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When we left Paul last he was in Athens preaching to the philosophers at the Areopagus. As usual there was opposition to his message but there were some who believed, including Dionysius, the Areopagite, one of the ruling council of the city of Athens.
Paul has moved on from Athens and is now in the nearby city of Corinth. Now at the time, Corinth was a an economic center of Greece known for trade and finance, but unfortunately also well known for the immorality of its people. So that’s the situation Paul finds himself in as we pick up reading with the beginning of chapter 18
Acts 18:1–4 CSB
1 After this, he left Athens and went to Corinth, 2 where he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul came to them, 3 and since they were of the same occupation, tentmakers by trade, he stayed with them and worked. 4 He reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and tried to persuade both Jews and Greeks.
Acts 18:1-
So Paul arrives in the city of Corinth and he runs into Aquila and his wife Priscilla. They had recently come to Corinth themselves due to the decree from Claudius mentioned here. Claudius was the Roman emperor and he declared that all Jews had to leave the city of Rome. So Aquila and Priscilla are driven from the capital and end up here in Corinth and Paul comes to them. Now the Bible doesn’t tell us how Paul came to meet them. Since they were all tentmakers it’s possible that they knew each other already through professional circles. Maybe Paul had heard about them previously in his travels. Our maybe he just happened to wander into the portion of the marketplace where they set up shop and received an invitation to their home. But regardless of how they met, Paul ends up working with them during his time in Corinth and they would become important fixtures in the early church. Aquila and Priscilla are mentioned 6 times in the New Testament and they are presented as mature Christians whose service to the kingdom far exceeded just their contact with Paul. As you read through the New Testament you will see them living and working and ministering in Corinth, in Ephesus, and eventually back in Rome.
Now I want to take a few minutes here to talk about this fact of Paul working. He wrote several times about the fact that he worked, with his own hands, to raise support so as not to be a burden on anyone while he was preaching the gospel. In fact Paul seemed to take a good deal of pride in the fact that he could support himself. While he writes about it repeatedly throughout his letters here in Acts is the only time we learn what his occupation actually was. He was a tentmaker, working with leather or cilicium, a cloth woven from goat’s hair. He likely learned this trade during his days of studying to be a rabbi. Students in the rabbinic schools were required to adopt some trade so that they would not have to depend on teaching for their livelihood. And Paul carried this practice over to his preaching of the gospel. He didn’t want to have to rely on others for his livelihood and his support, so he continued, even through his missionary travels, to support himself in this trade he had learned early in life. Now why do I bring that up? Well, not only did Paul continue to practice his trade part-time while focusing on preaching the gospel, but we also see Aquila and Priscilla, throughout the New Testament, continuing this full-time work but also engaging in ministry, in the sharing of the gospel with those around them. There’s something in there that can speak to us today. The principle I want us to see from this is that: there is no secular duty for a Christian. What I mean is, everything we do as Christians, from sweeping the floor as a janitor, to running a company, to governing a city or a state or a country, to serving in full-time vocational ministry, all of it should be viewed as a form of service to Christ. God has called all of us to something. Some of us are called to preach the gospel. Some of us are called to serve in the military. Some of us are called to stay at home and raise the children. But no matter what that call on your life is, you should do it to the best of your ability, to bring glory to God.
Paul would eventually write at least two letters to the church that he helps to establish here in the city of Corinth. In the first of those letters in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 beginning in verse 23 he touches on this. Now the passage is speaking specifically about eating meat offered to idols. Remember, I said that this city was filled with immorality. But there is a verse in this passage that speaks to how we should approach everything in our lives, from our worship, to our fellowship with other people, to our work.
1 Corinthians 10:23–33 CSB
23 “Everything is permissible,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up. 24 No one is to seek his own good, but the good of the other person. 25 Eat everything that is sold in the meat market, without raising questions for the sake of conscience, 26 since the earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it. 27 If any of the unbelievers invites you over and you want to go, eat everything that is set before you, without raising questions for the sake of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This is food from a sacrifice,” do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who told you, and for the sake of conscience. 29 I do not mean your own conscience, but the other person’s. For why is my freedom judged by another person’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thanksgiving, why am I criticized because of something for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or Greeks or the church of God, 33 just as I also try to please everyone in everything, not seeking my own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved.
1 Corinthians 10:23-
Did you pick out the verse I was talking about?
1 Corinthians 10:31 CSB
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
That last phrase there is the key. “Do everything for the glory of God.” We need to live our lives in such a way that everything we do points other people to God. Now that doesn’t mean that we have to spend every waking moment praying, or reading the Bible, or telling someone about Jesus. But it does mean that we live our lives differently. It means that we should be prepared to share the gospel with those around us when the opportunity arises. It means that we don’t react to situations in the same way that people who don’t believe in the gospel of Christ react. It means that we look to bring glory to God in everything we do, no matter what that may be.
