Acts chapter 18. And this morning we’re going to begin our study and consider what really is one total message through verse 18, but we’ll just go through verse 8 this morning.
Paul gave some great advice to the Thessalonians. And he wrote to the Thessalonians from the city of Corinth. In fact, he wrote this advice right while he was experiencing what we’re going to study this morning. And this is what he said, “But ye brethren, be not weary in well doing.”
As he wrote that to the Thessalonians, from Corinth, he was really writing out of his own experience. Because as he arrived in the city of Corinth, he was weary. And I don’t suppose there’s anybody in at our service who doesn’t get to that place.
I don’t suppose there’s any Christian who – who could say, “I’ve never been discouraged,” or, “I’ve never been disheartened.” We’ve all been there. And maybe we’ve all been weary in well doing.
But God is in the business of encouragement. And we’re going to see, in verses 1 through 18, how God encourages a weary servant, and at the same time preaches the Gospel in Vanity Fair, which is just a term to describe the city of Corinth.
Now, Paul, when he arrived in Corinth, had really had it. He’d been chased halfway around the world. He started out in Antioch of Syria on a simple missionary journey with Silas, confirmed some churches in the area over near Syria, and went through Galatia; confirmed the saints there, took off, continued west, and pursued the course as he was driven by the Holy Spirit. He finally crossed over from Troas and entered into Philippi, and there he preached, and there he was hassled, and there he was chased out of town.
And he arrived in Thessalonica, and there he was persecuted terribly, had to run for his life, and he got to Berea. And no sooner had he established the church there, then the Thessalonians arrived to chase him again. And he finally found himself all alone in the city of Athens. And he was weary there.
And the Gospel presented at Athens was clear, and there wasn’t an persecution, but there really wasn’t any reception to speak of. It was – it was minimal. And so, he didn’t stay long in Athens. And he packed up, and he left Athens.
And he comes in; again he’s alone. And he arrives in the city of Corinth, and he’s discouraged, and he’s despondent. And he’s weak, and he may have been even physically ill. And it’s at that point that God moves in to encourage him. And it is from the Corinthian experience that he writes to the Thessalonians and says, “Brethren, be not weary in well doing.” And he says, “But ye, brethren,” indicating that maybe they couldn’t actually follow his example in that case, for he had been weary.
Now, when we saw him in Athens last time, in chapter 17, we saw him in the intellectual city. We saw him in a city that is the university type city; a city of culture; a city of information, of learning, of astuteness. And he’s gone from Athens to Corinth. And if Athens is the city of learning, Corinth is sin city. And best we could probably name it that. It was the most debauched and debased city in – in that world of that day.
In fact, the actual name Corinth became a common term. And – quote – Corinthian meant immoral. If you said, “Joe over there is a Corinthian kind of guy,” you meant he was immoral. The name became synonymous with vice. To say that that woman is a Corinthian woman meant she was a prostitute, because that’s what the women did in Corinth. And the verb to corinthianize meant to go a whoring. That’s exactly what the common use of corinthianize was.
Now, Corinth was vile to the very core. It wasn’t just the slaves or the middle class, it was the upper crust. The whole city was debased. And there were some reasons for that. It was a center of trade and travel, and sailors were going through it all the time, and caravans. And it was a fitting place for – for entertainment of lust.
The position of Corinth, which I just want to simply illustrate for you in a very brief way, was very interesting and put it in a position to be involved in many interesting things. This entire area, in the gray or black, represents the area of Greece. This is the northern part of Greece. This is the southern part of Greece.
Now, you’ll notice that the two parts are connected by a simple little strait there. And that’s only five miles wide, and it was precisely at the center of that that the city of Corinth existed some 50 miles from Athens.
Now, Paul, all alone, finds himself in Corinth. Now notice; anybody at all who went from northern Greece to southern Greece or vice versa, any north-south traffic had to go through Corinth. So, the trade was constantly trafficking through the city of Corinth.
Another interesting thing is that it was called the bridge of Greece; not only because of its north-south traffic, but because of its East-West traffic. Ships wanting to go, say, from the western shore of Greece to the eastern shore would not sail clear around; they would shortcut it through here. In fact, this was known as the Cape of Malea and was sort of like sailing around the Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope. It was a very treacherous journey. The Greeks used to say, “Any man who sails around the Cape might well write his will before he leaves.” Very treacherous. And in the frail kind of vessels they had in those days, men didn’t even want to attempt it. It was also a 200-mile shortcut to go this way.
You say, “Well, what did they do when they got to land?”
Well, very often they would unload their entire cargo. They would carry it across on the backs of slaves, or pull it in some kind of apparatus, and they would load it onto a different ship here so that ships would just run half circuits going both ways. In fact, it was such an advantage to go across there that many ships were placed on rollers, and the whole ship was rolled five miles across the land and dumped back in the water to continue the journey east or vice versa to the west.
Now, this area here was a very important gulf, the Saronic Gulf, and this is the Corinthian Gulf. And there were two very important cities, Cenchreae and Lechaeum on the shore. And from those cities, everything went to Corinth. So, Corinth held a very strategic location.
You might say to yourself, “Why didn’t somebody build a canal?”
Well, Julius Caesar had the idea. And Nero started it. And it was finished in 1893. So, it took a while, but there’s one there now. Now, the result of this particular location was the fact that there was a tremendous amount of traffic there. And as I said, it became a place where all kinds of activities went on, mostly to entertain the traffic, and so it lent itself greatly to the kind of immorality that became common and synonymous with its name.
