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Bible Commentaries
Acts 18

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

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Verse 1


We have the great Apostle Paul here represented as working with his Hands for his daily Bread. He preacheth at Corinth. He is opposed by the Jews. He is encouraged by a Vision. He departs to Ephesus. Some Account of Apollos, Aquita, and Priscilla.

Verses 1-4

After these things Paul departed from Athens and came to Corinth; (2) And found a certain Jew named Aquila, 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. (3) And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers. (4) And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.

It is truly delightful to observe, with what zeal the great Apostle to the Gentiles flew on the wings of Love and faith, to spread the adorable name of his Almighty Lord. Lately we found him at Athens. Now at Corinth, where he labored personally in the word, and doctrine, for nearly two whole years. And, from the blessed events which followed his ministry, we find cause to praise the Loan for, sending him there. Yea, the whole Church of Christ, through all the intermediate ages, to the present hour, have cause so to do, and will to the remotest period of time ; since we owe those two divine Epistles written by Paul, under the Holy Ghost's dictating, to this source.

Corinth was a large populous city, situated on an isthmus of the sea, and the chief town of Achaia. It was remarkable for trade and commerce, which its vicinity to the sea highly favored. And, as it abounded with wealth and opulence, every species of luxury was known in it. Indeed, it was so remarkable for sin and uncleanness, that a Corinthian woman became proverbial, and meant the same thing, as a woman on the town. Here the Lord directed his servant Paul. And who shall calculate the extensiveness of his usefulness, in gathering sinners to Christ?

I beg the Reader not to overlook the beautiful portrait here drawn, of Paul the Apostle, in Paul the Tent-maker. He gives a faithful account of this in his tender and affectionate farewell, when he took leave of the Church at Ephesus. Ye know, (said he,) from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears. I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me, Act_20:18-19; Act_20:33-34 . The imagination can hardly picture to itself anything more lovely, than to behold the Apostle filling up the intervals of his public ministry with private labors. No love of gain, no work of constraint, not for filthy lucre, did this great Apostle labor, in the word and doctrine. As he told the Church of the Thessalonians, so every Church of Christ was equally dear to him. Being affectionately (said he) desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted to you, not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travel, for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God, 1 Thessalonians 2:8-11 . Blessed servant of the Lord! How highly suited to so humble a Master?

Who those persons, Aquila and Priscilla, were, hath been the subject of much conjecture. But, it is not an object of moment further to know, than that they were believers in the Lord, well spoken of by Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans. (Romans 16:3-4 ). Their names written in the book of life. And now, and for ages past in spirit. Among the spirits of just men made perfect. Reader! how illustrious are those tent-makers, when beheld with an eye to Christ? How will they all look, when at the last day they shall appear, encircling Him, who in the days of his flesh was contemptuously, though falsely called, the Carpenter's Son? Matthew 8:34 .

Verses 5-11

And when Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. (6) 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. (7) 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. (8) 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. (9) Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: (10) For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. (11) And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

If the Reader wishes to enter into a more particular account of Paul's preaching at Corinth than what is here stated, he will be able very easily to gather the chief sum and substance of what he discoursed upon, by referring to his Epistles to this Church. Indeed, it would be always profitable, when reading at any time in this part of the scripture history, the life and ministry of the Apostle; to consult and read with it, his both Epistles, which he afterwards sent to the Church at Corinth, when his personal labors among them were ended. One point in particular, we know Paul mostly dwelt upon, for he hath said as much; namely, Christ, and his cross. For, (said he) I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ; and him crucified, 1 Corinthians 2:2 . There were a thousand subjects of holy joy and delight, the Apostle discovered in his adorable master. His Person, his Godhead, his manhood, his union of both: His Offices, Characters, Relations; all, and everyone of these topics, Paul could have dwelt upon forever. But, when speaking to poor, ruined, lost, and perishing sinners, like those Corinthians he knew Christ crucified was the one persuasive remedy of God's own providing, and the only one suited to their then-state and circumstances of ignorance and darkness: and therefore, here Paul fixed his eye, and here he found ample subject for his heart to enlarge upon, and recommend: and having in his own example found the blessedness of it, he labored to enforce and recommend it to all others. And how sweetly, and persuasively he did it, those beautiful Epistles still shew?

It should seem, by what is here said, of the blasphemy of those Jews who opposed Paul's preaching, and the manner of shaking his raiment upon the occasion; that the Apostle was hardly put to it, and felt the bitterness of their persecution. And it should seem, that for the moment, he paused over the matter, as if more than half disposed in his own mind to leave Corinth. And yet he had enough to encourage him to abide there, in the conversion of Crispus, the chief ruler of the Synagogue, with all his house; and many Corinthians also. But, I pray the Reader not to lose sight of the grace and loving kindness of Jesus, in this night vision shewn Paul. For, that it was the Lord Jesus himself which so spake to the Apostle, is beyond all question. And, oh! how sweetly, powerfully, and persuasively, the Lord spake to him. How must it have refreshed and animated the Apostle? What new courage must it have inspired?

