After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; and found a certain Jew namedAquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla, (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome;) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: (for by their occupation they were tentmakers)” (Acts 18:1-3).

Paul’s Double Ministry

The fact that Paul’s ministry in Corinth was definitely twofold is clearly set forth in the following verses, I Corinthians 2:1-8

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

As Paul “reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (Acts 18:4), he was determined not to know anything … “save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2). But this message concerning the crucified Saviour, which Paul faithfully gave to both Jews and Greeks, was only a part of his ministry in Corinth. He also performed a teaching ministry among them that were “perfect” (I Corinthians 2:6-8).

The “perfect” of this passage refers to those who were “full grown” in the Lord; those who were able to go on with Paul in the “wisdom” of God. To these chosen ones Paul spoke “the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.”

We must keep in mind that during these days of Paul’s ministry in Corinth, God was working out a transition period according to His eternal purpose and plan. He was passing over from the “gospel of the kingdom” program, which was good news concerning the kingdom of heaven on earth and the calling out of the bride of Christ, to the “gospel of the grace of God” program, which is good news concerning our heavenly citizenship and the calling out of the body of Christ. The former program was, and will again be, given to “the Jew first and also to the Greek,” the latter program makes no distinction between the Jew and the Gentile (Romans 1:16 with Ephesians 2:14-18 and Colossians 3:10-11).

This transition period necessitated a double ministry on the part of Paul and those associated with him. He was called upon to give God’s closing kingdom appeal to national Israel before she was temporarily set aside and, at the same time, be had to give God’s first revelation of the church, which is the body of Christ. Both the “kingdom” and the “church” are built upon the crucified and risen Saviour, Jesus Christ (Isaiah 28:16 with Ephesians 2:19-20). It was Paul’s business to set forth before the people the crucified and risen Saviour; it was God’s business to choose the believers who were to be eternally associated with the “kingdom” and those who were to be eternally associated with the “body”. Only those who were chosen as members of the body of Christ could have been helped by the “hidden wisdom” pertaining to the “mystery”. These were permitted to leave “the principles of the doctrine of Christ” and “go on unto perfection” (Hebrews 6:1-3).

Even though we find no scripture which tells us just who the first member of the body of Christ was, we do have ample scriptural proof that a number of the Acts period saints were permitted to move on unto perfection. Certainly, Aquila and Priscilla were among those who were chosen as members of the body of Christ. Paul met them in Corinth (Acts 18:1-3); they went with him to Ephesus, where they were used of the Lord to help Apollos (Acts 18:24-26); they were with him in Asia, where one of the churches met in their house (I Corinthians 16:19) and after the churches of Asia “turned away” from Paul, Onesiphorus stayed with him and Aquila and Priscilla stayed with him also (II Timothy 1:15-16 and 4:19).

Approximately, the first twenty-one years of Paul’s ministry was spent in the above-mentioned transition period, covered by the book of Acts. During this entire twenty-one years, Paul was an able minister of the “new testament” (II Corinthians 3:6). As such, he preached Jesus as the crucified and risen Messiah, or King, in the synagogues of the Jews and to both Jews and Greeks who would listen to his testimony which he gave outside the synagogues. During this same period he gave truth concerning the body of Christ to as many as were permitted to move on “unto perfection.”

This double ministry which Paul was called upon to render explains his position of being “made all things to all men,” that he might “by all means save some” (I Corinthians 9:19-22). During his Acts period ministry he said, “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (I Corinthians 8:13). However, his testimony along this line was entirely different after the book of Acts period and after the setting aside of national Israel. For instance, he said in Colossians 2:16-17, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ”. Again we find him referring to both water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism during his Acts period ministry; but after that transition was finished, he declared that there is only “one baptism” (I Corinthians 1:14-17 and I Corinthians 12:13 with Ephesians 4:5). All external things in connection with the new testament ministry can be dealt with along this same line. They all pass away with the temporary setting aside of the nation of Israel and the revelation of the mystery.

