Formations 06.14.2015: Spreading the Word

Acts 18:1-17

American director Thomas H. Ince using a giant megaphone, from Peter Milne, Motion Picture Directing; The Facts and Theories of the Newest Art (1922)

American director Thomas H. Ince using a giant megaphone, from Peter Milne, Motion Picture Directing; The Facts and Theories of the Newest Art (1922)

Advances in technology and the expansion of social media mean that practically anyone can be not only a consumer of local news but also a shaper of its content. Whenever a storm damages property, civil unrest threatens a community, or even a little league team wins the big game, local news outlets more and more elevate the photos and tweets of average citizens to provide a unique personal perspective on the story.

In March of this year, the Pew Research Center published a series of case studies attempting to quantify this phenomenon. Looking at polling data from three cities—Denver CO, Macon GA, and Sioux City IA—the researchers found that residents were more likely to share news (for example, by sharing links to online content) than to post or submit their own (for example, by submitting a letter to the editor).

This finding bears out previous research, and really should not come as a surprise to anyone. As with most media, the vast majority is content merely to consume it. Fewer will contribute on occasion, and only a very few generate significant amounts of content.

The picture of Paul that emerges from his own letters and from the book of Acts is that of a man who significantly drove the community by his contribution. He was so involved in the work of proclaiming the gospel that he eventually became part of the story itself.

Acts 18 provides us a snapshot of how Paul conducted his missionary work. We see him paying his own way by working as a tentmaker while preaching in the synagogue every Sabbath. We also see him responding to opposition and slander from his detractors and even pleading his case before Gallio, the provincial governor.

Paul was not content for others to spread the word. With God’s help, he became actively engaged in telling the story of Jesus to the world.

Source: Jesse Holcomb, “News Audiences Spread the Word, but Few Get Involved in Local Journalism,” Pew Research Center, 14 May 2015


• Have you ever submitted a photo of some community event to your local TV station or otherwise performed acts of amateur journalism? What led you to contribute in this way to reporting the news?
• Have you ever alerted others to news stories you think they would benefit from reading or hearing? What led you to do this?
• What have you done (or are you doing) to spread the news of Jesus and his love?

Reference Shelf

Paul’s Missionary Method

The usual image of Paul is of an energetic, tenacious, individual preacher, but one should recognize that Paul’s missionary activity was team work. His Letters reveal that he coordinated the activity of a systematically organized band of missionaries and that his method was fairly consistent. Paul would move with a group of seasoned missionary colleagues to the capital city of a Roman province. Upon arrival he and his associates would approach the local synagogue, and if possible set up a base therein for the proclamation of the gospel. If no synagogue existed, the team would seek out the “God-fearers,” i.e., gentiles who were attracted to the theology and morality of Judaism but who had not become full converts. If there were no God-fearers, Paul and his companions would take the message to the local marketplace. In the process of moving into a city Paul would gather any Christians who already lived there and incorporate them into the missionary enterprise, thereby expanding his staff. While Paul seems to have remained in the capital city and its immediate area, his fellow workers appear to have dispersed themselves throughout the other cities, towns, and villages of the region in order to establish satellite congregations. Paul would remain in one location until the job he set out to do was done (he was in Corinth a year and a half and in Ephesus two years and three months) or, more often, until he became embroiled in a controversy that forced him to leave the region. Paul then moved on to repeat this process in a new location. But, he did not loose contact with the churches he founded. Indeed, he paid checkup visits to the churches when he deemed it necessary. Moreover, he used the writing of letters as a part of his missionary strategy, employing the written communication (like a modern “bishop’s letter”) to influence and build up the congregations he addressed.

Marion L. Soards, “Paul,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 659.

Paul in Corinth

Interpreters debate whether v. 7 means that Paul changed his place of residence to the house of Titius Justus or simply changed the primary location for his preaching. The fact that Justus is said to be “worshiper of God” indicates that he is a Gentile. Regardless of precisely what Luke means by Paul going to his house, it is consistent with Paul’s change of focus toward the Gentiles. Gentiles, perhaps even Gentiles who might not feel comfortable entering the synagogue, would now have easier access to Paul. The location of Justus’s house next to the synagogue might indicate that Paul had not closed off all hope of leading some Jews to recognize Jesus to be their Messiah.

If such were Paul’s hopes, they are realized in
that Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue,
becomes a believer, along with his household
 (v. 8). Clearly, not all Jews in Corinth 
rejected Paul’s proclamation. Verse 8b implies 
some direct connection between Crispus
 becoming a believer and “many of the
 Corinthians” following suit. The NRSV translates the text to say that it was as a result of 
hearing Paul that many Corinthians came to believe. The Greek text, however, literally says, “having heard, many of the Corinthians believed and were baptized.” This could mean that what motivated many Corinthians to believe was that they heard about Crispus’s faith. If so, one might infer that among these many Corinthians were Jews, influenced by the example of Crispus. One must concede that the narrator is not clear on this point.

Paul’s vision (vv. 9-10) interrupts the flow of the narrative. Given what follows in vv. 12-17, the vision serves as a reassuring fore- shadowing. This particular vision follows broadly a pattern familiar to Old Testament readers (cf. Exod 3:2-12; Josh 1:1-9; Jer 1:5-10). In such visions, God (or God’s representative) appears to a human being (v. 9a, where “the Lord” most likely refers to Jesus), gives a task to perform (v. 9b), and offers a word of assurance (v. 10). The assuring word offered to Paul is not that his days would be free of trials, but that no harm would come to him as a result of such trials.

Part of the basis of the Lord’s reassuring word is that the Lord has many people in the city of Corinth. The significance of such language lies in the fact that Luke consistently employs “people” (laos) to denote Jews, the ethnic descendants of Abraham, as “the people of God.” There are only two exceptions, Acts 15:14 and here. In Corinth, from among Gentiles, God is adding to the ranks of God’s people. The vision implies that God is calling so many people from among the Corinthians that an extended stay is necessary for Paul.

This section ends with a statement that Paul spent eighteen months teaching the word among the Corinthians. One does not know whether the narrator means that Paul spent a total of eighteen months for the entire period of his ministry prior to leaving (v. 18, which offers its own imprecise statement of time [“many days”]), or whether eighteen months elapsed prior to the next incident that Luke narrates (vv. 12-17). In the narrative world of Acts, the point is clear enough: Paul had an extended ministry, fulfilling in part the promise of vv. 9-10 that God would protect him from harm.

J. Bradley Chance, Acts, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2007), 333–328.

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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