Acts 18
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
When the apostle of Jesus Christ confronted the heathenism of Corinth, we may say that, in his person, Divine truth was opening its attack on the very citadel of sin; such was its "abysmal profligacy," its intemperance, its dishonesty, its superstition. In the brief account we have of Paul's work in this city we are reminded -

I. THAT CHRISTIAN BLAMELESSNESS SHOULD ANSWER TO THE DEPRAVITY IT ENCOUNTERS. (Ver. 3.) At such a city as Corinth it was eminently desirable that the apostle of truth and righteousness should be, in all respects, above reproach. There must not be the shadow of suspicion of self-seeking upon him; he must show himself, and be seen to be, the disinterested, missionary he was. Therefore he worked away with his own hands, laboriously maintaining himself all the while that he was laboring in spiritual fields (see 1 Corinthians 9:15-18). This is the spirit in which it becomes all earnest men to act. We should give ourselves trouble, we should deny ourselves pleasure, according to the necessities of the case before us. Though "free from all," we should become "the servants of all, that we may gain the more" (1 Corinthians 9:19). There are circumstances in which we are perfectly justified in using our liberty; there are others in which we are constrained to forgo our freedom, and impose hardships on ourselves, that we may gain those whom, otherwise, we should not win.

II. THAT WHEN MEN PERSISTENTLY REJECT THE BEST WE CAN BRING THEM, WE MUST PASS ON TO OTHERS. (Vers. 5, 6.) When Silas and Timotheus rejoined Paul at Corinth, they found him "earnestly occupied in discoursing;" "he was being constrained by the Word;" he was striving with his whole strength to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But his most zealous efforts were all unavailing, His opponents resisted his arguments; they opposed him and blasphemed his Lord. Then he turned, sorrowfully and indignantly, away from them, and gave himself to the work of God among the Gentiles (ver. 6). This was not more sensible and obligatory then than it is now. If we have been laboring devotedly, prayerfully, patiently, among certain men, and they determinately reject our message, it is both foolish and wrong of us to waste our resources there; we must pass on to others who may welcome our word as the truth of God.


(1) the joy of spiritual success (ver. 8); also

(2) the assurance of his protecting care (vers. 9, 10).

The exact measure of his success we do not know, but it was probably considerable; the Church at Corinth became of such importance that Paul paid it great attention, and spent on it much strength in after years. T he vision which the Savior granted was supernatural, and of a kind which we do not expect him to repeat continually. But we may confidently reckon that, if we are found faithful by our Master, we shall have:

1. A good measure of success in our work. Earnest Christian effort rarely, if ever, fails. We may, indeed, be ill adapted to the special work we have undertaken, and then we must pass on to other fields; but if we are in our right place, we shall assuredly have some increase for our toil: "In due season we shall reap."

2. The inspiration which comes direct from God. Christ will come to us, not in such vision as that he granted Paul, but he will visit us; be will vouchsafe to us those renewing influences of his Holy Spirit, which will make us

(1) wilting to endure what we may have to suffer;

(2) willing to wait his time for sending the harvest;

(3) strong to speak his truth in his Name and in his Spirit. - C.


1. Its humble and self-denying beginning. (Vers. 1-4.).

(1) He came to Corinth a city notorious for its pleasures and its vices. Often is the gospel more gladly received in such places than in the haunts of learning and the strongholds of philosophy. The rejected of Athens finds a welcome at Corinth. To the Corinthians the apostle will write by-and-by, "Ye were thieves, robbers," etc.; "but ye are washed, ye are sanctified," etc. Yet to conquer these hearts, danger and self-denial must be undergone.

(2) Paul works to earn his bread while he is teaching. It was a wholesome custom practiced and taught by eminent rabbis; probably enough by Gamaliel, at whose feet Paul had sat. Christ was the carpenter's Son," and the apostles fishers. Happy he who can afford to prove his entire disinterestedness as a teacher of the truth, and so silence that gainsaying of the ungrateful and the miserly, who object to the gospel and its preaching solely on account of its cost, If his example cannot be exactly followed in the present day, at least it may be taken as a rebuke to the pride of office in the teacher; and to unspiritual luxury and idleness in general. Also as an encouragement to the honest, craftsman; every honorable calling is well-pleasing to God. Act well your part; there all the honor lies." Again, willingness to work is one of the best passports everywhere. "Waiters on Providence" do not see most of the ways of Providence. Had not Paul been a worker at his craft, good Aquila had not fallen in his way. Driven out of Rome, those pious Jews came to Corinth, to afford shelter and food to the apostle. God "seldom smites with both hands." He is a good Worker, but he loves to be helped;" so old proverbs say. (3) His sabbath employment. "Every sabbath." Unwearied zeal characterizes him. Faithful in that which is least, he is faithful in that which is much. The week-day work and the sabbath consecration help one another. Work makes the sacred rest sweet; and the sacred rest gives new energy for work.

2. Courageous progress. (Vers. 5-8.) When Timothy and Silas came, Paul, instead of throwing the work upon their shoulders, only redoubles his activity. How useful and how happy "the tie that binds" men's hearts in Christian love and work (Philippians 2:22)! He continues to witness to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. The previous work in the synagogue had probably been preparatory. But the love of Christ constrains him, and he cannot keep back the main matter of his message, certain as it is to awaken violent opposition. Opposition and blasphemy break out; but the constancy of the servant of Christ is the more illustrated. There is no paltering, no drawing back, no compromise. "Your blood be on your heads!" Thus he clears himself from complicity in the guilt of their spiritual suicide. But before any can venture to imitate Paul's example in this, let them see whether they have done all in their power to raise and save, like the apostle. Driven from the public place of meeting, he goes into the private house of Justus; rejected by Jews, he turns to the heathen. The conversion of Crispus rewards his efforts. Not "many" wise are called (1 Corinthians 1:26). At the same time, there are exceptions. Paul goes out by the front door of the synagogue, so to speak, to find his way in again by the back.

3. The blessed result. (Vers. 9-11.) The Divine voice came, saying, "Fear not! speak, and be not silent!" Times of weakness and discouragement and self-conflict are for all. The mightiest spirits know the deepest dejection, Recall Abraham before Abimelech, Moses in the desert, psalmists of the Captivity, and prophets, Elijah under the juniper, John in prison, Jesus in Gethsemane, Luther and his violent crises. The latter said, "Many think because I am so cheerful in my outward walk that I tread on roses, but God knows how it stands with me." But saith the voice: "I am with thee; none shall set upon thee to hurt thee; much people have I in this city." "I am with thee:" a word of might, that each and all in every humble or important path of duty may lay to heart, and go forward with his work, clear in speech and strong in action. "I have much people in this city:" the seed and the leaven of the Word works with secret might when we observe it not; sleeping echoes waiting to be roused; seven thousand hidden ones who have not bowed the knee to Baal.

II. OPPOSITION TO THE WORK. A year and six months passed in prayer, patience, confidence in God, diligent toil. These are the means by which the work of God is furthered. But the incidents that followed teach that men must suffer for their work, and that all true work involves its cross. The world is the world still; and offences must come.

1. The charge against Paul. "He persuades the people to worship God contrary to the Law." How easily do men persuade themselves that what is against their own pleasures is contrary to God's Law! It is nothing new that those who are most given to error in religion are most ready to accuse others of heresy.

2. The conduct of Gallio. He referred disputes about the Jewish Law to the Jews themselves. It is wise that magistrates should not pass judgment in matters of religion which they do not understand. But it is not well if magistrates are indifferent to religion, its genuine reality, and fail to protect sincere believers in the enjoyment of their religious belief. Gallio is a fine example of moderation, putting to shame the bloodthirsty spirit which has so often prevailed in the Christian Church. But it is an abuse if the example be used as a plea for indifferentism. Gallio, who was cold to religious sympathy, would consent to see a man's civil rights injured. Gallio, on the whole, is a mixed example. Let us say that the duty of a Christian judge is

(1) to have a conscience and a religion of his own;

(2) not to intermeddle in the affairs of conscience of others;

(3) to protect men against violence, of whatever faith they may be. - J.

