Seeking The Truth
Good morning. Today we are in Acts 18:12-28. In the last few lessons we saw Paul’s teaching ignored, questioned or rejected in Thessalonica, Athens and Corinth. Though there was success, there was a lot of discouragement as well.
If there was ever was an apostle who could have felt discouraged it was Paul. You probably recall some of the trials Paul went through. Paul recaps some of this in 2 Corinthians 11: 24-27 – “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” [KJV] With that in mind what Luke tells us next in Acts 18, should not come as a surprise to us.
Acts 18:12-18 - “Now when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia [uh - K AY – uh], the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, saying, "This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.'' And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. "But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters.'' And he drove them from the judgment seat. Then they took Sosthenes [sauce-then-nees], the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things. So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, [Sen’KRE-uh] for he had taken a vow.” [NKJV]
Luke tells us that the Jews brought Paul to the judgment seat before Gallio when he was proconsul of Achaia. There they accused Paul of preaching contrary to Moses' law, but Gallio drove them out without hearing the case because it did not have anything to do with Roman law. Then some seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before Gallio's judgment seat without the proconsul taking any notice. Despite all the difficult times Paul had, he continued to work in Corinth for some time before leaving the brethren and sailing for Syria with Priscilla and Aquila.
I. Fear. Luke also tells us that he had taken a vow in Cenchreae [Sen’KRE-uh] and had his hair cut off. Why I wonder? Perhaps it might relate to a form of a vow as we find described in Numbers 6:1-21.
A. This vow was practiced among the early Christians and we will read about a vow again in Acts 21. The vow was often offered in gratefulness for deliverance from danger. One explanation might be found in what we read in Acts 18:9-10. Paul had been upset with the opposition of the Jews at Corinth and he had been afraid. Luke tells us that: “The Lord spoke to Paul in a vision telling Paul not to be afraid; to keep on speaking, and not to be silent.”
B. Last time we had a lesson on fear as you may recall. Fear can do things to a person, because fear is a very real thing. It can leave you powerless and silent - but if you trust God, that fear will be driven from your mind because you know that you can ask Him to help you.
C. In verse 11 we are told Paul, trusting God, continued to speak. Then we read what happened in verses 12-18 and saw how Paul was delivered from the Jews. Paul trusted God to be with him and when God delivered him from all the events of Corinth, Paul was grateful. Some scholars suggest that Paul may have expressed that gratefulness to God by making a vow which consisted of shaving off his hair. The question has been asked should we be practicing a vow like this? I think we need to understand that Paul’s expression of gratitude to God was done in a way in which was culturally acceptable for him. From the perspective of Orthodox Judaism the Nazarite vow is not a historical curiosity but can be practiced even today. However, since there is no temple in Jerusalem to complete the vow, and that means any vow would be permanent. Modern rabbinical authorities strongly discourage the practice to the point where it is almost unheard of these days.
D. In that sense we shouldn’t practice this expression of gratefulness, but we should be a thankful people and express our thankfulness to God. I’m not saying that we should go out and shave our heads, but what we should be doing is being continually grateful to the Father, not only when He delivers us from danger, but for all the blessings we receive daily.
II. Remembrance. I don’t know about you, but I like to keep little reminders of places I have been to. I like to take photos of people I have met and events in which Nina or I have taken part. Many of you have been to our house on July 4th and seen our “refrigerator magnets”. Currently I’m starting to go through old photos and remembering the good times. But let me ask you, do you keep things which remind you of bad times?
A. Maybe you had someone leave you deliberately or perhaps they were taken from you and you just can’t bear to look at the old photos because it brings back so much pain. Maybe a person doesn’t like the police because they or a family member has been falsely accused of something and every time they see the police it brings back memories of false accusations. Or perhaps someone doesn’t like the military because a loved one served and perished.
B. Nobody likes to remember the bad things that have happened in their lives because it can bring back pain and anxiety. When God delivered His people out of the hands of the Egyptians that is exactly what He wanted them to remember, the pain and anxiety.
C. You will recall that the Passover was first introduced during the Israelites slavery in Egypt. It was the tenth plague which involved the death of the first-born Egyptians both men and cattle, which also included Pharaoh’s very own son. Look in; Exodus 12: 5-8 - “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.” According to Exodus 12, a year-old male lamb or goat, without blemish was to be slain on the 14th day of the first month of the Hebrew religious year, “in the evening” according to Exodus 12:6.
D. According to Josephus in the first century the lamb was killed between 3 and 5 p.m. Exodus 12:46 tells us that none of its bones were to be broken. The blood was to be smeared on the doorposts and lintel of every Israelite home, and the Lord promised in Exodus 12:13, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” That is where we get the word Passover.
