"And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized. Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, 'Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.' And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them" (Acts 18:7-11).
After shaking the dust out of his garments, Paul departed the synagogue in Corinth and went next door to Justus' home (this may be another name for the man Gaius). Although Paul would no longer concentrate primarily on converting Jews to Christ in Corinth, he certainly would not ignore any Jew who expressed interest in the gospel. Such was the case with Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue in Corinth. Paul's teaching had resonated with this man and he then "believed on the Lord with all his household." It is rare to see a leader within Judaism abandon it for the gospel. Obviously, Crispus was no ordinary man. He must have been a person of great independence of spirit and goodness of heart. He would have been a real asset to Paul and the church in Corinth. As we have shown previously in Acts, "believed" is often used as a summary term (cf. 03/04/11). To say that Crispus "believed" is to say that Crispus affirmed faith in Jesus, repented, and was immersed for the remission of his sins. This can be proven quite easily in Crispus' case from I Corinthians 1:14, though our knowledge of this truth would not be any less secure if I Corinthians 1:14 did not exist. Not only were Crispus and his family obedient to the gospel, but so were many other Corinthians. They heard, believed, and were baptized!
The sudden growth of the Corinthian church would have been exciting for all involved, but it also made Paul nervous. Paul knew what happened in a community once souls starting obeying the gospel in significant numbers. The unbelieving Jews would typically rise up and stir up problems and persecution! I doubt Paul is concerned about his own safety so much as he is for the new babes in Christ he has converted. God, in order to encourage Paul not to worry, communicated to the great apostle at night by means of a vision: There is no need to be afraid, Paul. Keep preaching and do not cease, for I am with you and will protect you. There are many people here who are Mine (in the potential sense; i.e., they will soon hear the gospel, believe, and obey).
Paul obeyed and remained in Corinth for 18 months after the vision (perhaps as long as two years total). He kept preaching boldly and did not heed the urge to slow down or keep silent to any degree. The length of his stay indicates the level of peace and lack of persecution he experienced there. Paul wrote at least two of his New Testament epistles during this time--I & II Thessalonians.
"When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, saying, 'This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.' And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, 'If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters.' Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things" (Acts 18:12-17).
Eventually, Paul's days of preaching in peace in Corinth departed. Jesus had promised Paul that no one would harm him, but that wouldn't stop some from trying! A group of disobedient Jews rose up against Paul and brought him before the Roman proconsul, Gallio. They leveled a religious charge against the apostle, namely that he persuaded people "to worship God contrary to the law." Before Paul makes a reply, Gallio dismisses the entire matter. He has no interest in judging religious issues. If Paul had done something morally wrong (like commit murder, for example), Gallio would hear them out, but he had no interest in being an arbitrator over Jewish disputes over "words and names and your own law." Gallio believed religious issues should be kept out of civil court (followers of Christ today would be wise to learn this lesson). He instructed them to tend to it themselves. It seems clear that God was providentially using this Roman leader, Gallio, to open up the door for much more preaching of the gospel to take place in the empire. Had Gallio, a Roman proconsul, ruled against Paul, it might have served as a precedent elsewhere in other provinces. The Jews could then easily use this as a means of silencing Paul wherever he might go with the gospel.
After the Jewish effort to stop Paul failed, the new ruler of the synagogue was beaten publicly (i.e., Sosthenes, who had apparently replaced Crispus since he had become a Christian). Why was Sosthenes beaten? The text does not explain but there seems to be at least two possibilities, both based on the fact that Sosthenes was the leader of the Jews who brought this matter to Gallio's attention. Either Sosthenes was beaten by the Greek soldiers and common people with Gallio's implicit permission for further trying to waste his time by not clearing out from the judgment seat promptly, or, more likely (based on better manuscript evidence), the Jews were so mad that they could not beat Paul that they took out their frustrations on their leader, Sosthenes, for his failure to stop Paul. If the latter case is correct, this may have backfired on the Jews, for it may be that this same Sosthenes is later converted to Christ (cf. I Cor. 1:1)!
"So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow. And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, but took leave of them, saying, 'I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.' And he sailed from Ephesus. And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch. After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples" (Acts 18:18-23).
When the time was right, Paul left Corinth and sailed for Syria with Aquila and Priscilla. He intends to return "home" to Antioch. Along the way, however, he makes several stops. Paul had his hair cut off in Cenchrea as the fulfillment of a vow. Whether the vow was an accommodation to Jewish custom (cf. I Cor. 9:20) or whether it was a personal matter with Paul, we simply do not know. We know nothing of its purpose or duration. Later, they came to Ephesus and Aquila and Priscilla stayed there. Paul preached in the synagogue one day, and they asked him to remain longer but he would not. If it was God's will (cf. James 4:15), he would return to them again in the future (and it was God's will for him to return, as Acts 19 records). After leaving Ephesus he landed at Caesarea, traveled "up" (presumably to Jerusalem) and then went "down" (and back) to Antioch in Syria where he had started his second evangelistic journey several years earlier. It should be noted that the manuscript evidence is lacking in Acts 18:21 for the phrase found in the NKJV- "I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem."
After spending some time in Antioch, no doubt reporting on his recent efforts, Paul departed yet a third time. The unbelieving Jews had made repeated attempts to block the progress of the gospel, but they were unsuccessful. Although they caused a lot of pain and grief for Paul and other Christians, the church was flourishing. Paul left Antioch and went through the region of Galatia and Phrygia with the purpose of strengthening the Christians there in the faith. It is not enough merely to baptize lost souls. An effective teacher will attempt to nurture the new converts along in God's word. It has been stated by some in the past that "no man has the right to hear the gospel twice until every man has heard it once." Although the sentiment of that statement is understood, Paul evidently did not agree with it. This is now the fourth time he has visited some of these areas.
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.