Acts 18

Acts 18:1 Paul arrives in Corinth

We can only imagine how the New Testament would be different if Paul had never visited the Corinthians. In little more than 18 months, Paul had established a thriving branch of the Church to whom he later wrote landmark epistles. Imagine where we would be without the doctrines contained in the Corinthian epistles! We would not have his instruction on partaking of the sacrament unworthily, the gifts of the Spirit, charity, baptism for the dead, the resurrection and the three degrees of glory, or his vision of Paradise. In many ways, the Corinthian era is one of the most important in Paul's ministry.

The date of Paul's arrival in Corinth is estimated to be about 50 AD. (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul, 82.) The following gives a background of the ancient city-state:

"The ancient Greek city-state of Corinth was strategically located in the center of the isthmus joining northern Greece to the Peloponnesus on the south... Because of its location, it was inseparably connected with the sea and derived its wealth primarily from shipping and trade... eventually Corinth became the leader of the Achaian Confederacy, which came into conflict in the second century B.C. with the expanding military might of Rome. As a result of Roman supremacy and of Corinth's leading role in opposition, the Greek city was captured and burned by Rome in 146 B.C. and its citizens either killed or sold into slavery.

"Therefore the Corinth of Paul's time was not the ancient Greek city but rather a Roman colony founded by decree of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. on the ancient site, which had lain virtually desolate for more than a century. Its new population initially consisted of freedmen from Italy who were soon joined by Greeks and other foreigners, including many Jews, from the East. As in the past, Corinth quickly became an important center of industry and commerce, a center that in A.D. 27 became the capital of the Roman province of Achaia. Like any port city in ancient or modern times, Corinth at the time of Paul had the reputation of being cosmopolitan, worldly, and promiscuous-full of both philosophies and practices from every corner of the world." (David R. Seely, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 6: Acts to Revelation, ed. by Robert L. Millet [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 57 - 58.)

Acts 18:2 Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome

"In A.D. 41, Claudius restored responsibility to the imperial office [as emperor of the Roman Empire], reigning until A.D. 54. These were the years of the dramatic missions of Paul to Asia Minor and Greece. (See Acts 13-18.) The book of Acts indicates that Paul's main enemies then were Jewish conservatives who stirred up mobs and assaulted the successful Christian missionaries. Such agitation brought Paul before city governments and even provincial governors such as Gallio in Corinth. Secular history verifies this climate, for Claudius wrote in one stern letter to Alexandria bitter complaints against Jewish disorders, and the historian Seutonius reported Jewish-instigated riots involving Christians: "Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from Rome." (Claudius 25.) This is evidently the same Jewish expulsion reported in Acts 18:1." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, "The Church and the Roman Empire," Ensign, Sept. 1975, 12)

Acts 18:3 he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers

We are interested to find out Paul's occupation. But more importantly, we see that Paul did not spend all his time preaching, expecting the Church to cover his expenses. The record states that he stayed with Aquila and Priscilla 'and wrought,' or in other words, worked! Paul did not want to be a burden to anyone, as he later explained, 'remember, brethren, our labour and travail...labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you' (1 Thes 2:9). His self-sufficiency is reminiscent of King Benjamin, who said, 'I, myself, have labored with my own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne' (Mosiah 2:14).

"Nowhere is the dignity of labour and the manly independence of honest work more clearly set forth than in [Paul's] Epistles. At Corinth, his first search seems to have been for work (Acts 18:3); and through life he steadily forbore availing himself of his right to be supported by the Church, deeming it his great 'reward' to 'make the Gospel of Christ without charge' (1 Cor. 9:18). Nay, to quote his impassioned language, he would far rather have died of hard work than that any man should deprive him of this 'glorying.'" (Edersheim, Alfred, Sketches of Jewish Social Life) chapter 11.)

Acts 18:6 they opposed themselves

The unwise, in their religious fervor, are often found opposing themselves. Their arguments and logic are contradictory (see commentary for Acts 17:7); they wrest the scriptures to their own destruction (2 Pet 3:16); and their wickedness is in direct opposition to their full potential as sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. Indeed, they have forgotten who they really are-and in doing so, have become their own worst enemy.

Neal A. Maxwell

"Paul also said the ignorance of the everlasting truths would cause unbelievers to be 'alienated from the life of God.' (Ephesians 4:18.) No wonder we despair when we sin, because we act against our own interests and against who we really are. When we are imprisoned by iniquity, we turn the cell lock ourselves." (Things As They Really Are [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 8.)

