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Bible Commentaries
Acts 18

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Acts 18:0


Paul at CorinthMinistering at CorinthFounding of the Church in CorinthIn CorinthFoundation of the Church of Corinth
Acts 18:1-4Acts 18:1-17Acts 18:1-4Acts 18:1-4Acts 18:1-4
Acts 18:5-11Acts 18:5-11Acts 18:5-8Acts 18:5-11
Acts 18:9-11The Jews Take Paul to Court
Acts 18:12-17Acts 18:12-17Acts 18:12-13Acts 18:12-17
Acts 18:14-17
Paul's Return to AntiochPaul Returns to AntiochEnd of the Second Missionary Journey and Beginning of the ThirdThe Return to AntiochReturn to Antioch and Departure for the Third Journey
Acts 18:18-23Acts 18:18-23Acts 18:18-21Acts 18:18-21Acts 18:18
Acts 18:19-21
Acts 18:22-23Acts 18:22-23Acts 18:22-23
Apollos Preaches at EphesusMinistry of ApollosApollos in EphesusApollos in Ephesus and CorinthApollos
Acts 18:24-28Acts 18:24-28Acts 18:24-28Acts 18:24-28Acts 18:24-26
Acts 18:27-28

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 18:1-4 1After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. 2And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, 3and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers. 4And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Acts 18:1 "he left Athens and went to Corinth" Corinth was 50 miles west of Athens on a narrow strip of land (isthmus). Paul was alone in Athens and even for a little while in Corinth (cf. Acts 18:5). Paul had eye problems (thorn in the flesh, cf. 2 Corinthians 12:0). It was very hard for him to be alone.


Acts 18:2 "a Jew named Aquila. . .Priscilla" His wife, Priscilla, also called Prisca, is usually mentioned first (cf. Acts 18:18, Acts 18:26; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19), which was highly unusual in this patriarchal culture (see SPECIAL TOPIC: WOMEN IN THE BIBLE at Acts 2:17). Her name matches a wealthy Roman family name (gens Prisca). She is never said to be a Jew. What a great love story it would be if she were a wealthy Roman lady who fell in love with an itinerant Jewish tentmaker or leather worker! They befriended and worked together with Paul in that trade. They helped disciple Apollos.

"recently" In A Translator's Handbook on the Acts of the Apostles, p. 347, Newman and Nida make an interesting point about this adverb, prosphatôs. Originally it means "freshly killed," but it came to be used metaphorically as "recent." This is a good example of how etymology is not always a good indication of meanings. Words must be understood in their contemporary and contextual setting. Many of the misinterpretations of the Bible come from the failure of the modern interpreter to recognize the ancient metaphorical or idiomatic usage.

"having come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome" In Historia Contra Paganus 7.6.15, Orosius says the date of this edict was A.D. 49. Suetonius, in Life of Claudius 25.4, tells us that it was over rioting in the Jewish ghetto at the instigation of one Chrestus. The Romans confused Christus with Chrestus (cf. Tacitus, Annais 25:44:3). Dio Cassius in Histories 60.6, says the Jews were not expelled, but forbidden to practice their ancestral customs.

The participle, "having come," is perfect active participle, implying that the move was thought to be permanent or long term. Claudius' edict (command) is a perfect passive infinitive.

Acts 18:3 "because he was of the same trade" This is usually thought to be tent-making, but the word can refer to leather working. Paul's rabbinical background demanded that he have a secular job or trade. No rabbi could take money for teaching. Cilicia, Paul's home area, was noted for its goat hair and skins.

Acts 18:4 "he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath" Paul was active every Sabbath both "reasoning" and "trying to persuade" (these are both imperfect tense). Paul went to the Jews first because

1. it was Jesus' example (cf. Matthew 10:5-6)

2. they knew the OT

3. the God-fearing Greeks there were generally responsive to his message (cf. Romans 1:16)

The synagogue developed during the Babylonian exile as a place of worship, education, and prayer. It was designed to foster and maintain Jewish culture.

