After leaving Athens, Paul travels on to another large city, Corinth. There he meets a married couple, Aquila and Priscilla, who were tentmakers, just like Paul. They had been expelled from Rome by Claudius.
Historians put the expulsion of Jews from Rome sometime around AD 49. Suetonius the historian describes this event – “Since Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he (the Emperor Claudius) expelled them from Rome.” Historians believe that the disturbances occurred when messianic Jews preached to try to convince other Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. It is possible that the reference to “Chrestus” is about Christ. Claudius died in AD 54, which allowed the Jews to trickle back into Rome.
Along with Luke in this chapter, Paul also mentions this couple, but uses the shortened version of Priscilla, Prisca. He refers to Prisca and Aquila in three of his letters – Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 2 Timothy. It is apparent that the couple played an important role in starting the church in Corinth, as well as Ephesus, and then moved back to Rome by the time the Letter to the Romans is written, in which Paul asks the recipient to greet Prisca and Aquila for him. To me, it is an indication that these events actually took place and that they were real people who existed in history. It helps to bring the New Testament to life.
If you recall, Paul was separated from Silas and Timothy, back in Acts 17. When they were in Beroea, Jews from Thessalonica came to disrupt their ministry. The believers feared for Paul’s safety and took him to Athens, with the plan that Silas and Timothy would join him later.
Athens and Corinth are about 50 miles apart, so we’re not sure how Silas and Timothy knew to find Paul in Corinth. Paul could have sent a letter to Beroea to let them know, or perhaps they went to Athens first and heard that Paul had traveled on to Corinth. However they found out, they rejoin Paul in Corinth.
Paul continues to preach to the Jews at the synagogue that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. They did not accept his message, and when they opposed and reviled him, he shook the dust from his clothes and left. Paul basically told them that he has told them the truth, and since they are rejecting the truth, the responsibility for their lives and salvation were on their own heads. He would now go to the Gentiles to proclaim the good news about Jesus Christ.
Paul ends up next door to the synagogue and he preached the good news. In contrast to the Jews, many Gentiles believed and were baptized. The Lord appeared to Paul in a vision and made it clear that he should continue to preach in Corinth, and he ends up staying there for one year and six months.
We see that Paul experienced many things, both good and bad on his journeys. He planned his travels as best as he could, but sometimes events happened that would change the course or timing of his journey. On other occasions, the Lord would make clear where and when to go through visions. One thing that was consistent about Paul was that he understood that his main occupation was to do the will of God. So, whether things went according to his own plans or not, he was sensitive to the Lord’s leading, and preached the fact that Jesus was the long-awaited savior of the world.
For most of us, our journeys are not so focused on doing the Lord’s work. Where we end up at any point of time is more about family, work or leisure. But it is important for us to remember that the Lord will also guide us through all that. Sometimes our travels go as planned, and at other times, things happen that are outside of our control and our travels do not go as planned. However, wherever and whenever we end up, we need to remember that the Lord may have planned for us to be there at that particular time. We need to remember that we were saved to do His work, so we should be on the lookout for opportunities to do the Lord’s work at any time.
Paul understood that no matter how things work out, God is in control, and that we should be willing to do His bidding. Our focus should be on what the Lord will have us do, rather than all the things that went according to plans or not, or whether we had success or not. We can see that is how Paul operated, and that we too should follow suit.
There are so many people who need the Lord, both near and far from us, and God loves them too much to just leave them alone. So, however and wherever we end up at any given time and place, there is a good chance that the Lord has work for us to do. And it is a great privilege that the Lord is willing to entrust us to do His work on earth.
(The above is a summary of the message shared during our worship on May 8, 2022 by Shun Takano.)