The Book of Acts (Chapter 18:1-28) (Part 29)
In the work of evangelism and Church planting there will be seasons of ministry that are not that effective. Paul had come to Athens and saw that the city had many idols as the Greeks were great believers in their gods although many did not always take them seriously. Paul had been on Mrs Hill debating with the intellectual elite of Athens who for the most part stood around and debated the latest theological ideas and the latest philosophical ideas. Paul had seen a statue to the unknown god and used this as the launching pad for his evangelism. Undoubtedly Paul was up to their intellectual prowess and knowledge and more so because He has God’s wisdom from the Holy Spirit.
However, it is clear that intellectuals are harder to see saved than non-intellectuals. History has shown this to be true time and time again. When the Lord Jesus Himself withstood the religious leaders we read “And the great throng heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37). If you look at the revivals under Wesley, Whitfield, Booth, Finney, Moody and many others it was the common people who were saved in their thousands at their meetings. At the end of his time in Athens Paul did not do a great work there although there were those who believed. Intellectual pride is most probably the biggest stumbling block to a childlike trust in God. After preaching to the Athenians he went on to Corinth. And so we read…
(Vs.1-3) “After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers.”
Corinth was a trading sea port and many nationalities were always around in the city. It was a multicultural city with a lot of immoral and occult activity. We see the effects of these kinds of practices coming into the church especially in the area of immorality and the improper use of spiritual gifts. The city was young, dynamic and not unable to change because of tradition, a mix of dislocated individuals without strong ethnic identities seeking to shed their former low status by achieving social honour and material success. Paul was not intimidated by a big, bustling, cosmopolitan hub city, with no dominant religious or intellectual tradition. Furthermore, with lots of sailors in town the merchants did very well and so did the brothels.
The heart of the city, the forum, was filled with temples and shrines to the emperor and various members of his family, built alongside temples to the older Greek gods such as Apollo. Apollo’s son, Asklepios, the god of healing, had a shrine there as well as at Epidaurus, the ancient site of miracle healings, about 50 miles southeast. In that city Paul found Aquilla and Priscilla, a Jewish couple who had been expelled from Rome at the instigation of the Emperor Claudius. This of course was a historical fact, once again proving that Luke was an accurate historian. Later we find that this Spirit filled couple would disciple Apollos, a very powerful preacher well versed in scripture, who very boldly and skilfully refuted the Jewish theologians.
Paul, Aquilla and Prescilla were all tent makers and had a common trade which they worked at. Paul sometimes worked to support himself and at other times received remuneration for his ministry. He was most definitely not in the ministry for money, unlike many today. He was content when he had a lot and just as content when he had little. It made no difference to him. His first and foremost desire was to please the Lord Jesus in all things. Whatever we do in our service for the Lord Jesus whether it is in the ministry or in the work force it is all the same to the LORD. He rewards faithfulness. Indeed there are many in the Church today who are first that will be last and many that are now last who will be first in the Millennial Kingdom to come. When the Lord Jesus comes back He will look at how faithful we were with what we were given. This is the main lesson of the parable of the talents that the Lord Jesus spoke about.
(Vs.4-5) “And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.”
Paul had a burning passion to see his fellow countrymen saved. He would later write to the believers in Rome… “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1). The power of personal testimony backed up by the Word of God is a very effective tool in seeking to save the lost. Paul undoubtedly was empowered by the Holy Spirit and had decided that once at Corinth he would rely totally upon the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Later when he wrote his first letter to the believers at Corinth concerning his ministry he said; “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I decided to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:1-3). He had learnt from his experience at Athens that even using clever arguments and skilled words did not see much of a result as far as people being saved. There were some saved, but not many.
In the work of evangelism and discipleship the intellect can not only be a stumbling block to faith in the unsaved but also be one in the work of discipleship. The intellect in the hands of the Holy Spirit can be a very powerful instrument in God’s work. We must never underestimate the importance of knowing the original languages, although most believers are not skilled in Hebrew or Greek. However, trusting in the intellect alone is a disaster for any worthwhile and lasting work. This is why those well-educated find it harder to get saved and also those who rely upon their theological knowledge to teach others.
Theological qualifications are not wrong in themselves and can be very beneficial in any work for the Lord Jesus but there is always the danger that one can rely upon intellectual knowledge and miss the spiritual heartbeat of the Spirit of God. In the case of Paul and Peter we see the advantage of sanctified academic knowledge. Peter wrote; “Consider also that our Lord’s patience brings salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom God gave him. He writes this way in all his letters, speaking in them about such matters. Some parts of his letters are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16).
When we come to study the Bible it is important that we understand the context and the meaning in the original languages and knowing the Hebrew and the Greek is a definite advantage but there will always be some things that are not easy to understand. Peter recognized that Paul had a handle on certain things spiritually that even Peter struggled to understand. In the end it is the Holy Spirit who gives us spiritual insight but without a knowledge of scripture we can easily be led into interpretations that are out of context all together. This is one way heretical teaching gets into the Body of the Messiah. When approaching the word of God there are five principles to keep in mind.
Firstly; we must understand the original meaning. Secondly; we must understand the context. Thirdly; we must view the text in light of the co-texts. Fourthly; we must understand what it meant for the people to whom it was written. Finally; we need to see what it means for us today. Paul used the Old Testament scriptures as this was the Bible of the first century believers. Paul reasoned with his Jewish brethren from the scriptures because he knew “that faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Once Silas and Timothy arrived at Corinth Paul gave himself completely to the word of God and continued to testify to the Lord Jesus being the Messiah of Israel. The Word of God was the foundation of all he taught and preached, especially to his Jewish brethren.
(Vs. 6) “But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
There are some who could be saved and should be saved but who most likely will never be saved. The Lord Jesus was up against these kinds of people when he withstood the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They would argue and debate and come up with all kinds of ‘trick’ questions to trap the Lord Jesus but were by no way interested in being saved. The Lord Jesus was blunt with these kinds of men. He could be quite gentile when dealing with sinners but when dealing with the religious hierarchy He was absolutely ruthless! Paul was a Jew and quite apt at debating. He was a realist and also saw when men were not at all interested in being saved but in arguing the point. These religious leaders he debated with at Corinth were just not interested in being saved. There are four things that transpired as a result of their stubbornness and unbelief.
Firstly; Paul “shook out his garments,” an action much like shaking the dust off of your feet. This was clearly mentioned by the Lord Jesus Himself in relation to those who refused to believe the gospel (Matthew 10:14). In the work of evangelism there is a time to persist and a time to withdraw as there is in any battle. In the spiritual battle for the souls of men and women we need God’s wisdom to know when to stay and fight or to withdraw. This characterised the prophets, the Lord Jesus and the apostles. Sadly there are some who just refuse to believe and set their heart like flint against the truth! Secondly; Paul said to them; “Your blood be on your own heads!” These men had made their bed and would have to lie in it one day, a bed filled with maggots and worms in hell (See-Isaiah 14: 11). They were self-condemned.
It is a very dangerous thing spiritually to resist the Spirit of God. Once the Spirit of God stops striving with a man or a women they will no longer be able to believe even when they hear the truth. As it is written; “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God” and again it is written; “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation!” Thirdly; Paul said; “I am clean” I have discharged my duty before God and man. I am pure and innocent of your death and ruin. I have proposed to you the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the only means by which you can be saved, and you have utterly rejected it!
Fourthly; Paul said; “From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” From this point on he would preach here and there to Jews but by enlarge because word had spread quickly in the Jewish communities warning against Paul, in God’s economy he would have a spiritual harvest among the Gentiles to whom he had been called by God to preach the gospel. As he later wrote; “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles” (Galatians 1:15-16a).
(Vs. 7-8) “Then he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.”
Paul’s labour in the Lord Jesus was not unfruitful at all. One of the leaders in the Synagogue believed in the Lord Jesus along with his family. God is always interested in winning families. Added to this many Corinthians also believed and were baptized. These most likely were Gentiles and not Jewish. Notice it says “they were believing” and “being baptised” (present and continuous tense) as “daily those who were being saved were added to the Church.” In the early Church Believer’s Baptism always followed salvation. The public act of baptism showed to the world that they were no longer under the lordship of Satan but now under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It demonstrated publically that they had died to their old life of sin and through faith had risen into a new life in Christ. As it is written; “If any man is in Christ he is a brand new creation, the old has gone and the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Crispus was the leader of the Synagogue, something that would have provoked the Jewish religious leaders. The chief ruler of the Synagogue was the one who presided in all the assemblies, interpreted the law, decided concerning things lawful and unlawful, punished those who were stubborn, obstinate and wayward, excommunicated the rebellious, solemnized marriages, and issued divorces. His conversion was like a punch in the stomach to the other religious leaders in the synagogue. Of course this would have caused the Jewish religious leaders to pursue their obstinate rejection of the gospel and make life even harder for Paul. The spirit of Cain always persecutes the spirit of Abel. At this point Paul was obviously wrestling with anxiety because of the constant pressure from his fellow Jews harassing him every day. Paul would always struggle with anxiety over the local assemblies he would establish in the future (2 Corinthians 11:28). At this point the Lord Jesus encouraged his weary servant to stay strong and recognize what the Lord had done, was doing and what He would do at Corinth.