Verses 5-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 18:5-11 5But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. 6But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." 7Then he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. 8Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized. 9And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city." 11And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Acts 18:5 "Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia" They apparently brought a love offering from the believers at Philippi, which allowed Paul to preach full time (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:9; Philippians 4:15). Timothy also brought news about the church at Thessalonica in response to which Paul wrote I and 2 Thessalonians (cf. Acts 17:14). It seems that, just as Luke had been left in Philippi to disciple the new believers, Timothy was left at Thessalonica and Silas at Berea. Paul was very concerned with the training of new Christians (i.e., the Great Commission is making and teaching disciples, not just decisions). He wanted to leave an active, growing, reproducing church in every city he visited.

NASB"Paul began devoting himself completely to the word" NKJV"Paul was constrained by the Spirit" NRSV"Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word" TEV"Paul ave his whole time to preaching the message" NJB"Paul devoted all his time to preaching"

There is a Greek manuscript variant in this phrase. The oldest and best texts have the dative of Logos (cf. MSS P74, א, A, B, D, E, along with the Vulgate, Peshitta, and Coptic translations). The UBS4 rates it "B" (almost certain). The Textus Receptus has "Spirit" (pneumati), which is found only in much later Minuscule Greek manuscripts (three from the tenth century are the oldest).

"solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ" Compare Acts 18:2 with 17:3 concerning Paul's method of persuasion (imperfect passive indicative of sunechô, which means to constrict or press), which was very much like Stephen's method and enthusiasm (cf. Acts 7:0). See note at Acts 2:40. This often repeated theological assertion (i.e., Jesus is the Messiah, see note at Acts 17:3) is the key to all others!

Acts 18:6 "resisted and blasphemed" These are both present middle participles, which emphasize continuing personal involvement. Unfortunately this became the all too common response from the Jews of the Diaspora.

"he shook out his garments" This was a Jewish symbol for rejection (cf. Nehemiah 5:13; Acts 13:51; Luke 9:5; Luke 10:11). See complete note at Acts 13:51.

"Your blood be on your own heads" This OT idiom has several connotations.

1. the responsibility of a watchman, both individually and collectively, Ezekiel 3:16ff; Ezekiel 33:1-6

2. a personal responsibility, Joshua 2:19; 2 Samuel 1:16; Ezekiel 18:13; Acts 18:6; Acts 20:26

3. a corporate responsibility of the ancestors or nations, 2 Samuel 3:28-29; Acts 18:2 Kgs. 2:33

4. NT combination of # 2 and #3, Matthew 27:25

Life was in the blood (cf. Leviticus 17:11, Leviticus 17:14). The shedding of blood made someone responsible to God for that death (cf. Genesis 4:10; Genesis 9:4-6).

"I am clean" This is an OT sacrificial metaphor of personal responsibility. Paul was no longer spiritually responsible (cf. Ezekiel 33:0) for the Jews to hear the gospel in this city. He shared the message and they would not respond. Are we clean?

"From now on I will go to the Gentiles" This evangelistic procedure and curse became normative for Paul (cf. Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6; Acts 26:20; Acts 28:28). Paul felt obligated to preach to the house of Israel first, following Jesus (cf. Matthew 10:6; Matthew 15:24; Mark 7:27). He explains this theologically in Romans 1:3, Romans 1:5, Romans 1:9-11 and emotionally in Acts 9:0; Acts 15:0; Acts 22:21; Acts 26:17 (cf. Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16; Galatians 1:16; Galatians 2:7-9; Ephesians 3:2, Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 4:17).

Acts 18:7 "Titus Justus" There are several possibilities as to the identity of this "worshiper of God" who lived next to the synagogue in Corinth.

