Acts 18-20 The Message Bible

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Paul at Corinth

18 1  After Athens, Paul went to Corinth. 2  That is where he discovered Aquila, a Jew born in Pontus, and his wife, Priscilla. They had just arrived from Italy, part of the general expulsion of Jews from Rome ordered by Claudius. 3  Paul moved in with them, and they worked together at their common trade of tentmaking. 4  But every Sabbath he was at the meeting place, doing his best to convince both Jews and Greeks about Jesus. 5  When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was able to give all his time to preaching and teaching, doing everything he could to persuade the Jews that Jesus was in fact God's Messiah. 6  But no such luck. All they did was argue contentiously and contradict him at every turn. Totally exasperated, Paul had finally had it with them and gave it up as a bad job. "Have it your way, then," he said. "You've made your bed; now lie in it. From now on I'm spending my time with the other nations."

7  He walked out and went to the home of Titius Justus, a God-fearing man who lived right next to the Jews' meeting place. 8  But Paul's efforts with the Jews weren't a total loss, for Crispus, the meeting-place president, put his trust in the Master. His entire family believed with him. 9  One night the Master spoke to Paul in a dream: "Keep it up, and don't let anyone intimidate or silence you. 10  No matter what happens, I'm with you and no one is going to be able to hurt you. You have no idea how many people I have on my side in this city." 11  That was all he needed to stick it out. He stayed another year and a half, faithfully teaching the Word of God to the Corinthians.

12  But when Gallio was governor of Achaia province, the Jews got up a campaign against Paul, hauled him into court, 13  and filed chcrges: "This man is seducing people into acts of worship that are illegal." 14  Just as Paul was about to defend himself, Gallio interrupted and said to the Jews, "If this was a matter of criminal conduct, I would gladly hear you out. 15  But it sounds to me like one more Jewish squabble, another of your endless hairsplitting quarrels over religion. Take care of it on your own time. I can't be bothered with this nonsense," 16  and he cleared them out of the courtroom. 17  Now the street rabble turned on Sosthenes, the new meeting-place president, and beat him up in plain sight of the court. Gallio didn't raise a finger. He could not have cared less.

18  Paul stayed a while longer in Corinth, but then it was time to take leave of his friends. Saying his good-byes, he sailed for Syria, Priscilla and Aquila with him. Before boarding the ship in the harbor town of Cenchrea, he had his head shaved as part of a vow he had taken. 19  They landed in Ephesus, where Priscilla and Aquila got off and stayed. Paul left the ship briefly to go to the meeting place and preach to the Jews. 20  They wanted him to stay longer, but he said he couldn't. 21  But after saying good-bye, he promised, "I'll be back, God willing."

Paul Returns to Antioch and Begins the Third Missionary Journey

22  he sailed to Caesarea. He greeted the assembly of Christians there, and then went on to Antioch, completing the journey. 23  After spending a considerable time with the Antioch Christians, Paul set off again for Galatia and Phrygia, retracing his old tracks, one town after another, putting fresh heart into the disciples.

Apollos Preaches at Ephesus

24  A man named Apollos came to Ephesus. He was a Jew, born in Alexandria, Egypt, and a terrific speaker, eloquent and powerful in his preaching of the Scriptures. 25  He was well-educated in the way of the Master and fiery in his enthusiasm. Apollos was accurate in everything he taught about Jesus up to a point, but he only went as far as the baptism of John. 26  He preached with power in the meeting place. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and told him the rest of the story. 27  When Apollos decided to go on to Achaia province, his Ephesian friends gave their blessing and wrote a letter of recommendation for him, urging the disciples there to welcome him with open arms. The welcome paid off: Apollos turned out to be a great help to those who had become believers through God's immense generosity. 28  He was particularly effective in public debate with the Jews as he brought out proof after convincing proof from the Scriptures that Jesus was in fact God's Messiah.

Paul at Ephesus

19 1  Now, it happened that while Apollos was away in Corinth, Paul made his way down through the mountains, came to Ephesus, and happened on some disciples there. 2  The first thing he said was, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?" "We've never even heard of that - a Holy Spirit? God within us?" 3  "How were you baptized, then?" asked Paul. "In John's baptism." 4  "That explains it," said Paul. "John preached a baptism of radical life-change so that people would be ready to receive the One coming after him, who turned out to be Jesus. If you've been baptized in John's baptism, you're ready now for the real thing, for Jesus." 5  And they were. As soon as they heard of it, they were baptized in the name of the Master Jesus. 6  Paul put his hands on their heads and the Holy Spirit entered them. From that moment on, they were praising God in tongues and talking about God's actions. 7  Altogether there were about twelve people there that day.