Corinth. Change of method. In Athens a public challenge offered both to the philosophers and to the citizens generally in the market-place, as well as reasonings with the Jews in the synagogue. In Corinth, a more mercantile and less intellectual city, the preaching was more private and more decidedly on the foundation of the Old Testament, until Paul's separation from the synagogue, Notice -

I. The apostolic SIMPLICITY AND SINGLENESS OF MOTIVE. The Jew who had learned Christ at Rome was at once associated with Paul. There was no attempt to isolate himself from those who may have learned the truth in a somewhat different manner.

II. THE SELF-SACRIFICE of the apostle's daily life. The tent-making supplied temporal wants. Jewish education on the right principle. The cultivation of independence. If not possible in exact repetition, the spirit of such a method should be ours.

III. BROTHERLY LOVE the support of zealous service. The messenger of Christ should be full of sympathy. Fellowship with congenial minds is absolutely necessary to refresh and enlarge the feelings.

IV. GUIDANCE OF CIRCUMSTANCES in Christian labor. Corinth did not require the same method as Athens. A longer stay seemed advisable. Worldly indifference is more hard to meet and overcome than intellectual opposition. Corinth was pleasure-loving and sensual. The synagogue was made the center of work, that time might be given to lay hold of popular interest. Patience and prudence necessary. - R.

The service of the apostle no city or district is more fully detailed than his service at Corinth, and there is so much of interest connected with that city, that we may consider somewhat fully the work that had to be done, and the work that was done there. A general sketch of the place, its character, and its history will suggest the directions in which, further study and research may be hopefully pursued. The most complete and careful note is the following, by Dean Plumptre: - "The position of Corinth on the isthmus, with a harbour on either shore, Cenchreae on the east, Lechaeum on the west, had naturally made it a place of commercial importance at a very early stage of Greek history. With commerce had crone luxury and vice, and the verb Corinthiazein, equal to 'live as the Corinthians,' had become proverbial, as early as the time of Aristophanes, for a course of profligacy. The harlot priestesses of the temple of Aphrodite gave a kind of consecration to the deep-dyed impurity of Greek social life, of which we find traces in 1 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 6:9-19. The Isthmian games, which were celebrated every fourth year, drew crowds of competitors and spectators from all parts of Greece, and obviously furnished the apostle with the agonistic imagery of 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. On its conquest by the Roman general Mummius ( B.C. 146), many of its buildings had been destroyed, and its finest statues had been carried off to Rome. A century later, Julius Caesar determined to restore it to its former splendor, and thousands of freedmen were employed in the work of reconstruction. Such was the scene of the apostle's new labors, less promising, at first sight, than Athens, but ultimately far more fruitful in results." Taking the point of view indicated in the heading of this homily outline, we notice that -

I. CORINTH WAS THE PLACE TO TEST THE ADAPTATION OF THE GOSPEL TO ALL CLASSES OF SOCIETY. The experience of long years and many missionary journeys was epitomized at Corinth. Not even Rome presented such an assemblage of all classes and grades, of all nationalities and races. It was just the place wherein to show what "almighty grace can do." And the great apostle sought it with much the same instinct that leads the revivalists of our day to seek London, or Glasgow, or Paris. The population of Corinth was largely democratic, and its aristocracy was that of wealth rather than of birth. Commerce brought to it sailors and merchants from all parts of the world. There was a considerable Greek population, and a large number of Roman settlers. And we may add that the Jewish nation was well represented. St. Paul preached the gospel to them all, and it proved the power of salvation unto all who believed.

II. CORINTH WAS THE PLACE TO TEST THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL ON MEN UTTERLY DEBASED AND CORRUPTED BY SIS. The moral iniquity of Rome, as described in Romans 1., may help us to realize the profligacy of Corinth. F.W. Robertson says, "The city was the hotbed of the world's evil, in which every noxious plant, indigenous or transplanted, rapidly grew and flourished; where luxury and sensuality throve rankly, stimulated by the gambling spirit of commercial life, till Corinth now in the apostle's time, as in previous centuries, became a proverbial name for moral corruption." Can the gospel cleanse the unclean, deliver those enslaved by vice, break the bondage of degrading habits, and give men command over their passions? Can even worse than Jerusalem sinners be saved? And is there hope for the most abandoned nations? St. Paul's successes at Corinth are the sufficing answer.

III. CORINTH WAS THE PLACE TO DEVELOP THE RELATIONS OF CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES TO SOCIAL AND FAMILY LIFE. Show how the common everyday life and relations of the people had been toned by their idolatrous religion. The practical question comes to every man who yields his heart to Christ - What changes will the Christian principles make in my conduct? Illustrate how St. Paul had to decide many details, and illustrate the working of the Christian principles in his letters to the Corinthian Church. And he thus has rendered invaluable service to the Church of all the ages. - R.T.

Paul has left the mockers, the procrastinators, and the believers, each to reap the fruits he has sown, and, departing from Athens, has reached Corinth. And here we find him the center of so natural a touch of history, that it speaks its own fidelity. No "cunningly devised" history would have interpolated such an incident as this before us. Nothing but the truth of history could find its niche here. So distinctly as it is recorded, it must be charged with some useful suggestions.

I. PAUL PUTS HONOR ON MERE LABOR WITH THE HANDS. It were of those matters of exceedingly curious interest, not vouchsafed to us, and not necessary to "our learning," if we had been told, what Paul earned as wage; or otherwise how he sold what he made. Of one thing we will be sure, he did neither ask nor take more than was the right price.

II. PAUL PUTS ITS REAL HONOR ON THE APOSTOLIC AND MINISTERIAL OFFICE. He does this partly, in one of the most effective of ways, viz. by withdrawing from that office its merely superficial honor. He strips it of mere dignity, of case, and of professionalism.

III. PAUL PUTS HONOR ON INDEPENDENCE, EVEN IN THE APOSTOLIC OFFICE. True, in Christianity as in Judaism, that those who minister at the altar have right to live by the altar, and that the exchange of things temporal and "carnal" (1 Corinthians 9:11-14) for things spiritual is sure to be to the preponderating gain of those who part with the former. Yet there may be times when the day shall be won by one clear proof, and that the proof of disinterestedness (1 Corinthians 9:15-18).

IV. PAUL PUTS HONOR ON THE FREEDOM OF CHRISTIANITY FROM ANY SET AND ARTIFICIAL CLASS DISTINCTIONS. The man who speaks and who does the right and the good is the disciple of Christ. And discipleship is not determined, or regulated, or modified, in any way whatsoever by the kind of work to which it puts its hand. A man who prays in all the secrecy of the closet may do more than the man who preaches in all the publicity of the Church. A man who gives may haply, on occasion, do more than either. And a man who works at the humblest craft may not only be not second to an apostle, but may be truest apostle himself. How often have heart and mind died away, and nothing been reaped for want of hand and foot! The union of the practical with the devotional is often just as truly the sine qua non, as the union of the devotional with the teaching and preaching of the highest seraph-tongue.

V. PAUL STRIKES AT THE DEEP-LYING PRINCIPLE, SO WELCOME AND HONORED WHEN RIGHTLY EMBRACED, OF THE SELF-SUPPORTING CHARACTER OF CHRISTIANITY. This is its honest pride. It asks air and light. And it asks love and faith, trust and trial. And it thereupon asks nothing more, till of it, it comes to be asked, and passionately, what devout, grateful, adoring return in its surpassing condescension it is willing to receive. Beneath not infrequent disguises, Christianity has been a long history of giving and not taking, giving and not even receiving, till hand and heart have become one. And men, suppliant in loving and overflowing devotion, have begged their Master, Lord, and Savior to accept of themselves and their all. - B.

Acts 18:5-11 (or vers. 9, 10)


1. Testify by a special access of zeal in preaching the Word. Times when we should make unusual efforts to persuade men. We need to guard against monotony. The presence of sympathetic fellow-workers is a great encouragement and incitement.

2. Called out by the blaspheming opposition of unbelievers. If Christians knew what is said against Christ, they would not be so quiet as they are.

