Today’s Chocolate: Parra Dark Chocolate
Today’s Passage: Acts 18
In yesterday’s chapter, Paul preached his Mars Hill sermon, which we in our blog post for all intents and purposes ignored. Through the sermon, he won the interest of the Athenians and a non-trivial amount of converts, as well as a measure of scorn from some for believing that the dead can be raised. In today’s chapter, having made all the progress he can in Athens, he leaves of his own volition, for once not chased out by angry mobs, and goes to Corinth. And in Corinth, he finds a populace surprisingly receptive to the gospel.
First, there’s Aquila. Like Paul, Aquila is a Jew who makes tents for a living. Aquila and his wife Prisca (also known affectionately as “Priscilla,” like how you might call a Kate “Katie”) become fast friends of Paul. You may remember them from Paul’s letters, in which Paul sends the church their greetings (1 Corinthians 16:19), or–on the occasions when they’re not present with him–asks the recipients of his letter to say hi to them for him (Romans 16:3, 2 Timothy 4:19). They take to the gospel like ducks to water, traveling with Paul and speaking to their fellow non-Palestinian Jews about Jesus Christ. This is the only chapter of Acts where Luke mentions them, but given their recurrence in Paul’s letters, it’s evident they have a strong bond.
There’s also Titius Justus and Crispus. When Paul gets frustrated with the belligerence of the Corinthian Jews, one of the first gentiles he connects with is this guy Titius Justus. Luke describes him as “a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue” (7). He’s not a Jew himself, but like Cornelius before him, he appears to be a friend of the Jews. And it certainly helps Paul’s cause that the synagogue leader, Crispus, comes down on the side of Christianity. The faith movement sweeps the city, and Corinthians start getting baptized.
Later, in Ephesus, Paul finds another city ready for the gospel to take root. Luke introduces us to another Jew named Apollos who arrives in the area soon after Paul. This guy knows his Hebrew scriptures, and moreover he knows his teachings of John the Baptist concerning Jesus. He’s on the right track, but he just needs to get caught up to speed on Christ’s death and resurrection; news travels slowly in the ancient world. But who’s there to fill him in on the whole gospel? Priscilla and Aquila again. When Apollos gets on the road again, he brings the gospel with him–and the strength of his scriptural knowledge. He’s equipped to reason from the Messianic prophecies of the Tanakh and defend the faith against its opponents (28).
In all these cases, we see soil well-cultivated and prepared to receive the gospel. In fact, I wonder: had the individuals I’ve noted here converted to Christianity before meeting Paul? The text doesn’t explicitly say they were, but except for Apollos, in each case I can’t discount the possibility. While in Corinth, Paul gets a message from God in a vision, and I see the words jumping off the page in bold red: “I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city” (10). Were Priscilla, Aquila, Titius Justus, and Crispus among God’s people in the city even before Paul came there? Had the gospel spread so broadly by this point that it preceded him on his travels? Maybe so, fam. Maybe so.