1. His full name is Gaius Titus Justus and the church in Corinth met in his home (cf. Romans 16:23)

2. He may be the Gaius mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:14 who was baptized by Paul

3. There is a Greek manuscript variant connected with this name.

a. Titiou Ioustou, MSS B, D2 (UBS4 gives this a "C" rating)

b. Titou Ioustou, MSS א, E, P

c. Ioustou, MSS A, B2, D*

d. Titou, Peshitta and Coptic translations

"a worshiper of God" An inscription from Aphrodisias (3rd century), uses the phrase "worshiper of God" for those Gentiles attached to and attending the synagogue. So "God fearers" (Acts 10:1-2, Acts 10:22; Acts 13:16, Acts 13:26) is synonymous to "worshiper of God" (cf. Acts 13:50; Acts 16:14; Acts 18:6-7).

This phrase is hard to define. The same phrase is used of Lydia in Acts 16:14 and several Greeks at Thessalonica in Acts 17:4 and in Berea in Acts 17:17. They seem to be Greeks who were attracted to Judaism, attended the synagogue when possible, but were not full proselytes. However, the phrase "a God-fearing proselyte" is used to describe full proselytes at the synagogue in Perga of Pamphylia in Acts 13:43.

Acts 18:8 "Crispus" This man was the organizer and superintendent of the local synagogue (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:14).

"believed in the Lord with all his household" Acts records several instances where the head of a house converts and the entire extended family is baptized (cf. Acts 11:14; Acts 16:15, Acts 16:31-34; Acts 18:8, See SPECIAL TOPIC: BAPTISM at Acts 2:38). Westerners forget the place of the extended family in the ancient Mediterranean world. Family was priority. Individuality was not emphasized. Although this is different from our individualistic understanding of evangelism, that does not make it inappropriate or less real.

However, it is also to be noted that not all the members of saved families who attended church were saved. Onesimus was a slave in Philemon's house where the church met, but he was not saved until he met Paul in prison.

For "believed" see Special Topics at Acts 2:40 and Acts 3:16.

"many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized" Many at Corinth readily accepted Paul's message, but Paul was discouraged and had to be energized by a special divine vision (cf. Acts 18:10b). The Corinthian churches (house churches) were Paul's most difficult, problematic congregations. He loved them, but they caused him great personal pain (cf. I and 2 Corinthians).

There is a relevant parallel to this context in 1 Corinthians 1:14-17. I have included here one of my notes from my commentary on 1 Corinthians. See it online free at www.freebiblecommentary.org

"1 Corinthians 1:17 "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach" This is not meant to disparage baptism, but to react to the factious spirit in the church of Corinth that was lifting up certain leaders. However, this statement does indicate that baptism was not seen as a "sacramental" agency of grace. It is surprising that some interpret Paul's writings in a sacramental sense when in all his writings he specifically mentions the Lord's Supper only once in 1 Corinthians 11:0 and baptism twice, in Romans 6:1-11 and Colossians 2:12. However, baptism is the will of God for every believer.

1. it is the example of Jesus

2. it is the command of Jesus

3. it is the expected, normal procedure for all believers

I do not believe it is the channel for receiving the grace of God or the Spirit. It was that public opportunity for new believers to express their faith in a very public and decisive way. No NT believer would ask, "Must I be baptized to be saved?" Jesus did it! Jesus commanded the church to do it! Do it!" Baptism is still a major decisive public declaration of one's personal faith, especially in non-Christian cultures.

Acts 18:9 "Do not be afraid any longer" This is a present middle imperative with a negative particle, which usually means to stop an act already in process. This may be an allusion to Genesis 26:24 or Deuteronomy 1:29-33; Deuteronomy 20:1, where Isaac was afraid. Paul was afraid and needed Christ's encouragement. Luke records these special visions of encouragement in Acts 22:17-18; Acts 23:11; Acts 27:23-24. If a man like Paul grew weary in well-doing, does it surprise you that you do, too? Jesus is with us also (cf. Acts 18:10; Matthew 28:20)! The Great Commission is still the guiding goal, the main thing (cf. Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8).