“I Will Go Unto the Gentiles”

While Paul was in Corinth, he was “pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment and said unto them, your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:5-8).

These verses call to our attention the fact that the Corinthian Jews like the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia rejected the kingdom message given by Paul. He preached unto them that “Jesus was Christ”. But they would not have Him as their Messiah. After they had rejected their Saviour, Paul told them, as he had told the Jews in Antioch, that he was turning to the Gentiles.

Encouragement From the Lord

“Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: for I am with thee and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the Word of God among them” (Acts 18:911).

These verses help us to understand that God’s family is built upon a basis of His election. He knew beforehand just how many people in Corinth would believe the testimony of the apostle Paul. Therefore, he could encourage Paul by telling him ahead of time that many were going to be saved. He said, “I have much people in this city.” These words were given to Paul even before the “much people” believed.

We who are saved have been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians, 2:10). When we yield ourselves to the risen Lord, as Paul did, God will use us to reach His chosen ones who live about us. We do not know who will accept the gospel message, but God knows and He is able to thrust us into His service at the very time and in the very place where He needs a workman to represent Him. Sometimes He calls a faithful servant to labour in large fields where there are only a few who will ever accept the truth; at other times He may send the same worker into a smaller field where there are a large number who are ready for the message.

As workmen for the Lord, we are not to choose for ourselves the type of work we are to do or the field in which we are to labour. That is left entirely up to the One we call our LORD. He is the “Head over all things to the church, which is His body” (Ephesians 1:22-23). He is our head; we are members of His body and the Head must have complete control of each and every member of the body in order to work without confusion, strife and lost motion.

God is ready to lead, encourage and strengthen His workmen for the task which He commits unto them. We all have the right to say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). We need to remember that God’s words to the apostle Paul, our pattern, are applicable to every saved person of this age. He said: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9). This means that when we are weak we are made to depend more upon Him than we would if we were strong. This is why Paul gloried in his “infirmities” (II Corinthians 12:9).

Paul Before Gallio

In Acts 18:12-18, the Jews made a fruitless attempt to have Paul condemned before the judgment seat of Gallio, the “deputy of Achaia.” God had made a promise to His servant Paul in Acts 18:9-10. He saw to it that the deputy would “be no judge of such matters.” They charged Paul with persuading 64 men to worship God contrary to the law.” When the deputy saw that there was no ” matter of wrong or wicked lewdness” in the charge, he drove the Jews from the judgment seat. This left Paul free to continue according to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The workman of God, who is laboring in the will of God, need never fear opposition. God will never suffer one of His to be tempted, or tested, above that he is able to bear (I Corinthians 10:13). Satan would destroy every one of God’s children in an instant if he could, and he could if God did not restrain him. Satan has the “power of death” (Hebrews 2:14), but he can only use this power as God wills. The case of Job is a good example (Job, chapters 1 and 2).

The practical lesson that we glean from these first 18 verses of Acts, chapter 18, is summed up in the following verses—

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Pronounced Characteristics of Paul’s Ministry to the Jew First

In previous lessons, we have called attention to the fact that approximately the first twenty-one years of Paul’s ministry was devoted to “the Jew first” and that, during that time, it pleased God to make Paul “all things to all men” that he “might by all means win some” (I Corinthians 9:22).

That particular, “Jew first,” ministry of the apostle took the last twenty-one of the thirty years covered by the book of the Acts. The thirty years covered by the book of the Acts began with the resurrection of Christ and extended through the final rejection of the Holy Spirit on the part of national Israel and the temporary setting aside of the nation by the God of glory, who had called their father, Abraham, more than two thousand years before. Therefore, we know that the first twenty-one years of Paul’s ministry began about nine years after the resurrection of Christ and extended up to and including God’s last appeal to national Israel until the, yet future, opening days of the seventieth week of Daniel 9:27. His first message of this twenty-one-year period magnified Jesus as “very Christ,” or Messiah, the one and only hope of Israel (Acts 9:18-22); and in his last message of that period, he “testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets” (Acts 28:23).

