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Bible Commentaries
Acts 18

Concordant Commentary of the New TestamentConcordant NT Commentary

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Verses 1-2

19 The hill called the Areopagus (Latin, Mars' Hill), just a few steps above the Market Place, was a most fitting forum for the folly of God to defeat the wisdom of the world. At Rome Paul's weakness overcame the power of the world; at Ephesus he overthrew its religion; at

Athens his foolish talk about the resurrection confounded the philosophies that made Greece famous.

21 While the Epicureans derided him, both they and the Stoics, as well as the many Athenians who had returned from foreign travel, all were eager to hear anything that was novel, even if they could not agree with it. The resurrection was unheard of amongst them, so they wish to know more of it.

23 Paul is too wise to begin offensively by telling his hearers that they were too superstitious. His words are rather complimentary, at least so they would understand them. To dread demons was a virtue, the essence of their religion.

23 By this happy introduction the apostle manages to conciliate the pretense to knowledge which the philosophers affected. Instead of charging them directly with ignorance of God he introduces the inscription, to an unknown god, which they doubtless all had seen. Then he pursues a course of reasoning; which they could follow, showing the illogical basis of their philosophies as to creation, God's continued activity in providence, and His desire that men should use these evidences in groping for Him-as they were. He is careful to make every possible concession to the philosophers, yet boldly attacks their error. In the midst of marvelous temples. and elaborate ritual, he does not hesitate to declare their uselessness to the God Who needed nothing, but was the Giver of all things. He asserts His supremacy in time and space. He acknowledges the partial truth in the Stoic philosophy by proclaiming His presence and immanence.

28 Paul not only appeals to the measure of truth in their philosophies, but strengthens his cause with them by showing that even their own poets have stumbled on the truth he is about to deduce. The exact words "For of that race also are we" occur in a poem by Aratus, of

Cilicia, Paul's native province. "The race" refers to the race of the gods, who were merely deified men. Cleanthes of Lystra also, in a hymn to Zeus, says, "for we are of your race."

29 Paul then does away with their idols, leaving nothing of their religion but the unknown God, Who knows their ignorance and bears with it, but now charges them to change their minds in view of future judgment, which is assured by the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Paul wisely begins the evangel to them by announcing the resurrection, for it alone could dispel the error of their philosophies and bring them to a realization of the necessity for a Saviour.

32 The resurrection involves the death of Christ, and this the manner and necessity of His death for sin, but Paul was not allowed to proceed, though he doubtless did unfold the evangel to those who followed him when he left the Areopagus. Here we have a marvelous model for the preaching of the evangel to the wise of this world. No appeal is made to Scripture; for it would be useless. Every concession is made to the dim perceptions of truth which they held, and they are led as far as human reason can bring them up to the greatest fact of the evangel-the resurrection. But alas! Not many wise are called, for God chooses the stupid of the world to disgrace the wise ( 1Co_1:26 ). No persecution drove Paul away, yet no flourishing ecclesia followed his labors. Indifference is deadly.

1 Paul's plan, in leaving Athens, was doubtless to found another center for the evangel in Achaia, as Thessalonica was for Macedonia. Corinth was the logical place, a large mercantile city, whence the evangel could spread in all directions.

Verses 3-25

3 While in Thessalonica he had been supported partly by gifts from Philippi, but now he engaged in tentmaking as a means of. livelihood.

During his early days in Corinth his heart was continually occupied with the saints from whom he had been severed, especially those of Thessalonica. He had sent Timothy to them to establish them. Now when Timothy came to Corinth with Silas and brought good news of their faith and love, he writes an epistle to them. This was, it seems, not only the first of Paul's epistles to be penned, but the first part of the Greek Scriptures to be committed to writing.

6 As usual, Paul went to the synagogue and spoke on the sabbaths, but he does not seem to have proclaimed Christ until his companions came. Then he boldly preached Jesus as the Messiah. Profiting by his former experiences, he leaves them when they oppose and holds his meetings in a private house. Yet many, including the chief of the synagogue, are won for the Lord, Paul's language and symbolic action in withdrawing from the Jews are a denunciation of woe, and agree with what he wrote about them at this time ( 1Th_2:15-16 ).

9 Paul, in writing to the Corinthians concerning these early days, told them that he was with them in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling ( 1Co_2:3 ). Hence he received a vision in the night to encourage him, God had chosen many a sinner in that city who should hear the evangel through Paul and believe. The opposition did not develop for some time and he was allowed to work for a year and a half. Thus he laid the foundation ( 1Co_3:10 ) of one of the most flourishing of the ecclesias, which ever after had a large place in his heart.

12 The Jews, however, took advantage of a change in the government, when Gallio (Annreus Novatus, a brother of Seneca, the philosopher, but adopted into the family of Junius Gallio, the rhetorician) became proconsul. He seems to have been especially liberal and tolerant, and refused to act as judge in an affair involving the religious law of the Jews. He considered such matters entirely outside his jurisdiction as a Roman judge.

16 The Greeks thoroughly disliked the Jews, and, taking advantage of the discomfiture of the Jews, gave Sosthenes a beating in front of the very dais. This, of course, was contrary to law, but Gallio chose to overlook it. Sosthenes seems to have replaced Crispus as chief of the synagogue when the latter believed the evangel. It is possible that he, also, believed later, for a brother of this name is mentioned in Paul's first epistle ( 1Co_1:1 ) .

