google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html The Spirit Explodes 17
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The Spirit Explodes

Part 17 of 22

The magnificent couple

Acts18:1–28


by Roger Kirby

I am going to cheat a little in this study! All our recent ones have been determined by geography – following Paul’s travels. If we do that here we shall have a very short study on Corinth followed next time by a very long one on Ephesus, so I am going to focus on Aquila and Priscilla, the most significant couple in the early church. Our study will cover them in both Corinth and Ephesus and glide over the fact that in between those two cities Paul finished his second journey, spent time at Antioch, and then started his third journey.

Corinth was an unpromising place. It was more important than Athens in all except cultural matters. It was a seaport on the narrow isthmus of land between southern and northern Greece (as we call it now). It was a vigorous commercial centre notorious for loose living. Yet it proved to be more receptive to the Gospel than many other quieter cities.

Read Acts 18:1 – 4.

These verses introduce us to Aquila and Priscilla. Presumably they had been converted in Rome. It has been suggested that not all the Jews in Rome can have been thrown out – since there were about 40000 of them, that would have been difficult. So perhaps they had been treated as troublemakers because of their belief in Jesus.

This passage tells us more about what Paul did than we have been told previously. All Jewish men, however study minded, were expected to learn a trade. Paul was a worker in canvas and leather, probably cutting and stitching at a bench or sitting cross-legged with them in a small open fronted shop in the street of the tent-makers. The three of them, working together, would have had many opportunities to chat with the passers by and tell them about Jesus.

Question 1: What are the advantages and disadvantages in working while also being a pastor or evangelist?

They would not be isolated from the working world – a distinct advantage. On the other hand they would have less time and energy for the work of persuasion and study.

Read Acts 18:5 – 11

Things follow the usual pattern of initial teaching in the synagogue, followed by opposition and enforced turning to the non-Jews. But then Paul has a vision and realises he is to persevere in Corinth rather longer than had usually been his practice in other cities. Things were going well: the leader of the synagogue was baptized (we are told in 1 Corinthians) so presumably was Titius Justus and ‘many others’.

Question 2: What about where you are? Does the Lord have many people in your city, as yet unrecognized as Christians as is implied in Corinth? Have you any assurance about that?

Only you can answer that one, or perhaps I should say: only the Lord can answer that? 18 months is really not a long time but it is long enough to remind us that perseverance is a great virtue.

Read Acts 18:12 – 17.

What Gallio said and did represents a step forward for the Christians. His decision means their dispute with the Jews is outside Roman concerns being a matter local to Judaism. For the time being at least that cleared the way for Paul’s mission. Gallio, from a high and important Roman family, correctly saw that the state had no role to play in people’s religious beliefs provided they did not affect the well being of the community. Would that all states realised that these days.

Read Acts 18:18 – 23.

Ephesus was a grand city near the west coast of modern Turkey. It was a short sail across from Corinth in modern Greece. It was destined to be an important place in the story of the early church being written to and written from several times.

Paul clearly has a high regard for Priscilla and Aquila, taking them with him as he sailed across to Ephesus. Note that they are referred to as Priscilla and Aquila, with the woman mentioned first, as she is in all but one of the remaining 5 places where they are mentioned.

Question 3: What would you infer from that?

It would seem very likely that Priscilla took the lead in spiritual matters over her husband particularly, as we shall see in the rest of this passage, in the context of teaching Apollos about Jesus. It should be the case that in some couples the man leads, in some the woman, according to their spiritual maturity.

Read Acts 18:24 – 28.

It is good to read how teachable this learned man, Apollos, was and how quickly he was accepted into the work of the church. Paul mentions him in his letter to the Corinthians as the nearest match to himself as an evangelist and teacher. I don’t know what it is like in your context but all too often very human weaknesses like jealousy come to the fore when someone like Apollos is around.

Question 4: How can we avoid that sort of human weakness?

By seeking to live like Jesus at all times. Though perhaps the first step is to be quick to recognize that people are prone to weaknesses – that we are as prone to weaknesses as everybody else. The dangerous person in church life, and indeed in all life, is the one who cannot see his or her own weaknesses.

Apollos knew all about Jesus but there was something short in what he knew. He is described as ‘knowing only the baptism of John’ which may imply that he did not have the gift that baptism in the name of Jesus represented.

Question 5: if that is so, what is it implied that he did not have, that was much more important than a mere matter of baptism?

Although Luke does not actually say so he may have been lacking the gift of the Holy Spirit in his life. We can try to learn as much as we can, we can work very hard at preaching the gospel, we can be active in all sorts of areas of church life, but, if we do not have the Holy Spirit in our lives we shall be but as ‘a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal’ as Paul put it. We shall not see any positive results from all our labours. Make sure you have the Holy Spirit in your life. Baptism is a very good idea but not absolutely essential if it is not possible for any reason. Setting out to follow Jesus, positively and purposefully is completely necessary.

What a grand couple Priscilla and Aquila were!

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