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Acts 18:1-23: Provision for Mission Print E-mail

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The Lord is the Great Encourager.  He delights in encouraging His people as they serve Him on mission.  As we have seen in the book of Acts, the mission is not always easy.  There are times of great difficulty and discouragement.  The people have mocked Paul and laughed at his arguments.  The authorities have imprisoned him and ran him out of multiple cities.  All of this can take a toll.  And apparently, it took a toll on Paul.  He tells the Corinthians that when he came to them he came in weakness and in fear and much trembling (1 Corinthians 2:3).  The suffering that he had faced so far on this second missionary journey coupled with the mockery that he endured in Athens left him weary and weak.

And the city of Corinth was no easy city to minister in.  It was the third largest city in the Roman Empire at the time, home to around 200,000 people.  And if idolatry was rampant in Athens, immorality was on display in Corinth.  It was a city known in particular for sexual immorality.  In fact, one of my commentators notes: “the verb ‘to corinthianize’ meant to be sexually immoral.” 1  We see the struggles that even the Church faced in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.  It was a dark place and a difficult place to minister. 

So Paul hits the town weak and weary and finds himself in city of sin.  Yet, the Lord delights in encouraging His people.  And we see several ways in which He encourages Paul in Corinth by providing for him.  Consider these with me this morning.

The Lord provides a place to stay (v. 1-3)

The first encouragement that Paul encounters comes from some believers he meets in the city.  Look at verses 1-3.  Luke does not tell us how Paul met this couple, but he does mention how they came to Corinth.  They were living in Rome when the Emperor ordered the Jews to leave (perhaps due to conflicts they were having with Christians).  Leaving Rome, they came to Corinth, where they would be a great help to Paul.  Like the Apostle, they were tentmakers, or leather workers.  Since their trade was the same, it made sense for Paul to stay with them and help them with their work.  In this way, the Lord provided a place for Paul to stay where he could work and enjoy friendship with Aquila and Priscilla.  In times of discouragement, it is always a blessing to be reminded that we are not alone in the mission.  The Lord often raises up people to give us such encouragement as he did with Paul in Corinth.

The Lord provides a people to teach (v.4-8)

Paul follows his custom in Corinth and begins to teach in the synagogue.  Look at verse 4.  While he continues to share there, Luke tells us that Silas and Timothy catch back up with Paul.  Look at verse 5.  Paul tells us later that the Church at Philippi sent financial provisions for him through Silas and Timothy (Philippians 4:14ff).  This too would have been an encouragement to Paul.  Instead of focusing so much time on tentmaking, he could devote himself to teaching the Word, which seems to be what Luke is indicating with this verse.  Not only that, but Timothy and Silas could now help him evangelize as well.

But not all was well.  As we have seen before, the Jews were not very receptive of Paul’s teaching that Jesus was the Christ.  Look at verse 6.  We might read such a statement from Paul and assume that he was losing his love for his own people, but that is not the case.  Yes, his statement of judgment is serious, but we know that it broke his heart.  He tells the Romans that he has unceasing anguish in my heart for the Jews (Romans 9:2).  They repeatedly rejected his message and he was led to pronounce such judgment and move on to the Gentiles, but he did so with great sorrow.  Yet, the Lord continues to give him encouragement by raising up others for him to teach.  Look at verses 7-8.  How awesome is that?  He would not teach in the synagogue anymore, but the house next door was available.  I am sure that the Jews who were rejecting his message just loved watching the crowds flocking next door to hear Paul preach.  Luke tells us that even their leader, Crispus, was converted by Paul’s teaching and that many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.  How encouraging that must have been for Paul?  Things did not always go smoothly, but the Lord provided.  His ministry at the synagogue was ended, but a new one sprang up immediately in its place.  And while some were opposing, many were believing, including the ruler of the synagogue and his family.  No matter where Paul went, the Lord provided a people for him to teach, even in a city like Corinth.

The Lord provides a promise to protect (v. 9-11)

The Lord gives Paul a unique encouragement next.  Look at verses 9-11.  The Lord gives Paul a vision in the night.  Before, the Lord used a vision to get Paul to go to Macedonia (16:9-10), but here He gives Paul a vision to encourage him to stay in Corinth.  The Lord tells him to not give up preaching and teaching.  He then gives him three truths to encourage Paul to keep ministering Corinth. 