Reader! fail not to take to yourself, the consolation, such a view of the Lord's watching over his people brings, for every emergency! Oh! could the faithful but behold things visibly as they are, how often, like the Prophet's servant, should we see ourselves surrounded with horses of fire, and chariots of fire; when to our poor, timid, and apprehensive minds, like him, through fear of man, we have been crying out: Alas! how shall we do, 2 Kings 6:14-17 . Precious Jesus! do I not hear thee say, and do I not know, and at times feel the sweet power of thy words, while my Lord is saying it: Sing ye to her a vineyard of red wine. I the Lord do keep it. I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day, Isaiah 27:2-3 . I entreat the Reader to turn to those sweet scriptures also, Isaiah 51:7-13 ; Psalms 37:0 throughout.

And chiefly, ye faithful servants of my God, who minister in his sacred Name! (If peradventure one of that sacred order should glance at these my writings.) Oh! let this most interesting view, of the Lord Jesus comforting and encouraging his servant Paul, in this vision of the night, strengthen your hands and hearts with the same assurance. Jesus speaks as much now, as he did then. 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, See Jeremiah 1:17-19 . And, no doubt, but in this our day, and in the midst of the present Christ despising generation, the Lord hath much people to gather from the Midst of this our sinful land. Oh! that the consciousness of these things may stir up the hearts of his sent servants, to do as Paul did, tinder the Lord's blessing; and remain as he did, if need be a whole year and six months, teaching the word of God among the people. And surely the Lord will defend, all that labor in his name, and are sent by him to the service, amidst all the conflicts they may sustain. Persecuted they may be, but not forsaken: cast down, but not destroyed, 2 Corinthians 4:9 .

I hope the Reader will allow me to dwell a moment longer on a subject so truly interesting, as it concerns the Lord's people, as well as the Lord's ministers. If Jesus told Paul that in a city like Corinth he had much people there; may we not hope, though sinful as a nation we are, yet many of God's hidden ones are among us. And, by the much people, let it not be supposed that Jesus meant his people by right of creation. For, although indeed the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof and all are his, as well by creation as redemption; yet there would have needed no vision of the night to have informed Paul of this, had that been all, for he knew it before. But very evidently, by the much people Jesus told Paul he had in Corinth; he meant his Church, his Chosen, according to Covenant settlements. That people whom the Holy Ghost spake of, as a people near unto him, Psalms 148:14 . Whom the Lord said, he had formed for himself, and they should skew forth his praise, Isaiah 43:21 . A people by gift, John 17:6 , by purchase, Isaiah 42:1 , by conquest, Psalms 110:3 . And Jesus knew them all by name, John 10:3 . And they must all be gathered out, Ezekiel 34:13 , and all pass again under the hand of him that telleth them: Jeremiah 33:13 .

Reader! let us indulge the thought, for it is most pleasing. Paul knew them not. But Jesus did. Elijah was as unconscious in his day, what numbers the Lord had, when he thought himself single and alone, 1 Kings 19:18; 1 Kings 19:18 . But, the Lord knoweth them that are his, 2 Timothy 2:19 . And what makes the subject so very interesting and precious is, that while they are in the unregeneracy of their Adam-nature, and to all human observation alike indiscernible, as the ungodly among whom they dwell; yet Jesus hath his eye upon them for good, he keeps them from the unpardonable sin amidst all their sinning, he keeps them from going down to the pit, preserves them from death and the grave, watches over them for good in all their ungodliness, until the day of their effectual calling, when he brings them out by his Holy Spirit; so that not one of them is lost for whom he died, and whom he hath received from his Father; but all are brought at length savingly home, where he comes to make up his Jewels, Malachi 3:17 . Precious Lord Jesus! I bless thee for this gracious vision to thy servant, the Apostle! And last thou not, dearest Lord, much people in the present day, in the city of this world? Lord! gather them out, and make them willing in the day of thy power! Take comfort my soul! He that conquered thy stubborn nature, can subdue others. No heart of stone, but Christ can take away, since he hath taken away thine!

Verses 12-23

And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat, (13) Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law. (14) And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: (15) But if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters. (16) And he drove them from the judgment seat. (17) Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things. (18) And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow. (19) And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews. (20) When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; (21) 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. (22) And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch. (23) 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.

It should seem, that the vision which the Lord favored his servant the Apostle with, was but a little space (perhaps only the preceding night) before this insurrection made by the Jews. Surely the Lord times his visits. And, we might observe, if our inattentive minds were but more awakened to these things, that Jesus is not more sweet than seasonable, in the manifestations he condescends to make to his people. No doubt, Paul felt the blessedness of what had passed between his Lord and himself in the night, when called to the exercises of the day. And, Reader! let me hope, that you and I are not unconscious of Him and his grace, who giveth songs in the night. Surely it is impossible to be so, while we have his promises in view. See a cluster of them, John 14:16-27 .