3. By Divine intimations encouraging and stimulating. Many of the greatest preachers, Luther, Wesley, Savonarola, have had such visions. In our intercourse with God in prayer we receive such gifts of preparation for our work. Every public man should have his seasons of approach to the throne, that his strength may be fed with the invisible stream of grace.

II. THE MINISTRY OF PAUL AT CORINTH IN ITS RELATION TO THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH AND THE WORLD. (Compare the Epistles.) The commercial influence of Corinth would help the diffusion of the truth. While the people were luxurious they were highly cultured. Greek thought was there, and the close intercourse with Athens would give the gospel the opportunity to lay hold of Greece as a whole. "The Lord had much people in that city." The two elements of difficulty evinced in the Epistles were the Greek contentiousness, especially developed at Corinth, and the sensual tendencies of a voluptuous, wealthy people. Hence the importance of the Jewish portion of the Corinthian Church. Crispus the ruler of the synagogue, and Titus Justus the proselyte, would both become important fellow-workers with Paul. Notice, therefore:

1. The union of the Jewish and Greek elements in the early Church and in the development of Christian life; seen in the union of fact and doctrine, of the practical and theoretic, especially in Paul and his teaching (cf. the Epistles throughout).

2. The remarkable guidance of Providence. The opposition of the synagogue leading to a more decided ministry among the Gentiles; and hence to the rapid spread of truth among Greeks, and so through Europe. A merely Jewish religion would never have laid hold of the Greek and Latin minds; Christianity did. We may compare the influence of France during the Middle Ages and since the Reformation, in diffusing ideas among surrounding nations. So we are taught that it is not by human agencies alone that the victims of the gospel are won, but by innumerable instrumentalities and influences working with God's ministers. The conversion of the world may be much nearer than we suppose. Under the surface are hidden operations of God. - R.

Your blood be upon your own heads. Introduce by reference to St. Paul's relations with the Jews. Up to this time he had been strictly loyal to the Jews, and wherever he went he had taken the gospel first to them. No doubt the hindrance of their prejudices, and the violence of their opposition, had weaned him from them and prepared the way for the separation of the Gentile from the Jewish Christians, which took place at Ephesus (Acts 19:9). The terms that are used to describe the conduct of the Jewish party are very strong ones, and help to explain the intense feeling of indignation excited in the apostle. "Opposed themselves" is a military term, implying organized and systematic opposition, How strong St. Paul's feelings were is indicated in his act of "shaking his raiment." "As done by a Jew to Jews, no words and no act could so well express the apostle's indignant protest. It was the last resource of one who found appeals to reason and conscience powerless, and was met by brute violence and clamor." The phrase which the apostle used is evidently a proverbial one; it must not be regarded as a mere passionate imprecation; it is a last solemn warning. With it should be compared such passages as 1 Kings 2:32, 33, 37; Ezekiel 3:18; Ezekiel 33:4; Matthew 23:35. St. Paul did not from this time entirely give up preaching to the Jews, but he gave up preaching to those who lived at Corinth. The point on which we fix attention is that St. Paul had recognized and borne responsibility for them as their teacher; but that responsibility he refused to bear any longer; he cast it back altogether on themselves.

I. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE TEACHER. This is fully dealt with, in relation to the ancient prophets, by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:17-21; 33:1-19). The prophet, or teacher, or preacher, is:

1. A man set in relation with others who is one of them; who can speak to, or influence, others.

2. A man with a message to be given to others. He is a recipient of Divine truth for the sake of others. He has a sphere and a message. Out of these two things comes his responsibility. For the time and occasion, he actually takes upon himself the responsibility of the souls of those to whom he is sent, since their eternal well-being may be dependent on his faithfulness in the delivery of his message. Illustrate that Jonah took upon himself the fate of Nineveh as a nation. So every true preacher now, who has a message from God, finds that the secret of his power lies in the measure in which he can take the responsibility of his audience upon himself, and feel that his testimony will be a savor of "life unto life," or of "death unto death." He can only be cleared of his responsibility before God in two ways.

(1) By fully delivering his message.

(2) By the willful rejection of his message.

Impress what a burden on the Christian preacher's heart is the burden of souls; and with what an agony of feeling he sometimes would cast off the burden, saying, "Who is sufficient for these thins?" But what is overwhelming responsibility from one point of view is holy joy of service from another point of view. Who would not willingly stand with Christ, and feel how "he bare our infirmities and carried our sorrows"? "It is enough for the servant that he be as his Lord."

II. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE HEARER. It may be said -'s it not better to have the people without the knowledge of the truth, if such knowledge increases their responsibility and final judgment? The answer is:

(1) We must preach the gospel, whatever may prove to be the issues of our work.

(2) Bearing responsibilities, and lifting ourselves to meet them well, are the conditions of moral growth. No man can reach a full manhood save under the pressure of responsibilities. Those of the hearer are:

(1) To listen to the teacher of Divine truth.

(2) To recognize the personal relations of the truth he hears.

(3) To decide for himself the acceptance or rejection of the message.

(4) To bear all the present and future consequences of whatever decision he may make.

Impress that the most painful thing about the woe of lost souls will be the conviction that they were themselves to blame. "Their blood was upon their own heads." - R.T.

It must be supposed either that the omniscient eye saw some signs of failing in Paul, or else that the greatness of the work and the severity of the trials before him were judged by Divine compassion to ask some special help. Notice, therefore, how true it is that -

I. THE BEST AND STRONGEST OF HUMAN DEVOTION IS LIABLE TO SOME UNCERTAINTY. No reference is here made to the fickleness that owns to no real devotion, nor ever sprang from depth of root. We are to note that the longest human perseverance may yet break, the stoutest human heart may have its weaker moments, during which irretrievable damage may be done to its cause and discredit to itself, and the warmest devotion may under certain circumstances cool.

1. Exceeding weariness of the flesh may overcome, some unexpected hour, the truest human devotion, if it get left as it were just a moment to itself.

2. An exceedingly baffled state of the mind and of faith may throw that determined human devotion. The vicissitude of the world, the Divine conduct of its history, and, not the least, the Divine conduct of the grand forces of Christianity, when they seem awhile to halt or to be mocked by their own professed friends into discredit, - these often offer to baffle each deepest thinker, each most observant reflector.

3. The exceeding keenness of the soul's own peculiar disappoint-mort, when the beauty and the persuasiveness and the unchallengeable merit of Christ do nevertheless count, to all present appearance, for nothing before the brute force of the powers of evil, - this threatens the patience of human devotion.

II. THE UNFAILING SUCCOUR OF DIVINE INTERPOSITION. That interposition rests on three very thoughts of mercy. They are:

1. The Divine observingness of "all and each," and of the most secret heart and need of each.

2. The Divine sympathy. This is one of the great ultimate facts of a risen, ascended, glorified Savior, who had been once with us, and who still shares, high aloft as he, is our nature.

3. The Divine practical methods of rescue in the hour of danger a provision against its over-storming rage. Among such methods may be ranked:

(1) Divine suggestions. These are angels of angels oftentimes to the depressed, the doubting, the darkened, yet the loving and true of heart - they are like nothing, more than those rays of light, which are the brighter arid more exactly defined for the darkness of the clouds past which they travel.

(2) The triumph of a quickened faith. Surely this is "the gift of God." If faith itself be so, the brightest flashings forth of the very pride of faith, if it be possible to say so, might be yet more inscribed the gifts of God - so opportune, so enlightening, so banishing to doubting darkness and to darkest doubting. There is a moment when perfection is to the fragrance of blossom, the color of flower, the ripeness of fruit, the light on the landscape, and there are moments when Faith knows and does her very best. And it is at such moments that God "restores the soul" of his servant. The miracle of vision and dream is nothing more pronounced, more certain, more conclusive, to conviction than these triumphal moments, when faith is in its pride and glory, and achieves its best.

(3) The direct promise (Psalm 91:1, 3-6, 11, 12, 14, 15; Psalm 23:4; Psalm 73:23). The promise made to Paul in this vision gathers round the center that had drawn already, then, ages and generations round it; and how many more by this time! "I am with thee." And that central promise is good for all bearings of it, "Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4). It holds from such a statement of fact as this, to the immortal Christian charter-promise, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world!" The direct promise, in the midst of our human uncertainty and unsteadiness of performance, is clear, exact, steady, and certain. Resting our faith, it feeds hope, and draws closer and closer the bands of love.