Now, Corinth was also a familiar cit to many because of the fact that it had what was called the Isthmian Games, which were second only to the Olympics. So, it was the center of sport. The people in Corinth were characterized all around the world as vile people. You know, the Greeks used to love stage plays. They used to put on all kinds of plays, morality plays, and all kinds of things, Greek tragedies, the whole thing. And whenever a Corinthian was in a play, he was always depicted drunk just because of the character of Corinth. If you were from Corinth, you were drunk and immoral.
Now, in the city of Corinth, there was a giant hill that dominated it like a big fortress, and it was a pretty impregnable hill. It is called the Acropolis, and some of you may have heard of it. But the Acropolis was more than just a fortress; it was more than just a hill; it was a temple. And on the top of the Acropolis was built a massive temple to the goddess Aphrodite, who was sort of the goddess of sexual activity.
Now, ministering, and I use the word loosely, in Aphrodite’s temple were a thousand priestesses, and their particular ministry was the ministry of prostitution. And so, every evening, these thousand priestesses descended from the Acropolis and infiltrated the city of Corinth and plied their trade. And so, it was a wide-open, carnival atmosphere. The whole city was nothing but a great big hustling territory for professional prostitutes.
Now, if you think Paul had a rough time in a city of intellectuals, you can imagine the change when he got into this place. If Athens glorified the mind, Corinth glorified the body. And it’s an exciting thing to see a man who is not only courageous, but who is adaptable and who can meet anything on its own grounds and come out on top.
Now, Corinth was important politically. Corinth was really the county seat, only you might call it the provincial capital. It was to Greece what Washington, D.C. is to America, in a sense. It was a – it was a provincial capital, which meant that the proconsul of Rome stayed there. And the headquarters were there.
It has been said by some writers that Corinth was the Vanity Fair of the Roman Empire. It was at once the worst of Paris and the worst of London put together. That was Corinth. And so, we say that when Paul went to Corinth, it was the Gospel in Vanity Fair.
Now, when wanting to describe somebody, if you really wanted to degrade somebody, if you were really upset with somebody, or you wanted to really let them have the lowest blow you could possibly deliver, you would say, “Oh, that individual lives like a Corinthian.” And that was – that was absolute desecration to speak like that.
Now, if you’d like a description of how the Corinthians lived, there are many found. You can read 1 and 2 Corinthians, and you can find how the crud of Corinth seeped into the church. You know, just to show you how bad the city was, the church had certain members, certain Christian members who were celebrating the fact that they were having sexual relations with their parents.
Now, when the church gets that in it, you can imagine what must be going on in the world around the church. William Ramsey said that characteristically, churches take on the characteristics of the environment in which they exist culturally. And he’s right to a great extent. And the Corinthian church really had a tough time shoring up the holes to keep the garbage of the city from leaking in. And Paul had to write two letters to straighten them out. And over and over again tell them to shape up and purify themselves and cleanse themselves and, “You shouldn’t act like that, because you’re washed, and you’re clean; cut that out,” and so forth.
And here comes the apostle Paul, and he’s going to come to there, and God is going to choose out some believers. And if I could give a vivid metaphor, it would be like looking for jewels in a cesspool. That’s vivid, right? And that’s exactly what evangelism in Corinth was like. And Paul had to go there to try to find these individuals.
Now, look at verse 10 as an interesting little footnote. The end of verse 10 says, “Then the Lord speaks to Paul, ‘I have many people in this city.’” “I have many jewels hidden in this cesspool, and, Paul, you’re my man to pull them out.” Now, this was God’s elect; these were sovereignly chosen ones, and they were in that city, and they were not yet saved, but they were about to be as Paul came with the Gospel. They were prepared hearts, seeking hearts, ready hearts in the midst of that cesspool of Corinth, and Paul was going to reach them with the Gospel.
And it’s exciting to realize that, you know, God cannot always do a lot with intellectuals, but boy, He can always do a lot with rotten sinners. Paul didn’t stay long in Athens, but he stayed long in Corinth, and Corinth became almost a base of operation for the Gospel.
You know, it was from the city of Corinth that he wrote 1 Thessalonians, that he wrote 2 Thessalonians, that he wrote Romans? And it was back to the Christians at Corinth that he wrote 1 and 2 Corinthians. So, the church in Corinth became a very important base of operations for New Testament, first-century Christianity.
Now, when Paul arrived there, he was really discouraged. And as I said at the very beginning, he was at the point where he was weary. I mean let’s face it; you get chased halfway around the world, and hated by everybody, and hassled by everybody, and frustrated, and you arrive at the next city, and it looks like the worst thing you’ve ever seen yet, that could get a little old. And he was discouraged.
Well, you know, God is a God of encouragement. I’m not going to take the time to take you through the Psalms and show you all the places where the Psalms reflect on God as a God of encouragement, how many times you could study even in the New Testament where Jesus said, “Be of good cheer,” or where you think, in John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” God is always, throughout all of revelation, concerned with the encouragement of His own.
Now, do you believe Philippians 4 is true, “My God shall supply” – what? – “all your needs”? Then if a believer needs to be encouraged, what’ll God do? He’ll encourage you. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I can say I’ve lived a – a whole long period of time without being discouraged. I get discouraged all the time. Discouragement is just a part of life, because you have hopes and dreams and desires for people’s lives, and they don’t come off. Or maybe you spend yourself, and there’s an ungrateful heart, or a criticism that’s unjust, which attempts to impugn your motives or whatever. Or maybe you’re discouraged with your lot in life, or maybe things aren’t working out. We all live with that, but God is a God of encouragement.