E. God never wanted His people to forget those days when they were slaves in Egypt and His delivery of them from that bondage. God says to His people in Exodus 12:24-27 - " And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. "It will come to pass when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. "And it shall be, when your children say to you, 'What do you mean by this service?' "that you shall say, 'It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.' '' So the people bowed their heads and worshiped.”[NKJV] They were told to obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for them and their descendants.
F. The Passover was to remind them of their deliverance from Egypt, but it was also a reminder of a painful memory which most of them would gladly forget. God delivered them and every time they partook of the Passover celebrations they expressed their gratitude for that deliverance.
G. When we turn our attention to the New Testament, we begin to understand that the Passover lamb was a prophetic picture of the Lord Jesus and his atoning death. The Savior was introduced by John the Baptizer as what? As “the lamb of God” in John 1:29. Paul stated that “our Passover” is Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 5:7. We know from 1 Peter 1:19 and 1 Peter 2:22 that Jesus was “without blemish”, in other words without sin.
H. John tells us in John 19:31-33 that during the crucifixion not one of Jesus’ bones was broken. According to Matthew 27:46 Jesus died at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. His blood became an offering for sin according to Romans 3:25. His blood wasn’t just shed for the chosen few. It was shed for everyone who accepts it by obedience to His will, according to Hebrews 5:9. It is that very same blood which cleanses us according to Hebrews 9:14. However, that only happens when we receive the good news and submit to Him in the waters of baptism according to Ephesians 5:26.
III. Thanksgiving. What does that tell us? It tells us that God sometimes wants us to remember bad times. He wants us to remember what Christ went through on Calvary for us. He wants us to open up the Bible and be reminded of why He had to die for us in the first place. He wants us to remember that it is because of our sin He went to the cross. That’s why we celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week; He wants us never to forget the pain and agony and the suffering He went through... for us.
A. Just like Paul might have been doing when he took that vow and expressed his gratitude to God for delivering him from murderous hands in Corinth. We too should be partaking of the Lord’s Supper every week as a way of showing our gratitude to God for delivering us from our sin. Paul knew what he was taking about when he wrote in Colossians 1:13-14 - “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” [para]
B. The King James Version says it this way; “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” We’ve all been delivered, we’ve all been rescued. Paul, after showing his gratitude to God, then goes to Ephesus.
IV. God is in charge. Let’s read on. Acts 18:19-23 – “And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews. When they desired him to tarry a longer time with them, he consented not; But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, (note what he says here) if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus. And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch. And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.” “
A. From our text we see that Paul spent a short time preaching in the synagogue in Ephesus. He promised to return if it was God's will and then left Priscilla and Aquila and sailed on to Caesarea. He made a quick trip to Jerusalem and then went to Antioch and after some time, he went on to strengthen the churches in Galatia and Phrygia.
B. Let me say a bit about Paul’s choice of words here. - A man named Walter Knight told of an old Scottish woman who went from house to house across the countryside selling thread, buttons, and shoelaces. When she came to an unmarked crossroad, she would toss a stick into the air and go in the direction the stick pointed when it landed. One day, however, she was seen tossing the stick up several times. "Why do you toss the stick more than once?" a passerby asked. "Because," replied the woman, "it keeps pointing to the left, and I want to take the road on the right." She then dutifully kept throwing the stick into the air until it pointed the way she wanted to go!
C. When Paul said to the Ephesians, “If it is God’s will I will return”; he understood exactly who was directing His life. I wonder how often we hear Christians making directions for themselves in life because that is the way they are determined to go. Even Christians may make plans without considering if that is God’s will for them or not.
D. Jesus tells a parable about that attitude in Luke 12:16-21 - where He says, “... The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
E. Yes, in this parable Jesus is teaching about the importance of being rich towards God. But He is also teaching about the dangers of making plans without God. James tells us basically the same thing over in James 4:13-15 - where he says, “Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit''; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.''”[NKJV] James reminds us about our life. “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes”... Then he reminds us how we ought to think.
F. All the future plans we have as a congregation. All the personal future plans we may have for our own life. Every decision, big or small we make, needs to be made with the question, ‘Is this God’s will?’ Like Paul we need to remind ourselves of exactly who it is, that is directing our lives.
G. Are we going to throw sticks in the air until we get the answer we want? Or are we prayerfully going to allow God to guide us and just accept the fact that God may not want us to go in that direction. Everything we do as Christians should be directed by the will of God.
V. Sincerity. Paul is offering encouragement to the churches elsewhere and now Luke introduces us to a man named Apollos. Acts 18:24-28 – “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.” We are told Apollos was a Jew, a native of Alexandria. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus diligently, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue.
