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11. Living Life In The Extremes

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(Acts 18:1-28)

Second Missionary Journey A.D. 50-52

Paul and Silas were familiar with extremes. One day they were comfortably staying at a prosperous woman’s house; the next day they were beaten and chained in a cold prison, released by an earthquake, and escorted out of town. The Bereans responded to the gospel in large numbers; the Athenians barely gave it their attention. At times, Paul worked as a tentmaker to support himself and others; other times, he was supported by generous gifts so that he could devote himself exclusively to preaching. Paul enters Corinth alone; he leaves accompanied by new co-workers. This has become such a part of his life following Christ that he can say a few years later, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…I can do everything through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13).” Paul practiced learning to be content amidst the extremes of life and discovered those extremes gave him opportunity to reveal Jesus in him. In fact, sometimes Paul voluntarily undertook extreme conditions for the sake of the gospel.

What about you? How do you respond to the extremes of life? Our reactions to those extremes, whether comfort or pain, reveal to those around us the reality of Jesus Christ in our lives. In fact, we discover more about our own hearts as we face the extremes of life—whether we will be faithful to Christ alone in the midst of what the world might consider “success” or “failure.” In each, can we say with Paul, “To live is Christ?”

Read Acts 18:1-28 in one sitting to get the whole picture. Remember to read it selectively—looking for important information. Pray that God would open your heart to the truths He has for you from this text.

Follow Paul’s second missionary journey with this map.

Deeper Discoveries: Using a Bible Dictionary, study notes, an internet search, and/or the introduction to First Corinthians in your Bible, discover the city of Corinth as Paul knew it. What was life like there?

Day One Study

Read Acts 18:1-8.

1. Discovering the Facts: What information does the text give us about Priscilla and Aquila?

Historical Insight: According to Claudius’s historian, the expulsion order was given (in 49 A.D.) because of “their (the Jews’) continual tumults instigated by Chrestus” (a common misspelling of Christ). If “Chrestus” refers to Christ, the riots obviously were “about” him rather than led “by” him. (NIV Study Bible, p. 1681)

2. Read Romans 16:3-4, 1 Corinthians 16:19, and 2 Timothy 4:19 for additional information about these two. Given Paul’s mention of them in later letters, what kind of relationship do you think is forming here in Corinth? See also Acts 18:18-26.

3. In what ways was it a risk for them to take Paul into their home? See 17:5-6 for help.

Historical Insight: Every Jewish man learned a trade as a boy/teen, particularly rabbinical students so they wouldn’t have to charge for their teaching and could model a good work ethic. The gospel of grace is free of charge. Tent making was a portable occupation. Paul’s home province Cilicia was famous for producing goat hair fabric (cilicium) with water repellent properties used for making tents.

4. Share Your Life: God’s gift of the friendship and encouragement from Priscilla and Aquila obviously blessed Paul and his ministry. Read Hebrews 13:24.

§         Do you have friends who do the same for you? How?

§         Are you a friend who does this? Are friends a priority in your life? What will you trust Jesus for in this area of your life? Go ahead and ask Him for that now.

5. Read 2 Corinthians 11:9 and Philippians 4:14-16. What did Silas and Timothy apparently bring with them from Macedonia (v. 5)? How did this help Paul’s ministry?

6. Once again, the Jews opposed the gospel. Read Romans 9:2-5. What would Paul have traded to win them? Nevertheless, what was Paul’s response to those who stubbornly rejected Christ (Acts 18:6)?

Historical Insight: A synagogue ruler was a layman responsible for care of the building and supervising the worship service, calling readers and preachers, and maintaining order. Most had only one ruler. (NIV Study Bible, p. 1503, 1670)

7. What were the results of Paul’s decision?

8. Athens was noted for its culture and learning, Corinth for its commerce and immorality. Which city responded to the gospel more readily? Why do you think that is? Do you see anything similar to this in our culture? Explain.

