April 15, 2015

 

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

 

Topic #IV: The Church Advancing to the End of the Earth (Acts 13-28)   

                    

Subtopic C: The Missionary Journey (15:36-18:22)   

 

       Sub-subtopic 8: The Work in Corinth (18:1-17)                                           

                          

                                                                           

         Lesson: IV.C.8.b: Paul's Work at the House of Crispus & Justus (18:7-11)                                                                     

 

 

 

Acts 18:7-11 (KJV)

 

7 And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.

8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

9 Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:

10 For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.

11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

 

 

 

Introduction

 

The work in Corinth met with early success.  There were a number of converts, including Titus Justus, possibly a Roman citizen and a colonus, a worshipper of God (v. 7) and Crispus [a Jew despite his Latin name] “the synagogue ruler” (v.  8). It would appear from the use of the definite article, “the ruler,” that at Corinth only one person at a time held that office and that Sosthenes, who is mentioned later in verse 17, succeeded Crispus upon the latter’s conversion.  The order of the verses implies that Crispus did not become a Christian until after Paul’s break with the synagogue, but some expositors may be right in supposing that he and his family came to faith while Paul was still in good standing with the Jewish community.  Among the others were Gaius, whom Paul mentions with Crispus in 1 Corinthians 1:14, and “the household of Stephanas,” who were “the first converts in Achaia” (i.e., Corinth; 1 Corinthians 16:15).

 

 

 

Commentary

 

7 And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.

 

And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus.

 

When Paul left the synagogue (see 18:4, 6), he moved his place of witness to the house of a Gentile God-fearer named “Titus Justice,” who probably was one of those mentioned in 18:4[1] as being present in the Corinthian synagogue.  The name Titus Justice suggests that he was a Roman citizen, though Luke does not indicate that he was a convert.

 

Some hold to the view that “Titus (or “Titius”) Justice” is the Gaius who is also mentioned as having been baptized by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:14[2].  Their reasoning is that Titus and Justice would constitute the last two of the customary three Roman names and that Gaius could well have been his first name.  This same Gaius is mentioned as Paul’s Corinthian host in Romans 16:23[3]. Some interpreters believe verse 18:7 refers to Paul’s changing his place of lodging from Aquila and Priscilla’s to Titus’s.  This view is appealing but unfortunately too speculative. 

 

One that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.

 

When Paul left the synagogue, “he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6), and then he walked to Titus Justus’s House, which was next door to the synagogue or across the street from it. This might appear as somewhat spiteful to the Jews, but it could also indicate that he had not completely given up on them. It was essential for the apostle to remain identified with the synagogue for reasons which we have given previously. This was certainly a wise decision on Paul’s part, because it gave him continued contact with the Jews and Gentile proselytes; and as a result, many of them came to believe in Jesus Christ.

 

This would be a meeting place for the remainder of his stay in Corinth.  It might have been better for the sake of peace to have moved clean across town.  Paul, however, was always sensitive to the leading of the Spirit, and it was made evident to him that the house next to the synagogue was the one he should use.  Certainly nothing could be more calculated to annoy the Jews and to “provoke them to jealousy” as Paul put it later (Romans 11:11). This was certainly a wise decision on Paul’s part, because it gave him continued contact with the Jews and Gentile proselytes; and as a result, many of them came to believe in Jesus Christ.

 

 

8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

 

And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house.

 

 “The synagogue” had two important officials: the “angel of the synagogue” was the regular minister, responsible to pray and preach, take care of the law, and appoint those who were to read it; the “ruler of the synagogue” had charge of its other affairs, including regulating the service.  That was the functions performed by Crispus.  He and his whole household “believed” in Christ “and were baptized.” Like Gaius, he was one of the few people Paul baptized at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:14[4]).  His conversion undoubtedly had a considerable impact on many who regularly attended the synagogue. 

 

Paul’s preaching and teaching center attracted both Jews and Gentiles. 

 

And many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

 

Witnessing among the Gentiles was a success, for many of the Corinthians “believed and were baptized.” The results of his work in Corinth assured Paul that the city was fertile ground for the spread of the Gospel (the tense in the Greek points to continuous growth).

 

We know from Paul’s Corinthian correspondence that the church there was large, gifted, and influential; unfortunately, church factions (1 Corinthians 1:10-17) were allowed to develop. Seemingly the majority of the congregation were ordinary working people, not the “first families” of Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:26[5]).  Still, some were from the upper social classes.  Factions (divisions, clicks) appeared within the congregation which  reflected a persons’ social status; that seems to have been the major problem when they gathered for the agape feast in connection with the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:17-22). 

