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Bible Commentaries
Acts 18

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

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Verses 1-22




Acts 18:1-22.

The twenty-seventh chapter of Farrar’s Life of Paul is very fine in furnishing a background of Acts 18. Also the corresponding chapters in Conybeare and Howson, and particuarly that chapter in Stalker’s short Life of Paul that is devoted to the study of the New Testament church – the church at Corinth. But the Corinth of this section is not the Corinth of ancient Greece. That Corinth was absolutely destroyed by the Romans before Christ, and this is an entirely new city. It is situated on an isthmus which connects the upper part of Greece with the lower part. The lower part is called Peloponnesus, and the upper part is called Achaia. In the history of the world, the strait of water or the isthmus of land has always been regarded as strategically important. This isthmus was the highway from upper Greece into lower Greece. It has a port on each side, one opening into the Aegean Sea, and the other on the western side, opening into the Mediterranean Sea. The smaller vessels of that day were sometimes dragged across that isthmus in order to avoid that circuit around the lower part of Greece.

The government was proconsular. Whenever the governor of a Roman province is called proconsul, that means that it is a senatorial province. If it is an imperial province, then the emperor at Rome appoints without any counsel, its chief officer, and the very word proconsul proves that this was a senatorial province, and this Corinth of this section is the Roman capital of Achaia.


Standing high above the city is the mountain capped with buildings, called Acro-Corinth, Just as Athens had its Acropolis. From the top of that Acro-Corinth one could see over into both seas, and far out into upper and lower Greece. The second celebrity was the famous Isthmian games where athletics held sway. Athletes from every part of the world competed in boxing, in foot racing, in throwing quoits. What we would call, in modern times, the football ground of the world, was here at Corinth, and it attracted more attention than anything else.

The third celebrity was its Temple of Venus. Venus had a great many temples, and they were called by different names, but she was the main goddess worshiped here.


The religion was too vile to discuss publicly. Just think of Sodom and Gomorrah) and you have a picture of the religion of Corinth. An ancient writer said that Corinth had the highest culture in the world, but was rotten in the sight of God. No decent tongue could describe what occurred under the name of religion, Just as common and everyday as eating a family meal. This was intensified by the fact that it was a commercial place of great importance, and, second, it was the game place of the world. It was the place where the vanity fairs, the races, and all forms of gambling were carried on, and the sailors of two seas continually coming in, the vileness of the West itself, polluted by the vileness of the Orient; thus we have a description of Corinth.

There were multitudes of Jews there. Wherever commerce goes, the Jew goes. It was a place of multitudes of slaves, not Negro slaves, but captives of any nation in war, reduced to the most abject slavery, in which the honor and the life of the slave are held absolutely at the will of the owner. Paul was here nearly two years. The record specifies that he remained here a year and a half, with some time before, and many days after that. So if we say about two years, we will have it about right.

Acts 18 and 1 and 2 Corinthians are of inestimable value. We would not have on very vital points any New Testament, if these letters to this church that Paul established there, were left out. So on that account, Dr. Stalker, in his Life of Paul, devotes a whole chapter to the New Testament church, and takes the church at Corinth as his example.

Paul went from Athens to Corinth. Athens is in the upper part of Greece toward the east, and Corinth is right on the isthmus that connects upper and lower Greece. I take for granted that he went by sea. He could go in about five hours, and if he went the other way, by land, it was a very hard all day trip, and some over, unless they went fast. There was nobody with Paul in going to Corinth. Timothy had joined him at Athens. Silas was yet at Berea, and Paul had sent Timothy from Athens back to Thessalonica. Luke had remained at Philippi, and so here he was by himself going off to a new place. But he found on his arrival in Corinth Priscilla and Aquila, about the most noted married couple mentioned in the New Testament, with the woman’s name coming first. In other words, I take it that she had a more decided character than her husband. A famous Southern woman was called Madam Laver and Mr. Laver was called the husband of Madam Laver. But her name was in the front. They both, Aquila and Priscilla, are good and great people. They lived a part of their time at Rome, and the Emperor Claudius just at that time had banished the Jews from Rome. There was a tremendous colony of Jews on the off side of the Tiber in the city of Rome, a place of terrible disturbances, and Claudius banished the Jews. And so Aquila and Priscilla, being Jews, came over to Corinth.

A connected New Testament account of this remarkable man and his wife is of some value. By taking a concordance and getting the names, we find that at Rome, at Corinth, at Ephesus, they kept house; and in Rome they had a church in their own house. There is no use in talking about this faithful New Testament couple living out of the church. If there wasn’t a church, they would establish one. I always like to read about them. They are the ones who take young preachers in charge, who haven’t learned all about the gospel, and teach them what they don’t know, and keep them from making mistakes – a fatherly, motherly couple.

Paul was supported in Corinth at first by his own labor. It was cheap labor, and he didn’t make enough to live on, and part of the time he was half starved. I mean that, literally. Later, when Silas and Timothy Joined him, they brought a contribution from the Philippian church, and be had a better time after that. This privation of Paul gives the occasion of the most remarkable discussion in the New Testament on the support of the ministry. We find it in 2 Corinthians. Everyone ought to read and thoroughly study that discussion. He asks these Corinthian people to forgive him for doing them the wrong of not being chargeable to them for that two years’ work. It hurt them for a preacher to stay there two years and get nothing for it. It was a "slam" on them. But he had a special reason. Everybody in Corinth worked for gain. And so, when this preacher came, the first question would be, "What ax has he to grind?" "What selfish interest is he after?" Some of them didn’t work for gain, but they would sell themselves for gain, body and soul. Seeing what public sentiment was on that subject, he determined that no man in Corinth should give him a nickel. He claimed, however, his right to a living. But he waived the right in view of the exigency of the situation.

Paul’s labors, until the arrival of Timothy and Silas, were very strenuous. He worked so hard every day to get enough to support him that he used the sabbaths only in discussing with the Jews in their synagogues, somewhat mildly too. But there was a turn in his labors on the coming of Timothy and Silas. He was a man that appreciated sympathy. His heart craved it. He loved to see brethren standing close by him that would stand up to him, and it greatly increased his courage and his determination when Silas and Timothy joined him. So when they same, he went over to the synagogue and made this issue supreme: The Messiah of the Old Testament is Jesus of Nazareth. When he made that issue, and made it very sharp, the Jews blasphemed. They accepted the challenge, and fought back at him so hard that he shook his robe, like shaking the dust off his feet, signifying that he was done with them. Their fight against him was intensely bitter. You see his feelings reflected in his letter to the Thessalonians which he wrote there, about how intense and bitter was their opposition. He went just across the street to the house of a Jewish proselyte called Justus, and held his meeting there in that private house. We will see that he did exactly a similar thing when we get to the next chapter, at Ephesus, when he goes over into the schoolhouse of one Tyrannus and opens up his meeting. He was close to the synagogue and the Jews, and he wanted to be thus situated so that all the Jews going to the synagogue who wanted to hear him could do so, and he held his meetings there in that house.

The condition of his labors here was hard:

1. He was afflicted in body very much. He was very weak, and the physical condition caused his mind to despond.

2. The opposition was baneful and deadly.

3. His hunger and poverty were such that he broke down under it. It is the only place in the Bible where it looked like Paul was going to be whipped.

God saw that his servant was about to fail. Jesus appeared to him in a vision and said, "Fear not, Paul. You are letting these people scare you. Fear not, nobody here shall harm you." He had his life in his hand every day, and he knew that those Jews had the spirit to assault him on the streets, anywhere they met him. "Fear not, Paul, I am with thee. Preach boldly the truth and don’t let the fear of man fall on your heart; your meeting is going to be very prosperous, for I have much people in this city." That is a clause that calls for explanation. God is here speaking of people as being his people before they had even been under conviction: "Is have much people in this city. You haven’t called them out yet, but there is a lot of them here, and you have to preach and let your preaching bring them out." An Arminian can’t explain that passage, but a Calvinist can. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, "Other sheep have I, not of this fold. I am going to call them, and when I call they will come." The man doesn’t come first. Let me repeat again what I have endeavored to make plain – that God’s work comes first, and that man responds to God’s work. The Arminian would like to have it read, "I will have much people in this city after they are converted." He counted them his then – his in election; his in predestination.

His themes here were very different from what they were at Athens. He stuck to one theme here – Jesus Christ and him crucified. He had only one reliance here – the demonstration of power by the Holy Spirit. He laid aside all his rhetoric and all his earthly wisdom and knowledge, and as a little child, relying exclusively upon the power of the eternal Spirit, he preached Christ and him crucified. He admitted that there was not much strength in him. He says, "I was with you in weakness and fear and much trembling. You couldn’t depend on me," and he says, "I determined that if you were converted, your conversion should not be attributed to the wisdom of man, but to the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit."

There were some very notable conversions here. Among them Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, and his entire family. Paul captured the captain on the other side – Stephanus and all of his household, and another Gaius. He got one Gaius in Derbe, and another in Macedonia, and still a third Gaius, he gets here at Corinth; and Erastus, who is also a man of influence – these became valuable helpers in after years. But the majority of his converts came from what we call the lower classes of the people. A great number of them were slaves. Some of them were fresh from the vilest debasements of heathenism. Some of them were liars. He says so. Some of them were drunkards, for he says, "Such were some of you," when exhorting them to quit lying, stealing, and subjecting themselves to beastly debauchery. "Such were some of you, but ye are now washed; ye are sanctified."

When we consider that this population here was very much mixed, the last layer being Romans, the next layer Greeks, then Jews, then a mixture of the odds and ends of creation, every traveling faddist, necromancer, fortuneteller, seer, diviner – every fellow that had a trick by which to make money at a fair – coming to the Isthmian games, we can form some idea of the nature of the converts. If we go to any big city where a fair is going on, we may see the fellows standing around who will relieve us of our money for a great variety of things and with very little trouble to us if we pay any attention to them.

Achaia was a senatorial province. It changed back and forth in its history, but now we know by that word, "deputy" (in the King James version, "procurator"), that it was senatorial. Gallic was the procurator, and Farrar, chapter 27, gives us a superb account of him. His real name was not Gallic, but a Roman widower named Gallic had adopted him, so he had added the name Gallic to his own name. He was the brother of the famous philosopher, Seneca, and was said to be the noblest, most gentlemanly Roman of his day, about as Sir Philip Sidney was regarded among the English. He is the only man that the Romans ever called "the sweet Gallic." He was always superbly dressed, gentlemanly in manners, nothing harsh about him, and his brother Seneca was known to say of him, "Everybody in the world loves Gallic, and none of them loves him half as much as he deserves." This is the character of the man that was proconsul.

The prosecution of Paul before Gallic is quite interesting. Gallic had just come, and these Jews had been fighting Paul to the death, seeing a new procurator, determined to prosecute him before the procurator, and their charge was that he taught contrary to the Jewish law. As soon as the charge was made, Paul rose to speak, and Gallic waved him aside: "There is no necessity for any speaking here. I quash this indictment. If you have a charge against this man for immorality, for anything that comes in the Roman jurisdiction, it is reasonable that I should hear you, but when you come up here concerning questions and matters of your own law, I will have nothing to do with it. This court dismisses the case." Farrar well says, "I wish he had not dismissed it till Paul had made that speech he started to make, for we do want another speech from Paul, such a one as he would have made if he had had a chance."

There are a great many people who hang around the courthouse and catch the cue from the tone of the judge, and when these men saw the judge dismiss Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, probably the successor of Crispus – when they saw him dismissed from the court, they concluded they would add a little to it. So they grabbed Mr. Sosthenes and gave him a beating right there in full view of the judge. It wasn’t hard to make a Greek or a Roman crowd beat a Jew. All they wanted was permission.

I knew one young man in Burleson County that couldn’t make a prayer in public without referring to the number of the people like Gallic, who "cared for none of these things." He brought it into every prayer that he ever offered. Now when it is said that Gallic "cared for none of these things," it wasn’t the religious question that he cared nothing about, but he didn’t care what they did to. Sosthenes, that Jew. That was a very little matter to him, and it was to anybody that came from Rome. He had never heard the Christian side presented at all. Perhaps if he had heard it he might have been saved, and tradition says that Paul did save his brother Seneca when he got to him.

This question arises: Is the Sosthenes of Acts 8:17 the Sosthenes of 1 Corinthians 1:1? 1 Corinthians, the first letter that Paul writes back to this church, says, "Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes, our brother." Now, is he the same man? If he is the same man, that beating did him a great deal of good. But there is no reason to suppose that it was the same man.

Some great letters were written from Corinth at this time. In these two years, early in his stay there, he wrote the first letter to the Thessalonians. As soon as Timothy came and brought him the news, he wrote that letter of love and comfort, I Thessalonians, and toward the end of his stay there, about a year after his first letter, he wrote his second letter to correct some wrong impressions that they had drawn from his preaching among them, and from his first letter about expecting Christ any moment, and making their ascension robes, quitting their business and giving away their property. He wrote the second letter to take that conception out of their minds.

There were remarkable displays of spiritual power in the great number of baptisms in the Spirit at Corinth. All those Pentecostal signs – speaking with tongues, miracle-working power, the gifts of the Spirit, and mountain-moving faith. No church in the New Testament had such a meteoric display of supernatural power as this church had at Corinth, and it was the wonder of the world to see a saved man get up and speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave him utterance. A man who the week before had been a drunkard, would turn away from maudlin speech to enunciating the praises of God, under the mighty power of that Spirit. The meeting stirred the mud sills.

They misused these supernatural gifts of the Spirit in that they magnified them above the graces of the Spirit – love, faith, hope, and Christian character. Let a man from low down in the scale of the world, from the rabble, get hold of such tremendous power as that of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and it is the biggest thing in the world. He doesn’t want to think about anything else nor talk about anything else, so when he would get into a meeting with others who had received this gift, it was like a bedlam. Twenty-five or thirty would be standing up at the same time, some singing, some praying, some testifying. Paul writes to them and says, "If an infidel or an ignorant man should come upon you during such a time he would say, ’You are crazy,’ " and therefore he wrote those three marvelous chapters, the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of I Corinthians, which is the one great exposition of the baptism of the Spirit found in the New Testament.

I am now glad that they babbled as they did, for if they had not, we in our time would never have had that sweetest gem in the Bible – Corinthians 13, in which he teaches that "Love is the greatest thing in the world," and the superiority of faith and hope over any of these passing powers that were merely given for signs and for attestation: "Whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be prophecies, they shall fail, but now abideth faith, hope, love – these three, and the greatest of these is love." So that we are indebted to what the Methodists would call "that sanctified row" in the church at Corinth for about the three finest chapters in the New Testament.

With the most remarkable sagacity, Dr. Stalker has put in a brief life of Paul and made one of his chapters "a New Testament Church." I have been wonderfully impressed with his acumen and wisdom in making that chapter bring out before us, so we can see it, a church of New Testament times. Some Jews in it, many heathen in it, slaves in it, recently converted drunkards, and liars and thieves – all of this church babes in Christ, mere toddlers without training and experience, misunderstanding the Lord’s Supper and their public services, and yet Christians, needing a leader, needing discipline, needing confirmation in the faith. Stalker well says that if you should take a look at that New Testament church – the church at Corinth – you would not be filled with despair if you had vexatious problems in the church to which you preach. Where have you in our time, among this decent American people, anything at all comparable to the problems of that New Testament church?