We see this in the life of Paul as he works with Aquila and Priscilla here in the city of Corinth. He works with them at their tentmaking business, but then verse 4 tells us:
Acts 18:4 CSB
4 He reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and tried to persuade both Jews and Greeks.
That was the focus of Paul’s life and his ministry. He maintained his profession, his trade, in order to support himself, but his focus was sharing the gospel of Christ with those around him.
Now let’s keep reading beginning with verse 5
Ats 18:5-8
Acts 18:5-
Acts 18:5–8 CSB
5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself to preaching the word and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. 6 When they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his clothes and told them, “Your blood is on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 So he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, along with his whole household. Many of the Corinthians, when they heard, believed and were baptized.
Acts 18:5–11 CSB
5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself to preaching the word and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. 6 When they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his clothes and told them, “Your blood is on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 So he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, along with his whole household. Many of the Corinthians, when they heard, believed and were baptized. 9 The Lord said to Paul in a night vision, “Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to hurt you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 He stayed there a year and a half, teaching the word of God among them.
So Silas and Timothy finally arrive. Remember that Paul had sent for them while he was still in Athens. They show up here in Corinth and Paul really gets down to business. Verse 5 says that when they arrived Paul devoted himself to preaching the word and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. Not that he wasn’t already preaching and teaching, but now he throws himself into it because he’s got backup. He’s got his partners in ministry there with him now. But as usual, the Jews don’t want to listen. It says that they resist and blaspheme so Paul turns to the Gentiles. But he doesn’t turn away permanently. As we’ve already seen Paul always returns to the synagogue to begin his ministry when he enters a new city. This is a pattern that we’ve already seen over and over again in Paul’s ministry and it’s something that we’ll continue to see as Paul’s ministry goes on. The Jews here, as else where, reject the gospel so Paul adopts a typical Jewish symbol and shakes the dust out of his clothes. His responsibility as a Jew is complete so he turns to the Gentiles.
So Silas and Timothy finally arrive. Remember that Paul had sent for them while he was still in Athens. They show up here in Corinth and Paul really gets down to business. Verse 5 says that when they arrived Paul devoted himself to preaching the word and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. Not that he wasn’t already preaching and teaching, but now he throws himself into it because he’s got backup. He’s got his partners in ministry there with him now. But as usual, the Jews don’t want to listen. It says that they resist and blaspheme so Paul turns to the Gentiles. But he doesn’t turn away permanently. As we’ve already seen Paul always returns to the synagogue to begin his ministry when he enters a new city. This is a pattern that we’ve already seen over and over again in Paul’s ministry and it’s something that we’ll continue to see as Paul’s ministry goes on. The Jews here, as else where, reject the gospel so Paul adopts a typical Jewish symbol and shakes the dust out of his clothes. His responsibility as a Jew is complete so he turns to the Gentiles.
And with the Gentiles he sees a different response. He goes to the house of Titius Justus who lived right next door to the synagogue. Justus is described as a man who worshipped God even before Paul came to town. It’s likely that he was a Roman citizen who had converted to Judaism but now he becomes a Christian and his house becomes the location of the first Christian congregation, the first church, in Corinth.
But notice also, that even though the Jews in general rejected the gospel, this wasn’t a universal thing. Some actually believed. In fact, the one named here in verse 8 is not just any Jew. Crispus is called the leader of the synagogue. He and his entire household believed and many other citizens of the city of Corinth believed and were baptized into the faith.
So Paul has followed his pattern here in Corinth. He has gone to the synagogue to preach. He has seen some success, but has also faced opposition from the majority of the Jews so has turned to the Gentiles to bring his message to them. At this point we usually see Paul being driven out of the city by the religious or political leaders or smuggled out by the believers. But that’s not what happens here in Corinth. Let’s read the last few verses of our passage this morning to see what happens here.
Acts 18:9–11 CSB
9 The Lord said to Paul in a night vision, “Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to hurt you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 He stayed there a year and a half, teaching the word of God among them.
Paul faces opposition, but God tells him, “Stick it out. Nobody is going to hurt you here.” So Paul spends a year and a half there sharing the gospel, teaching the new believers, and building up this new church.
And that’s something else we need to keep in mind as Christians in today’s society. Even in a day when it seems that Christianity is coming under attack more and more we need to remember these words. “Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent. For I am with you...” Even more than that we have these words from Romans chapter 8
Romans 8:31-
Romans 8:31–39 CSB
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He did not even spare his own Son but offered him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything? 33 Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. 34 Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more, has been raised; he also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. 35 Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: Because of you we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Isn’t that an awesome promise? Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Do you have that assurance today? Do you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that nothing can separate you from the love of God? Do you know that if you died today, that you would spend eternity in heaven with God? If not, if you haven’t placed your faith in Christ, if you don’t know what this gospel that we talk about every Sunday morning is, then come talk to me after the service. Let me share with you how you can know for certain that you are saved and that nothing can separate you from Christ.
Would you join me in prayer?
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