And here’s Paul, and he’s at the bottom. I mean he’s discouraged. He was discouraged when he got to Athens, and it didn’t get any better. And God’s going to come in and – and this is a – verses 1 to 18 is a section all about encouragement. And boy, I know I can relate to it; I pray God you can. He encourages Paul four ways, and we’ll take two of them this time. There’s four things that – that God encourages Paul with. One, companionship, his friends. God brings some friends into his life. And isn’t it true that friends are an encouragement? Two, apostleship, his converts. God brings some converts into his life, and that’s encouraging. Three, fellowship, his God. God Himself comes and fellowships with him and encourages him. And fourth, hardship, his enemies. Did you know you could be encouraged by your enemies? Well, we’ll see that in a couple of weeks, and that is really an exciting thing to see.
First of all, let’s look at companionship. God wants to encourage his downhearted, weary servant. And he’s alone now, and he’s in this city, and so he encourages him with companionship, verses 1 through the first part of verse 5.
Paul was a – I mean he was one in a million. He was one in history. He arrives in town, and you know what happens? No fanfare, no band plays, no banner “Welcome to the Apostle Paul.” Nothing. He just walks in quiet, unannounced, doesn’t even know anybody. All alone.
And you say, “Well, how do you know he was discouraged?”
Well, there’s several reasons I know he was discouraged. When he wrote back to the Corinthians – you know, he came to Corinth here, and when he wrote back, he reflected on what his attitude was when he arrived.
In 1 Corinthians 2:3, he says this, and I think this is indicative of his spirit, he says, “I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.” Now, is it like Paul to shake a lot? That isn’t like him at all. He was in weakness and fear, and he was shaking.
Now, it may have been that he was physically sick as well. But he was hurting. And he wrote back to the Corinthians later, and he said, “You remember when I did come, I was hurting. Weakness. Fear. And I was shaking.”
And, you know, when he wrote to the Thessalonians, he wrote the letter to the Thessalonians right from Corinth, right there when he was there in chapter 18, and we’ll see that in a minute. When he wrote them, he says in 1 Thessalonians 3:7, “Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith.”
You see, what happened was, when he was in Corinth, he got word the Thessalonians were growing, and he says, “I was comforted in my affliction and distress.” There are five words: fear, trembling – he was nervous, he was trembling, he was in fear, he was in distress, he was in affliction. Now, that spells that he was hurting. He was at the bottom, as it were, in the point of discouragement. Nothing had seemed to go like he thought.
When he got to Philippi, sure, Lydia’s household got saved, and the jailer got saved, but then the whole city turned on him, and he had to run. He got to Thessalonica, and had a great time there, and some people got saved, and a little church got started. And they chased him out of that place, and he went over to Berea, and it was quiet there. And they were noble people, and they believed. And they searched the Scriptures, and they got saved. And they didn’t hassle him, but guess what? The gang of Jews from Thessalonica came bearing down on Berea to get him again. And they got him out of there at night, and they hustled him to Athens. And he got to Athens, and he gave a – a dramatic and dynamic intellectual offering of who God was. And they heard it, and they listened to it all, and a few believed. And he was discouraged, and he left Athens, and he came to Corinth. And he saw the rottenness of that place, and he just didn’t know if he could handle it. It just looked like too much.
And it was precisely at that point that God said, “You need some friends.” And God said, “I’m going to comfort you with some companionship.” And God brought two people into his life that became so beloved that he mentions them again and again and again throughout his ministry.
Look at verse 2, “After these things Paul departed from Athens, came to Corinth, and found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus” – Pontus was a province just on the southern edge of the Black Sea, over there north of Turkey – modern Turkey. So, he was born in Pontus, a certain Jew named Aquila. “He lately had come from Italy with his wife Priscilla” - now, we don’t know whether she was a Jew or a Gentile; it doesn’t say – (because Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome) and had come to Corinth.”
Now, here is Aquila and Priscilla. Now you have heard those names, haven’t you, if you’ve studied the Bible? They became two of the most beloved friends of Paul.
It’s interesting, I think, to note here that Aquila is mentioned first, but from now on, in the remaining cases, most of them mention Priscilla first. I think it’s two out of three. And you say, “Well, why would that be?” Well, there’s really three reasons, if you want to count henpecked, but we’ll eliminate that one. The other two reasons that Aquila would be mentioned after Priscilla, one, Priscilla may have been a very – a very noble Roman woman, and Aquila may have married into really high-brow, society-type stuff. And so, Priscilla kind of ranks. And so, Priscilla gets named first.
The other possibility is that Priscilla became the strength spiritually, that Priscilla really grew spiritually, and consequently she’s named first. Whichever one, we really don’t know. But it is interesting that she is named first, either because of her Roman heritage, if that is the case, or because of her spiritual dimension.
Now, they were in Corinth simply because they had been kicked out of Rome. They were kicked out by Claudius. Now, let me add a note here that I think may be of interest to you. And this is an opinion, but I’ll try to support it. I believe that Aquila and Priscilla were Christians already by the time they met Paul. Now, the reason I believe that is because they had come from Rome, and I believe that there was a church in Rome long before Paul ever got there.
You say, “What makes you believe that?”
Romans 1:7. Paul wrote – you know where Paul wrote Romans from? From Corinth. And when he wrote Romans, he said, “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints.” You see? So, there’s already a church there. “Grace to you, peace from God our Father, the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.”
By the time he wrote the book of Romans, which was later on in another visit to Corinth, the church at Rome had already grown to the place where the faith of those Christians had spread all over the world. And one of the things that may have helped to spread that faith was that all the Christians got booted out of there – all the Jewish Christians.
Now, the Gentile Christians remained, and the church had remained with the Gentiles who remained, but the Jews who scattered may have been part of the propagation of the church and the character of it that existed in Rome. So, it is very likely that they were Christians already.
