6. Paul in Greece (Acts 17:16-18:22, 50-52 AD)

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Raphael, detail of ‘St. Paul Preaching in Athens’ (1515), tempera on paper, mounted on canvas, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Raphael, detail of 'St. Paul Preaching in Athens' (1515), tempera on paper, mounted on canvas, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Paul has been jailed, threatened with stoning, and thrown out of three Macedonian cities -- yet has had an exceedingly successful mission, establishing churches that flourish for many years. But the Macedonian mission is over -- at least for now.

6.1. Paul in Athens (Acts 17:16-34)

Escaping Berea ahead of the plots of the Jews of Thessalonica, Paul now travels to the Roman province of Achaia, what we call Greece.

"The men who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible." (Acts 17:15)

Athens is the most important Greek city of ancient times. It carries the legacy of the classical era and is the center for the arts, learning, and philosophy. It is the home of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum, the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy. But by the time Paul visits Athens, it is well past its prime.  The commercial and political center of Greece under the Caesars had shifted to Corinth, 52 miles (84 kilometers) west of Athens.

Dialoging in the Marketplace, the Agora (Acts 17:17-18)

Map: Paul's Ministry in Greece (Achaia) (Acts 17:15-18:22, 50-52 AD)
Map: Paul's Ministry in Greece (Achaia) (Acts 17:15-18:22, 50-52 AD) (larger map)

While it is only a relatively brief narrative in the Book of Acts, the account of Paul teaching in the Areopagus is significant because it highlights one of Paul's challenges in communicating the gospel in a completely Greek setting. First, however, as is his custom, Paul speaks to the Jews in Athens.

"16  While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17  So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews

and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there." (Acts 17:16-17)

Paul has seen idolatry in the Greek cities many times, but here in Athens it particularly bothers him. "His spirit was aroused within him" (ESV).[199] He has to do something. He begins in the synagogue on the Sabbath dialoging[200] with the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles,[201] as he had in previous cities.  

But he is also a "street preacher" every day in the marketplace, the Agora, proclaiming Jesus to "those who happened to be there."[202] The agora in Athens was a large open space enclosed by civic and religious buildings. The agora in ancient cities was the focal point of political, commercial, and social life. So here, as well as in the synagogue, Paul engages in discussion with the people.

"A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute[203] with him. Some of them asked, 'What is this babbler[204] trying to say?' Others remarked, 'He seems to be advocating foreign gods.' They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection." (Acts 17:18)

The Epicureans might be described as a philosophical point of view that considered happiness, or the avoidance of pain and emotional disturbance, to be the highest good. They advocated the pursuit of pleasures that can be enjoyed in moderation. The Stoics, on the other hand, taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge, and that the wise live in harmony with the divine reason that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune, pleasure, and pain. To them, Paul's message is just a new philosophy to be explored. 

Paul at the Areopagus (Acts 17:19-21)

"19  Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, 'May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20  You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.' 21  (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)." (Acts 17:19-21)

The Areopagus (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "Mars' hill" (KJV)[205] was originally the place in Athens where trials were held and a council met. Even later, when the council met elsewhere, it retained the name Areopagus. This aristocratic court, venerable from antiquity, exercised some jurisdiction over visitors like Paul.[206] So it seems that Paul is being examined by this council for his religious beliefs.[207]"

"22  Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: 'Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.[208] 23  For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.'" (Acts 17:22-23)

As mentioned in Lesson 3.4, here is an outline of his message.

  1. I see you are very religious (verse 22), a compliment to establish common ground.
  2. I'll tell you about the "unknown god" to whom you have an idol (verse 23), again, establishing common ground. Paul offers to explain something to them which has been previously unknown.
  3. This God made heaven and earth and made you. He doesn't need anything from us; rather, he hopes we'll reach out and find him (verses 24-27a).
  4. You are God's offspring and he is close by each of us (verses 27b-28a, citing a line from the poet Epimenides the Cretan).
  5. God is not a stone idol (verse 27b).
  6. God overlooked such ignorance in the past, but now he calls all to repent (verses 30-31)
  7. For all will be judged justly by the One God appoints: Jesus (verses 31a, 18)
  8. To prove this, he raised Jesus from the dead (verses 31b, 18)

As discussed about contextualizing the gospel in Lesson 3.4, when addressing complete pagans, Paul doesn't look for common ground in the story of Abraham, as he does in a synagogue setting. Rather he seeks to establish common ground in their common quest for God. Then he contextualizes his message and teaches about the one God, who is Creator of all, One who transcends temples and temple service. Who is not an image fashioned by men; rather a Person in whose image we are created.

6.2 How God Judges Those Who Have Never Heard

One question I am often asked is: How will God judge those who have never heard the gospel and thus have no chance to be saved? Paul's teaching in Athens gives some insights, as well as his letter to the Romans, though some of this is shrouded in mystery.

God Is Close to All (Acts 17:27-28)

I am fascinated that Paul the Jew has the insight that God is indeed very close to these Gentiles, these rank pagans, and that God desires that they seek after him and find him.

"27  God did this so that men would seek[209] him and perhaps[210] reach out for[211] him and find[212] him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28  'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'" (Acts 17:27-28)

In Romans, Paul explains that God has given humans clear clues in nature -- and holds us responsible to learn from them.

"19  What may be known about God is plain to [all people], because God has made it plain to them. 20  For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:19-20)

Yet there remains in even rank pagans some semblance of a conscience, however, mutated.

"14  When Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15  since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them." (Romans 2:14-15)

And God loves them! Even in nature, it is possible gain some understanding of God and to act on that knowledge. Part of God's plan is to save even the Gentiles. To his servant Israel, God says:

"I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." (Isaiah 49:6)

As Jesus said,

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Yet, without faith, without repentance, both the Gentiles and the Jews are lost.