 

The Jews in the synagogue must have watched the growth of the rival Christian community next door with a cynical attitude.  Its ranks included enough people of influence and repute to retard for some considerable time the usual reaction of violence.  As increasing numbers of pagans, drawn from a motley background of immorality and idolatry, flooded into the church, the Jews eyed it with growing jealousy and hatred.  For a long time they doubtless consoled themselves by drawing the robes of self-righteous complacency about themselves and congratulating each other that they were not as other men were.  Anyone could get converts with Paul’s cheap gospel, but, God be praised, they were not going to allow people into the synagogue without a long probation, circumcision, and a commitment to keep the Law of Moses, the traditions of the Elders, and the teaching of the rabbis. 

 

When you examine Paul’s ministry in Corinth, you will see that he was fulfilling the Lords commission given in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”  Paul came to Corinth (“Go”), he won sinners to Christ (“make disciples”), he baptized, and he taught them.  He even experienced the assurance of the Lord’s promise: “Lo, I am with thee always!” (Acts 18:9-10).  Paul’s associates baptized most of the new converts (1 Corinthians 1:11-17), just as our Lords disciples did when He ministered on earth (John 4:1-2).

 

Particularly of note in Paul’s letter to the Romans (see Romans16:233), which was written in Corinth, is the mention of Erastus, the “director of public works” in Corinth.

 

An inscription has been excavated in the plaza adjacent to the theater at Corinth.  It mentions Erastus as the treasurer of the city who provided the funds for the plaza.  This quite possibly is the same Erastus associated with the Corinthian congregation in Romans 16:233.  Such a man would have been both “influential” and of high social standing, even if he wasn’t of “noble birth.”

 

 

 

Prologue to Verses 9-11

 

Verses 9-11 are a sort of interlude in the narrative.  They seem to interrupt the account of the increasing Jewish opposition to Paul, which became full-blown when he was brought before Gallio (18:12-17).  They are, however, an essential part of the story and are closely related to the trial scene.  Their form is that of a divine commissioning narrative in which God or His angel appears to a human agent, gives a task to be performed, and gives an assurance of His presence.  The form already is familiar from previous incidents in acts (5:17-21; 9:10-18; 16:6-10), and Paul would have similar visions on subsequent occasions (23:11; 27:23-24).  All of these have familiar elements from the Old Testament that deal with the call of the prophets—Moses (Exodus 3:2-12), Joshua (Joshua 1:1-9), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5-10), and the servants of the Lord (Isaiah 41:10-14).  Even the same wording binds all these together: “Fear not; do not be silent; I am with you; no one will harm you” (commentator’s translation).

 

 

9 Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:

10 For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.

 

Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision.

 

By now Paul was feeling the pressure in Corinth.  Everywhere he had been, so far, the Jews had drummed-up trouble against him.  It could not be long before the same thing would happen at Corinth and, after all, Paul was only human.  He did not like being manhandled, maligned, imprisoned, beaten, or threatened any more than anyone else.  The Lord touched as He is “with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15), came at this juncture to his faithful ambassador. 

 

The conversion of Crispus, opened up more opportunities for evangelism and brought more opposition from the enemy!  The Jewish community in Corinth was no doubt furious at Paul’s success and did everything possible to silence him and get rid of him.  Dr. Luke does not give us the details, but I get the impression that the situation there became especially difficult and dangerous.  Paul may have been thinking about leaving the city when the Lord came to him and gave him the assurance that he needed.

 

Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:

 

It was just what Paul needed.  Just as Jonathan once came to David to strengthen his hand in God, so the Lord came to Paul to encourage him to keep up the good work.  Paul was a brave man In any case, but with this commission ringing in his soul he would be bolder than ever before.  He was brave but not reckless, bold but not brash, fearless but not fatalistic.  What a happy balance we observe in this intrepid missionary, a man always conscious of the Lord’s abiding presence and daily leading.  Paul’s fears were natural enough but needless.  He could write later to the Romans, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).  Nobody was going to drive him out of Corinth.  Here, for the foreseeable future, was where God wanted him to be. 

 

For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee.

