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Acts #66 (chapter 18:9-18)

The Book of Acts

The Gospel in Corinth, Part 2

Acts 18:9-10

 

Last week we began a study of Acts 18 and in particular, we were looking at Paul's ministry in Corinth. He arrived there at a low time in his ministry and God took some specific steps to encourage him.

 

First, God brought some friends alongside to work with him and encouraged him through companionship. Along with new friends like Aquila and Priscilla, he also allowed Timothy and Silas to rejoin him in the work.

 

God also used success in his ministry to encourage him. We put that under the title of apostleship. He saw some people get saved and become disciples and fellow believers. It's always encouraging when that happens, because that only happens because God is involved. So we saw companionship and apostleship. Let me give you a couple of others tonight,

 

Thirdly, He encouraged them with

 

3. Fellowship

 

It's great to be encouraged by our friends and it's comforting to know that we serve with God's blessing, but the greatest encouragement is the personal encouragement we receive from God himself.

 

Notice what happens in

verses 9-10

 

If you study the ministry of Paul, you will discover there were several times when God would just show up in a supernatural way to encourage Paul. Very often, those times would come through a vision such as when he was instructed to go to Macedonia.

 

Sometimes it would be to extend a warning such as when he was told to get out of Jerusalem and God appeared while he was in a trance. God spoke to him while he was on his way to Rome and it looked like the ship was going to capsize. God assured him they would be safe.

 

And here is one of those times where God, in a supernatural way, steps into Paul's life to offer encouragement. And in particular, God gives him three reasons to keep preaching.

 

Reason 1, verse 9-10a: "I am with you".

 

That's a pretty good reason, isn't it? After all, this is the same God Who said the same thing to men like Moses when he lead God's people from Egyptian captivity.

 

This is the same God Who said the same thing to a guy name Joshua to remind him nobody could stand against him because God was traveling with him.

 

And now, he makes a special trip to Paul to say the same thing. You say, "Boy, I wish I had that promise." You do. Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, "Lo, I am with you," what? Always. What a promise.

 

By the way, do you remember the title given to Jesus in Matthew 1:23. They angels said, "His name is Emmanuel," which being interpreted is God with us. That's what a person who enjoys a relationship with God through Jesus Christ is afforded. God says to us, through Jesus, I am with you myself. And here we see God show up and say, "Paul, don't stop. I Myself am with you.

 

Reason #2 to keep serving: verse 10b: No one will attack you or hurt you.

 

And the third reason: 10c: "I have many people in this city" which means Paul was not alone and there was ministry for him to be a part of. In fact, some believe the ones referenced here are not yet saved and will be saved under Paul's preaching and God is simply assuring him that his ministry will bear fruit.

 

What an encouragement! God has given us his power, preservation and promise! Our God is a God of comfort. He comforts us with companions, with his blessings on our calling and through His own personal involvement in our lives by providing power, protection and promise!

 

Well, Paul so encouraged by this time, he is ready to charge hell with a water pistol. Notice what he did.

 

verse 11

 

From the autumn of 50 to the spring of 52 in that first century, the apostle continued to minister in that city, and people continued to be saved and built in the faith.

 

And notice what he did in his time there. It is the same thing he did everywhere he served. He taught the word of God. That was his calling. So he was encouraged by companionship, apostleship, fellowship, and lastly

 

4. Hardship

 

At first mention, that doesn't sound right. How could anybody be encouraged by hardship and problems? Well, it's not the same kind of encouragement that we receive from other places, but it's still encouragement.

 

Paul was encouraged by his friends, his converts, his God, and his enemies. So how does that work? How are we encouraged, how was Paul encouraged by his enemies?

 

Well, let me suggest three ways:

 

First,,

 

- by who his enemies were

 

Someone said you can tell a lot about a man by who his friends are. Well, that's true, but you can also tell a lot about a person by their enemies also. And if you're enemies are opposed to the work and ministry and gospel of God, guess what? You're on the right side of the battle, so be encouraged! You're doing something right.