There’s another reason I believe they were Christians already, and that is that it doesn’t say they got saved here in this chapter. And two people of this importance, it seems to me, had they been saved there in meeting Paul in Corinth, it would have said so. Because if you go back and see, whenever Paul goes into a city, it lists who got saved. Later on here it talks about Crispus believing and all his house. And if you go all the way through the New Testament, you’ll find all different names of people who were saved in Corinth. In fact, it names a bunch of them. And I’ll mention those names in a little while. But it never mentions Aquila and Priscilla. And it would seem that if it’s going to recite their names, why certainly they would be recited here as those who came to know Christ with the others.
Later on, Paul says, “I baptized Gaius,” who was Titus Justus, likely, “and I baptized Crispus,” and he makes no reference to baptizing Aquila and Priscilla. So, it seems they were already Christians. And that’s just a little footnote, a little bit of historical graffiti for your file.
Now, when they were in Rome, these Aquila and Priscilla and the other Jews, persecution broke out against the Jews. And Claudius shipped them all out. It’s interesting that before Claudius, Tiberius tried to do it. You know what he did? He took 4,000 Jews and sent them to a country that had the plague, hoping they’d all catch the plague and die. So, they were unpopular.
Following Tiberius, Claudius, in 49 A.D., banished all Jews from Rome altogether. Every one of them had to go. Now, we know a little about Claudius, and the reason we do is that about 70 years after the edict that was written, about 120 A.D., Suetonius wrote about Claudius. Suetonius was a historian, and he got all the information on Claudius, and he wrote about his life. And one of the statements that Suetonius makes in his Life of Claudius is this, “As the Jews were indulging in constant riots” – listen – “at the instigation of Chrestus, Claudius banished them from Rome.”
Now, Claudius unloaded all of the Jews because they were always having riots. And the riots were instigated by a person named Chrestus. Now, you know, you can go back in history till you’re blue in the face, and you’ll never find anybody in that area who fits the bill named Chrestus. But what is very interesting is that the Greek Chrestus is only one letter different than the Greek Christus, which is Christ. It’s only the difference between an I and an E. And what it seems to be indicating is this, that what caused Claudius to send all the Jews out was they were rioting over the issue of Christ, which indicates probably some missionaries had come there and had proclaimed Christ again as always was done in the synagogue. And as always happened with Paul – right? – a riot ensued, and the element that had accepted Jesus Christ as Messiah was set against the Jews who were unbelieving, and they threw the city into turmoil, and Claudius got uptight and kicked them all out of town. They were indulging in constant riots at the instigation of Chrestus. And, you see, Suetonius things that Chrestus is some guy who lived then in Rome. And remember, he was writing 70 years later; so, it’s easy to see how he could have made that simple error. They were probably rioting over the issue of Christ. And it seems to me that that kind of issue would preclude the fact there had to be Christ presented there. So, therefore, there was the possibility of Aquila and Priscilla being saved already. You see?
And so, they arrive over there in Corinth to ply their trade, and they’re already Christians. And incidentally, I’ll give you another interesting footnote. It may have been Aquila and Priscilla who first excited Paul’s heart to go to Rome. Well, so, they’re introduced in verse 2. And they are so beloved by Paul, that he writes about them again and again.
Notice verse 3, “And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them and worked, for by their occupation they were skēnopoioi. Now, your Bible doesn’t say that. It’s a good thing – right? - or you’d all be up here asking me what it means. Literally it means leather workers. We always think of Paul strictly as a tentmaker. The literal word is leather workers. It’s only used there in the New Testament, but Paul apparently was a leather worker.
Now, part of working with leather was making tents, because tents came from goats’ hide, and the leather would have to be tanned. The goat hair was extracted. The goat hair was woven into what was called cilicium, which may be connected to Cilicia, where Paul was from, because maybe that was the big trade there, making tents. And Paul, apparently, would tan the leather, and then having made the hair, he would keep the leather and do something with the leather. He was a leather worker. So were they.
Some historians tell us an interesting thing, that in the synagogue, like if this was the Jewish synagogue of old, and we were all sitting here, everybody would be sitting according to their trades. Like we’d have all the carpenters over here, and we’d have all the brick layers over there, and we’d have all the artists over here. In other words, some historians indicate that in synagogues it was common to divide people in sections according to their trade.
If that is true, maybe that is where Aquila and Priscilla met Paul. Maybe they sat with him in the synagogue. And that brings up an interesting point. Have you ever thought that your life revolves around other people, doesn’t it? And that in most cases, those other people you have met simply on very, very sporadic choices like, for example, where you sit. You know, there are some people in this church building this morning that you might absolutely love to death. That is true. There might be some people here who may complement you fantastically, but you’ll never meet them because you always sit in the same place. You ever thought about that? And maybe some of you move around; that’s perhaps true. But basically, isn’t amazing that we structure our lives by such random choices as where we sit or where we may go and do this? And we meet these people who become our lives.
And so, somehow, Paul met Aquila and Priscilla. Maybe they sat together over there as common leather workers. But anyway, they met. And Aquila and Priscilla were – I don’t – it doesn’t say anything about it, but you can imagine, if he found out they were believers in Jesus Christ, that they just hit it off like gangbusters from the start. And the next thing you know, in verse 3, “because he was of the same craft, he abode with them.” He just moved right into their business. And he lived there. They had hospitality. That’s a great Christian virtue. I don’t want to take detail time for it; we did that with Lydia, but what a blessed virtue. “He abode with them and worked, for by their occupation they were tentmakers.” And so, he moved right in, and he became a part of their lives.
