How the Lord Overcomes Paul’s Discouragement & Ours

Acts 18:1-17

Introduction

Now, Paul, when he arrived in Corinth, had really had it. He’d been chased halfway around the world. He started out in Antioch of Syria on a simple missionary journey with Silas; confirmed some churches in the area over here; Syria, and went through Galatia, confirmed the saints there, took off, continued west. The Holy Spirit drove him. He finally crossed over from Troas and entered into Philippi, and there he preached, and there he was hassled. And there he was chased out of town.

And he arrived in Thessalonica, and there he was persecuted terribly; had to run for his life. And he got to Berea, and no sooner had he established the church there, than the Thessalonians arrived to chase him again. And he finally found himself all alone in the city of Athens, and he was weary there.
And the Gospel presented at Athens was clear and there wasn’t any persecution. But there really wasn’t any reception to speak of. It was minimal. And so he didn’t stay long in Athens, and he packed up and he left Athens. And he comes in again. He’s alone, and he arrives in the city of Corinth. And he’s discouraged and he’s despondent. And he’s weak, and he may have even been physically ill.[1] 1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

The Book of Acts says nothing about Paul being discouraged and even physically exhausted and even ill. So where am I getting this from?

Later, writing to the Church in Corinth, Paul would write…
1 Corinthians 2:3 (ESV)
3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,
Many times, we’re tempted to view the Apostles as supermen who are not susceptible to normal human fears and weaknesses. Here Paul shows us his heart. Paul was running for his life. Those Jews who were hot on his trail wanted his blood. He was afraid, tired, and ill. This is the man who enters into Corinth

While in Corinth, Paul wrote 1,2 Thessalonians and Romans
1 Thessalonians 3:7 (ESV)
7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.
Five words describing Paul’s physical needs- Weakness, Fear, Trembling, Distress, and Affliction

TT- The Lord will always be there to encourage His faithful followers whether in joy or in sorrow.
Human need met by text

 

I want to let you in on a life-changing secret. Many of you know this secret but for those who don’t, to understand this secret separates the followers of Christ from the sideliners.
Be faithful to what God has called you to regardless of how you feel and regardless of your circumstances. We must see today in Paul’s experience encouragement for us to remain faithful regardless of how we feel or what our circumstances are.

Ask yourself…Am I fulfilling my ministry here in this Church? What keeps me from carrying out a faithful ministry here among God’s people at Grace Community Church?

There are things that we use as excuses… I’m too tired. My Job. My Hours. I need to take care of _________________first and then I’ll serve.
If you wait till everything is perfect before you fulfill your calling, YOU WILL NEVER START!

Sin is a great deceiver. Because it tries to talk us out of serving and connecting with others in the church.

Our other need I believe this text meets is the need to see the Bible people as people just like us. When we can elevate someone like Paul to a superman status then we automatically excuse ourselves from doing the things he did. We think, “Oh I could never share the Gospel or I could never disciple others the way Paul did”. Again that’s a lie. Our sinfulness deceives us and hinders our service to Christ.

Please hear God’s Word for us today…

Acts 18:1-17 (ESV)
1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.
2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them,
3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.
4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.
5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.
6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
7 And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue.
8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.
9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent,
10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal,
13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.”
14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint.
15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.”
16 And he drove them from the tribunal.
17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.

1. The Lord Encouraged Paul While He Served

2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them,
3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.
4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.
5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.
Paul was in Athens all by himself. Athens was the University City basically the city for the mind; Corinth was the city for the flesh. Corinth was famous for fleshly sensual sin. With the temple of Aphrodite in the center and with her hundreds of temple priestesses who descended upon the city every night practicing their prostitution, the city was famous for sexual sin. Also, being a city, which boasted of two ports, it was the center of world commerce and worldly sin. To be called a Corinthian was to be called a sinner of the worst sorts.

How could Paul continue in a faithful ministry of preaching and teaching all by himself in such a wicked place?
The Lord connects him with two faithful companions, Aquilla and Priscilla. This husband and wife team were just the companions Paul needed for encouragement.

2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. Historians during this time wrote that Claudius had had it with the Jews and removed them all from Rome. The first thing we must understand is that Rome considered Christians to be Jews as well. They didn’t differentiate between the two. The second thing is the reason Claudius had the Jews removed was because they were continually rioting. They were continually disturbing the peace and they were up in arms for one reason…They were continually arguing over the subject was Jesus the Messiah. The Christians, converted Jews, said yes Jesus is the Messiah and the other Jews said no He is not.

Following Tiberius, Claudius, in 39 A.D., banished all Jews from Rome altogether; every one of them had to go. Now we know a little about Claudius. And the reason we do is that about 70 years after the edict, it was written about 120 A.D., Suetonius wrote about Claudius. Suetonius was a historian, and he got all the information on Claudius, and he wrote about his life. And one of the statements that Suetonius makes in his life of Claudius is this: “As the Jews were indulging in constant riots – listen – at the instigation of Chrestus, Claudius banished them from Rome.”[2]

Luke tells us that this faithful Christian couple practiced the same trade that Paul practiced, namely, tent making. Literally, the phrase is leather craft. That’s what tents were made from. They took Paul into their business and into their home and into their lives. What an encouragement this couple would be to Paul! They would be lifelong friends and partners in the Gospel ministry.

