Acts: Encouraged by Jesus, Paul Shifts Gears in Corinth

Read: Acts 18:1-22

The first half Acts 18 finds Paul in the middle of his second missionary journey. Paul leaves Athens and moves on to Corinth and connected with a ministry couple named Aquila and Priscilla. His early focus in Corinth was continuing his work convincing the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. There are some serious highs and lows in this short passage and a lot for us to learn as we work in the harvest fields for Christ.

Ministry in Corinth

Paul had many uphill battles to fight in Corinth. While he certainly expected to find disbelief among the Corinthians (see note at the bottom of this post), I’m convinced he didn’t expect such a harsh reaction among the Jews. Perhaps the Jews were extremely hardened because of the expulsion from Rome plus the licentiousness of the people surrounding them. Whatever the case, Paul attempted to reason with them.

Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. Acts 18:4

After Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul focused on preaching to the Jews. Apparently, Silas and Timothy assumed some of the routine tasks so that Paul could focus on his dominant role as a preacher and evangelist. His preaching, however, was not received as well as he hoped:

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.” Acts 18:6

The Jews not only resisted Paul’s message, but they became abusive. Paul eventually abandoned this effort to focus solely on preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Discouraged

One of the themes that surprised me in this passage is the image of Paul being discouraged. I’m sure this is in the text to serve as an encouragement to all who are in ministry. He was not well received in Athens and now the Jews have risen against him.

Then we read some rare red letters in the text — Paul received encouragement from Jesus!

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. Acts 18:9-11

At just the right time, when there seemed to be no way for the church to get started, Jesus appears in a vision. Wow! In the huge metropolis, Jesus affirms He is present and many people in Corinth are His. Paul is inspired to move on and refocus his ministry. This is crucial and a significant lesson for us all to learn.

Gallio’s Verdict

The battle is far from over. Once again the Jews make an effort to have Paul expelled.

the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. Acts 18:12

Reminiscent of Gamaliel in Acts 5:33-39, Gallio provides a decisive verdict that defuses the Jewish attack within the courts of the proconsul of Achaia.

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. But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. Acts 18:14-15

Ups and Downs

There are a few things that leap off the page for me in these few paragraphs of scripture. When Paul realizes he isn’t having an impact on the Jews he changes his ministry focus. When I look back over my shoulder at a different season of ministry, I wish I had responded like Paul. Too often my pace to adapt and change in ministry has been way too slow.

As I coach pastors and work with churches, I often find the ability to adapt and change to be a challenge for many other ministry leaders today as well. Tom Planck

Why is this so often the case? If we aren’t having the kind of effectiveness that we know we should be experiencing then why not adapt and change? And, why not do that quickly?

Paul’s willingness to adapt and change led to eighteen months of fruitful ministry. Luke doesn’t tell us much about Paul’s time in Corinth, but he does mention one of the biggest wins. The synagogue leader and his entire family became followers of Jesus! (See Acts 18:7-8.) How ironic, right?

Another important lesson is the Lord’s message to Paul in a vision, “Do not be afraid…for I am with you!” This sounds so familiar to the words of the great commission in Matthew 28: 19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples…and surely I am with you always…” Wow!

Stepping out in faith to have a spiritual conversation with someone who is yet to cross the line of faith can be a scary endeavor. It can most certainly conjure up fears of not having the right words or the answers to some probing questions that might be asked.

The next time you find yourself on the brink of one of those conversations step into them with confidence knowing this, Jesus is with you! And the Holy Spirit promises to provide just the right words.

 


Corinth. It was one of the few cities where licentiousness has been sanctioned and sustained by law and religion, having been not only practiced and allowed but consecrated by the worship of Venus; and no small part of the wealth of the city having been derived from the offerings made in the very temple of this goddess. No city of ancient times, perhaps none of modern times, has been or is more profligate. In the art of refining upon the pleasures of sense, Corinth was in the ancient world what Paris is in the modern,—the seat of splendor, gaiety, magnificence, sensuality. Source: Link.

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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