Acts 18:1-22

When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.

Sermon Transcript:

We’re in the book of Acts chapter 18 this morning. And, and, and what I want to say is we find ourselves in two places. We find ourselves in in 49 AD in the winter as Paul travels to the city of Corinth, but we also find ourselves on May 14th, 2023 on Mother’s Day this morning. And so here’s what I would like to do.

We’re gonna go through this story, this beautiful story of what happens in Corinth. And I think this story has such a beautiful demonstration through the life of Paul, what living life with God looks like in the day to day. And then we’ll go through at the end and we’ll preach a five minute Mother’s Day sermon based upon the text as well.

We’ll seek to do both of those through the compassion and with the presence of Christ. This morning, I’m gonna read Acts 18, one through 22. After Paul. After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. He found a June Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontis, recently come from Italy with his wife, Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome, and he went to see them and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked.

They were temp makers by trade, and he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy joined from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word testifying to the Jews that Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed him, reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to him, your blood to them, your blood beyond your own heads, I’m innocent.

From now on, I’ll go to the Gentiles. And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justice, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord together with the entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.

And the Lord said to Paul in one night, in a vision, do not be afraid, but go un speaking and do not be silent for I am with you and no one will attack you or harm you for I have many in the city who are my people? And he stayed a year and six months teaching the word of God among them. But when Gallo was procol of ake, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal saying, this man is per persuading people the worship God contrary to the law.

But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Galileo said to the Jews, if it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. But since it is a matter of question about words and names of your own law, see to it to yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.

And he drove them from the tribunal and they all seize the ruler of the synagogue and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Galio paid no attention to any of this. After this. Paul stayed many days longer, then took leave of the brothers and set sale for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila at at. I honestly do not know how to pronounce that word at Serea.

How’s that sound? Good. Anybody have anything better? Serea, he had cut his hair and was under a vow, and they came to Ephesus and he left them, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined, but on taking leave with them, he said, I will return to you if God wills, and he set sail for Ephesus.

When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next, through the region of Galatia and Fria, strengthening all the disciples. That’s a lot of names. That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of stuff going on.

We are right in the throes of the missionary journeys of Paul. Anybody know what missionary journey we’re on right now? Second missionary journey. Yes. So we’re on the second missionary journey of Paul towards the end of the second missionary journey here in, uh, chapter 18. And this second missionary journey in particular is a beautiful mess.

It will go for over 3000 miles. Just for reference from Mount Laurel to LA is over 2,700 miles from Collinswood. If you’re listening Collinswood, tell LA it’s like 12 miles less. Congratulations. But for anyone who grew up playing the Oregon Trail, that amount of miles is a lot right. Lot of danger, lot of dysentery possibilities.

This is a long journey with a lot of different possible things that go wrong, and honestly, many of those possibilities do happen if you, if you throw up the map for us here. Here’s what’s going on, uh, in the text and in Acts chapter 15, this is how the missionary journey starts. After some time, Paul said to Barnabas, let’s go back to each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord to see how the new believers are doing.

The first missionary journey was going to look exactly like the second missionary journey. The second missionary journey’s intent was an encore of the first to see how it would go. The first missionary journey is happening all in this area. This is the first missionary journeys. This is the intention of Paul and Barnabas to head into this area and to check on the believers after the Jerusalem council.

What happens in this process is they end up getting to Antioch. As you remember, Paul and Barnabas have conflict, and so then they can’t decide should John Mark come with us? Should John Mark not come with us? And they split. Paul takes Silas and he goes up north, and then Barnabas and John Mark will go to Cyprus.

Cyprus. And in the process then when Paul and Silas start going north, they hit Lira. That’s where they pick up Timothy. So now Timothy is an addition, an unplanned addition to the, to the crowd, and they’re actually intending to go to up to Gala Glacier. But it says, the spirit of the Lord said, no. So they’re like, okay, we’re not gonna go on our normal encore tour.

We’re not gonna go up to Glacier. So we’re supposed to go towards Fria. Okay. So that’s where they’re said. Then again, they start heading into Asia, and the what the, the, the Lord gives what’s called the Macedonian vision, where it comes to Paul, and the night it says you’re actually supposed to go all the way.

To Greece, which is really, really, really far from the intention of the original journey on the way to Greece, stopping by little places eventually heading to Thessalonica Theca. The Thessalonian books are really cool books, but it wasn’t a really cool experience in the town. While Paul was there, people rallied against Paul.

Paul had to run out of Thessalonica and go to Bura. And then eventually he gets going and they start chasing him. The people from Thesal, Laga chase him to the point where he had to escape without Paul or without Silas. And so he is now by himself, run out of town, escaped with some people and has landed in Athens last week and in Corinth.