(Vs.9-11) “And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”
Paul was grappling with fear. He was human and Satan was always pressing home his attack. Paul was a General in the army of the LORD and was constantly under fire from Satan personally and when Satan wasn’t attacking him a demon spirit was (2 Corinthians 12:7). This is why Paul could write about spiritual warfare. He understood it well as he was constantly under fire on the spiritual battlefield and not fighting with flesh and blood but with principalities, with powers and with the spiritual hosts of wickedness in high places. He was pulling down Satan’s spiritual strongholds and defeating Satan at every turn. He was undoubtedly weary and despondent and battling to control his fears and anxiety. The threats on his life were unabated. What he was learning was that God has everything under control.
Fear and anxiety will often be magnified at night when one is laying down on their bed and sleep evades them. It was at night in a vison that the Lord Jesus encouraged his weary servant. The Lord Jesus told him several things. Firstly; “Do not be afraid any longer” because fear can paralyse faith. They are opposites. We are either living by faith or by fear. There is no middle ground in the spiritual arena. Do not fear was the first thing that the Lord Jesus told Paul. Secondly; He said to Paul; “go on speaking and do not be silent” but to keep speaking out boldly for the truth and not to cave in to pressure to stop preaching or to compromise his message. Thirdly; the Lord Jesus said; “For I am with you” and if I am with you then who can stand against you? Fourthly; He said; “no man will attack you in order to harm you.” At this point in time the Lord told him plainly that no man would be able to attack and harm him implying that he would have a protective wall around him preventing any physical assault. Finally; the Lord Jesus said; “for I have many people in this city.” Many who were not as yet saved would be saved. God in His foreknowledge knew who would be saved in the future. This fact would have encouraged Paul to persevere in his ministry to the Corinthians.
Remember when Jonah was reluctant to preach to the Ninevahites the LORD said to him; “And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left–and also many animals?” (Jonah 4:11). Once Paul had received assurance from the Lord Jesus he settled down to establish an assembly at Corinth. He was there for 18 months and in that time gave them a solid spiritual foundation built on the Word of God.
(Vs. 12-17) “But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, saying, “This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you; but if there are questions about words and names and your own law, look after it yourselves; I am unwilling to be a judge of these matters.” And he drove them away from the judgment seat. And they all took hold of Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and began beating him in front of the judgment seat. But Gallio was not concerned about any of these things.”
The Jewish religious leaders could find no fault with Paul so they got together to accuse Paul before the Roman Proconsul Gallio. Archaia itself was a relatively small amount of territory in southern Greece. The major cities of Achaia were Corinth, Athens and Sparta. And so Paul was brought before the Proconsul. Their accusation of course was false and was to do with Jewish religious law. Of course they had no proof but just rhetoric. It’s like that when others cannot attack what you say they attack you for saying it. This was the case with Paul. Gallio knew the Jews to be always contentious and here was just another case that had nothing to do with Roman law which Gallio made clear to the Jewish leaders. He knew it was most probably a setup and a contrived accusation and so he told them in no uncertain terms to deal with it themselves and then dismissed them outright and had them driven out of the court. After this they let Paul go because they had nothing on him. In their frustration they took out their anger on the Synagogue leader in full view of Gallio who just ignored them.
Once again the Lord Jesus had frustrated the religious leaders. As it is written; “”He frustrates the plotting of the shrewd, So that their hands cannot attain success” (Job 5:12). In the end they turned on their own colleague in the local synagogue. Paul walked away unharmed and free to continue his ministry for the LORD. We always need to keep in mind that for those who want to do God’s will to the end that no matter what happens to them they will not leave here until they have done all that God has for them to do. We need to remind ourselves constantly that God has everything under control even if doesn’t look like it or feel like it. He is the author and the finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) What He starts He intends to finish.
