International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday November 29, 2015
Purpose: To move forward in sharing God’s grace regardless to the response
Bible Lesson: Acts 18:1-11, 18-21
Background Scripture: Acts 18:1-28
Key Verses: One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Don’t be afraid. Continue speaking. Don’t be silent. I’m with you and no one who attacks you will harm you, for I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9-10)
Acts 18:1-11 (CEB)
(1)After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. (2) There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus. He had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul visited with them. (3) Because they practiced the same trade, he stayed and worked with them. They all worked with leather. (4) Every Sabbath he interacted with people in the synagogue, trying to convince both Jews and Greeks. (5) Once Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself fully to the word, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. (6) When they opposed and slandered him, he shook the dust from his clothes in protest and said to them, “You are responsible for your own fates! I’m innocent! From now on I’ll go to the Gentiles!” (7) He left the synagogue and went next door to the home of Titius Justus, a Gentile God worshipper. (8) Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household came to believe in the Lord. Many Corinthians believed and were baptized after listening to Paul. (9) One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Don’t be afraid. Continue speaking. Don’t be silent. (10) I’m with you and no one who attacks you will harm you, for I have many people in this city.” (11) So he stayed there for eighteen months, teaching God’s word among them.
Acts 18: 18-21 (CEB)
(18) After Paul stayed in Corinth for some time, he said good-bye to the brothers and sisters. At the Corinthian seaport of Cenchreae he had his head shaved, since he had made a solemn promise. Then, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila, he sailed away to Syria. (19) After they arrived in Ephesus, he left Priscilla and Aquila and entered the synagogue and interacted with the Jews. (20) They asked him to stay longer, but he declined. (21) As he said farewell to them, though, he added, “God willing, I will return.”
Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Paul left Athens and traveled southwesterly about 50 miles to Corinth. It was the autumn of 50 A.D., and Corinth was a thriving city with a population of over 100,000. However, that had not always been the case. After its destruction by the Romans in 146 B.C., it lay dormant until reconstructed and given Roman colony status by Julius Caesar 100 years later.
By 27 B.C., it had become the capital of the Roman province of Achaia. Unlike many Hellenistic cities, its laws, architecture, and official language (Latin) were Roman. Its commerce expanded as it was the intersection of land trade routes north and south and a sea route tied together by two ports, Lechaeum on the west and Cenchreae on the east.
When Paul arrived in Corinth he met a Jewish couple from Rome, Aquila and Priscilla, who had already embraced the Christian message. We do not know about the earliest origins of Christianity in Rome; however, Luke hinted at a possible link when he said that “visitors from Rome (Jews and converts to Judaism)” were present in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 2:10).
Many scholars are convinced that Claudius’s edict to expel Jews from Rome followed riots instigated by Christian converts within the Jewish community. Writing 70 years later, Seutonius blamed the riots on someone named Chrestus (a common slave name meaning “useful,” but likely connected to Christ). The Jewish population in Rome in 49 A.D.was about 40,000; and even though Luke’s “all Jews” in verse 2 exaggerated the number forced to leave, Priscilla and Aquila could have been two of the Jewish Christians especially targeted for expulsion.
Paul, Priscilla (usually mentioned first before her husband, suggesting that she had a higher social status), and Aquila were not only kindred spirits in the faith but also shared a craft: leather working. Paul had originally come from a region closely associated with the making of tents, cloaks, and so forth out of goat hair. He may have supported himself in the making of such cloths, including the use of leather for his tent-making.
It was only natural that Paul would seek the hospitality and camaraderie of other members of the trade when arriving in a new city. It was also not uncommon for him to spend day after day plying his trade to support himself, particularly in places where he stayed longer, such as Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:9), Corinth (1 Corinthians 9:12), and Ephesus (Acts 20:33-34). Rabbi Gamaliel III advised, “An excellent thing is the study of the Torah combined with some secular occupation, for the labor demanded by both puts sin out of one’s mind. All study of the Torah which is not combined with work will ultimately be futile and lead to sin.” It was, likewise, unseemly for rabbis or scribes to accept money for their teaching.
My hymn for this week is “I am pressing on the upward way new heights I am gaining every day. “Higher Ground”