Acts 18:6 he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads

Ezekiel is the prophet who first taught that a watchman in Israel can be held accountable if they do not faithfully fulfill their responsibility. The Lord warned Ezekiel, 'When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will require at thine hand' (Ezek 3:18, see also 33:1-9). Jacob echoed these words, 'we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments' (Jacob 1:19).

This is the blood that Paul is shaking from his garments. He is ready to absolve himself of responsibility and bring judgment upon these faithless Jews. If the Book of Mormon were available to Paul, he may have used the words of Nephi on this occasion, 'O, my beloved brethren, remember my words. Behold, I take off my garments, and I shake them before you; I pray the God of my salvation that he view me with his all-searching eye; wherefore, ye shall know at the last day, when all men shall be judged of their works, that the God of Israel did witness that I shook your iniquities from my soul, and that I stand with brightness before him, and am rid of your blood' (2 Ne 9:44).

Hugh Nibley

"...he literally shook his garments before them to show that he was free of their blood and was going to leave them and go to the Gentiles. He was through with the Jewish community at Corinth. It's a dramatic gesture. On Mars Hill in Athens the chief priest would shake a scarlet robe when a person was banished, to shake him off and get rid of him. It's like shaking the dust off your feet from a rebellious town or a wicked people." (Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, 1988--1990 [Provo: FARMS] 306.)

Hugh B. Brown

"President John Taylor said on one occasion, speaking to the brethren of the priesthood: 'If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those you might have saved, had you done your duty.'

"This is a challenging statement. If I by reason of sins of commission or omission lose what I might have had in the hereafter, I myself must suffer and, doubtless, my loved ones with me. But if I fail in my assignment as a bishop, a stake president, a mission president, or one of the General Authorities of the Church-if any of us fail to teach, lead, direct, and help to save those under our direction and within our jurisdiction, then the Lord will hold us responsible if they are lost as the result of our failure." (Conference Report, Oct. 1962, p. 84)

Acts 18:9 Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace

Ezra Taft Benson

"How long has it been since you have invited a neighbor to sacrament meeting or to a stake conference, to come into your home for a home evening? How long has it been since you had a real gospel conversation? These are choice experiences. Members of the Church, stake missionaries, full-time missionaries working together is a thrilling experience. (Grantsville Utah Stake Conference, 1 September 1974.)

"The Lord will sustain members in their missionary responsibility if they just have the faith to try. 'Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.' (Acts 18:9-10.) Share with them the joy they will experience by finding and fellowshipping friends and neighbors. (Mission Presidents Seminar, Provo, Utah, 25 June 1986.)

"As a Church, we have not yet caught that missionary vision. Members are not bringing several hundred thousand members into the Church each year. We have not yet met this challenge of a living prophet. We are still on some of the same plateaus." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 210-11.)

Acts 18:10 I have much people in this city

"...Jewish conversions brought intense ill will; Paul was forced to testify plainly and to leave off preaching to Jews. Was he to leave Corinth at this point? He had left three cities in northern Greece in similar circumstances. But a vision of the Lord came in the midst of this genuine need, for there are no pointless miracles in Paul's ministry. The Lord commanded, 'Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city' (Acts 18:9-10, NKJB)...Acts lays the background for the powerful Corinthian drama." (Richard Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 58 - 59.)

Acts 18:18 having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow

Paul had his hair shaved off as the symbolic end of a vow. Anciently, vows or oaths, could be lifelong, as in the case of one who is set apart as a Nazarite (see Bible Dictionary). Alternatively, vows could be temporary, as in this particular case. We do not know the nature of Paul's vow, and it may well have been personal, but the scripture indicates that during the time of the vow, he did not cut his hair according to the Nazarite tradition. Therefore, having his head shorn meant that he was no longer bound by the vow.

"A specific example of a vow was the Nazarite consecration. The Nazarite, literally one 'separated' or 'set apart,' was a person (male or female) who took a vow of holiness, an oath of abstinence from the world. Such a vow could last anywhere from a short period to an entire lifetime. Abstinence from fruit of the vine (e.g., grapes, grape juice, wine, raisins) was enjoined on the initiate. In addition, he was not to cut his hair nor touch a dead person (even a family member) during the time of separation (Num. 6:1-18). Notable Nazarites include Samson (Judg. 13:5), Samuel (1 Sam. 1:11), and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15). It appears that Paul the Apostle also participated in vows of this sort (Acts 18:18)." (Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 3: Genesis to 2 Samuel [Salt Lake City: Randall Book, 1985], 181 - 182.)