The salient events of Paul’s return to Syria, in order, are these: About ten miles from Corinth was its seaport opening into the Aegean Sea at Cenchrea. He went there because he intended to reach Syria by sea. Aquila and Priscilla went with him. They intended to stop at Ephesus, having business there, and to Paul’s surprise, the Jews in Ephesus, who had never met him, heard him and asked him to come again and stay longer. He said "No" – that he had an engagement ahead of him, and that if God willed he would come back again, and on the next tour he did come back and in the power that shook the world. But just now he couldn’t stop to hold a meeting in Ephesus. So he sailed into Syria, and his vessel landed him at Caesarea, the Roman capital of Judea, and from Caesarea he went to Jerusalem and saluted the brethren, and from Jerusalem he went to Antioch, the place where he set out. Those are the salient events.

Paul, staying two years in Corinth, would necessarily have a church established at that seaport, only ten miles away. He reached all that country in that two years’ meeting, so that we know that there was a church there, because he mentions a church there in his letter to the Romans written not a great while after, while he was at Ephesus on the next trip. And the most notable member of that church was a woman named Phoebe, who was a deaconess. Paul bears remarkable testimony to her. He says she was a helper of many.

May heaven’s blessing rest on the good women that, in the cause of the gospel, give themselves, heart and soul, to it! Such a woman as Priscilla, such a woman as Phoebe, such a ladies’ society as the first ladies’ society of the New Testament, organized to take care of Jesus as their guest; such women as Lydia and numbers of others – what an unmixed blessing to the church and to the world!

But what have you to say of this office? Was it a New Testament office? When I was pastor of the First Baptist Church at Waco, we elected deaconesses, but we didn’t ordain them. In other words, in the administration of the affairs of a large church, there is always some use for experienced women. Sometimes a case of discipline would come up concerning a woman, involving matters of such delicacy that a deacon could not very well investigate it. That is a fine place for a deaconess to get in some work. Sometimes it happens that strangers join the church, women who don’t know how to prepare for baptism, and a deaconess, as soon as a woman would join the church, would go right up to her and ask her if she understood what was necessary to be done for baptism, proffer her assistance, and a great many other things of that kind.

The record says that at Cenchrea, he shaved his head, having a vow. Some of the commentators boldly claim that Aquila is the nearest word to that expression "he had a vow" – that Aquila is nearer than Paul, and that we ought not to skip Aquila in going back to find an antecedent. But the probabilities are that Paul had a vow. I imagine that, back there in that Corinthian meeting, when he was about whipped in mind, whipped inside, about to give up, and when Jesus appeared to him and told him not to get scared, that he was with him and nobody should hurt him – imagine that in that awful time, following the human instinct and perfectly in accord with the Old Testament covenant, he made a vow – the most natural thing in the world for a man to do when he is in very great trouble. "Now Lord, you just get me out of this and Is will do so and so." Is know one mercurial man in Waco that every time he gets sick he gets scared and calls in all his kinsmen and solemnly makes a vow that if the Lord will pull him through this time, that he will go to church; that he will be good, but when the trouble is past, he is like Ephraim, like the fellow in the ship about to sink, who said, "Lord, if you will just save me from this ocean death, I will give 5,000 dollars to your cause," and an Irishman near by hearing him, said, "You are a fool," and the man said, "Why, ought I not to say it?" "Yes, but don’t you mean it. Just say you will, and when you are saved out of it, you needn’t do what you promised." It is right to make a vow. That is clearly taught in the Old Testament, but "Pay thy vows unto the Lord." If we will do a good thing, it is right to resolve to do it, but the wise man says in that inimitable book of Ecclesiastes, "Keep your feet. Don’t let them slip from under you when you go into the house of God, and don’t give the sacrifice of fools." He is talking about their vows. He says it is better that one should not vow than to vow and not pay. He says, "If you dovow, pay, and don’t say before the angel, It was an error." Anyhow, Paul made a vow and the vow we know from what is said about it, was what is called the temporary Nazirite vow. A man might vow a Nazirite vow for thirty days, or he might take the vow of the Nazirite for life. John the Baptist was a Nazirite. Did the shaving of the head mark its beginning or its end? That marks its end.

On his return from the second missionary tour, did Paul go to Jerusalem before he went to Antioch, and what the proof? A good deal of it rests on one statement: "And when he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and saluted the church, and went down to Antioch." That is all in the history about this fourth visit of his to Jerusalem after his conversion, and it is a matter of fact that in going to Jerusalem from Caesarea, it is all the way up hill, and, as one traveler said, "half the way back." Dr. Farrar allowed his imagination to spread its wings and take a big flight in trying to fill up this record, "He went up and saluted the church." He thinks rightly, I suppose, that Paul wanted always to have a good relation to that Jerusalem church and the other apostles, but he imagines from the little said about it and the short stay, that they gave Paul the cold shoulder. They may have done so. There were some that would have been quite willing to do it.

There is a notable difference in Paul’s travels and letters and the travels and letters of modern Christians, and even the modern lives of Paul. Paul never wrote anything about the statue of Minerva, the Pantheon, the Acropolis at Athens, the Acro-Corinth, the notable landscapes and "seascapes." Let one of the brethren go off on a trip to the Holy Land and he devotes his whole letter to the description of curios, in answering questions concerning curios and sightseeing, but Paul was more interested in "manscapes" than landscapes or seascapes. He was going on a mission of salvation. All of his heart and soul was in it. It would amaze Paul to read Conybeare and Howson or Farrar, at the immense amount of space that they devote to background. And yet there is proof that Paul was not unobservant of the remarkable scenes witnessed in Corinth. 1 Corinthians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 1 Corinthians 11:14; 1 Corinthians 15:32; 2 Corinthians 1:14-16; 2 Corinthians 5:10 show that Paul took a look at those Isthmian games when he was there; that many of his illustrations refer to the boxing, the foot racing, the athletic exercises, and to the triumphs that are declared. He doesn’t give a shadow of a thought to what they were, but simply makes that language to apply to Christian footraces, the Christian athletic exercise and the Christian triumph. In Corinth he wrote his letter to the Romans, and that awful picture of heathendom, commencing at Romans 1:21 and extending to Romans 1:32, was illustrated before his eyes there in Corinth. In the first letter to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20; 1 Corinthians 10:7-8; 2 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 7:1, we see that the most impressive, the most appalling thing to Paul was the moral corruption of the place. It was at this place that a man took his father’s wife. Read the passages that I have given, and see that when this preacher got there, more to him than the scenery, more than the widespread white wings of commerce, more than culture and refinement, more than the startling sight of ships dragged across that little isthmus from sea to sea, was the awful corruption of this Sodom.

I close this chapter with a lesson concerning Gallic. What a pity that Gallic did not know that that day he had an opportunity, and perhaps the only one in his life, of hearing a speaker whose words would reverberate throughout succeeding ages till the coming of Christ! Gallic stands up before the minds of the world simply because, for one brief moment of his life, he came into the light of Paul, and millions of people know Gallic from that fact more than anything about which his brother Seneca or the Roman Emperor said of him. Then was his opportunity.

For one fleeting instant he stood in the orbit of the light of the greatest man history ever produced, and if he had not waved aside the speaker ready to speak, he could have heard precious things.


