We (myself included) like to joke around in Tentmakers about how slowly we’re making our way through Paul’s missionary journeys most recently studying Acts 18:1-11 in which Luke records Paul’s first visit to Corinth. This morning – instead of thinking about how I needed to pick up the pace so that we can cover more ground – my mind (led by the Spirit) likened our pace of study to walking as opposed to driving somewhere. Think for a second about what I might mean … Don’t look down at the next paragraph to see my thoughts until you form your own. What often happens when you walk a route that you’re used to driving?
For me, I tend to notice things at 4 or 6 mi/hr that go unnoticed at 40 or 60. This week, that thing was a change of description regarding Paul’s activity (when compared to his previous stops): “So he settled down among them for a year and six months, teaching the Word of God …” (Acts 18:11, Amplified). Paul does two new things here in Corinth that we have not seen at his other stops – he settles down and teaches.
During Paul’s first missionary journey, he and Barnabas covered about 1,400 miles from AD 45-47 … not leaving much time to settle down. Now on his second missionary journey (begun in AD 50), Paul has visited 9 cities/regions and is now in Corinth (the 10th city, AD 52) after 2 years traveling. That kind of schedule would be exhausting even with the luxury of a car/plane to quicken your travel time between stops. I’m sure that settling down gave Paul the opportunity for some much needed physical rest, but it also allowed him to put on a different hat in the spreading of the Gospel.
After Luke (the inspired writer of Acts) tells us that Paul settled down in Corinth, he immediately follows with what Paul was doing, i.e. “teaching the Word of God” (vs. 11). You may be asking, “Isn’t that what he always did?” I’m going to throw that question back to you. Ideally I would encourage you to go back and read Acts 13-18:11 for yourself, but if you don’t currently have time for that, use the following verses speed up your research. Specifically look for what Luke tells us that Paul was doing at these other stops:
First Missionary Journey (Acts 13-14):
Salamis (Cyprus) Acts 13:5
Antioch (Pisidia) Acts 13:43
Iconium Acts 14:1, 3
Lystra Acts 14:7, 9
Derbe Acts 14:21
Lystra, Iconium, Antioch (Pisidia)
Perga Acts 14:25
Second Missionary Journey (Acts 16-18:22):
Macedonia Acts 16:10
Philippi Acts 16:13, 32
Thessalonica Acts 17:2-3
Berea Acts 17:13
Athens Acts 17:17
Corinth Acts 18:4-5
Before we discuss what you noticed in these verses, I want add one more layer to our thinking. If you’re reading this as one from my home church (or, like us, from one who has recently been between pastors), then you have a unique perspective from which to recognize the differences between when someone being called to deliver one or two messages and one being called to a long-term placement. Again, give yourself a minute to think of a difference (or two) on your own before reading my thoughts …
Like Paul during his short visits (even up to his arrival in Corinth, Acts 18:1-8), God will call ministers to deliver specific messages to specific groups of people without calling them to tarry in that place. In these times, we notice themes similar to the ones you should be able to see in your research above – preaching, speaking, encouraging, exhorting, declaring, proclaiming, reasoning, arguing. But when a minister is called to a long-term position in a church – as God called Paul to stay on with the Corinthians (Acts 18:9-10) – the tenor of the message changes. Instead of preaching, Paul began teaching (vs. 11).
We learned here at Corinth that Paul had a trade aside from his role in the spreading of the Gospel – tent making. If you don’t know, I am a teacher by trade – specifically, a math teacher. A few months ago, a former student of mine (currently a pre-service teacher) interviewed me for a paper she is writing. Her first question was, “What does it mean to be a teacher?” For whatever reason her question caught me off-guard, and I don’t know that I was able to answer her very eloquently. Since then, I have allowed her question to remain in my mind – perhaps for this very lesson. Preaching versus teaching.
Preaching is often a monologue; teaching on-the-other-hand is an on-going interaction. While preaching may mean the delivery of a message, teaching is the facilitation of experiences that allow students to learn specific concepts along with habits of mind that equip them to continue learning in the absence of their teacher. Often frustrating for students, a teacher asks more questions than s/he answers.
Both preaching and teaching are vital to the health of the Body of Christ, but they are not one-in-the-same (Eph 4:11-12). For this reason, I do not believe Luke’s choice of words in Acts 18:11 to be casual. Remember that Luke also wrote the Gospel bearing his name, and in it we have so much to learn from the “Good Teacher,” Jesus Christ (Lk 18:18) – Who also left us with some amazing sermons along the way!
Now what? Let’s continue our walk through the Scriptures. There’s so much we miss at 60 mi/hr.