Overlooking Past Ignorance (Acts 17:30)

Paul doesn't hesitate to tackle the subject of repentance and judgment as he speaks to the sophisticated Gentiles in Athens  -- a subject that many preachers studiously avoid in our day.

"30  In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31  For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31)

Verse 30 is fascinating, that God has overlooked past ignorance. The verb "overlooked" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "winked at" (KJV) means "to indulgently take no notice of, overlook, disregard, not attend to."[213] We see this idea elsewhere, as well.

"In the past, he let all nations go their own way." (Acts 14:16)

"In his forbearance (anochē[214]) he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished" (Romans 3:25b)

"Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance (anochē) and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:4)

This doesn't mean that God doesn't count the unbelief of the pagans as sin. Indeed, they are responsible for some knowledge of the Creator visible in nature and for suppressing it (Romans 1:18-25). They are sinful and many of their acts degraded and despicable in God's eyes (Romans 1:29-31). All have sinned; all are culpable (Romans 2:2, 12; 3:23). Yet, God has not yet brought down the hammer of judgment, so to speak, as he had in the flood, leaving only Noah and his family. God yet leaves an opportunity to repent, to change one's mind, to turn to him. As Peter puts it:

"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief...." (2 Peter 3:9-10a).

For those who have not heard, there is a time of overlooking sin. Yet, for those who have heard the message of Christ, there is a special urgency. To the Pharisees, Jesus says,

"If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." (John 9:41)

Truth is wonderful. It can set us free if we embrace it. But it becomes our judge if we reject it (John 8:31-32).

There remains somewhat of a mystery of how exactly how God will judge the pagans who have never heard the gospel (Romans 2:12-16). But for those who have heard the gospel, there is no excuse. That is why Paul is so strong to the Athenians:

"30  In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31  For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed." (Acts 17:30-31a)

Though we don't understand exactly how God judges those who have never heard the gospel, yet we know that Jesus is "the man he has appointed." Jesus is the only door we know to salvation (Acts 4:12); we must declare Jesus as the answer.

Q1. (Acts 17:27-31; Romans 1:19-20; 2:14-15; Acts 4:12) How close is God to non-believers? Is he working in them? Since God shows forbearance for sins of non-believers, why do Christians act so judgmental? How should we act? Is faith in Jesus necessary for salvation?

Preaching the Resurrection (Acts 17:31-34)

The key element of Paul's preaching here, indeed, of his whole gospel, as we will see, is the fact of the resurrection of Jesus (which we'll explore further at the end of this lesson). And resurrection catches the Athenians' attention.

"32  When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered,[215] but others said, 'We want to hear you again on this subject.' 33  At that, Paul left the Council." (Acts 17:32-33a)

Paul's speech before the Areopagus is mildly successful.

"A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others." (Acts 17:34)

The most fertile soil, of course, is among the God-fearers, and their friends and family. But Paul declares the gospel wherever God gives him opportunity.

6.3. Ministry at Corinth (50-52 AD; Acts 18:1-22)

Map: Paul's Ministry in Greece (Achaia) (Acts 17:15-18:22, 50-52 AD)
Map: Paul's Ministry in Greece (Achaia) (Acts 17:15-18:22, 50-52 AD) (larger map)

Having escaped persecution in Macedonia, Paul has been in Athens, explaining the gospel both in the synagogue and marketplace, awaiting the arrival of Silas and Timothy, who had stayed behind in Macedonia. Now he travels west about 51 miles (83 kilometers) to Corinth.

In Paul's day, Corinth was vastly different than Athens. While Athens was still considered the leader in philosophy and the arts, Corinth bustled with commerce and government. War had caused Athens to shrink from a large population in classical times to perhaps 10,000 in Paul's day. On the other hand, Corinth's inhabitants numbered in the hundreds of thousands, making it one of the largest cities of its time.

Map: Isthmus of Corinth, which connects the Peloponnesian peninsula to the Greek mainland.
Map: Isthmus of Corinth, which connects the Peloponnesian peninsula to the Greek mainland. (larger map)

Corinth's location was ideal for commerce, only one and a half miles south of the Isthmus of Corinth, a narrow land bridge (only 3.9 miles, 6.3 kilometers wide) that connects the Peloponnesian peninsula to the Greek mainland.

The port of Lechaeum was on the Ionian Sea to the west. The port of Cenchreae connected Corinth to the Aegean Sea to the east. In 1893, the Corinth Canal was dug through the Isthmus connecting the Aegean Sea to the Ionian Sea. But in Paul's day, all goods continuing on must be unpacked and transported by land to the opposite port. Thus Corinth became prosperous from trade -- both the trade moving by sea east and west, but also north and south between Greece and the Peloponnesus.

Ruins of the Temple of Apollo, dating to the sixth century BC, can still be seen. Shops and monuments lining the Agora, larger than the Forum in Rome, also persist. The Temple of Asclepius, the god of healing, was built on the north edge of the city. To the south, the Acro-Corinthian fortress at the height of 1,886 feet (575 meters) could control all the trade routes.

At its peak stood the Temple of Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, where 1,000 female prostitutes served, contributing to the city's reputation for immorality. In fact, the coined Greek word "to Corinthianize" meant to practice immorality and the phrase "Corinthian girl" designated a prostitute.

