by Roger McCay
13 September 2020
Sermon Passage: Acts 18:18-28
Link to Audio Version
No work of art is more important than the Christian’s own life, and every Christian is called upon to be an artist in this sense. He may have no gift of writing, no gift of composing or singing, but each man has the gift of creativity in terms of the way he lives his life. In this sense, the Christian’s life is to be an art work. The Christian’s life is to be a thing of truth and also a thing of beauty in the midst of a lost and despairing world.
So writes Francis Schaeffer in the conclusion to his book Art and the Bible. We know the truth of his words from the Scriptures, in that each and every one of us are works of art created and lovingly crafted by the Lord himself, made in his image. We are the epitome of creation, and we are all so different in so many ways. Just in this room there are so many differences between each of us, it boggles the mind. On the surface we are all different sizes, shapes, and all those things that make us physically different. Then, as we go deeper, among us there is a wealth of variety in our life stories, roads we’ve travelled, talents and Spiritual gifts the Lord’s given us, personalities, passions, ways of thinking, and life callings. As we are works of art—the Lord’s art—worked into our very being is the Way of life he has given us. Christians are particularly zoomed in on this fact, following Jesus, as his disciples. The Way of the Lord carries us on through this life and the next, as the Lord’s art creates art of beauty and truth lasting into eternity. Death itself is merely a station along the Way.
There is always more for us along the full Way of the Lord. In the Scriptures we consistently see this played out in the lives of the Lord’s people with whom we encounter.
In our short passage today, we get a snapshot of the lives of four folks, Paul, Apollos, and Priscilla and Aquila, all creatively following after Jesus. They are quite a varied bunch, and, along their life journeys, they sometimes travel together and sometimes apart. Yet, apart or together, the Scriptures reveal the Lord weaving their diverse lives, united in faith and love, into his grand picture, not only for their own edification, but for the advance of his Kingdom. Perhaps, today, as we consider the Lord’s work in their lives, we’ll recognize some of the patterns of how he creatively works in our lives as we follow him along the Way.
The first of these faithful Christians we see, in today’s passage, is Paul. We’ve gotten to know him quite well in our journey through Acts. He’s relentless, driven, passionate, a force bolstered and used mightily by the Lord—attributes touched on just a bit in these few verses of his extended travels.
You’ll notice in your bulletin a map handout, showing the end of Paul’s 2nd missionary journey and the beginning of his 3rd. In vv. 18-23 of Acts 18, Luke speeds up the narrative for Paul, touching quickly on this and that for the seeming purpose of quickly getting him back to Ephesus, in order to focus on the events there. Hopefully, the maps help you to picture in your mind what’s going on with Paul’s travel, as all these names of places listed on their own can be confusing.
In v. 18, (#1 on your map), Paul finally leaves Corinth, having spent over 18 months there. You’ll notice, too, that, stopping at Cenchreae, Paul “cut his hair, for he was under a vow.” So, what is this about? Well, two major opinions are that (1) Paul either took a Nazarite vow (along the lines of what is described in Numbers 6), or (2) he took a private vow. I tend to agree with F.F. Bruce on this one, who puts it simply:
This was probably not a formal Nazirite vow, which could not properly be undertaken outside the Holy Land, but a private vow, the fulfilment of which was an act of thanksgiving—possibly for the divine promise of verse 10, which had been confirmed by his preservation from harm throughout his Corinthian ministry.
Also, you may remember how the Lord had shut the door on Paul’s going into Asia back in Acts 16:6, leading to his Macedonian mission. Now, in ch. 18, some years later, the Lord has unlocked that door and opened it for Paul to head on through. That’s something to keep in mind, by the way; sometimes, in your life, those doors now locked may be opened down the road. As it was for Paul, with the way open before him, he sailed with Priscilla and Aquila from Cenchreae, crossing the Aegean Sea, to Ephesus, a major city in Asia (#2 on your map).