 

Secondly, you can be encouraged not only by who your enemies are but

 

 

- by how ineffective they were

 

Everywhere Paul went, he found opposition. But he also continued to see victories. And every time he was knocked down, he got right back up. He was never defeated. And we need to be reminded that the devil doesn't just get defeated, he's already defeated. We're on the winning team. So, be encouraged!

 

Watch what happens in

 

verse 12

 

We are introduced to a man named Gallio, and he's an interesting guy. He was the elder brother of a famous philosopher by the name of Seneca. Seneca was the philosopher of the Roman Empire. He lived in Spain, but his influence was all over the place. We have much information about Seneca.

 

Seneca was the tutor of Nero and because of that and his own work and other connections, the family of Gallio was well-known. And he was a pretty important fellow.

 

The verse tells us he was the proconsul of Achaia, which means he was like a governor under the Roman emperor. He was a mover and shaker who had a lot of power.

 

However, Seneca, his younger brother the poet, said of him that he was famous for his kindness. In fact, Seneca said, "No man is as sweet to one as Gallio is to everyone." So by reputation, he was a very kind man, and he is the proconsul, governor of Corinth.

So one day, the Jews in the city brought charges against Paul and he is brought him before Gallio. And notice how it's described. They brought him to the judgment seat. They way that worked is that the judgment seat was a moveable thing, and that could set up court wherever they needed to be if the proconsul is available.

 

So he would sit in judgment, hear the case and render a judgement that would then be immediately carried out. It might be to release the accused or turn them over to the lictors for a public beating or putting them in jail.

 

So these Jews bring Paul's case before the Roman proconsul, which meant they bypassed the local authorities and went straight to the top because

any verdict by a Roman proconsul held priority over any lower court decisions.

 

And, what the proconsul determined in one case could then become precedent for all other cases. So if it could be determined that Paul was a criminal by Gallio, and if his preaching could be stopped in Corinth and Achaia, then other Roman proconsuls would follow the lead of Gallio and do the same.

 

So this is no small thing that's about to happen. In fact, the decision rendered on this day by Gallio will have a major effect on Christianity for years to come. Believe me, the history of Christianity would've taken a drastic turn for the next 10-12 years.

 

So they bring the charges against Paul. Here it is:

 

verse 13

That's rather vague isn't it? What does that even mean? What is the specific charge? "This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law." What law?

 

Well, obviously, they are referencing Roman law, because they were before a Roman authority trying to convict Paul of a crime. And at this time, in Rome, Christianity officially was viewed as a sect of Judaism, therefore it came under what the Romans called "religio licita."

 

They had a category called "permitted religions." Although they believed in emperor worship, and you know all about that, they had category of permitted religions. Judaism was one of the permitted ones. Christianity was seen as a sect of Judaism.

 

And what these Jews were trying to do was to get Gallio to acknowledge that Paul's brand of religion was not religio licita but religio illicita, and that it should be excluded, because it was not Judaism. They wanted to convict him.

 

But Gallio was no dumbbell. He was cool, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he had heard Paul preach. And surely he knew enough about the Jewish religion to know some of their beliefs and that they believed in a Messiah, and they were looking for their Messiah.

 

And after all, that's what Paul was preaching. What Paul preached is in perfect agreement with Jewish doctrine. He was just claiming to know who Messiah was. Therefore, as far as Gallio was concerned, Paul was just preaching a form of Judaism.

And just because the Jews disagreed with who the Messiah was didn't mean Paul was guilty of a crime.

And that's the judgment he gives. And watch how this plays out.

 

There is Paul in the seat of the accused. The governor is listening intently. The Jews are bringing this animated presentation about the illegality of Paul's preaching. And about that time, the camera zooms in on Paul. His mouth is open, his finger is raised in the air to offer his defense, and suddenly, Gallio speaks.

 

verse 14

 

When he uses the word "wrongdoing", he's talking about legal wrongdoing. Gallio is sharp. He's going to stick with the facts and deals with the legal issues. And you almost pick up on a little sarcasm in what he says: "You know, if anyone had broken the law, I would listen to what you have to say. If you actually had a case here, I would do something."

