We’re in Acts 18:18-28 today.
I haven’t watched a soap opera in years but one thing I do remember is that often, they like to leave the viewer with a ‘cliff-hanger’, a story that is unresolved so that you have to catch the next episode to find the end of the story. The BBC production Eastenders was famous for ending each programme in the middle of a crucial event when you would hear the famous drum introduction to the theme tune and know from the first beat, if you wanted to know the ending, you would have to tune in again.
Luke doesn’t do cliff-hangers, he crams material into just a few verses and sometimes we have to take stock and think about what is going on. Last week, Mark reminded us of the huge distances being covered by Paul and his companions. In today’s passage Luke covers the end of the second missionary journey, two arduous sea voyages of hundreds of miles, then a few hundred across land and then the beginning of the third missionary journey involving a trek across what is now Turkey by land, and all in six verses!
Cenchrea was the port near Corinth and it was here that Paul fulfilled a vow by having his hair cut off. We don’t really know what vow Paul had taken but most commentators believe it to be a Nazirite vow (Numbers 6) which was a vow of consecration to God. Paul may have been on the road a long time and endured many hardships but he was still fully committed to following Jesus.
On the journey back to Antioch, Paul spent some time in Ephesus where he parted company with Priscilla and Aquila and where he had planned to visit two years earlier. Paul needed to go back to his home church in Antioch but he was open to visit again if it was the Lord’s will. He spent some time in Antioch, probably less than six months before he was off again on another great missionary journey.
William Carey (1761-1834) is known as the ‘father of modern missions’ and his CV is very impressive but he once said;
“I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”
Someone has said Christianity is like a game of football; thousands of people in need of exercise watching 22 people who need a rest. Following Jesus is not a spectator sport, it’s participative, we are involved, and we make a contribution. God, who knows all things, knows you and me and has a work for each of us. No one is called to merely occupy a seat.
Apollos knew some things about Jesus and was gifted in many ways. He also spoke boldly in the synagogue. His information seems to have come from the disciples of John so perhaps he had learned of Jesus’ early ministry and the need to repent but not of his death and resurrection (I’m speculating of course). Whatever was missing in his understanding, Pricilla and Aquila were happy to ‘explain the way of God more accurately’. Apollos must have received this knowledge with joy because he was driven to share it with others. The believers in Ephesus were happy to supply a letter of recommendation for the believers in Corinth (in Achaia). What about Paul, how did he feel about Apollos going to a church Paul had planted? In his first letter to the church in Corinth Paul spoke very warmly of Apollos. He said;
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labour. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-9)
Build your church Lord
Make us strong Lord
Join our hearts Lord
Through Your Son
Make us one Lord
In Your body
In the kingdom of Your Son (Richard MS Irwin)