8  Paul then went straight to the meeting place. He had the run of the place for three months, doing his best to make the things of the kingdom of God real and convincing to them. 9  But then resistance began to form as some of them began spreading evil rumors through the congregation about the Christian way of life. So Paul left, taking the disciples with him, and set up shop in the school of Tyrannus, holding class there daily. 10  He did this for two years, giving everyone in the province of Asia, Jews as well as Greeks, ample opportunity to hear the Message of the Master. 11  God did powerful things through Paul, things quite out of the ordinary. 12  The word got around and people started taking pieces of clothing - handkerchiefs and scarves and the like - that had touched Paul's skin and then touching the sick with them. The touch did it - they were healed and whole.

13  Some itinerant Jewish exorcists who happened to be in town at the time tried their hand at what they assumed to be Paul's "game." They pronounced the name of the Master Jesus over victims of evil spirits, saying, "I command you by the Jesus preached by Paul!" 14  The seven sons of a certain Sceva, a Jewish high priest, were trying to do this on a man 15  when the evil spirit talked back: "I know Jesus and I've heard of Paul, but who are you?" 16  Then the possessed man went berserk - jumped the exorcists, beat them up, and tore off their clothes. Naked and bloody, they got away as best they could. 17  It was soon news all over Ephesus among both Jews and Greeks. The realization spread that God was in and behind this. Curiosity about Paul developed into reverence for the Master Jesus. 18  Many of those who thus believed came out of the closet and made a clean break with their secret sorceries. 19  All kinds of witches and warlocks came out of the woodwork with their books of spells and incantations and made a huge bonfire of them. Someone estimated their worth at fifty thousand silver coins. 20  In such ways it became evident that the Word of the Master was now sovereign and prevailed in Ephesus.

21  After all this had come to a head, Paul decided it was time to move on to Macedonia and Achaia provinces, and from there to Jerusalem. "Then," he said, "I'm off to Rome. I've got to see Rome!" 22  He sent two of his assistants, Timothy and Erastus, on to Macedonia while he stayed for a while and wrapped things up in Asia.

The Riot at Ephesus

23  But before he got away, a huge ruckus occurred over what was now being referred to as "the Way." 24  A certain silversmith, Demetrius, conducted a brisk trade in the manufacture of shrines to the goddess Artemis, employing a number of artisans in his business. 25  He rounded up his workers and others similarly employed and said, "Men, you well know that we have a good thing going here - 26  and you've seen how Paul has barged in and discredited what we're doing by telling people that there's no such thing as a god made with hands. A lot of people are going along with him, not only here in Ephesus but all through Asia province. 27  "Not only is our little business in danger of falling apart, but the temple of our famous goddess Artemis will certainly end up a pile of rubble as her glorious reputation fades to nothing. And this is no mere local matter - the whole world worships our Artemis!" 28  That set them off in a frenzy. They ran into the street yelling, "Great Artemis of the Ephesians! 29  Great Artemis of the Ephesians!" They put the whole city in an uproar, stampeding into the stadium, and grabbing two of Paul's associates on the way, the Macedonians Gaius and Aristarchus. 30  Paul wanted to go in, too, but the disciples wouldn't let him. 31  Prominent religious leaders in the city who had become friendly to Paul concurred: "By no means go near that mob!" 32  Some were yelling one thing, some another. Most of them had no idea what was going on or why they were there. 33  As the Jews pushed Alexander to the front to try to gain control, different factions clamored to get him on their side. But he brushed them off and quieted the mob with an impressive sweep of his arms. 34  But the moment he opened his mouth and they knew he was a Jew, they shouted him down: "Great Artemis of the Ephesians! Great Artemis of the Ephesians!" - on and on and on, for over two hours. 35  Finally, the town clerk got the mob quieted down and said, "Fellow citizens, is there anyone anywhere who doesn't know that our dear city Ephesus is protector of glorious Artemis and her sacred stone image that fell straight out of heaven? 36  Since this is beyond contradiction, you had better get hold of yourselves. This is conduct unworthy of Artemis. 37  These men you've dragged in here have done nothing to harm either our temple or our goddess. 38  "So if Demetrius and his guild of artisans have a complaint, they can take it to court and make all the accusations they want. 39  If anything else is bothering you, bring it to the regularly scheduled town meeting and let it be settled there. 40  There is no excuse for what's happened today. We're putting our city in serious danger. Rome, remember, does not look kindly on rioters." 41  With that, he sent them home.

