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WORDS of ENCOURAGEMENT


 
 

BIBLE READING


 

ACTS 18

 

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.


5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”


7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.


12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. 13 “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.”


14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” 16 So he drove them off. 17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.


18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken. 19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.


23 After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.


24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.


27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.

 

WORDS of ENCOURAGEMENT

 

Let’s focus in the words of encouragement Paul received in his night vision. “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” What the Lord literally said was, Stop being afraid, but keep right on doing what you have been doing, speaking my word.

In these words we are made aware that the Apostle Paul was very likely struggling with fear. It is quite understandable that he would be afraid, for a very familiar pattern was developing in Corinth that he had experienced many times before. He had come to the synagogue and spoken to the Jews. They had rejected his message. He turned to the Gentiles and there was immediate response, a great flood of people coming in. This aroused the anger and hostility of the Jews, and he knew that the next step was some measure of suffering.


I find this depiction of Paul’s experience of fear to be beautifully illustrative of the humanity of the Apostle. Sometimes I think of Paul as being so bold, so fearless, yet he suffered, and endured anxieties, apprehensions, and fears just as we do. It is striking to me that in a letter to these very Corinthians he acknowledges his misgivings. In 1 Corinthians 2, he says, “I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. (I Corinthians 2:3). He was very much afraid and concerned about what would happen to him there in Corinth.


The reason was that the city was responding to the gospel and the strongholds of sin and wickedness were being broken down. The life of the city was being disrupted by the awakening response which was spreading because of Paul's teaching. Someone I was reading lately wrote “I find many churches today that measure their success by what is going on in the congregation, but that is not the mark of success. The church is successful only when things start happening in the world.” Makes you think doesn’t it? After all didn’t Jesus say to his disciples/followers “You are the salt of the earth ... you are the light of the world...? (Matthew 5:13a, 5:14a). My personal spiritual journey in this last year has been to wonder if the major focus of the Jesus Community, the Church, should not be the world, the society and culture around us, from the scriptures we have looked at in Acts so far it does seem that God is aiming at the world.


All the broken systems we have in our modern day were present in Corinth. Corinth was a City with a population comparable to Windsor, 200,000 plus. It was a cosmopolitan center, a place of trade and commerce. There was great immorality. In fact, the name “Corinth” became a word in the Roman world that signified inappropriate relationships between unmarried people, a "corinthian companion" was a prositute. Sexual immorality was widespread in this city, condoned even in the temple worship there. But now this radical message of the gospel was striking right at the very core of the life of the city, breaking down the patterns of immorality that had men and women trapped. I believe as Paul saw this amazing Gospel breakthrough beginning to happen he knew that he was in for some trouble.


This is why the Lord appeared to him. How kind and reassuring are his words: Paul, don't let your fears grip you! Stop being afraid and don't keep silent, but keep right on preaching, because I am going to protect you. No one is going to hurt you, for I have a lot of work for you to do yet in this city. Now maybe it is just me but I find that maybe the most encouraging words that Jesus speaks to Paul in the night vision are, “I have many people in this city.” The implication is, in my view, that “the many people” had not yet become Christians, but the God by his Spirit knew they were there because he had already been at work. So, Paul, just keep doing what you have been doing, proclaiming because there are many hearts ready to respond. Reminds me of Romans 10:12 “how can they call on Him if they have not put their trust in Him? And how can they put their trust in Him if they have not heard of Him? And how can they hear of Him unless someone tells them?”


Paul was greatly strengthened, and for a year and a half he was able to preach the truth until there was a great stirring in this city. Let us end with Paul's word in I Corinthians 2,


When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
 

Lord, use me today as a channel for all You have in store for those around me. Help me to show them Your love, Your peace, Your hope, Your mercy, Your grace, and Your joy. Give to me, so that I can give to others; fill me to overflowing, so that I can fill others. May I be Your voice; may I be Your hands; may I be Your feet on this earth today. Meet others through me; help others through me; heal others through me, and provide for others through me. Use me as You desire, in Your service, this day. Amen

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