Conquered and destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, Julius Caesar had re-founded Corinth as a Roman colony in 46 AD. In 27 AD, it became the seat of government for the Roman province of Achaia.[216] As a Roman colony, its citizens were primarily Romans, perhaps freedmen from Italy, but its population also included Greeks and a sizable Jewish community. As a chief trade center, it would become a strategic base of operations for Paul, since he would meet and minister to many people travelling through, causing the gospel to spread even farther, an international crossroads for commerce, ideas, cultures, and religions -- a prime spot to begin a Christian church.

The Tentmaking Trade

"1  After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2  There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3  and because he was a tentmaker[217] as they were, he stayed and worked with them." (Acts 18:1-3)

Tentmaking, of course, involves making and repairing tents. Tents might have been made from leather or animal hair,[218] but in Paul's day it seems that most tents were made from leather.[219] A "tentmaker" might also be skilled in crafting other leather products. Though we might think of tents as recreational gear, in Paul's day they were used widely and were in demand throughout the Roman Empire and beyond.

Roman armies in the field were sheltered in eight-man leather tents. In addition, centurions and officers would have their own tents. Leather tents would be made from sewing hides together with poles cut to length, and were transported by mules. Nomads, on the other hand, such as modern-day Bedouins, used woven tents made from either goat or camel hair, supported by poles and ropes. In addition, travelers and traders would need tents. Closer to home, awnings would be needed to enable people to work out of the sun.

As a boy, Paul was probably apprenticed to his father. As he grew older, he would continue the trade, since Torah students and teachers were not salaried positions. Rabbis earned their living by other means. It's likely that Paul's father didn't just repair and sell tents to Jews, but to Gentiles as well, giving Paul a clear glimpse into Gentile cultures, even though he was raised in an observant Jewish home.[220]

Tentmaking was demanding work.

"You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions." (Acts 20:34)

"We work hard with our own hands." (1 Corinthians 4:12)

"We worked night and day, laboring and toiling." (2 Thessalonians 3:8; cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:9)

Paul is a scholar and teacher, but isn't above what some might look down on as "menial work." In fact, he seems to glory in it.

Paul's Work Ethic

However, Paul isn't working at his trade only to earn money to support himself and his mission. He sees it as an example to the believers. The Church in Thessalonica, for example, had some trouble with lazy people trying to free-load off the church's generosity. Paul instructs them in both his letters to them, especially in the second letter:

"6  In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle[221] and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7  For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle[222] when we were with you, 8  nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9  We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. 10  For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'If a man will not work, he shall not eat.'" (2 Thessalonians 3:6-10)

Paul sets a deliberate pattern of work, of supporting himself, so he is a strong example to those who would take advantage of Christian benevolence. He had a right to support from the church (verse 9), but did not exercise it because setting an example was more important.

Later, in the Church at Ephesus there are some new believers who had been making their living stealing and don't know any other way of life. Paul commands them:

"He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need." (Ephesians 4:28)

Some of the churches seem to have had a problem with widows, who had nothing to do but gossip (1 Timothy 5:13). Though there weren't many respectable jobs available for widows (or single women for that matter), the widows are not to be idle, but to be involved in "doing good deeds" (1 Timothy 5:10), what we might call volunteering to help others.

Paul's Example of Hard Work (Acts 20:34-35)

As Paul is about to complete his Third Missionary Journey, he speaks to the Ephesian elders about his ministry.

"34  You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35  In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:33-35)

When you read 1 and 2 Corinthians, you realize that Paul is roundly criticized by some for his tent-making enterprise, rather than asking the church for money to live on (1 Corinthians 9:4-15). He establishes his right to receive help from the church, but then deliberately doesn't exercise that right. Rather, he is trying to:

1. Set an example of hard work to support oneself and one's own family, rather than depending upon others to do it for you (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9; 1 Timothy 4:8), as mentioned above.

2. Set an example of giving to the poor and weak in the community, "that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak (Acts 20:35a), and "to have something to share with anyone in need" (Ephesians 4:28). Paul teaches them that giving is more important than getting (Acts 20:35b). Almsgiving was a strong value in Judaism and Christianity, but not so much in the Greek world.

3. Set an example of not coveting money. "I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing (Acts 20:33), which is a big problem in all cultures! The Prosperity Gospel sounds good on the surface, and has elements of truth, but much of its appeal is based on greed.[223] Raw greed. This is the same motivation that drives gambling. I don't see Paul setting an example of riding in the finest chariot in the whole city to demonstrate how good God is to him!

4. To receive a reward for his ministry. We often find this concept of "rewards" difficult to understand. But Paul says that preaching the gospel won't bring him a reward -- he does that out obedience. But preaching it "free of charge" will bring God's blessing to him (1 Corinthians 9:16-18).

If the members of Paul's churches see Paul as their "employee," he can't teach them some of these things very effectively; rather, Paul believes he can disciple them better by being financially independent. Not all churches need to learn the same lessons. Some churches today need to learn to support their pastors generously and lovingly, rather than parsimoniously (that is, driven by twin motives of greed and power, that is, a desire for control).

Bi-Vocational Ministry

In our day, "tentmaker" is used to refer to a bi-vocational pastor. In America, this is sometimes looked down on as a kind of second-class level of pastor. "Full-time Christian ministry" is touted as the standard. But that is more a product of our wealth than our devotion to the Bible. Outside the US, bi-vocational pastors are the norm. Indeed, the Church is growing world-wide primarily through bi-vocational pastors rather than full-time, paid pastors. Being a tentmaker is an honorable calling! It is difficult and hard on families, but definitely the way God is leading most pastors. Indeed, bi-vocational, tent-making pastors are changing the world for Christ! And bi-vocational pastors are out in their communities as known and trusted entities, able to meet people in the course of their work and evangelize.