First, the Lord tells him: I am with you.  It is encouraging to have the help of Aquila and Priscilla and Paul is greatly helped by Silas and Timothy, but nothing is more encouraging that the promise of God’s presence.  To know that the Lord is with us is a constant encouragement to the people of God.  He may feel absent at times.  It may seem like you are all alone in your struggles.  But you are not.  The Lord is with you.  Even in the hardest days of ministry, the Lord will never leave us or forsake us. 

Second, the Lord tells Paul: no one will attack you to harm you.  Paul had faced severe persecution on this trip.  He was beaten, put in prison, and forced out of cities.  But the Lord is not going to let that happen in Corinth.  He promises Paul that such treatment will not happen in Corinth.  Paul will face more suffering and more persecution, but not in Corinth.  As we will see, even when the Jews try to get him in trouble, their plans will be foiled. 

Third, the Lord encourages Paul by telling him: I have many in this city who are my people.  One of my commentators writes: “They had not yet believed in him, but they would do so, because already according to his purpose they belonged to him.  This conviction is the greatest of all encouragements to an evangelist.” 2  God has people in the city of Corinth who will believe when they hear the message.  God’s sovereignty over salvation is a great encouragement to continue in the work of proclaiming the gospel.  With such encouragement, Paul remains in the city of Corinth for a year and a half.  The Lord does not always give His people such particular promises, but when He does, they are a great encouragement to continue in the work.  Apparently Paul needed this encouragement at this time and the Lord graciously gave it.

The Lord provides a person to correct (v. 12-17)

The Lord promised to protect Paul, but that did not mean that the opposition would cease.  When new leadership is given to the city, they decide to go after Paul.  Look at verses 12-13.  The Jews are hoping that with the new leadership they can get Paul out of the city.  So they take him to the leaders and charge him with persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.  This could be a problem for Paul, so he prepared to defend himself, but he did not have to.  Look at verses 14-17.  Gallio was not taken in by their move against Paul.  He did not view his supposed crimes as being an issue that he should deal with.  Thus, he dismissed the case.  Of course, this might seem like no big deal to us, but such a decision would have a lasting impact on the treatment of Christians for several years.  The Lord had made a promise to protect Paul and He keeps it by raising up a ruler that will not be taken in by the Jews’ arguments against him.  Paul does not even have to defend himself.  Luke notes that Sosthenes was beaten in response to this decision, but it is hard to know exactly how that came about, whether from the Jews or from the Greeks, and it serves to simply highlight Gallio’s seeming indifference to religious issues.

Paul came to Corinth discouraged.  But the Lord encouraged him by providing for him in several different ways.  He gave him place to stay with Aquila and Priscilla.  He gave him a people to teach with the Gentiles and the Jews who believed.  He gave him a promise of protection and raised up Gallio to put down the Jews accusations against him.  In all these ways and more, the Lord encouraged Paul in Corinth.  Even though the second missionary journey has been challenging, Paul is encouraged as he heads back to Antioch.  Look at verses 18-23.  Luke mentions his vow, which was probably one of thanksgiving for God’s continued provision and protection.  He finally visits Ephesus for a brief time, but promises to return if God wills.  He makes it back to Caesarea, visits the Church in Jerusalem, and then spends some time in Antioch.  From there, he launches his third missionary journey, which we will begin looking at next week.

The Lord has taught Paul to trust in Him for provision.  Even during seasons of discouragement, the Lord has remained the Great Encourager to him.  And He is the same for us.  The means that God uses to encourage us will vary, but the Lord continues to encourage His people as they are on mission for Him.  Sometimes He sends additional workers, like He did with Aquila and Priscilla and Silas and Timothy.  The Lord continues to send us fellow brothers and sisters to labor along side us.  Sometimes the Lord opens up new mission fields.  When we have been working and laboring in one place for a season, the Lord can open up new areas of service.  Sometimes the Lord gives us a word of wisdom or direction so that we can move forward in the mission, perhaps even in an unexpected way.  The Lord can even use authorities in this world to keep the mission moving.  In all these ways and more we see the Lord working in the book of Acts.  Such provision encouraged Paul’s trust in the Lord.  And it should encourage ours.  We know that the Lord is going to save people from every tongue, tribe, and nation.  We know that He is never going to leave us or forsake us.  We know that laboring in telling others about Christ’s death and resurrection for sin is never a waste of our time.  We know that while some will reject the good news, others will repent and believe.  Such truths should encourage us.  They should move us forward in the mission, trusting that the Lord will provide, for indeed He will.  Amen.

1 Ajith Fernando, Acts NIVAC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998), p. 490.
2 John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts TBST (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1990), p. 298.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 16 September 2014 )

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