During the second preaching journey of the apostle Paul that is recorded in the Book of Acts, he spent over one and one-half years preaching the word of God in the city of Corinth (Acts 18:1-11). In a brief fashion, Acts 18:8 reveals what took place there after people heard Paul and others preach: “Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.”
In this case, the gospel was carried into “new territory” and a harvest came. Is that not exciting?! Let us break down the text and do a simple analysis.
“Crispus” – The name means “curled” [Smith’s Bible Dictionary]. The only other Bible verse in which Crispus is mentioned is 1 Corinthians 1:14, which reads, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius.” That is helpful information to have at your disposal if you hear someone falsely claim, “Well, Crispus was never baptized.” Oh, but he was. The Bible says so.
“The ruler of the synagogue” – The word “synagogue” is used over 40 times in the New Testament, often in connection with the life of the Christ and the later work of His apostles. “The word synagogue (sunagoge), which means a ‘congregation,’ is used in the New Testament to signify a recognized place of worship [of the Jews practicing Judaism, rdc] . . . They appear to have arisen during the exile, in the abeyance of the temple-worship, and to have received their full development on the return of the Jews from captivity” [Smith’s]. In Crispus’ role as the synagogue’s ruler, “It was his duty to select the readers or teachers in the synagogue, to examine the discourses of the public speakers, and to see that all things were done with decency and in accordance with ancestral usage” [Thayer, word no. 752].
God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), including those who are the slaves of religious error. We should never think that those who are in positions of leadership in false religions “would never accept the gospel.” Crispus did. So did many Jewish priests (Acts 6:7), Simon the sorcery guy (Acts 8:9,13), and zealous Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9). In modern times, we have heard of workers in Buddhist temples, denominational pastors, and other religious leaders obeying the gospel. Let us never doubt the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16,17), and let us never disregard a potential prospect just because he/she is caught up in religious falsehood.
“Believed on the Lord” – Do not let this expression disturb you. The Bible clearly teaches that justification or salvation is “by faith” (Romans 5:1). In addition to Acts 18:8, other verses in the same book also put the spotlight on believing. “. . . many of those who heard the word believed . . . (4:4). Those same people were later described as “the multitude of them that believed . . .” (4:32). “And believers were increasingly added to the Lord . . . and many believed on the Lord” (5:14; 9:42).
The kind of faith that pleases the Lord is one in which a person trusts in Him and willingly submits to His will. In the New Testament, when the words “faith” or “believe” are mentioned as the single condition of salvation, they are employed as a synecdoche – “a figure of speech in which a part is used for a whole” [www.yourdictionary.com]. Thus, in Acts 18:8, to say that Crispus “believed” means that he did what the Lord requires every person to do in order to be saved. “Believed” stands for all that is included in obeying the gospel. Since God does not show partiality, the requirements of repentance and baptism for the remission of sins that the Jews heard on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38) applied to the ruler of the synagogue in Corinth, too.
“With all his household” – No, that expression does not include tiny children. Such little ones cannot believe, but Crispus did. Little ones are not capable of receiving the word (Acts 2:41), but Crispus did. And, little fellows are not capable of making a personal decision to be baptized, but Crispus did (1 Corinthians 1:14). Anyone in the “household” of Crispus that joined him in becoming a follower of the Christ was mentally capable of understanding, believing, and obeying the gospel.
“Many of the Corinthians” – In general, there are few that travel the path to eternal life (Matthew 7:13,14). Yet, in Corinth, there were many. That is great, but let us not become obsessed with numbers. Instead, let us be content to keep our hand to the plow and sow the seed. God will take care of the increase.
“Hearing, believed and were baptized” – The same thing was said about people in Samaria when Philip preached there (Acts 8:12). Such statements bring to mind the words of the Master that are recorded in Mark 16:15,16. What about the person that hears the gospel, then responds in belief and baptism? Our Lord says that he “will be saved.” I would not want to be in the shoes of anyone that argues with Jesus’ teaching that baptism comes before salvation, would you?!
I look forward to seeing Crispus and other saints from Corinth in heaven. What a reunion that will be!
— Roger D. Campbell
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.