And, you know, he worked hard. I believe that Paul, whatever he did, if he made a tent or if he preached the Gospel, he put the same thing into it. That’s just the kind of man he was. He worked hard. He wasn’t – he wasn’t a freeloader. He didn’t arrive in Corinth and say, “Now I’ve got to get around and raise support;” he went to work. God doesn’t want everybody to raise support. God wants some people to work. And then, when the time came, God took care of the support needs. But, you know, he worked hard. In 1 Thessalonians 2:9, he wrote to Thessalonians from Corinth, and he says, “You remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we wouldn’t be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God.” He says, “I didn’t want to freeload off you, so I worked night and day. He worked hard.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:8 he says a similar thing, “Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nothing” – I didn’t come over and ask free meals; no, sir – “but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you.” Paul does not want to make his Gospel something that everybody has to pay for. You know, it always bothers me, you know, when preachers always say, “Well, do you have a preacher’s discount?” Oh, that’s terrible. What makes you think you deserve a discount? What makes a preacher deserve a discount over anybody else? I think sometimes our Gospel is ill spoken of because some preachers go begging all the time. God help us from begging.
Now, if you are a preacher, I want you to know that May Company does have a ten percent discount, and terrific. But I’m saying so many times I think we cast dispersions on the diligence of our own lives by wanting handouts. The apostle Paul didn’t want anything from anybody. He said, “I didn’t want you chargeable. I didn’t eat your bread for nothing. I worked, if I had to, night and day so that I wouldn’t be chargeable to you. If you want to give me something out of love, that’s fine; I’m not asking for anything.” I like that kind of spirit.
And I think God’ll take care of the man of God. I don’t think the man of God needs to ask for anything. I think he needs to put the needs out there and let God supply.
Well, he worked until the Lord’s good time to free him. And let me just bounce off of this. I think that it’s very important for us to know this, that God expects the church to support ministries that are effective. I believe that. But I think so many times the church doesn’t wait to see what’s effective. My feeling on this, and it’s a strong feeling, is this: people say to me, “John, I’d like to become a part of your staff,” or, “I’d like to get into full-time Christian service.”
I always say the same thing to them. I say this, “You start a ministry, and you prove yourself faithful while you’re earning your living, and if you’re faithful enough, God’ll release you from your living, and he’ll support you full-time to do your ministry if it’s that important to Him.” Do you believe that? I believe that with all my heart.
You know what? Most Christian ministry winds up as buying a pig in a poke. Some guy says, “We need somebody over there.”
And a guys says, “I volunteer.”
And they pay him X amount of money and send him out there, and he can’t do the job. I’d hate to tell you this, but over 50 percent of the missionaries that go to the field come back after the first term. The picture of the church bothers me; it’s so much of a sort of like musical churches. You know? The music stops, and everybody grabs a church. You know? And this church changes pastors, and this guy goes over here and gets a youth director, and this guy gets a Christian ed., and there’s a minister of music, and everybody wing, wing, wing, wing. So, we’re like all over the place.
And what is this? And very often, a guy can’t get it going over here, and he figures the grass has got to be greener, and it takes him two years to figure out he can’t get it going over there either. And that’s just long enough for somebody over there to want him. You know? And he just bounces around and never gets it going.
I really believe, people, that if you and your life have accredited your ministry before God, that God will bring you to the place where you have full support, if that’s what he desires. I believe that. And in our case, that’s exactly what we believe. And I don’t – it’s not – I’m not concerned with going – seeing a guy doing a good job over at some church and going and getting him to do it here. If he’s doing a good job over there, let him be there. If he’s not doing a good job over there, who wants him?
Listen, if God’s giving you to me, then I want to see you develop a ministry that God will so bless that you’ll free you up from your other responsibilities so you can do it full time and support you. That’s what I believe. And that’s a little bit of heresy for some, but that’s what I believe.
And people say, “Well, John, I’d like to get into full-time ministry. I’d like to – to just be able to give my whole life to it.”
Then you give every other spare moment you’ve got to it, and you watch, when it becomes fruitful enough, God’ll honor that by making it something that can support your life. I believe that. And that’s what happens here.
Now, this isn’t taught here in dogmatism; it’s just alluded to, and it just kind of sprung me off into that concept that I think is so important.
Well, just to show you what I mean, look at verse 4, “He reasoned in the synagogue every day.” Is that what it says? No, every Sabbath. You see, he had to work the rest of the time.
You say, “What a waste; what a waste.”
No, no. No, no. Not a waste. He was proving some things. One, he was proving to the people of Corinth that he didn’t come to intrude on them and demand from them; he came to give himself to them. And if he had to pay the price to give himself, he’d pay it.
And secondly, he was allowing the time for the accrediting of his ministry so that God could free him up to do it full time when the time was ready. Believe me, that’s how God works. And, you know, it’s so exciting to see somebody with a fruitful ministry and to see that ministry going and going and developing and developing. And then you realize some day, you go to this - and this is how all of the staff of our church have grown up and become a part of our family here – we’ve seen a ministry develop and develop and develop, and we just go to them and say, “Hey, my brother, your ministry is developing; God is speaking to us about having you free from your other responsibilities in the secular world to come and be supported by the body to serve all the time.” And that’s the way it happens when they’re faithful.
Well, verse 4, anyway, what he did every Sabbath was reason in the synagogue. And the verb to reason is our same verb we’ve seen so many times in Acts; it means to discuss by question and answer; it means to convince, to dialogue. Dialectic comes from it. It’s an imperfect tense, which means he continually did it over and over again, over and over again.
And you notice he was persuading them. It shouldn’t be translated persuaded, but that sounds like an – like a point action aorist verb when it’s not; it’s imperfect. He was in the process of persuading them; he was seeking to persuade them.
Now, if you know anything about Paul, what was he trying to persuade those Jews? That Jesus was – what? – Messiah of course. That was always what he was doing. And he was doing it for the Jews and also the Greeks. The Greeks would be the God-fearing Greeks, the ones who attached to the synagogue and believed in the true God.
