“When he (Paul) had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the disciples.” (Acts 18:22,23)
Here we have a simple account of some of Paul’s movements following his second apostolic journey with Silas. We are told he landed at Caesarea, visited the church in Jerusalem, returned home to Antioch, and after a while took off again through Galatia and Phyrgia. These are all the facts we’re given by Luke in his narrative, though in all probability there are a few more specifics we may know about this period of time. Knowing the complete story adds to our comprehension of scripture in such a case.
For instance, it was probably during this time that Paul spoke with Peter about the situation in Corinth. Corinth was a melting pot of cultural diversity, a truly wonderful expression of the Body of Christ which Paul spent a good eighteen months laboring to raise up, and whether or not it was by Paul’s invitation Peter surely had to see such a thing for himself. We know from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (which was actually Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, though we know it as his first) that Peter did indeed visit the city at some point. I’d say it must have been a very exciting time for the church there. Probably a few miracles attested Peter’s ministry, as they usually did, and certain of the saints in Corinth, especially the Jewish believers, became very enamored with him as a result. In fact, some of them would later come to say that they followed Peter alone above all others (1 Corinthians 1:12). The point is we know for a fact that Peter did visit the church in Corinth, so there had to have been some occasion which prompted his visit to the city. In all probability it was here in Acts 18:22,23 when Paul stopped off at Jerusalem after his second trip to say hey.
Second, we know at some point Paul conceived a plan to bring an offering from the Gentile churches back to Jerusalem to assist the poor saints of Judea and demonstrate their unity in Christ. Paul had first delivered aid to Jerusalem with Barnabas as far back as A.D. 44, and in their meeting with the apostles and elders in Acts 15 some six years later Paul was admonished by James and the other leading brothers to continue to remember the poor, which Paul claimed he was “eager to do” (see Galatians 2:10). At whatever point then Paul initially conceived his plan for the Gentile offering we don’t know, but it would seem to have only come into effect either toward the end of his second journey or shortly before his third. This is assumed because we don’t hear any mention of the offering until 1 Corinthians, which Paul wrote from Ephesus around A.D. 55. Here he tells the Corinthians to do the same thing he instructed the churches of Galatia to do (which was to take up a collection on the first day of each week until he came-see 1 Corinthians 16:1,2). When did he give this instruction to the Galatian churches? Probably at the beginning of his third journey here in Acts 18:23.
This is just one example of how knowing the complete story of the New Testament can add to our comprehension of scripture. Can you think of any others?