Paul's Work at the House of Crispus & Justus: Part 2 of 2
by John Lowe
“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”
9 Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:
10 For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.
Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision.
By now Paul was feeling the pressure in Corinth. Everywhere he had been, so far, the Jews had drummed-up trouble against him. It could not be long before the same thing would happen at Corinth and, after all, Paul was only human. He did not like being manhandled, maligned, imprisoned, beaten, or threatened any more than anyone else. The Lord touched as He is “with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15), came at this juncture to his faithful ambassador.
The conversion of Crispus, opened up more opportunities for evangelism and brought more opposition from the enemy! The Jewish community in Corinth was no doubt furious at Paul’s success and did everything possible to silence him and get rid of him. Dr. Luke does not give us the details, but I get the impression that the situation there became especially difficult and dangerous. Paul may have been thinking about leaving the city when the Lord came to him and gave him the assurance that he needed.
Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:
It was just what Paul needed. Just as Jonathan once came to David to strengthen his hand in God, so the Lord came to Paul to encourage him to keep up the good work. Paul was a brave man In any case, but with this commission ringing in his soul, he would be bolder than ever before. He was brave but not reckless, bold but not brash, fearless but not fatalistic. What a happy balance we observe in this intrepid missionary, a man always conscious of the Lord’s abiding presence and daily leading. Paul’s fears were natural enough but needless. He could write later to the Romans, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Nobody was going to drive him out of Corinth. Here, for the foreseeable future, was where God wanted him to be.
For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee.
At Corinth, Paul had come to a ripened harvest field. There had been very little to reap at Athens. The soil was poor there, for intellectualism and high-sounding nonsense soiled the harvest. But here at Corinth, in the fifth largest capital of the world, were many hungry hearts. There were lonely peoplet1 , people disillusioned by pleasure and worldliness, people who had drunk from Satan’s broken cisterns and poisoned wells, desperate people, people who were not only lost but who knew they were lost. There were sailors, tired of lives of drunkenness and wickedness; there were the broken women, the castoffs of the temples where sin was their daily bread; there were successful businessmen whose money could buy them everything but happiness; there were housewives struggling for a decent home life in a city as foul as Sodom; there were young people whose ideals had been blighted by the diseased state of the society in which they lived; and there were those who were disgusted by both heathen religion and Jewish hardness and hypocrisy.
Paul was encouraged not only by the presence of the Lord, but also by His promises. Jesus assured Paul that no one would hurt him, that he would bring many sinners to the Savior, and that He would never leave him nor forsake him (see Hebrews 13:56). He made Paul a promise; “For I am with thee.” Do not let the businessmen or the politicians, the wealthy or the prominent, frighten you into silence. They cannot hurt you, they can only prove you are right. Do not be afraid of running out of anything. The reservoirs of God are inexhaustible.
And the promise is followed by a reminder . . .
For I have much people in this city.
You may think that they are all stupid, beyond redemption, lost in their own selfish interests, impervious, untouchable, and doomed. Not at all, says God. Among these unattractive, unresponsive-looking people, I have a great many who are ready to hear my word. You may not see them right at the beginning; they may not
respond instantly. But they have the desire and the need in their heart. They are fearful and timid, they had been disappointed before; therefore they hold back in the beginning. But go out to find them, woo them, and tell them the story. See what lies behind their faces; get to know them where they really live. Let them see that you are in the same predicament; that you face the same human temptation and danger; that you to cry out for the living God.
Over this vast, seething city the Holy Spirit brooded as once he had over the darkened deep on creations first morning. “I have much people in this city,” was the Lord’s comforting words to Paul. The field was ripe for the reaper. What a blessed outlook for the missionary. The statement “I have much people in this city” implies the doctrine of divine election, for “the Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19, NKJV). God’s church is made up of people who were “chosen . . . In him Christ
before the foundation of the world’s” (Ephesians 1:4).
Please note that the divine sovereignty in election is not a deterrent to human responsibility in evangelism. Quite the opposite is true! Divine election is one of the greatest encouragements to the preaching of the Gospel. Because Paul knew that God already had people set apart for salvation, he stayed where he was and preached the Gospel with faith and courage. Paul’s responsibility was to obey the commission; God’s responsibility was to save sinners. If salvation depends on sinful man, then all of our efforts are futile; but if “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9), then we can expect Him to bless His Word and save souls.
11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
Paul’s vision fortified him for the extensive witness in Corinth, and for the next year and a half, he threw himself into evangelizing the great city, ably supported by Silas and Timothy. Corinth was the first city where Paul settled-down for an extensive period of missionary activity. The pattern up till now had been for such strong opposition to arise against Paul and his companions in cities where they witnessed that they were forced to move on. He had no reason to expect anything different in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 2:37
he even stated the fear and misgivings he had when he first arrived in the city. How would these Greeks and Roman colonists receive him? Already the familiar pattern of strong Jewish opposition was rearing its head. How long could his Corinthian Ministry continue? The vision from the Lord provided an answer. Paul was to remain in Corinth and continue his witness there. The Lord was with him. No harm would befall him, no opposition withstand him. This assurance fortified Paul for the 18-month ministry in Corinth.
At Corinth, Paul entered into a new phase of his missionary work. The previous fast-paced movement from place to place quietly gave way to a more settled ministry. The next five years find Paul centering most of his time in two cities —Corinth on the European mainland, and Ephesus in Asia. From the reference to Gallio (18:12), we can pinpoint Paul’s 18 month stay in Corinth as being between the fall of A.D. 50 and the spring of A.D. 52. The successful outcome of his appearance before Gallio further assured him that the Lord had indeed kept his promise. 1
(Acts 18:4, NIV) “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.”2
(1 Corinthians 1:14, NIV) “I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius.”3
(Romans 16:23) “Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.”4
(1 Corinthians 1:14, NIV) “I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius.”5
(1 Corinthians 1:26, KJV) “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.”6
(Hebrews 13:5, KJV) “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”7
(1 Corinthians 2:3, KJV) “And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”