I realize that most of the people reading this are above this, but sometimes Christians like to argue and bicker over different doctrinal beliefs. It can make you a little frustrated, though. I started thinking about this and maybe, just maybe, the frustration is a sign that we are devoting our energies in the wrong places. Like Paul, our frustration could be God pushing us into new areas or new ministries. Paul kept a smile on his face when he was stripped, beaten, and imprisoned, but religious bickering brought him to his wits’ end. There is nothing more depressing than religious systems corrupted by arrogance and legalism. On the other hand, the greatest joys in life are found when we passionately pursue the dangerous mission of our Messiah.
“Now while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, some Jews organized an attack on Paul and brought him before the judgment seat [An interesting side note is that this tribunal has been excavated and if you visit Corinth you can see it. It is called in Greek, the bema, the scale, i.e., the judgment seat], saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God in ways contrary to our Hebrew Scriptures!” But just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, “Look, if this was some serious crime, I would accept your complaint as a legitimate legal case, but this is just more of your typical Jewish squabbling about trivialities in your sacred literature. Settle it yourselves. I have no interest to getting dragged into this kind of thing!” So he threw out their case and drove them away from the judgment seat. They were furious and seized Sosthenes, the president of the synagogue, and began to beat him in front of the judgment seat. Yet none of these things were of any concern to Gallio” —Acts 18:12-17
God had promised Paul that He would be with him. He promised that he wouldn’t suffer at the hands of his adversaries in Corinth. He promised Paul that He has many more who will yet believe in Corinth. The surprise isn’t that God fulfilled His promises, but how He does it.
Before we go on, try to connect this to something Luke has already written:
“After this Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. He met a Jewish man there named Aquila who was originally from Pontus. Aquila and his wife Priscilla had recently come from Corinth from Italy because Claudius had banished all the Jews from Rome” —Acts 18:1-2
Aquila and Priscilla moved to Corinth from Rome because Claudius had expelled all Jews from Rome. Now why would he do such a thing? Quite simply, because he felt the Jews were trouble-makers, the very thing Paul’s adversaries accused him of being.
Why do you think Luke bothered to include this detail about Aquila and Priscilla coming from Rome? Because it sets the stage for the hearing before Gallio in verses 12-17. Rome has just expelled all Jews for being resistant, rebellious, and subversive. This is exactly why Rome sacked Jerusalem under Titus in 70 A.D. They were finally fed up with Jewish autonomy. Their rebellion was so pronounced and widespread that the Roman authority finally rid Rome of all Jews (not just a few trouble-makers). Now, we find the Jews in another Roman city (Corinth) accusing Paul and Silas of virtually the same offense:
“This man is persuading people to worship God in a way contrary to the law!” —Acts 18:13
Ooh, sneaky: Paul’s Jewish opponents are accusing Paul and Silas of the very reason that Claudius found all Jews guilty. Even more cleverly, they accused Paul and Silas of teaching people to worship God in a way that was “contrary to the law.” The same word law here is used both for Roman law, and also for the law of Moses. The truth is their objection isn’t that Paul incites people to rebel against Rome, because that was exactly what the Jews in Jerusalem wanted Jesus to do. And it was exactly what Barabbas did. They chose Barabbas rather than Jesus because Jesus wouldn’t immediately overthrow Rome. The Jews who accused Paul were hypocritical, at best, not to mention liars. The civil unrest we have seen earlier in Acts was started by the Jewish leaders, not Paul.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts