And after Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul spent all his time preaching the word. He testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed and insulted him, Paul shook the dust from his clothes and said, “Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent. From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.” Then he left and went to the home of Titius Justus, a Gentile who worshiped God and lived next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, and everyone in his household believed in the Lord. Many others in Corinth also heard Paul, became believers, and were baptized.
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God.Acts 18:5-11
There are a number of residual things to comment on in order to tidy up this section before we move on to the next Jewish assault on Paul. Notice the link between the arrival of Silas and Timothy and the fact that Paul started to focus all his time on preaching the word. It was most likely made possible by the fact that Silas and Timothy had arrived to help him on other tasks, provide some assistance with the finances and costs and lessen the degree to which Paul had to earn most of his living from making tents. Not only that I am sure that the arrival of Silas and Timothy would have been a huge encouragement.
Some of you have picked up on the tension in the text between Paul seemingly being afraid of the Jews and my comment in the last Gems – I don’t think any of us can say Paul was afraid of the Jews. I have had a couple of you comment on the fact that God’s word to him in the vision was “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” Some versions translate this as “Stop being afraid.” Yes, it is a present imperative which can carry the meaning “stop being afraid” or simply “Don’t be afraid”. I would guess that even though Paul displayed such courage at times to go back into the “lion’s den of Jewish opposition” at times it would all have become wearying on him – like any of us. We can all stand a certain amount of opposition, even if it turns violent. We can even resolve to carry on despite the opposition. But when it keeps coming wave after wave it takes a certain resilience to stand against it. Paul clearly was at that point. The arrival of Silas and Timothy must have been a huge help in that regard. Up until this time Paul had clearly been on his own in Athens. The small response there was clearly enough to be discouraging.
Luke does tell us Paul left and went to Titius Justus’ home. Two of you have asked about Luke’s reference to “he left and went to Titius Justus’ home.” Left where? Where had he been? Clearly Paul was still in Corinth; he didn’t leave the city. Rather he left the one place where he had been staying and moved to Titius Justus’ place. So the question is where had he been before that? We can only assume that he moved from Aquila and Priscilla’s house to Titius Justus’ home.
- Did something happen between Paul and Aquila and Priscilla?
- Was the move to Titius Justus’ place a strategic one?
These are good questions that some of you are asking but any answer I could give would be pure speculation until I can talk with either Paul, Aquila and/or Priscilla and Titius Justus. But as that won’t be happening for a considerable time yet I will leave you to ponder the matter yourselves.
What is interesting in this section is that it was clearly encouraging to Paul to have had a vision giving him perspective and encouraging him to stay there in Corinth and not move on. His work there was not finished – “For many people in this city belong to me”. The fact that Cripus, the ruler of the synagogue, became a believer must have been encouraging. This same Cripus is mentioned again in 1 Cor 1:14. It is clear therefore that Paul continued to relate and teach Jews even though he had intended shaking the dust off his feet and moving on. In fact, God made it clear to him in the vision that it was not time to move on. There was still work to be done to establish the church, the body of Christ there in Corinth. That is the reason that we have ended up with two Corinthian letters in our Bible. Luke makes it clear to us that Paul stayed there for a year and a half. How long had he been there before Luke wrote that comment? In 18:3-4 we are told Paul lived and worked with Aquila and Priscilla for a while and habitually went to the synagogue each Sabbath. This infers the passing of time. Then in 18:18 we are told Paul stayed for some time after that. Now does that mean in addition to the year and a half or does the eighteen months already mentioned include the sometime after that?
I am sure you are building up a clearer sense of the duration of Paul’s connection with the Corinthians. That might start to explain some of what you have been reading in the Corinthian letters. Probably in the next Gem I will give you a summary of the connection Paul had with the Corinthian church with comes through between the lines in the Corinthian letters, to help you understand the background. At this point however, let me focus on one word used here in the text of what Luke wrote to us that is interesting.
“For many people in this city belong to me”
The interesting word here is “people” [laos]. It has nothing to do with Laos the country. It is here used for the first time to mark the “people” of God. [Laos] is such an interesting word that in Kittel’s theological dictionary almost 30 pages are devoted to it. It was used in the Septuagint (LXX) as the word for the Jewish community as opposed to the non-Jew. But here for the first time is used as a term to distinguish those who are God’s from all others. Now that means that all Jews are not necessarily “the Laos” and all Gentiles are not necessarily “the Laos”. Luke is now using it as a term to distinguish the Christians or the Followers of the Way (Acts 9:2). It is a word which later on becomes used as a technical term for the people of God – the Laity. But in this case, it is used for those who are not priests – the ordinary people of God. This is the first time in the Bible that [Laos] is used as a term of the People of God. And clearly it includes people like Crispus and Titius Justus. The followers of Christ are becoming distinctive.
Are you? Can you be seen to be different as opposed to the culture around you?
Leadership is not about your title, it’s about your behaviour.Rick Godwin
Smart people are a dime a dozen. Smart and humble people are a rare breed.Ian Vail
Comparison will lead you into pride or insecurity. Resting in God’s unique love for you will set you free.Lisa Bevere
Peace is not the absence of problems but the assurance of God’s presence.Ian Vail
Feeling imprisoned by your mobile phone; well they are called CELL phones for a reason.Anon