1. What the special helps on Acts 18?

2. Give a brief account of Corinth, its situation, history, government, celebrities, religion, and the Jews.

3. How long was Paul there?

4. What the value of Acts 18 and 1 and 2 Corinthians?

5. Trace on the map Paul’s travel from Athena to Corinth.

6. Who was with Paul in going to Corinth?

7. Whom did he find there, and why were they there?

8. Give a connected New Testament account of this remarkable man and his wife.

9. How was Paul supported in Corinth?

10. To what remarkable discussion does this give an occasion?

11. Give an account of Paul’s labors until the arrival of Timothy and Silas.

12. What turn in his labors was stressed on the coming of Timothy and Silas, and what was the issue of it?

13. What constituted the hard condition of his labors there?

14. How was he cheered and uplifted, and what the explanation of the last clause of Acts 18:10?

15. What the themes of his ministry there?

16. What notable conversions there, and what the position and character of most of the converts?

17. Was Achaia an imperial or senatorial province of Rome, and what the proof?

18. Give an account of Gallic, the procurator, and what book gives a fine and elaborate account of him?

19. Give an account of the prosecution of Paul before Gallic, its charge, why dismissed, and the result?

20. Explain the misuse of the last clause of Acts 18:17 in modern sermonizing.

21. Is the Sosthenes of Acts 18:17 the Sosthenes of 1 Corinthians 1:1?

22. What great letters were written from Corinth at this time?

23. What remarkable display of spiritual power in this meeting, what its misuse, and what the great discussion called forth by the misuse?

24. How has Dr. Stalker made most valuable use of this part of Paul’s work?

25. Give, in order, the salient events of Paul’s return to Syria.

26. Give an account of Cenchrea, the church established there, its most notable member, and her office.

27. Was the vow at Cenchrea Paul’s or Aquila’s, what the proof, and did the shaving of the head mark its beginning or its ending?

28. What the proof that on his return from the second missionary tour Paul went to Jerusalem before he went to Antioch?

29. In what notable respect are Paul’s travels and letters different from the travels and letters of modern Christians, and even from the modern lives of Paul, and what the lesson?

30. Yet what proof that Paul was not unobservant of the remarkable scenes witnessed in Corinth?

31. What feature of Corinthians life most impressed his mind?

32. What great lesson concerning Gallic?



Acts 18:23-21:16.

The scriptures, so far as Acts is concerned, devoted to this tour, are from chapters Acts 18:23-21:16. The special theme is "Paul at Ephesus" (Acts 19). The time of the whole tour is from A.D. 54 to A.D. 58 – four years. The time at Ephesus, three years. At this time Nero was emperor at Rome, and under him Paul was to suffer martyrdom.

Let us trace on the map the whole tour from Antioch to Jerusalem. Commencing at his usual starting point, Antioch, he came near Tarsus, and went up into upper Galatia – Galatia proper – confirming the churches at Tavium, Ancyra, and Pessius. Then he went down to Ephesus. He was at Ephesus three years. In that time he made many other runs into the country, so as to reach all Asia. Leaving Ephesus, he went again into Macedonia, stopping at Troas, as before, where Titus met him, or was to have met him, came on into Macedonia, and went to these same churches where he had labored on his second missionary tour, then coming on down to Corinth, where he remained quite a while, three months anyhow, and in that time he wrote the letter to the Galatians and the letter to the Romans; while at Ephesus he wrote the first letter to the church at Corinth; while up in Macedonia he wrote the second letter to the church at Corinth. Then he came on back and took a sea voyage to Tyre and to Caesarea, then he went to Jerusalem, and there he was arrested and remained a prisoner all through the rest of the book of Acts.

A large part of this tour is devoted to confirming churches previously established. Until he goes to Ephesus all that part of the first tour is devoted to confirming churches previously established, and after he leaves Ephesus, all that part of the tour through Macedonia and Achaia is devoted to confirming churches. The advanced work is the work that he did at Ephesus. The letters written during this tour, as stated above, are as follows: While he was at Ephesus he wrote the first letter to the Corinthians, and after he got over into Macedonia he wrote the second letter to the Corinthians, when he got to Corinth he wrote the letter to the Galatians, and also the one to the Romans, and this last letter, the one to the Romans, was to prepare the way for his coming to Rome.

The closing part of Acts 18 tells us that Apollos came to Ephesus; that he was a Jew from Alexandria; that he was a very learned and a very eloquent Jew; that he had heard of John’s preaching over in Judea that Jesus had come, John pointing to Jesus as "The Lamb of God that was to take away the sin of the world." Further than that he did not know. It was a gospel of a Messiah, but what that Messiah he did not know. He is one of the most remarkable characters in the Bible, and his contact with Paul is very special. Just about the time that Paul goes to Ephesus, before he gets there, Apollos has expressed a desire, after being instructed in the way of the Lord by Aquila and Priscilla, to go over to Corinth. They write letters of commendation, and he goes to Corinth, being now fully instructed in the gospel of Jesus, and becomes a tremendous help to Paul in Corinth, but is made the occasion of a division, though himself not intending evil.

Perhaps there was no man living who could, in a more popular way, present the Old Testament scriptures, and their bearing upon Jesus as the Messiah. He did not have an equal in his day as a popular speaker. In his graces of person all the matters preached were lost. At Corinth some brethren were so attached to him that they preferred him to Paul and Peter, or anybody else, and in that way, without his intending it, he was made a part of the occasion of creating a division in the church at Corinth. To show that he had no part in it, Paul, after Apollos came back to Ephesus, wanted to send him back to Corinth, but in view of the troubles that had arisen, he declined to go. He did not want to go there and let a crowd of schismatics rally around him. The scriptures which refer to this man are not a great many, but they are very pointed, showing his real value as a genuine preacher, and Paul was very much attached to him.

A mighty financial enterprise was engineered on this third tour, an enterprise of mammoth proportions to help the poor saints in Jerusalem. We have to gather the history of this work, which was a big enough piece of work for any one man to do, from the various letters. The most notable scriptures bearing upon it are 1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8-9, though there are references elsewhere. When he got there into Galatia that he had previously evangelized, he gave orders to these churches to lay by in store on the first day of every week, and take up a systematic collection. When he got over into Macedonia, he repeated these orders, and the finest response of any of them was made by these poor people living at Philippi. When he came down into Achaia, he repeated the same instructions to the churches there, and in his two letters, particularly the two to the church at Corinth, he tried to stir them up to redeem the pledges they had made the year before. All through this period of four years, that systematic collection was going on. He sent Titus to help out the Corinthians in engineering their collections, and as the funds were raised, they were placed in the hands of representatives of the church raising the money, and some representative of each section went back with him when he went to Jerusalem to carry it. So when he got to Jerusalem, the end of this tour, he put down before the leaders of the church funds that had, during the four years, been gathered in the Gentile churches of Asia and in Europe. What a pity that, coming before that Jerusalem church with these funds, the brethren did not give him a more cordial welcome!

What is written about this financial enterprise is of inestimable value to the churches today. To show how much value could be drawn, I got my first idea from what is a prepared collection from studying these financial enterprises as stated everywhere in these letters. Every preacher should group the references to this enterprise and the different expediences adopted, and learn once for all how a collection is to be taken, how a great contribution is to be engineered. I practiced it in my pastoral life in Waco. When a collection was to be taken for home, state, or foreign missions, or the Orphans’ Home, I spent weeks preceding, preparing for that collection, and when the day came, before a word was said, Is would know within a few dollars what that collection was going to amount to. I had first canvassed the Ladies’ Society, B. Y. P. U., and the Sunday school, and knew what they were going to pledge. I had previously approached the leading contributors as to how much they would give as a start, when the collection was to be taken. As soon as the day came and I had announced the purpose of the collection, Is simply called out, "Ladies’ Society No. I, No. 2," etc., and their amounts would be called out and the money sent up in an envelope; then the Sunday school, then the Young People’s Union, then expressions from leading individuals, BO that by the time this was over, which would be done in Just a few minutes, we would generally have about a thousand dollars. Then would commence the appeal to others that could not do so much, and in fifteen minutes our collection would be over. If any man imagines that that was an offhand business, then it shows that he has not studied the situation; that he did not know what I had been doing for weeks.