Well, I’ll tell you, isn’t it exciting how God brought two people into a lonely man’s life? Who became so beloved that they had a place in the rest of his life? First in Romans 16:3 they’re mentioned; in 1 Corinthians 16:19 they’re mentioned; in 2 Timothy, I think it’s 4:19 they’re mentioned again. He loved them. And you know what happened eventually? A church grew up in their house. God has a way of meeting the need of a discouraged believer with companionship.
Boy, I’ve seen that so many times. I’ve been discouraged and, of course, you meet somebody, or you – you meet a new friend or an old friend who just kind of takes – takes all the rough edges off and ministers to you. We need each other. “It is not good for man to be” – what? – “alone.” God knew that from the beginning. But you know, if new friends are wonderful, you want to know what’s just as good or maybe better? Old friends. There’s something about old friends that’s just rich. And God said, “Well, I want to give you two new ones; I want to give you two old ones.” And so, verse 5, “And when Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia” – stop there. Two old friends arrived. Listen, that was a great day when they arrived. There was so much joy going on that day.
You say, “John, it is doesn’t say that. It just says they came from Macedonia.”
Some guy said of me, in a particular criticism, he wrote and said, “I’ve never seen anybody with such a vivid imagination.” That’s okay. “When Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia,” it doesn’t really give you a lot of idea about the joy, does it? No, it doesn’t. But it was there, believe me.
You say, “Why should I believe you?”
I’ll show you why. In 1 Thessalonians chapter 3, verses 1 and 2, listen now- back up a minute before you read that verse. Watch, Paul was at Athens. Remember? Chapter 17, verse 15 and 16, Paul went to Athens, and he was going to wait for – who? – Timothy and Silas to come, because he left them in Berea. And he went to Athens alone. The question always comes up, “Did Timothy and Silas ever come to Athens?” The book of Acts does not say whether they did, but we believe they did. They came to Athens.
You say, “Why do you believe that?”
Well, right here, I’ll show you in a moment, but here’s what happened. Timothy and Silas came to Athens and met Paul. You know what he did as soon as they got there? They said, “Paul, we’re here,” probably. “We’re here.”
He said, “Good, now I want you to go back.” And he sent Timothy to Thessalonica to check on the saints. Remember our earlier studies of Acts, how we saw that Paul was so concerned with the saints and their growth. So, they’d just arrived, and he’s been waiting for them. It happens; they get there, and he says, “Now I want you to go back to Thessalonica.”
So, old Timothy turns around on his heels, and off he goes to Thessalonica. And he says to Silas, “Silas, you go to Philippi and check up there with Luke and how – what’s going on with t he church up there.” So, off they go again. And so, he’s alone at Athens, and he goes to Corinth.
So, when he comes to Corinth, he’s alone. But he’s already met with Silas and Timothy, and now they come again to him in Corinth. Now, the reason we know they come again is in 3:1 and 2 of 1 Thessalonians, “Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone.” You see, for a while he was not alone at Athens. But finally, he realized, “We can’t wait any longer; I’ve got to send you guys back to check on those churches.” Verse 2, “We sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God and our fellow worker in the Gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith.” And who is the “you” to whom he’s writing? The Thessalonians. So, he sent Timothy from Athens back to the Thessalonians.
Now you say, “Well, where did he send Silas?”
Well, he sent him to Philippi.
You say, “Where does it say that?”
It doesn’t say that. But I’ll tell you what it does say, something pretty exciting. Look at Philippians chapter 4 and verse 15. Now he’s writing to the Philippians, “Now you Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the Gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me as concerning giving and receiving, but you only.”
Now wait a minute; stop right there. The Philippians church sent him money, didn’t they? “No church supported me but you Philippians.” How did that money get to them? Go to 2 Corinthians 11:9. This is exciting; watch this. He says, “And when I was present with you, and lacked, I was chargeable to no man. For that which was lacking to me, the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome.” The brethren who came from Macedonia brought him this. Now, apparently, Silas and Timothy, verse 5 of Acts 18, “And when Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia” – there, friends, you have some brethren from Macedonia.
So, Silas had gone to Philippi, and the Philippian church had taken a love offering, and he brought that, and Timothy brought news that the Thessalonians were moving out and growing. Listen, now you know why it was a joyous reunion? It was terrific.
In 1 Thessalonians 3:6 – listen to this; now watch; I’ll give you some more historical notes. As soon as Timothy arrived, Timothy says, “Paul, the gang in Thessalonians is growing, and they’re comforted, and they’re strong.” And he was so excited, Paul sat right down and took out his little whatever he wrote with, and he wrote 1 Thessalonians; 1 Thessalonians was written right there in verse 5 of Acts 18:5 when Timothy and Silas arrived. Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians. You know what he says to them? Listen to this, 1 Thessalonians 3:6, “But now when Timothy came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and love, and that you have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you, therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress” – see, he was hurting, but the comfort came when he heard Timothy’s words about the Thessalonian Christians. And I love verse 8, he says, “For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.” Do you know the man’s very life was the growth of his children? He actually said, “Life is your growth. I live if you stand fast.”
“For what thanks can we render to God again for you” – watch – “for all the” – what? – “joy with which we joy for your sakes before our God.” Now you know it was a joyous union, don’t you? Timothy arrived. He was so blessed, Paul was, when he heard they were growing. And then, listen, he was double blessed because Silas came in with money. He said, “Paul, I have news for you. You are finished as a tentmaker.”