(4) The conviction of there being, in spite of all appearances, a large harvest to be gathered. The true servant, after all, loves work, and loves his Master's work, and must remember that he is neither the Master nor gifted with Master's sight and knowledge. And with what fresh alacrity has he not infrequently resumed toil, when amid all things that look against himself and his toil, he hears, or seems to hear, the authoritative assurance of the Master, "For I have much people in this city," though at present they "wander as sheep having no shepherd"! - B.

The point of this gracious and comforting manifestation of God to his servant is that it came at a time of much perplexity, anxiety, and depression. It told of the Divine care of the earnest and faithful apostle, and gave him the restful assurance that, however men might oppose and trouble him, God accepted his service, and would surely guard him from all evil until his work in that city was complete. We may compare the proverbial assurance which has often brought comfort to our hearts, "Man is immortal till his work is done." It was one of the marked peculiarities of the Divine dealing with St. Paul, that at the great crises of his life special visions were granted to him. At the time of his conversion, he had seen and heard the Lord (Acts 9:4-6). When in a trance at Jerusalem, he heard the same voice and saw the same form (Acts 22:17). When on the ship, during the great storm, an angel form appeared to him with a gracious and assuring message (Acts 27:23, 24). When called to appear before his judge, he seems to have had an unusual sense of Christ's nearness, for he says, "Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me" (2 Timothy 4:17). And he gives a full account of his remarkable uplifting to see unspeakable things in 2 Corinthians 12:1-7. But all who are so sensitively toned as to have such seasons of spiritual elevation are singularly liable to answering moods of depression. They who can thus rise high can also sink low; and St. Paul did but tell of actual and painful experiences when he said, "Without were fightings and within were fears." At Corinth circumstances greatly troubled him. Some measure of success attended his preaching, but he seemed to make more and worse enemies than ever; he separated the Christian disciples from the synagogue in the hope of getting some quietness and peace, but the prejudiced Jews of the synagogue continued their persecutions, until St. Paul's spirit was well-nigh broken, and he had almost made up his mind to leave Corinth, and seek for other and more hopeful spheres. And yet he felt that this would be running away from his work, and forcing God's providence, seeing that no directions for his removal from Corinth had been given to him. It was just at this period of anxiety and depression that the comforting message came to him. Illustration of similar moods of feeling, in other servants of God, may be found in Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-14); in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6-8; Jeremiah 15:15-21); and in John the Baptist's sending from his prison to Jesus, asking, "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" Having this incident and its surrounding circumstances well before us, we may consider two things:

(1) what the incident tells us of St. Paul; and

(2) what the incident tells us of the Lord Jesus Christ.


1. That he suffered from bodily frailty. A burden of physical weakness constantly oppressed him and affected his spirits. Compare Richard Baxter or Robert Hall, men whose holy labors were a continual triumph of will and of heart over pain and weakness. Show the subtle connections between bodily conditions and apprehensions of Divine truth. It is most comforting to be assured that God "knoweth our frame, and remembereth that we are dust,"

2. That he was naturally of a most sensitive and nervous constitution, so that he felt everything most keenly. Such natures yearn for love with an intense passion, and they feel slights and unkindness, and seeming failure and unfaithfulness, in those they trust, with a passion equally intense. They have altogether higher joys than most men can know, but they have answering sorrows deeper than most men can sound. To such natures alone can spiritual visions come: they gain the truth by power of insight; and, often at the cost of extreme personal suffering and distress, they become the great thought-leaders and teachers of the age. Such men are amongst us still, and they need the tenderest consideration and sympathy. They will reward us by thoughts and views of Christ and of truth such as never can be won by mere study. Their love and faith alone can sound the deep things of God.


1. The first thing is the assurance it gives of Christ's actual presence with his servants. He may not always be felt, but he is always present.

2. He is never failing in his gracious and tender interest in their doings, and in them.

3. He is ready to make manifestations of himself, and of his will, to his servants, in exact adaptation to their needs.

4. He may show his nearness, and assure his servants of his sympathy and help in unique ways. The point of all our Lord's manifestations to his people is the need for keeping up in their souls the conviction that he is really with them. All comfort, strength, and security for Christian workers come with this conviction. So St. Paul elsewhere declares, "I can do all things through him that strengtheneth me." We may learn:

1. That times of depression are no unusual experience for God's people.

2. That they may even come in the very midst of our work.

3. That they are under the gracious watching of the Master whom we serve.

4. And that they are only the sides of weakness that belong to natures endowed with special capacities for special work. - R.T.

I. JEWISH FANATICISM. (Vers. 12,13.) The Jews could not or would not understand that Paul was not against the Law, but only against their interpretation of it; that Christianity was not so much the abrogation as the fulfillment of the Law, its reinstitution in another and a better form, the one and only thing which could perpetuate and immortalize it. They regarded the apostle as a renegade, as an iconoclast, as a traitor; their opposition became hatred; their hatred grew into murderous passion; their passion seized on the earliest opportunity to compass his imprisonment or death. We see in every act the attitude, we hear in every word the tone, of bitter and even furious fanaticism, as they hale Paul before the proconsul and exclaim, "This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the Law." This fierceness on their part was characteristic of them; it was of a piece with the rest of their national behavior before and after that time. It was not unlike the fanaticism of other nations, though it was more violent than that which is commonly displayed. All companies of men are liable to be carried away with passion which they are unable to control at the moment, but which they afterwards regret. Far better than this is -

II. CHRISTIAN CALMNESS. "Paul was... about to open his mouth" (ver. 14). We are not told by the historian what was his demeanor. There was no need to tell us. It may be assumed, without the smallest shade of uncertainty, that the "prisoner at the bar" was unmoved by the violence of the mob, and untroubled by the power of the magistrate. His quietness of soul did not proceed from his consciousness of strength, his assurance that he could make out his case against his accusers; it arose entirely from a sense that he stood at that bar as "the prisoner of the Lord," there for conscience' sake; and also from the sense that One stood by him who would not fail him, who would certainly redeem his word (ver. 10), beneath the shelter of whose care he was safe from Jewish spite and Roman power. "The Name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe" (Proverbs 18:10). What time we have reason to be afraid, we will trust in him (Psalm 56:3).

III. ROMAN SUPERCILIOUSNESS. (Vers. 14-17.) We can feel an intense Roman pride breathing in every line of this passage. Gallic considered any contention respecting Jewish laws or customs a matter of utter unimportance. Anything outside the circle of Roman citizenship was beneath the regard of such men as he was. And what if certain Greeks vented their wrath on a despicable Jew! Was that to trouble him? We see a haughty disdain on that Roman brow; we hear a contemptuous scorn in those magisterial tones; we perceive a lofty derision in that swift dismissal, in that absolute unconcern. This was the pride that was born of power and of authority. But, however it may have resulted, here, in impartiality and justice, it is not a lovely nor a worthy feature of human character. We are all of us too near one another in proneness to error and liability to overthrow and disaster, to make it right or wise to take such a tone. Human pride is

(1) always based, in part, on error; it is

(2) always on the way to ruin.

IV. HUMAN SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS. How little did the actors in this scene imagine that they were playing a part on which posterity would always look with interest! How little did Gallic suppose that he would be known to the end of time by reason of his association with that Jewish prisoner whom he contemptuously dismissed from his presence (see Farrar's 'Life of St. Paul,' vol. 1. pp. 572, 573)! How imperfectly we measure the importance of the scenes through which we pass, of the actions we perform, of the men with whom we have to do! Let us act rightly, kindly, graciously at all times and toward all people. Who can tell whether we may not be rendering a service to some chosen ambassador of Christ, or lending a helpful hand in some incident on which the gravest issues may hang, or supplying the one link that is wanted in a chain which connects earth with heaven? They who are conscientious and kind in humblest matters will be surprised one day to find

(1) what excellent things they have done;

(2) what valuable commendation they have earned;

(3) what large rewards await them (Matthew 25:21, 37-40). - C.