Ephesus, for a long period, had been a famous city. It is near the coast line and they had at this time a magnificent seaport. It was a Greek city. The Ionians had colonized Ephesus, and the day of the Greek glory had passed, and it was now the capital of the Roman province of Asia. While it had its own municipal government, the Greek ecclesia, the very word that is used to refer to a church, and exactly such an ecclesia as that ruled Athens, ruled in other Greek cities unless the power had been taken away from them, but we will have special occasion in this connection to learn what a Greek ecclesia does.

The celebrities at Ephesus constitute a part of the wonders of the world. This very celebrity was the marvelous temple of Diana. This temple had been burned down the night that Alexander the Great was born, and all Asia Minor and Greece proper contributed funds to rebuild it. When Alexander came to be a man, they still had not completed it, and be offered to furnish all the funds if they would just let his name be written on it. They declined. There were 127 pillars of the most magnificent sculpture that has ever been seen in any structure on earth. A prince was proud to be allowed to put up just one of those pillars if he was able. The stairway work into the upper part of it was just one vine, brought from Cyprus, that naturally curved to make the stairway. That temple is listed among the seven wonders of the ancient world.

In the temple were the finest pieces of sculpture in the world. The greatest of the sculptors at Athens prided themselves on putting their masterpieces in this temple. The greatest painters had hanging on these walls their masterpieces. Votive offerings, priceless in value, were to be seen. The shrine part of the temple, that part which held the goddess, was a small dark place somewhat like the most holy place in the Jerusalem Temple, and back of that shrine was a bank, as we now call it. It was the safe place for all the people of that end of the world to put their money.

The Diana of this temple must not be confounded with the Diana of the Greek or Roman religion. That one was beautiful, but this Diana here, so far as the statue shows, was a beastly, Oriental, ugly image that looked like a mummy, wrapped about on the lower part and covered with breasts, the whole idea being to show the productiveness of nature. And it was claimed that that statue dropped down from heaven. I don’t blame anybody in heaven for dropping it, if it was up there. The worship of it was just as bad as the worship of Venus on the Island of Cyprus, or in the city of Corinth.

The time of the great festival was our May Day in May. All Asia poured into Ephesus in May, and this is just the time that this persecution against Paul takes place – just this time of the year. Their May Day festival consisted largely of parades, something like a carnival in New Orleans, but in the city of Rome men put on grotesque masks, some representing Jupiter,, some Mercury, some Venus, some one thing, and some another, and the beating of ten million tin pans, or the scraping of iron, or the grinding of steel, or the letting off of forty steam engines at one time could not equal the kind of noise they made. They thought it great, and that it needed a great noise.

Another celebrity there was its famous amphitheatre. The remnants of it can be seen until this day, in which some of the events in this chapter took place. It would seat thirty thousand people, being somewhat larger than most theatresin this country. These were the notable celebrities – the Temple of Diana, one of the wonders of the world, their famous May Festival, and this magnificent theatre.

I have already given some account of the character of their religion. Just as at the fairs in this country, there are thousands of people who made their living by carving little shrines and temples, either representing the temple itself, or representing the image of the goddess, with magical letters written on it. These visitors would come in and want to carry back a portable temple, portable goddess or portable memento of the time they had had at the May Festival. There were a great many Jews there.

There were three co-existent ecclesias present in this one city, which had a bearing on the essential character of a New Testament church. First, there was the Greek ecclesia – that organized assembly which performed no functions except as an assembly. Then the Jewish ecclesia, and finally that ecclesia of which Jesus said, "I will build my ecclesia" Every one of them was an organized assembly, each one of them had no power to transact business except in session at the regular assembly. I know that some men, just a handful, yet have an idea that the church is not an ecclesia, and they deny the ecclesia idea altogether. Theological professors who take that position have to repudiate 136 references to the Jerusalem ecclesia, and they have to repudiate every reference to Christ’s ecclesia.

One text summarizes the whole situation at Ephesus. Paul, in writing his first letter to the Corinthians, says, "I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost; for a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries." When I was a young preacher I took that as my text and took Acts 19 to expound the meaning of the text. We find that passage in 1 Corinthians 16. That text summarizes the whole situation.

The rest of this chapter will be devoted to expounding that text, "There are many adversaries." Ten special adversaries are mentioned. Acts 19:1-7 tells us that when Paul got over there he found a certain adversary in the form of an incomplete gospel, and it was hurtful to the complete gospel to have the ground overcast by an incomplete gospel. Let us state fully the case of the twelve disciples found at Ephesus, and bring out clearly the following points of controversy: (1) Was John’s baptism and gospel, Christian baptism and gospel? (2) Who baptized the twelve disciples? (3) Were they rebaptized by Paul? (4) If so, what the elements of invalidity in their first immersion? (5) What the bearing of the whole case on valid baptism?

The record states that when Paul got over there and found these men, he said, "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?" You know that in Acts 2:38 there was a promise that whosoever would believe in Jesus Christ would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. That gift had come down that day with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Now Paul, wishing to find out the status of these men, says, "Did ye receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?" And they said, "We did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was given." That is, they had no knowledge at all of Pentecost. "Well," he said, "into what then were ye baptized?" They said, "Into John’s baptism." Paul then explains that John truly preached "repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus," and baptized people, but it was in a Christ to come, John had foretold this thing that had occurred on Pentecost, saying, "When the Messiah comes he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit."

John had been dead twenty years. These men evidently had not seen baptism by John. If they had ever heard John, they would have known that John taught that the Messiah would send this gift of the Holy Spirit, and would baptize his people in the Holy Spirit. He saw that there was a deficiency in their baptism, and that their faith did not go far enough, since it did not take in a Messiah as already come. It was a general belief in a Messiah, but not in Jesus as a particular Messiah. John was the harbinger to Christ. He had no successor; no man had a right to perpetuate John’s baptism; so when people elsewhere, as did Alexander, took it upon themselves to baptize with reference to John’s baptism, it was without any authority. So that a capital deficiency in their baptism was that it was not by an authorized administrator, and so Paul, having explained the matter to them that the Holy Spirit in the baptism of the saints had come down, and that Jesus had come, counting as nothing the unauthorized baptism to which they had been subjected, rebaptized them, and then laid his hands on them and they received the gift of the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues. They were thus lined up, and that is the way that trouble was disposed of.

This is a real adversary you find as you go out to work. As a rule you will find people lodged about half way. They believe some things, but they don’t get far enough. Perhaps they are satisfied with the sprinkling they received in childhood; perhaps they have had a baptism like these people, but not by a qualified administrator, and the thing tends to confusion, but if you are ever going to have people drawn into cooperation, you will have to meet those things.