"but you go on speaking and do not be silent" These are both imperatives (present active and aorist active). Fear must not silence the gospel proclaimer! Our emotions go up and down, but Acts 1:8 is still the guiding light (cf. 2 Timothy 4:2-5).

Acts 18:10 "I am with you" There is no greater promise (cf. Genesis 26:24; Exodus 3:12; Exodus 33:4; Psalms 23:4; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5). Notice He is with us, not for our personal comfort or security, but for evangelistic boldness (so too, the purpose of the filling of the Spirit in Acts). The Spirit's presence is for proclamation, not personal peace alone.

"for I have many people in this city" The phrase "I have many people" is an allusion to the OT use of this term for Israel (i.e., the people of God), but now in the NT it refers to those in Corinth (Jews and Gentiles) who would respond to the gospel message. There is no more Jew or Greek (cf. Romans 3:22; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). The church is now called by OT titles (cf. Galatians 6:16; 1 Peter 2:5, 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6).

This is an emphasis of God's predestination and foreknowledge (cf. Romans 9:0; Ephesians 1:0). Oh, if we could only see the book of Life now! The church's witness is effective (cf. Revelation 13:8). Personal assurance is for evangelistic boldness, not the confirmation of a ticket to heaven when believers die!

Acts 18:11 This verse helps establish a possible chronology for Paul's missionary travels. Although the phrase is ambiguous, it implies a preaching mission of eighteen months in Corinth.

Verses 12-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 18:12-17 12But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, 13saying, "This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law." 14But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you; 15but if there are questions about words and names and your own law, look after it yourselves; I am unwilling to be a judge of these matters." 16And he drove them away from the judgment seat. 17And they all took hold of Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and began beating him in front of the judgment seat. But Gallio was not concerned about any of these things.

Acts 18:12 "Gallio" From biblical and extra-biblical sources we learn that this was a fair and competent political leader. His brother, Seneca, says of him, "Even those who love my brother Gallio to the utmost of their power do not love him enough" and "no man was ever as sweet to one as Gallio is to all." This political appointee helps us to date Paul's journeys. He was a proconsul for two and one half years starting in A.D. 51.

"Gallio was proconsul of Achaia" Luke is an accurate historian. The names of Roman officials in this area had changed since A.D. 44; "proconsul" (cf. Acts 13:7; Acts 19:38) was correct because Emperor Claudius gave this province to the Senate.

"the Jews with one accord" Luke uses this phrase many times to express the unity of the believers (cf. Acts 1:14; Acts 2:1, Acts 2:46; Acts 4:24; Acts 5:12; Acts 8:6; Acts 15:25), but here it denotes the unity of the jealousy and anti-gospel rebellion of the Jews of Corinth (cf. Acts 18:6). Other examples of the use of this phrase in a negative sense are Acts 7:57; Acts 12:20; and Acts 19:29. The term "Jews" often has a pejorative sense in Luke's writings.

"brought him before the judgment seat" This is the word bçma (literally, "step"). It was the seat or raised platform of Roman justice (cf. Matthew 27:19; John 19:13; Acts 25:6, Acts 25:10, Acts 25:17; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Acts 18:13 "to worship God contrary to the law" This Jewish claim that Christianity was a violation of their laws and, therefore, not a part of Judaism, was a very important legal issue. If Gallio had ruled on this charge, Christianity would have become an illegal religion. But, as it was, Christianity enjoyed political protection (it was seen as a sect of Judaism, which was a legal religion) under Roman law until Nero's persecution, 10-12 years later.

It is even possible that one of Luke's purposes in writing Acts was to document that Christianity was not a threat to Roman authority. Every Roman official is recorded as recognizing this fact.

Acts 18:14 "If" This is a second class conditional sentence. It is a rare construction that makes a false statement in order to make a point or continue a discussion. It is often called "contrary to fact" condition. This should be translated "if it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, which it is not, then it would be reasonable for me to put up with you, which it is not."

