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Jul 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 10, 2016 – Acts 18

Little Reminders

After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers. And he was reasoning in the synagogues every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Acts 18:1-6

Intro: This chapter is full of people – characters who are named

So, though there are lots of interesting facts about Corinth,
– the emphasis in chapter is social, not geographical
– the hub of all these social interactions is reported in verses 9-10
• so we’ll go there first and see to whom the spokes of the wheel take us

Paul had already abandoned the synagogue in Corinth

And he did not go away quietly, but dramatically
– he shook his robe, as if to remove dust — it was a symbolic gesture
• he was shaking off their blasphemies
◦ or perhaps his responsibility for them, Your blood be upon your own heads!
• Paul then moved his headquarters into a Gentile’s home
– it’s possible he was already making plans to leave Corinth
• that is when he had his nighttime encounter

The Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision . . .
Why do you think Jesus chose to come at night?

– perhaps our waking minds are too active, preoccupied, too full
• when God tries to reach us during the day, he gets a busy signal
• this is why we practice contemplative prayer
◦ to quiet our minds enough to hear God’s gentle whisper
◦ to train ourselves to be focused, open, receptive, responsive
– let’s look at what Jesus said to Paul line by line

Do not be afraid – fear counteracts faith
– fear distracts our minds, creates roadblocks
go on speaking [and he reiterates] do not be silent
– was Paul considering this option? To just keep his mouth shut?
for I am with you – this is all the reason Paul needs
– this is frequently God’s word to his people

Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not look anxiously about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (
Is. 41:10)
So David could pray:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me . . . (Ps. 23:4)
Paul understood this clearly enough
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? (Ro. 8:31)

no man will attack you in order to harm you
– a promise – Jesus did not say it would be easy or painless
• or even that Paul would not be attacked
• but he would not be harmed so as to stop his work
for I have many people in this city
– this is intriguing – what did Jesus mean?
• “many people here belong to Me”? or “many here will belong to Me”?
• maybe, “many that I can use to keep you safe”
◦ we will soon see an example of this

Paul’s encounter with Jesus was meant to keep him going
– to redirect his thinking
• from fear and worry to the One who was with him
• from his own safety to spiritual care for those he was there to serve
– to refresh his vision and in doing so, his passion

Now we can meet a few of those “many people”

Some of them were new friends
– when Paul first arrived, he went looking for work
• he found Aquila and Priscilla
◦ Paul grew very close with them
• this wife and husband team became very active in ministry
◦ Paul refers to them as his fellow workers (Ro. 16:3-4)
◦ this was true in both physical and spiritual labors

Some of them were old friends
– when Paul’s traveling companions, Silas and Timothy arrived,
• they brought financial support from Philippi
• this freed Paul from tent making
◦ he could then devote himself completely to the word

Some of them were new Christians (vv. 7 & 8)
– a Gentile, Titius Justice, who opened his home for Paul’s ministry
– a Jew, Crispus, who was a leader in the synagogue
• his turn to Jesus must have encouraged Paul

Some of them were strangers who had no interest in Paul (vv. 12-17)
– we’re introduced to Gallio – the Roman proconsul
• Paul was dragged before him and accused of opposing Roman law
◦ but before Paul could present a defense, he was acquitted

But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you; but if there are questions about words and names and your own law, look after it yourselves; I am unwilling to be a judge of these matters.” And he drove them away from the judgment seat. (vv. 14-16)

– a quick side note: Paul may have learned something from this episode
• lots of Christians have questions about 1 Corinthians chapter 6
◦ whether it is wrong for a believer to file a law suit against another believer
• it is very possible that those issues Paul referred to were religious disputes
◦ intellectualism was important to Corinthians
◦ perhaps they assumed expert thinkers could resolve their religious disagreements
◦ but biblical, theological and religious debates do not belong in civil court

Vv. 18-21, Jesus also had many people in Ephesus

First, Priscilla and Aquila went to Ephesus with Paul
– notice the reversal of their names
• there must have been a reason for this
– when Paul left, they stayed on in Ephesus

In Ephesus we see an odd reversal
– as usual, Paul began in the synagogue reasoning with the Jews
• but the Ephesian Jews broke the typical pattern
◦ instead of running Paul off, they wanted to hear more
◦ they asked him to spend more time there — a golden opportunity
• but Paul declined (!) — he was committed to moving on
◦ perhaps, expecting to be rejected, had he made firm travel arrangements
◦ but there’s no doubt their enthusiasm encouraged him

Vv. 23-28, One other person before the chapter ends

In this instance, it is Apollos
– he turned out to be something like a colleague of Paul’s
• Luke obviously admired Apollos – he describes him in superlatives:

he was an eloquent (educated) man . . . mighty in the Scriptures . . . fervent in spirit . . . speaking and teaching accurately . . . began to speak out boldly . . . .

– there was one drawback, however
• Apollos was acquainted only with the baptism of John
• that is, John the Baptist

What is the significance of this statement?
– among other things, Apollos would be unaware of:

  • the righteousness that was superior to the scribes and Pharisees (Mt. 5:20)
  • Jesus’ ministry of grace and mercy (Mt. 11:5-6)
  • the mystery of the kingdom of God (Mt. 13:11)
    – both John and Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God (Mt. 3:1-2; 4:17)
    • the mystery is that Jesus brought it into the world, but secretly
    • it had arrived without producing cataclysmic change

Priscilla and Aquila return to stage
– they discretely took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately
• for some people, the most transforming help they ever receive
◦ comes from the spiritual insight, counsel or compassion of fellow Christians
• it is my prayer that we can all see ourselves playing this same role
◦ not that we are always trying to correct and “fix” each other
◦ but through our normal interactions

Conc: If you’re like me, you would appreciate a nighttime visit with Jesus

But are we mentally and emotionally free enough for this?
– are our hearts and minds too cluttered to be receptive?

When we are preoccupied with the burden of our daily responsibilities (“First, I have to do this and next I have to do that, then I have to . . . .”), or with conflicts that are caused by difficult people, or with worries, cravings, and obsessions, what happens is we forget. We forget to listen, to look, to seek God’s help–or even seek God himself.

– Psalm 106 is a poem of failure
• in retelling Israels history, their chronic lapse is that
They did not remember Your abundant kindness (v. 7)
They quickly forgot His works (v. 13)
◦ They forgot God their Savior (v. 21)
◦ in fact, it was God who remembered His covenant for their sake (v. 45)

Remembering can be our salvation at times
– remembering that Jesus is with us, God is for us
• remember can lead to our homecoming, like the prodigal son
◦ it is a coming to our senses

Gerald May describes these moments as first “being kidnapped by some worry or striving and then suddenly to be gracefully returned home to the present moment and reminded of love. . . . Scores of such little homecomings happen every day, and I cherish them more than diamonds.”

• God sends us daily reminders – droplets of grace
◦ they may be tiny and may come and go quickly
◦ but if we catch one, it can change our day
– training ourselves to recognize them, we can begin by asking:
• in the past week, when did God seem most present?
• when did gratitude emerge in my heart?
• when was I most reflective?
• or, when was I most doubtful or disappointed with God?
– simply asking the questions resets our brains
• and on their own, our minds will look for reminders
• when we receive one, savor it — pause to look, to listen, to feel

Gerald May, “Get to know the feeling well so that whenever you feel it your can stop what you’re doing, take a breath, relax, yield a little, and let your real self turn to the real God.”

The point of today’s message, is that Jesus frequently brings those little reminders to us through other people

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