“Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.” Acts 18:9&10
The Apostle Paul had just gone through some of the toughest parts of his second missionary journey. He had been thrown out of Thessalonica, then Berea, then he came to Athens, taught there and came to Corinth. All along the way, he had spoken the gospel of peace and had gotten much opposition in every place, though a few were converted. Coming to Corinth was to be no different, and in many ways, probably harder.
Corinth was situated on an isthmus between the ancient port cities of Cenchrea on the east and Lechaeum on the west. When the seas were especially stormy to the south, ships would instead be drug across the isthmus on rollers from one port to the other. This caused Corinth to be a very successful and wealthy city, for it allowed all things, and had very low morals, if any at all (you know the tales about sailors). Being so immoral attracted all sorts of transient opportunists, which made life there difficult for the religious leadership, though many there had a lot of the same issues in their own lives, like Lot did in Sodom. At it’s height, it had a population of over a half million, and was destroyed once and rebuilt long before Paul’s arrival. It could easily be compared to Las Vegas, the city which I call home, and in which there is a very strong church. Corinth would have it’s own church, too, but Paul was only just planting it.
He gets there and he is already out of sorts. He is alone, and he is not evangelizing like the Apostle we all know. He is, more or less, “taking a breather.” He meets a married couple, and at this point, the Bible doesn’t say if they are believers or not yet. But, they do have in common their tent making skills, and Paul joins them, returning to tent making to be able to sustain himself. During this time, Paul is in the synagogue only on the Sabbaths, and he discusses the Messiah with the Jews. He is not proclaiming anything, simply entering into discussion about the Messiah, and reviewing the scriptures with them. (1 Cor 2:1-4) There is no one being converted, or at least the Bible doesn’t say so. There is not a definite amount of time that passes, but the fact that several Sabbaths pass would indicate a few weeks goes by. Then come Silas and Timothy with provisions, probably money, which Paul needed (2 Cor 11:9) and this changes things for him.
Now, the Apostle is moved in his spirit. His brethren have come and strengthened him and encouraged him, and he begins to preach and proclaim that Jesus is the Christ, and right away, there is resistance. They don’t want to hear it and they blaspheme as they openly oppose what he is saying. Then he uses scripture from the prophet Ezekiel when he tells them their blood is on their own heads (Ezekiel 33:1-7) and departs from them. He doesn’t go far, in fact he goes next door to a house owned by a man named Justus, who worshiped God. Paul is frustrated, tired, and probably disgusted with place after place refusing the Truth, and he is discouraged as he enters into Justus’ house.
We all have been there. We are on fire for God, wanting to tell everyone and anyone what we now know. We don’t want anyone to miss out on the wonderful gift of salvation. We talk to everyone we know, and everyone we meet, but after a while, and many refusals, we, too, can become discouraged. The Bible is written just perfectly for us, in that there is nothing that isn’t addressed within that does not pertain to some part of our lives. God knows us, and He knows what we are going through. Another Biblical example of this is the prophet Elijah.
Elijah calls down fire from Heaven! In a demonstration of the power of God versus the non-existent power of 450 prophets of Baal, Elijah challenges them all to take a bull and offer it for sacrifice and ask their god to bring fire upon it and consume it, and he does the same. Of course, there being no god Baal, there is no fire on their altar, but Elijah does all things according to the will of the Lord, even soaking the bull, the altar, and the trench around it with three times four barrels of water. The Lord accepts and makes Himself known by fire from Heaven to consume all of the bull, the dust, and the water in the trench. (1 Kings 18: 19-39) Elijah brings Truth to the people and God turns their hearts back, but Jezebel, King Ahab’s wife wants Elijah’s life, and what does Elijah do? He runs. He goes to a cave and hides. (1 Kings 19:3-9) God comes to him, and long story short, tells him that he is not the last, he will anoint Elisha, and furthermore, there are 7,000 who have not bowed their knees to Baal. (1 Kings 19:15-18) So, God tells him to get up and get going. God Himself tells Elijah to go and continue His work.
He says this many times in scripture, because we are human, we are weak, and we get discouraged. Even the most holy among us can feel frustrated and tired at times, and God understands this. After all, He became Man, that He could live the life He has asked us to live, and to live it perfectly. He experienced everything we experience, and was able to overcome all of it. He never once doubted the Father, lived by following the Spirit, and conquered all temptations presented. So, He knows exactly how it feels to be discouraged, and He is always telling us to not be afraid. He tells Paul this, too. He tells Paul, be not afraid, speak and don’t hold back, because I have 7,000 in this city who have not bowed the knee. Okay, well, He does say something very, very similar, does He not? What He said to Elijah and to Paul, He says to us today.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:18-20
Don’t be afraid. God is with us. He is in us and He is greater than he who is in the world. Speak the Truth and hold onto joy. Don’t remain discouraged. Get up. Stand with the brethren, for we are all still here.