Bruce R. McConkie

"As an incentive to greater personal righteousness, it is a wholesome and proper thing for the saints to make frequent vows to the Lord. These are solemn promises to perform some duty, refrain from some sin, keep some commandment, or press forward in greater service in the kingdom. Thus Jacob vowed to accept Jehovah as his God and to pay an honest tithing (Gen. 28:20-22), and Hannah vowed to give Samuel to the Lord for his service. (1 Sam. 1:9-18.)

"The saints should offer their vows both on the Lord's day and on all days (D. & C. 59:8-12); and once offered, they are to be kept. (D. & C. 108:3; Num. 30:2; Eccles. 5:4-5.) When vows are made in righteousness, they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, and the Lord's blessings attend their performance. (D.&C. 132: 7.)" (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., p. 825.)

Acts 18:21 I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem

"Nothing is said in the scriptures about the purpose and events of Paul's visit to Jerusalem and the 'feast' he was so anxious to attend at the end of this second mission. The visit must have been brief. It is barely mentioned in Acts 18:22, which states only that after he had landed at the coastal city of Caesarea, 'and had gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch.' This passage may need some explanation: always in the Bible one goes 'up' to Jerusalem, and 'down' to anywhere else. This is due to the topography of Palestine, Jerusalem being at a high point of about 2,600 feet above sea level. The verse cited means that Paul went from Caesarea to Jerusalem, visited the brethren, and then went on to Antioch...The second missionary journey included a distance of at least three thousand miles and required about two years." (Robert J. Matthews, Behold the Messiah [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1994], 315.)

Acts 18:24-25 Apollos...spake and taught diligently...knowing only the baptism of John

"The need for using latter-day scriptures, including the JST, when interpreting the Bible is illustrated in what I am pleased to call the 'Apollos Principle.' Apollos was a bright and capable man from Alexandria. He was a believer and was very gifted in speech. The following is recorded of him in the book of Acts:

And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. . . .

For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ. (Acts 18:24-26, 28.)

"I will paraphrase the passage so as to illustrate the point:

And a certain teacher, named Apollos, born in Salt Lake City [or anywhere], an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to the Church Educational System.

This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the King James Version.

And he began to speak boldly in the classrooms and in firesides: whom when his supervisors and teacher trainers had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly, using the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, the JST, and the teachings of Joseph Smith and of the living prophets.

And afterwards he mightily convinced the students, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

"We see that the Apollos of the book of Acts had many of the valuable tools and skills helpful to be a great teacher. He was fervent, dedicated, eloquent, and had a knowledge of the scriptures. But as long as he was acquainted with only a portion of the scriptures or of the 'way of God,' he could not employ his great skills to fully benefit the work of the Lord. Similarly, today we need not only eloquence, skill, and dedication; we need the sources, the facts, and the substance of latter-day revelation if we wish to properly teach and interpret the Bible." (Robert J. Matthews, A Bible! A Bible! [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990], 130 - 131.)

Acts 18:26 Aquila and Priscilla are the Church's first couple missionaries

Aquila and Priscilla were tentmakers who hosted Paul while in Corinth (v. 2-3). But when Paul left Corinth, they accompanied him for the rest of his second journey and are found with him at Ephesus. Therefore, we may think of them as the first couple missionaries. Their effectiveness is immediately apparent, for they carefully mold the zeal of Apollos without offending him. Their wisdom and experience allow them to sharpen his skills as a servant of the Lord, expounding 'unto him the way of God more perfectly.' Such are the significant and often silent contributions of couple missionaries ever since.

David B. Haight

"Retired couples have talents and abilities that are often not used after they retire...Serving a mission gives retired people a chance to use their talents and gifts again. They discover that they are truly needed, and as a consequence they find a powerful new sense of direction in life. They joyfully lose themselves in new experiences and opportunities for growth. The reward for those who serve is often renewed health and energy. When they go home, they are filled with the rich spirit of missionary work and a great love for the people they have served." (Couple Missionaries-'A Wonderful Resource,' " Ensign, Feb. 1996, 7)