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The Value of Teamwork

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Acts 18

Effective ministry involves teamwork. Paul is known as the greatest missionary of the early church, but Paul did not work alone. He had the assistance and support of a growing network of fellow workers.


There is an oft-stated proverb that goes, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” There is truth in that proverb, because God created us to need one another. And that is true of missionary work as well.

Paul is now on his second missionary journey, but he is not working alone. He began his journey with Silas. Timothy joined them along the way. Dr. Luke joined as well but remained in Philippi to help the new church there. Now here in Acts chapter 18, more partners are joining the team. They all provide effectiveness and enthusiasm in their own unique way.

Acts 18 tells us that Paul arrives in Corinth, another place we could call “Sin City.” It is a busy, thriving commercial center; it is also the home of a temple for the goddess Aphrodite, served by a thousand sacred prostitutes. Every vice is present and out in the open in Corinth.

Now Paul arrives here alone, having left Timothy and Silas back in Thessalonica. But the Lord soon sends him some new partners in ministry—Aquila and Priscilla. They are tentmakers, and they have recently been expelled from Rome, along with all other Jews. We do not know anything about this couple prior to this chapter, but it is clear they love the Lord.

Verse 3 says that Paul is “of the same trade” as this couple, which tells us that Paul was making tents on the side, more than likely to cover his expenses. So, Paul now stays with this couple while in Corinth.

Paul follows his usual pattern and begins speaking in the synagogue every Sabbath. When Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia, it is a great encouragement to the apostle. We know from the book of 2 Corinthians, that they bring a monetary gift from Macedonia, so Paul can stop making tents for a while and focus entirely on his missionary work (see 2 Corinthians 11:8-9). Acts 18:5 tells us, “Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.”

Some of the Jewish people accept Jesus as their Messiah, but for the most part, “they opposed and reviled [Paul]” (verse 6). When he is no longer welcomed in the synagogue, Paul turns to the Gentiles. He boldly sets up his headquarters next door to the synagogue in the home of a new believer named Titius Justus.

We are told in verse 8 that “Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household.” You can imagine that stunning news traveling abroad. Paul stays in Corinth, preaching the Word for a year and a half (verse 11), and many people come to faith in Christ.

Finally, Paul leaves to report to his home church in Antioch what the Lord has been doing. Silas and Timothy may have remained to minister in Corinth, or they may have accompanied Paul back to Antioch. We are just not told. We are told that Priscilla and Aquila go with Paul as far as Ephesus, where Paul stops for a while. Verse 19 says that at Ephesus he, “went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.”

Paul is asked to stay longer, but he is anxious to keep moving. Frankly, beloved, if you met the apostle Paul, I think you would find a man whose foot was pressed down on the accelerator, so to speak—always ready to go at full speed.

It is not clear how many in Ephesus have turned to faith in Christ, but Paul does not just abandon them after his quick visit there. In fact, he strategically leaves Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus. They are actually going to host the church in their home (see 1 Corinthians 16:19). Their lives, their home, and their hearts were open to everyone for the sake of the gospel.

Paul also promises to return to Ephesus if God wills. He then leaves for Antioch. Verse 23 tells us that after reporting to the church in Antioch, Paul soon sets out on his third missionary journey.

Meanwhile, not long after Paul’s departure from Ephesus, a man named Apollos arrives there. Listen to how he’s described here in verses 24-25:

He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus.

He is eloquent, he is educated, and he is enthusiastic. But there is something missing in his teaching. We read at the end of verse 25, “He knew only the baptism of John.”

That means Apollos’s knowledge of Jesus probably came through disciples of John the Baptist, the Old Testament prophet who introduced Jesus. Apparently, Apollos knew that Jesus was the Messiah but not much more than that.[1]

What he knew and taught was true; but there were things he just had not learned about:

  • The descent and indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit
  • The birth of the New Testament church
  • The transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant
  • The invitation of the gospel to Gentile nations
  • The New Testament dispensation of grace

Apollos is a believer, but he is still essentially living in the Old Testament era; he does not know what has been taking place in the New Testament dispensation of the church age. His preaching is not so much inaccurate as it is inadequate. He needs somebody to bring him up to speed. And in God’s providence, Aquila and Priscilla are here in Ephesus to help him.

[Apollos] began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (verse 26)

Frankly, I do not think any of us would have picked this couple to help Apollos. It is likely they were an older couple and Apollos was a young man. They were married, and he was single. They lacked the education of this brilliant intellectual. They were simple laborers who made tents for a living, and he was wealthy enough to travel on his own.

Would he ever listen to them? Well, yes, he does. He humbly sits and listens as they fill him in privately on God’s work and the apostles’ teaching.

Apollos receives this new information and becomes a dynamic partner in the missionary ministry of the church. He eventually heads over to Corinth, carrying a letter from the believers in Ephesus. Verses 27-28 describe his ministry there:

When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Never underestimate the influence of ordinary people in the lives of others. These simple tentmakers impacted Apollos, who will, in turn, impact the church. And do not forget that some of the greatest things are accomplished behind the scenes. Priscilla and Aquila, over dinner in their ordinary home, helped disciple Apollos, equipping him for a future, effective ministry.

I’ve read that you can take one pound of iron, fashion it into some nails, and sell them for a dollar or two. However, if you fashioned that same amount of iron into a horseshoe, its value would go up to $100. If you turned that same iron into sewing needles, its value would skyrocket to over $1,000. However, if you placed that pound of iron into the hands of Swiss watchmakers, they could use it to create balanced springs for expensive Swiss watches, and the value would be multiplied to well over $100,000. It all depends into whose hands the raw material is placed.

Here in Acts 18, the raw material of a young believer’s life was placed into the hands of seasoned saints, Priscilla and Aquila. And the value of his ministry will increase exponentially, for the good of the church and for the glory of God.

What has God placed into your hands? Maybe it is personal ministry in the privacy of your home, or in public, teaching the Word. Wherever it is, allow Him to use you for the benefit of others and for the glory of God.

[1] Richard N. Longenecker, “Acts,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 9, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Zondervan, 1981), 490.

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