9. Share Your Life: Do you, like Paul, love someone who stubbornly rejects Christ? Can you force their faith or win them with persuasive arguments? We can always pray for God the Father to draw them to Jesus (John 6:44) and for the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sin and need for righteousness (John 16:8-11). Take a moment to pray with your group for your unsaved loved one(s) and to encourage each other with personal stories of those deemed “unreachable” coming to faith.

Day Two Study

Read Acts 18:9-17.

10. Discovering the facts: List the events in this passage as they occurred.

11. Considering what happened to Paul in Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens, why do you think the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision? What resulted (see v. 11)?

12. What accusations were brought against Paul and why?

Historical Insight: Judaism was an accepted and established belief. Rome did not permit the propagation of new religions. Gallio was admired as a man of exceptional fairness and calmness. From an inscription found at Delphi, it is known that Gallio was proconsul of Achaia in 51-52 A.D. (NIV Study Bible p. 1681)

13. What was Gallio’s ruling on this matter? In what way do you think this ruling might have helped the spread of Christianity? How did this also fulfill Jesus’ promise to Paul (vv. 9-10)?

Deeper Discoveries: Does God still use secular authorities to protect the church and enable the spread of the gospel? Do you know specific examples of this? What does this teach us about God?

14. Paul lived through many extremes during his time in Corinth. He entered the city alone and left accompanied by many friends. He worked day and night to support himself then was supported by others so he could do ministry full-time. Read Philippians 4:11-13 and 2 Corinthians 6:3-10. What did he learn during those times? How did those extremes give opportunity to reveal Jesus’ presence in him and with him?

Scriptural Insight: His time in Corinth, and his experiences with the Corinthian church during the years which followed his departure from Corinth, did much to deepen his human sympathy and to promote his pastoral ministry. (F. F. Bruce, Paul Apostle of the Heart Set Free, p. 248)

15. Share Your Life: What extremes characterize your life? How have these experiences given opportunity to reveal Jesus in you? What word of encouragement have you received from Jesus to help you? Share with your group how they can pray with you.

Day Three Study

Read Acts 18:18-28

16. Share Your Life: Paul’s vow was likely a Nazirite vow (Numbers 6:1-21), often made out of gratitude for past blessings. The Jewish tradition involved temporary abstinence from alcohol and cutting one’s hair. At the end, the shaved hair was offered as a sacrifice at Jerusalem. Can you think of any reason Paul would be grateful during his time in Corinth? What do you do to express your gratefulness to God for His fulfilling His promises to you? Encourage your group by sharing your own gratefulness.

17. Ephesus was the leading commercial city of Asia Minor (modern western Turkey). Previously in Acts 16, Paul was denied entrance into Ephesus. But, now the Holy Spirit is directing him there. Why do you think Paul didn’t stay longer? What did he promise them? What does this tell you about his concern for this area?

18. Share Your Life: This 4-year-long missionary journey officially ended when Paul and Silas returned to Antioch (v. 22) for what we would call today “a furlough.” No doubt, he and Silas “gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them” (Acts 14:27). What a praise service that must have been!! Do you know any missionaries home on furlough? Have you spent time with them, listening to all that God has done through them, and praising Him for that? If you don’t know a missionary on furlough, perhaps contact missionaries supported by your church and ask them to share with you what God has being doing in their lives and ministry so you can rejoice with them.

Paul set out from Antioch on his third missionary trip, revisiting a number of the churches he had planted earlier (18:23) and heading to Ephesus where God had already been at work.

19. Discovering the Facts: Describe Apollos from the information given in the text (18:24-28). What kind of heart did he have?

Historical Insight: Alexandria (Egypt) was the second most important city in the Roman Empire (Ephesus being the third), was a center of culture and education, and had a large Jewish population.

20. What message was Apollos preaching? What was missing in Apollos’s understanding?

21. How and where did Priscilla and Aquila handle this gifted but uninformed man? How did this benefit the spread of the gospel?

22. Share Your Life: When was the last time you had to “correct” someone’s understanding? How can this be done so that bridges rather than walls are built? What is needed from both parties?

Fired Up And Ready For Adventure:

Review the scripture passage covered in this lesson for evidences of the guidance and empowering of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. What will you ask God to do in your life?

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