I. LEGALISM. The whole idea of the opponents of Paul was his inconsistency with the Law.

1. It was not reverence for God's Law, but for men's traditions.

2. It was a form of self-worship. "He followeth not with us."

3. It was moral pedantry, a common sin; questions about words, names, and law, hiding realities.

II. SECULARITY. Gallio an amiable and wise man, but doubtless influenced by the prevailing Roman spirit, which was indifference to all religion. "Reason" was his guide. But, while he refused to be a party to religious persecution, he did not put forth his power, as he might have done, to maintain liberty of speech.

III. HEATHENISM IGNORANCE AND DISORDER. The gospel best prospers in the calm atmosphere of peace and reasonable thought. When we excite men's passions against one another, we hinder the cause of truth. Sosthenes, doubtless, was ringleader of the Jews, but the Greeks did no service to the gospel by beating him. Gallio's indifference to the gospel was probably increased by seeing it identified with disorder. The men of the world are not to be won by fanaticism. - R.

The common sense of the unlearned has much more mercy than the refinement of the theologian, and the straightforwardness of a heathen will show to more advantage than the crookedness and narrowness of a man better known for professing than for practicing religion. We have here a noteworthy instance of some who, would-be punishers of another, succeed in letting themselves only in for punishment. And this just consummation in this case was due exclusively to the ready perception and blunt, uncompromising action of one who evidently had no inclination to lend himself as the tool of iniquitous bigotry and persecution. When it is said, indeed (ver. 17), that "Gallio cared for none of these things," it is possible that, in strict justice, he ought to have cared for so much of them as concerned the lynch law, which, in the very presence of the "judgment-seat," the multitude of the Greeks inflicted upon Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue. Obviously, however, the Greeks were not exceeding the unwritten law or custom of Corinth in their act, and the inaction of Gallio may be sufficiently accounted for by this consideration. Notice -

I. A LARGE NUMBER OF MEN MAKING COMMON CAUSE AGAINST ONE UNBEFRIENDED MAN, IN A RELIGIOUS MATTER AND BEFORE A FOREIGN COURT. If their perverted animosity of mind did not see the anomaly, the unperverted, unwarped mind of Gallio saw it promptly, and felt it decisively.


1. The facts of the accusers are not true - scarcely to the letter, not at all to the spirit.

2. If. they had been so, it is not this which was likely to give the Jew cause of complaint. The Greek of Corinth might possibly have had some pretence for bringing the matter into prominence, but not the Jew. And Gallio saw through it at once.



V. THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE UNJUST ACCUSERS SUMMARILY PUNISHED HIMSELF, HIS INIQUITY RETURNING UPON HIS OWN PATE, AND THAT BY THE DEED, NOT OF HIM WHOM HE HAD DONE HIS BEST TO INJURE, BUT BY THE SPONTANEOUS CONCERT OF OTHERS. And every stage of these events spoke to the retributive observation of One who "is angry with the wicked every day," let them be who they may, and their pretences what they may. And every step also spoke the observing and sympathizing care of Christ for one to whom he had just made the promise, "No man shall set on thee to hurt thee; I am with thee." How happy are all they who serve him with all their might, in that they may trust him with all their heart! - B.

It is a singular thing that altogether unworthy ideas should have been associated in Christian minds with this man Gallio. He is known to have been the brother of Seneca, and a man of singular amiability of character. "Seneca dedicated to him two treatises on Anger and the Blessed Life; and the kindliness of his nature made him a general favorite. He was everybody's 'Dulcis Gallio,' was praised by his brother for his disinterestedness and calmness of temper, as one who was loved much even by those who had but little capacity for loving.' "F.W. Robertson remarks on the expression, "Gallio cared for none of those things;" "that is, he took no notice of them, he would not interfere. He was, perhaps, even glad that a kind of wild, irregular justice was administered to one Sosthenes, who had been foremost in bringing an unjust charge. So that instead of Gallio being, as commentators make him, a sort of type of religious lukewarmness, he is really a specimen of an upright Roman magistrate." But a careful judgment of the incidents which bring Gallio before us leaves the impression that the general idea of his character is in great measure the correct one; his easy-going gentleness was only too likely to lead him to connive at wrong-doings, and fail adequately to punish wrong-doers. From the narrative we may learn such things as these -

I. SOME THINGS ARE BEST TREATED WITH CONTEMPT. In life we often meet with difficulties which are made by treating trifling matters seriously.

1. Certain forms of opposition to Christian truth are best "left alone." They grow into importance by being treated as if they were serious.

2. Officious and intermeddling persons are best treated with a quiet scorn; by making much of them utterly incompetent persona are lifted into positions for which they are wholly unfitted. In the practical relations of society and of the Church there is a mission for burnout, satire, and even scorn; and in the use of such weapons we have the example of St. Paul. But it is manifest that such weapons are dangerous, and may only be used with due caution and reserve.

II. RELIGIOUS QUARRELS MAY OFTEN WISELY BE TREATED WITH CONTEMPT. The disputes and contentions which arise in religious communities seldom bear relation to principle; they usually come from petty misunderstandings, or aroused personal feeling. Mischief comes by fostering them, giving them importance, and letting them develop their evil influence. There is often needed, in religious associations, the strong firm ruler who, like Gallio, will refuse to hear miserable contentions about words and names, or to heed the reports of slanderers and backbiters. It is seldom found possible to heal religious quarrels, and it is practically wiser to treat them as we treat spreading diseases - stamp them out, by the refusal to recognize them. Let them die out; and this they will surely do if we take care not to fan the flame.

III. THE CLAIMS OF RELIGIOUS TRUTH AND DUTY MAY NEVER BE SET ASIDE WITH CONTEMPT. Whoever may present them, udder whatever circumstances they may be presented, they demand our attention, our calm, careful consideration. Nothing of truth may we leave alone, whether it be old truth set before us with a new vividness and force, or new truth which is apparently opposed to all our prejudices. All truth comes to us with a "Thus saith the Lord;" and, as God's voice to us, we dare not be indifferent, much less may we be contemptuous. Show what truths and duties may come before us; apply especially to the gospel offer; press the demand for immediate attention on this ground, "It is not a vain thing for you; it is your life. - R.T.

The most suggestive sentence in these verses is that with which they conclude; but we may gather lessons from others also. We may learn -

I. THAT THE DIVINE SPIRIT LEAVES US TO LEARN SOME TRUTHS BY THE TEACHING OF EVENTS. (Ver. 18.) We are a little surprised that Paul should think it necessary to trouble himself with ceremonies which, in Christ Jesus, have become obsolete. But this is one of those things which, among many others in our New Testament, show that God does not directly lead his people into the whole truth; he wishes us to learn his mind by the teaching of events, as the early Christians came gradually, and through the lessons of Providence, to understand that they were emancipated from the injunctions and prohibitions of that which was "positive" in the Mosaic Law.

II. THAT OPPORTUNITIES OF USEFULNESS SHOULD BE EAGERLY EMBRACED. There was time for a hasty visit to Ephesus, and Paul did not fail to avail himself of it (ver. 19).

III. THAT EVERY MAN MUST BE ALLOWED TO JUDGE HIMSELF IN MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE. (Vers. 20, 21.) Those Ephesian Jews may have thought - and we may be disposed to agree with them - that it was of greater consequence that they should have the truth preached to them than that Paul should go on to visit an unsympathizing Church. But it was a matter of conscience to him that he should go, and he therefore resisted their entreaties. We must form our judgments respecting the decision of others; we may offer our opinion and even urge our request; but we are bound to remember that it is every man's duty to decide for himself, in the last resort, what he should do and whither he should go. Our urgency should never be pushed so far as to disregard this individual obligation.

IV. THAT THE CHRISTIAN COURTESIES SHOULD BE STUDIOUSLY OBSERVED. (Ver. 22.) It became Paul to salute the Church at Jerusalem. It was the mother Church, with which the other apostles were so intimately connected; it would have been ungraceful on his part not to have maintained friendly, or, at any rate, courteous, relations with it from time to time. It is very probable that there was no cordiality existing between its leaders and himself. Nevertheless, it was better to pay it an amicable visit, as he now did. Cordiality is vastly better than courtesy; but courtesy is decidedly better than disrespect or impropriety, and the irritation which proceeds therefrom. If possible, let unaffected, warm-hearted love prevail and abound; if that be hopeless, then let there be a studious observance of that which is courteous and becoming.

