Day 202: Success & Suffering

Acts 18:1-18 (AD 50-51)

What would you do if you were sharing the gospel of Jesus, in a place where the primary response was that people verbally abused you and threatened to harm you?

What would you do if God then said you needn’t be afraid, that he would save some people in that town?

Would you:

  1. Say to yourself, ‘Well if God’s already got this, then there’s no reason for me to take all that abuse and risk being beaten or killed,’ and leave?
  2. Say to yourself, ‘Maybe so, but it still seems risky and who knows whether God means to let me get beaten up but not killed,’ and leave?
  3. Head right back into the danger zone to keep telling people about Jesus?

Paul chose C.). And not just for a few days – he stayed in Corinth for a year and a half.

Given that God already said he was going to save those people, why was Paul so keen to stay in Corinth and keep putting himself in a place of suffering?

  1. Paul knew that the way people became Christians was through hearing the gospel, repenting, and trusting in God. Paul was the guy on the spot, so he was the one who needed to share the gospel.
  2. Paul shared the gospel because he wanted to be part of God’s work of saving people, not to avoid it.
  3. Because if the worst came to the worst and he was killed, he knew he would go straight to heaven.
  4. Because God said he was with Paul (v.10)
  5. God’s promise was made with the explicit assumption of Paul’s returning – hence the encouragement for Paul to “keep on speaking, do not be silent” (v.9).
  6. Because God wanted him to, and Paul wanted to please God out of love.

God’s sovereignty doesn’t lessen the motivation of a Christian, it sharpens it.

Note that the first four motivations apply equally to you, if you are a Christian. You don’t have a town where you are obliged by God to go, and yet everything else that threw Paul into his work should throw is into ours. People are saved through our sharing the gospel with them, we are all partners in the work of the gospel, and nothing can ever separate us from God – whether that be on earth or in heaven.

And God will do his work. Paul continued to suffer persecution throughout his time in Corinth, with a crowd or mob involved at least once, but through it all, “many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptised” (v.8). Wouldn’t we all want to be a part of that?

Footnote:

It has been argued that when God said, “I have many people in this town”, that he either meant people would protect Paul, or it was a reference to the people who had already become Christians.

However, the first suggestion doesn’t work because Paul was never physically defended by his supporters – they only ever helped him escape (e.g. 9:25; 17:10, 14-15).

And the second suggestion doesn’t work because that wouldn’t motivate Paul to stick around to share the gospel. It would simply be saying he was already successful.


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