And you see in this passage, eventually Silas and Timothy will join up with him, but this whole journey has been running from one place to the next. Not at all, according to its original plan. And by the time that finally Paul lands in Corinth, he is a broken, shook. And wounded man. This is what when he would write a letter back to the Corinthians, this is what Paul would say of himself.

When I came to you brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified, and I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, he is at the end of a long journey that did not go as planned, and he finds himself in this place of Corinth.

If you’re following along in your notes, the first thing we see from the text as we’re gleaning from what life with God is actually like life with God is not. Predictable here with God. He is there. He is now, um, beginning to work. Most of Paul’s journeys have been funded. Most of this journey has already been funded, but he is presumably out of money, and so now he is making cole tents and trying to make ends Meek with Aquila and Priscilla.

He’s alone broke, unsupported and at a place he wasn’t planning on being. But God in this time gives him dear friends in Aquila and Priscilla and gives him also time to heal. But life with God. As we see here, and as we’ve seen already through the Book of Acts, it is not a straight line. It is not a clear what’s the 1, 3, 5, 10 year plan, and we’re gonna go and we’re gonna check off those boxes following the spirit.

And living life in the spirit often doesn’t look like what we’d imagine it to look like. I remember one time, I don’t know why I did this. Probably kind of a sick exercise. Uh, I’m a journaler and like, uh, and so I was writing in the journal, my journal, and I was just thinking, Lord, a lot has happened and I don’t remember if it was last year or a few years or something where I’m like, or I’m gonna write, particularly in the life of the church, things that surprised me that I couldn’t have guessed would happen, major twists or turns that happened that I just did not anticipate.

I remember getting to 45 and I stopped writing, cuz that’s a long time to journal, come on. But realizing that when we’re making our plans, and I, I’m, I’m a planner, I’m a futuristic thinker. That’s part of like the way God has made me. The unique thing with God is that God does not give all of the answers way ahead of time.

Say thy word is a lamp unto my feet. You’ve heard this before. And the lamp that is used is just enough room for the next step. Part of our DNA here is Galatians 5 25, to keep in step with the spirit, not lagging behind, not forging ahead. But it has been my experience and I believe deep with the experience in Acts.

It is not a linear line in following God. It is simply taking the next step. I love Thomas. Thomas goes to Jesus. And uh, Thomas says, Jesus is talking all about this, like this way and, and, and all the way of, of following him. And Thomas is like, this is awesome. He says, Jesus, show me the way. And that’s in John 14:6 And that’s where Jesus responds, I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, but through me. What is the way of the Christian life? It’s not predictable, it’s following him one step at a time. The longer I have journeyed with God, the more unsure I am of where he is going to take me, and the more certain I am that he will be with me wherever I go.

By verse five, it says, uh, Silas and Timothy came to Macedonia. So Paul again went ahead from Thessalonika. He comes down through Athens, which we talked about last week, and eventually in Corinth, which is right down here. And Paul and S or Timothy and Silas who were just a little slower after Paul had been there a little while.

They come and accompany him and at that time he’s able to leave presumably the tent making business and give his time to preaching and teaching. And what he is doing in his preaching and teaching is testifying to the Jews as it says in the text that Jesus was the Messiah. Uh, point number two, following along.

Living a life with God means there’s a preoccupation with the person of Jesus Christ. When we look at the Book of Acts, we can say acts is about a lot of things. It’s about the infancy of the church. It’s about the, the missionary explosion of the church. It’s about, uh, the disciples going and spreading forth the word.

You could say it’s about Luke who’s writing the letter. You could say it’s about Peter and Paul who are primary characters, but foundationally what the Book of Acts is about, is about the story of Jesus Christ. There are 10 primary sermons in Acts three by Peter, one by Stephen and six by Paul, all 10 of them.

Are about the person of Jesus Christ. We can talk about spirituality, we can talk about, uh, principles of, of the inward life. We can talk about what does it mean to to, to, to know God and is there a God, but what fundamental in the Christian faith, and, and when we say Christian, this is from the Book of Acts, that these, that these people would be Christians.

It is a Christ one. The life with God is not some loose spirituality. It is a preoccupation with the person of Jesus. We see the text go on in verse six, all of a sudden as, as, uh, Paul is teaching, they become abusive or they become, um, harassing against him. And Paul sh shook his clothes and protests and said, your blood beyond your own heads.

I mean, can you imagine saying that? Paul’s go, Paul’s got moxie, your b your, your blood beyond your own heads. From now on I’m outta here, I’m going to the Gentiles. And he goes right from there. Then Paul left the synagogue and then he meets up with tedious justice and then all of a sudden Crispus and now all of a sudden people are believing and getting baptized.

