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(Acts 18:12–23) This Was Your Life

(Acts 18:12–23) This Was Your Life

by Stephen Davey
Series: Sermons in Acts
Ref: Acts 18:12–23

How would your like look as a reality TV show? Would it be wroth watching? Would it be wholesome and God-honoring? What would it reveal to others about you? Maybe it's time for God to rewrite your life's script, so don't touch that dial!

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This Was Your Life

              Acts 18:12-23

An article sent to me recorded the things that young people and older people have learned in their lifetime – some of them profound, some of them humorous:

  • Like the 12 year old who said, “I’ve learned that just when I get my room the way I like it, Mom makes me clean it up.” 
  • One mother (evidently) learned that children and grandparents are natural allies. 
  • Another woman said, “I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.” 
  • Here’s an interesting piece of knowledge from a seasoned traveler, “I’ve learned that motel mattresses are more comfortable on the side away from the phone.” 
  • Another traveler said, “I’ve learned that wherever I go, the world's worst drivers have followed me there.”
  • My all time favorite is the young boy who wrote, “I have learned that you can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.”
  • Here’s a profound statement by a 58 year old: “I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life.”

Peter Lynch, former Fidelity Magellan Fund manager, seven years ago uttered the quote heard around the world "Nobody on his deathbed ever said, 'I wish I’d spent more time at the office.'”  Ever since his statement, anticipating one’s dying sentiment has become a popular pastime.  So I asked experienced executives and business people over 50 years old, “Looking back, if you could change one thing . . . what would it be . . . what have you learned about life.”

Faith Wohl, one of DuPont’s first women senior executives said, “I wish I had gone to my daughter's sixth-grade field day.”

J. Michael Cook, CEO said, “I wish I had understood the importance of that Thursday afternoon soccer game.  But it was a given that you dedicated yourself to your job, [first and foremost].”

Randall Tobias, chairman and CEO said, “I can remember some blurry choices when my children were younger, when I may not have attended a play or a game because I had some conflicting business commitment. It’s ironic that 25 years later I can remember the event I missed, but I can’t remember the business activity that I did in it’s place – in fact, in some cases, I have to stop and remember where I was working at the time.”

            Quoted from The Wall Street Journal


That is exactly what occurred in the life of a man who seemed to have it made.   He appears briefly in the Book of Acts and yet teaches us the same profound lesson that people are still learning today, namely, it’s possible to make a living and miss life worth living. 

In our last discussion of Acts 18, we traveled with Paul to the pagan, immoral, sin city called Corinth.  It was here where Paul nearly threw in the towel.  Perhaps you remember the Lord coming to Paul in a night vision with the promise in verse 9 And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10 for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city. 11 And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Only two other times did Paul ever settle down in a city this long and teach.  This was a remarkable turn of events for Paul who came to Corinth and was filled with fear and weakness.  Now this ungodly city becomes the location for a major 18 month campaign, and the establishment of a significant ministry in Europe.

Now v. 12.   But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, 13 saying, “This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you; 15 but if there are questions about words and names and your own law, look after it yourselves; I am unwilling to be a judge of these matters.” 16 And he drove them away from the judgment seat. 17 And they all took hold of Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and began beating him in front of the judgment seat. And Gallio was not concerned about any of these things.

Whether Gallio knew it or not, he was at this moment an indifferent bystander regarding issues of life or death, heaven or hell, hope or despair, and forgiveness or guilt.

Maybe you’ve seen or read the advertisement “Image is (what?) everything!”   In our American culture, image is everything; character means nothing.  However, in the Christian culture, your image is incidental.  It is the image of Christ reflected through you that is significant.

The American culture was no different than Roman culture.  If image was everything, then Gallio had everything.

He was the son of a prominent lawyer named Lucius Seneca.  Gallio’s older brother took his father's name and was known throughout the empire simply as Seneca, the tutor of Nero, the brilliant philosopher and statesman.  The other brother of Gallio was a famous poet.  These three boys were destined for greatness, and all of them achieved it.

On May first, 52 A.D., Gallio was appointed by the emperor to the highest political office at Corinth, an impressive commercial center and an impressive political appointment.

Gallio may have been in a position of leadership, but in reality he was a follower! 

Two reasons why?

Reason #1 – Gallio was indifferent about opinions outside the politically correct environment.