 

verse 15

 

In other words, this is semantics. You all talk about your same religion. You all talk about Abraham and Isaac and you talk about Messiah, and now you've got one guy that thinks this is the Messiah, and you don't? That's a theological problem. You deal with that one. I'm not going to get involved. Handle it yourselves. "

 

Now, as I said, if he had taken the case and judged against Paul, Christianity's history would've been drastically changed for years because it would've become the standard judgment against Christianity. Paul wouldn't have been able to go anywhere. But He didn't. God prevented it.

 

verse 16

 

I wouldn't be surprised if they stuck around and argued with him for a while, and eventually he drove them out of there and cleared the court.

 

And Paul didn't even open his mouth. He was just standing there, watching all this going on. Now, I've said all fo that to say this: You can be encouraged by who your enemies are, and how ineffective they are, but also by but you can also get encouraged by how ineffective they are, right? They were totally ineffective. They couldn't stop him.

 

There's a third way we can be encouraged by our enemies and that is

 

- by seeing what God does to them

 

And our first thought is always about judgment, Boy, one of these days, God's gonna step in and settle old scores and they're gonna get theirs. And that's true. But should we really rejoice in that? Those of us who are saved by the grace of God?

 

What's even better is when God changes the hearts of our enemies and they become our friends and fellow-laborers in the work! By the way, that's what happened with Paul.

 

He was the sworn enemy of God, out killing Christians and destroying churches until God stepped into the situation, changed his heart and made of him the greatest missionary the world has ever seen!

And that scenario is repeated through the ministry of Paul in the lives of others. One example is found here in our text.

 

verse 17

 

We aren't given any details about why this beating took place. And the vagueness is increased because in the best manuscripts, it doesn't say "the Greeks", it just says, "Then they all took Sosthenes and beat him."

 

It could have been the Greeks, it could have been the court police, It could have been the Jews because he blew it with the case against Paul. We don't know, but whoever did it, Sosthenes got it.

 

And apparently they did it right in front of the judgment seat and Gallio just turned an indifferent eye and said, "I'm not going to get involved in this deal."

 

So why is this little detail included? Only to give us a point of reference for a later comment Paul will include in the opening verse of his first letter to the Corinthians.

 

"Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother unto the church."

 

Isn't that amazing? Is it not an encouragement that God can take your deepest and most committed enemies and make them you brothers?

 

 

God not only encourages His servants by who opposes you and how ineffective they are, but sometimes He does it in the greatest way and that is saving them and making them to be our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

 

Several years ago, while serving in Duncan, we had a couple in the church named Ronnie and Kay. Ronnie hadn't always lived for the Lord. Kay was his third wife. But God had done a great work in his life. He was our Sunday School director and sang in the choir and all that. He owned a machine shop right behind the church and we visited quite a bit through the week.

 

One Sunday, we had a couple named Les and Sue to visit the church. Ronnie came over one day the week following and said, "I thought you might want to be aware of something." He said, "I'm the reason Les and his first wife divorced." He went on to tell me it happened 20 years earlier, but he had an affair with Les's wife and they wound up divorcing. He went on to tell me he and Les had never talked.

 

Well, Les and Sue kept coming and eventually joined the church. One Saturday, we had a men's breakfast and workday at Les came. Ronnie had some work to do and couldn't come to breakfast. After breakfast, we moved out on the parking lot to get busy.

 

We hadn't been out there very long when I saw Ronnie coming from his shop, walking to where we were. About the same time I saw him, so did Les and he immediately took off toward him. I didn't tyr to interfere, mainly because I didn't want to get between them.

Les was a truck driver for Hallibruton; Ronnie was a big man, with a Cro-Magnon forehead and heavy red hair. I just watched as Les approached, then stuck out his hand. They shook hands, talked for a moment, and together, walked back to where the men were working.

 

I later asked Ronnie what he said. He said Les said, "I guess 20 years ago neither one of us would have expected to be at a men's breakfast together, huh?"

 

And I thought then, only God can do that! Only God can take the man who's leading the charge against Paul and change him into Paul's brother in the Lord.

 

By the way, that's what God does with you also. he takes us, his enemies and makes us His friends. And he expects us to do the same.

 

verse 18

 

I believe Paul was encouraged, don't you? I pray you will be as well as you live to serve Him.

 

Let's pray.

 

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