Sunday, May 19, 2013

Hooked (Acts 18:24-28)

Now What? … If you check this blog regularly, ‘Now what?’ is a question you may have been asking over the last few weeks.  I assure you that my silence is not because I have been ignoring my commitment to you.  In fact, you are on my heart and mind every time I sit down to study, regardless of how prolific I may (or may not) seem.  So to answer ‘Now what?’ question, let’s go to Acts 18 and pick up with verse 24: 
            “Meanwhile, there was a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, who   came to Ephesus…” (Amplified)

As much as I’d like to sprint through the coming verses, I just can’t do it … at least not without first taking the bait here in verse 24.  What bait?  The word meanwhile (or a similar word depending on your translation) is a lure begging us grab hold, so that we can be drawn toward what is just out of our sight.  Look back at the preceding verses.  What was going on in the meanwhile? 


Paul had left Corinth with his new friends Priscilla and Aquila and headed for Syria.  On their way, they stopped at Ephesus (vs. 18-19).  Although Paul couldn’t stay in Ephesus at the time, he left Priscilla and Aquila there, in hopes that he himself could someday return (vs. 19-22).  Meanwhile … go ahead and read Acts 18:24-26.

While Paul leaving the others in Ephesus doesn’t seem like that big of a deal back in verses 19-22, we see in verses 24-26 that their continued presence in Ephesus was pivotal for the life and ministry of a new man on the scene, Apollos.  Apollos came to Ephesus powerfully teaching the Scriptures (what we would recognize as the Old Testament) along with the baptism of John.  That is, Apollos knew the prophecies concerning the Jewish Messiah the Christ and John the Baptist’s preaching of urgency to repent in preparation for His coming (Lk 3:1-18), but Apollos didn’t yet know Jesus by name (vs. 25).  Priscilla and Aquila had the privilege of sharing the Good News with Apollos.  I imagine their opening words to be similar to Paul’s recorded in Acts 19:4:  “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, continually telling the people that they should believe in the One Who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.”  The Christ Whom Apollos had been preparing for had come and He “died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures … was buried … and arose on the third day as the Scriptures foretold” (1 Cor 15:3-4).

All of a sudden, I’m thinking of Back to the Future.  You know when Marty goes back to 1955 and tells Doc that what he was dreaming of had come true the flux capacitor, time travel, … Doc didn’t receive Marty’s message with skepticism, but rather with excitement!  Read Acts 18:27-28 to see how Apollos reacted to the Good News.


How did you describe Apollos’s response?  I think Apollos did what God wants us all to do – not that we all must have a desire to travel abroad, but that our desire would be to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others!  Once again Priscilla and Aquila’s presence in Ephesus proves important to God’s work through Apollos in that they having lived in Achaia, Corinth specifically were able to send a letter with Apollos, introducing him as a friend to be trusted.

Now What?  Well, we started today by taking the bait back in Acts 18:24.  If you look just into Acts 19:1, you’ll quickly see another ‘lure’ While Apollos was in Corinth, …” (emphasis mine).  I encourage you to take the bait again and read into Acts 19.  Look for a continuation of themes and circumstances we have studied today.  I’ll catch up to you again in Acts 19:11.  Until then …

Lord God, I pray that we as believers will be hooked on Your Word, allowing the Holy Spirit to draw us increasingly closer to You.  Knowledge isn’t power.  The application of knowledge is power, so like the men and women of Scripture, I ask that You give us eyes to see opportunities to apply every lesson.  In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning's End (Acts 18:18-23)

This week we studied Acts 18:18-23.  Go ahead and read this passage so that we can get our bearings before starting today’s discussion…

… My pun in the above paragraph probably went unnoticed when you first read it, but maybe you’ll appreciate it now (or maybe not).  I mentioned getting “our bearings.”  Having a working knowledge of the geography of the region referenced in today’s passage can help us make a little more sense of the sequence of events Luke is describing. If you have the opportunity to look at a map (either in your Bible or online), follow this leg of Paul’s ministry starting in Corinth (Acts 18:18) and ending in Galatia and Phrygia (vs. 23).

I wonder if you noticed the same things I did.  Like when reading the Scripture with the backdrop of the region’s geography, most translations do not order verses 18-21 sequentially (at least not consistently sequentially … the NLT being the exception I’ve found).  Verse 18 reads (at least to me) as if (1) Paul stayed in Corinth for a while (after Sosthenes’ beating [discussed in my previous post]) before (2) saying goodbye and sailing for Syria along with Priscilla and Aquila.  (3) Somewhere along the way, at a place called Cenchreae, Paul cut his hair.  On your map, did you notice that Cenchreae was actually a port city near Corinth?  It is more accurate to think about the mention of Cenchreae in the midst of item (2) rather than a separate item (3).

Verse 19a (i.e. the first part of verse 19) gives us an overview of Paul’s short visit to Ephesus:  They arrived in Ephesus, but Paul left alone.  Verses 19b-21 tell us what happened during Paul’s short stay.  But why so short?  Look back at verse 18.  Where was Paul’s intended destination?                           
Right, it was Syria.  Looking back at your map, was Ephesus in Syria?                    
Paul’s course was set, and it appears that while he wanted to stay longer Ephesus was a lay-over on his trip back to Syria.  So at the end of verse 21, Paul “set sail from Ephesus” and headed for Syria (vs. 18).

After landing in Caesarea, Paul went south to Jerusalem and then north to Antioch, where he stayed for a time and then left (vs. 22b-23a).  If you’ve been studying Paul’s missionary journeys alongside of us here on the Now What? blog (or at church in Tentmakers), I really hope the mention of Antioch at least rings a bell.  If not, look back at Acts 15:40, 14:27-28, and 13:1-3.  Although these verses don’t all mention Antioch explicitly, if you look at the context of each verse, you will see that they all take place in Antioch (of Syria).  We might say it was Paul’s home church.  It was from this city that we have seen him begin all three of his missionary journeys and end the first two.  Some of you may be thinking, ‘But I thought we were still on his second journey?’  Well, we were … until Acts 18:22b-23a when Paul came to Antioch quietly and departed equally so. 

The unceremonial tone of the end and the beginning Luke barely describes (again in vs. 22b-23a) remind me so much of an anticipated reunion – family, high school, college, etc.  You know when you go somewhere you used to fit in, but things just aren’t like they used to be?  Maybe you’ve changed.  Maybe they’ve changed.  Maybe that person who held the group together is no longer there.  It’s just not the same.  That is what I see with Paul here in Antioch.  I wonder if the difference for him lingering or leaving was Barnabas.  Barnabas who, along with Paul (then Saul), had been set apart by God for that first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-3).  Barnabas who – even earlier than that – had hunted Saul down in Tarsus to bring him to this new church Antioch (Acts 11:25-26). 

As for the “maybe you … or they … have changed” option, that may have played a role as well.  Antioch wasn’t the same baby church it was when Barnabas brought Paul there years ago (Acts 11:25-26).  Likewise Paul must have had a more definite grasp on his calling than he did in the early days of his own ministry – “to preach the Gospel, not where Christ’s name has already been known … But as it is written, They shall see who have never been told of Him, and they shall understand who have never heard” (Rom 15:20-21, Amp).   

Antioch had grown.  Paul had grown.  Barnabas was gone.  And so Paul “left and went from place to place in an orderly journey through the territory of Galatia and Phrygia, establishing the disciples and imparting new strength to them” (Acts 18:23).  Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Now What?  It’s time for a new beginning.