Acts 18:15 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence. The legal issue was, in reality, a religious issue. Gallio wisely recognized the true motive of the Jews. He could not and would not act as a judge in these kinds of matters.

Acts 18:16 "he drove them away" This is the only occurrence of this verbin the NT, but it was used several times in the Septuagint (cf. 1 Samuel 6:8; Ezekiel 34:12). It is an intensified form of elaunô, which means to expel forcibly.

Acts 18:17 "they all took hold of Sosthenes" "They all" refers to the Jews of Acts 18:12 or possibly to Greeks, which shows the underlying anti-Semitism of these Greek cities. A Sosthenes is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:1; whether he is the same one or not is uncertain, but it is a rather rare name. This Sosthenes had taken Crispus' place as leader of the synagogue. Why the Jews should beat him is uncertain. Maybe he let Paul speak at the synagogue.

"But Gallio was not concerned about any of these things" This Roman political leader, unlike Pilate, would not be swayed by the crowd.

Verses 18-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 18:18-21 18Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow. 19They came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20When they asked him to stay for a longer time, he did not consent, 21but taking leave of them and saying, "I will return to you again if God wills," he set sail from Ephesus.

Acts 18:18 "Cenchrea" This was one of two seaports of Corinth. It was located on the Aegean Sea, on the east side of the narrow isthmus on which Corinth was located. It is mentioned again as the site of a church in Romans 16:1.

"keeping a vow" This refers to a chronologically limited Nazarite vow described in Numbers 6:1-21 (cf. F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, p. 52). Paul does this again in Acts 21:24 (see note there). The cutting or shaving of the head would denote the end of the vow.

Both A. T. Robertson and M. R. Vincent think this was not a Nazarite vow because it could only be terminated in Jerusalem according to Jewish custom. Paul did become all things to all men to win some (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23). We can be sure this vow was for evangelism, not legalism! And, of course, there is always the possibility that it was Aquilla who shaved his head.

Acts 18:19 "Ephesus" This was a large commercial city in western Asia Minor. After the harbor at Miletus was destroyed by silt from the Maeander River, the commercial trade moved up the coast to Ephesus, which also had a natural harbor. By the NT period the best days of Ephesus had passed. It was still a large and influential city, but nothing like its past glory.

1. It was the largest city of the Roman province of Asia Minor. It was not the capital, though the Roman governor lived there. It was a commercial center because of it excellent natural harbor.

2. It was a free city, which allowed it to have local government and much freedom, including no garrison of Roman soldiers.

3. It was the only city which was allowed to hold the bi-annual Asian games.

4. It was the site of the Temple to Artemis (Diana in Latin), which was one of the seven wonders of the world of its day. It was 425' x 220' with 127 columns, which were 60' tall; 86 of them were overlaid with gold (see Pliny's Hist. Nat. 36:95ff). The image of Artemis was thought to have been a meteor which resembled a many-breasted female figure. This meant that there were many cultic prostitutes present in the city (cf. Acts 19:0). It was a very immoral, multi- cultural city.

5. Paul stayed in this city more than three years (cf. Acts 18:18ff; Acts 20:13).

6. Tradition asserts that it became John's home after Mary' death in Palestine.

"he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews" Paul loved his people (cf. Romans 9:1-5). He tried without fail to reach them with and for the gospel.

Acts 18:20 These Jews were like the Bereans. They were willing to listen. Why Paul was unwilling to stay is not stated in the text, but in Acts 18:21 it shows he was willing to return at God's direction at a later date.

Acts 18:21 "I will return to you again if God wills" Paul believed his life was in God's hands, not his own (cf. Romans 1:10; Romans 15:32; 1 Corinthians 4:19; 1 Corinthians 16:7). This is the biblical worldview (cf. Hebrews 6:3; James 4:15; 1 Peter 3:17). Paul will return and Ephesus will become his major focus on the third missionary journey.