Q2. (Acts 18:3; 20:34-35; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10; 1 Corinthians 4:12) Why does Paul earn his living by skilled labor rather than through offerings from the church? Why do you think Christians believe that "full-time Christian ministry" is better than bi-vocational ministry? What lessons did Paul teach the believers by his example of working for his living?

Aquila and Priscilla

We've spent some time discussing tent-making and bi-vocational ministry, but now let's get back to the narrative. The context is Paul in Corinth, and Aquila and Priscilla.

"2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3  and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them." (Acts 18:2-3)

Pontus is a territory in northeast Asia Minor lying along the south shore of the Black Sea. It lay within the Roman province of Bythinia-Pontus.

Aquila and Priscilla are Jews. As Jews, they had been forcibly ejected from Rome sometime between 41 and 53 AD, perhaps in 49 AD. The cause of the expulsion isn't fully clear. Roman historian Suetonius (69-122 AD), in his Life of Claudius, states:

"Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome."[224]

Perhaps this refers to Jewish riots in response to the spread of Christianity in Rome. We're just not sure.

We do know that Aquila and Priscilla move around a lot. As mentioned, Aquila was a native of Pontus. The Scripture records some of their sojourns. They are in Rome twice (Acts 18:2; Romans 16:3), in Corinth (Acts 18:2), and in Ephesus twice (Acts 18:19, 26; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19). They host a church in their home in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:19) and are instrumental in helping Apollos, a follower of John the Baptist, to embrace Jesus as the Messiah (Acts 18:26). Paul calls them "my fellow workers in Christ" (Romans 16:3) and they seem to be part of his apostolic team, especially while in Corinth and Ephesus.

It isn't clear whether they were Christians before Paul met them, but if they had been, you'd expect Luke to tell us that fact. More likely, Paul leads them to Christ as they work together sewing tents. This is a great example of what some call "friendship evangelism," evangelism that occurs among acquaintances during the normal course of life. Who are you close to at work or in various organizations? Perhaps God has set this up so you might point some people to Christ!

Every Sabbath in the Synagogue (Acts 18:4)

With fellow Jews Aquila and Priscilla, Paul goes each Sabbath to the synagogue in Corinth.

"Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks." (Acts 18:4)

"Reasoned" (NIV) is dialegomai (which we've already seen), "to engage in speech interchange, converse, discuss, argue."[225]

Paul follows his chief strategy in a new city: teach and reason from the scriptures in the Jewish synagogue until those who oppose him kick him out of the synagogue -- after he has won some of the Jews and Greek "God-fearers" to Christ. And so it happens in Corinth.

"5  When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. 6  But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive,[226] he shook out his clothes[227] in protest and said to them, 'Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility.[228] From now on I will go to the Gentiles.'" (Acts 18:5-6)

Notice that Paul feels a clear responsibility to declare Christ to his fellow Jews. Though he is an apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 1:29; Romans 11:13), for Paul, preaching to the Jews comes first -- "to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16b).

Paul's full-time preaching begins when Timothy and Silas come from Macedonia. His opportunity to preach full-time for now might have been for one or both of the following reasons:

  1. Silas and Timothy bring offerings from the churches in Macedonia to help support the apostolic mission (2 Corinthians 11:8; Philippians 4:15-16).
  2. Silas and Timothy began to work themselves, freeing Paul to minister full time at this point. It seems like other members of the apostolic team in addition to Paul work to support themselves and the team (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 9:6).

A House Church Next Door to the Synagogue (Acts 18:7-8)

When Paul is excluded from the synagogue, a major disruption takes place, since many Gentile God-fearers and some Jews -- even the synagogue president -- have become believers. So these synagogue-rejects begin a house-church next door.

"7  Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8  Crispus, the synagogue ruler,[229] and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized." (Acts 18:7-8)

House Churches

House churches are the primary way the church manifests itself in the first century (and today in many areas, such as China). Economically, house churches make gathering the church feasible in nearly any situation.

There aren't any dedicated church buildings in Paul's day, though Paul rents a lecture hall in Ephesus (Acts 19:9). Most congregations meet in the largest homes of the people in the Christian community -- typically in homes of wealthier members. Because of the limited space in a home, many of the larger Christian communities would meet in multiple gatherings across a city. Together, the house churches across greater Corinth will constitute the Church at Corinth.

We see several instances in the New Testament of gatherings or churches meeting in homes:

  • Mary, the mother of Mark in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12).
  • Lydia of Thyatira, a seller of purple cloth in Philippi (Acts 16:40).
  • Priscilla and Aquila, Jewish tentmakers, and part of Paul's apostolic band, in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:19) and in Rome (Romans 16:3-5).
  • Nympha in Laodicea, near Colossae (Colossians 4:14).
  • Philemon and Apphia in Colossae (Philemon 2).

In addition to these mentioned in the New Testament, there are doubtless thousands of others not mentioned. Perhaps God will use your home to host believers in a kind of house-church, or as a place where unbelievers can come to know our Christ. The spiritual gift of hospitality is one of the gifts the Spirit has given to facilitate this.

When I was in Nairobi, Kenya a decade ago, God showed me a model of a bishop who trained house-church leaders on Sundays, who then led literally hundreds of house-churches across the city during the week, with only occasional whole-church gatherings. Many thousands of people are touched each and every week through this ministry.

Q3. (Acts 18:7) How important are the economics of house-churches and bi-vocational ministry in the rapid spread of the first century church? What are the advantages of a house-church model? What are the weaknesses?

Encouragement in a Time of Fear (Acts 18:8b-11)

God greatly blesses Paul's ministry in Corinth.

