Paul's Work at the House of Crispus & Justus: Part 1 of 2

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

April 15, 2015


Acts of the Apostles



Acts 18:7-11 (KJV)

7 And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.
8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.
9 Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:
10 For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.
11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.



Introduction

The work in Corinth met with early success. There were a number of converts, including Titus Justus, possibly a Roman citizen and a colonus, a worshipper of God (v. 7) and Crispus a Jew despite his Latin name “the synagogue ruler” (v. 8). It would appear from the use of the definite article, “the ruler,” that at Corinth only one person at a time held that office and that Sosthenes, who is mentioned later in verse 17, succeeded Crispus upon the latter’s conversion. The order of the verses implies that Crispus did not become a Christian until after Paul’s break with the synagogue, but some expositors may be right in supposing that he and his family came to faith while Paul was still in good standing with the Jewish community. Among the others were Gaius, whom Paul mentions with Crispus in 1 Corinthians 1:14, and “the household of Stephanas,” who were “the first converts in Achaia” (i.e., Corinth; 1 Corinthians 16:15).


Commentary

7 And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.

And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus.

When Paul left the synagogue (see 18:4, 6), he moved his place of witness to the house of a Gentile God-fearer named “Titus Justice,” who probably was one of those mentioned in 18:41 as being present in the Corinthian synagogue. The name Titus Justice suggests that he was a Roman citizen, though Luke does not indicate that he was a convert.

Some hold to the view that “Titus (or “Titius”) Justice” is the Gaius who is also mentioned as having been baptized by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:142. Their reasoning is that Titus and Justice would constitute the last two of the customary three Roman names and that Gaius could well have been his first name. This same Gaius is mentioned as Paul’s Corinthian host in Romans 16:233. Some interpreters believe verse 18:7 refers to Paul’s changing his place of lodging from Aquila and Priscilla’s to Titus’s. This view is appealing but unfortunately too speculative.

One that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.

When Paul left the synagogue, “he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6), and then he walked to Titus Justus’s House, which was next door to the synagogue or across the street from it. This might appear as somewhat spiteful to the Jews, but it could also indicate that he had not completely given up on them. It was essential for the apostle to remain identified with the synagogue for reasons which we have given previously. This was certainly a wise decision on Paul’s part, because it gave him continued contact with the Jews and Gentile proselytes; and as a result, many of them came to believe in Jesus Christ.

This would be a meeting place for the remainder of his stay in Corinth. It might have been better for the sake of peace to have moved clear across town. Paul, however, was always sensitive to the leading of the Spirit, and it was made evident to him that the house next to the synagogue was the one he should use. Certainly, nothing could be more calculated to annoy the Jews and to “provoke them to jealousy” as Paul put it later (Romans 11:11). This was certainly a wise decision on Paul’s part, because it gave him continued contact with the Jews and Gentile proselytes; and as a result, many of them came to believe in Jesus Christ.


8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all

his house.

“The synagogue” had two important officials: the “angel of the synagogue” was the regular minister, responsible to pray and preach, take care of the law, and appoint those who were to read it; the “ruler of the synagogue” had charge of its other affairs, including regulating the service. That was the functions performed by Crispus. He and his whole household “believed” in Christ “and were baptized.” Like Gaius, he was one of the few people Paul baptized at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:144). His conversion undoubtedly had a considerable impact on many who regularly attended the synagogue.

Paul’s preaching and teaching center attracted both Jews and Gentiles.

And many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

Witnessing among the Gentiles was a success, for many of the Corinthians “believed and were baptized.” The results of his work in Corinth assured Paul that the city was fertile ground for the spread of the Gospel (the tense in the Greek points to continuous growth).

We know from Paul’s Corinthian correspondence that the church there was large, gifted, and influential; unfortunately, church factions (1 Corinthians 1:10-17) were allowed to develop. Seemingly the majority of the congregation were ordinary working people, not the “first families” of Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:265). Still, some were from the upper social classes. Factions (divisions, clicks) appeared within the congregation which reflected a persons’ social status; that seems to have been the major problem when they gathered for the agape feast in connection with the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:17-22).

The Jews in the synagogue must have watched the growth of the rival Christian community next door with a cynical attitude. Its ranks included enough people of influence and repute to retard for some considerable time the usual reaction of violence. As increasing numbers of pagans, drawn from a motley background of immorality and idolatry, flooded into the church, the Jews eyed it with growing jealousy and hatred. For a long time, they doubtless consoled themselves by drawing the robes of self-righteous complacency about themselves and congratulating each other that they were not as other men were. Anyone could get converts with Paul’s cheap gospel, but, God be praised, they were not going to allow people into the synagogue without a long probation, circumcision, and a commitment to keep the Law of Moses, the traditions of the Elders, and the teaching of the rabbis.

When you examine Paul’s ministry in Corinth, you will see that he was fulfilling the Lords commission given in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Paul came to Corinth (“Go”), he won sinners to Christ (“make disciples”), he baptized, and he taught them. He even experienced the assurance of the Lord’s promise: “Lo, I am with thee always!” (Acts 18:9-10). Paul’s associates baptized most of the new converts (1 Corinthians 1:11-17), just as our Lords disciples did when He ministered on earth (John 4:1-2).

Particularly of note in Paul’s letter to the Romans (see Romans16:233), which was written in Corinth, is the mention of Erastus, the “director of public works” in Corinth.

An inscription has been excavated in the plaza adjacent to the theater at Corinth. It mentions Erastus as the treasurer of the city who provided the funds for the plaza. This quite possibly is the same Erastus associated with the Corinthian congregation in Romans 16:233. Such a man would have been both “influential” and of high social standing, even if he wasn’t of “noble birth.”



Prologue to Verses 9-11

Verses 9-11 are a sort of interlude in the narrative. They seem to interrupt the account of the increasing Jewish opposition to Paul, which became full-blown when he was brought before Gallio (18:12-17). They are, however, an essential part of the story and are closely related to the trial scene. Their form is that of a divine commissioning narrative in which God or His angel appears to a human agent, gives a task to be performed, and gives an assurance of His presence. The form already is familiar from previous incidents in acts (5:17-21; 9:10-18; 16:6-10), and Paul would have similar visions on subsequent occasions (23:11; 27:23-24). All of these have familiar elements from the Old Testament that deal with the call of the prophets—Moses (Exodus 3:2-12), Joshua (Joshua 1:1-9), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5-10), and the servants of the Lord (Isaiah 41:10-14). Even the same wording binds all these together: “Fear not; do not be silent; I am with you; no one will harm you” (commentator’s translation).

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