Acts 18: 1-17

After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tent makers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” And he drove them from the tribunal. And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.

Understanding And Applying the Text

Paul was not persecuted in Athens. And he was not driven from the city. The Jews were the ones who had interest in persecuting Paul. Even so, the reception at Athens was cold. There was little prospect of doing good there. So Paul left Athens. He left those who believed with Dionysius. He went to Corinth, There he planted a church. From all accounts the church at Corinth grew large.

Corinth was a rich, splendid city. It was the capital city of the senatorial province of Achaia. It was the seat of the Roman proconsul. It was 55 mile west of Athens. Corinth was a major rival to Athens and, at that time, was the largest city in Greece.

In Corinth, Paul met Aquila. Aquila was born in Pontus. He left Pontus to live in Rome. Claudius commanded all Jew to leave Rome. So, Aquila ended up in Corinth.

There were at least two earlier expulsions of Jews from Rome. The first was in 139 BC. The Jews were expelled because they were converting the populace. Tiberius expelled them again in AD 19 for similar reasons. The exact dating of this exile is uncertain. The best guess is January AD 41.

Paul and Aquila worked at the same trade. They were tentmakers. So Paul resided with Aquilla and his wife Pricilla. Paul worked with his hands. We understand from 1 Corinthians 9:12 Paul did not take anything from the Corinthians. Rather his work as a tentmaker sustained himself.

While we cannot be certain, it is likely Paul learned this trade as a child. It was common for Jews to teach their children a trade.

Paul presented the Gospel in the synagogue every Sabbath. This was Paul’s custom. Luke tells us Paul reasoned with them. This does not mean Paul augured or debated. Paul engaged in a series of questions and answers. He did not argue or debate. Paul had a conversation. The conversation had a purpose. The purpose was to present the Gospel. Paul induced little by little.

The Jews understood the law to be something it was not. The Law did not contain a means of salvation. (Hebrews 10:4) Keeping the Law did not and does not appease God. Paul talked about men’s wicked nature. The Law condemns us. It shows us our unrighteousness. (Romans 7:5). Paul spoke of the need for grace and the promised Redeemer.

The response to Paul’s preaching was rage. Through the scripture, Paul proved Jesus was the Christ. But they rejected the message.

he ESV translates the Greek as they “reviled him”. The King James translates it “blasphemed him.” In modern English blaspheme has a narrow meaning. We understand it to be against God. But by changing the translation we lose the strength of their assault. The Greek is most often involves defamation and slander against persons. Men often resorted to character assassination once they lose an argument.

They slandered Paul. They defamed his character. This was character assignation. Note the logical fallacy. They could not refute Paul’s logic and evidence. So they attacked the messenger. Why? Because they had no defense against the message. The message was true. So they could only attack the one who spoke the truth.

Let us pray for strength when we face the same. God’s word is strong. Men cannot stand against it. So they resort to attacking our character. Since we are all sinner, their attack may land hard. We are all guilty. But our guilt, our weakness, our sin does not alter the truth. God’s word is truth. (John 17:17)

Paul’s reaction was to shake the dust off his clothes. This is a Hebrew expression. Paul was saying the Jews were the cause of their own destruction. He was not to blame. This was a symbolic action. It was similar, but not identical, to the practice of shaking the dust off one’s feet. (Act 13:51). The two actions are related but different. The dust shaken off the feet settles on the clothes. So this action is more severe. The meaning is, “I am done with you! You are accountable to God.”

Paul had done his duty. He had presented the gospel. Their rejection was on them. There comes a time when it is wise to leave the obstreperous to themselves. Paul’s announcing he was going to the Gentiles did not mean he broke off all relations with the Jews. It meant he would no longer preach in the synagogue.

Luke tells us Paul left the synagogue and went to the house of a man named Titus Justus. Titus’ house was next door to the synagogue. Paul did not change his lodging. He still lodged with Aquila. He only left the synagogue went next door.

Crispus the ruler of the synagogue believed Paul’s message and then many others believed too.
The wording of verse 8 in the Greek is ambiguous. Greek often omits direct objects. We have to supply it from the context. The issue is we can read verse 8 at least three ways.

  • And many of the Corinthians who heard him.
  • And many of the Corinthians who heard Paul.
  • And many of the Corinthians who heard it.

With the first options who is “him”. It could be Paul or Crispus. It is unlikely Crispus. There is no sign Crispus began to speak out about the Lord.

The second option is how the ESV translates it. Paul was speaking in the synagogue and was not speaking at Titus Justus’ house. The people heard Paul and believed.

The third option is “it” That is the way the NET translates “it.” Meaning those who heard of Crispus belief and they also believed.

The King James and American Standard avoid the issue by not inserting an object. “many of the Corinthians hearing believed” But it still begs the question. Hearing what? Hearing who?

