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God's Plan for Priscilla and Aquila - Life of Paul Part 52

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
November 20, 2020 9:00 am

God's Plan for Priscilla and Aquila - Life of Paul Part 52

So What? / Lon Solomon

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Well, let's take a Bible and open it together to Acts chapter 18. We're going to be coming there in just a few moments as we continue in our study of the life of the great man, the Apostle Paul.

Now, you know, I'm glad to say that I have as a friend the fellow whose picture you're going to see on the screen right now. His name is Moshe Rosen. He's the founder of Jews for Jesus.

And a true story about Moshe, back in the 1950s, he began with the American Board of Missions to the Jews as a young Jewish missionary. And after a number of years, it became fairly obvious that he was the heir apparent to take over as the next president of this organization. But as soon as that became announced, suddenly there was a younger member of the staff who was extremely jealous and extremely aggressive, extremely ambitious. And he began working in ways designed to push Rosen out. He began undercutting him with the president and telling lies about him and misrepresenting things that he was doing.

And they were all untrue. But after a while, the total weight of them was so great that the president of the American Board of Missions to the Jews fired Moshe Rosen over completely untrue allegations. Well, left high and dry he was. He had no job. He had no income. Instead of being the next president of the American Board, he became an unemployed ex-missionary with a bunch of little kids to raise. And there he was, stranded high and dry because of stuff that somebody else did, not even him.

Now friends, I believe Moshe Rosen is not the first person who's ever had this experience. I believe pretty much every one of us here can relate to what happened to him. Every one of us here has had the direction of our life radically changed at some point by the ungodly, unrighteous, unfair actions of somebody else. And so when that happens to us as followers of Jesus Christ, what do we do?

How do we handle that kind of brutal treatment coming our way? Well, this is what we're going to talk about today. We're going to use an incident right out of the life of the Apostle Paul. So I want you to go with me here to Acts chapter 18. And remember now, when we left the Apostle Paul last week, he was in Athens preaching on the top of Mars Hills.

So now we're going to pick up the story, chapter 18, verse 1. And after this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. Now Corinth was a very strategic city in the ancient Roman world, and I want to show you why.

Let's show you a map and you'll understand. In the time of Paul, here's Corinth, here's Athens, and separating the Peloponnesus where Sparta was in the main part of Greece, is this little tiny isthmus that you see between Corinth and Athens that's three and a half miles wide. Here on the right-hand side, on the east, we see the Aegean Sea, and on the left, we see the Ionian Sea. And what would happen is, sailors, rather than sailing all the way around to the south of Greece, and out into the Mediterranean Sea where there were storms and gales and all kinds of nasty weather, what they would do is they would make use of this little isthmus. They would sail in from the east or sail in from the west on these calm inland seas. And then, for small ships, what they would do is they would take the whole ship and float it out of the water, get it up on dry land, and take it on a little railroad they built the three and a half miles across the isthmus and refloat it on the other side. Or, for ships that were much larger, they would simply unload the cargo on one side, take it across the land on wagons, and then reload it on another ship waiting on the other side. So what this isthmus became was kind of like the original Panama Canal, if you understand what I'm saying. Interestingly enough, in the 19th century, people actually dug a canal right through this isthmus.

We'll show you that picture now. And this is today, you're looking towards the Ionian Sea here on the west. And I'm not talking about little ships, we're talking about big old ships that go through this, let's show them a picture of one of those, that go through this even to this day. So isn't it interesting to know that even this day, people are still navigating the eastern Mediterranean the same way they did 2,000 years ago when the apostle Paul lived there. When we go on our tour of Greece, and interestingly enough, one of the things we do is there's a little open-air restaurant that you sit right on the edge of the canal, and we eat, you know, moussaka or whatever, and watch these huge ships go by.

