1. After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth.
Paul finishes his work in Athens. Silas and Timothy have not yet come to him, but he knows through the Spirit that it is time to move on. So, he departs from Athens, and heads to another prominent city of Greece, the city of Corinth. Corinth is about fifty miles west of Athens, and about two miles south of the narrow isthmus which forms a land bridge between the main part of Greece and the Peloponnesus. Corinth was a harbor city, and controlled the trade routes between Asia and Rome, as it was here that goods would arrive in one harbor, be carried across the narrow isthmus, and shipped off again from the other harbor. So Corinth was a very prominent city at this time. Rome had made it the capital of the province of Greece, so it had passed other cities like Athens in importance at this time.
The name “Corinth” means “Satiated,” and it was here that many did indeed satiate their soulish desires. Sailors loved to spend their money in Corinth, and the temple of Aphrodite was here, replete with many prostitute/priestesses. Corinth became known therefore for rampant immorality. In fact, the phrase “to act the Corinthian” became a term equivalent to immorality. Paul will have a very important work here, as we will see, and will later write two letters to the believers in this important city.
2. 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.
The first thing Paul does in Corinth, as far as we know, is find a certain Jew named Aquila, which means “An Eagle.” He was born in Pontus, a region in Asia minor. Apparently, however, he had recently been living in Italy, the country of which the city of Rome was the capital. He was married to a woman named Priscilla, which means “Ancient.” These two were apparently very close, and are never mentioned separately. They had left Italy because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome.
As we have said before, the Jews were a disliked minority in the Roman Empire. Their culture and customs were so different from those of the other peoples of the empire that they were looked down upon by the rest of its citizens. It seems that, from time to time, the Roman Emperors would suspect the Jews (or pretend to suspect the Jews) of plotting the overthrow of the Empire. Excuses to blame the Jews of this were not hard to find. They were not satisfied with being under the rule of polytheists, and so were constantly causing trouble, both in Rome and in the rest of the Empire at large. Judea itself was close to a state of rebellion at this time, and open revolt would break out about fourteen years after this, leading to the final destruction of the city of Jerusalem.
At any rate, when Caesar would accuse the Jews of treason, he would then command them to depart from Rome. While they were gone, their businesses and goods would be confiscated, for they were only allowed to leave with whatever they could carry with them. Once their stolen goods and property had been sold off, the order exiling them from Rome would be rescinded, and they would be allowed to wander back to Rome if they wished. Later on, once they had amassed some wealth once again, the order could be repeated. This allowed the Romans to steal from the Jews, and enrich themselves off their labor. This how the Jews were treated, it seems, in Rome.
So Aquila and Priscilla, finding themselves caught up in the most recent one of these evictions, had come to Corinth. Now Paul meets this couple Aquila and Priscilla, and comes to stay with them.
3. So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers.
Part of Paul’s kinship with these two, it seems, is because of his trade. Every Jewish boy was taught a trade, and even members of the Sanhedrin were all expected to have learned a trade they could fall back on. The Companion Bible notes that the Rabbis said, “Whoever does not teach his son a trade is as if he brought him up to be a robber.” Paul’s trade, it seems, was tentmaking, as was that of Aquila and Priscilla. So Paul stays with them and plies his trade with them. No doubt he did not just make tents with them, but also shared with them his love for and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.
So for six days a week, Paul is making tents with this couple. On the Sabbath, however, he reasons in the synagogue. He was very persuasive, and it seems that many of both the Jews and the Greeks heard what he said and were persuaded. With God inspiring his words, they must have been compelling indeed.
5. When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.
It seems this continues for some time. We do not know for sure how long. Finally, however, Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia, having completed the work there that Paul was not able to finish, due to the fact that he had to flee from the persecution that was brought against him. With his two most faithful helpers arrived at last, Paul is compelled by the Spirit. Up to this time, it seems, though Paul has been reasoning with the Jews and Greeks in the synagogue, his message has only been leading up to the truth about Jesus Christ. He has not yet revealed Him directly. Now, however, he is compelled to do so, and so he testifies to the Jews in Corinth that Jesus is the Messiah they have long been waiting for.
Notice that Silas is listed first here, as the most important of these two. Silas is older than Timothy, and has a higher position at this time. When listed with Paul, of course, Silas is always listed last, since it was Paul who had the highest position under God outside the land of Israel.
6. 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.”