"Many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized." (Acts 18:8b)

But wherever God is working, Satan also attacks. As we read between the lines in this passage, we see that Paul is acutely aware of the dangers in Corinth. After all, he has already suffered numerous beatings and imprisonments, as well as stoning (Acts 16:22; 2 Corinthians 11:23-25). He bears the scars of violence in his body (Galatians 6:17). Sometimes we think of Paul as fearless. But that's not accurate. He experiences fear, but overcomes it with faith and courage. It is God who encourages him.

 "9  One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: 'Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10  For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.' 11  So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God." (Acts 18:9-11)

Paul obeys. He keeps speaking in spite of the threats of violence. And God blesses him with a long and very fruitful ministry (50 AD to Summer 52 AD).

Jewish Attack before the Proconsul (Acts 18:12-18)

Paul's fears are not unfounded. The Jews who don't believe in Jesus hate him and the gospel. So the Jews accuse him before Gallio, proconsul or chief Roman official of the Roman province of Achaia (in office 51 to 52 AD). They charge that he "is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law" (Acts 18:13). It seems ridiculous, since the Jews themselves taught beliefs contrary to the Roman pagan worship of the many traditional Roman gods (and their Greek counterparts). Gallio recognizes it for what it is and rejects their claim as religious differences. "Settle the matter yourselves," he says, and throws them out of court. Then the mob attacks Sosthenes, the new synagogue president, and beats him in front of Gallio, who does nothing.

As a result of God's protection, protection that the Lord had promised Paul, his enemies aren't able to harm him or shorten his ministry in Corinth.

"Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila." (Acts 18:18a)

Paul leaves Corinth probably in the spring of 52 AD, stopping briefly at Ephesus, where Priscilla and Aquila take up residence. Then Paul continues on to Antioch, completing his Second Missionary Journey. From there he goes to Jerusalem (Acts 20:18-22).

 "I have many people in this city" (Acts 18:10b)

But before we leave Corinth, let's observe a few interesting verses. I love the Lord's encouragement to Paul when he is fearful, which is a kind of prophecy:

"I have many people in this city." (Acts 18:10b)

The Lord here is speaking about believers proleptically, before the fact of their conversion. But in God's mind they are already his people for he has predestined them. (For more on Predestination see Lesson 4.4).

Paul's Jewish Vow (Acts 18:18b)

Map: Isthmus of Corinth, which connects the Peloponnesian peninsula to the Greek mainland.
Map: Isthmus of Corinth, which connects the Peloponnesian peninsula to the Greek mainland. (larger map)

"Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken." (Acts 18:18)

What is this? It seems so utterly Jewish? [Smile] Yes, we must remember that Paul is a Jew and always will be. He lives in the Jewish quarter, he worships at the synagogue (until they eject him), and when he goes to Jerusalem, he worships in the temple there. Yes, Paul is a Jew, but he is a Jew whom God has touched with his Spirit, and he lives in the reality of Jesus the resurrected Messiah. If you will, Paul is a Messianic Jew.

Cenchrea is the port city for Corinth that faces the Aegean Sea, on the east side of the Isthmus of Corinth. It is from here Paul sails across the Aegean to Ephesus.

Cutting his hair probably reflects terminating a temporary Nazirite vow (Numbers 6:1-21), during which he had let his hair grow long. A Mishna tractate indicates that burning of the hair on the altar was seen as an offering to God.[230]  We see something similar in Acts 21:23-24.[231] This may have been an act of thanksgiving for God's blessing on his ministry while in Corinth, an act of grace, of seeking intimacy with God.[232]

Paul completes his Second Missionary Journey. It has been a long and productive one, with ministry to churches in Galatia -- Lystra, Derbe, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia -- then on to Macedonia -- Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. From there Paul goes to the great cities of Achaia (Greece) -- Athens, briefly, and then a year and a half in Corinth. After that he stops briefly in Ephesus, then on to Caesarea and Antioch of Syria, to his home church, the believers that sent him out four years previously.

Strengthening the Church at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:2-4)

This year-and-a-half of peaceful ministry in Corinth isn't entirely focused on the Corinthians themselves. Paul is also writing letters to other churches and directing ministry to establish his previous church plants.

Paul's two letters to the Thessalonian church seem to have been written around this time. You can see his pastoral concern for this church that is suffering persecution.

"We boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring." (2 Thessalonians 1:4)

He also sends Timothy to disciple them.

"2  We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3  so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 4  In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know." (1 Thessalonians 3:2-4)

Note carefully Timothy's mission:

"To strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials." (1 Thessalonians 3:2b-3a)

This is what pastors do. This is what more mature believers do when they disciple younger Christians. They come alongside, they teach, they encourage, they provide an example of faith, a living illustration of a lifestyle that flows from faith. The Greek words used here are interesting:

  • "Strengthen" (NIV, NRSV), "establish" (ESV, KJV) is stērizō, "to fix firmly in a place, set up, establish, support," then, by extension, "to cause to be inwardly firm or committed, confirm, establish, strengthen."[233]
  • "Encourage" (NIV, NRSV), "exhort" (ESV), "comfort" (KJV) is parakaleō, literally, "to come alongside." Depending upon the context it can mean "encourage," "exhort," and "comfort."[234] And since the noun form is a title of the Holy Spirit, it is variously translated, "Comforter," "Counselor," "Helper." In fact, sometimes when we've been hurt, we need comfort. Other times when we get lazy or off the path, we need exhortation, a good verbal "kick in the pants."

Perhaps you have some believers you're working with. God bless you in it! You have Paul's heart!

6.4. Resurrection

Resurrection is one of the key issues in Athens. And, as we'll see, in Corinth and Thessalonica too. It is the key truth of the gospel. If the resurrection of Jesus from the dead has actually occurred, then the rest of the gospel is true -- that Jesus died for our sins, that he sends his Holy Spirit, that he is coming to bring us to glory and to bring final justice to our corrupt world.