It's really unbelievable. Well, that's the same way it was in Paul's day. And this city of Corinth sat just like this little open-air restaurant right on this canal. And as a result, it became a stopping point for all the trade and all the commerce that was moving across this isthmus. It became a city of enormous wealth and enormous influence. In fact, it's estimated that at the time of the apostle Paul, the population of Corinth was 200,000 people. Now that made it a true megacity in the ancient world. Let's show you a couple pictures of what Corinth looked like. Here's one of them where you just get a sense, and a second one where you'll actually see the remains of the temple of Apollos. And this was an enormous city.

In fact, here, if you look very carefully in the background, you can actually see the Aegean Sea at the base of the mountains here in the background of the city of Corinth. Well, Paul arrived there, chapter 18, look at verse 2 with me. And when Paul came to town, he met a Jew named Aquila who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome.

Now here in Corinth, the apostle Paul met a married couple. They were both Jewish believers named Priscilla and Aquila. And the Bible tells us that they had been expelled from Rome by an edict of Emperor Claudius. Now Claudius became emperor of the Roman Empire in 40 AD. And we are told by the Roman historian Suetonius, and I quote, that in his ninth year, Claudius expelled all the Jews from Rome because the Jews were in a constant state of chaos at the instigation of a person named Crestus.

Most historians agree that this Crestus that is mentioned here by Suetonius is actually a misunderstanding and a mispronunciation of the word Christ. And so what really happened here apparently is that in the early 40s AD, the message of Jesus arrived in Rome and Jewish people began being told by other Jewish people that Jesus was the Messiah and the entire Jewish population of this city, about 20,000 in Rome at the time, erupted. Erupted with chaos and commotion and riots and beatings and all kinds of tumult until eventually Claudius got sick and tired of it and said, all right, I'm throwing a whole bunch of you out.

All 20,000 of you guys get out of Rome. Well, included in that number were Priscilla and Aquila. And the Bible tells us they migrated to Corinth, which is where we meet up with them right here in Acts chapter 18.

Now we have an exact year for all of this. Remember, this was in the ninth year of Claudius, so we know it was 49 AD when he threw all the Jews out of Rome. And the Apostle Paul arrived in Corinth in the fall of 51 AD, meaning that Priscilla and Aquila had been in Corinth probably about a year when the Apostle Paul got there.

All right, verse two goes on. And Paul went to see them because he was a tent maker as they were, and he stayed and worked with them. Remember the Apostle Paul trained under Gamaliel. He tells us about us in Acts 22, the famous rabbi in Jerusalem. And Gamaliel required all of his rabbinic pupils to have a marketable skill. The Apostle Paul's marketable skill was tent making, and so maybe they were down in tent maker square. I don't know where they were, but somehow they ran into each other in Corinth, and Priscilla and Aquila and Paul went into business together, making tents there in this city. And verse four goes on to say, Every Sabbath Paul reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade both Jews and Gentiles.

Now you get the picture here. The Apostle Paul, Monday to Friday, worked for a living, and then on the weekend he preached. And as was his custom, he began his preaching ministry with the synagogue that was there in this town. Now interestingly, archaeology has corroborated what the Bible tells us about the presence of a significant Jewish community in the town of Corinth. For example, we dug up this capital for a column, and on this capital are three big old menorahs, three big old candelabras. And friends, it don't get more Jewish than menorahs, you understand what I'm saying to you? Also, they dug up out of the ground this big old piece of limestone, I'll show you that, and right here is the word Hebrews, written right here on the piece of limestone from Corinth. But I got to tell you, I did not need archaeology to know that there were Jewish people in this town. You know why? You find commerce, you find trade, and you find money, and you will find Jewish people, you understand?

I mean, it is a law of nature, inviolable law of nature. I knew there were Jewish people in this town. There was money going through this town, and we were there. All right, now, the Bible tells us the apostle Paul went to the synagogue every single week, and ministered, and tried to lead these Jewish people to Christ. And as we're going to see in the weeks to come, the Jewish community in Corinth is going to explode the same way the Jewish community in Rome exploded when the message of Christ got there.