The Jews hear the word of Jesus Christ, and it seems they no longer allow themselves to be persuaded. They may have gone along with Paul and his reasoning up to this point, but once they know where this reasoning is leading, they suddenly want no more part of it. So they oppose the word and even speak blasphemy against the Lord Whom Paul was proclaiming. So Paul symbolically shook his garments. We have read three times of shaking the dust off your feet as a testimony against people who reject the Word. The Lord told the twelve to do this in Matthew 10:14 and Mark 6:11, and then Paul actually did shake the dust off his feet in Pisidian Antioch in Acts 13:51. In Corinth, he shakes the dust off his garments rather than his feet, but the symbolism would seem to be the same. He is rejecting them, just as they have rejected the Word of God.
Now he speaks to these rejecters. He tells them their blood will be upon their own heads. He is clean of their blood, for he has spoken the truth to them. If they have rejected it, that is their affair. He is not to be blamed, for he warned them of the truth, as was his duty.
Now he informs them that he will go to the Gentiles. He says “from now on,” but by this he means in this city, not from this point on, for in the very next city he visited, Ephesus, he entered first thing into a synagogue of the Jews, still giving them the priority. So this is the same thing that we saw happen in Acts 13 in Pisidian Antioch. Once the Jews have received the message and rejected it, Paul turns from them to the Gentiles, and goes to those among them who are interested in the Word. As we explained when discussing Acts 13:46, this was in line with the policy Paul followed, as is laid down for us in Romans 11. Gentiles were to be grafted into Israel’s good olive tree. This was so that the natural branches might be stimulated to emulate the wild branches and produce fruit themselves. It was to provoke Israel to jealousy and emulation that Gentiles were grafted in among them. It was not yet because all nations were joint heirs, joint bodies, and joint partakers, as is true now according to Ephesians 3:6. The Jews were still first in priority and first to receive the gospel at this time. Yet when the necessity arose, God would send His apostle Paul to the Gentiles, and they would receive the truth that the Jews had rejected.
7. 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.
So Paul departs from the synagogue. Yet he does not go far from there. Instead, he goes next door to the house of a man named Justus (which name literally means “Just” in English.) In some manuscripts, his first name is given as “Titus” or “Titius.” This man was one who worshipped God, and with his house right next to the synagogue, it can hardly be doubted but that he had previously been worshiping there, before he met Paul at least. So Paul, while he goes to the Gentiles, does not go into the common marketplace, as he did in Athens. Instead, he goes to the God-fearing Gentiles, those who were already interested in the truth about the God of Israel, just as he had done in Pisidian Antioch.
8. 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.
Here we have illustrated for as, as clearly as ever we see it in the book of Acts, the policy of Paul in his ministry towards the Gentiles, as he explains it in Romans 11. There, he speaks of the stumbling of some of the Israelites in verses 11-12.
11. I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. 12. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!
He speaks of the Israelites stumbling, yet not falling, because through their error, salvation has come to the Gentiles to provoke them to jealousy. That is just what Paul did here in Corinth. When some of the Israelites opposed him and blasphemed, he made a point of going to the Gentiles before them in a very obvious and provocative way. They could have looked at this and become even angrier. Or, they could have looked at it and become jealous, not wanting to see their privileges before God as Israelites turned over to the Gentiles rather than them, and therefore have turned from their stubbornness and believed.
Paul goes on in Romans 11 to speak to the Gentiles directly in verses 13-15. This certainly applies to these Gentiles in Corinth as well.
13. For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14. if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. 15. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
Paul again here tells the Gentiles that their opportunity came to provoke the Israelites to jealousy. If they did become jealous and that moved them to stop opposing and believe, the result of that would be even more good would be done. He makes it clear that they would be able to do this in verses 23-24, part of his illustration of the olive tree.
23. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
Paul assures them that the Israelites, cut out of their inheritance and blessings, could yet be grafted in again if they would stop their rebellion and submit.
Now back to Acts 18:8. Here, we see happening exactly what Paul wanted to happen when he went to the Gentiles so plainly and provokingly. A man named Crispus (meaning “Curled,”) a man so prominent among the Jews that he was actually the ruler of the synagogue, turns around when he sees Paul do this. He may have been mocking the way Paul proclaimed before, but it seems Paul’s actions and the jealousy they caused in him woke him up. Therefore, he believed, and along with him his entire family as well. This shows the effectiveness of Paul’s policy that he outlined in Romans 11. This policy was not a failure, or not in Corinth at any rate. At least one very prominent Jew and his family, being provoked to jealousy by the Gentiles, believed. And can we be at all surprised? The Lord would not institute such a policy that had no hope of succeeding. If He believed this would convince some, then we can be certain He was correct. Here in Corinth, we can see that He was correct, at least as far as this man Justus and his family were concerned.
