God loves hard work!
We last left Paul teaching in Athens in Acts chapter 17.
Vs 1-3 After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers.
We don’t really know if Aquila and Priscilla were believers when they met Paul, or if they came to faith through Paul teaching them while working.
When needed Paul worked in a trade to support himself and his ministry. Sometimes that happens in ministry. There are times when God opens a door of provision for us when we have a need. There are other occasions when God opens a door of opportunity to provide for us when there is a need. This seems to be one of those opportunities that allows Paul to work to earn a bit of money, and to provide for himself.
God wants us to work hard, and He even created work for us to do. He said about Adam at the dawn of creation:
Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
~ Genesis 2:15
And Paul writes about work quite a bit in his letters:
For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.
~ ll Thessalonians 3:10-12
In his letters he also gives us advice on our ATTITUDE about the work that God gave us to do:
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
~ Colossians 3:17
God through Paul is talking to anyone who serves, whether we serve at church, at work, at school, or in some other capacity. God wants us to do it as if we are serving Jesus Himself and not man.
Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.
~ Ephesians 6:5-7
Follow God’s Holy Spirit
Vs 4-6 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
Many times in our Christian walk we feel “compelled by the Spirit” and we act on what we feel the Holy Spirit is prompting us to do. On some of those occasions, things don’t seem to work out the way we think they should. Here, Paul feels the Spirit prompting him to preach and teach. One might expect that if God were directing you or me to tell someone about Jesus, that they would welcome the message, come to faith, and find salvation, right? That’s not necessarily so! God’s plans are so much bigger than our plans.
Look at what happens to Moses back in the Old Testament. Here, God is “compelling” Moses to action:
“Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, “I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt; and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey.’ Then they will heed your voice; and you shall come, you and the elders of Israel, to the king of Egypt; and you shall say to him, ‘The LORD God of the Hebrews has met with us; and now, please, let us go three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’ “But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand. “So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go.
~ Exodus 3:16-20
God first tells Moses to talk with the elders (or leaders) of Israel and that when he does, “then they will heed your voice”. The Lord then also tells Moses to go and talk to the King of Egypt and ask him to release them to go and worship God. But God says Pharaoh will NOT listen: “But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go.”
In our humanness, that seems like a waste of time right? Why even spend the time and energy if they’re just going to spurn the message? Because God is all-knowing and has a plan, whereas we are His creation and our knowledge wouldn’t fit in a thimble compared to His. Just watch God’s plan unfold here!
God has a plan for you!
Vs 7-8 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.
First, after being rejected by the Jews right out of the synagogue, God opens a door for Paul to come live with Justus “whose house was next door to the synagogue”. What??
It gets better. Then we see that “Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household” Wow! God uses Paul to deliver the initial message in the synagogue “every Sabbath” (we don’t know how many but obviously several), and God allows Paul to be rejected. Then God moves Paul in next door to the synagogue so that as he goes in and out of his home every day the Jews will be frequently reminded of the Gospel message. Perhaps Paul even has a chance to witness to the Jews as they attend. It’s an awesome and wondrous thing to watch God’s plan unfold.
Then the Lord reassures Paul:
Vs 9-11 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
Now we see the Jews oppose Paul again, this time more aggressively:
Vs 12-17 When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, saying, “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters.” And he drove them from the judgment seat. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things.
As proconsul, Gallio has some authority and power to conduct a trial and deliver a judgment against Paul. But God has a plan and He delivers! He sends the Jews away and no harm comes of the effort.
In all the crummy junk of life that we go through that we can’t control, God has a plan for you! God has a plan for me! When we feel God’s prompting, we follow His lead, and things don’t seem to be working out the way we think they should – God has a plan! We just can’t see it like He can. This is such a good reminder for me today.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11
Not only does God have plans for us, but they are “plans for welfare and not for evil”. God wants good for us, He wants to glorify Himself through our lives. That doesn’t mean we’ll be rich and never have trouble. But in His wisdom and strength He’ll take care of you “to give you a future and a hope”. Who is our future, who is our hope? Jesus.
We do not know what will happen tomorrow
Vs 18-21 So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow. And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, but took leave of them, saying, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” And he sailed from Ephesus.
I love that Paul felt strongly the “compelling” of the Spirit to attend the feast in Jerusalem, and that he follows God in that. Also, he doesn’t commit to returning to the believers in Ephesus, but he says “I will return again to you, God willing.” Paul knows who holds his future. Paul knows where his hope lies.
Look at how James says it:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”
If we are submitting our lives and ourselves to Christ, we then submit to His will and His plans. We only have a short time on this earth for “a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away”. Do we want to spend that short time doing our own thing, or living for eternity?
God is asking us to live for eternity while on earth right now. Just persevere here on earth, follow Him, read His Word, share the hope of Jesus with others. Our lives here are not even a brief moment compared to all eternity.
Vs 22-26 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch. After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples. Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
Apollos was born in Alexandria (Egypt) which was a very well-educated city. The library there was one of the largest and most complete in the ancient world. Apollos knows the Old Testament Word of God. He knows his scripture! With his ability and knowledge, he is able to effectively teach and show from the Old Testament that Jesus is the Savior of the world. The New Testament had not yet been written or if parts of it were, like the Gospels, it wasn’t yet widely distributed or accepted as scripture.
Apollos only had knowledge up to the “baptism of John”. He probably knew that Jesus was crucified and even that He was resurrected, but he didn’t know all of Jesus’ teachings.
In the church of today, some might criticize Apollos and say he shouldn’t be teaching. He’s not educated enough in the Bible. The man hasn’t studied enough or doesn’t know what he’s talking about other than the Old Testament. But Aquila and Priscilla see a man that loves God, is bold to tell others about Jesus, and just needs a little more education and guidance. I love that they see his heart and not his faults.
Vs 27-28 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.
After Aquila and Priscilla guide and educate Apollos, he is now better equipped to go out and teach back in Corinth (Achaia). It says he “greatly helped those who had believed through grace”. That means he treats these believers in much the same way he was treated. Not looking at their faults and lack of biblical education, but rather taking the time to teach them.
None of us can know God’s word so completely that we no longer need to learn. Whether we are a brand-new believer or have been following Jesus most of our life, we need to read and study God’s word to know what it says. We need to sit under a teacher/pastor that teaches the Bible from the Bible. Don’t follow the teachings of a pastor that doesn’t teach straight from the Bible. The pastor/teacher should use lots of scripture to back up what he (or she) is saying. And the more you know God’s word, the better you’ll know if that pastor is telling you the Truth.
See also Giving Thanks, In All Things