V. THAT THE BUSIEST LIFE SHOULD INCLUDE SOME SEASONS OF REFRESHING REST AND COMMUNION. Even the energetic and anxious apostle, with all his cares and projects, found it well to "go down to Antioch and spend some time there" (vers. 22, 23).

VI. THAT THE WISE TEACHER WILL CARE TO STRENGTHEN HIS DISCIPLES as well as to make converts (ver. 23). Paul was always solicitous to "strengthen his disciples." He was the last man in the world to forget that God was the ultimate Source of all spiritual strength. But he knew that there was much that he, as a Christian teacher, had to do to make his disciples strong. He had

(1) to impart a fuller knowledge of the truth;

(2) to warn against those doctrines and those habits which would bring spiritual weakness;

(3) to incite to holy earnestness by his own spirit of devotion;

(4) to counsel his converts to maintain close intercourse with Jesus Christ;

(5) to see that they were at their post in the Church and in the field of holy usefulness. - C.

We do not know the exact nature of the vow he was under. But the following lessons may be drawn from his conduct: -

I. WORK WHILE IT IS DAY. Where God opens the door, let the ready servant enter. The voice of the Almighty saith, "Upward and onward evermore," Work, not for glory and gain, out for the kingdom of God and the salvation of men.

II. TARRY NOT TO CONFER WITH FLESH AND BLOOD. Foes might have deterred him in the front; loving friends might have held him back; difficulties might have made him quail; but he hears but one voice, sees but one hand, and goes forward. He who proceeds in this spirit, "unhasting, unresting," is always setting out, always arriving; and, passing unhurt through perils which, if dwelt upon in the imagination, would appear insurmountable, can with thankfulness exclaim, at the end of every step of the life-journey, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us!" - J.

An interval in Paul's labors; how long cannot be known. Probably a needed rest; possibly connected with a vow. Employed in visiting Ephesus, sailing to Caesarea, his long fellowship with the Church there, repairing to Antioch and recounting his successes, for some time; and then revisiting the scene of his labors in Galatia and Phrygia. Thus it was a time of comparative bodily rest, of reflection and preparation for the future, and of confirmed intercourse and fellowship with brethren. Notice, therefore -


1. Mingle pauses of rest and thought with activity.

2. Revisit places where seed of truth has been scattered, both to watch the doctrine and strengthen the confidence of new converts.

3. Maintain brotherly sympathy with those laboring for the same Master, but in different ways and places. We should avoid mere individualism in Church life and evangelistic efforts. Paul constantly referred himself to Antioch, and never forgot that he had been recommended to the grace of God by his brethren.


1. The absences of Paul from his converts the occasions of his letters, so of his instruction to the universal Church.

2. Apollos made way for at Ephesus. His mission important. Possible necessity among the Ephesians of other elements besides the Pauline; hence both Apollos and, subsequently, the Apostle John.

3. The immense influence of Paul's personal narration of his successes at Antioch, and of his confirmation of the disciples in the infant Churches of Asia Minor. "Man proposes, God disposes," wonderfully illustrated in the early history of Christianity. - R.

Having shorn his head in Cenchreae, for he had a vow. For the various explanations of this allusion which have been offered, reference must be made to the Exegetical portion of this Commentary. For some reason, which St. Paul regarded as sufficient, he had allowed his hair to grow for a time, and now, the time of the vow being nearly expired, he had his hair cut (not shaved) before starting on his journey into Syria. The point to which we bend attention, as suggesting suitable lessons for us, is that, being a born Jew, St. Paul found himself bound by rules and ceremonials which he did not feel justified in pressing upon his Gentile converts. This may give a seeming inconsistency to St. Paul's conduct, but it really reveals the nobility of his spirit, and the self-mastery and self-rule which he had won. We should carefully distinguish between the limitations under which a good man and wise teacher may please to confine his own personal conduct, and the freedom from such personal limitations which he may enjoin in his public teachings. As an illustration, reference may be made to such matters as card-playing and going to theatres. The Christian teacher who feels that no rule on such matters can be laid down, is quite consistent with such teaching if he pleases to put himself under rule, and will neither play cards nor attend theatres. And this was the position of St. Paul. He felt that personally he did not wish to break off the familiar Jewish bonds of his lifetime; but while he personally met all Jewish claims, he resolutely championed the freedom of the Gentile Christians from all such restrictions and limitations. Impress that the details of a man's conduct are fully within his own management, and that in our public relations we can only deal with principles, leaving all direct applications to the judgment and conscience of the individual. Still, it should be noticed that the apparent diversity between St. Paul's personal conduct and public teachings gave his enemies a seemingly fair ground of accusation. We remark that -


(1) the "accent of conviction;" and

(2) the "note of sincerity."

The force behind a man must be the force of the man himself. We mast know him, and have adequate assurance that the things he speaks have a living power upon himself. We properly require something more than consistency; we ask for a harmony between words and works which wilt show that each are set to the same keynote. if St. Paul's enemies were right, and his Judaical practices were out of harmony with his public teachings, then they pluck the life and power from his teaching. Impress that still all public teaching is ineffective which is beyond the personal attain-merit of the speaker. He can only utter it as intellectual knowledge or as current sentiment. A man only speaks with power when he tells what he has himself "tasted and handled and felt of the Word of life."

II. A MAN'S PRIVATE LIFE MAY BE RULED BY CONSIDERATIONS WHICH HE DOES NOT FEEL BOUND TO PRESS ON OTHERS. This is the point suggested by our text, and a simple illustration will show us St. Paul's position. A Christian teacher nowadays may be personally impressed with the examples of David and Daniel, and may feel that to adopt a rule of praying three times a day will be of direct service to his spiritual life. But he may feel that he has no right to press his rule upon his congregation as a binding one for all. He commends the duty of prayer, but he puts himself under limitations which are for himself alone. Many Christian people make intellectual and spiritual advances, which we might think would give them a large freedom in conduct, and yet the fact is that, to the end of their days, they voluntarily keep up their old habits and practices, preferring to set themselves within what they find to be well-ordered limitations. In such cases it is rather an over-severe consistency than anything like inconsistency which we find. Modern evil rather goes in the direction of over-demand of personal liberty as new aspects of Divine truth gain prominence. There is too little of Pauline self-regulation on the Christian principles.

III. A MAN'S PERSONAL LIMITATIONS NEED NOT CONFUTE HIS PUBLIC TEACHINGS. They may be matters of dispute, on which the Church is divided. He need not make his decisions, for the ordering of his own private life, keep him from the public utterance of the great principles and duties. The readiest illustration of this point may be taken from the use of fermented drinks. A Christian teacher may decide that it is necessary for his well-being that he should use such drinks regularly and moderately. Now, such a man is not debarred by his own personal habit from publicly dealing with the great social evil of drunkenness. He can in no way be charged with inconsistency, since the matter is one of personal limitation, and not one of scriptural principle. St. Paul claimed the right to preach as a Gentile, and to limit himself by Jewish rules, if it pleased him to do so. - R.T.

And he began to speak, etc. The true knowledge is not learning, not even knowledge of the Scriptures as a written Word, but knowledge of the way of God. Priscilla and Aquila may know more, in this sense of knowledge, than Apollos. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned.


1. Much harm is done by zeal without true knowledge.

2. Progress cannot be rapid where knowledge is imperfect.

3. No amount of fervor in the spirit should be allowed to supersede a careful knowledge of the truth.


1. Many things about Jesus may be known, and still the saving truth of spiritual life in him may be unknown.

2. Repentance preparatory to faith, not instead of it.

3. The way of God in Christ is not a reformed Judaism, but an entirely new method of religion; spiritual, not formal; by the law of love, not by the law of works. New wine in new bottles. Defective views of the gospel still prevalent. Morality substituted for faith, ritualism for spiritual religion. The way of God is the way of a new creation. - R.