Verses 22-23

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 18:22-23 22When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and went down to Antioch. 23And having spent some time there, he left and passed successively through the Galatian region and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

Acts 18:22 Verse 21 ends with Paul sailing from Ephesus. Verse Acts 18:22 has him landing in Palestine (Caesarea) and visiting the church in Jerusalem ("he went up," theologically speaking) and then (down) to Antioch of Syria. It must be remembered that Luke is not recording a daily exhaustive travel itinerary, but jumping from one significant theological event to another. Acts is not modern history, but it is a good, accurate history! Verse Acts 18:22 ends the second missionary journey and verse Acts 18:23 begins the third missionary journey.

"the church" See Special Topic at Acts 5:11.

"the Galatian region and Phrygia" This phrase "Galatian region" is still the source of controversy among scholars as to whether this refers to racial or political divisions within modern central Turkey.

The Phrygian region is first mentioned in Acts 2:10. Some who experienced Pentecost were from this area. Paul was forbidden to preach in this area in Acts 16:6.

One wonders if the phrase "strengthening all the disciples" in the latter part of Acts 18:23 refers to Pentecost converts in Phrygia or Paul's converts in Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium, which were in the Pisidian southern part of the Roman province of Galatia.

This is the beginning of Paul's third missionary journey (cf. Acts 18:23-16).

"strengthening all the disciples" Paul took the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 seriously. His ministry involved both evangelism (cf. Matthew 28:19) and discipleship (cf. Acts 15:36; Matthew 28:20).

Verses 24-28

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 18:24-28 24Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. 25This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; 26and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, 28for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

Acts 18:24-28 This seems to be an account related to either

1. Priscilla and Aquila

2. John the Baptist's followers (it is not in chronological sequence)

3. its function as a letter of recommendation for Apolos by Paul

Acts 18:24 "a Jew named Apollos" It is highly unusual for a Jew to be named after a Greek god. He was a highly educated and eloquent preacher (cf. Acts 18:24-1). His ministry in Corinth was helpful, but became problematic when one of the three factions (supporters of Paul, Peter, Apollos, cf. Acts 18:1 Cor. 1-4) took him as their champion. He refused to return to Corinth (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:12).

"an Alexandrian by birth" This was the second largest city of the Roman Empire, known for its large library and academic flavor. It had a large Jewish population (for which the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, the Septuagint) and was the home of Philo, a famous Jewish, neo-Platonist, allegorical scholar.

"came to Ephesus" Acts is not a detailed, chronological writing. Paul had just left (cf. Acts 18:23).

"an eloquent man" This term in Koine Greek can mean either eloquent or educated. In the Septuagint logios is used of the oracles of God. Apollos was obviously more gifted in public speaking (Greek rhetoric) than Paul (compare 1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 10:10; and Acts 11:6). He was a powerful preacher!

"and he was mighty in the Scriptures" The term "Scriptures" refers to the OT (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 1:23-25; 2 Peter 1:20-21), with the exception of 2 Peter 3:15-16, where Paul's writings (by analogy) are attributed inspired status. Apollos knew his OT well.

The word "mighty" is dunatos, which is used of Jesus' might in word and deed in Luke 24:19, and of Moses in Acts 7:22.

Acts 18:25 "This man had been instructed" This is a periphrastic pluperfect passive (cf. Luke 1:4). He had been trained in the teachings of Jesus, but only up to a certain level or time period. Curtis Vaughan, Acts, p. 118, footnote #2, lists the things Apollos may have known and preached.

1. John was the forerunner of the Messiah.

2. He pointed out the Messiah as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

3. Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah.

I also think that repentance was probably emphasized in his preaching because it was in both John's and Jesus' preaching.

