Fear Not: Jesus and Paul

Fear Not: Jesus and Paul

Fear Not: Jesus and Paul.

“One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, ‘Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.’ So Paul stayed there in Corinth for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God.”  (Acts 18:9-11).

At one point during his far-flung missionary travels, around 50 AD, Paul finds himself in the thriving port city of Corinth. It was a Roman city, but like most busy ports, was filled with a wide variety of religions and ethnic groups. Unfortunately, it was also filled with undesirables and those who without conscience lived highly immorally. There was a flourishing Jewish community there as well in the midst of the degradation. The popular temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, dominated the city by being placed on a hilltop overlooking the whole metropolis. This temple had a least 1,000 shrine prostitutes working there daily from morning to night. There were other temples that employed male prostitutes as well. Corinth was known as the most sexually immoral city of that part of the Roman empire. If one were particularly reckless morally, one was called a “corinthian.”

As soon as Paul arrived in Corinth, he quickly discovered some spiritual allies, fellow Christians, who would support and encourage him in his ministry. Paul immediately started preaching in the synagogue there, seeking to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. The Jews became obstinate, and they began to insult Paul in their vehement opposition. Finally, Paul “shook out his garments,” which is an Old Testament form of judgment much like the New Testament act of shaking the dust off your sandals. It was Paul’s way of saying that his conscience is clear, he did his best, and he henceforth has no responsibility for them. Paul left them to God’s mercy, and as the Message puts it, “Have it your way, then. You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.” (18:6). Paul from that time devoted himself to preaching to the Gentiles, who undoubtedly would be more receptive.

Soon after Paul went in this new direction, the Lord spoke to him in a vision during the night, a sort of supernatural dream with Christ Himself. This is one of six visions Paul had in the book of Acts. He told Paul, “Don’t be afraid! Be fearless! Keep speaking out, and don’t let anyone intimidate you into silence! For I am with you. I promise you my presence. And there are so many people that belong to me in this city that no one will attempt to hurt you.” In this vision, the Lord promised His protection and His presence. Paul no doubt could have used some reassurance at this point. He had a recent history of violent opposition. In Lystra, he was stoned by a mob and left for dead (Acts 14:20). In Philippi he was beaten, flogged almost to death, and placed in stocks in prison (16:25). In Thessalonica he was chased out of town by a rabid mob (17:3). And in Berea, there was a huge uproar and once again he had to flee for his life (17:13).

So it’s no wonder that Paul was initially fearful in Corinth. But the Lord erased those fears with His encouraging vision, and that’s all Paul needed. He remained in Corinth for a year and a half, preaching the Word  starting a strong church, and supporting himself in the trade of tentmaking. Paul met with great success in Corinth and was free to spread the Good News of Jesus.

Another Thought: Fear of Harm. “There may be more hope of success among a dissolute and profligate population than among proud, cold, and skeptical philosophers. Paul had little success in philosophic Athens, and he had great success in dissolute Corinth. There is often more hope of converting a person who is openly dissolute and abandoned, than one who prides himself on his philosophy and is confident in his own wisdom.” (Barnes Bible Commentary).