The second adversary is presented in Acts 19:8-10: "And he entered into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, reasoning and persuading as to the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and separated the disciples, reasoning daily In the school of Tyrannus. And this continued for the space of two years; so that all they that dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks." That adversary was the Jewish ecclesia – the synagogue – refusing to accept Jesus as the Messiah, blaspheming his name, bitterly obstructing the work, as we have seen in other places. Paul saw that in that city of the gods a line of cleavage must be drawn so he did just what he had done at Corinth. He moved his meeting to the schoolhouse. He had nothing more to do with the Jews; they could not walk together; they could not agree. The Jews were fighting him and fighting the gospel, so that he disposed of that adversary by a separation of the church and the Jews. He drew a line. He did not want a row every time they came to the meeting. He followed this plan for two years, and held the day.

The third adversary is presented in Acts 19:11-12: "And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul; insomuch that unto the sick were carried away from his body handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out." That adversary was the demons, the devil’s spiritual agency, and if there ever was a place on earth where demonology prevailed in its worst extent, and the demons were multitudinous and disastrous, it was right here at Ephesus. As Satan’s sub-agents, his demons had been controlling that city, and its business, and prompting its spirit, it became necessary that some extraordinary power of God should be brought to bear to counteract the influence of those demons. So here we come to a case of special miracles. Here I commend to the reader my sermon on "Special Miracles." The Spirit’s power was displayed in an unusual way. We had a case of that remarkable miracle where the very shadow of Peter healed people near him. An apron that Paul wore while he was at work at his trade, carried and touched by a sick man – a man under demoniacal possession – caused the devil to go out of him, and a handkerchief that Paul used to wipe his face when the sweat would pour down under his labor, had the same effect. These were unusual miracles, like the miracle of Elisha’s bones that brought a man to life when he touched them. God shows extraordinary power in order to meet extraordinary exigencies, and so the demons were wiped out.

The fourth adversary is given in Acts 19:13-18: "But certain also of the strolling Jews, exorcists, took upon them to name over them that had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, a chief priest, who did this. And the evil spirit answered and said unto them, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and mastered both of them and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, that dwelt at Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. Many also of them that had believed, came, confessing and declaring their deeds."

So we find this adversary to be impostors who assumed to cast out’ demons under the name of Jesus, while having no respect for Jesus, and hating Paul – impostors that borrowed Paul’s reputation there and the idea of the power of Jesus in casting out demons, and these impostors came from the Jews. I once heard a preacher say, shaking his head, "Those were smart demons, saying, ’Jesus I recognize, Paul I know, but who are you? You liar, you impostor, you can’t come to meeting shaking the name of Jesus over me. I can whip you.’ " And so that is the way that adversary was overcome.

The fifth adversary we find in Acts 19:19-20: "And not a few of them that practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all; and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of the Lord and prevailed." What was that adversary? Evil literature, called "Ephesian Letters." Certain letters were written on little slips to carry in the vest pocket, pinned on the lapel of the coat; certain magical incantations were written out. You find abundant reference to it in ancient literature, plays about a certain athlete who never could be killed until he had lost the magical letters on his person. Like a Negro with a horseshoe above his door, or with a rabbit’s foot to keep good luck. It is asserted that that literature obtained a hold over a great many of their minds, and it obtains it yet over many minds. A great many people now will turn back if a rabbit goes across the path ahead of them. They go back and start over if they happen to take a ring off the finger. They will not start on a journey on Friday. In our time there is a vicious literature, vile and corrupt, and that is one of the greatest enemies of Christianity. Good literature has to fight evil literature, and the gospel triumphs when the evil literature goes down. When those books were brought together and piled in that street, and a bonfire made of them, and the smoke of that fire hailed the stars, it stood a lurid monument of the mighty power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The sixth adversary is found by examining several scriptures, viz.: Acts 19:21-22; 1 Corinthians 1:11; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 16:8-9; 1 Corinthians 16:17. What was that adversary? The devil was very anxious to get Paul away from Ephesus, and so he starts a row at Corinth, the church that Paul had established, and appeals to him to come to Cloe’s household, and so the church at Corinth writes him a letter in which are all sorts of questions about the contention, for him to settle, and an appeal made to him to come and help them. Paul says, "I will tarry at Ephesus." The devil led them astray that far, and had already weakened his force, since he had to take Timothy and Erastus and send them over to stay that tide until he could get there.


1. What is the general theme of this chapter, and what the scriptures?

2. Trace on the map the whole tour from Antioch to Jerusalem.

3. What part of this tour is devoted to confirming churches previously established, what the churches, and what part to advance the work?

4. What letters were written during this tour, what the order of writing, what the place and time of each, and which was to prepare for new work?

5. Give a connected account of Apollos.

6. What mighty financial enterprise was engineered on this third tour?

7. Give an account of Ephesus, its celebrities, its prevalent religion, and the Jews there.

8. What three co-existent ecclesias were present in this one city, and what the bearing of the fact on the essential character of a New Testament church?

9. What one text summarizes the whole situation at Ephesus?

10. What is the first adversary, and how overcome?

11. State fully the case of the twelve disciples found at Ephesus answering the five questions in the body of the text?

12. What is the second adversary, and how overcome?

13. What is the third adversary, and how overcome?

14. What is the fourth adversary, and how overcome?

15. What is the fifth adversary, and how overcome?

16. What is the sixth adversary, and how overcome?



We continue in this chapter the discussion of Paul’s adversaries at Ephesus. The seventh adversary was the craftsmen’s ring, organized by Demetrius, the silversmith. In making the silver shrines or other souvenirs of the temple, whether of wood, stone, or metal, or the portable images of the goddess, or the amulets, charms and talismans inscribed in the "Ephesian letters," or the costumes for the May festivals, a multitude of craftsmen were employed – designers, molders, coppersmiths, sculptors, costumers, painters, engravers, jewelers. Perhaps one image or shrine would pass through the hands of several craftsmen before it received the delicate finishing work of the silversmith. The enormous crowds assembled in the annual May festivals, the steady influx of strangers from a world commerce, the devotees of the displays in the theatre, all inspired by curiosity, superstition, lewdness, or the greedy spirit of traffic, would create a demand for such wares surpassing the value of a gold mine. But the preaching of Paul, so far as accepted, undermined the whole business, dried up the springs of demand, and tended to leave all these craftsmen without an occupation.

Demetrius, anticipating the genius of modern times, organized the several guilds to make a life and death fight against a common enemy threatening all alike. His own inspiration was the love of money. His business was as profitable as the slave trade, the whiskey traffic, or the panderers who supplied the victims of lust. But formidable as a craftsmen’s union may be when used as a unit to promote evil, Demetrius was too shrewd a politician to rely on only one means of war. While perhaps religion was nothing to him, he caring only for gain, yet he recognized the value of alliance with that mighty factor, religious fanaticism, the eighth adversary, and so stirred it up in these crafty words: "For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no little business unto the craftsmen; whom he gathered together, with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this business we have our wealth. And ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they are no gods that are made with hands: and not only is there danger that this our trade come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana be made of no account, and that she should even be deposed from her magnificence whom all Asia and the world worshipeth."

The devil never inspired a craftier speech. From his viewpoint the facts justified his fears. We learn from the letter of Pliny, fifty years later, that the gospel had put all the gods of Mount Olympus out of business, and left all their temples desolate. Combining gain, superstition, and civic pride he necessarily stirred up the ninth adversary, namely – a howling, murderous, senseless mob. A tiger aroused in the jungle is not swifter in his leap, nor a pack of ravenous wolves more cruel, nor a flood of molten lava, vomited from the hot throat of a volcano, more insensible to argument. If the mob spirit lasted it would be hell. Its own violence exhausts it, or who could escape? A conflagration in heat and roar could not surpass in swiftness and terror the gathering of that Ephesian mob.

"Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" rolled in surges of repetition and reverberation through the streets of the city, and every palace, tenement and house of traffic poured its occupants into the streets to swell the volume of the frenzied throng, saying, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" "Where is this Paul? What house dares to harbor him?" They rush to this place of abode. Aquila and Priscilla interpose and "lay down their own necks" to save their guest. Paul cannot be found. The mob seizes two of his co-laborers, the Macedonians, Gaius and Aristarchus. Had they found Paul he would have been torn asunder, limb by limb, but not finding him against whom their hate burns, they think to invoke another ally, the tenth adversary, the Greek ecclesia, or municipal authority, and so pour themselves, 30,000 strong, into the great theatre, its place of gathering, and keep on howling.

Here occurs a sideshow, or injected episode, unwise, impotent, ludicrous, shameful. The Jewish ecclesia, the unbelieving synagogue, becomes alarmed. They know they are a stench in the Gentile nostril. They know that such a stormcloud charged with electricity will strike somewhere, and in the absence of the particular victim sought, their pitiable experience has taught them that it will strike the Jew. So they put in Alexander, one of their officials, as a lightning rod to assure the dear Ephesians that they did not do it – that they hate Paul as much as the mob does. Poor Alexander never got a hearing. Being recognized as a Jew, his appearance was like waving a red rag in the face of a mad bull. The howling was renewed, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" and did not stop for two hours.

In the meantime Paul, informed that his friends were held in jeopardy, with characteristic and magnanimous courage, sought to push his way into the theatre to say, "Here I am; if ye seek me, let these men go." But prudent friends interposed to restrain him. Even certain of the Asiarchs, officials selected from the province to be managers of the May festivals and masters of ceremonies, who were attached to Paul, besought him not to venture himself into that theatre where he could get no hearing, and would only needlessly sacrifice his life.

The mob, having shouted itself hoarse and exhausted its cyclone fury, the opportunity brought forth a matchless political orator, the town clerk, or recorder of the Greek ecclesia. Using a faultless address as a broom, he coolly swept that exhausted mob out of the theatre a limp, ashamed, inert mass of trash. Truly, he was a master of assemblies. He filled Virgil’s description of Neptune assuaging the storm which inconsiderate Aeolus had let loose against the frail Trojan fleet, or was like Dr. Broadus at the Fort Worth session of the Southern Baptist Convention, in 1890, quieting in a moment the controversy on Sunday school publications.

Young preachers aspire to be masters of assemblies. They ought to study this town clerk’s speech. Note its excellencies. He awaited his opportunity. He would not have been heard earlier. He quietly showed them that their proceedings were undignified, unlawful, unnecessary, and dangerous. Is paraphrase what he said: "Everybody knows that Ephesus is the sacristan, or custodian of the temple of Diana, and of the image of the goddess which fell down from Jupiter. Nobody has questioned the city’s jurisdiction. These men whom you have unlawfully arrested and brought here, are not charged with the sacrilege of robbing the temple or blaspheming the goddess. A mob has no authority to arrest men, and cannot be a court. An ecclesia has no authority unless lawfully summoned. If Demetrius has a grievance against Paul for an offense coming under Roman jurisdiction, let him carry his case before the proconsul. If the grievance touches matters over which the Greek ecclesia has jurisdiction, let him bring this case before the regular session of that court. These courts, both Roman and Greek, being accessible, why raise a tumult so obnoxious to our Roman masters? Indeed, we are liable already to answer to the Romans for this disturbance, this being only a mass meeting and a violent one at that. Rise, be dismissed, go home, keep quiet, do nothing rash."

We will now analyze the "great door and effectual" opened to Paul (1 Corinthians 16:9) : (1) Hearts are locked against the gospel so men will not give attention; God opens the heart to attend, as in Lydia’s case (Acts 16:14). (2) The door of faith is closed against the gospel; God opens it so men will believe (Acts 14:27). (3) Jesus is the door to the sheepfold, but man cannot see except that the Spirit directs his eyes (John 10:7; 1 Corinthians 12:3). (4) Utterance, liberty, or afflatus, does not come to the preacher at his will, but the Spirit can open the door of utterance so that he can speak with a tongue of fire (Colossians 4:3). (5) The door of access to the Father can be opened only by him who has the key of David. He can open and none can shut and none can open. He has the keys of death and hell (Revelation 1:18; Revelation 3:7-8). So at Ephesus, God opened to Paul a door of utterance, and to the people the door of attention, faith and salvation. It was great and effectual. Neither the synagogue nor the Greek ecclesia, nor the proconsul, nor Satan and all his demons, could shut it.

The expressions in the chapter that mark the progress of the work are: (1) The baptism of the twelve disciples in the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:6) so that Paul at one stroke gained twelve mighty helpers; (2) all Asia heard the word (Acts 19:10); (3) special miracles conquer demons (Acts 19:11-12); (4) fear fell upon all, and the name of Jesus was magnified (Acts 19:17); (5) confessions were made (Acts 19:18) ; (6) the burning of the books (Acts 19:19) ; (7) so mightily grew the word of the Lord and prevailed (Acts 19:20); (8) demons were made to refuse recognition of impostors.

Acts 20:17; Acts 20:28; Acts 20:35, proves that under Spirit-guidance elders were ordained and instructed. The great converts of this meeting were Tychicus and Trophimus (20:4) Epaphras (Colossians 1:7), and the family of Philemon (Philem. 2). The following scriptures show that no other preacher in the history of the world labored under such hard conditions, suffered as much, or carried such a burden. He was in the shadow of death, and exposed to the daily malice of earth and hell for three years: Acts 20:18-21; Acts 20:26-27; Acts 20:31-35; 1 Corinthians 4:11-13; 1 Corinthians 15:19; 1 Corinthians 15:32; 2 Corinthians 1:8-10; 2 Corinthians 4:5-15; 2 Corinthians 6:4-10; 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. It is evident that in this three years occurred many of the horrible privations, perils, imprisonments, scourgings, hunger, cold, sickness, and daily death, and the burdens enumerated in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. The fighting with wild beasts at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 15:32) has no reference to the Demetrius mob, for that had not yet occurred.

It must be understood literally, that he had been thrown to the wild beasts in the arena of the theatre, and died under their claws and fangs) but, as at Lystra, where he was stoned to death, was restored by the miraculous power of God (2 Corinthians 1:8-10). He expressly says of this occasion: "We are made a spectacle unto the world, both angels and men" (1 Corinthians 4:9). The Greek is theatron, to which he again refers in Hebrews 10:33. It was at this time he wrote: "If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we of all men are most pitiable" (1 Corinthians 15:19). It was of this period he wrote: "I bear branded on my body the marks [Greek: stigmata] of Jesus" (Galatians 6:17). From head to foot he was crowned with ineffaceable scars. It was of this time he wrote: "Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and we toil, working with our own hands; being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things, even till now" (1 Corinthians 4:11-13).

He never knew where he could stay at night. Consumed with hunger and thirst, he preached in rags. We would not do it. See the spruce, dapper messengers gather in our assemblies, shining in spotless collars and cuffs, and think of Paul in rags. See him burdened with the care of all the churches. See him going from house to house by day and night for three years, pleading with tears. See him the victim of foul aspersion and misrepresentation. Scorn gibes him. Mockery crowns him with thorns. Envy, jealousy, and malice, raging furies, seek to tear him limb from limb. Defeated greed, slanderer, and exposed uncleanness, like harpies, pick and hawk him with beak and talons. Tyranny binds him with chains to cold rocks that vultures may gnaw his vitals. Every day he dies, every day he is crucified, every day persecution drives cruel spikes and nails through his hands and feet. In the gloom of every night demons come like vampires, or hooting owls, or howling wolves, or hideous nightmares, or croaking ravens, to break his spirit. Hell’s cartoonists sketch his future in a background of evil omens and apprehensions. It was of these trials he wrote:

"But in everything commending ourselves, as ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; in pureness, in knowledge, in longsuffering, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in love unfeigned, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (2 Corinthians 6:4-10).

