Thursday, January 15, 2009

For I have many people in this city

Acts 18:9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city."

In Acts 18, Luke records how Paul came to minister in the city of Corinth. He stayed with Aquila and Priscilla and worked alongside them as "tentmakers" (see Acts 18:2-3). Though working to support himself, Paul was also busy in ministry: "And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks" (v. 4).

When Silas and Timothy arrived in Corinth to offer their support, Paul "was compelled by the Spirit and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ" (v. 5). When these opposed and blasphemed, Paul turned his attention to the Gentiles (v. 6). Paul’s ministry was not without fruit. One of those converted was a Gentile God-fearer named Justus who lived next to the synagogue (v. 7). Another was Crispus, "the ruler of the synagogue," who believed on the Lord together with his household (v. 8). Luke adds: "And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized" (v. 8). Note the fundamental Biblical pattern: the gospel is heard, believed, and only the converted are baptized.

Despite this fruit, Paul was apparently discouraged. In Acts 18:9-10, Luke tells how the Lord himself spoke to Paul and gave him the encouragement to speak and not be silent (v. 9). The Lord promised to be with Paul and to protect his life (v. 10). At the end of this encouragement, the Lord added, "for I have many people in this city" (v. 10). With this Paul stayed another year and six months, "teaching the Word of God among them" (v. 11).

As we consider this passage, let us think about our own ministry in the city of Charlottesville and the surrounding area. Yes, we have our own Corinth all around us. As Jeremiah wrote to the Israelites in exile, we should "seek the peace" of our city (Jeremiah 29:7). The greatest peace is, of course, knowing Christ. Like Paul we want with boldness to testify to one and all that Jesus is the Christ. If discouraged, we should also heed the Lord’s words to Paul: "for I have many people in this city." Indeed, as in Corinth so in Charlottesville, there are many people that the Lord has appointed to salvation in this city (cf. Acts 13:48: "and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed"). Yes, many will reject the gospel, but there are also many who will believe. We do not know who will respond. It might, in fact, be the very person we think least likely.

Let this give us great boldness in ministry in this place in this new year!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Note: Evangel article for 1.15.09.

No comments: