Summary: Jesus urges Paul to keep preaching in Corinth. Likewise Jesus wants us to keep telling others about him.
“Silence is golden.” The mother who has just managed to get her toddler to sleep will agree with that statement. For a few peaceful hours there will be no shouts of “Mommy look!” or “Mommy I’m hungry!” Silence is also golden for the weary traveller who has finally reached home after hours spent on a plane listening to the throbbing jet engine and the rush of wind passing outside the airplane window. Silence is golden for the student who is enjoying summer vacation and doesn’t have to spend Monday through Friday listening to teachers drone on about integers or Canadian history.
But silence isn’t always golden. Jesus made that clear to the Apostle Paul in our sermon text this morning. Paul was to keep talking about Jesus and not be silent. Likewise Jesus doesn’t want us to be silent when it comes to telling others about him. Let’s see what encouragement Paul’s experience in the Greek city of Corinth will give us for this important task.
As you know, Paul had once been a persecutor of Christians. After his conversion to the faith, Jesus said that he would use Paul to spread his message far and wide. Eventually Paul started to make missionary journeys around the Mediterranean going from city to city telling people about Jesus. On his second journey he came to the Greek city of Corinth. I wonder if Paul didn’t have low expectations for this city. After all, he had just come from Athens, a city that had a reputation for being interested in religion and philosophy. But only a few people believed Paul’s message there.
Corinth on the other hand had a reputation for being a sin-city. Las Vegas and Bangkok today have a similar reputation, but it seems that the spiritual climate in Corinth was even worse. There was a pagan temple there that reportedly employed 1,000 prostitutes! So if Paul’s witnessing in Athens hadn’t gone very well, what chance of success would Paul have in Corinth? Do we make judgments like that about places and people? It’s not helpful if we do because it might lead us to be silent when we should always be ready tell others about Jesus no matter who they are or what their background.
Paul of course did not remain silent in Corinth. The first people he seemed to meet there were a Jewish couple named Priscilla and Aquila. These two, along with every other Jew living in Rome, had recently been kicked out of that city by the emperor. This inconvenience turned out to be a blessing for them however. They were either brought to faith or at least had their faith strengthened as they hung out with Paul. Paul, you see, was a tentmaker just like Priscilla and Aquila and so the three worked together at this trade.
But don’t you think it would have been a temptation for Paul just to speak business with his new acquaintances? After all he wouldn’t want to jeopardize his employment by talking about religion! But Paul knew that kind of silence is not golden. So he must have eagerly told his new business partners about Jesus because later on that couple would be an encouragement to other believers. Perhaps Paul told Priscilla and Aquila that though they had just undergone a major change in their life, the changeless God was still with them and was guiding their steps. You too can also offer that kind of witness to a co-worker who is undergoing some difficulty. It may open the door for you tell them more about Jesus.
But Paul didn’t just share his faith with Priscilla and Aquila. On the weekends he went into the synagogue and tried to persuade the congregation that Jesus was the fulfillment of all the Old Testament messianic prophecies they eagerly studied there. Unfortunately this message was not eagerly received by most. Paul’s experience reminds us of what Jesus said in the Parable of the Sower from our Gospel Lesson this morning. The seed that the farmer plants doesn’t always germinate and grow. Some of the seed falls on the path and is immediately trampled or snatched up by birds. Jesus explained that although he wants us to scatter his Word far and wide, we should not expect everyone to believe it. But it isn’t our responsibility to make people believe. Our responsibility is simply to keep speaking about Jesus.
Paul did that until it was obvious that the people in the synagogue did not want to listen to what he had to say. He then took his message next door to the house of Titius Justus. Paul hadn’t gone far. The Word was still next door to the synagogue, but it didn’t do those synagogue members any good. Friends, I think there is warning here for us. Being next to God’s Word is not the same as being in the Word. What I mean is you may be here in church and Bible class in person, but if your mind is wandering during the sermon and you make no attempt to refocus on what God is saying to you, then the Word is of no use to you. In time God may even take his Word away. Think of how helpless you feel when you lose cell phone reception or internet access. That’s nothing compared to having God cut off communication with us. For without God’s Word we cannot grow in faith. And if our faith doesn’t grow, it can only wither and die, and so will our hope for eternal life.