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Summary: Acts 18:18-22 provides a transition between Paul’s second and third missions. On the one hand, it concludes the second, with Paul returning to Antioch where his journey began. On the other hand, Paul’s brief visit to Ephesus looks toward the third....

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May 8, 2015

Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

Lesson: IV.C.9: Paul in Ephesus en route to Antioch of Syria (18:18-22)

Acts 18:18-22 (KJV)

18 And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.

19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.

20 When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not;

21 But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.

22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch.

Introduction

Acts 18:18-22 provides a transition between Paul’s second and third missions. On the one hand, it concludes the second, with Paul returning to Antioch[13] where his journey began (15:35-41). On the other hand, Paul’s brief visit to Ephesus looks toward the third missionary period, which would be spent primarily in that city.

Lesson

18 And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.

The note that “Paul . . . . tarried there yet a good while” indicates that the missionary remained in Corinth for some time after his appearance before Gallio, and it confirms the importance of Gallio’s refusal to hear the case. It was only due to his refusal that Paul was able to stay in Corinth afterwards and continue his witness without hindrance.

On other occasions persecution had driven Paul on, but this time the opposition was neutralized by the attitude of the officials. He therefore did not take his arrest as a sign that he should move on. In any case, he had the Lord’s personal promise that no one would be allowed to harm him in Corinth. If his arrest took place soon after the arrival of Gallio, which seems likely enough, then Paul stayed on for several more months.

“And then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.”Just why Paul decided to end his initial ministry in Corinth and sailed to “Syria” is not specified[1]. Cenchrea[2], their port of departure and the eastern Aegean harbor of Corinth, was Paul’s natural point of departure for an eastern journey

He could look back over a tremendously fruitful time in Corinth. Large numbers had been saved, and a church had been founded that contained many gifted and able believers. They did “not lack any spiritual gift” (1 Corinthians 1:7). Indeed, many of the subsequent disorders in the church resulted from its superabundance of gifts, not all of which were exercised in particularly spiritual ways.

Paul’s leaving may have had something to do with his vow. He is said to have shaved his hair[15] in connection with a vow he had made. This seems to have been a “temporary” Nazarite vow—A special pledge of separation and devotion—the type of vow discussed in Numbers 6:1-21[3]. [There is no way to verify the type of vow; therefore, it could have been one he made in a time of difficulty or danger.] When Paul made this vow is unspecified. He may have made it when he left Troas for Macedonia, or at the beginning of his ministry at Corinth, or more likely, before, but the Lord gave him the vision (18: 9-10). Just why Paul had made a vow is not clear. It was perhaps in conjunction with his vision (Acts 18:9-10)[4], a means of expressing thanksgiving and seeking the continued blessing of the Lord in his Corinthian mission, or perhaps he made the vow early in his stay at Corinth when he had been depressed and afraid (18:9)[4]. Moreover, the apostle was not above using a Jewish means to reach the Jewish people. He tells the Romans of his tremendous burden for the salvation of Jews (Romans 9:1-3; 10:1). He was willing to become all things to all men if only he might win some. Perhaps his Nazarite vow was intended to attract some of the synagogue Jews. Perhaps it was just a way of showing the Lord how greatly he desired to be used in the Jewish community at Corinth. Perhaps it was just a voluntary discipline he imposed upon himself to deepen his own personal consecration. Certainly at Corinth Paul set aside all natural means for attracting the Greek population to Christ. He came “not with enticing words of man’s wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:4), and their assessment of him was that his bodily presence was “weak” (2 Corinthians 10:10), and his speech contemptible. Paul was not concerned about making a good outward impression at Corinth. Indeed, he accused the Corinthians of being too willing to judge by the outward appearance (10:7).


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