Scripture Reading: Acts 18:1-22

In Acts 18 Paul goes to Corinth where he meets Aquila and Priscilla (vv. 1-4) and preaches to the Jews and encounters their opposition (vv. 5-17). In 18:18-21a Paul goes to Ephesus, and in 18:21b-22 he returns to Antioch, thus ending his second ministry journey.


Meeting Aquila and Priscilla

Acts 18:1 and 2 say, “After these things he departed from Athens and came to Corinth. And having found a certain Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy, and Priscilla his wife (because Claudius had directed all the Jews to depart from Rome), he went to them.” Claudius was a Caesar of the Roman Empire. What he did here was used by the Lord for His ministry to build up His church, just as what Caesar Augustus did was used by God for the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the birth place of Christ (Luke 2:1-7).

Verse 3 says, “And because he was of the same trade, he remained with them and they worked; for they were tentmakers by trade.” This indicates that while Paul was carrying out the ministry of the Lord, he still had a job. He refers to this in 1 Corinthians 4:12, “We labor, working with our own hands.” Furthermore, in both 1 Thessalonians 2:9 and 2 Thessalonians 3:8 Paul says that he labored day and night so as not to be burdensome to the saints.

Paul’s practice was different from that of many Christian workers today. Often when a person becomes a minister or a missionary, he will no longer do any other kind of work. But while Paul was ministering the word, he also worked with his hands in order to earn a living. This he did not only to support himself, but also to support his co-workers. Regarding this, he says in Acts 20:34 and 35, “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my needs and to those who are with me. I have showed you all things, that toiling in this way we ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus which He Himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Once again Paul set up a good pattern.

According to a passage such as 1 Corinthians 9:3-15, the churches and the saints were not faithful in taking care of Paul as a servant of the Lord. Because they did not support him adequately, he was forced to work. Some of the Corinthians even accused Paul of trying to make a gain for himself from them. But Paul indicated that he would rather die than take anything from the Corinthians (1 Cor. 9:15).

Those who serve the Lord full-time should not regard their work for the Lord as their profession. If necessary, some may still need to work in order to make a living for themselves. Whether or not we do this depends on how much our burden occupies us. If your burden occupies you in full and the environment affords you a living, then you should certainly spend all your time on the Lord’s work. But if not, you should still work to support yourself, and not only yourself but also your co-workers, especially the younger ones.

If Paul did not receive proper financial support, how could his younger co-workers have received it? Because of the need to support himself and others, Paul was forced to work at his trade of tentmaking. This is a very good pattern for us today.

Concerning financial support, the situation of Paul and his co-workers in the New Testament was different from the priests and the Levites in the Old Testament. According to the Levitical regulations, the priests and Levites were to live on the offerings of God’s people. But in the New Testament this regulation is over.

According to Luke 8:1-3, a group of sisters ministered to the Lord Jesus and the twelve out of their possessions. The twelve disciples followed the Lord full time, and they all needed financial support. Certain women who loved the Lord and who had the substance to support the Lord and His followers met their need.

In the early years in the church in Shanghai, the financial support came mainly from the sisters. A number of sisters were nurses in a leading hospital, and these sisters supported the church and the co-workers in Shanghai. I have also observed this in other places.

In a very real sense, the sisters love the Lord much more than the brothers do. Among the twelve was a Judas, but there was no “Judas” among the sisters. Judas did not know how to love the Lord, but he certainly knew how to count money. Those who care for money in this way will never support others. The more they count their money, the more they love it and desire to keep it for themselves.

Under God’s sovereignty certain of the women in the Bible married wealthy men. Consider the case of Esther, who married a Gentile king. By exercising influence over her husband, she was able to support all the Jews.

Among the women in Luke 8:1-3 was “Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward” (v. 3). Although Roman politics persecuted the Lord Jesus, the wife of a Roman official used her husband’s money to support Him. I have known cases of sisters who have used their husband’s money to support the Lord’s work.

The point we are emphasizing regarding Acts 18:3 is that those who are burdened to serve the Lord full time should do so if the environment and the financial situation allow. But if the environment does not permit one to serve full time, he should not give up his burden. Rather, he should carry out his burden and yet at the same time be diligent to work to meet his needs, as Paul did in Acts.