17 At Philippi, the apostle had turned all blame upon the officers. So here the Lord brings upon the Jews the violence and disgrace they hoped to heap on the apostle. His promise that Paul should not be harmed is faithfully kept. The opposition has helped rather than hindered the evangel.

18 The taking of a vow was not apart of the law, but was strictly voluntary on the part of those who took it on themselves. Such a person was separated to God, and must not touch the dead, no matter how close the physical relationship. So Paul, at this time, became separated from the dying nation of Israel (Nu.6). Perhaps Paul's deliverance from the Jews in Corinth was the occasion of this vow. As a further indication of his separation from the apostate nation it corresponds to his action at the beginning of his ministry in Corinth in severing from the unbelieving Jews and going to the nations with the evangel. We have no record of his release from the vow, for he only sheared his hair in Cenchrea. To end it he would need to go to Jerusalem and shave his head. Hence, in spirit, his ministry henceforth is that of a Nazarite, without the joy which will characterize the coming of the kingdom and with the weakness and shame suggested by the long hair.

22 It is evident that Antioch has displaced Jerusalem as the center of the evangel. From this point he commences his third missionary journey. He first retraces the steps of his former journey but is now permitted to enter the province of Asia.

24 Apollos' knowledge seems to have been limited to the Hebrew scriptures which had been translated into Greek in his native city, Alexandria, in Egypt, and to the ministry of John the baptist.

Verses 26-28

26 Apollos' ignorance of the ministry of the Lord and His twelve apostles made it easy for him to receive the truth proclaimed through Paul, so that he became a great help to the saints in Corinth as well as an ardent and powerful exponent of the ancient Scriptures concerning the

Messiah. What Paul had planted Apollos watered. He built on Paul's foundation ( 1Co_3:6 ; 1Co_3:10 ). The Corinthians made him the head of one of their schisms ( 1Co_1:12 ). He continued in fellowship with the apostle to the end ( Tit_3:13 ). It is not likely that he was an eloquent man, for the word used denotes scholarship, rather than eloquence, and the combination is rare. Superiority of speech is not needed in the proclamation of the evangel. It is not in word but in power ( 1Co_2:1-4 ).

1 Paul came by an upper road to Ephesus, passing by those of Colosse and Laodicea ( Col_2:1 ), who never saw his face in the flesh.

2 These disciples, like Apollos, seemed to know nothing of the ministry of the Lord and the twelve apostles, and of the gifts of the holy Spirit which were not given until after our Lord's ascension. They possessed none of these gifts and had not so much as heard of them. John's baptism was for the repentant, to prepare a people for the Messiah Who should come after him, Who would baptize in holy Spirit.

5 This verse is usually taken to indicate the act of the twelve disciples, rather than Paul's statement concerning those who heard John the Baptist. But the change in the tense of the verb is against such a rendering. Paul uses the indefinite " baptizes " (4), " hearing " (5) are baptized , of the acts or John and those he baptized, but it is changed to the present, at placing , when speaking of Paul's acts, and to the past when speaking of its effects. This is not so apparent in the English version as in the Greek, but suggests that the apostle followed his usual course, for Christ had not sent him to baptize but to preach the evangel ( 1Co_1:17 ). The gifts followed the imposition of his hands, not their baptism.

8 Once more Paul pursues his usual plan of proclaiming Christ in the synagogue of the principal city of a province.

9 In Ephesus the previous visit of the apostle and the testimony of Apollos, as well as his own bold proclamation in the synagogue, won many adherents among the Jews, so that in this case, it was not some who believed, but some who opposed . After three months matters come to a crisis and Paul leaves the synagogue and brings the believing disciples with him, making his headquarters in the school of Tyrannus, where he discourses daily. Besides this, as he reminds the elders in his affecting farewell at Miletus, he supported himself by his own hands ( Act_20:34 ), possibly workIng at his trade with Aquila and Priscilla, going about the homes as well as teaching publicly ( Act_20:20 ), and healing many of diseases, and casting out wicked spirits.

13 The Jews had fallen so low that many of them became sorcerers and magicians who used incantations in their attempts to overcome evil spirits. Finding that Paul's formula was so effective they do not hesitate to profane the name of the Lord, by using it in their exorcisms. But the evil spirits were not deceived by this means, as the sons of Sceva found to their sorrow.

15 The spiritual tendency of Paul's ministry and his authority over the spirit world is here impressed upon us by one of the spirits themselves. The special word used of Paul is a very strong term denoting that they were very well acquainted with him. But they refused to recognize those who would not have the Messiah for their Saviour and Master, yet thought to make capital out of His name and power. Throughout Paul's course he drew nearer and nearer to the spiritual powers until, in his final ministry, he recognized them alone as the real object of attack ( Eph_6:12 ).

17 This incident had a marked effect on those who practiced such arts. The demons whom they feared had acknowledged both the Lord and His servant as worthy of their obedience. No wonder that they were filled with fear and magnified the Lord Jesus.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 18". Concordant Commentary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/aek/acts-18.html. 1968.
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