Resurrection in Early Preaching

The resurrection of Jesus is key in the preaching of the early apostles -- in Jerusalem, less than 10 days after Jesus' ascension.

  • Peter: "But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." (Acts 2:24)
  • Peter: "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact." (Acts 2:31)
  • Peter: "You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this." (Acts 3:15)
  • Sadducees: "They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead." (Acts 4:2)
  • Peter: "It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed." (Acts 4:10)
  • Apostles: "With great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all." (Acts 4:33)
  • Peter: "The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead -- whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree." (Acts 5:30)
  • Peter at Caesarea: "They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen -- by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead." (Acts 10:39b-41)
  • Paul in of Pisidian Antioch: "But God raised him from the dead." (Acts 13:30)

Resurrection and the Greeks

Judaism in Jesus' day was divided about resurrection. The Sadducees believed that life ended with death, no resurrection. The Pharisees, however, believed in a resurrection on the Last Day.

The Greeks had various views on life after death, but resurrection was not one of them. Death might allow a release of the soul; heroes might find their way to the Elysian fields and perhaps even to the abode of the gods. Some envisioned a conscious blessed state after death. But they didn't believe in resurrection, the undoing of death. Much less a bodily resurrection. After all, the body is mortal and corrupt, they would say. It is the soul that is eternal.

So when Paul proclaims Jesus and his bodily resurrection in Athens, philosophical center of the Greek world, he is met with skepticism and outright derision.

"When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered."[235] (Acts 17:32)

Paul's Teaching on Resurrection in Corinth (1 Corinthians 15)

As we saw earlier in this lesson, after Athens, Paul goes to Corinth. Some of the Corinthian Greeks, even in the church, have trouble accepting the idea of resurrection. Paul addresses this in his first letter to the Corinthians.

First, he declares Jesus' resurrection to be one of the foundational elements of the gospel.

"3  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5  and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8  and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born." (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

Then Paul argues that those who say they don't believe in resurrection of people after they die, have a logical inconsistency when it comes to Jesus.

"12  But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? ... 16  For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." (1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-17)

Either there is resurrection or there isn't. If there isn't, then Christ hasn't been raised. But since Christ has been raised, then there is resurrection for all.

"But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." (1 Corinthians 15:20)

If there is no resurrection, says Paul, then all they have suffered for Christ is a waste of time. Then it is a lie.

"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." (1 Corinthians 15:19)

Resurrection at Christ's Coming (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17)

Paul outlines what to expect.

"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed..." (1 Corinthians 15:51)

That is, our bodies will be changed from mortal, human bodies, to immortal resurrected bodies. And it will happen instantly!

"51b ... We will all be changed --52  -- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51b-52)

Here's hope for those who are moldering in the grave, or lost at sea, or whose ashes are scattered to the winds. Suddenly, their bodies will be reintegrated and they will be changed into resurrected bodies, raised from the dead. Concerning those who are alive at that time, Paul writes, "we will be changed." That is, our bodies will change from living mortal bodies into immortal resurrection bodies without having to go through death.

From Corinth, Paul wrote the Thessalonian church that also seems to be having questions about the resurrection. They had been expecting the resurrection any time, but now some in the congregation had died. What about them? Paul writes:

"13  Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14  We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." (1 Thessalonians 5:13-14)

The language sounds like the dead are with Jesus now, in spirit though not in physical body. We catch occasional glimpses of them in Revelation, before the resurrection. For example, John sees, "the souls of those who have been slain," dwelling under the altar, crying "How long?" (Revelation 6:9-10). Later, we read:

"13  Then one of the elders asked me, 'These in white robes -- who are they, and where did they come from?' 14  I answered, 'Sir, you know.' And he said, 'These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'" (Revelation 7:13-14)

Now back to 1 Thessalonians 4. Paul is talking about what will happen to those are dead when Christ comes.

"14b ... God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15  According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first." (1 Thessalonians 4:14b-16)

The dead will rise first, then those living at the time of Jesus' return will be raised.

"After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

These verses have given Christian believers hope across the centuries. But, of course, they have raised all sorts of questions, and given rise to wild speculation about the details. Pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-tribulation? Pre-millennial, post-millennial? (Don't worry if you don't understand these terms.) I have my opinions, but they're not too important. God will work it out in his time and in his way, whatever some prophetic teacher might say!

The bottom line is that the Bible teaches that not only was Jesus raised from the dead physically, but that there will be a physical resurrection when Christ returns. The dead are with Christ now and they will be raised -- with us -- when Christ returns!

Q4. (1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17) How important was belief in a bodily resurrection to the gospel that Paul taught? Why is Christ's resurrection foundational to our faith? What will happen when we die? When Christ comes?

Be Steadfast, Immovable, Always Abounding (1 Corinthians 15:58)

I love the way Paul concludes this teaching. To the Thessalonian church, he writes:

"Therefore encourage each other with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:18)

To the Corinthian church, Paul writes (in the phrasing of the Revised Standard Version):

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58, RSV)

Death isn't the last word. Resurrection is! Your work in the Lord doesn't disappear when you die. You continue to live with him; your labors in Christ are written in God's record. One day Christ will return and your body will be raised imperishable! Christ is risen and you, too, will rise.

Many years ago I memorized this verse and have since often pondered it. Because of our hope in Christ's coming and resurrection we are commanded to:

  • "Be steadfast" -- being firmly or solidly in place, firm, steadfast."[236]
  • "Be immovable" -- "not to be moved from its place, unmoved"; metaphorically, "firmly persistent."[237]
  • "Always abounding in the work of the Lord." The verb means here, "be outstanding, be prominent, excel."[238]

Why? Because you know that "in the Lord your labor is not in vain," that is, "empty," here, "pertaining to being without purpose or result, in vain."[239] What you do for Christ counts eternally!

