Don't Be Afraid. Keep Speaking For Me.
Fear And Anxiety
1. Paul left Athens and headed for Corinth. The Book Of Acts tells us nothing regarding the circumstances of this time. But, we can know from the very words he spoke the kinds of thoughts he had in his mind while he was heading for Corinth. They are written in the following way in the First Epistle To The Corinthians. "When I went there, I was broken down and weak, overtaken by fear and greatly ill at ease," (I Corinthians 2:3). As you think about it, it wasn't too irrational a way for him to feel. While in Philippi of Macedonia, he was interrogated for a crime without any basis at all, then whipped, and jailed. While in Thessalonica a riot took place. Then while in Berea where re-located as if making a night time escape, it seemed many teachable (or meek) Jews began to receive the gospel but then another disturbance was made by the Jews from Thessalonica. He left behind Silas and Timothy in Berea as a last resort and he moved on to Athens. In Athens he told the gospel just one at a time or to many. Some laughed outright scornfully and some said, "I'd like to be informed on that some other time and left." In the midst of such events he began to feel a physical drain little by little. He began to be seized by fear.
2. Now he was standing in the land of Corinth. It was a great metropolis. As it was a center for business and manufacturing, Corinth was a city where crime and immorality were mixed with primeval superstitions. What on earth ever happened there? With his prospects unforeseeable he stood there alone by himself. From this figure of Paul continuously making missionary trips so energetically in Acts, we shouldn't think as if Paul were some superman never feeling tiredness or fear. Even though he was tired or afraid, this should be expected as normal.
3. But, the story I read you today points out that despite the weakness of a person like Paul the work of God still makes progress. God himself encourages Paul who was under these worst of conditions, and supports him, guides him, and makes His own work progress forward.
Aquila And Priscilla
4. The encouragement and comfort from God was first given through a meeting with a human being. Please see verse two. "Here he met a Jew named Aquila from Pontus and his wife Priscilla. Since the emperor Claudius ordered all Jews to depart from Rome, they recently came from Italy." It's believed that Aquila and Priscilla were perhaps already touched by the gospel while in Rome. Paul meets up with the likes of these two in Corinth. And one day in the far future they will work in collaboration. I should also add this, here they will become friends for life in which they build their faith mutually in a like manner. We can see the strength of their bond in the Epistle To The Romans written later. Paul records it like this. "Greetings to Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila, my co-laborers united in Christ Jesus. Not only do I give thanks for these two who have saved my life by risking theirs but so do all the Gentile churches give thanks for them," (Romans 16:3-4).
5. From the details Luke gives on their meeting so far, Luke makes clear that the providence of God was [working] at the background of their meeting each other. Aquila was originally from the province Pontus which bordered on the Black Sea. He transferred to Rome and lived there. But, since Aquila and Priscilla were in Rome they had encountered deportation [like the other Jews did]. An order from the emperor Claudius, which came out in the year A.D. 49 [or 49 C.E.], said that it was because there had always been commotions among the Jews. In other words, we might say Aquila and Priscilla had gotten involved in them. However, by means of this unfair treatment they moved and settled in Corinth and in no time had met Paul. Come to think of it, even Paul himself arrived at Corinth while experiencing multiple deportations and banishments. Even for Paul this meeting was nothing but the grace of God given in the worst of circumstances. Will you recall, in the case of Peter and Cornelius' meeting, the guidance given by means of a supernatural vision? (Acts chapter ten), at one time God guided a person by means of [a supernatural vision]. But, God is not bound to always do things that way. Instead, as you see it from a human standpoint the guidance of God is being given by means of the worst of troubles. The grace of God has reached on through human prejudice and persecutions.
The Arrival Of Silas And Timothy
6. So next, Silas and Timothy arrive at Paul's. After the arrival of these two men Paul was able to devote himself fully to preaching the word. We can know from the letter Paul himself wrote what they brought to Paul. First of all, Timothy and Silas brought happy news regarding the church of Thessalonica. As we already saw, a riot took place in Thessalonica, and Paul fled from there and moved to Berea. That meant that even newly born churches must undergo hardships. Paul was probably worried over them considerably much. But, in the First Epistle To The Thessalonians the following is written. "Now Timothy has just come back to me from you and has told me the happy news regarding your faith and love. ...So then o brothers, as we confront all manner of distress and difficulty we are encouraged by your faith," (First Thessalonians 3:6-7).
7. In addition, they brought economic support to Paul. The text says in the Corinthian correspondence, "When with you I lived in poverty and I owed no one any debts because the brothers from the province of Macedonia filled my needs for me," (Second Corinthians 11:9). But, they did not just work in Paul's place. It is believed that Timothy and his party brought along some assistance money from the Philippian church, (Philippians 4:15). This was probably quite a great encouragement for Paul. Paul stood at one time in Corinth all by himself. But, God has revealed to Paul through the arrival of Timothy and Silas that he had never worked in an unaided effort by himself at any time whatsoever.
Don't Be Afraid. Keep Speaking For Me
8. Well, Paul who began to devote himself to proclaiming the Word soon met up with head on resistance from the Jews. The people defied him and began to abuse him verbally. There Paul shakes off the dust from his clothing and proclaims to them, "Your blood is dripping off your heads. I am not responsible. From now on I am going to the Gentiles." So then Paul next used a meeting hall. Where did he head off to? It was to some kind of meeting hall at the adjoining house. He began a gospel work at the meeting hall in the next house [down from the synagogue]. It was probably a place that was very easy to notice for anyone seeking God. We believe that that was a move to show that the door of salvation was yet unclosed and still wide open for the Jews, too.
