Saturday, January 07, 2023

2023.01.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 18:1–18a

Read Acts 18:1–18a

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Paul do, when the incident at the Areopagus is over (Acts 18:1)? Whom does he find there (Acts 18:2)? With whom? Where had they come from, and why? What does he do with them, while waiting for Silas and Timothy (Acts 18:3)? But with whom does he dialogue, when, and where (Acts 18:4)? Who arrive in Acts 18:5? What does the Spirit now constrain him to do in a more public manner (verse 5)? How do they respond (Acts 18:6)? Against Whom do they blaspheme? With what action does he respond? What does he say about them? What does he say about himself (cf. Acts 20:26)? Where does he say he is going? Where is the church plant’s new base of operations (Acts 18:7)? Who comes to faith at this point (Acts 18:8)? Whom else does the Lord save? And many of whom? Who now appears to Paul (Acts 18:9)? What does He tell him not to be? What does He tell him to do? What does He tell him not to do? Why—Who is with him, and what will no one be able to do (Acts 18:10)? Why not? How long did Paul stay there (Acts 18:11)? Doing what? But then what happened (Acts 18:12)? Who said what and where (Acts 18:13)? How does Gallio answer (Acts 18:14-15)? What does he do (Acts 18:16)? Who then do what to whom (Acts 18:17)? What does Paul do (Acts 18:18a)? 

What happens when the Lord wants to sustain a ministry? Acts 18:1–18a looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seventeen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord may sustain ministries through rousing ministers’ spirits, reinforcing ministers’ doctrine, and restraining ministers’ opponents. 

Paul has been driven from one place to another throughout this entire missionary journey. Now, his evangelistic zeal brought him to the Areopagus, where he was laughed off the stage with just two named saints and a couple unnamed males (cf. Acts 17:34). He decides to continue his wait for Silas and Timothy in Corinth, leaving Macedonia and going to Achaia. 

There’s something Peter-like (cf. John 21:3) in his taking up tentmaking full-time while he waits (Acts 18:3), even though we have good evidence that even while pastoring he sometimes did enough of it to at least pay for his own food (cf. Acts 20:34; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:8). During this time, he still attends synagogue every week, dialoguing (more literal than “persuaded” in Acts 18:4) with both Jews and Greeks there, but it isn’t until Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia that he picks back up his public ministry (Acts 18:5). As the Spirit tells us about this, He highlights three main components: the Lord sustains this ministry by rousing Paul’s spirit, by reinforcing Paul’s doctrine, and by restraining Paul’s opponents.

Rousing a minister’s spiritActs 18:5. Silas’s and Timothy’s arrival does not seem to be incidental to the “pressing together” of the Paul’s spirit. (Here, it is the work of the Holy Spirit in Paul’s own soul, so either ‘s’ or ‘S’ is appropriate). Moving from “dialogue” in Acts 18:4 to “solemnly testifying” in Acts 18:5 is produced by that beneficial, holy pressure that the Spirit brings by the encouragement of his ministry companions. Ministers are weak and grow weary. But when the Lord is about to sustain a ministry, here He uses brethren to rouse the minister’s spirit.

Reinforcing the minister’s doctrineActs 18:6-11. This rousing was not merely emotional but theological:

  • Jesus being the Son of David (“Jesus is the Christ,” Acts 18:5) and Son of God (“blasphemed,” Acts 18:6
  • The eternal and ultimate stakes involved (“Your blood be upon your own heads,” Acts 18:6
  • The binding obligation of a ministerial call (“I am clean,” Acts 18:6
  • The covenantal progression and expansion of the gospel age (“From now on I will go to the Gentiles,” Acts 18:7
  • The presence of the Lord with the minister (Acts 18:9a, Acts 18:10a) 
  •  The necessity of courage and boldness (Acts 18:9b) 
  • The fact of sovereign providence (Acts 18:7-8 and the timing of Crispus’s conversion; Acts 18:10b) 
  • The fact of sovereign election (Acts 18:10c).

The Lord brings all of these doctrines flooding in to bear upon his ministry with the extraordinarily ordinary result: “he continued there a year and six months, teaching the Word of God among them” (Acts 18:11). 

Restraining the minister’s opponentsActs 18:12-18a. We’re not sure how far into the year and six months this event takes place. It is presented as an example of that sovereign providential restraint that Jesus had promised in Acts 18:10. The Jews drag Paul before the proconsul (Acts 18:12) and present the sort of argument that has worked before in Macedonia (Acts 18:13, reasoning that Christianity should not have the same protected status as Judaism, cf. Acts 17:6–7), and the reader thinks “hear we go again.” But the Lord has raised up a proconsul who refuses to be manipulated such that Paul doesn’t even get a chance to make his own defense (Acts 18:14). Gallio denounces the Jews and drives them away, with the rodbearers laying the stripes on the Jews’ leader all the way (Acts 18:15-17). In this way, the Lord sovereignly restrained Paul’s opponents so that Acts 18:18a might be fulfilled, “and Paul remained for many days.”

How are you seeking for the Lord to rouse your elders’ spirits? Of which of the doctrines in Acts 18:6-11 do you and your congregation most need to be reminded? How has the Lord been restraining opposition to the work of the gospel in your area/ministry? What further restraint are you praying for?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You and praise You that You rule and overrule all things for gathering to Yourself those Who are Yours by election and redemption. Grant the ongoing work of Your Spirit to sustain a renewed gospel work in our own day we pray, in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”

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