Now go back to Acts 18:5 and look, “And when Silas and Timothy were come to Macedonia” – now watch this – “Paul” - it says in the King James – “was pressed in the spirit.” The oldest manuscripts say this, “Paul” – and this is important – “began devoting himself completely to the Word.” That’s the New American Standard, and that’s correct. What it means is that when Timothy came with all the joy, Silas came with a love offering, he quit making tents and completely devoted himself to the Word.
Now you see how God comforts a disheartened saint with companionship? What a joyous time. Now just reflecting back on that point, before we leave it, Paul worked when he had to work. He worked when he had to work. But, you know, that doesn’t mean that every preacher’s supposed to work manually. I think if the need is there, then it should be done. But it is also the same Paul, who writing to the same Corinthians – and that’s a most interesting thing – says in 1 Corinthians 9 – listen – verse 7, “Who goes to war at his own expense?” Do you know any army that has its soldiers pay their own way? “Or who plants a vineyard and eats not of its fruit?” Do you know anybody that spends all his time planting a crop and doesn’t get to eat it? “Or feeds a flock and doesn’t drink the milk?”
In other words, the support comes from within, what you’re doing. “Say I these things as a man? Or saith not the law the same?” Is this just me, or doesn’t God say this in his law? “It is written in the law of Moses, ‘Don’t muzzle the mouth of the ox which treads out the grain.’” If you’re going to have the ox tread the grain, you’re going to have to feed him some of the grain. See, that’s the point.
And he goes on to talk about this, verse 11, “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it any big deal if we reap some money?” Pretty straight stuff. “Pay the preacher,” he says. Verse 12, “If others be partakers of this right over you, are not we rather?” Verse 13, he used the priest as an example, “Don’t you know that they who minister about holy things live of the things of the temple?” The priests are supported by the funds taken into the temple. Then verse 14, “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.”
And I’ve heard so many people say, “That means practice what you preach.”
That doesn’t mean that at all.
“That means if you’re going to preach it, you got to live it, brother.”
No, no, no. That means if you’re going to preach it, you should be supported by it. If you’re going to preach the Gospel, you should live from your preaching. In other words, the church should support the one who preaches and teaches. And that’s indicated in 1 Timothy 5:17, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor.” Listen, if you’ve got a faithful pastor, there’s nothing wrong with giving him – and the word “double honor” has a monetary connotation – giving him additional support for his faithfulness, especially those who labor in the Word and doctrine.
So, in a difficult time, in a difficult place, the servant of God works to earn his keep. He may work until God sees his ministry develop to the place where God wants to free him to do it full time, and then God says the church is to carry his support. And what a marvelous joy it is for the church, for all of us, to carry the support of the ministry of those who minister among us.
All right, one, then, God comforts Paul; encourages him with companionship. Two – and quickly we’re just going to look at this – with apostleship. If his friends were a comfort, so were his converts. Do you know converts are a comfort? I’ve been discouraged many times, you know, and I guess when you speak a lot, sometimes you can’t see how important a meeting is. To you it’s another meeting. It’s a date on a calendar.
And I’ll look at my office, and I’ll realize after I’m done with a day of study, I’ll look at it and say, “Oh, I’ve got to go to San Bernardino tonight and speak.” And I don’t know what it is; it’s the First Mogus Church of somewhere, and I don’t know what’s going on. You know? And you sit there and you say, “I don’t want to go out there and do that.”
And I go home, and Patricia says, “Where you going tonight?”
“Well, I got to go...”
“Oh, no, really?”
“Oh, I got to...”
“And I don’t have time to eat dinner.”
“Well, stop at Pup ‘N’ Taco.”
You know? And so, I can hardly get out the door. You know? And I say, “Just give me a shove, will you? I don’t want to do this.” And you’re discouraged; you’re tired; you’re weary. You’ve got other things on your mind, and you don’t even know what’s going on out there. And you drive all the way out there. You know, it’s a long drive, and you’re hoping there’s a Laker game so at least you can pass the time, listen to the radio.
And you – you finally get out there, and you go, and you speak, and you just – you can’t get generated, and it’s all over, and 15 people get saved. I couldn’t tell you how many times something like that has happened.
Somebody comes up and says, “My life was transformed.” And pretty soon you’re so full of joy. And you get back in your car; you turn the radio off; you don’t want it to interrupt your praise. And you drive all the way home, and it takes about five minutes. You know? And you come in and share all the victories.
You see, very often God uses, in the lives of his servants, not only the companionship of beloved friends, but converts. He gives you fruit just when you need it the most. See? That’s what happens to Paul. Just when he really needed it, these guys came with the money; they freed him up. He was free to give himself totally to the Word. And isn’t that what the apostles are supposed to do? Acts 6:4, “We will give ourselves to the Word and to pray; you choose some men to handle the business.”
And old Paul was free to be an apostle. He was free to do what the priority was in his life. God freed him up when the time was right, and he didn’t only preach on the Sabbath, he took off doing it every day. He just whistled through that place day in, day out. And what did he say? Verse 5, “He testified to the Jews that Jesus was Messiah.”
Well, you know, you can predict the response, can’t you? Verse 6, “And when they opposed themselves and blasphemed” – that’s what they do. And the word “opposed” means they – they had an organized opposition. It’s a word that indicates organized resistance. They came to a deliberate and ultimate final decision that this was wrong, that Jesus was not Messiah. They organized themselves; they set themselves against, and they blasphemed Christ. And Paul got really to the point where he said, “That’s it.”
And look what he did, “He shook his raiment and said t them, ‘Your blood be upon your heads; I’m clean; from now on, I’ll go to the Gentiles.’” Wow. Boy, I’m telling you, that’s one of the most dramatic scenes in his life. Can you see him going in there?
You know, the Jews had a saying about shaking the dust off your feet, and it was used in reference to Gentile countries. Whenever a Jew traveled in a Gentile country, when he left, he would shake the dust off his feet, because he didn’t want to take any Gentile dust to soil the dust of Israel.
