Acts 18:18-28
New Expansions

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. I read you to the end of chapter eighteen today.  The text records the new expansions in the later church with the closing of the second missionary journey.  To begin with, the first thing is the point of detail that Paul cut his hair at Cenchrea.  With this text Luke writes in one sweep of Paul's departure from Corinth to his arrival at Syrian Antioch.  And with hardly any interval he proceeds into the story of the third missionary journey.  He makes quite an abridgment of the story.  Nevertheless, Luke writes a record of Paul cutting his hair, which doesn't seem to matter one way or the other at first glance.  Why does [Luke] bother to write [such a trifle thing]?  And besides that, we have another strange point.  Paul does not make a stay at Ephesus, although he will later.  Please recall that during the second missionary journey Paul was first heading for the province of Asia.  We would think quite naturally that Ephesus the capital of Asia was his place of destination.  But, at that time since "he was forbidden by the Holy Spirit" (Acts 16:6), he could not declare God's word at Ephesus.  After going through a long detour, finally it has come true.  Besides, the people were restraining Paul [to stay].  Why did Paul have to depart?

2. In the Bible, it seems quite often there are many great passages which we genuinely can't read enough of and get caught up in them.  I'd like us to move along in our reading while giving some careful reflection on what Luke doesn't say when he recorded these things.  I'd like to get a good grip on the message God is trying to reveal to us through this document.

To Antioch

3. On the matter of Paul's cutting his hair and fulfilling his vow, explanations are often given based on Luke's apologetic intentions [in his design of the text].  One interprets [the vow] as Luke attempting a correction of the misunderstanding of Paul as an antinomian and anarchist. This has even been linked with when Paul went up to Jerusalem to give a greeting to the church. It seems [the text] emphasizes that Paul did not build a Gentile church that took the traditions of the Jews lightly and that was in confrontation with the church at Jerusalem.  He was never a sectarian.  This is certainly thought to be Luke's intentions [in his writing].

4. However, as we ask was that all of his reasons, there are verses which don't make us feel like it was because the word "Jerusalem" is not in the original text.  Of course, since it is generally thought that the word "went up" appropriately means going up to Jerusalem, this translation is not mistaken.  But, if he wants to say Paul is not an antinomian sectarian, we could not understand why he didn't explain "he visited for the purpose of greeting the Jerusalem church."  If I take this line of thought, I would say the intentions of Luke are more on the truth itself that "Paul took a vow."  In other words, what was Luke trying to tell us from his passing on to us the truth of how [Paul] "was taking a vow during the fruitful and abundant work at Corinth"?  Well, what in the world is [his message to us]?

5. Take note of the detail given in the text that "he cut his hair" at the close of the vow's duration.  This is clearly the period of time connected with a Nazarite vow.  There might be some people unfamiliar with the term "Nazarite."  Please open to Numbers chapter six. According to the words recorded in the text there, after taking a vow one became a "Nazarite," that is, it meant a person was a devotee of the Lord, dedicated to the Lord, a dedication. [Scholars] believe that Paul took up this vow while in Corinth.  When was that?  It's not clearly specified in the Bible, but they believe that perhaps it was after he saw a vision from the Lord.  That is, it was the time when the Lord said to Paul "Don't be afraid.  Keep on speaking [in my name].  Don't be silent.  I am with you...," (18:9-10).  Paul answered "I am yours" to the Lord's statement" I am with you."  Then he made a request with a vow for special protection.  I think that it was "the Nazarite vow" which is spoken of here in this text.

6. But, regarding the Nazarite vow here we should give another little careful look.  What is required in "the vow" that has the meaning "dedication?"  Based on Numbers six, there are mainly three [requirements].  First, one does not eat anything prepared from grape trees or even wine.  Secondly, one does not cut his hair.  Thirdly, one does not touch a corpse.  When you think about it, it's a strange obligation.  Since it's a vow of dedication, isn't it appropriate one should add these obligations with their slightly tougher or difficult acts of penance?  By the way, nothing is even said about difficult things in this passage.  Therefore, there doesn't appear to be an emphasis on his doing anything special.