Lessons for Disciples

When Paul moves from Macedonia to Greece (Achaia), he encounters some new challenges and victories. Here are some lessons that disciples can learn from this period of his ministry.

  1. Paul dialogs in the marketplace with any who will listen (Acts 17:16-17). In our day, that might shift to conversations in coffee shops or outdoor venues. We need to bring visibility to the gospel, not let it just hide in church buildings.
  2. Greek philosophers struggled to understand Paul's preaching on the resurrection, due to their beliefs about the superiority of the spirit over the body. Nevertheless, Paul declared the resurrection (Acts 17:18). We need to keep declaring the resurrection today, even though our culture isn't acutely interested in the subject.
  3. To present the gospel, Paul starts from common ground -- in this case, an acknowledgement that there may be a god who is "unknown" to them (Acts 17:22-23). In our conversations with non-Christians, we need to be sensitively listening to the Spirit for common ground and natural "jumping off points" to talk about Jesus and the gospel.
  4. God is at work in non-believers through his Holy Spirit, for "he is not far from each one of us," says Paul (Acts 17:27). Non-believers have a conscience that can help them do right, even if they haven't heard the gospel (Romans 2:14-15). We shouldn't judge unbelievers by their sins, but rather look for where God is at work in them.
  5. God delays judgment out of his mercy (Acts 14:16; Romans 2:4; 3:25b). His desire is that all be saved and know the truth (2 Peter 3:9-10). So we must keep evangelizing while there is still time.
  6. Paul works bi-vocationally as a tent-maker for several reasons: (a) to earn money to live and for others on his mission, (b) to set an example to people that preachers work hard and aren't idle, (c) to set an example of giving and not coveting money, and (d) to gain a reward for preaching "free of charge" (1 Corinthians 9:16-18). We must forsake a value system that promotes full-time Christian workers as more important than bi-vocational ministers (Acts 18:3; 20:34-35; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10; 1 Corinthians 4:12).
  7. House churches are one way the Christian church manifests itself today. Economically, it makes gathering the church feasible in nearly any situation. (Acts 18:7-8)
  8. One role of traveling ministers is to strengthen and encourage believers in their faith (1 Thessalonians 3:2-4).
  9. A bodily resurrection is one of the core teachings of the New Testament -- both Christ's resurrection and our own on the Last Day (1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessalonians 5:13-16).

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Father, thank you for the faithfulness of your servants -- Paul and his successors through the ages, who have declared your good news and patiently encouraged and strengthened the believers, often at great personal risk. Help us to have the same kind of gritty commitment to serve you no matter what Satan throws in our path. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Key Verses

"In him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28, NIV)

"What may be known about God is plain to [all people], because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:19-20, NIV)

"When Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them." (Romans 2:14-15, NIV)

"You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:33-35, NIV)

"One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: 'Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.' So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God." (Acts 18:8b-11, NIV)

"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born." (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, NIV)

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58, RSV)


[199] The phrase, "greatly/deeply distressed" (NIV, NRSV) is more literally "his spirit was provoked" (ESV), "his spirit was stirred" (KJV), speaking, I think, of his human spirit. The verb is paroxynō (from which we get the English word "paroxysm" -- a fit, attack, outburst). It means, "to cause a state of inward arousal, urge on, stimulate," especially, "provoke to wrath, irritate" (BDAG 780)

[200] "Reasoned" (NIV, ESV), "argued" (NRSV), "disputed" (KJV) is dialegomai, "to engage in speech interchange, converse, discuss, argue" (BDAG 232, 1).

[201] Literally, "the ones worshipping" (sebō). The term is "applied to former polytheists who accepted the ethical monotheism of Israel and attended the synagogue, but who did not obligate themselves to keep the whole Mosaic law; in particular, the males did not submit to circumcision" (BDAG 918, 1b).

[202] The verb is paratynchanō, "happen to be near/present" (BDAG 772), a compound verb from para-, "by the side of, ready, present, at hand" + tynchanō, "to happen, turn out."

[203] "Dispute" (NIV), "conversed" (ESV), "debated" (NRSV), "encountered" (KJV) is symballō, from syn-, "together" + ballō, "to throw," thus, "to throw together, bring together" (Thayer, p. 595). Here it means, "to engage in mutual pondering of a matter, converse, confer" (BDAG 956, 1). It can also indicate conflict, but here it probably doesn't have this connotation.

[204] "Babbler" is spermologos, literally, "picking up seeds," as a bird. In pejorative imagery, it is used of persons whose communication lacks sophistication and who seem to pick up scraps of information here and there, "scrapmonger, scavenger." English synonyms include "gossip," "babbler," "chatterer," but these terms miss the imagery of unsystematic gathering (BDAG 937).

[205] "Areopagus" is formed from two Greek words, areios, "belonging to Ares (Mars) + pagos, "hill" (Thayer, p. 72).

[206] Bruce, Acts, pp. 351-352.

[207] D. H. Madvig, "Areopagus," ISBE 1:288.

[208] "Very religious" (NIV, ESV), "extremely religious" (NRSV), "too superstitious" (KJV) is deisidaimonesteros, is a compound adjective with a comparative suffix, from deidō, "to fear" + daimōn, "deity." It can be used either in a denigrating sense, as "superstitious" (KJV), or in a positive sense, as "devout, religious." Here it must mean, "you are a very devout people" (BDAG 216).

[209] "Seek" is zēteō, "try to find something, seek, look for" in order to find (BDAG 428, 1b).