 

At Corinth Paul had come to a ripened harvest field.  There had been very little to reap at Athens.  The soil was poor there, for intellectualism and high-sounding nonsense soiled the harvest.  But here at Corinth, in the fifth largest capital of the world, were many hungry hearts. There were lonely people[t1] , people disillusioned by pleasure and worldliness, people who had drunk from Satan’s broken cisterns and poisoned wells, desperate people, people who were not only lost but who knew they were lost.  There were sailors, tired of lives of drunkenness and wickedness; there were the broken women, the castoffs of the temples where sin was their daily bread; there were successful businessmen whose money could buy them everything but happiness; there were housewives struggling for a decent home life in a city as foul as Sodom; there were young people whose ideals had been blighted by the diseased state of the society in which they lived; and there were those who were disgusted by both heathen religion and Jewish hardness and hypocrisy. 

 

Paul was encouraged not only by the presence of the Lord, but also by His promises.  Jesus assured Paul that no one would hurt him, that he would bring many sinners to the Savior, and that He would never leave him nor forsake him (see Hebrews 13:5[6]).  He made Paul a promise; “For I am with thee.” Do not let the businessmen or the politicians, the wealthy or the prominent, frighten you into silence.  They cannot hurt you, they can only prove you are right.  Do not be afraid of running out of anything.  The reservoirs of God are inexhaustible.

 

And the promise is followed by a reminder . . .

 

For I have much people in this city.

 

You may think that they are all stupid, beyond redemption, lost in their own selfish interests, impervious, untouchable, and doomed.  Not at all, says God.  Among these unattractive, unresponsive-looking people, I have a great many who are ready to hear my word.  You may not see them right at the beginning; they may not respond instantly.  But they have the desire and the need in their heart.  They are fearful and timid, they had been disappointed before; therefore they hold back in the beginning.  But go out to find them, woo them, and tell them the story.  See what lies behind their faces; get to know them where they really live.  Let them see that you are in the same predicament; that you face the same human temptation and danger; that you to cry out for the living God.

 

Over this vast, seething city the Holy Spirit brooded as once he had over the darkened deep on creations first morning.  “I have much people in this city,” was the Lord’s comforting words to Paul. The field was ripe for the reaper.  What a blessed outlook for the missionary.  The statement “I have much people in this city” implies the doctrine of divine election, for “the Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19, NKJV).  God’s church is made up of people who were “chosen . . .  In him [Christ] before the foundation of the world’s” (Ephesians 1:4).

 

Please note that the divine sovereignty in election is not a deterrent to human responsibility in evangelism.  Quite the opposite is true!  Divine election is one of the greatest encouragements to the preaching of the Gospel.  Because Paul knew that God already had people set apart for salvation, he stayed where he was and preached the Gospel with faith and courage.  Paul’s responsibility was to obey the commission; God’s responsibility was to save sinners.  If salvation depends on sinful man, then all of our efforts are futile; but if “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9), then we can expect Him to bless His Word and save souls.

 

 

11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

 

Paul’s vision fortified him for the extensive witness in Corinth, and for the next year and a half, he threw himself into evangelizing the great city, ably supported by Silas and Timothy. Corinth was the first city where Paul settled-down for an extensive period of missionary activity.  The pattern up till now had been for such strong opposition to arise against Paul and his companions in cities where they witnessed that they were forced to move on.  He had no reason to expect anything different in Corinth.  In 1 Corinthians 2:3[7] he even stated the fear and misgivings he had when he first arrived in the city.  How would these Greeks and Roman colonists receive him?  Already the familiar pattern of strong Jewish opposition was rearing its head.  How long could his Corinthian Ministry continue?  The vision from the Lord provided an answer.  Paul was to remain in Corinth and continue his witness there.  The Lord was with him.  No harm would befall him, no opposition withstand him.  This assurance fortified Paul for the 18-month ministry in Corinth. 

 

At Corinth, Paul entered into a new phase of his missionary work.  The previous fast-paced movement from place to place quietly gave way to a more settled ministry.  The next five years find Paul centering most of his time in two cities —Corinth on the European mainland, and Ephesus in Asia.  From the reference to Gallio (18:12) we can pinpoint Paul’s 18 month stay in Corinth as being between the fall of A.D. 50 and the spring of A.D. 52.  The successful outcome of his appearance before Gallio further assured him that the Lord had indeed kept his promise.

 

 

 

[1] (Acts 18:4, NIV) “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.”

[2] (1 Corinthians 1:14, NIV) “I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius.”

[3] (Romans 16:23) “Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.”

[4] (1 Corinthians 1:14, NIV) “I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius.”

[5] (1 Corinthians 1:26, KJV) “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.”

[6] (Hebrews 13:5, KJV) “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

[7] (1 Corinthians 2:3, KJV) “And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”

 [t1]

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