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Acts 18:18-23 - Homilies By W. Clarkson

The strength which is of man.

The most suggestive sentence in these verses is that with which they conclude; but we may gather lessons from others also. We may learn—

I. THAT THE DIVINE SPIRIT LEAVES US TO LEARN SOME TRUTHS BY THE TEACHING OF EVENTS . ( Acts 18:18 .) We are a little surprised that Paul should think it necessary to trouble himself with ceremonies which, in Christ Jesus, have become obsolete. But this is one of those things which, among many others in our New Testament, show that God does not directly lead his people into the whole truth; he wishes us to learn his mind by the teaching of events, as the early Christians came gradually, and through the lessons of Providence, to understand that they were emancipated from the injunctions and prohibitions of that which was "positive" in the Mosaic Law.

II. THAT OPPORTUNITIES OF USEFULNESS SHOULD BE EAGERLY EMBRACED . There was time for a hasty visit to Ephesus, and Paul did not fail to avail himself of it ( Acts 18:19 ).

III. THAT EVERY MAN MUST BE ALLOWED TO JUDGE HIMSELF IN MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE . ( Acts 18:20 , Acts 18:21 .) Those Ephesian Jews may have thought—and we may be disposed to agree with them—that it was of greater consequence that they should have the truth preached to them than that Paul should go on to visit an unsympathizing Church. But it was a matter of conscience to him that he should go, and he therefore resisted their entreaties. We must form our judgments respecting the decision of others; we may offer our opinion and even urge our request; but we are bound to remember that it is every man's duty to decide for himself, in the last resort, what he should do and whither he should go. Our urgency should never be pushed so far as to disregard this individual obligation.

IV. THAT THE CHRISTIAN COURTESIES SHOULD BE STUDIOUSLY OBSERVED . ( Acts 18:22 .) It became Paul to salute the Church at Jerusalem. It was the mother Church, with which the other apostles were so intimately connected; it would have been ungraceful on his part not to have maintained friendly, or, at any rate, courteous, relations with it from time to time. It is very probable that there was no cordiality existing between its leaders and himself. Nevertheless, it was better to pay it an amicable visit, as he now did. Cordiality is vastly better than courtesy; but courtesy is decidedly better than disrespect or impropriety, and the irritation which proceeds therefrom. If possible, let unaffected, warm-hearted love prevail and abound; if that be hopeless, then let there be a studious observance of that which is courteous and becoming.

V. THAT THE BUSIEST LIFE SHOULD INCLUDE SOME SEASONS OF REFRESHING REST AND COMMUNION . Even the energetic and anxious apostle, with all his cares and projects, found it well to "go down to Antioch and spend some time there" ( Acts 18:22 , Acts 18:23 ).

VI. THAT THE WISE TEACHER WILL CARE TO STRENGTHEN HIS DISCIPLES as well as to make converts ( Acts 18:23 ). Paul was always solicitous to "strengthen his disciples." He was the last man in the world to forget that God was the ultimate Source of all spiritual strength. But he knew that there was much that he, as a Christian teacher, had to do to make his disciples strong. He had

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