And Paul is going to be right smack dab in the middle of it. We'll get there in a couple of weeks. That's as far as we want to go in our passage today. But before we ask our question, I want to make sure that we don't leave the passage without getting the full impact of something that was said here. Remember the Bible told us here that Priscilla and Aquila had to move out of Rome and to Corinth, and it was against their will.

Don't forget what happened here. You know, Brenda and I, in 1980 when we came to McLean Bible Church, I don't know if you've ever had to move from somewhere you've lived a long time. I'll bet a lot of you have because some of you have been in the military. Some of you have been in the industry or business.

Some of you have worked for the government. You know, we had lived in Maryland for 10 years when we decided to come over here, and it was really hard. We left all our close friends. We left all our familiar places.

We left all our favorite restaurants. We left the house that we loved. And it was years before we really felt like we had reestablished roots here.

Well, you know what? We came over here voluntarily. We came over here because we believed God was asking us to.

We decided to make that move. Hey, Priscilla and Aquila did not decide to make this move. Priscilla and Aquila did not come to Corinth willingly.

I want you to make sure you see that. They got forced out of town, forced out of their favorite restaurants, their favorite friends and favorite locations without warning, without appeal, without mercy, and it wasn't even because of anything they did. It was because of the unrighteous actions of other people that they got thrown out of town.

It was the unbelieving Jewish community that couldn't have a civil conversation about Jesus, that had to resort to beatings and riots and tumult and commotion and everything else, so the emperor kicked them all out of town. We've got Priscilla and Aquila's life being radically scrambled up and changed because of the unrighteous actions of a bunch of other people. Everybody see that? That's important because that's going to figure into what we want to talk about now that it's time to ask our most important question. And you all know what that is. So here we go.

Are you ready? One, two, three. So what? Ah, right. You say, Lon, so what?

Geography is great, and I really got to get me one of them red little pointer things you got, but what difference does any of this make to my life? It doesn't make any difference to me. Oh, I believe it does, folks. Listen, I believe every one of us here can relate to what happened to Priscilla and Aquila. Every one of us here can relate to what happened to Moishe Rosen. Every one of us here have been in situations in our life where we've been going along, minding our own business, just trying to serve God to the best of our ability, and all of a sudden somebody else does something ungodly, unrighteous, unfair, that suddenly alters the total direction of our life, and it's not for the good. Maybe it was a father who walked out on our family, or maybe it was a spouse who walked out on our marriage, or maybe it was a boss who put a little pink slip on our desk one Friday when we weren't expecting it, or maybe it was a neighbor who lied about us and ruined our reputation. Maybe it was a coworker who stabbed us in the back and stole our best account.

Maybe it was a fellow student at school who tried to cheat off our paper, and we got in trouble and we didn't even do it. Maybe it was a relative who cheated us out of our inheritance, or a broker who misinvested our funds and decimated all of our assets, or maybe it was a business partner who did something criminal and sunk the whole business. But you know what, friends? Every one of us knows what it feels like to be accepting bad stuff that we didn't even do to cause it, somebody else did to cause it. Now, when that happens, as followers of Jesus Christ, how do we maintain spiritual equilibrium? How do we maintain spiritual perspective? How do we keep our joy when we're suffering because of the ungodly behavior of somebody else, when we're getting kicked around like Priscilla and Aquila did, when we're getting kicked around like Moishe Rosen got kicked around? Well, the answer to this is to have a godly view of circumstances.

You say, well, what in the world is that? Well, I'm explaining it to you. A godly view of circumstances, friends, is a way of looking at the events, the circumstances of life. It's a way of looking at the things that people do to us, and it's perfectly summed up in the words and the experience of a guy in the Bible that you know. His name is Joseph. Joseph, just like Priscilla and Aquila, just like Moishe Rosen, so, too, Joseph's life was radically altered by the unrighteous behavior of other people. Let's go back and remind ourselves what happened to our friend Joseph. Remember, first of all, his brothers, 11 brothers, were so jealous of him, so resentful of him, they hated him so much that one day they bushwhacked him, tied him up, and sold him as a slave to a bunch of strangers going through the desert.