As Paul later wrote; “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). When the Lord Jesus called peter “a rock” he was anything but that and added to this he denied the Lord Jesus three times. However, after his restitution he became a rock and a pillar in the Body of the Messiah. The Lord Jesus saw to it that Peter would become what He had called him to be. Humanly speaking he was a jellyfish but spiritually speaking he was to become a rock.
(Vs.18) “Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow.
Paul was a Roman citizen and this fact was most probably known among his fellow Pharisees. They could only touch him if he did something contrary to the Laws of Moses and Torah. The Jewish religious leaders realised that they could do nothing against him because he had not broken Roman law. Furthermore, they had learnt this from the treatment they had received from the Proconsul Gallio when they tried to bring charges against Paul. God has once again protecting His servant from the hands of these religious hypocrites. Satan had tried to stop Paul but he could not stop the Word of God because it could not be chained either by men or devils. Persecution always comes for the Word’s sake; (Mark 4:17).
Paul left Achaia and started his journey to Ephesus accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. He made a stop off at Cenchrea to fulfil a vow. This was a port on the east side of the Isthmus of Corinth. We do not know why he did this but being a Jew and conscious of his witness to his fellow Jews he did this in accordance with the Law. Even though he was a believer in the Lord Jesus he was still a Jew by birth. One of the sad things that occur is that many Jewish people when they become a Christian that they are no longer considered Jewish. However, this is a false reasoning.
When a Jewish person receives the Lord Jesus as their Messiah, Saviour and Lord they enter into the fullness of what it really means to be Jewish. As Paul later wrote to the Romans; “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28). Keeping a vow is important in God’s reasoning and this is why we must be careful before we utter a vow to the LORD.
(Vs.19-23) “They came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to stay for a longer time, he did not consent, but taking leave of them and saying, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem but I will return to you again if God wills,” he set sail from Ephesus. When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and went down to Antioch. And having spent some time there, he left and passed successively through the Galatian region and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.”
Ephesus was at the time in which St. Paul visited it, one of the most flourishing cities of Asia Minor. It abounded with the most eminent orators and philosophers in the world; and was adorned with the most splendid buildings. Here was that famous temple of Diana, reputed to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This city was the capital of Asia Minor and it was one of those seven Churches to which a letter was expressly dictated by the Lord Jesus Christ himself! After Christianity had been established at Ephesus it became a bastion of spiritual power and apostolic doctrine and practice. The problem they had was that they came to lose their first love and in time their candlestick was removed.
Today it is a Muslim town with very few Christians. In Paul’s day it was a city where false religion and the occult flourished. As was his custom he went to the local synagogue first of all and spoke with the Jews but did not stay long even though his ministry was having an effect on the Jews. He wanted to go up to Jerusalem to keep the feast of the Passover, Most probably he would see many of his friends there and have the opportunity to preach to gospel as thousands of Jews would be there at Jerusalem. It was a great evangelistic opportunity that he did not want to miss. He had laid some ground work for his future ministry at Ephesus. In God’s work, God’s timing is perfect. Paul always made room for the will of God and was led by the Holy Spirit. His time would come to establish a strong assembly at Ephesus but not before he had gone to the hub of the Jewish nation.
(Vs.24) “Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures.”
Apollos was a man who had immersed himself in the Word of God and knew the scriptures well. He was undoubtedly not only an eloquent speaker but one who could rightly divide the Word of Truth and apply it most effectively to the lives of others.
(Vs.25) “This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John;
Apollos had been instructed in the ways of the LORD. For how long he had been acquainted with the Word of God we do not know but he most certainly knew his Bible and could use it as skilfully as a mechanic could use a wrench. As to his understanding of the deeper things concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit it would seem he lacked in this area. He not only knew about the Lord Jesus but knew what He taught. He had never met the Lord Jesus it would seem but had most probably been acquainted with the teaching of John the Baptist or even have been of his disciples.
There are men even in the ministry who are undoubtedly gifted and called to that ministry or to full-time work who are mighty in spirit and well acquainted with scripture and who can rightly divide the Word of Truth but whose knowledge and experience of the deeper walk with the Holy Spirit is still lacking. They may know about the Holy Spirit and have Him living on the inside of them but have never really been Baptized or filled with the Spirit.