9. At that juncture God made a significant point. The assembly hall leader Crispus of all the possible people was the one guided to Paul who began the gospel work at the assembly hall next door. He and all his family became believers in the Lord. This might have been a tremendous emotional boost for Paul. But not just that, on top of that many Gentiles were lead to the Lord. The text says, "Many people in Corinth heard and believed the message of Paul and received baptism."
10. However, at this time Paul seemed to be afraid even more. Unfortunately, his fears may have gotten larger the more the word of the Lord's salvation was manifested to the Gentiles. He probably kept recalling the hard times he had so far to date. Another riot might possibly go off. Again, he might even get kicked out of this place while in the middle of a mission task. Unfortunately, he might even lose his life. It's believed that Paul's fears were great because he knew how hard the forces in defiance of God's work labor whenever the work of God makes progress. However, at that time when Paul was seized by fear the word of the Lord visited him as follows: "Don't be afraid. Keep speaking for me. Don't be silent. I will be with you. So, you are being attacked but there will be no one to inflict injury [upon you], because in this city my people are a multitude," (verse ten). The words "Don't be afraid" are repeatedly spoken in the Bible and spoken to Paul as well. "I am with you." That message was sufficient for Paul to continue on in the work.
11. That message was surely sufficient but what could this saying "in this city my people are a multitude" be referring to? How ever in the world could it claim the people of God are a multitude [in Corinth]? Even though it says a great number of Gentiles received baptism what we have seen so far in that corrupt megalopolis are people worshipping gods of heretical religions and people who are superstitious barbarians. Also, the people are indulging in fornication. So, the Jews, who ought to have been the people of God from the start, are now fighting against the gospel of God, burning with jealousy, and completely mad with rage. How ever in the world could it say the people of God are a multitude?
12. In the human eye the figure of the people of God was not yet visible. But, God does not see as man or woman sees. God already sees the multitude of the people of God in that city seemingly under the control of sin's power. He already sees the people who are taking part in salvation from Christ and the figure of those people who are praising God's miraculous work of salvation. And he is inviting Paul to see [this] real world with eyes like his.
13. This is not a story only about Corinth. Believers are always born out of places that surpass the human imagination. God has always seen His people in places that have nothing going for them. It's the same even in this country. Even in our environment where the gospel is wholly unwelcome, we should not forget God has long ago seen many of his people. The Lord said, "Don't be afraid. Keep on speaking for me." The text says, "Paul stayed here for one year and six months and taught the people the word of God." It's up to us by God's trust to us to keep only earnestly speaking for him.
The Lord Is Here With Us
14. So, the promise of God came true. The event which clarified how the Lord is surely with us is recorded at verse twelve on. It was when Gallio was governor of the province Achaia. The Jews formed a group and attacked Paul by dragging him to court and appealing to the governor. "This man is seducing people to worship God in a way that violates the law." To put it briefly, the accusation of the Jews was that what Paul was preaching was no longer the religion Judaism officially recognized by Rome. So, what they meant was that what Paul and his followers were doing was in violation of the laws of Rome. Here Paul and several churches were facing a terrible crisis. That is to say, if Gallio decides here that what Paul is doing was unlawful, [his decision] will have an effect on the entire province of Achaia. Furthermore, a ruling by a provincial governor could be viewed as precedent in other provinces as well. Therefore, in the churches of other provinces interference by state authority might come to pass.
15. But, Gallio dismissed their accusation. "O respected Jewish friends, if this were an unrighteous act or a wicked crime I would naturally accept your appeal, but since the issue deals with your teachings, name and your law, you should resolve it on your own. I do not intend to be a judge on such a matter." So he expelled the Jews from the court. Luke tells us Paul did not get a chance to defend himself with even one word. In other words, it shows when Paul escaped this crisis it was not done on his own strength.
16. Furthermore, after this the text says, "the crowd seized Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him before the court. Sosthenes was apparently the successor to Crispus. It's not necessarily certain who in the world "the crowd (or multitude)" was. But, it is believed that they were [Hellenized] Jews who came to the court room together rather than their being Greeks completely unrelated to the situation. Sosthenes was the leader but perhaps after he was investigated for the responsibility of losing this appeal he was beaten up by the Jews who had come together.
17. There is something very interesting here as the same name appears at the beginning of Paul's letter addressed to the Corinthian disciples. When we see that Luke has intentionally recorded a name here, "to the church of God in Corinth from Paul who was made an apostle of Jesus Christ when he was invited by the will of God and from Sosthenes [our] brother," it is believed that this [Sosthenes] was the very same character. If so then, Sosthenes became a Christian after this and also became a co-worker of Paul. He was probably a deeply familiar character to the readers of the Acts Of The Apostles. Why did he become a Christian? He must have realized from the beginning when he was expelled from his group of Jewish associates that their motive was not purely a love for God but rather it was only from jealously and hatred directed at Paul alone. So when he began to seek true salvation from that point on that was enough to go on. At any rate, we can see in this particular place that what controls this entire crisis situation was not any human being but it was God himself who promised "I am with you."
18. We have thus seen the extent of the mission of Paul in Corinth. God advances the work of His salvation regardless of the pluses or the minuses of human conditions. Indeed, instead of there being a person in weakness, we see that when a person just earnestly takes refuge in God, he or she will experience a deep and divine comfort and encouragement. He or she will see the real world in which God himself is at work.