7. First, it seems in not touching a corpse the dedicated person keeps himself without defilement.  In so doing, there is all the more a priority of being consciously aware of his relationship with God.  So, what about not drinking wine?  It was thought that the original meaning was the rejection of the farming lifestyle which they brought in from the Canaanites. Yet also, there was the issue of food as an every day matter.  One had to have a daily awareness.  When you think about it, it's the same for the hair on one's head.  One cannot possibly not touch the hair on one's head at all in a day's time.  In other words, one could not help but be consciously aware all day of the long hair on one's head.  In so following these steps, in conclusion, I think the priority is that we be aware of the Lord daily and that we have an every day consciousness that we are the Lord's.  The actual acts themselves of not touching a corpse, drinking wine or cutting one's hair are not important.

8. The sermons of Paul in Corinth had a more fruitful and abundant work not seen anywhere else. However, Paul was originally very afraid.  Those [unprecedented] results were purely based on the work of the Lord who was with Paul and they were not based on Paul's own power or passion. He looked up to the Lord in nothing but earnest, relied on him and lived as the Lord's.  While he was taking the Nazarite vow in Corinth, we can see him in such a posture.

9. Furthermore, we think this matter was related to the activity of Paul in Ephesus.  He did not stay in Ephesus.  He immediately left it.  As I said before, Ephesus was the place Paul targeted at first.  Besides that, the people needed him.  They were holding him back.  If the one's holding him back at this point were the Jews he met from the synagogue, he would still have even more reasons to remain over in Ephesus because it was an opportunity to preach which even he couldn't hope for.  He would have undoubtedly stayed at Ephesus if he had been bragging that he was the one who was to save Ephesus.  If he had been thinking he could be the one to bring salvation to the entire province of Asia with Ephesus as a home base, he would have surely remained behind.  But, he did not remain; because the important thing for him was only the will of God and because he was God's and he knew that he was nothing more than a vessel to be used by God as time allowed.  He believed that it was first of all God's will for him to return back to Antioch.  His belief in God's will was the one and only basis that determined his actions.  Therefore, he left these words behind.  "If it is God's will, I will go back again."  Putting it all in proper perspective, the One at work and alive was actually God himself and his will and not so much Paul's during the entire distance of this second missionary trip and in the new expansions beginning from this point.  The fact [of God's involvement] is shown in this simple detail.  Next, this matter will be interconnected in the coming scene with Apollos.  So then, let's read  the second half.

Apollos Only Knows The Baptism Of John

10.  "Well, an eloquent speaker named Apollos who was a Jew born in Alexandria and well versed in the scriptures came to Ephesus.  He had accepted the way of the Lord and spoke fervently on matters pertaining to Jesus and taught accurately, but he had known only the baptism of John. This same Apollos began to teach boldly in the synagogue.  Priscilla and Aquila who heard his teaching summoned him and explained to him the way of God more accurately," (verses twenty-four through twenty-six).

11. The text says, "He accepted the way of the Lord."  This can be translated "he was taught the way of the Lord."  But, it says Priscilla and Aquila "explained the way of God more accurately" to Apollos.   I wish "the way of the Lord" and "the way of God" came in opposite order.  It would make these sentences easier to understand.  That is, although Apollos knew about matters pertaining to God, he did not know "the Lord," that is "Christ."  However, Priscilla and Aquila explained "the way of the Lord."  [If the story lead us like this,] it would make sense.  But, the story did not actually go like that.  Apollos had already known "the way of the Lord." However, he was missing something important.

12. Therefore, it is thought that "the way of the Lord" which is here in the text does not have merely the same meaning as "Christianity."  Actually, the expression "the way of the Lord (singular in number, not 'ways')" barely appears in the New Testament.  It occurs only five times.  It appears four other times in the gospels.  For example, it appears in Luke 3:4.  "So there, John went the entire region along the banks of the Jordan and announced the baptism of repentance for obtaining the forgiveness of sin.  This is according to what has been written in the prophet Isaiah.  'There is the voice of one who cries in the wilderness.'  Prepare the way of the Lord.  Make straight his paths.  Every valley will be filled.  Every mountain and hill will be made low.  Make the crooked road straight.  The uneven road make level.  Everyone will look to the salvation of God,'" (Luke 3:3-6).  The other three times are in quotes of Isaiah in parallel accounts.

