SERMON DELIVERED ON 09-07-19 

       In last week's sermon in our series on the Book of Acts, we left Paul in Corinth where he began preaching primarily to the Jews but because the Jews were abusive toward him he told them he would focus his attention on the Gentiles.

       I must point out again, as I have done throughout this series, that while Paul is seen as the Apostle to the Gentiles and even refers to himself as the Apostle to the Gentiles in one of his letters, he never abandoned preaching to the Jews.  There were times he became exasperated with the Jews and virtually told them to go fly a kite as the saying goes, but these were moment in time occurrences and not some overall policy he initiated. As we continue to move through Acts we will see time and again that Paul preached to both Gentiles and Jews throughout his ministry.  We will see later as we move through chapter 18 that when Paul arrived at Ephesus the first thing he did was go into the synagogue and reason with the Jews.

       We will resume our journey through Acts in Chapter 18:7-8 where we see Paul leaving the synagogue and going next door to the house of Titius Justus who is described as a worshiper of God.  

       Acts 18: 7-8: Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God.  Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.  

       While this Titius appears to be a Gentile believer, he does not appear to be the Gentile Titus seen later as a companion of Paul.  The spellings of the names are similar but different (Titius versus Titus).  The man Crispus is mentioned here as ruler of the Synagogue.  According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, as ruler of the synagogue, Crispus would be responsible for selecting the readers or teachers in the synagogue, examining the discourses of the public speakers, and  seeing to it that all things were done with decency and in accordance with ancestral usage;

       It is interesting that while there was a contingent of Jews who were abusive to Paul, we have here the ruler of the synagogue seen as believing the Gospel message.  It is uncertain who the “him” is in the phrase “and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.”  Is the “him” Crispus or Paul?  The NET translation, in a footnote to this passage, points out that that the ambiguity here results from the tendency of the Greek to omit objects which must be supplied from the context.  The NET goes on to say that the "him" here could be Crispus, could be Paul or could even mean "about it," that is the Corinthians who heard about the conversation of Crispus and his family became believers.  The bottom line is that we can't be sure who or what the "him" is referring to.

       I do want to clarify who it was that are being referred to as Corinthians.  When we see believers referred to as Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians, Thessalonians, Colossians etc, there is a tendency to think of these believers as Gentile converts to Christianity.  While it is certainly true that many of these believers in these cities were Gentiles, there were many Jewish converts to Christianity in these cities as well.   

       It must be understood that there were millions of Jews living throughout the Roman Empire in the first century.  Just to give you some perspective, there were one million Jews living in Egypt alone of which 200,000 lived in Alexandria.  There were major Jewish communities in Syria, and Greece which would have included cities such as Antioch, Athens and Corinth. 

       So when you see reference in Scripture to Corinthian Christians or Thessalonian Christians or Ephesian Christians you are seeing reference to both Gentile and Jewish Christians. While it is true that Paul established Christian Churches in various Gentile cities. There is every reason to believe these Churches had a mix of Gentile and Jewish converts to Christianity.  This is clearly seen in Paul’s letters to these various Churches were we see Paul dealing with conflicts within these Churches between Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians over issues relating to the Mosaic Law. 

       Acts 18:9-11: One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.  For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city." So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

       Here we read how the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision telling him to not be afraid and to keep on speaking.  Paul is told the Lord will be with him and no one is going to attack and harm him because the Lord has many people in the city of Corinth.  

       Apparently Paul needed some encouragement at this point in his ministry.  Paul had been on the road for many months.  He was being constantly opposed and persecuted by the unbelieving Jews. He had on occasion been sneaked out of cities to avoid possible harm. As we will shortly see, Paul would again be attacked by his Jewish opponents    

       The Lord is telling Paul to hang in there because there were many people in Corinth that would be converted.  So it’s recorded that Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. What follows is a rather telling incident.

       Acts 18:12-27:  While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court. "This man," they charged, "is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law."  

       Achaia was a region that identified the nation of Greece south of the area designated as Macedonia.  Both Athens and Corinth were part of Achaia and both were sizable cities. 

       According to the Roman historian Suetonius, Gallio was a brother of the philosopher Seneca who was a tutor to Nero who would later become the Roman Emperor.  Gallio was proconsul of Achaia from AD 51-52.

       Now this incident with the Jews happened while Paul was in Corinth. At what point during his year and one-half stay in Corinth we are not told.  Where it is written that the Jews made a united attach on Paul, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon shows the Greek phrase used here means they rose up against Paul with hostile intent.  The KJV renders it as, “the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul.”  When it is said they brought Paul into court it is very likely they forcefully brought him.  Thayer’s Lexicon shows that one meaning of the Greek word rendered “brought” in the NIV is “to lead by laying hold of.”  Knowing the Jews hostility toward Paul, it is very likely they laid hold on Paul and rudely brought him to the Court. 

       It must be remembered that Paul and his companions were experiencing increasing success in bringing Jews, Gentile proselytes to Judaism and now pagan Gentiles to Christ.  The unbelieving Jews saw this as a threat to their religion.  As we see from Paul’s letters, he was instructing Gentile converts that they did not have to keep the Law of Moses to be saved.  This highly infuriated the unbelieving Jews and also caused consternation among Jewish converts to Christ who still believed you had to keep the Mosaic Law.    