St. Paul's method of itinerating involved something like a systematic revisitation of the Churches he founded, and the keeping up of a connection with them by letter, when he could not give his bodily presence. He seems only to have remained long enough in any one place to gain a number of disciples, and to start them fairly, with something like Church order, self-government, and adequate teaching force, from among themselves. Ills plan tended to develop the self-dependence of the early Christians; and it made very real St. Paul's doctrine of the actual presence and Divine leading of the Holy Ghost. But we can also see that it placed the young Churches in grave peril, and there can be no reason for surprise if we find that in doctrine they yielded to the influence of bold but imperfect or false teachers; and in practical life felt the contaminating influence of surrounding immoralities. It is plain that occasional visits or letters from the older teachers were imperatively necessary, and the work done by such visits or letters is variously styled confirming, or strengthening, the disciples (Acts 14:22; Acts 15:32-41). The word "strengthening" seems, however, to suggest that St. Paul found some weakening of faith, and failure of character and conduct, which he knew would only too readily develop into doctrinal and practical heresies. We may take this term "strengthening" and apply it to some of the forms of pastoral and ministerial service in our own times. Something is done in the way of visiting and confirming the Churches by our older and honored chief pastors, but it may be urged that here is a sphere of hopeful service which may be much more fully occupied.

I. "STRENGTHENING" AS APPLIED TO THE RENEWALS OF MORAL FORCE IN TIMES OF PERSECUTION. Our Lord fairly forewarned his disciples that they must look for persecution. It came heavily upon the young Churches, not only in those open forms of which history has preserved the records, but also in those thousandfold more searching forms which belonged to family and social life. Power of resistance and steadfast endurance came indeed from the grace of God and the leadings of the Holy Ghost, but these ever fit in with, and work through, a due and careful culture of moral character. There are principles, considerations, and sentiments which strengthen and steady men to endure persecution. And these still form one great theme of pastoral treatment, since, in subtler ways, it is found true to-day that "they who wilt live godly must suffer persecution."

II. "STRENGTHENING" AS APPLIED TO ESTABLISHMENT IN CHRISTIAN TRUTHS. Three processes are ever going on which need careful watching and wise correction.

1. Men who at one time grasp truth strongly, and make it a power on heart and life, gradually get to loosen the grasp, and lose the practical influence of the truth on the conduct.

2. Men who do not at first get a really clear hold of truth soon come, unwittingly, to misrepresent it and injure it; not from an intention of introducing freshness, or from any desire to encourage heresy, but simply from feebleness of mental grip and inability to apprehend truth clearly. The evils which Christian doctrine has suffered from this cause have never been duly estimated.

3. Men who are of inquisitive and restless dispositions are too easily attracted by heretical notions. St. Paul had to deal with all these forms of evil, and he strove to correct them by establishing more firmly than before, in mind and heart, the great Christian foundations; going over, again and again, the "first principles of the doctrine of Christ."

III. "STRENGTHENING" AS APPLIED TO PRACTICAL HELP IN CHRISTIAN LIVING. Many practical questions arose in those times out of the relations of Christian principles to pagan customs, such as the eating of meat which had been offered in sacrifice to idols. And though Christians, under the apostolic guidance, would at first take a decided stand in relation even to the details of private and social life, we can well understand that daily association would gradually wear down their resistance, and they would fail to keep the strictness of moral purity, and the full power of Christian charity, under the influence of daily surroundings. It is too seldom duly considered how the worship and ministry of each returning sabbath day helps to keep up the moral standard of life and conduct among Christian people.

IV. "STRENGTHENING" AS APPLIED TO THE QUICKENING OF ZEAL IN CHRISTIAN ENTERPRISE. The Christian Church is essentially an aggressive Church. It has its mission, and that mission is to the world. It has no right of existence save as it seeks to extend and enlarge itself. A selfish regard for its own interests is simply ruinous to its own best interests. And yet we find that individuals and Churches are ever liable to flag in energy and enterprise, and weakly to fall back upon mere self-culture, or upon the excuse that they must attend to their self-culture. Apostles, and earnest men in all ages, have to arouse the Church to a sense of its duties and responsibilities, and to strengthen it for duly meeting and fulfilling them. And so we find, in St. Paul's letters to the Churches, indications of the various spheres and departments in which he found it necessary to "strengthen the disciples." Illustrate by the tender scene in the life of David, when his friend Jonathan found him out, in his time of depression and seemingly hopeless failure, and "strengthened his hand in God." - R.T.

We learn -

I. THAT GOD ENDOWS HIS SERVANTS WITH VARIOUS GIFTS We have been following the course and rejoicing in the good work of Paul; now we come to another Christian workman of different make, - Apollos. God furnished him with opportunities and faculties that fitted him for service other than that which the great apostle of the Gentiles rendered. Apollos:

1. Had an acquaintance with Greek thought, gained at Alexandria, superior to that which Paul would obtain at Tarsus.

2. Had the great advantage of readiness and force of language; he was "an eloquent man" (ver. 24). He shared with his more illustrious co-worker

(1) a large knowledge of Scripture, and

(2) great fervor of spirit (ver. 25).

It is certain that Paul could do what Apollos would never have accomplished; it is equally certain that Apollos could effect some things which were not within the compass of the apostle. Like faithful Christian men, they rejoiced in one another. Instead of underestimating, and disparaging one another because they differed in gifts and methods, they valued one another's special work and heartily co-operated in the mission field. Few things are more unworthy and discreditable than petty jealousies and disputations between Christian workmen of different types of excellence; few things are more admirable than the hearty appreciation by one man of the work rendered by another which is beyond his own powers of accomplishment.


1. The service of enlightenment. This was rendered to Apollos by Aquila and Priscilla (ver. 26). They had learnt "the way of God" from Paul, and they could and did teach it to Apollos, so that he understood it more perfectly. The little child in a Christian home could teach the profoundest philosopher who was ignorant of revealed truth things which, in spiritual worth, would weigh down all the speculations of his life. Two simple Christian disciples at Ephesus could and did inform the mind of the cultured and eloquent Apollos so that, instructed by them, he would become a great power for truth and Christ in the whole neighborhood. It is within the power of the simplest and humblest to breathe those words of truth and grace which may make a man a fountain of blessing to his kind. 2. The service of introduction (ver. 27). Unknown brethren wrote a letter, and this, reaching the right hands, introduced a valuable exponent of Christian truth to a large and important sphere. If the act of introduction be regarded as it surely should be, not merely as cans of obliging a friend, but as something in which the Master himself and his Church may be importantly served, then, by the conscientious writing of "a letter of commendation," one who is of humble rank may do excellent work for his kind - he touches a spring whence healing and refreshing waters flow.

III. THAT ONE CHRISTIAN TEACHER MAY FOLLOW ANOTHER WITH THE GREATEST ADVANTAGE. (Ver. 28.) "Apollos mightily convinced the Jews;" perhaps more successfully than Paul would have done. When one Christian workman goes and another comes, the latter supplements the former in two ways.

1. He deepens the impression which the former has made. By bearing the same testimony he constrains the people to feel more convinced of the truth and value of that which they have heard.

2. He brings additional light. He puts the same truth in other forms and phases; he presents it as it has shaped itself to his own mind and has been colored by his own experience. Thus he meets the need of some whose necessity had not been met, and wins some that would have remained unwon.

IV. THAT THE COMING OF A STRONG SERVANT OF CHRIST SHOULD BE BUT A REINFORCEMENT TO THOSE ALREADY IN ACTIVE SERVICE. The Church at Corinth was not in a state of inactivity and uuaggressiveness when Apollos arrived. What he did there was, not to originate a mission, but to help those already in the field (vers. 27, 28). He helped them by ably sustaining their endeavors to advance the cause of Christ. The Churches of the Savior should always and everywhere be in a state of evangelistic activity; then they will be prepared to welcome as a timely reinforcement the coming of a specially powerful advocate who will master and secure those whom he encounters. - C.