I am at a loss how to explain, or even to account for, this vow of Paul. And I confess, that I should be inclined to think, that it was Aquila which made this vow, (as some have thought by putting the stop after Priscilla, and not Aquila,) and not Paul, did we not meet with a similar instance of the Apostle's, Acts 21:23 etc. When we call to mind, that Paul had been now in a state of conversion somewhat more than fifteen years; and that it was some time before this took place at Cenchrea, that he had written his Epistle to the Church at Galatia, in which he so strongly reproves the mingling Jewish customs, with Gospel grace: when we recollect these things, how strange, and even contradictory doth it appear, that so great an Apostle should be found Complying with such weaknesses, Galatians 2:1 . But, Reader! our Lord Jesus can, and I trust will, make such a view of the Apostle profitable to us both. For, when we behold the infirmity of the man, yea, so great a man and minister too, falling into such a weakness; surely it teaches us to cease from man, and look more to the Lord. What poor creatures the best of men are, and how strongly the heart is prompted therefrom while contemplating human weakness, to lay hold on divine strength. Precious Jesus whatever tends to endear my Lord to the hearts and affections of his people, must be blessed. Paul himself rejoiced to be a fool, yea, anything, or nothing, so that Christ became exalted! 2 Corinthians 11:21 and 2 Corinthians 12:5-11 . See the Commentary, Acts 21:26 .

If I detain the Reader a moment longer at this paragraph, it shalt be only to remark, what extensive ground the Apostle traversed, in his zeal for the Lord's glory, and the welfare of the Lord's Church. Happy servant of an Almighty Master! While knowing that Jesus had much people in Corinth, how could he leave it before that he saw the Church formed there, and Elders ordained to supply his place, Acts 14:23 . But, when this was done, and his mind directed to go elsewhere, like his Lord, he would of consequence say, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also, for therefore am I sent: Luke 4:43 .

Verses 24-28

And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. (25) 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. (26) 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. (27) 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: (28) For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

There is somewhat very interesting in the account here given of Apollos. His being instructed in the way of the Lord, means no more, I should apprehend, than that he had been taught, or catechized, (as the word is,) concerning the truths of the Gospel. Perhaps had learnt under the ministry of John , or his disciples. But, we may take occasion from hence to remark, how sweetly. the Lord prepares the minds of his people for the reception of his divine truth. What a teachable disposition the Lord had given him, that while blessed with the gift of eloquence, and with an earnest desire to speak for the Lord; he submitted to be taught by those poor tent-makers, Aquila and Priscilla. He appears to have been so great a man, that many of the Corinthians preferred his preaching to Paul's. No doubt, this was from their ignorance. But it serves to shew the greatness of the man; 1 Corinthians 1:12 . And, it may be observed, that it is the character of none but little minds, to refuse instruction, however weak or humble the channels through which it comes. Apollos found, that Aquila and Priscilla were better taught in divine things than himself. And, no doubt, while those humble persons ministered. to his furtherance in knowledge; he strengthened their hands in his acquaintance with the Scriptures: and the Lord's blessing upon them all, they became helpful to one another. And so is it now. While the Lord's ministers are going forth, in their public labors for the people, the saints of God are holding up their hands by their private prayers for them, (as Aaron and Hur did the hands of Moses in the Mount: Exodus 17:12 ) in their ministry. And thus, as Paul said to the Romans, while the one imparted some Spiritual gift, he received others in return: that I may be comforted (said Paul,) together with you, by the mutual faith both of you and me, Romans 1:12 .

Verse 28


It must have been a blessed time in the Church, when Ministers, ordained of God the Holy Ghost, found their minds disposed in the intervals of public service, to labor in private for their daily bread, that they might not make the Gospel of God chargeable to any. And we find, that so far was this employment in honest industry, for their own maintenance, from damping the ardor of their zeal for God, that while Paul wrought in tent-making for his daily bread; his soul burned with an holy flame, to preach Christ to the people. Oh! that all the faithful ministers of the sanctuary now, were under the same blessed influence as Paul was then, when he was pressed, as it is said, in Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.

Reader! let you and I bless God our Savior, that in such a city as Corinth, the Lord had a Church: yea, much people. Let us love the Lord Jesus, for granting so sweet and timely a vision, to tell Paul this, as is here recorded. And, let us ponder well the record, as it concerns the Church of God, in all ages. Depend upon it, the same is now, and so will be, is the very end of time. Jesus hath much people in every city where he sends his Gospel, his word, his servants. In this our city, our sinful land, which like Corinth is full of uncleanness, luxury, pride, and every evil. His people are in the midst of many people, as the remnant of Jacob. They are like sparks, among the stubble as pure seed, among the tares. Yea, how many of them, all of them indeed, originally and by their Adam-nature living during the days of their unregeneracy, in the same sin, and under the influence of the same corruptions. But Jesus will search and seek them out. They are his, and he must gather them. The Father gave them to him in charge, and they must all pass again under the hand of him that telleth them. They are the purchase also of his blood, and too dearly bought to lose one of them; too dearly loved to be indifferent about them. And, God the Spirit hath marked them to the day of redemption. Precious Lord Jesus! cause all thy faithful ministers to keep these things in remembrance, and like Paul when oppositions from men or devils arise, to call to mind this sweet vision of their Lord, as though they still heard Jesus say: Be not afraid, but speak and hold not thy peace, for I have much people in this city!

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Acts 18". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/acts-18.html. 1828.
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