But you have a back and forth in two different verses. Something that happens all throughout Paul’s ministry. You have sometimes when, when all of a sudden the word of God that he’s teaching is electric. It’s on fire, literally like tongues of fire where it’s spreading and there’s miracles happening. And then there’s got other times where a guy falls asleep cuz he was so bored and the other people are running him out of town and want to throw rocks at his face.

Like it is not the same reaction. Life with God includes every different type of season. It is not just if you do the Christian life and if you get that balance beam just so correct, everything is gonna be prosperity and happy and cheerful life with God. Point three includes every season. This also means that in life with God there are unspeakable joys that it talks about.

In Peter, Paul would say there’s peace beyond understanding. David would say at your right hand, there are pleasures. Forevermore life with God includes seasons of deep joy, peace, and genuine happiness, but it’s not all that life with God includes. And if you have lived life with God very long, I don’t need to tell you that sometimes life with God is really, really hard.

There are disappointments that we experience in our life with God that are more painful than we thought a life with him would ever include. This Tuesday, uh, um, heard about my friend. My friend’s name is Jesse. Jesse was like the first person I co-labor with in, in ministry in Chicago area, and we did ministry closely together for years.

Jesse was one of the happiest human beings I would ever I’ve ever known, and one of the funniest, bravest, he was all tattooed up. He had like the gauges in his ears, the big holes in his ears. Actually one time his professor said, Hey, Jesse, when you run, do your ears whistle. You know, like, but Jesse was just the, he was, he was the person you always wanted to have in the room.

He was an incredibly cheerful, secure person. Just heard this Tuesday that he recently diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. If you don’t know Huntington’s disease, it’s a degenerative disease that potentially will probably take his life eventually and it will do so painfully And, and Jesse right now is a church, he’s, he’s a pastor to church.

He’s informed his elders and said, Hey, if my mind starts to go, you have to keep a watch on me. Jesse has five kids, he’s in his thirties, and there are ti days where he can’t even come out of his room because of the anxiety is so high. It doesn’t fit with what we might think life with God would include.

It is so important that we remember that life with God is not always prosperous in how we think it would be. What an incredibly cruel disservice we do to one another to act like if you know God, everything should be going well. It was the time when I talked to Pastor Ralph. I wondered if I could stay in the ministry because of the amount of darkness I was experiencing.

And I said, Ralph, I really want to be a pastor, but it’s so dark inside and I can’t, I’m having trouble even seeing straight. And he gave me words that have been fuel for much of my ministry. He said, Ben, when the Lord calls someone, it seems like more than not the experiences through the darkness, not around it.

Alan Noble, who writes a book about mental torment and the difficulty that people face, even as Christians, has a simple line. He says this, there’s an unco. There’s a kind of unspoken conspiracy to ignore how difficult life is, and I know there’s people in this room who have begged with Jesus, please take this cup from me.

And the Lord has says, I love you. I’m doing something. And not yet.

Verse nine says, 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 you or harm you cuz I have many people in this city. I love this. This kind of throws us off a little all how God moves in in New Testament.

You wanna do an interesting study? New Testament, look up dreams. God uses dreams and New Testament all over the place. The Christmas story, Joseph, twice Mary. I think, um, Elizabeth dreams become an incredible part of how God speaks to people. Life with God includes God’s speaking in strange and specific ways.

I don’t know how many times they’ve met with people and they’ve said, you know what I, the Lord really spoke to me, but this is gonna sound weird. Right. And think about a time when the Lord spoke to you, you’re like, this is gonna sound weird, but he actually did speak to me. And yes, I believe we must stay anchored in the word of God.

We must stay true to the word of God, but in staying true to the Word of God, we follow the Word of God to see a God who speaks personal words to his people Here in Corinth, he shapes how Paul will do ministry. Paul is in Corinth because of a vision he got from Macedonia. God speaks in incredibly interesting, fascinating, and different ways.

Verse 11 says, then so, so Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half teaching and preaching to them the word of God. This is interesting because that’s much, much longer than what’s he’s spending in most cities. His second missionary journey took three years, but he’s in Corinth for 18 months. When you add up all that Oregon trail travel and all those different places that he stayed, Corinth, by far and away is the longest stay that he had.

And in anticipating how long he would be on this journey, it’s much longer than what he anticipated. Point five, life with God includes an amount of time that is much longer than we often anticipate. Uh, Dr. Bill Borghart at the Collingswood campus. He told me when we were doing some work on the campus, he says, Ben, let me tell you, he’s done a million projects.

He says, let me tell you the three rules of projects. I know some of you might have heard this. It’s gonna cost more than you think. It’s gonna take longer than you think, and you can’t polish a turd.