Strengthened and built up through godly companions Paul was ready to reenter the synagogue and explain to everyone there that Jesus is the Messiah.

4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.
5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.
2. The Lord Encouraged Paul From the Scriptures

6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

What I mean here when I say the Lord encouraged Paul from the Scriptures is a biblical principle that kept the Apostle going when the response to the Gospel was less than favorable. Paul could keep from carrying the immense weight of all those people who heard the Gospel but did not respond. Those who mocked and ridiculed him were not his responsibility.

Remember the watchman principle from Ezekiel 33?
Ezekiel 33:1-10 (ESV)
1 The word of the LORD came to me:
2 “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman,
3 and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people,
4 then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.
5 He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life.
6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.
7 “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.
8 If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.
9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.
10 “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’

Paul realizes and expresses this biblical truth to them. He has been a faith watchman to the House of Israel. He has faithfully delivered God’s warning to them that apart from Christ they will be swept up in judgment. Paul has fulfilled his calling as the watchman for the House of Israel and any blood is on their hands not his.
The truth that we all must blast the warning call to repent and trust Christ is universal for all believers. We must do it consistently and accurately but in the end, whether they listen or not is not our responsibility. Beloved, this is a freeing truth in Scripture. God does not hold the watchman accountable who executes his post responsibly.

Later, gathered by the sea with the Ephesian elders Paul would declare his innocence as a faithful watchman again…
Acts 20:26-27 (ESV)
26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all,
27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

Multiple times, Paul used this powerful biblical truth to literally remind himself and others that their salvation does not rest on Paul’s shoulders.

Another principle found in Scripture is the principle of shaking the dust off the feet when a town does not receive the message of the Gospel.
Luke 9:5 (ESV)
5 And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”
The Apostle does much more than simply shake the dust off…he takes his cloak off and literally shakes the dust from it as well as a testimony against them.

But oh what encouragement there is when conversions do take place…

3. The Lord Encouraged Paul Through Conversions

7 And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue.
8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.
Here is another way the Lord lifted Paul’s spirit. As he was faithful to teach and preach Jesus as the Messiah God granted repentance to a great many who heard. One such man was Titius Justus. Luke doesn’t tell us much about this man except that he was a worshipper of God (Judaism). What he does tell us is that his house was next door to the synagogue.

Let’s picture the setting. Paul and the great many believers in Corinth are meeting as a church in the house right next door to the synagogue. What a testimony to the power of the Gospel to save.

To rub salt in the wound, the ruler of the synagogue, a man named Crispus believed the Gospel and also joined the small house church that met next door to the synagogue. They worshipped there the entire time Paul was in Corinth. Justus was wealthy and no doubt had adequate accommodations for a small congregation who began meeting in his home.

4. The Lord Encouraged Paul with His Promises

9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent,
10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

What the Apostle didn’t realize when he first came to Corinth was that even though he thought he was alone; he really wasn’t alone at all. Because of the Roman persecution of the Jews and also, unknowingly, of the Christians as well, there were a number of believers who fled to Corinth as a result.

This is another reason I believe Paul was weak and fearful during this time…The Lord tells Him, do not be afraid. What was the reason the Lord gave to Paul for not needing to be afraid? For I am with you and no one will attack you to harm you. Wasn’t that so merciful of God to care for His beloved apostle that way. God knows where and when we are week and He will come to our rescue.

Paul stayed a year and a half teaching and loving that church.

5. The Lord Encouraged Paul By His Faithfulness

The Lord promised Paul that while he was in Corinth nothing would happen to him that he was to continue speaking the truth that Jesus is the Messiah and that no one comes to the Father except through Him.

Notice how God’s promise came true…

12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal,
13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.”

I love this next part…

14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint.
15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.”
16 And he drove them from the tribunal.
17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.

Did you get the part about when Paul was about to speak? No harm came to Paul just like God said and the Lord didn’t need Paul’s help. Can you imagine the encouragement that was to this weary Apostle?

Beloved when God makes a promise He doesn’t need our help for it to come to pass.
Historians tell us that when Gallio let Paul go without even a word from him, the news travelled across the region like a wild fire. Word travelled that Jesus shielded Paul when the Jews and Rome wanted him silenced. The conclusion Gallio reached constituted a decisive victory for the church in Greece. The gospel had victory in Corinth and Paul was greatly refreshed.

Additional Application

Perhaps you’re here today and discouraged and weary. Take heart in the fact that you too have the very same resources at your disposal.

1- Christian Companions

2- God’s Word

3- Fulfilling your call to evangelize

4- The Lord loves you and cares for you

5- Always remember the promises of the Lord are always kept.

 

 

 

[1] Acts 18:1-8 John MacArthur

[2] Acts 18:1-8 John MacArthur

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