"in the way of the Lord" "The way" was the first title used to describe the followers of Jesus in Acts (cf. Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23; Acts 22:4; Acts 24:14, Acts 24:22; John 14:6). It was used often in the OT (cf. Deuteronomy 5:32-33; Deuteronomy 31:29; Psalms 27:11; Isaiah 35:8), where it speaks of lifestyle faith. It is uncertain whether it has that meaning in this text (cf. Acts 18:26).

Apollos also knew something about Jesus, but apparently it was His early earthly ministry and not the post-Calvary, post-resurrection gospel.

"being fervent in spirit" This is literally "burning in spirit." This phrase is meant to describe the enthusiasm of Apollos for what he did know and understand about the life and teachings of Jesus.

"being acquainted only with the baptism of John" This phrase about Apollos may have been the literary technique that Luke used to introduce the followers of John in Acts 19:1-7. There were several heresies that developed in first century Palestine connected with John the Baptist's teaching and preaching.

John was the last OT prophet who prepared for the coming of the Messiah (cf. Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3), but he was not the first gospel preacher. If Apollos' preaching focused too much on John, then he missed the full significance of Jesus. Both John and Jesus emphasized "repentance," "faith," and "godly living." Both initially called the Jews to a new commitment to faith and practice (covenant faithfulness and personal faith in YHWH). However, Jesus' message developed into the bold assertion of His central place (e.g., John 10:0 and 14), possibly this is what Apollos lacked.

Acts 18:26 "he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue" This verb is used of Paul speaking to the Jews in the synagogue in Acts 13:46; Acts 14:3; Acts 19:8 and before Festus in Acts 26:26. Apollos was a powerful and effective preacher.

"in the synagogue" Notice Priscilla and Aquila were also there. This was Paul's regular custom also.

"Priscilla and Aquila" She is mentioned first several times, Acts 18:18, Acts 18:26; Romans 16:3; 2 Timothy 4:19. This is highly unusual. Possibly she was the strongest personality or of Roman nobility. In Acts 18:2, Aquila is said to be Jewish, but never Priscilla. They were forced to leave Rome under Emperor Claudius' edict in A.D. 49. They met and befriended Paul in Corinth and followed him to Ephesus. The three of them were tent makers.

"took him aside" This term is used to describe someone being accepted or received as a friend. It is uncertain how or where Priscilla and Aquila did this for Apollos. They may have talked to him privately or taken him home with them. Notice they did not embarrass him or challenge him publicly!

"explained to him the way of God more accurately" He was teachable, which is rare for gifted, educated humans! He obviously responded to their fuller information about Jesus.

Acts 18:27 "he wanted to go across to Achaia" The Greek manuscript D adds "at the urging of Corinthian Christians." He was their kind of preacher (Greek rhetorical style).

"the brethren. . .wrote" Letters of recommendation from one church to another are referred to in Romans 16:1; 2 Corinthians 3:1; and 2 John. This was the early church's way of avoiding false and disruptive traveling preachers.

"he greatly helped those who had believed through grace" There are two ways to understand this phrase.

1. this refers to believers already saved by grace (NASB, NKJV, NRSV, TEV)

2. this refers to God's gracious empowering of Apollos (NJB)

The main verb, helped, (contributed) is an aorist middle indicative. Apollos was a blessing!

The participle "believed" is a perfect active, implying they were already believers. Apollos was functioning as a discipler, not an evangelist, in Corinth.

Acts 18:28 Apollos used the OT in the same way as Peter, Stephen, and Paul. Demonstrating from the OT that Jesus was the Messiah was a recurrent pattern in the sermons to the Jews in Acts (see note at Acts 17:3).


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is Priscilla listed first so often in the New Testament?

2. How did Paul get to know Priscilla and Aquila? Why?

3. Did Priscilla and Aquila ever return to Rome? How do we know?

4. Compare Paul and Apollos' preaching styles.

5. Was Apollos a Christian before he visited with Aquila and Priscilla?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Acts 18". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/acts-18.html. 2021.
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