This exchange is the most potent example of cross-cultural evangelism in the Bible. Paul provokes his audience to think and invites them to pursue God, but he does not attempt to summarize the gospel in simple propositions or acronyms. He connects their culture with the truth of the gospel and the beauty of the person who is Jesus. After that, it’s the job of the Holy Spirit.
18 From Athens, Paul traveled to Corinth alone. 2 He found a Jewish man there named Aquila, originally from Pontus. Aquila and his wife Priscilla had recently come to Corinth from Italy because Claudius had banished all Jews from Rome. Paul visited them in their home 3 and discovered they shared the same trade of tent making. He then became their long-term guest and joined them in their tentmaking business. 4 Each Sabbath he would engage both Jews and Greeks in debate in the synagogue in an attempt to persuade them of his message. 5 Eventually Silas and Timothy left Macedonia and joined him in Corinth. They found him fully occupied by proclaiming the message, testifying to the Jewish people that Jesus was God’s Anointed, the Liberating King. 6 Eventually, though, some of them stopped listening and began insulting him. He shook the dust off his garments in protest.
Paul: OK. I’ve done all I can for you. You are responsible for your own destiny before God. From now on, I will bring the good news to the outsiders!
7 He walked out of the synagogue and went next door to the home of an outsider, Titius Justus, who worshiped God. 8 Paul formed a gathering of believers there that included Crispus (the synagogue leader) and his whole household and many other Corinthians who heard Paul, believed, and were ceremonially washed through baptism. 9 One night Paul had a vision in which he heard the Lord’s voice.
The Lord: Do not be afraid, Paul. Speak! Don’t be silent! 10 I am with you, and no one will lay a finger on you to harm you. I have many in this city who are already My people.
11 After such turmoil in previous cities, these words encouraged Paul to extend his stay in Corinth, teaching the message of God among them for a year and six months.
Paul is no machine. He needs encouragement to faithfully pursue his calling in the face of persecution. While God allows Paul to experience serious persecution in many other cities, He spares him that trouble in Corinth even though the Jewish leaders still try to stir up the government officials against him. Paul knows that the greatest joys in life are found in passionately pursuing the dangerous mission of Jesus, and that God sustains His followers in good times and bad.
12 During this time, some Jews organized an attack on Paul and made formal charges against him to Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia.
Jews: 13 This man is convincing people to worship God in ways that contradict our Hebrew Scriptures.
Paul was about to speak, but Gallio spoke first.
Gallio: 14 Look, if this were some serious crime, I would accept your complaint as a legitimate legal case, 15 but this is just more of your typical Jewish squabbling about trivialities in your sacred literature. I have no interest in getting dragged into this kind of thing.
16 So he threw out their case and drove them away from his bench. 17 They were furious and seized Sosthenes, the synagogue official; then they beat him in front of the tribunal. Gallio just ignored them.
18 At the end of 18 months, Paul said good-bye to the believers in Corinth. He wanted to travel to the east and south to Syria by ship; so, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila, he went to the nearby port city of Cenchrea, where he fulfilled a vow he had made by cutting his hair. 19 The three of them sailed east to Ephesus where Paul would leave Priscilla and Aquila. Paul again went to the synagogue where he dialogued with the Jews. 20 They were receptive and invited him to stay longer. But he politely declined.
Paul: 21-22 If God wills, I’ll return at some point.
He caught a ship bound south and east for Caesarea by the sea. There he went up for a brief visit with the believers in the church at Jerusalem; then he headed north to Antioch. 23 He spent considerable time there and then left again, visiting city after city throughout Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the disciples in each place.
24 Meanwhile, back in Ephesus, a Jew named Apollos made contact with the community of believers. He had been raised in Alexandria.
In Alexandria, Egyptian Jews such as Philo are known for seeking to integrate Greek philosophy with their faith.
Apollos was eloquent and well educated in the Hebrew Scriptures. 25 He was partially instructed in the way of the Lord, and he added to his native eloquence a burning enthusiasm to teach about Jesus. He taught accurately what he knew; but he had only understood part of the good news, specifically the ritual cleansing through baptism[a] preached by John, the forerunner of Jesus. 26 So, when Priscilla and Aquila heard him speak boldly in the synagogue, they discerned both his gift and his lack of full understanding. They took him aside and in private explained the way of God to him more accurately and fully. 27 He wanted to head west into Achaia, where Paul had recently been, to preach there. The believers encouraged him to do so and sent a letter instructing the Greek disciples to welcome him. Upon his arrival, he was of great help to all in Achaia who had, by the grace of God, become believers. 28 This gifted speaker publicly demonstrated, based on the Hebrew Scriptures, that the promised Anointed One is Jesus. Then, when the Jews there raised counterarguments, he refuted them with great power.
- 18:25 Literally, immersion, an act to show repentance