13. To put it another way, the gospel of Christ is not the same as "the way of the Lord."  Rather, "the way of the Lord" is a phrase in the messages of John the Baptist.  In the messages of John "preparing the way of the Lord" is nothing else but doing the work of repentance.  After you repent, you get forgiveness of sin and receive the savior.  For that reason, John "was announcing in his preaching the baptism of repentance in order to obtain the forgiveness of sin."  Apollos accepted this message of John.  He repented, returned and accepted the fact that this very Jesus of Nazareth is the messiah.  But, that was it.  That is what "he only knew the baptism of John" means.

14. Well then, what was he missing?  What did Priscilla and Aquila transmit to Apollos?  Nothing has been recorded on it here.  Nonetheless, in chapter nineteen, the "baptism of John" and "baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus" appear.  Therefore, we understand that what is at issue here is these two baptisms.  So, what are the differences in "the baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus?"

15. As far as this situation goes, let's consult the passage in which "the baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus" first appears in the Acts of the Apostles.  Please look at Acts 2:38 on.  After Peter gave a sermon he made the following recommendation.  "Therefore, Peter said to them. 'Repent.  Everyone, receive baptism in the name of Jesus Christ and receive forgiveness of sins.  If you do that, you receive the Holy Spirit as a gift.  This promise is something given to you all, to your children, to all those who are afar off, in other words to anyone whom the Lord our God has invited," (Acts 2:38-39).   In other words, baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus bestows a promise that the Holy Spirit would be given.  One does not stay at repentance and forgiveness of sin.  Apollos received the baptism of John.  He certainly had repented.  He surely was rejoicing for his forgiveness of sins.  He surely had accepted the Lord Jesus as messiah.  However, he did not know he had arisen [from the dead] and the Lord who had gone up to heaven was richly pouring out the Spirit, filling [persons] with the Spirit, and was alive working even now through the Spirit.  Therefore, his proclamations had been relying on only his own knowledge and eloquence.  I believe that that is what is implied when Luke deliberately says "the eloquent speaker named Apollos who is well versed in scripture."  Even though he ties together all that is necessary, he is lacking in the most important thing of all.

16. Today many Christians are still living their faith lives like Apollos.  These people may be quite sincere.  They may even be people who have definitely repented and turned to the Lord. They may be people who rejoice in having received forgiveness of sin and love the Lord. However, they still walk the way of repentance in their own strength and are struggling desperately hard to be good Christians in their own power.  They are waging war on sin.  They are trying so hard.  But, they fail and get flustered.  Then once more they repent and make new resolutions.  But, they end up repeating their frustrations.  Before they know it, quitting takes over them.  Or, the person may be one who serves with everything he or she has got.  They go soul winning with all they got.  But, they tire out.  They get in distress.  They torture themselves with blame for their troubled and failed selves.  Then, they even start torturing others with criticism.  While doing this, they end up separated from the Lord.  Then they just dry up completely.

17. Everything is all wrong with this.  That's right.  God is not looking for a repentant person to do anything for God by struggling hard and trying.  That's not the way; rather, God wants to possess us internally, fill us and would like to use us.  We should become his instruments.  We should look to live in a living relationship with God and be filled with the Spirit of God. The reason we should is because we have been given this baptism in the name of the Lord.  We ought to quit our living saying "Me, me," pull our hands off our wills and turn to the Lord himself.  It's exactly what Paul had so done.

18. Paul was not the one who taught Apollos.  The ones who taught Apollos were a husband and wife, tentmakers that just moved to Ephesus.  This couple was used for the Lord's purpose having known they were filled by the Holy Spirit.  Then Apollos moved to the province of Achaia.  He came to stay over in Corinth.  Thus began the new expansions of proclamation in Ephesus and in Corinth.  It was not based on Paul's power, neither on Apollos' power, nor was it based on Priscilla and Aquila's power; instead, only by the work of the Holy Spirit did the sure workings of God proceed forward.

 
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