We have now official covered two of Paul’s three missionary journeys. We have now seen Paul take the Gospel from Asia into Europe. And now today we are going to see Paul begin his third and last recorded missionary journey, which will take us through most of the rest of Acts.
Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken. They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.—18:18-22
Cenchreae was the port city of Corinth. Paul was awaiting a ship here. Before departing, Paul had his hair cut, probably indicating the end of a Nazirite vow (Numbers 6:1-21). The vow would have been a set period of consecration during which the devotee abstained from ritual impurities and cutting hair. The last part of the vow was to present the cut hair and a sacrifice in the temple in Jerusalem. Which according to the text Paul must have done, thus ending his second missionary journey.
After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. 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 accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.—18:23-28
This begins Paul’s third missionary journey. He leaves to visit the churches established on his first (Acts 13-14) and second (Acts 15:36-18:22) journeys. Paul never led people into a relationship with Christ and started churches and then forgot about them. He was just as concerned with following up on new believers and helping them grow in their relationship with God. All new Christians should receive immediate contact and ongoing encouragement from more experienced and more mature Christians. This provides opportunity to pray with new believers and help them learn to study and apply God’s Word. It also helps connect them with others in the church so they can establish a practice of meeting for worship, prayer, ministry of God’s Word and the exercise of their spiritual gifts to serve others in the church.
Apparently while Paul was in transit, Aquila and Priscilla met Apollos. Apollos was an eloquent man, like the elite rhetoricians of the day. He did have accurate information about Christianity and preached the truth about Jesus. But he only knew of John’s baptism, which was not Christian baptism but a ritual baptism of repentance in preparation for the Messiah. Christian baptism is related but symbolizes the believer’s entrance into the kingdom by participating in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:1-7) to walk in a new life through repentance and faith. Therefore, Apollos needed some further instruction, though his salvation was not in doubt. Apollos went on to be a major force in the early church. Steeped in the Old Testament, he proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah. And that is where we will pick up tomorrow as Paul returns to Ephesus.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Nehemiah 5:14-7:72, 1 Corinthians 8, Psalm 33:1-11 and Proverbs 21:8-10
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