       Paul was having to do battle with the Jews on two fronts.  He had the unbelieving Jews who were out to get him and virtually destroy the Christian movement and he had Jewish converts to Christianity opposing his teaching that Gentile converts did not have to keep the Mosaic regulations to be saved.  As we move along in this series, we will see Paul would also face pagan Gentile opposition. 

       When it is said that Paul was brought to the court, it apparently is to the Greek agora or marketplace that he was brought.  According to Roman history, Roman governors of provinces commonly held court in the marketplace on certain fixed days so that anyone having a grievance could be heard. The Jews dragged Paul before Gallio to aire their grievances against him. This was a very public event.

       Acts 18: 14-17: Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, "If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law--settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things."   So he had them ejected from the court. Then they all turned on Sosthenes the synagogue ruler and beat him in front of the court. But Gallio showed no concern whatever.

       So Paul caught a break of sorts here and apparently the Jews didn’t do anything further to Paul but instead took out their frustrations on a man named Sosthenes who is shown to be a ruler of the synagogue.  They beat him in front of the court while Gallio showed no concern whatever.

       Now this account is a little puzzling in that the name Sosthenes is a Greek name. What was a Greek doing being a ruler of the local synagogue?  Why did Paul’s accusers turn on Sosthenes?  There is no definitive answer to this question.  This could have been a Greek who had embraced Judaism and risen through the ranks to become ruler of the local synagogue.  It could have been a Jew who had a Greek father and Jewish mother and the father gave him a Greek name.  We just don’t know. 

       Why was this man attacked and beaten, presumably by the disgruntled Jews who didn’t get their way with Paul?  The answer may lie in 1 Corinthians 1:1.

       1 Corinthians 1:1: Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

       It is interesting that Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is apparently written together with a man called Sosthenes.  While we can’t be certain this is the same Sosthenes mentioned in Acts 18, if it was the same man it could provide a rational for why the Jews beat him.  He may have become a convert to Christianity or was leaning in that direction and the Jews knowing this took their frustrations out on him.  Again this is speculation.  We don’t have enough information here to arrive at a definitive answer on this matter.  

       Acts 18:18.  Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken.

       It is recorded that Paul stayed in Corinth for some time.  We already saw in 18:11 that Paul stayed a year and one-half teaching in Corinth. This apparently was before the incident with the proconsul Gallio.  Indications are that Paul stayed in Corinth for some time after that incident.  Remember in 18: 9-11 we read that Paul was told in a vision that God had many in Corinth that would be receptive to the Gospel massage. So it is apparent Paul stayed there for many months.  

       Now when it is said Paul left Corinth and sailed for Syria, it is evident he made several stops along the way.  As we will see going forward in Acts 18, he first sailed to Ephesus, and then to Caesarea some 500 miles southeast. It is also apparent he went to Jerusalem before arriving at Antioch Syria. More on that later.  It is recorded that before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken.

       Cenchrea was the eastern harbor of Corinth on the Aegean Sea located about seven miles from the city of Corinth.  It is apparent Paul or an associate established a church there.  We see a deaconess by the name of Phoebe being from the church at Cenchrea as recorded in Romans 1:1.

       It is instructive that we are told that Paul had his hair cut off because of a vow he had taken. What is that all about?   Vows are mentioned a number of times in the Hebrew Scriptures including what was called a Nazarite vow where one does not cut his hair for a certain period of time.  When the hair was cut it was presented as a virtual sacrifice before God and done at the tabernacle in the wilderness and later at the Temple after it was built.  Because Paul had his hair cut at Cenchrea and not at the Temple in Jerusalem, it is believed the vow he took was not a Nazarite vow. 

       The fact of the matter is that we are not given enough information here to determine what the vow was that Paul took or why he took it.  A greater question may be why Paul was doing the vow thing at all since this was an Old Covenant thing and we see Paul teaching that the Old Covenant was being replaced by the New Covenant which doesn’t appear to have regulations governing vows.

       Paul is seen throughout the New Testament narrative as from time to time observing Old Covenant regulations.  Did he do this because he believed he was obligated to do so?  Did Paul, like many if not most of the Jews that came to believe in Christ, continue to also believe that Mosaic regulations were still in force for Jewish converts to Christianity.  We know that Paul taught that Gentiles converts to Christianity were not obligated to keep the Mosaic regulations.  What about Jewish converts?   Paul made an interesting statement in his first letter to the Corinthian Church.

       1 Corinthians 9:19-21: Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law.

       Apparently Paul felt it was not inappropriate to behave in accordance with Jewish customs and OT regulations if by doing so it would open the door to preach Christ to the Jews.  For those not under the law, that is Gentiles, Paul believed it was not inappropriate to behave in ways contrary the Mosaic regulations as long as such behavior was not in violation of the Law of Christ which appears to be a reference primarily to the moral law which was extant under the Old Covenant as well. 

