For an introduction to this series, click here.
June 20, 2007
The first part of this chapter tells the story of how Paul established the church at Corinth. It wasn't easy. First of all he met Aquila and Priscilla, Jews who had been forced to leave Rome and had settled in Corinth. Paul worked with them making tents. It's kind of sad that Paul had to take a job when the money ran out, but he wasn't afraid of that either. Apparently he led them to the Lord while he was working with them.
Paul got frustrated when the Jews in the synagogue began to oppose him. He walked out, saying, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." (18:6) We don't know if Paul ever publicly stomped out of a meeting like this any other time, so this was probably an incident of weakness.
Nevertheless Paul had success in the synagogue at Corinth. Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, followed Paul. So the Jews had to come up with a new leader, and they chose Sosthenes. After Paul was in Corinth a year and a half, Sosthenes brought Paul before Gallio, the new Roman official:
"But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, saying, 'This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.' But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, 'If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.' And he drove them from the tribunal. And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this." (18:12-17)
This is really a weird story. We don't know if the people beat Sosthenes because he was unsuccessful in getting Paul out of town or if they were just tired of the arguing between the Christians and the Jews (I suspect it was the latter). But Sosthenes eventually had a change of heart. Paul's religious enemy becomes his friend in the faith. In I Corinthians 1:1 we read, "Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,"
The end of this chapter also has a strange story: "Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus." (18:24-28, ESV)
This theme of only knowing the baptism of John will continue into chapter 19, but it demonstrates the transitional period that was the first 50 years or so of the church. There were a lot of strange ideas going around. But Aquila and Priscilla took him aside and gave him the instruction he needed.