And you see, the idea of the shaking of dust was the Jews’ way of sort of casting a degrading statement toward the Gentile. Well, you know what Paul does? He turns it around. And he takes his cloak off, and he just starts shaking all the dust out of it in the face of all those Jews, and saying in effect, “You don’t like Gentile dust on your shoes? I don’t want Jewish dust on my cloak.” And he shook it right out in their face.
Now, you know, if they weren’t mad by then, they were really hopping when that was done. That flagrant kind of insult must have absolutely torn them to pieces. He was done with them. He shook out his whole cloak. And then he made a statement that was interesting. He said, “Your blood be upon your own heads” - that’s again a statement that the Jews made that’s in Joshua 2:19, 2 Samuel 1:16, 1 Kings 2:37, and perhaps elsewhere.
And you remember in Matthew 27:25 that the Jews, when Jesus was being crucified, cried out, “His blood be upon us and our children.” They wanted to accept the responsibility for Christ’s death. The phrase means, “We accept the responsibility for His death.” And Paul is saying here, “Your blood is on your own heads; I’m clean” – why? – “I fulfilled my responsibility; I delivered the Gospel; I presented it clearly. You are responsibility for what you do.”
People say to me, “John, do you believe the Bible teaches individual responsibility?”
There it is, my friend. If you die without Jesus Christ, your blood is on your own head. And I can say to you this morning what Paul said, “I’m clean; I presented you the Gospel. What you do with it will determine your eternal destiny the responsibility is your own.”
Now, we’re going to see how that fits in with the statement in verse 10, where God says, “I have many people in this city.” That’s a sovereign statement of election.
Here is a statement of human responsibility. In two weeks, we’ll put them together and see what the significance is. But for the moment, Paul says, “You are responsible for your own decision; I’m clean. I’ve had it; I’m going to the Gentiles.”
And you say, “Paul, but you love Israel. You’re such a lover of Israel. Paul, how can you do that? Oh, what a change of character, ‘Israel, my heart’s desire,’ oh, and all of this. You know? Oh, how’s he going to possibly leave Israel?”
Watch. I love this, “And he departed from there” - boy, he was really going to leave them – “and entered into a certain man’s house named Titus Justus, who worshipped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue.” Right, he really got away from them, didn’t he? “Boy, I’ll show them; I’m going next door.”
You see, that was his heart for Israel. At that point, he still couldn’t leave. And so, he went next door. And, you know, in his mind, he knew that all of them could take the same route to the synagogue and just cut off one step short and hear the Gospel. He never got away from Israel.
Well, “He departed and entered a certain man’s house.” He lived in this man’s house. Titus Justus. That’s interesting. It’s a Roman name. He was a Gentile, a God-fearer who attended the synagogue. And, you know, he’s the same, apparently, as the man called Gaius – G-A-I-U-S in Romans 16:23. And in 1 Corinthians 1:14, Paul says, “I baptized only two, Gaius and Crispus.” Apparently, this is Gaius. And his Roman name, and there were often three names, would be Gaius Titus Justus. So, this man became a Christian. They had a church in his house next door to the synagogue. Kind of like we are right here with the temple about three doors down.
And he began to bear fruit. Now, if you think that was something, look at verse 8, absolutely thrilling, “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house” – can you imagine that?
I mean now he’s next door, and what happens? The fruit of it is the guy who runs the synagogue gets saved. And not only him, his whole house, all his family and all of his servants. Oh, man, you can imagine the fury that’s going on now among the Jews. And Paul can hear the time bomb ticking, and in two weeks we’ll see it go off. But hey, they were infuriated.
And his whole house believed. You can do a study on the households that believe: Lydia, the Philippian jailer, and Crispus. And there’s another one in Corinth, the house of Stephanas that later believed. It’s not in this chapter; it’s referred to elsewhere. But they had a great revival in that town; it was fabulous. It says, “Many of the Corinthians hearing believed and were baptized.” And the Bible even names them: Stephanas and his whole house; Erastus, who was the city treasurer, a very important man; there was Quartus, Fortunatus, Chloe, Tertius, Achaicus, and a whole lot of names. And the church was established.
Well, God encouraged Paul, didn’t He? With his friends and his converts, companionship and the fulfillment of his apostleship. Let me close with a footnote. The end of verse 8, “Hearing believed, and were baptized. Notice the sequence, would you? That’s the order of salvation. You hear the Gospel; you – what? – you believe it. You publically proclaim it in baptism. Listen, “Faith” – Romans 10:17 – “comes by hearing a speech about Jesus Christ.” Beloved, that’s salvation. You hear, you believe, and you make a public statement. Isn’t it exciting to see how God encourages His servant? He encourages him with companionship and apostleship. And next time we’ll see how he encourages him with fellowship and hardship. Let’s pray.
Lord, we are grateful again this morning that our hearts have been enriched to be with Paul and be with the Holy Spirit in this study. Father, we thank You that in the midst of our discouragement, You encourage us; that when we are despondent, You lift us up; when our eyes droop, and our hearts sag, You cause us to lift our eyes and look on Thee. And maybe it’s through beloved friends, new and old; maybe it’s through fruit that You give us in our lives, but You’re in the business of encouraging.
Father, thank You for the lessons we’ve learned this morning. We thank You for Jesus Christ who teaches us. Lord, we would pray this morning that if there are any discouraged Christians, that they might wait on Thee, for that moment of encouragement that is to come. If there are any who do not know Jesus Christ, that they might meet Christ today, and they might open their heart and invite Him to come in. We thank You for our time, in Jesus’ name, amen.
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