- Paul’s ministry hardships were many:
- Blinded at conversion
- Escaped two murder plots
- Jewish and Gentile persecution
- Escaped mistreatment and stoning
- Stoned and left for dead
- Separation from Barnabas
- Beaten and imprisoned in Philippi
- Run out of Thessalonica and Berea
- In Corinth, Paul faced more Jewish opposition (v.12).
- Finally, protected by Gallio’s statement, Paul peacefully remains in Corinth “many days longer” (Acts 18:18).
- Problem: We want comfort. We don’t want to exert too much energy, nor do we want to think too hard.
- In this passage we see:
- Our ongoing need for strength and instruction.
- Our need for companions in ministry who will assist us in the labors we are called to.
- Every Christian needs ongoing emotional support and intellectual instruction from the community of the saints.
Read Acts 18:18-28
1. Increasing in Strength (18-23).
2. Increasing in Accuracy (24-28).
Increasing in Strength (18-23)
- After hearing about all of Paul’s hardships up to this point, we would expect him to find a place to rest.
- v.18 But instead of taking a vacation, he takes a vow. The vow appears to be related to the Nazarite vow (Num. 6).
- We know that he will take a similar vow along with four men later on (Acts 21:28).
- It was taken out of gratitude and devotion.
- Exhausted, Paul doubles down on his commitment to the mission. He perseveres through his trials.
- v.22 Paul likely completed his vow in Jerusalem (map). See 11:27 for an example of “going down” from Jerusalem to Antioch.
- v.23 3MJ began with his departure from Antioch.
- Paul’s ministry pattern reflects his commitment to the gospel. He reasoned with Jews in the synagogue (v.19) and strengthening believers (v.23). There is an important balance:
- Discipleship did not prevent evangelism.
- Evangelism never eliminated discipleship.
- Paul’s vow also reflects his commitment to the gospel. We know he did these things in order to win others. 1 Cor. 9:20-21, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.”
- Priscilla and Aquila have become companions in ministry (Rom. 16:3-4; 1 Cor. 16:19). The loss of Barnabas was difficult for Paul, but he continues to seek quality companions who will serve alongside him.
- Companions provide fellowship and support when life and ministry are painful (v.18).
- We need to open up to others about our need for support (not just physical help, but emotional encouragement).
- Trustworthy companions multiply discipleship within a community (v.19). Trustworthiness is earned over time.
- We should not assume everyone is experiencing perfect contentment. But that means we are willing to press into the matters of the heart and stay there with people as long as it takes.
Companions in ministry are necessary to strengthen and instruct.
Increasing in Accuracy (24-28)
- vv.24-26 Although Apollos was eloquent, competent in the Old Testament Scriptures, instructed in the way of the Lord, spoke with passion and accurate about Jesus, he still needed further instruction.
- Although he was accurate in what he knew – it was only up to a certain point. He only knew the baptism of John.
- Apollos appears to have been a true believer, but he may not have known all that followed Jesus’ baptism (i.e., Jesus’ death, resurrection, commission, ascension, and Pentecost).
- Apollos was actively using his giftedness to teach, yet he was open to receiving instruction from Priscilla and Aquila.
- v.27 The instruction he received allowed him to be a great help to “those who through grace had believed.”
- This passage raises the issue of the role of women in the church.
- The Bible reserves positions of authority for men. However, that doesn’t mean women are insignificant. Theological debate is not for men only.
- Priscilla wasn’t quiet. She might have had more knowledge of the gospel than Aquila. That possibly explains why her name comes first. She is at least equally responsible for providing Apollos with a more accurate gospel.
- But where did this instruction occur? In private. She didn’t correct him from the pulpit or call him out in public.
- Paul frequently acknowledged women who assisted him:
- Euodia and Syntyche labored side by side with Paul (Phil. 4:2-3).
- Mary, Junia, Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis all “worked hard” (Rom. 16:6-13).
- Although Priscilla and Aquila had different gifts than Apollos, they were all greatly used by God.
- Priscilla and Aquila’s approach to correction can definitely teach us something in the age of Facebook.
- It is equally good to see a gifted and educated teacher willing to receive further instruction.
- Companions in ministry are willing to challenge one another’s theological views. Doctrine is important.
- Apollos already had a grasp of the essentials, yet Priscilla and Aquila were still concerned to bring him further along in his knowledge.
- We should not be content to simply debate the foundational aspects of the gospel. We sharpen one another and grow one another’s faith by challenging secondary matters too.
Every Christian needs ongoing emotional and intellectual support from the community of the saints.
- The ministry of the church requires a community: We need fellowship, trustworthy companions who multiply discipleship and challenge theological inaccuracies.
- What happens when you don’t receive the support you need? What if you feel surrounded by insensitive, untrustworthy, and theologically inaccurate people?
- You can flee to a new community or confront everyone who has offended you.
- But you probably need to cry out to the Lord with all your heart.
- Remember all the ways you’ve offended your God and how he offers forgiveness in His Son.
- Ask Him to remind you that you have a compassionate Savior who can empathize with you, who experienced the wrath of God in your place.
- Finally, in the strength of the Lord, be the person for others that you expect them to be for you.