In Gallio’s day, Jews were unimportant.  In fact, the emperor had only recently, according to verse 2 of this chapter, kicked all of the Jews out of Rome.

The general consensus of the day was, “Jews stir up needless trouble; you’re better off ignoring them.”

Look back at the contempt with which Gallio treats them – verse 14b.  “If I were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you. . .”  In other words, “You guys are wasting my time. . .I’m an important judge; and, if Claudius thinks you’re not worth the trouble, I don’t think you’re worth the trouble.”

Just because a person has a title or position of leadership doesn’t mean he or she is leading.  They may simply be following the status quo!

I read a few weeks ago about a group of local leaders who were invited to a private dinner as guests of President Calvin Coolidge.  They were a little nervous about using the proper table manners to win the president's respect.  So they decided out in the waiting area that, when they sat down to lunch, they would carefully watch Coolidge for the right cues.  They eventually were seated at the banquet table, and coffee was served.  Coolidge, to their surprise, poured his coffee into his saucer.  The guests did likewise.  Then Coolidge added sugar and cream.  The visitors did the same.  Coolidge then leaned over and gave the coffee to his cat.

Can you imagine being one of those dinner guests?  “Here kitty, kitty…”

George Gallup polled several hundred Americans and found that, when placed in a situation where they had to either follow the crowd or be different, the vast majority of them followed the crowd.

What is the status quo today?  Think of an issue, and then consider how vastly different the status quo is from the scriptures.

Last Sunday was a Sunday in which we focused on the status quo of the unborn.  Our society has rendered them non-persons.  The status quo is they are fetal tissue, not life.

What would the status quo say to the preacher and his wife who are very, very poor.  They already have 14 kids.  Now she finds out she is pregnant with her 15th.  They're living in tremendous poverty.  Considering their poverty and the excessive world population, would you consider recommending that she get an abortion?  If you answered yes, you have just killed John Wesley, one of the great evangelists of the 19th century and founder by principles of the Methodist and Wesleyan churches.

Situation two is where the father is sick with sniffles and the mother has TB.  They have had four children.  The first is blind, the second is dead, the third is deaf and the fourth has TB.  She finds she is pregnant again.  Given the extreme situation, would you consider recommending an abortion?  If you answered yes, you have killed Beethoven.

There was a white man who raped a 13 year old black girl who became pregnant.  If you were her parents, would you consider recommending an abortion?  If you answered yes, you have killed Ethel Waters, the great black gospel singer.

A teenage girl is pregnant.  She's not married.  Her fiancee is not the father of the baby and is very upset.  Would you consider recommending an abortion?  If you said yes, you have just declared the murder of Jesus Christ.

The Status quo drowns out the voice of the Savior!!

“Gallio, that little Jewish man who has been roughed up and brought in before you is a nobody.  Don’t even let him talk. These people with their arguments over whatever – verse 15 – arguments over words and

names and your own law -- are not worth your time.”

It’s interesting to me that Gallio specifically mentions three things he wasn’t interested in:

Words The Greek word logos could have been a reference to the claim of Christianity that Christ was the logos of God John 1:1.

(In the beginning was the Word – logos -- and the word was with God, and the word was God.)

Gallio also wasn’t interested in names .  Could this have been a reference to the name of Christ declared earlier in Acts 4 as the only name by which we must be saved?

Gallio also mentioned his disinterest in the law or the Torah.  Could this be a reference to the boiling debate where Paul is declaring that Jesus Christ fulfilled the law perfectly and became the spotless lamb sacrificed for the sins of the world?

The second thing Gallio was indifferent about was anything outside the perimeter of his life and interest

Notice verse 17.  And they all (the courtroom police/lictors)  took hold of Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and began beating him in front of the judgment seat.  (In other words, Gallio had told them to leave, and they all had except for Sosthenes, the synagogue leader, who evidently stayed to argue with the verdict and got a beating because of it)   Notice - “And Gallio was not concerned about any of these things.”

This is the ultimate proof that you’re somebody; when you never have to bother with anything that you don’t want to bother with; when it concerns somebody else; when the world revolves around you, you’ve arrived!

This was your life, Gallio!

But can you imagine knowing now what he knows?  Can you imagine realizing throughout eternity that you had had Paul, the chief ambassador of Jesus Christ, standing before you and recall forever that you never let him speak.  You had all the right connections but standing before you was your connection to God, and you were too important to listen.