In his commentary, Wesley says it means both. “And many hearing – The conversation of Crispus, and the preaching of Paul.”

Why am I dwelling on this? The issue is important in this sense. How is the word of God or Gospel preached? Is it preached by proclamation? Or is our life also a means of preaching. I think Wesley had it right. I think the Holy Spirit had Luke take advantage of the Greek grammar. It was ambiguous on purpose. It is both/and. We are not the gospel. We must proclaim the gospel. But our lives illustrate the gospel. Like most illustrations, our lives are imperfect. We are imperfect illustrations. There is a saying attributed to Francis of Assisi, “preach the gospel and if necessary use words.” This misses the mark. We must preach the gospel with both our words and our lives. It is not an either/or. It is both/and.

As a side note and in Francis’ defense, there is no reliable evidence he actually said that.
The next question is, who is Crispus? Is he the same ruler mentioned in verse 17? In verse 17 the ruler is Sosthenes. This is unlikely. Paul mentions Sosthenes in 1 Corinthians 1:1 Later he mentions Crispus as one to the few he baptized. (1 Corinthians 1:14) Theses are two separate men. Verses 8 and 17 are separated by over a year. The leadership changed over that time.

One night Paul had a vision. Visions were not common occurrences. Nor are they common today. God spoke through the scripture in the first century. And He speaks through the scripture today. If you seek God’s will, search the scriptures.

Paul was tired, weak, and scared. (1 Corinthians 2:3) The Lord said fear not. (verse 9) These words would contain no meaning if Paul was not afraid. He had cause for fear. He had suffered beatings. They had even left him for dead once. He could see this happening all over again. The Jews had assaulted his character. It was a short step from there to physical assault. This fear was not unfounded. Later in the section, the Jews drag him to the Roman authorities. Paul needed some support. That was why the Lord came to him in a vision.

Many have said the Lord came to Paul in a dream. But the scripture distinguishes visions and dreams. (Numbers 12:6) This was a vision. Paul was awake. God appeared to him through some sign.

Paul stayed in Corinth a year and a half. Paul stayed in Corinth longer than anywhere else.

When Gallio became proconsul, the Jew brought Paul to the judgment seat. Gallio was proconsul of Achaia from A.D. 51-52. This is a well-established date. Gallio’s rule is established from an inscription (W. Dittenberger, ed., Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum 2.3 no. 8). So this event is probably dated July-October A.D. 51.

Gallio was the brother of the famous Seneca. He was known for having a sweet and generous temperament. Yet we see in this account he could lack interest in justice.

The Jews brought Paul to Gallio saying Paul broke the law. But which law? It is unlikely they thought Gallio would enforce Jewish law. So the likelihood is they tried to frame it to appear Paul broke Roman law. They had already shown their propensity to slander. Paul had not broken either Roman or Jewish Law,

Gallio was not a fool. He saw through the rouse. Gallio refused to hear them. He refused not because of an interest in justice. Rome forbid their magistrates to meddle in local religious disputes.

The Jews brought Paul to the judgment seat. The judgment seat was a raised platform. It was high enough to need steps to ascend it. Sometimes it had an actual seat. Officials used it to address an assembly or making pronouncements. These pronouncements were often on judicial matters. The judgment seat was a familiar item in Greco-Roman culture. It was often located in the agora or public square in the center of a city. So this was a very public event.

The charge which concerned the Jews was how God was being worshiped. Paul was not requiring the Gentiles to follow all aspects of the Mosaic law. That included circumcision. They hinted Paul was creating public chaos. But Gallio understood this as disrupting Jewish custom. Luke often demonstrates Christianity was not new. Christianity was within Judaism. That was how Gallio saw it too. This was an in house dispute. So when Paul opened his mouth to defend himself, Gallio cut him off.

To paraphrase Gallio, “I have heard the charges and there is no crime. I don’t anything to do with these so-called charges. Handle this by yourself.” Then Gallio threw them out. He did not throw them out himself. But like a modern courtroom. He threw out the case. “Bailiff remove the plaintiffs from the courtroom.”

The Jews then grabbed Sosthenes and beat him. They beat him in full view of the Gallio. This shows how disinterested Gallio was. Rome was officially indifferent to such disputes. Gallio knew how sensitive some Jews were about his meddling in their affairs. This is like how Pilate dealt with Jesus. In the end, he let the Jewish leadership and people make the judgment against Jesus.

he Jewish mob grabbed Sosthenes and beat him. Who was this Sosthenes? He was the ruler of the synagogue. So that would say he was not a believer. It is likely he took over after Crispus. He was probably Paul’s chief accuser. The fact he lost in spectacular fashion enraged that crowd.

But this Sosthenes was also likely the Sosthenes Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 1:1. He became a Paul’s traveling companion and a believer.

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