The Acts of the Apostles
Introduction – In this Session we will complete Acts Chapter 18. As we close Chapter 18, Paul will end his Second Missionary Journey and start his Third Missionary Journey. This is an interesting section of Scripture because there is so much culturally relevant information implied in the text, it easy to read this with American eyes and miss the context of the culture and truth found between the lines.
In this Chapter we see Paul leave Corinth and travel with Priscilla and Aquila to Ephesus. We are introduced to Apollos, Paul visits Jerusalem, and returns to the mission base at Antioch, and then venture out on his Third Missionary Journey. This is rich end to his First Missionary Journey. So for the sake of time let’s jump into the text. Our time stamp is approximately AD51 – AD54. Again I will reiterate that our time stamp is loose here because Luke does not use a strict chronological approach as he writes Acts. He moves the narrative forward and then fills in details to add clarity.
a) Cenchrea – This town was a wealthy suburb of Corinth. It was located about 4.3 miles from Corinth. Cenchrea was an amazing suburb of Corinth in Paul’s time. It had a deep water harbor surrounded by sea walls, an aquarium, water front temples of idolatry to Aphrodite, Isis, Poseidon, and few other idols. There was a Roman Naval base there and the area was surrounded by fertile land. The name Cenchrea means “the head”. Many wealthy Corinthians had second homes in this beautiful beach town. It would have been natural for Paul to have come to Cenchrea on his way back to Antioch because of the merchant shipping industry there. It is interesting to point out that Phoebe, the female leader in Cenchrea mentioned in Romans 16:1 apparently had a travelling ministry because Paul commends her to the Church in Rome.
b) Paul stayed in Corinth about a year and a half strengthening the Church along with Priscilla, Aquila, Timothy, Luke, and Silas. This was the leadership team that was helping establish the Corinthian Church. Paul Aquila and Priscilla to travel with them, but in verse 19 we see a change of plans and this husband and wife team stay in Ephesus to minister. We will fill in this blank later on in Acts 19.
c) Before Paul departed from the area he shaved his head because of a Nazirite vow of consecration. See Numbers 6. It seems that Paul spiritualizes the demands of the Nazirite (Consecrated) vow because he found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. According to the vow he would have had to shave his head at the Temple in Jerusalem and present his hair, a ram, and a basket of unleavened bread as a peace offering to the Lord. In this instance we see Paul shaving his head in Cenchrea to end the vow as he completes his missionary journey.
d) Spiritual truths in the Nazirite vow: 1 – Anyone could set themselves apart for the Lord. He loves relationship. In the midst of the Law, God made a way for the
hungry to be close to Him. 2- No cutting the hair or shaving the face. This is symbolic of humility. Becoming unfashionable as a sign of coming close to God. 3 – No alcohol/wine, no grape juice, no raisins – Grapes were the symbol of feasting, worldly joy, and celebration. The Nazirite found his or her enjoyment in the Lord, and not in the party spirit. 4 – No touching the dead – This is symbolic of being separated from that which is corrupted by sin. Death in Jewish culture was seen as the consequence from the Fall. Therefore, the Nazirite vow focused on holiness and purity.
e) Paul definitely took a Nazirite vow sometime in Corinth. Probably as a response to the hedonism of Corinth, in thankfulness to the Lord, and in response to the encouraging vision that the Lord gave Paul in Corinth. Our take away here is that the Lord is always willing to partner with us in seasons of special consecration.
a) Paul continues according to the pattern he had so much success with by ministering to the Jews and coverts to Judaism first in the synagogue. This was Paul’s pattern for the following reasons: 1 – Paul was a Rabbi and Pharisee taught by a very respected teacher Gamaliel. 2 – Paul took advantage of his position that allowed him to speak. All men educated in the Scriptures were given time to speak freely at the end of their gatherings. 3 – Paul would have been able to use the prophetic power of the Scriptures to present Jesus as the Messiah to them. Silas would have been a viable witness because he was from Jerusalem. In this they appealed to the Law in Deuteronomy 19:15 as they presented the truth of Jesus Christ. 4 – The Jews were living with an expectation for Messiah to come. Undoubtedly many knew about John the Baptist, but did not know the details about Jesus Christ because of the geographic distance. Paul would have been able to fill in the gaps.
