Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent . . . because I have many people in this city.
Finding faithful followers of God in a sin-filled city is about as expected as finding an oasis in the Arabian desert. Yet that is what we find in today’s reading. The city of Corinth had a well-earned reputation as a thoroughly immoral city, and opposition to Paul’s preaching would be expected.
At first, there was opposition. In the synagogue, the Jews abusively rejected Paul to the point that he left them to begin preaching to the Gentiles. Later in the same chapter, they dragged Paul before the proconsul Gallio, who simply dismissed the case and provided no protection for Sosthenes when the crowd attacked.
Yet despite this obvious opposition, God reminded Paul to find encouragement and carry on his work: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent . . . because I have many people in this city” (vv. 9–10). How true that was! And Paul did find comfort and encouragement in other (perhaps unexpected) places. Aquila and Priscilla, recently arrived from Rome, shared their craft of tentmaking with Paul. Silas and Timothy soon joined Paul from Macedonia and supported his full-time preaching ministry. And although rejected in the synagogue, we later learn that Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his household became believers. It seems that Sosthenes, the next synagogue leader, may also have converted to Christ (see 1 Cor. 1:1).
Then there was Titius Justus, a Gentile who welcomed Paul into his home and opened the way for him to continue preaching to the Gentiles. Even the proconsul Gallio, though certainly no Christian sympathizer, opened up legal precedent for Paul’s preaching by not allowing the Jews to prosecute Paul as a criminal. In the end, God had engineered such favorable conditions that Paul stayed in Corinth a year and a half!
Apply the Word
Scripture shows us that God’s encouragement can come in unexpected places, and reminds us that we can be that encouragement to others! How can you be an encouragement to someone? What kind word, encouraging note, meaningful hug, or helping hand can you offer? Look for those opportunities today and be that unexpected encouragement to someone else.