The fact that Apollos knew only the baptism of John would tell us that he would have known about the promises of the power of the Holy Spirit to come, because John had taught about this, but had not realised that the Holy Spirit had already been poured out on the Day of Pentecost. As to his spiritual abilities from the Holy Spirit there is no doubt at all. The fact that he was well taught and established in scripture was the perfect vessel for the Holy Spirit to fill to overflowing with His divine power. And so we read…
(Vs.26) “…and he began to speak out 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.”
This fine preacher who was mighty in his knowledge of scripture was a humble man willing to be instructed in the deeper and fuller understanding of the message of the gospel of the kingdom he preached. Priscilla and Aqulia were a husband and wife ministry team who taught other believers. Undoubtedly Priscilla herself was a capable teacher but who was under the headship of her husband. Nowhere in scripture do we find a woman who taught men by herself alone. Wherever you have a Deborah you also have a Barak as you see in the Old Testament. Miriam, Moses sister was a prophetess but she was still under the authority of the man Moses. Paul the apostle deals with this whole subject at length in his letter to the Corinthian Church (1 Corinthians 11:1-16). Furthermore the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not limited only to men (Acts 2:17-18).
(Vs.27-28) “And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”
When a man or woman is called and gifted by the Holy Spirit the local assembly will recognize and endorse that gift and calling. Of course the leadership and the fellowship must be operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit to adequately recognize and endorse such calling and gifting. Sadly there are multitudes of denominational churches today where in theory they acknowledge others gifts and abilities but are one man shows where you have a separation between ’laity’ and ‘clergy’ which does not exist in the New Testament. Every believer is a priest and a minister and has differing gifts according to the grace given to them by which to exercise those gifts (Romans 12:5-7).
Tragically you have two extremes today. On one hand there are those who preach the Bible but do not acknowledge or experience the gifts of the Holy Spirit operating freely in their local assembly. On the other hand there are those who go overboard in regards to the gifts of the Spirit to the point where almost anything goes and where the emphasis is on one’s personal experience rather than on the Word of God. It is very hard to find a local assembly where the Word of God is taught under the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit accompanied by the gifts of the Spirit operating freely among the members of that local assembly. In the book of Acts this kind of assembly was the norm. Even the apostles travelled with other brethren and at times were accompanied by their wives.
As to Apollos, once he had been instructed more deeply in the things of God and in things concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit, his desire was more fervent to spread the Word of God to others. You could not hold him back. He was like a fully charged battery as it were. All the lights were switched on! When he arrived at Achaia he was used mightily by God to strengthen the brethren. Furthermore, he encouraged the believers at Achaia by powerfully refuting the Jewish leaders publicly concerning their bankrupt religious system and their antagonism towards the Lord Jesus Christ their Messiah. They could not stand up to Apollos’ preaching and testimony any more than they could have stood up to the preaching of Stephen who himself had been powerful in his testimony and murdered for it. Under the anointing of the Holy Spirit he was able to demonstrate from the scriptures that the Lord Jesus was Israel’s Messiah and the only one who came to save His people from their sins.
There are there thigs we notice about Apollos. Firstly; he was a man who had a personal and spiritual experience from God. Secondly; he was well versed in scripture meaning that his experience was rooted and grounded in and upon the Word of God. Thirdly, he was undoubtedly anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power! These three things will mark any genuine ministry of a man of God. In the work of evangelism and discipleship, as they go hand in hand, it is vitally important that we have an experiential, working knowledge of God’s Word. The Word of God is our spiritual ammunition and the Holy Spirit the trigger which fires that word into the minds and hearts of men and women.
A soldier who has been enlisted into the LORD’s army and trained but has not been baptised or filled with the Holy Spirit for their avenue of service and ministry to and within the Body of the Messiah is like a soldier going into battle without weapons or armour. Once again it needs to be said that when you consider the ministry of the apostles, they had been thoroughly equipped and taught by the best teacher ever and had received expert hands on training for three and a half years and had been commissioned by the Lord Jesus personally to go into all the world and to preach the gospel, they still needed the mighty Baptism with the Holy Spirit. Once they had received this experience they were then fully equipped with the armour and weapons they needed to fight the long, difficult, dangerous and arduous spiritual battle that lay ahead of them for the souls of men and women.