You remember that? Joseph hadn't done anything wrong. He hadn't committed any crime, and you talk about radically altering your life. They sold him into slavery in a way he went on some caravan, all because of the unrighteous actions of his brothers. Then they take him to Egypt, and they sell him to Potiphar, bodyguard to the Pharaoh, and Potiphar's wife got what we used to call in the South a hankering for Joseph. You know what a hankering is, don't you?

Well, yeah. She got a hankering for Joseph and tried to convince him to have an affair with her, and he said, no, I won't do it. I won't sin against God like this. And you know what that woman did? That woman flipped this whole thing around and went and told her husband it was Joseph's fault, that he was the one trying to have the affair with her. Now, that's not true, but who do you think the husband believed?

Well, he believed his wife, and he threw Joseph in jail. Now, jail in Egypt 4,000 years ago is not like jail in America today. They didn't have TV sets with satellite and, you know, an NFL Sunday ticket. They didn't have nice rooms where they washed your clothes up and folded them all up for you.

They didn't have workout rooms and weight rooms and basketball courts to go outside and play on. This is jail in Egypt 4,000 years ago, and Joseph got thrown in there and spent 13 years in jail from age 17 to age 30. He never saw the outside of an Egyptian jail, and it wasn't even for anything he did. He didn't do a thing wrong.

It was the unrighteous acts of other people that ended him up in jail. Well, the story has a happy ending, friends, because one day the Pharaoh had some dreams and nobody could interpret him. They called Joseph out.

He did it. And the Pharaoh turns to him and says, what do you think about being prime minister of Egypt? Joseph said, hmm, I think I'll take it, and so he did. And he became prime minister of all Egypt, and, you know, seven years later, it's been 20 years now since they sold him, his brothers come to town looking to buy food, and guess who they have to go interview with? Old Joseph. They didn't know who he was at first, but when he told them it was him, ooh, you think they were scared?

You bet. But look what he says to them. Now, here's a godly view of circumstances.

You ready? All of this has happened to him. Listen to what he says to his brothers. He says, Genesis 50, do not fear. I know that in selling me, you meant it for harm. You resented me, you hated me, and as far as you were concerned, I could die and you could care less. But God meant it for good. God was bigger than your unrighteousness. God was able to take your unrighteousness and turn it into this present result today that I'm the prime minister of all of Egypt. In fact, he said to him earlier, Genesis 45, so then it was not you who sent me here to Egypt. You say, yeah, it was.

Uh-uh. Not the way Joseph saw it. It was not you who sent me here to Egypt. It was God. God was bigger than your unrighteousness. God was in control all the time. And friends, Joseph saw God over and above and behind every unrighteous thing that these people had done to him, working out God's perfect plan for Joseph's life even through the unrighteousness of all these people. And he understood that even though his brothers nor Potiphar nor Potiphar's wife nor Pharaoh himself realized that they were all being used by God to get Joseph exactly where God wanted him.

And because Joseph saw this, because Joseph believed this, that's why he could forgive his brothers and forgive everybody else that had harmed him. That's why he could go through this with the peace of God in his life instead of bitterness and resentment in his life. This is a godly view of circumstances. It means seeing Almighty God in absolute control of every detail of life. It means seeing that God is working out his perfect plan for our life even through the hatred, the mistreatment, and the ungodly actions of other people. It means that we see God as being bigger than even the meanest, cruelest, nastiest things that people do to us. It means believing that God is working out a righteous plan for us even though he may be using the unrighteous behavior of other people to make that plan come true. Could I repeat that? God is working out a righteous plan for us even though he may be using the unrighteous behavior of other people to get that plan to happen. That's a godly view of circumstances. You say, well, Lon, that's great.