[210] "And perhaps" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "if haply" (KJV) is three words, the interrogative conditional particle ei, "whether" (Thayer, p. 170, II) + ara, transitional/inferential (illative) particle, used here to express something tentative, "perhaps, conceivably" (BDAG 127, 3) + ge, an enclitic particle that strengthens the force of other particles it is used in conjunction with. There is no consistent translation of ge, but Thayer suggests, "and truly, yea indeed, yea and" (Thayer, p. 111, 3b).

[211] "Reach out for" (NIV), "grope for" (NRSV), "feel their way towards" (ESV), "feel after" (KJV) is psēlaphaō, "feel (about for), grope after." Here, "to look for something in uncertain fashion, to feel around for, grope for." BDAG translates his clause, "if perhaps (=in the hope that) they might grope for him and find him" (BDAG 1097, 2).

[212] "Find" is heuriskō, "to come upon something either through purposeful search or accidentally, find," here, "to discover intellectually through reflection, observation, examination, or investigation, find, discover" (BDAG 412, 2).

[213] Hyperoraō, BDAG 1034, 2; Thayer, p. 640.

[214] "Forbearance" is anochē, literally, "a holding back," here, "the act of being forbearing, forbearance, clemency, tolerance" (BDAG 86, 3).

[215] "Sneered" (NIV), "scoffed" (NRSV), "mocked" (ESV, KJV) is chleuazō, "to engage in mockery, mock, sneer, scoff" (BDAG 1085, 1).

[216] Donald H. Madvig, "Corinth," ISBE 1:772-774.

[217] "Tentmaker" is skēnopoios, "maker of stage properties," or "tentmaker." Danker has a long article suggesting that "maker of stage properties" is the correct interpretation (BDAG 928, 2). I disagree, and hold to the traditional understanding as "tentmaker." It is improbable that Jews would have followed such a trade due to Jewish attitudes towards theatrical productions.

[218] The Latin word cilicium means "a covering made of goat's har from Cilicia," which was Paul's home province.

[219] W.H. Gloer, "Tentmaker," ISBE 4:792.

[220] I am indebted to N.T. Wright, Paul: A Biography (HarperOne, 2018), p. 15.

[221] "Idle" (NIV), "walking in idleness" (ESV), "living in idleness" (NRSV), "walketh disorderly" (KJV) is two words "walking idly." The adverb is ataktōs, "in defiance of good order, disorderly." The specific manner in which the irresponsible behavior manifests itself is described in the context: freeloading, sponging (BDAG 148).

[222] The verb "idle" (NIV, ESV, ESV), "behaved disorderly" (KJV) is atakteō, "to violate prescribed or recognized order, behave inappropriately" (BDAG 148).

[223] Mark 7:22; Luke 12:15; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5; James 4:2.

[224] Suetonius, Life of Claudius, 25.4.

[225] Dialegomai, BDAG 232.

[226] "Became abusive" (NIV), "reviled" (ESV, NRSV), "blasphemed" (KJV) is blasphēmeō (from which we get our English word, "blaspheme"), primarily, "to demean through speech," an especially sensitive matter in an honor-shame oriented society. "To speak in a disrespectful way that demeans, denigrates, maligns," in relation to humans, "slander, revile, defame" (BDAG 178a).

[227] Shaking out the dust from one's sandals or clothes was a typical Hebraic way of saying that a person is free from responsibility of a person or town (Nehemiah 5:13; Acts 13:51; Matthew 10:14; Luke 9:5; 10:10-11).

[228] "Clear of my responsibility" (NIV), "innocent" (ESV, NRSV), "clean" (KJV) is karthos, "pure," here, "pertaining to being free from moral guilt, pure, free" (BDAG 489, 3a).

[229] Archisynagōgos, "leader/president of a synagogue," in our literature only with reference to the Jewish synagogue, of an official whose duty it was especially to take care of the physical arrangements for the worship services (BDAG 139).

[230] Nazir iv.7.

[231] R.K. Harrison, "Nazarite," ISBE 3:502. Bruce, Acts, pp. 377-378, fn. 42.

[232] Wagner, Acts, pp. 420-421.

[233] Stērizō, BDAG 945, 2. The word is often used in the New Testament, both of the work of the apostles, as well as the inner work of the Holy Spirit. Luke 22:32; Acts 18:23; Romans 1:11; 16:25; 1 Thessalonians 3:2, 13; 2 Thessalonians 2:17; 3:3; 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Peter 1:12; James 5:8; Revelation 3:2.

[234] Parakaleō, BDAG 764-765.

[235] "Sneered" (NIV), "scoffed" (NRSV), "mocked" (ESV, KJV) is chleuazō, "to engage in mockery, mock, sneer, scoff" (BDAG 1085, 1), "deride, mock, jeer" (Thayer, p. 669), from chleuē, "jesting, mockery."

[236] "Be steadfast" (ESV, RSV, NRSV, KJV), "stand firm" (NIV) is hedraios, (BDAG 276). Also found in Colossians 1:23.

[237] "Let nothing move you" (NIV), "immovable" (ESV, RSV, NRSV), "unmoveable" (KJV) is ametakinētos (Thayer, p. 32).

[238] "Give yourselves fully" (NIV), "always abounding" (RSV, ESV, KJV), "always excelling" (NRSV) is perisseuō, "to be in abundance, abound," here, "be outstanding, be prominent, excel" (BDAG 805, 1bβ).

[239] Kenos, BDAG 539, 3. Paul is personally concerned that he doesn't waste his time with people who will ultimately turn away from Christ, so that his labor is "in vain" (Galatians 2:2; Philippians 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 3:5).

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