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Paul at Corinth
Summary —Paul Leaves Athens for Corinth. Works with Aquila and Priscilla. Preaches in the Synagogue. Departs to the Gentiles. Many Hear, Believe, and Are Baptized. The Lord Encourages Paul in a Vision. The Seizure of Paul by the Jews. Before the Judgment Seat of Gallio. The Accusers Driven Away. Paul Sails to Ephesus, Antioch and Jerusalem. Starts on His Third Missionary Tour. Apollos Taught by Aquila and Priscilla, and Preaches in Corinth.
1. Came to Corinth. The distance between Athens and Corinth is forty-five miles by sea. The Acropolis of one city can be plainly discerned from the other. From the most remote times Corinth had been an important commercial center. Situated on the narrow isthmus between Greece proper and the Pelopenesus, it had harbors on both the Ægean and Adriatic seas. The old city was destroyed by the Roman Consul Mummius, but it was rebuilt by Julius Caesar, made a Roman colony, (see notes on 16:12), and was, at the time of Paul's visit, a city of great splendor. Of its morals one fact will speak; one temple, that of Venus Pandemos, had a thousand courtesans attached.
2. Found a certain Jew named Aquila. We have no account of the conversion of these two Christians, so famous in connection with Paul's labors. The fact that he describes Aquila as a Jew seems to imply that he was not yet a Christian. I am of the opinion that they were converted at Corinth. For other notices of them, see verses 18 and 26 below; Rom. 16:3, 4; 2 Tim. 4:19, and other passages in the Epistles. Born in Pontus. A great province southeast of the Euxine Sea. Lately come from Italy. They had been driven out of Italy by a decree of the Emperor Claudius banishing all Jews from Rome. The Roman historian Suetonius, who lived about fifty years later, alludes to this decree, but states that the Jews made disturbances at the instigation of one Chrestus, a form the ancients often used for spelling Christus; a mistake of the historian, showing that they did not comprehend the spiritual nature of Christ's reign.
3. He abode with them. He did this because they were of the same craft. This is the first mention of the handicraft by which so often during his toilsome life Paul earned his daily bread. Every Jewish boy was taught a trade, and Paul no doubt learned his in Tarsus. Compare 20:34; 1 Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:8; 1 Cor. 4:12.
5. When Silas and Timotheus were come. When Paul left Berea for Athens they remained (17:14), but he sent for them to come to him. 1 Thess. 3:1 seems to imply that Timothy was sent back from Athens to Thessalonica. Some think, however, that they did not join him at all until he was in Corinth. Was pressed in the spirit. The Revision reads, “Was constrained by the word,” that is, by 496the gospel message. When they came, probably freed from the need of daily labor, and encouraged by their presence, he began the work in earnest.
6. When they … blasphemed. Against Jesus Christ. The opposition became malignant. He shook his raiment. See note on 13:51. Your blood be upon your own heads. “I have done my duty. The responsibility is now yours.”
7–11. He departed thence. Left the synagogue and taught no more there, but secured a place of teaching in the house of Justus, near by. The Revision reads, “Titus Justus.” Some have supposed this man to be the Titus to whom the epistle was afterwards written. Crispus, the chief ruler. Though the synagogue opposed, its president became a Christian with all his family. Paul baptized him with his own hands (1 Cor. 1:14). Many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. This describes the gospel process of conversion. The word is preached, faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17), confession (Rom. 10:10) and baptism follow belief. This is the invariable order in the New Testament. Spake the Lord to Paul. In some way he manifested his presence and cheered him in his work, by the assurance of great success. We know that the result was not only a flourishing church in Corinth, to which two epistles were written, but churches through Achaia, the province of which Corinth was the capital (2 Cor. 1:1.) He continued there a year and six months. While here, besides his other labors, he wrote the two epistles to the Thessalonians, the first of that grand series of letters which form so precious a feature of the New Testament.
