Encouraged in Corinth (Acts 18:1-17)
Encouraged in Corinth (Acts 18:1-17)
Paul faced a number of potential discouragements as he began ministry in Corinth. First, Paul would have felt his lack of adequacy. Any sense of decency would lead you to discouragement about Corinth when considering the thoroughly immoral nature of this commercial center. In Paul’s own language, he was weak and trembling in fear as he approached the notoriously wicked city (1 Cor 2:3). Planning to minister to a people who are notoriously proud and immoral was intimidating.
Second, Paul experienced apparent lack of success in ministry. From city to city, there was constant disappointment in the face of a people hardened to the gospel. He had been able to preach in many places, but he hadn’t been able to stay and see the establishment of churches. He was always fleeing the authorities and religious elites and it would have been easy for him to think that his efforts were unsuccessful.
Third, Paul faced the discouragement of a lack of acceptance. Like in Philippi and Thessalonica before, the Jews in Corinth attempted to thwart the work of the missionaries and rejected Paul’s claim about Christ. He felt the real responsibility that God had given him for the Jews, but their relentless opposition to the gospel made his task impossible, and eventually, because of their ongoing hardness, he was freed from it.
Despite the potential discouragements, Paul also experienced many encouragements. On the one hand, he was provided with friendships and fellowship. He met Aquila and Priscilla, who had a common culture, trade, and faith. He was comforted by Silas and Timothy, his fellow workers, who brought financial gifts and shared testimonies of the faith and love of the Thessalonians (1 Thess 3:6).
Also, Paul had reason to be encouraged by his usefulness in Corinth. He was able to start a church in the house of Titius Justus, just next door to the synagogue—a very effective spot for influence! The leader of the synagogue, Crispus, was converted to Christ, along with his household. Many of the Corinthians were believing and being baptized.
Not only did Paul have friendship and usefulness to encourage him, but he had the very words and promises of Christ. The Lord gave Paul five fortifying truths as a means of encouragement (vv 9-10):
1. First, Paul is told to no longer be afraid. Fear is the fruit of forgetting, forgetting that God is in control. By remembering his God, his Savior, his King, his Mediator, and the love with which God loves him, Paul would take fresh courage.
2. Second, Paul is told to be faithful and continue speaking. When the work seems slow, when discouragement is high, when difficulties increase, when troubles multiply, he is to persist in preaching Christ.
3. Third, he is promised that the Lord would be present with Him. Whether or not Paul felt it, and whether or not we feel it, the Lord is present (c.f Ex 3:12, Josh 1:5, Ps 5:12, Is 43:5).
4. Fourth, he is promised the Lord’s protection in keeping him from harm. Paul would experience great trouble, as he had in Philippi where he was beaten and imprisoned or Lystra where he was stoned. But though the promise guaranteed trouble, it also assured him of deliverance and protection.
5. Fifth, he is promised that God has many people in the city. Jesus had promised that there were many who were not of this fold, who must be brought in when they hear the voice of Christ in the gospel (Jn 10:16).
In fulfillment of the promises, Paul was able to stay securely in Corinth for 18 months (v11a) and experienced success in ministry (v11b). Eventually, the Jewish opposition that had been instrumental in Paul turning to the Gentiles 18 months earlier resurfaced. But a favorable verdict was passed by a Roman Judge, and the promise of Christ to protect Paul was kept.
- What are the events or circumstances in your life and in our world that present potential discouragements?
- What has God given you to serve as a means of encouragement in the midst of potential discouragements?
- How are you taking advantage of friendships in your life as a means of encouragement (both for you and them)?
- In what ways do the Lord’s words to Paul apply to your own life?