b) In verse 19, Luke fast forwards the narrative and then fills in the gaps. We can see the Providence of God’s leading here as Paul leaves Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus because a short time later Apollos comes to Ephesus and the Lord needed to straighten out his message and empower him as an apostle through Aquila and Priscilla discipling Apollos.
c) “If it is God’s will” – Clearly there is an open door to Paul in Ephesus, but remember that the Holy Spirit prevented Paul from ministering in the Province of Asia in Acts 16. The Lord expressly directed Paul to Macedonia. Paul made that statement because he still needed clarity if he was to minister in Asia. As we move forward in Acts, we can see that the Lord reserved the Ephesian revival for his Third Missionary Journey. In Ephesus we see the greatest city wide revival and reformation in Church history.
a) Paul departs from Ephesus and travels by ship to Caesarea. We were introduced to this port city in Acts 10, were Peter ministered to Cornelius. Caesarea had a sizable Christian Community by now, and Paul would have been a welcome visitor.
b) Verse 21 does not expressly say Paul went to Jerusalem. However, it is implied
in the text that Paul travelled from Caesarea to Jerusalem to meet with the Church leaders and give them a report. Many theologians point out that in Acts 19, we see demonstrative increase in power and anointing in Paul’s apostolic ministry in Ephesus. Many conclude that Paul met with James and was imparted to and encouraged to continue and grow in his ministry. c) Paul returned to Antioch which was the Apostolic launching point for the gospel to reach the Roman Empire. By this time the revival in Antioch had matured and the Christian Community there was reaping the benefit of staying committed to revival culture.
a) Paul begins his Third Missionary Journey in verse 23. We can assume that Luke, Timothy and Silas continued with Paul as he set back out to strengthen the Churches he planted.
b) We will notice that Paul shifts from the apostolic missionary role to the role of an apostolic father/pastor. He is visiting churches he planted to strengthen them, work with leadership and to father them through their unique situations.
a) We are introduced to Apollos in verse 24. Paul mentions Apollos multiple times in 1 Corinthians and in Titus 3:13 in the context of “one who waters the church”. Here we find an immature Apollos who is fired up for the Lord, but lacking knowledge.
b) Aquila and Priscilla disciple Apollos into the full revelation of Jesus Christ as Messiah. Apollos receives the fuller revelation, and moves on into Achaia to Corinth because 1 Corinthians shows us he had a very influential ministry, so much that the Church divided between Paul and Apollos. Church history tells us that the division in the Corinthian church was so deep at the time that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, that Apollos left Corinth to Crete with Zenas the Lawyer mentioned in Titus 3:13. After the division was healed he returned to Corinth and continued his ministry there.
c) It is interesting to note that Apollos was not appointed to the apostolic role from the Jerusalem Church or Antioch. In Apollos we see a minister who simply responds to the leading of the Holy Spirit and moves out in faith. We must never discount those who respond, but need more training. The Lord was faithful in keeping Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus so they could intercept him, disciple him and launch him back out with greater revelatory truth about Jesus.
a) While Paul was strengthening the Churches in Galatia and Asia, Apollos and Paul missed each other as Paul arrived in Ephesus and Apollos left for Corinth.
b) The Church in Ephesus wrote letters of recommendation for Apollos so he would be received as one was proven in ministry. This was how the Early Church recognized those who were safe to receive so the Church could avoid false teachers and prophets.
c) Scripture tells us that Apollos was skilled in the word, but lacking in the power
ministry of the Holy Spirit. As we move into Acts 19, we see the disciples of Apollos in Ephesus believing, but not being activated by the Holy Spirit. Apparently Apollos was not familiar with the baptism into Jesus and the filling of the Holy Spirit. See Acts 19:1-5 d) Lastly, many scholars hold the position that Apollos may have authored Hebrews because of his command of the Scriptures. I personally believe Paul or Barnabas wrote it. But it is an interesting thought supported by many respected theologians, including the great Reformer, Martin Luther.