12–17. When Gallio was the deputy of Achaia. Proconsul, in the Revision, as it should be. The province of Achaia had been transferred by Claudius to the government of the senate, and the governors of senatorial provinces were proconsuls, which is the meaning of the term rendered deputy. Gallio was the brother of Seneca, the philosopher and tutor of Nero. He is often mentioned in the literature of that day as a cultivated, polished man of the world. Seneca speaks of his brother's residence in Achaia. The Jews made insurrection. Rose up against Paul, no doubt enraged at the success of his work. His sleepless enemies always found some occasion to stir up strife. Brought him to the judgment seat. The court of Gallio. This man persuadeth … contrary to the law. Their charge was that Paul sought to persuade men to worship contrary to the Roman law; that is, he preached a new and unlawful religion. Besides the state religion, Rome recognized various others, among them Judaism. 497These Jews attempted to show that Paul's gospel was not Judaism. Gallio said unto the Jews. Without suffering Paul to reply, he at once rebuked the Jews, who were evidently not in his favor. His rebuke shows that he ignorantly regarded Christianity as a kind of Judaism, and thought that the enmity of the Jews was due to the rivalry of sects. To him it was a question of “words and names, and of the Jewish law.” He drave them. Ordered his lictors to clear the court of the Jews. The Greeks took Sosthenes. He had evidently succeeded Crispus as chief ruler of the synagogue, and was probably foremost among the accusers. The populace laid violent hands on him. Gallio cared for none of those things. The great Romans were usually utterly indifferent to religion at this period. Nor did Gallio care to see some violence inflicted on the leading Jews.
18–23. After this. After the affair before Gallio. How long Paul remained, whether weeks or months, is not stated. The object is to show that this occurrence did not cause his departure. Sailed thence into Syria. Antioch, the mother Gentile church from whence he started, was his destination. Having shorn his head in Cenchrea. Cenchrea was the eastern harbor of Corinth, and received the commerce of Asia. A church was planted here (Rom. 16:1). For he had a vow. We know that the Jews were wont to make personal vows (Gen. 28:20; Lev. 27:2; 1 Sam. 1:11; 2 Sam. 15:7, etc.) Paul complied with this custom of his race for some reason not explained. Why he took the vow, for how long, and what the shaving of the head had to do with it, are matters of conjecture. Nazarite vows required the shaving of the head in Jerusalem, and the hair cut off was offered in the temple. This could not have been a Nazarite vow. It is probable that he complied with some Jewish custom to aid him in reaching his own people with the gospel. Came to Ephesus. The great commercial metropolis of Asia Minor. Left them there. Priscilla and Aquila. Entered the synagogue. The Jews seem to have given him a favorable hearing, but he could not now tarry. Keep this feast. There are reasons for believing the feast to be Pentecost. I will return to you. He kept the promise. See 19:1. Landed at Cæsarea. He sailed from Ephesus to Cæsarea, and went up from thence, about seventy miles, to Jerusalem. Saluted the church. We have no other account of the incidents of the visit. Went down to Antioch. The headquarters of Gentile missions, the terminus of his second missionary tour. 498It had occupied at least three years. Spent some time there. He did not remain a great while, but departed to visit the churches he had planted on his last tour in Galatia and Phrygia, This is the beginning of his third missionary journey.
24–28. A certain Jew named Apollos. A native of Alexandria, a city where there were tens of thousands of Jews. He was an eloquent rabbi, learned in the Scriptures, a disciple of John the Baptist, but had not yet learned fully the gospel of Christ. He spake diligently the things of the Lord. That is, all that John understood. He believed that Jesus was the one coming after John, but he had learned only the gospel of the Lord's first commission (Matt. chap. 10). He was ignorant of the gospel of the second commission (Matt. 28:19), and of Pentecost. In my opinion his position was about that of the disciples of the Lord before the Great Commission was given. He had the gospel in part, but needed to be shown the way of God more perfectly. Aquila and Priscilla supplied this need, and equipped him for gospel work. When he was disposed to pass into Achaia. Greece, the province of which Corinth was the Roman capital. The brethren wrote. This is the first instance of church letters. This was written to show the brethren at Corinth that the bearer was worthy of their confidence. They no doubt testified to his soundness in the faith and Christian character. Paul alludes to such letters in 2 Cor. 3:1. He helped them much. The believers at Corinth. Apollos was God's instrument to help them. Through grace. Through the Divine favor. For he mightily convinced the Jews. That he was a man of God of great power is shown by Paul's allusions to him. See 1 Cor. 1:12; 3:4–6. 499
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