I. PAUL AND APOLLOS: A CONTRAST. "I planted, Apollos watered." Different Divine instruments, shaped out of different material, prepared in different ways, destined for different objects. The unity in variety in Christian character is one of the chief beauties in the garden of God.

II. APOLLO AS AN EXAMPLE OF THE USE OF CONSECRATED LEARNING IN THE CAUSE OF CHRIST. Here learning is kindled by sacred enthusiasm; it is rooted in faith; it is united with docility; it is applied in the right place and way.

III. AS AN EXAMPLE OF GROWTH IN GRACE. It is the need of all. It is attainable by all who seek it in the right way. It becomes blessed and fruitful in new activity in the kingdom of God.

IV. AS AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE, VARIED SCHOOLS OF LIFE-EXPERIENCE. In the great school of Alexandria Apollos is among the aristocracy of intellect; at Ephesus he is in the company of tent-makers. It is good to know life on all sides; good to find virtue and grace in the most diverse society; and, above all, to detect in each scene the leading hand and educating wisdom of God. - J.

Alexandria's mission. Its broader view of Judaism. Its intermediate position between Palestine and the Christian Church. Variety of human talent and acquirement all serviceable to Christ. Humility of the truly good man, who, though himself learned, is willing to be taught by those who have more of the grace of God. Ministers may get help from their people. Apollos in the footsteps of Paul. He was no rival, but a fellow-laborer. Hence willingly forwarded in his proposal to visit Corinth, and carry on there the good beginning made by the apostle. An example of:

1. Consecrated learning.

2. Rapid growth in grace, because the spirit of the man was humble.

3. Brotherly co-operation. What a rebuke to later times!

4. The blessing of God on a pure and active Christianity. - R.

The doctrine of man's opportunity is the correlative of that of God's providence. A world of opportunity there ever is, ever is even for every man. How much of it mournfully perishes for lack of fitness in those who should be fit! A wonderful quantity and variety of fitness there is which waits upon opportunity, hangs precarious on it, but which often pines away because the opportunity given is not seen, or seen is not rightly appraised and humbly accepted. Pride often stands in the way of fitness accepting opportunity. So the whole Jewish nation sinned, and "knew not their King, God's everlasting Son." Whim often stands in the way; one kind of opportunity had been preferred and counted upon, and that which actually comes, though no doubt much better in reality, looks so strange that it is disdained. Impatience often stands in the way; for how much of opportunity depends on ripeness, ripeness of time fitted to the exact ripeness of character, and many will not wait, nor believe, nor trust I In all such cases, the waste, the sacrifice, the absolute unqualified loss are what only the omniscient eye can see, and are such that the eye of Jesus would "weep over them. A much happier view of fitness, which courted opportunity, and of opportunity which was divinely vouchsafed to fitness, is here before us. Let us observe -

I. THE FITNESS. It is illustrated in two instances.

1. The instance of Apollos.

(1) He was eloquent. It was very possibly a native gift with him. If it were such, it was used - used in a good cause, improved by use. Many a natural advantage is not used; or is so sluggishly used that it wins no improvement and earns no talent beside itself; or used, it is used to inferior ends or to really bad purpose. So far from its being able to be described as improved," it both desecrates and is desecrated.

(2) He had the fitness of one who had acquired knowledge of the Scriptures, and very hearty, thorough knowledge of them. He understood their parts and their harmony. He could, no doubt, quote them, compare them, vindicate them against misinterpretation or very weak interpretation. And thoroughness of acquaintance with them raised their meaning and value and admirableness incomparably for him. A very scanty, meager acquaintance with Scripture is dishonor offered to it and its high worthiness; but, furthermore, it has no value for the subject of it. He is stricken with famine in the presence of rich abundance, and the strickenness is all his own doing. The average modern Christian loses, perhaps, beyond all that is supposed, from this one source.

(3) He had been instructed and had taken the graft of such instruction respecting the Messiahship of Jesus. "This word," upon which all turned for the Jew of that day, he had "received with meekness." And this word, though at present he had not got beyond the "baptism of John," and knew little of the "baptism of the Holy Ghost," was bearing already "much fruit."

(4) He owned to the great qualification of "fervor in the Spirit." It was a fervor assuredly not all his own, not altogether native in gift. The Spirit had condescended to descend and light upon him.

(5) He had a certain fitness of practical aptitude at speaking. And he did not bury it. He began by "speaking" as if in conversation with one or more. He went on to "teaching," and neither his teaching nor any who heard it rebuked his advance, it would appear, till he found himself "preaching boldly" in public in the synagogues. It is just as though impulse had been faithfully obeyed, and felt its way, felt it rightly from step to step.

(6) He had also a certain missionary fitness. No large language boasts it to us, but the significant language of his deeds speaks it. He was "disposed" to pass onward. This is the disposition of the gospel. It refuses to stagnate. It refuses to be partial. It refuses to forget "the ends of the earth." It refuses to stay its course till it shall "cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea."

2. The instance of Aquila and Priscilla. Behind the all-brief allusion to them, what a background, we may be well assured, lies! What loss of worldly business, what vexation, what fatigue, what wounded hearts and painful aspects of human life, and strange estimates of the great Invisible, must have been the oft visitants of those banished Jews of Rome! Yet

(1) they had fallen in with Paul, and not been afraid of him, nor of his truth, which was one with him, and they had "learned of him." Ay, it was the foundation of all fitness for them. But

(2) they had admitted Paul to be "partners" with them, or workman for them at wages, and had received him as an indoor servant. So they had not only learnt the first outline and elements of Christian truth, but they had enjoyed the priceless advantage of learning ever so much more by question and answer, at many an odd moment, when the light burst in on them like a flash of lightning, only with healing instead of alarming effect. They had learned in many a nicely disposed frame of mind, when a quarter of an hour gave more than a week would have otherwise given. They had also been relieved and cheered through long stretches of wearisome toil, yet the time sped all too quickly. And many a time they said, in thinking of it all, "Did not our heart burn within us?" They were qualifying for nothing different from this - to "expound the way of God more perfectly" to others.

(3) They had come to feel themselves, if it might at all be so, "inseparable" from Paul They must go with Paul (ver. 18) into Syria and to Ephesus (ver. 19). "There," it is significantly said, "he left them" (ver. 19), for it was time their own separate usefulness and ministry should begin.


1. For Apollos. He seemed made for usefulness.

(1) He had begun work right heartily before Aquila and Priscilla had told him the latest and the best. So he had already found his work out of the various fitnesses which lay in him, which he had not neglected, not resisted, not despised.

(2) The opportunity of large accessions of knowledge are thrown in his way, and he embraces them and owns them. Possibly the tent-making couple, man and wife, did not ordinarily stand very high in repute with the learned and polished of Alexandria (ver. 24). But as surely as they recognize the right ring about him, so does he about them. And he is glad of the providential opportunity held out to him, to have "the way of God expounded" to him more completely and fully.

(3) The opportunity is opened to him of passing on to other ground, accredited by "{he brethren," till he finds himself the true living center of a people to God's glory. He is the "much helper" of them, who had already "believed through grace," and he is the effective, trenchant, and successful convincer of many others, of "the truth as it is in Jesus." What a lesson for young men! And how many persons of great gifts not used, misused, or sluggishly used, are sternly rebuked by the example of Apollos! While he is an example of how God will find the work and the opportunity and the glorious usefulness for those who have and improve and dedicate to him their fitness, of whatever kind, for his work.

2. For Aquila and Priscilla. These had been blessed themselves. Very likely, indeed, they had been a real help and comfort in private and in traveling to Paul. We can see them, wherever the modest opportunity offered, modestly stepping in and using it for the glory of Christ and the good of the brethren and others. But they had never thought of anything beyond such silent, unknown, unrecorded usefulness. But no, it shall not be so. A new opening occurs; they see it, and use it. They teach the teacher. They furnish the armory of the capable, skilful, valiant warrior. Not a victory that Apollos won afterwards, but their share was registered up above; and not a tender plant he watered (1 Corinthians 3:6), but the refreshingness came partly of their work, while "God g-we the increase." For love, and care, and study, and zeal for him, Christ will never long withhold that best present reward, the reward of sufficient opportunity. - B.

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