In the very closing days of Paul’s twenty-one years to the “Jew first,” he said—”Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22-23). It is evident that the burden of Paul’s message during the first twenty-one years of his ministry was that which has to do with the “kingdom of heaven” and the “hope of Israel.” We know that the truth which he has given concerning the “mystery” dispensation, during which time the church, which is the body of Christ is being called out, cannot be found in the things “which the prophets and Moses did say should come.” We know this because Paul makes it plain in Colossians 1:24-28 that the mystery dispensation which was given unto him was “hid from ages and from generations” until it pleased the Heavenly Father to reveal it through Paul’s own testimony.

We call attention in the following paragraphs to several things which Paul did during his ministry to the Jew first that he did not do and could not have scripturally done after the nation of Israel was set aside and the emphasis began to be placed upon the “mystery” and the calling out of the body of Christ.

Paul Shaved His Head and Took a Jewish Vow

After Paul’s successful ministry in Corinth, as recorded in Acts 18:1-18, he “took his leave of the brethren and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquilla; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow” (Acts 18:18).

The Jewish vow, which has to do with the shaving of the head is described in Numbers, chapter six. Such a thing has no place in the work of a minister of our present dispensation, and Paul never took a Jewish vow or shaved his head after his ministry to the “Jew first” was finished. His one reason for doing this during his Acts period ministry was that he might be made “all things to all men” that he “might by all means win some.”

Paul Practiced Laying on of Hands

In the days of Paul’s early ministry he came in contact with some of the disciples of John the Baptist who had “not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” These, of course, had been introduced “unto John’s baptism,” but knew nothing of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 19:1-7, we find the record of how Paul handled such believers during his Acts period ministry.

We call attention to the fact that even though they had been baptized “unto John’s baptism,” Paul said unto them, “John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they heard this message from the lips of Paul, “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them: and they spake with tongues, and prophesied” (Acts 19:1-7).

Paul baptized them, in the name of the Lord Jesus and then laid his hands upon them and they received the Holy Ghost. If they received the Holy Ghost they were baptized by the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:4-5). This means, therefore, that these Acts period believers received both water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism. But, after the setting aside of national Israel (Acts 28:28), Paul said, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).

The laying on of hands practiced by Paul during the Acts period was entirely in line with his ministry to the Jew first; but most believers of today do not think that the preacher needs to lay his hands upon the believing converts that they may receive the Holy Ghost.

Paul Kept the Jewish Feasts

In Acts 18:21, Paul said—”I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem.” He very probably had reference to the feast at Pentecost.

As the minister of God to the “Jew first” Paul felt duty bound to keep the Jewish feast days. However, after the change which took place in Acts 28:28, Paul said—”Let no man therefore judge you … in respect of an holyday” (Colossians 2:16).

Paul’s reason for keeping the Jewish feast day, during his ministry to his brethren in the flesh was that he might be “all things to all men” and thereby “win some.” We have no record of Paul taking any interest whatsoever in special days after his ministry to the “Jew first” was ended.

Special Miracles by the Hands of Paul

“And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: so that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs of aprons, and the diseases departed from them and the evil spirits went out of them” (Acts 19:11-12).

This passage brings to our attention the fact that during the Acts period Paul practiced divine healing as a miracle or sign. This was entirely in line with his ministry to the Jews; because “the Jews require a sign” (I Corinthians 1:22).

It is interesting to study Paul’s instruction to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, concerning the question of divine healing after national Israel had been set aside and Paul was called upon to emphasize the truth concerning the mystery. He said to Timothy—”Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (I Timothy 5:23). There could only be one reason why Paul would not heal his faithful servant, Timothy. That one reason was that divine healing, performed as a sign during the Acts period, passed away with God’s last kingdom appeal to Israel.

God’s children of this dispensation of the mystery have the full right to commit their sick loved ones and friends unto God, trusting Him to heal them if it be His will; but we have no right to claim divine healing as a sign in this age. There is no need whatsoever to have a preacher come and anoint the sick with oil and pray the prayer of faith in this dispensation. When God was healing sick people as a sign to Israel, He healed “everyone” that was brought unto Him (Acts 5:15-16). Such cannot be claimed by any of the, so-called, divine healers of our present day.