A. Luke tells us, and this is important, that Apollos only knew about John's baptism. Apollos began to boldly preach in the synagogue. Priscilla and Aquila were evidently paying attention. They heard him speak and recognized his inadequate understanding of baptism, so they took him aside privately to more fully instruct him in the ways of the Lord. Later Apollos decided to go into Achaia and the brethren wrote him a letter of recommendation.
B. It was in Achaia, that he was able to give great assistance to the brethren using powerful arguments from God's word to show Jesus is the Christ. Remember Achaia was where Paul all but gave up on convincing the Jews about Christ.
C. Apollos serves as a good example of a preacher and teacher of the Word of God who means well and is very sincere, but he was wrong. In Acts 18: 25 - Luke says that, “He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately (as some translations have it), though he knew only the baptism of John.”
D. But when Apollos travelled to Ephesus, and began speaking “boldly in the synagogue,” Aquila and Priscilla heard him and realized that he still was advocating the baptism of John the Baptist as it looked forward to the coming of Christ.
E. Obviously Aquila and Priscilla knew that John’s baptism was no longer valid because it has been supplanted by the baptism commemorating Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Yes, Apollos was sincere, but he was sincerely wrong on that one point. That’s why Aquila and Priscilla “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more adequately.”
F. We need to take a moment and think about what this man did. When his error was pointed out, did he go off in a tantrum and resist what he was being told? Did he say “who are you to tell me what to believe?” No he didn’t. He corrected it and subsequently continued with his preaching and teaching about Christ, apparently with much success.
G. Folks. Apollos was a good teacher but nevertheless, for a time he taught error. BUT when he was shown his mistake he possessed an attitude of humility, and a love for the Truth that caused him to make the necessary correction. That’s a wonderful example for all who would be teachers of God’s Word. Because many of us who teach have found ourselves in a similar situation to that of Apollos.
H. In our sincere attempt to spread the Gospel or defend the faith, we may unintentionally make a mistake, and teach error. When our mistake is made known to us, we correct it, we learn from it, and we are determine not to repeat it.
VI. False teaching. Let me ask you this, and we have talked about it before. Does the fact that we taught an error necessarily make us a false teacher? No, I don’t believe it does. As one writer says, “a person receives a label when a certain behavior becomes characteristic of him. A preacher, for example, is one who preaches; a teacher is one who teaches; a criminal is one who commits crime. Not everyone who has ever delivered a sermon deserves to be called a preacher; not everyone who has ever violated a traffic law deserves to be called a criminal. Regardless of its content, a label should be reserved for those distinguished by the corresponding behavior.
A. Apollos wasn’t a false teacher. Why? Because when he learned of his mistake he changed his teaching accordingly. Did Apollos also put what he learned into action? The text doesn’t tell us about his baptism into Christ, however I strongly suspect it must have happened because Luke tells us about another group of people in Ephesus who had only received John’s baptism in the very next chapter.
B. We move on to Acts 19 and Luke tells us in Acts 19:1-5 – “And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?'' And they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.'' And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?'' So they said, "Into John's baptism.'' Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.'' When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” “Paul went to Ephesus where he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They said no, they had not heard of the Holy Spirit. Paul asks about their baptism and found they had received John's baptism. Paul then explained to them about baptism and on hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.”
C. I’m not going to say too much about this text because we will deal with it another time. But just before we finish I want to ask you, if you came to the realization that you believed the wrong thing for many years, what would you do? What do you think you should do? It takes courage to do what Apollos did, and it could be the most courageous decision you’re ever made in your life.
D. I don’t want to frighten people, but souls are going to be lost forever because they were sincere in their beliefs - but sincerely wrong. When the apostle Paul was still known as Saul he sincerely believed that killing Christians was God’s will, but he was sincerely wrong.
E. Many of the people we know sincerely believe they are right, and doing Gods will, yet they are sincerely wrong.
F. When I was younger I sincerely believed that God would accept everyone into heaven as long as they were good, I was sincerely wrong. There are some who sincerely teach once saved always saved, and they are sincerely wrong. Some teach that just faith in God is all you need to please God - but again, they are sincerely wrong.
Folks, there is no excuse today for not knowing what God’s will is for people. Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:9, “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.”
God wants everyone to be saved, that’s His will for all of mankind. But we need to be doubly sure of what we believe about God and His will for our lives by reading His word for ourselves. There are many people that are sincere yet they are not right with God. Don’t let discouragement keep us from encouraging people to check the scriptures, because it’s one thing being sincere but another to be sincerely wrong.
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
# 644—Trust and Obey
Reference Sermon: Mike GloverPrint
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