Yet it may not just be Crispus and his family who believed because of this provoking to jealousy in Corinth. Apparently, he was removed from his position as ruler of the synagogue when he chose to follow Paul. We find out the name of his replacement, Sosthenes, in verse 17. Yet in I Corinthians 1:1, Paul writes his letter to the Corinthians along with a man named Sosthenes. Could it be that Crispus’ replacement, though he remained longer in unbelief than Crispus did, eventually too responded to the call to believe in Jesus Christ after being provoked to jealousy by seeing the Gentiles believe? It is hard to say for certain, for two people can bear the same name. Yet two prominent people from Corinth both being named “Sosthenes,” especially when this name only occurs in these two passages in the Scriptures, seems like too much to be a coincidence. It seems very likely that Crispus’ replacement too believed in Jesus Christ after rejecting Him for a time.
There were also many of the Corinthians who, hearing Paul in Justus’ house, believed and were identified. The word “baptized” here means “identified,” as we have discussed before. These people were identified with the Lord Jesus Christ when they believed in Him. These people were probably mostly Gentiles to whom Paul spoke after resorting to the house of Justus, but some of them may have been Jews from the synagogue who were not among those who rejected Paul’s word or blasphemed, and who had followed him when he left the synagogue. Some of them may also have been like Crispus, and may have been provoked by jealousy to copy the Gentiles and come to faith in Jesus Christ. But no matter who they were, many Corinthians believed as a result of Paul’s ministry in the house of Justus.
9. Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent;
Now the Lord communicates with Paul in the night by a vision. We do not know what night this was, but would guess it may have been the very night after he departed from the synagogue. He had made some bitter enemies among the Jews of the city by doing this, and he may have felt some fear about what would develop because of this. Yet the Lord assures him that he should not be afraid. He commands him to speak boldly in Corinth, and not to keep silent. He may have been inclined to back off a little bit, seeking to not cause more trouble. Remember, at first his reasoning in the synagogue had gone quite well, until he had brought up the truth regarding Jesus Christ. He might think that a more cautious approach might be called for. Yet the Lord assures him that this is not the case. He must continue to speak boldly. This is not the time to keep silent or back off.
10. for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”
The Lord tells him why he should not be afraid, but instead should speak boldly. First of all, because the Lord is with him. That is reason enough to be unafraid. As Romans 8:31 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Since the Lord was with him, Paul had every reason to be confident.
Moreover, the Lord assures him that no one will attack him to hurt him. This was a lot of assurance as well. If the Lord guarantees you something like this, you can be sure it is true. If the Lord says no one will attack Paul to hurt him, he can be sure that no one will attack him to hurt him. He has God’s word on the matter.
Then, the final reason the Lord gives is that He has many people in this city. This statement is one that has always intrigued me. Who were these people, I wonder? From what history tells us of Corinth, it was a very immoral and wicked city. Yet the Lord talks about it as if He has many, many people in this city in His back pocket. Was He referring just to those among the Jews of the city, that enough of them were Godly that these who rejected would not get enough headway to cause trouble for Paul? Was God talking about the God-fearing Gentiles, many of whom Paul had already met no doubt when he went to the home of Justus? Did God mean among the rulership of the city, that He had many of the rulers of the city who considered and honored Him as God, whether or not they knew of Jesus Christ? Or could He possibly actually mean that he had many among the general population of this city? For again, it does not seem that way to us as we look at the reputation that Corinth had.
This reminds me of Abraham in the city of Gerar. He lied there about Sarah his wife, claiming that she was his sister. When explaining himself to Abimelech, the righteous king of Gerar, he explains why he did this. “Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife.” Genesis 20:11. Yet it turns out that Abraham was wrong. The fear of God was in Gerar, and the king of Gerar, Abimelech, ended up rightfully rebuking Abraham. Could it be that the fear of God was in Corinth, much more than we might think? Perhaps. But the Lord does not explain further, and if Paul knew who He was talking about, the passage does not explain it to us. All we know for sure is that the Lord had many people in Corinth, and for this reason Paul would be safe to carry out his ministry in peace.
11. And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
So Paul obeys his vision, and remains in Corinth, teaching without fear and without hindrance. This goes on for a year and six months, and all during that time Paul is teaching the word of God among the Corinthians. So the word goes forward, and many in Greece get to know it, and understand the truths about the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
During these eighteen months that Paul spent in Corinth, he wrote his two epistles to the city of Thessalonica, I and II Thessalonians. There is disagreement as to whether these were his first two inspired epistles or not, because the exact time of the writing of the book of Galatians is debated. My current thought is that Galatians was probably written around the time of the end of Acts 14 and early Acts 15, when the whole question of how the new believers should behave and whether or not they should be made to be circumcised and keep the law was being debated. Therefore, these two books were, I believe, the second and third that Paul wrote. They were written during this time from right here in Corinth.