All three of those, I guess, are true, but in the process of God. Right. And you sat with yourself and other people who have tried to follow you like that, Dennis, didn’t you? Yeah. Got Gotcha. Um, in the process of following God, I, I don’t know how many times I’ve said, or I’ve heard people say I know the Lord’s gonna come through, but how long, how long is this gonna take?

I, I, I think the Lord might provide in, in, in, in an amazing way. But, but how, how long are we looking here?

Author, I appreciate talks about spiritual growth and he says, we, we wanna talk about spiritual growth as arrival We go through something hard, it’s confusing, can’t see the Lord. Then all of a sudden he comes through, we look back and we can tell everyone, yes, God is so great. It’s so cool up here. Keep going.

And that’s what spiritual growth is. His argument is actually spiritual growth takes place the most in the in between. In what he calls liminal time in the space before. We understand how God comes through that, that, that, that the, our greatest times when we grow spiritually is when we trust but can’t see when we obey.

But we don’t know what’s upcoming in this, in between this liminal time. Lastly, and the text goes on from here and, uh, includes a lot of, a lot of names and a lot of things going on. But what I, I really want to point out again, is the return. Um, and, uh, later in the passage we’ve got see this in versus eight, and then down in 20 and 21 that this connection that Paul has with Aquila and Priscilla, that this couple that he meets in Corinth, he ends up forming a deep bond with them.

He’ll write about them in the book of Romans. He’ll write about them in the book of Timothy and will find out later that as Paul left Corinth with them, they ended up in Ephesus. Well, they ended up having a church in their house with in Ephesus, and these people become lifelong dear friends and anchors of the early church.

And lastly, simply life with God. Point six. Includes roots with his people, because the intention is never to do this alone. Isn’t it interesting how the missionary journeys were designed? Paul went out with two in the first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas decided, Hey, we’re gonna go out together and do an encore tour of the missionary journey.

And, and, and then that doesn’t work. So Paul went with Silas and Timothy. Well then Silas and Timothy, they got separated because the threat of Paul’s life. God gave Paul Aquila and Priscilla, this Christian life is meant to do it alone. And we’re gonna close with this. Here’s my five minute Mother’s Day sermon.

I simply wanna walk through simply these six points and just mention. How they may reach out to you on whom this day might bring unique joy or sorrow. First, I’m just going through the same six points we looked at in the text. Mothering with God is not predictable and we are not promised automated results from effort.

Second. Mothering with God means that you need to orbit Jesus Christ. The greatest parenting advice I have ever received, I was a, a youth pastor, and then I had my first kid, and I had seen a whole lot of families, good families that lived their life, orbiting their kids, looking at their kids. And I, and I did not.

I, I realized once I have this child, I’m gonna be so focused on this child feel like everything I want to do is for this child. And someone gave me the advice early on, said, put Jesus as the center. He’s the only one big enough to hold all of those things in orbit. If you put your children at the center, you’re gonna helicopter or squash or create a lot of damage to you and to them.

They’re not big enough to hold the family in orbit. Only Christ is big enough to hold the family in orbit. Put him in the center. You need Jesus to mother. Third, mothering with God means enjoying more beautiful moments and more crushing disappointment than you knew a life with God could include. Number four, mothering with God means listening.

Because there are times you desperately will need God to speak to you about what you are going through. Elroy, one of my F favorite names for God comes from the story in Genesis where he, Hagar has a baby with Abram, is trying to follow God, trying to obey her. Spiritual leaders has this baby, and then Sarah and Abram are like, just kidding.

We weren’t following God. Get out. And she’s left in the desert with the child and she’s there as a single mom Kicked out in the desert, has every reason to hate this God of these people who just sent her out. And God comes to her and speaks to her and she says, in that place, I give you the name, Elroy, you are the God who sees.

Mothers need to hear specific words from the God who sees. Number five, mothering with God includes seasons of parenting or waiting for children, longing for children or seasons of missing your mom who’s gone and to death already that are so much longer than you anticipated.

And lastly, mothering with God is meant to be done with other people, that you are not alone.

Won’t you stand with me as we conclude our service this morning? We take these words from Paul and this journey from Paul in in Corinth, understanding what it means to live life daily with God, and also looking especially at the end of what it means. To try to do that as a mom, I can just say this is a prayer over us.

Lord, the best part of life with you is that it is with you. When we are most with you, we are most ourselves. In that place, we can rest lacking nothing there with you. We will sometimes lie down in sweet green pastures and enjoy the sound of quiet waters and experience restoration of soul with you. Also, we will travel through valleys filled with death, evil and enemy, but the goodness and the love that follow us all the days of our lives are simply living each one with you.

Your rod, your staff, the comfort that we bring, and we rest this day in your promise that we will dwell in your house forever more. Amen. We are dismissed.