Paul's Journey to Macedonia and Greece

20 1  With things back to normal, Paul called the disciples together and encouraged them to keep up the good work in Ephesus. Then, saying his good-byes, he left for Macedonia. 2  Traveling through the country, passing from one gathering to another, he gave constant encouragement, lifting their spirits and charging them with fresh hope. 3  and stayed on for three months. Just as he was about to sail for Syria, the Jews cooked up a plot against him. So he went the other way, by land back through Macedonia, and gave them the slip. 4  His companions for the journey were Sopater, son of Pyrrhus, from Berea; Aristarchus and Secundus, both Thessalonians; Gaius from Derbe; Timothy; and the two from western Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5  They went on ahead and waited for us in Troas. 6  Meanwhile, we stayed in Philippi for Passover Week, and then set sail. Within five days we were again in Troas and stayed a week.

Paul's Farewell Visit at Troas

7  We met on Sunday to worship and celebrate the Master's Supper. Paul addressed the congregation. Our plan was to leave first thing in the morning, but Paul talked on, way past midnight. 8  We were meeting in a well-lighted upper room. 9  A young man named Eutychus was sitting in an open window. As Paul went on and on, Eutychus fell sound asleep and toppled out the third-story window. When they picked him up, he was dead. 10  Paul went down, stretched himself on him, and hugged him hard. "No more crying," he said. "There's life in him yet." 11  Then Paul got up and served the Master's Supper. And went on telling stories of the faith until dawn! On that note, they left - Paul going one way, 12  the congregation another, leading the boy off alive, and full of life themselves.

The Voyage from Troas to Miletus

13  In the meantime, the rest of us had gone on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we planned to pick up Paul. Paul wanted to walk there, and so had made these arrangements earlier. 14  Things went according to plan: We met him in Assos, took him on board, and sailed to Mitylene. 15  The next day we put in opposite Chios, Samos a day later, and then Miletus. 16  Paul had decided to bypass Ephesus so that he wouldn't be held up in Asia province. He was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem in time for the Feast of Pentecost, if at all possible.

Paul's Address to the Ephesian Elders

17  From Miletus he sent to Ephesus for the leaders of the congregation. 18  When they arrived, he said, "You know that from day one of my arrival in Asia I was with you totally - 19  laying my life on the line, serving the Master no matter what, putting up with no end of scheming by Jews who wanted to do me in. 20  I didn't skimp or trim in any way. Every truth and encouragement that could have made a difference to you, you got. I taught you out in public and I taught you in your homes, 21  urging Jews and Greeks alike to a radical life-change before God and an equally radical trust in our Master Jesus. 22  "But there is another urgency before me now. I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem. I'm completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there. 23  I do know that it won't be any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead. 24  But that matters little. What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God. 25  "And so this is good-bye. You're not going to see me again, nor I you, you whom I have gone among for so long proclaiming the news of God's inaugurated kingdom. 26  I've done my best for you, given you my all, 27  held back nothing of God's will for you. 28  "Now it's up to you. Be on your toes - both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people - God's people they are - to guard and protect them. God himself thought they were worth dying for. 29  "I know that as soon as I'm gone, vicious wolves are going to show up and rip into this flock, men 30  from your very own ranks twisting words so as to seduce disciples into following them instead of Jesus. 31  So stay awake and keep up your guard. Remember those three years I kept at it with you, never letting up, pouring my heart out with you, one after another. 32  "Now I'm turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends. 33  "I've never, as you so well know, had any taste for wealth or fashion. 34  With these bare hands I took care of my own basic needs and those who worked with me. 35  In everything I've done, I have demonstrated to you how necessary it is to work on behalf of the weak and not exploit them. You'll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, 'You're far happier giving than getting.'"

36  Then Paul went down on his knees, all of them kneeling with him, and prayed. 37  And then a river of tears. Much clinging to Paul, not wanting to let him go. 38  They knew they would never see him again - he had told them quite plainly. The pain cut deep. Then, bravely, they walked him down to the ship.

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