       We saw in a previous sermon in this series where Paul had Timothy circumcised even though Timothy was half Greek in that he had a Greek father and a Jewish mother. Paul did this to appease the Jews in the area and thus enable him to take Timothy alone on his missionary journey.

       We will be seeing in Acts 21 that Paul engaged in certain purification rites after being told that that thousands of Jews had come to believe in Christ but remained zealous for the Law.  Other passages of Scripture that we will be looking at as we continue our journey through Acts appear to suggest Paul was keeping Old Covenant Feast days.  In previous sermons in this series I discussed in detail Paul’s teaching as to how the Sabbath, Feast Days and other such regulations were a shadow of what had now been fulfilled in Christ and therefore there no longer was a need to keep the shadows.  Paul makes this very clear in his letter to the Colossians which we covered in detail some weeks ago.

       While the Jerusalem conference primarily addressed the issue of Gentile converts to Christianity not having to be circumcised and keep Mosaic regulations, it is unlikely that Paul believed that Jewish converts remained obligated to keep Mosaic regulations.  It is most likely that Paul observed such regulations from time to time to get a foot in the door to preach Christ to unbelieving Jews and to accommodate Jews that had come to believe in Jesus but still believed they had to keep the Mosaic regulations.  This is certainly what is indicated by what he wrote the Corinthians.

       Paul plainly says that to the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law).  When Paul speaks of not being under the law he is speaking about the not being under Old Covenant regulations.  He further speaks of being under Christ’s law which is being under the moral law that has been extant since creation.

       As we have discussed before, Jewish converts to Christianity didn’t suddenly abandon keeping the Law.  They did not suddenly stop being circumcised or suddenly stop keeping the Mosaic regulations. They simply added Christ to these regulations.  It took a while for Jewish converts to understand the full significance of the Christ event and how that event brought about covenantal change. 

       We left off in 18:18 where it is said that Paul stayed in Corinth for some time and then sailed for Syria taking with him Priscilla and Aquila whom he had met in Corinth.  In verses 19 through 22 we read the following:

       Acts 18:19-22:  They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.  When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, "I will come back if it is God's will." Then he set sail from Ephesus. When he landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.

       As I already stated, in sailing to Syria, Paul made several stops along the way.  He first went to Ephesus where he left Priscilla and Aquila and went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.  So here again we see the so-called Apostle to the Gentiles arriving at a Gentile city but what is the first thing he does, he goes to the local synagogue and reasons with the Jews.  As I have shown many times as we journey through the Book of Acts, while Paul may be seen as the Apostle to the Gentiles which he was, he never ceased being an Apostle to the Jews as well. 

       After leaving Ephesus, Paul travelled to Caesarea. Did he also make a stop at Jerusalem?  Why do I ask that question? The rendering of Acts 18:19-22 from the NIV that we just read says nothing about going to Jerusalem.  The NIV rendering shows Paul arriving at Ephesus, then sailing to Caesarea and then going to Antioch.  Most modern English translations render this passage much like you see from the NIV.  However, here is how the KJV renders it.

       And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.  When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus. And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch.

       The KJV translates from the Greek manuscript called Textus Receptus which includes the narrative about keeping the feast in Jerusalem.  A number of older Greek manuscripts and more recent manuscripts do not contain this narrative. Whether this narrative was in the original text is unknown. We have no original texts of the NT.  What we have are copies of copies.  Therefore we can’t be sure how or why this narrative appears in some Greek texts and not in others. Some have speculated that it was in the original but later eliminated by translators who believed Paul would not be keeping Old Covenant Feast Days.

       However, as we have already seen, Paul did participate in Old Covenant rites when he found it to his advantage to open the door to preaching the Gospel of Christ to the Jews. It is apparent that Paul did make a stop at Jerusalem on his was to Antioch. Verse 22 records that “When he landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.  The NET translation footnotes this verse in the following manner:

       “The expression “go up” refers almost exclusively to the direction of Jerusalem, while the corresponding “go down” refers to directions away from Jerusalem. Both expressions are based on a Hebrew idiom.”

       Caesarea is a sea port on the Mediterranean and is located on the west coast of Israel.  It is around 70 miles from Jerusalem.  When we consider that some Greek texts show Paul wanting to get to Jerusalem to keep a feast and when considering that the phrase “go up” generally means going up to Jerusalem. It is apparent Paul did make a stop at Jerusalem on his way to Antioch Syria even though the text in verse 22 doesn’t explicitly say so. After leaving Jerusalem it would have been a 300 mile trip to Antioch.

       Acts 18:23: After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

       Going up to Antioch is considered the end of Paul’s second missionary journey.  Traveling throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia is considered Paul’s third missionary journey.


       1 Corinthians 11:23-25: For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."      

       You will note that Paul speaks of this ceremony being done in remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus and how this sacrifice facilitated transition to a new covenant. While the Old Covenant was between God and Israel, we see through the teachings of the NT writers that the New Covenant was between God and all of mankind. The New Covenant is a Covenant of mercy and forgiveness that is applicable to everyone.  So as we partake of the bread and wine, it reassures us that our sins are atoned for and we have been reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.