Corinth was the commercial capital of the ancient world, a seaport and very cosmopolitan.
Corinth was also corrupt, with a burgeoning sex industry tied in with the worship of Aphrodite.
Paul’s morale seemed very low at this point, all alone, concerned about the converts he had left behind, out of money, and rejected by his own people the Jews, who continued to resist and oppose the gospel. In fact, Paul later described his state of mind at that time in one of his later letters to the churches in Corinth, saying, “I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.”
God encouraged Paul in six ways:
Partners in ministry
[At Corinth] 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, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.Acts 18:2‑3 (NIV)
Priscilla and Aquila had emigrated to Corinth because the emperor Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome.
After Caligula was assassinated in 41 A.D., about seven years after Jesus’ resurrection, Claudius, Caligula’s uncle, became emperor. Ever since Claudius had been a little boy, people thought he was dimwitted. Apparently he drooled, stammered, and limped. Both his mother and grandmother thought he was “a monster, a man whom Mother Nature had begun work upon but then flung aside.” They couldn’t stand him.
Later in life, Claudius explained his feeblemindedness was an act to fool Caligula and he owed both his life and the throne to it. He actually ended up being a pretty good emperor, in some ways. He
- Brought relative peace to Rome with the restoration of the rule of law.
- Built a new harbor and reclaimed land in its center by draining a lake.
- Established an imperial civil service.
- Brought about agrarian reform.
- Imported corn to feed the people when food riots broke out in the streets during a prolonged drought.
- Abolished the treason trials Caligula had instigated.
- Expanded the empire further into the Middle East and the Balkans, and conquered Britain.
But he could also be merciless, paranoid, quick to anger, and did not hesitate to put supposed enemies to death—hundreds of them, even including one of his wives. When he had problems with Rome’s Jews, to avoid further rioting he had them all expelled from the city.
Priscilla and Aquila would become lifelong intimate friends, coworkers, and in this moment of great need, benefactors by giving Paul a job and a place to stay. Later, Paul would write about them, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house.”
When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.Acts 18:5 (NIV)
When Silas and Timothy arrived, they had brought some money with them from the Philippian church—who consistently supported and financed Paul’s ministry—allowing Paul to concentrate full‑time on preaching again. Later, Paul would explain this to the churches in Corinth, how the Macedonian churches had supported him at great personal sacrifice in order to further the gospel among them.
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.”
Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God.Acts 18:6-7 (NIV)
Just when he needed it, a new friend, Titius Justus, opened his home right next door to the synagogue for Paul to teach in. Because of his wealth and standing, Titius Justus would have ranked well above Paul in the complex stratification of ancient Roman society. His influence and patronage would go far in both protecting Paul and the new church, but also of even promoting both Paul and the gospel.
Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.Acts 18:8 (NIV)
Another vote of support came when the ruler of the synagogue and the many others who followed him from the synagogue to the lecture hall. Having such prominent supports in both Titius Justus and Crispus gave Paul platform with the rest of the inhabitants in Corinth.
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.”Acts 18:9-10 (NIV)
It seems Paul had been so afraid he was tempted to stop speaking about the good news of salvation through Jesus. He had felt utterly alone, fearing he would be attacked and harmed.
Finally, Luke recorded the hair-raising account of the opposition trying to have Paul arrested on the grounds that he was preaching an illegal religion.
Their plot rebounded on them.
The proconsul Gallio said it was no business of Roman courts to adjudicate theological disputes – he dismissed the case and had the Jews ejected from the court. Consequently, the precedent was set and Christians were protected for a time from religious persecution.
Enraged, the angry crowd turned on the Jews and beat up their new synagogue ruler, instead!
God gives encouragement to His own in ways that are personal to them
I had to think about that after I wrote it down.
There is no question answering God’s call comes at a cost. Ask anyone who has taken that leap of faith and said yes to the Lord. They will tell you! And maybe you’re one of those people yourself. Maybe you said yes to the Lord, you said, “Here I am, Lord! Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.”
Where are you looking for the encouragement God is seeking to give you?
Think of the ways the Lord encouraged Paul. Could be God will speak straight into your heart, in person, through His word here in the Bible, and through prayer. Support may come from an unexpected source, the arrival of new friends, or a breakthrough. God may even now be engineering events to direct your way.
How would this perspective, understanding the encouragement as well as the cost of answering God’s call on your life, affect how you are experiencing your current situation?
[Paul staying at the home of Priscilla and Aquila | Jan Sadeler / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]