Paul Bitten by a Serpent

On his way to Rome, Paul was shipwrecked. He escaped from the storm and found himself stranded among barbarous people on an island called Melita. He was cold and wet and therefore set about to build a fire. “When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hash escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god” (Acts 28:1-6).

God prevented the poison of this venomous beast from causing any harm to Paul. However, this does not mean that the ministers of this present day have any right whatsoever to pick up serpents and be delivered from their poisonous fangs. Some have tried it to their own destruction. Paul was laboring, at the time of this miracle, in that transition period covered by the book of Acts. It was a day when God was performing such miracles as signs. This is in keeping with the promises in connection with the commission of Mark 16:15-18; but God does not make such promises to the ministers of our present day.

Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus (Acts 18:18-28)

Aquila and Priscilla accompanied Paul from Corinth to Ephesus (Acts 18:18). We believe that after these three had found a stopping place in Ephesus, Paul left his two companions at home while he visited the synagogue—”And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews” Acts 18:19).

When they desired Paul to “tarry longer time with them, he consented not; 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. And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch. And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples” (Acts 18:20-23).

We see from these verses that Paul went first to Jerusalem to observe the Jewish feast and then spent some time at Antioch, the city from which he had gone forth on his first and second missionary journeys. However, Paul left with Aquila and Priscilla his promise to return to Ephesus, if God willed.

Paul’s third missionary journey is briefly described in verse 23. We gather from Acts 19:22 and 29 that Timothy, Erastus, Gains and Aristarchus were his co-workers on this third journey.

A Certain Jew Named Apollos

“And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the Spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ” (Acts 18:24-28).

Apollos was an unusual servant of God. He possessed at least three virtues, which made the unusual personality that he was.

First, he was definitely one of the “not many” referred to by Paul in I Corinthians 1:26—”For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:” Apollos was “eloquent,” “mighty in the scriptures,” and “instructed in the way of the Lord.” Practically the same things are said about Moses in Acts 7:22, however, it is very unusual to find a man with so much native ability in full time service for the Lord.

Second, Apollos was unusual in that he, a man well instructed in the way of the Lord, was willing to go aside with a tent maker and his wife to learn “the way of God more perfectly.” He was humble and willing to be taught by anyone who was spiritual. It is evident that Apollos had not used the teachings of John the Baptist to build about himself a doctrinal wall to the shutting out of all additional truth. It is true that he knew “only the baptism of John,” but he was willing to let Aquila and Priscilla show him “the way of God more perfectly.” We often meet believers today who are so walled in by their creed and statements of faith that they will not even listen to a servant of God who does not carry their particular brand of doctrine. The readiness with which Apollos received additional truth from Aquila and Priscilla marks him as an unusual example of humility.

Third, Apollos was not only willing to listen to and accept additional truth; but he dared to take his stand “publicly.” He moved on from the realm of John’s teachings to that of the apostle Paul. We meet so many preachers and teachers today who see and know the truth revealed through Paul concerning the church, the body of Christ, and concerning the ordinances, but they do not dare to preach their convictions. Some of them try to justify their compromise with the age-old argument that they can reach a larger number of people by having something to join and by observing the ordinances. Others claim that their calling is to just preach the gospel.

God has never told us to limit our message to the preaching of the gospel. He said, “preach the Word.” The Word includes not only the gospel story for the unbeliever, but also “doctrine,” “reproof,” “correction,” and “instruction” for the saints. It is also clear that God offers no special reward to the preacher or teacher who reaches large numbers. We need to remember that he moved Philip from Samaria, where he was engaged in a thriving revival, to a desert place that he might preach to one Ethiopian. It isn’t our business to seek the crowds. Our chief aim should be to please the One who has saved us and called us.

Apollos was willing to listen; he was quick to learn and he was apt to teach. He has left us a good example.