That's great. Where do you get one of these things from? I mean, is there some psychobabble seminar you can go to and learn how to do this? Is there, you know, is there some book in our bookstore that teaches you how to do this?

I mean, can you order it off the internet? Where do you get one of these godly views of circumstances? Friends, it's real simple. A godly view of circumstances is a result of believing what God tells us in the Bible. It is the result of believing what God tells us in the Bible. And what does God tell us in the Bible?

Romans 8 28, that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love him. And folks, all things means all things. It means getting kicked out of Rome by the emperor the way Priscilla and Aquila were. It means getting sold into slavery by your brothers the way Joseph was.

It means being fired because of the scheming of some coworker like Moishe Rosen was. All things means all things. And this is where a godly view of circumstances comes from. It comes from believing God's promise, pure and simple. Now, if you're here today and you've never trusted Jesus in a real and personal way, may I say to you that something you already know, and that is there aren't very many certainties in our world. I mean, whether it's your stock options, your mutual funds, your job, your retirement funds, your relationships, your good health.

Hey, stuff can go real quick. There are no sure things in this world except the promises of God. Friends, the promises of God are cultureless, they are timeless, and they are non-negotiable. And I don't care where the stock market goes, the promises of God stay put.

They never move a bit. And Jesus said that a person who builds his life on the promises of God is like a person who builds his life on a rock. And the winds come and the storm blows and the rain falls and the house is fine because it's built on a rock. Now, you know what? If you're here and you've never trusted Jesus and you're tired of building your house on the sand, God has a much better way for you to build your life.

But you know what? You can't activate the promises of God. You can't make them your personal property until you give your life to Jesus Christ. That's where it all starts. So if you're here today and you want to start building on the rock, God would love nothing better than to help you.

But friend, you've got to start by coming into personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Something to think about. When you say, Lon, before you finish today, because I sense we're getting done here, you know, I want you to bring this thing full circle here. I mean, what I mean by that is, Lon, this whole thing with Priscilla and Aquila. I mean, did they're getting kicked out of Rome? Did that really work out for their good?

Well, absolutely. You know, friends, Priscilla and Aquila became the most significant married couple anywhere in the New Testament. They became Paul's lifelong friends. They became his lifelong teammates in the ministry.

I mean, let me scroll you through their life a little bit. Paul stayed 18 months in Corinth. Priscilla and Aquila stayed there with him, being his partners in ministry. When he left to go to Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila went with him to Ephesus. When he left Ephesus, he said to Priscilla and Aquila, you guys stay behind and you guys nurture this young church here that we started, which, oh, by the way, the Bible tells us 1 Corinthians 16 actually met in their home. A little bit later, in Romans 16, we find out that Priscilla and Aquila had gone back to Rome, and for a while they were back there leading the church in Rome. And finally in 2 Timothy 4, we find that they're back in Ephesus again at the end of Paul's life in charge of not only the church but in charge of the whole work of God in the western part of Asia Minor. Paul says about them, Romans 16, 3, Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Jesus Christ, who risked their lives for me. Not only I, but all the churches of the Gentiles owe them a great debt of gratitude.

Hey, that's a pretty good accolade to have written about you in the Bible. And here's the point, is that God had a fabulous plan for Priscilla and Aquila's life, a plan to use them spiritually beyond their wildest dreams. But in order to get this plan to happen, listen carefully friends, God had to get them out of Rome in 49 A.D. and had to get them into the path of the Apostle Paul.

How did he do that? Very simply, he had the emperor throw every Jew out of Rome. That might have been a little overkill, but he had them throw every Jew out of Rome. And Priscilla and Aquila got thrown out too and got thrown right into the path of the Apostle Paul so that their destiny in life could be fulfilled. Now, question, when Claudius threw Priscilla and Aquila out of Rome, do you really think Priscilla and Aquila understood that it was so they could go meet the Apostle Paul and fulfill the destiny for their life?