At this moment, Ladies and Gentlemen, Gallio missed life.

Now by way of sharp contrast, the lens of scripture re-focuses on Paul.  While Gallio was in indifferent bystander, Paul was an impassioned believer.

I want to make three observations about Paul.

#1  Paul was concerned about his personal commitment to Christ.

We just saw him in the courtroom not ready to apologize and blend in with his Jewish crowd but ready to defend the honor of Christ.  The fact that he remains in Corinth as verse 18 says, “many days longer” reveals his willingness to be different, to be unloved and misunderstood, to speak the truth and to stand for Christ.

Notice v. 18.   And Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow.

That leads me to my second observation.  Paul was concerned about his private relationship with Christ.

Luke quietly slips in a personal note.  Did you catch it?  He doesn’t tell us any of the details.  He doesn’t give us Paul’s reasons for this vow and why at Cenchrea he makes a visit to a small town barbershop.  Nothing.

He only wants us to know of Paul’s passion for Christ.  It ran deeply into the private life of Paul.  We do know that this vow, since it involved the cutting of hair, was a Nazarite vow.  It could be kept for life or for a period of 30 days.  The hair was grown long and then cut  to be offered with other sacrifices in Jerusalem as an act of thanksgiving.  Since the Nazirite vow was purely voluntary, Paul was not violating grace for law when he undertook it.  This vow was not a matter of salvation but a matter of devotion.  And I find it interesting that Luke doesn’t give us any details.  The truth is, if he had, we’d all be trying to copy Paul!

The truly spiritual people would be those who’ve taken the Pauline vow!

Have you taken the Pauline vow yet? 

Yes I have.  In fact, I take the vow three times a year.

Okay, everybody sign up for the Pauline Vow retreat.  Veteran vow keeper will be speaking from his vast vow keeping experience.

Thank God we weren’t told any of the details.

We are to imitate, if anything, Paul’s deep passion, not his devotional plan.

19.  And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.  20.  And when they asked him to stay for a longer time, he did not consent,   21.  but taking leave of them and saying, “I will return to you again if God wills,” he set sail from Ephesus.

Observation #3 involves Paul's public obedience to Christ.

This is a great expression here:  “If God wills."

I think we need to learn to think that way.  Everything is under the control of a Sovereign God.  “If it’s the will of God for me to be back, I’m convinced, I’ll be back!”  What confidence and assurance!

We need to recognize that this is coming from a man who is personally committed to Christ, a man who has just completed a personal vow to Christ, a man publicly obedient to Christ.  It is that kind of person who can live with the confidence and assurance “If God wills it, I’ll be back.”

Two men, two different portraits!

Gallio had position, prestige, wealth, connections and was on a first name basis with the high powered.  You’d read the news about Gallio.  In fact, four Roman writers spoke highly of Gallio as a great man.   But from the perspective of time, we would say, “He had nothing.”

About 10 years after this courtroom scene, Gallio was summoned by half-crazed Nero to Rome and condemned as a conspirator along with his famous brothers, Melas and Seneca.  All three were forced to take their own lives by drinking poison.  The man who allowed no time for talk of Christ in his courtroom was given no defense in the courtroom of Nero.

As for  Paul, who in Paul’s day would want to read of his life.  This man gave up prestige; he walked away from his connections with powerful men like Gamaliel and the Sanhedrin; and he forfeited the potential of personal wealth and comfort. From the perspective of history and in the light of eternity we would say today that “Paul had it all.”  In fact, we find great delight today in reading and studying his life.

What will history say about you?  “This was your life!”  What would the description be like?  Let me put it another way, “Is there anything about your life that is worth writing down?”

In that list of things I read earlier where people said something they learned, one 62 year old wrote, “I’ve learned that sometimes life gives you get a second chance.”

I’m so glad God does!  His mercy is new every morning, great is His faithfulness.

Maybe for you, that second chance, should begin today.  The kind of life you’re in the process of publishing isn’t really worth writing down…but this morning you’re going to begin:

- some personal commitment to Christ;

-a private relationship with Christ;

-a public obedience to Christ.

Only one life, twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.

Can you imagine coming to the end of your life and realizing that what you should have been concerned about, you weren’t and what you should have done you didn’t  - what occupied the primary passion of your life was, in the light of eternity, not nearly as significant as the things you overlooked, or ignored?

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