs the good news of the Gospel. Our culture is changing rapidly and for many there is great confusion about God, the Bible, and what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus. My prayer is that God will keep me, and all Christ followers, on alert for gospel opportunities. Don’t be surprised the next time you run into someone you haven’t seen for many years. As Tyler said in his commentary, sometimes God places significant time between events. When you’re catching up with people it’s a perfect opportunity to tell them what God has been doing in your life and how a relationship with Jesus brings purpose and fulfillment.
Good word Mike. Thank you.
(v.27), "he greatly helped those who had believed through grace..."
Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures, verse 24, and he dared not keep them only for himself. But he had not encountered the truth of Christ yet. What a powerful and sobering thought to ponder.
True Korbet. When I teach people to study the Bible, I encourage them to write down what they see and learn because it is so much easier to share what you’ve learned with those around you. The fruit of your Bible study shouldn’t end with you. It’s meant to be shared.
Thank you for this encouragement Tyler!
"Yet, in the midst of the day-to-day challenges of life, he passionately pursued people."
As a college student, often it feels as though I am running around 100 miles a minute doing assignments and attending event. Although, as I reflect, I wonder how often I have opportunities to share and pour into others that I simply am not looking for. Right now, I have the most free time I will ever have, but if I only spend it satisfying my desires have, I used it effectively? My prayer is that I steward my time well, and I boldly proclaim God's Word to those in my life that I have an impact on.
I believe the significance of time equates to me that this is a marathon not a sprint. Also, I was captivated by verse 26 when Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos aside and “explained the way of God to him more accurately.” Despite being raised in church somehow I believed salvation was found in works. Took 29 years for me to finally understand the gospel because Tim Parsons wouldn’t allow me to continue in that false belief system!
Knowing that Acts is a quick look at snapshots across a substantial period of time makes it feel a bit more liveable ... like, the Church grew and spread through relationships and Christians doing life together with lost people - it wasn’t just a matter of some highly-persuasive evangelists dropping in for a weekend to hold a few explosive open-air campaigns of passing out tracts. Which feels comforting & empowering, since it gives a nice reminder that in Christ we can all be effective in evangelism, even though we’re not all high-power public speakers.