Summary: Exposition of Acts 18:1-17 about the encouragement Paul got from God in Corinth
Text: Acts 18:1-17, Title: Divine Encouragement, Date/Place: NRBC, 11/9/08, AM
A. Opening illustration: Talk about the saints that experienced depression and discouragement: Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Job, Elijah, Jeremiah, Spurgeon, and Luther—talk about his wife telling him God is dead.
B. Background to passage: Having left Athens under his own power and by his own will, Paul is discouraged. We read in 1 Cor 2:3 “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.” It had been a rough few weeks for Paul mentally and physically. And now he was alone in his 53 mile walk to Corinth, the Las Vegas of the day in Greece. This largest, most influential, most depraved city sat right on the isthmus between the two parts of Greece. It had a reputation for being immoral and transient. It was synonymous with prostitution. And so this is what he came to after his 53 mile hike alone. But not completely alone, Satan walked with him, accusing him, and bringing about discouragement. But never fear, Christ is near…
C. Main thought: In the text we will see five things that God uses to encourage believers
D. Word from God (v. 9-11)
1. This is probably the most encouraging thing that happened to Paul in this passage. Maybe the Lord knew this is what Paul needed. This is one of six visions in Acts for Paul. But God didn’t want him getting worried or in a hurry, and going to the next city. God had big plans for Corinth, as evidenced from his short message. He said five things: 1) don’t be afraid, 2) speak and don’t be silent, 3) I am with you, 4) no one will attack and hurt you, and 5) I have purchased many in this city. God encouraged him, and gave him a hint at His will for Corinth and the next few months of Paul’s ministry.
3. Illustration: “What can I fear? Will it be death? But you know that Christ is my life, and that I shall gain by death. Will it be exile? But the earth and all its fullness are the Lord’s. Poverty I do not fear; riches I do not sigh for; and from death I do not shrink.” –Chrysostom when being pursued by Empress Eudoxia, He says he wore “Thou Shalt Not Steal” on his catcher’s chest-protector the time he threw out Ty Cobb trying to steal second.
4. If God spoke a message like this to us, we would be thrilled. Do you listen for God, or simply speak your mind? We have the same command not to be afraid about what we shall eat and drink or what we shall wear. We are commanded not to be afraid of evil men, nor devils. We have been commanded to speak, and not be silent. And even though we have not received a promise of protection we go anyway. For the Apostle went whether he had that promise or not. God is with us if we are going in His name, and we have nothing ultimately to fear. God is working in this city, at your job, in your family, for He has many people there. But it is your responsibility to take them the gospel so they might believe, and repent, and follow Christ. And with promises like these, and a God that is faithful to fulfill them, we (like Paul) should be confidently assailing our city, state, nation, and world with the gospel of Jesus Christ!
E. Circumstance (v. 14-16)
1. The final thing that God uses to encourage Paul and us is circumstances. Paul finally (after a year and a half of ministry) experiences some of the persecution that he had previously experienced. So after being brought to the judgment seat, he was about to speak, when the proconsul (by the way this is another testimony to the accuracy of Luke, distinguishing between kinds of Roman colonies, and using rulers that we have tons of info on) stood up and declared that he didn’t have a dog in that fight, and ran them off. No other ruler had done that before. God had given a favorable response from the leader. Then the Jews beat the new ruler of the synagogue, and he got saved.
2. Pro 21:1, 16:1, Ez 7:27, 1 Cor 1:1,
3. Illustration: Mary had grown up knowing that she was different from the other kids, and she hated it. She was born with a cleft palate and had to bear the jokes and stares of cruel children who teased her non-stop about her misshaped lip, crooked nose, and garbled speech. With all the teasing, Mary grew up hating the fact that she was “different”. She was convinced that no one, outside her family, could ever love her … until she entered Mrs. Leonard’s class. Mrs. Leonard had a warm smile, a round face, and shiny brown hair. While everyone in her class liked her, Mary came to love Mrs. Leonard. In the 1950s, it was common for teachers to give their children an annual hearing test. However, in Mary’s case, in addition to her cleft palate, she was barely able to hear out of one ear. Determined not to let the other children have another “difference” to point out, she would cheat on the test each year. The “whisper test” was given by having a child walk to the classroom door, turn sideways, close one ear with a finger, and then repeat something which the teacher whispered. Mary turned her bad ear towards her teacher and pretended to cover her good ear. She knew that teachers would often say things like, “The sky is blue,” or “What color are your shoes?” But not on that day. Surely, God put seven words in Mrs. Leonard’s mouth that changed Mary’s life forever. When the “Whisper test” came, Mary heard the words: “I wish you were my little girl.”