No way. Of course they didn't know that. But the important thing is, God did know it.

You say, what about Moishe Rosen? Can you bring him full circle before you quit? Did his getting fired cause some fabulous plan that God had for his life to get worked out?

Well, you bet your yarmulke did. Listen to what happened to him. Rosen was living out in L.A. when he got fired and he began to go up to San Francisco and just hang out as a volunteer and hand out tracts with a bunch of Jewish hippies up there in San Francisco who had become believers in Jesus and they would go into the street and onto college campuses and in 1972 they were on the campus of San Francisco State University. When somebody sitting there watching them in a derisive way, in a negative way said, ah, his student said, there come those Jews for Jesus and Rosen heard him and said, that is the best name I ever heard in my life. And he said, we're going to take that name and start an organization by that name and so in 1973 Rosen and a bunch of Jewish hippies out there started Jews for Jesus stealing the name from this student sitting on campus and Jews for Jesus today has gone on to become the largest and most influential Jewish mission in the world with branches in Canada, France, England, Germany, Russia, Israel, South Africa, Australia, here in the United States. Now, when Moshe Rosen got fired by the American Board of Missions to the Jews, do you think he knew it so that he could go start Jews for Jesus a few years later? Uh-uh. He didn't even know the name. But did God know?

Sure. And friends, that's the point. That's the point. If you're here and you're a follower of Jesus Christ today, listen, God has a fabulous plan for your life.

He really does. And God's going to work that plan out through every circumstance that comes into your life and when God lets people mistreat us, when God lets somebody else's ungodly actions alter the direction of our lives, just like with Moshe Rosen and just like with Joseph and just like with Priscilla and Aquila, we probably won't understand at that moment exactly why God's doing what He's doing. But that doesn't matter. The important thing is that God understands why He's doing what He's doing. And some of us are right in the middle of that kind of situation right here today. We've had somebody do something that has just scrambled our life and I'm here to tell you that what we need, friends, is a godly view of circumstances. What we need is to believe that God is in absolute control of every detail of our lives. What we need is to believe that God is able to work out a righteous plan for our life, even through the unrighteous behavior of other people.

What we need is to be confident that God is bigger than even the meanest, cruelest, nastiest stuff that people do to us and that God will cause all things to work together for good if we'll just trust Him. And you say, Lon, what assurance do I have of that? Friends, you have the assurance that God said it.

And that you can take to the bank. That's the best assurance you can have. Let's bow our heads together, shall we? Just before we close up in prayer, I want some of you who are here who I know are dealing with tough situations in your life because of what somebody else has done that's unrighteous and ungodly and unfair. I want you to take a moment and talk to God about bringing a godly view of circumstances to bear on that situation in your life.

Take a moment and you speak to God. Lord Jesus, you know we live in a world where people do a lot of rotten stuff to one another. And being a follower of Jesus doesn't make us impervious to that.

Lord, many of us here today are dealing with negative consequences in our lives because of somebody else's ungodly behavior. And my prayer today is that you would give us a strategy for dealing with that. A biblical strategy.

We call it a godly view of circumstances. Lord, enable us to see our circumstances the way the Bible tells us we should see them. And help us use the experience of Moishe Rosen and Priscilla and Aquila and Joseph to corroborate that you tell us the truth and that our job is not to try to figure it all out and our job is certainly not to try and go pay people back. Our job is to trust you and when it's all done, you promise us that you will cause all things to work together for good in our lives. So Lord, help us rise above our human emotion when this happens to us and help us to look at all of this through the lens of biblical truth. Give us a godly view of our circumstances so that we can have the peace of God going through them. The peace of God that passes all understanding. And we pray these things in Jesus' name. God's people said, Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-10 18:48:57 / 2023-06-10 19:01:39 / 13

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