Ready for Paul?

Monday, March 9, 2015

More Teachers Take Up The Task

There are lots of other characters in Acts, even once it starts chronicling Paul's journeys, so a little digression to look at Priscilla and Aquila might be a good place to start the next study...

(19) Moving On To Ephesus
When Paul left Greece, he sailed with Priscilla and Aquila to Ephesus, on his way to Jerusalem for the feast. On the way, he had his hair cut off and presumably took a vow which he would fulfil at the feast. Then he returned to Antioch (Acts 18:22-23). Paul didn’t stay in Ephesus because of his vow. But Priscilla and Aquila did. So today’s study starts with them.

Who gets to teach?
1.       Who were Priscilla and Acquila, and why might they have stayed in Ephesus? (Read Acts 18:1-3,18-21)

2.       Read Acts 18:24-25. Who was Apollos? Where might he have heard of Jesus from?

3.       How can tentmakers argue with scholars? And how can scholars learn from tentmakers? (Read Acts 18:26-28) Does Apollos’ willingness to learn, and then teach what he’s learned, have a message for modern churches?

4.       What happens when people are only taught half the story? (Read Acts 19:1-7)

5.       How might Paul’s question – Did you receive the Holy Spirit? – correspond to modern denominational questions – did you speak in tongues?

6.       What happens when people refuse to learn the rest of the story? (Read Acts 19:8-9). So who does get to teach?

What happened in Ephesus?
1.       Paul visits Ephesus at the start of his third missionary journey. We don’t know how long he stayed in Antioch between travels (Acts 18:23) but we do know he stayed at least two years, and probably three in Ephesus (Acts 19:10) Why is Ephesus so important?

2.       Read Acts 19:11-12. We know the Holy Spirit has been working in other places. Why is it important for early reading to know that miracles took place in Ephesus? What might people need to know Jesus is Lord of here?

3.       Read Acts 19:13-14. Itinerant Jewish missionaries were a common phenomenon. They tried to prove their God greater by showing his power in miracles. Why might they have tried to invoke Jesus’ power? When are we tempted to lay claim to things we don’t really understand?

4.       Read Acts 19:15-16. The story almost sounds funny to our ears, but it was very serious. Why does the evil spirit ruin things for Satan by speaking?

5.       Read Acts 19:17-20. What effects might this have on the community – spiritually, economically, socially...?

6.       Read Acts 19:21-22. How might the events in Ephesus have encouraged Paul to believe he needed to visit Rome?

7.       But Paul doesn’t leave straight away. He stays, probably three years altogether, in Ephesus, and sends Timothy and Erastus back to Greece. What does this tell us about him? Are there times when we should exercise patience, even when we’re sure we know what God wants?

8.       What else do you think Paul might have been doing while he worked in Ephesus?

Meanwhile, in Corinth...
1.       Paul sent Erastus and Timothy to Greece (Acts 19:22) but they probably stopped at Corinth on the way (1 Corinthians 4:17-21). How do you think the Corinthians felt about Paul staying in Ephesus without visiting them? How easily do we feel as if we’re being slighted?

2.       Paul’s letter to the Corinthians includes lots of well-thought-out and very specific instructions. He clearly knew what was going on there, and was familiar with the major characters in the local churches. How do you think he kept in touch?

3.       The Corinthians at this time are waiting for Jesus’ return, just as the Thessalonians were (1 Corinthians 1:7-8, 7:29-31). Do you think this urgency has anything to do with Paul’s feeling that he must get to Rome? What sort of urgency do we feel – for people in foreign lands, for people in our own land, or for our neighbors?

4.       Apollos went on to Greece, and has clearly preached to the Corinthians. How important is Paul’s advice to a divided church today? (Read 1 Corinthians 1:11-17)

5.       Corinth is a center of learning. How might wisdom be a problem in today’s church? (Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-19)

6.       How might wisdom be a solution instead? (Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-10)

7.       Read 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 1 Corinthians 4:15. Did you notice Paul spoke of himself as a father in Corinth, not a mother? Why might this be?

8.       Read 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 Social status in Corinth was based on patronage – (male) friends in high places got things done. How might this relate to the situation Paul writes about? Do we ever allow evil, to obtain good?

9.       Read 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 How does Paul’s advice about avoiding the sexually immoral apply today?

10.   Paul’s letter answers specific questions about specific situations in Corinth. Quickly skimming through 1 Corinthians 6-15 (or just through the headings in your Bible), what sort of questions were they asking? What sort of questions might we ask today?

Paul’s Plan
1.       Paul wants to go to Rome. But first he’s collecting aid for Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-4). Then he plans to travel through Galatia and Greece again (1 Corinthians 16:5-7). But he plans to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost (1 Corinthians 16:8-9). But things in Ephesus are coming to a head. Read Acts 19:23-28. Is the root of the problem spiritual or financial? And what does that say about their god?

2.       Does it say anything about modern society’s gods?

3.       Read Acts 19:29-34. The opposition are close to rioting in this tale. Do Christians ever behave this way?

4.       Read Acts 19:35-39. The city clerk quiets the crowd by appealing to law and order. Is this a good or a bad thing?


5.       Read Acts 20:1-2. Paul sets off for Greece (and probably Corinth) as promised. Who determined the timing of his trip?

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