There are several items that need to be noted in particular: He was supported there by the work of his hands. Perhaps once Corinth sent him a contribution, or at least some kind words, which he counted as food (1 Corinthians 16:17-18). The designation given to the gospel here and the preceding and subsequent references thereto is "The Way," i.e., the way of life (vv. 9, 23). The name originated with our Lord: "I am the Way" (John 14:6), and it was twice used in Acts before the double use of this chapter (Acts 9:2; Acts 18:25) and three times subsequently Acts (22:4; 24:14, 22). It became common in the early centuries.

Note the great special service rendered to Paul by Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus. When the mob sought him at their house they offered to "lay down their own necks" that their guest might escape (Romans 16:3).

This tour, in its preaching, and particularly in the four great letters, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans, settled forever the systematic theology of salvation by grace through faith, and furnished all subsequent ages with the storehouse of arguments for justification by faith, and vicarious expiation. Out of these letters came both the inspiration and power of the reformation. No man questions their authority. They constitute Paul’s Gospel. A summary of the events condensed in Acts 20:1-6 is as follows: While yet at Ephesus, Paul, on varied information, had written I Corinthians, in which he had promised to visit them. But Timothy’s report made him hesitate. He then sent Titus, intending to go to Corinth first, after leaving Ephesus, if Titus brought back a good report in time. But as Titus had not returned up to the time he left Ephesus, he went to Troas expecting there to meet Titus with such a report as would justify going to Corinth from that point. While waiting there he preached effectually and established a church, but though God opened him a door of success, he was consumed with anxiety about matters in Corinth, and as Titus did not come with news, he closed his meeting and passed over into Macedonia to visit the churches at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. In Macedonia, Titus joined him with good news in the main from Corinth, and so from Macedonia he wrote the second letter to the Corinthians, again promising to be with them speedily (2 Cor. 1:1-2:13). Passing through Macedonia, confirming the churches, he came to Corinth at last (Acts 20:1-3), and spent the winter there. It was during this winter’s sojourn at Corinth that he wrote the letters, Galatians and Romans. From Corinth he had expected to sail direct for Syria. Finding out a plot of the Jews to entrap and slay him at the seaport Cenchrea, he returned by land to Macedonia. And from Philippi he sent ahead to Troas, the brethren named in Acts 20:4, and then after the Passover he, with Luke and maybe others, followed them to Troas. The time in Europe was nearly a year.


The incidents at Troas are these: After a space of five days, he arrived at Troas and stayed a week, and on the first day of the week they all came together to partake of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper was administered probably by the church at Troas, and all the context shows that these visiting brethren from sister churches participated in all particulars of that supper. Luke says they assembled to break bread. Dr. J. R. Graves took the position that only the members of a local church, celebrating the supper, should participate in its observance. He once asked me what I thought of his position. I told him that as a matter of right, only the church could administer the supper, and only the members of that church could claim as a right to participate, but inasmuch as visiting brethren and sisters are of like faith and order, that on invitation they might participate. Then we had it on this case at Troas, and on the uniform Baptist custom. Notice that whenever they go to observe the Lord’s Supper the preacher says, "Any brethren or sisters of sister churches of like faith and order, knowing themselves to be in good order [not disorder], are invited to participate with us." That is what is called inter-church communion, but not a very good name for it. I always invite the visiting brethren and sisters, but I specify very particularly who is invited.

Another incident occurred that interrupted the preaching a little. Paul, knowing that he had to leave the next day, preached a sermon that night. He was in the third story preaching. It was hot in that country over there, so they had all the windows open for air, and a boy, Eutychus, bad the best place in the house, right in the back window, and as Paul went on preaching until midnight (he did not deliver fifteen-minute essays – he preached a sermon) Eutychus’ eyes got heavy, and he went to sleep. Something perhaps disturbed him, maybe a fly lighted on him, anyhow he fell out of the window – fell from the third story and was killed instantly. Therefore don’t get sleepy in church. Paul went down and brought him back to life by the exercise of miraculous power, and went right back and resumed his sermon. When he got through they celebrated the Lord’s Supper. Some Campbellite brothers and sisters say it should be administered only on the first day of the week, and every first day of the week, and cite this case here at Troas when they came together on the first day of the week to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. It was a splendid day of the week to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, but Paul’s sermon was so long that it was next day before he even got through that sermon. They did not partake of the Supper until Monday.

When we get a three years’ sample of a man’s preaching we can have some idea, especially if he is preaching every day and every night in that three years, as to the matter, the scope, and the manner of his preaching. Of course, if he hasn’t got much to preach, he could not preach three years right straight along – he would run out of material – but Paul was brimful, and the scope of his preaching is expressed in two ways: (1) That he had withheld nothing that was profitable. (2) That he had not shunned to teach the whole counsel of God. That would have been a fine seminary course if we could have been there three years; could have taken that three years in the Bible by the greatest expounder since the Master went to heaven. He preached at every town, and particularly in preaching to the unconverted, he says, "Is testified both to the Jews and to the Greeks) repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." Some preachers go around and leave out repentance. He ought to preach the gospel, and he should preach repentance as he preaches faith, and he needs to preach it in the order – repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. As to the manner of his preaching, notice the address itself, how he describes it. He says, "Why, brethren, you know that I was with you in humility. By the space of three years, publicly and privately, from house to house, day and night, with tears, I ministered unto you."

If we should put together all we have suffered, it would not be as much as that man suffered in that three years. We have not made half as many sacrifices as he did. We have never come as near laying a whole burnt offering upon the altar of God. In analyzing this address, observe that there are three prophecies in it: (1) He says, "After I am gone, wolves are going to come and ruin the flock." (2) "After I am gone many of your own selves, right on the inside of the church, will rise up and mar the work that has been done. (3) And he says, "Brethren, you will never see me again." This is his farewell discourse. Those are the three prophecies. The events of this tour testify to the first day of the week as the Christian sabbath. We have the record of this assembly on the first day of the week, and in a letter on this tour he says, "On the first day of the week [and this applies to the churches generally] lay by in store, that there may be no collections when I come." In other words, he says, "Every week, just according to your ability, give what you give liberally, cheerfully, and lay it by in store, so when I come you will have the collection ready."


1. What the seventh adversary?

2. How did this one stir up the eighth adversary?

3. How was the ninth adversary stirred up?

4. How was the tenth adversary stirred up?

5. What was the outcome of it all?

6. What are the excellencies of the town clerk’s speech?

7. Analyze the "great door and effectual," opened to Paul.

8. What the expressions in the chapter which show the marvelous development of the work?

9. Who were the great converts of this meeting?

10. What the character and hard condition of Paul’8 ministry in Ephesus?

11. How was Paul supported there?

12. What designation was given to the gospel there, and what the preceding and subsequent references thereto?

13. What great special service rendered to Paul by Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus?

14. What is the full significance of this missionary tour?

15. Give a summary of the events condensed in Acts 20:1-6, and the time covered by them.

16. What the incidents and lessons of the stay at Troas, and what the bearing of the observance of the Lord’s Supper there on interchurch communion?

17. Who was a great advocate of the non-interchurch communion, and what his main argument?

18. Analyze the address to the Ephesian elders, showing particularly the matter, scope, and manner of Paul’s ministry.

19. What is the testimony of the events of this tour to the first day of the week as the Christian sabbath?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 18". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/acts-18.html.
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