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The Watchman in Corinth

If you were with us last week, you’ll recall that Paul’s missionary team of four had whittled down to just one. Luke had remained in Philippi (presumable to pastor the first church in that city) and Silas & Timothy had stayed behind in Berea while Paul went on to the city of Athens. Of course, Silas & Timothy would rejoin Paul before too long, but for now, Paul was left to minister on his own.

And so, following his typical pattern, Paul preached the Good News to anyone he could find – both in the Jewish synagogues as well as in the public square! But for all of Paul’s preaching, it seems that the city of Athens had little appetite for the Word of God and only a few people accepted the Lord in that city.

And so, always eager to share the Good News with more and more people – Paul didn’t linger long in Athens and soon made his way to Corinth – and that’s where we are going to pick up the story today.

At this point, Timothy and Silas have yet to catch up with Paul, and so he is still ministering alone – but that won’t be the case for long. As we will read today, God graciously provided yet another set of co-workers for Paul – a married couple that would work together with him in Corinth and would later travel with him to Ephesus.

But that’s not the only thing that God provided for Paul in Corinth. As we go through this chapter we will see that God not only provided co-workers for Paul, but He also provided for Paul’s physical needs, He gave him encouragement and a renewed sense of calling, and he also gave him protection from those who wanted to harm him.

It really is a great chapter for us to see how God graciously provided exactly what Paul needed – and exactly when He needed it.

Our passage today is Acts chapter 18 – and we’re going to start at verse 1 as Paul leaves Athens and makes his way to Corinth. It says:

Then Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he became acquainted with a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently arrived from Italy with his wife, Priscilla. They had left Italy when Claudius Caesar deported all Jews from Rome. 3 Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers just as he was. Acts 18:1-3

You might remember that I mentioned these verses several weeks ago when I was explaining why there were no Jewish synagogues in the city of Philippi. As a Roman colony, Philippi had the same kind of animosity towards the jews that we see in these verses here when the emperor Claudius kicked all the Jews out of Rome.

And of course, for Aquila and Priscilla, that must have been a very difficult time in their lives – to be suddenly have to leave their home and re-establish themselves in Corinth. Moving is always difficult – and under these circumstances, it would have been all the more difficult.

However, we can clearly see the hand of God at work – using this difficult situation for much good – because through this, they would meet up with Paul – and their friendship with Him would totally change their lives!

Now it’s not specifically stated, but it seems to be implied that Aquila and Priscilla may have already been believers when they met Paul. We don’t know that for sure – it’s quite possible that Paul led them to the Lord early on during his time in Corinth, but it just seems like that would have been an important detail for Luke to include in his account if it were the case. And so since there is no mention of their conversation, I suspect they may have already been believers when they met Paul. 

Regardless, in these verses we see they had much in common with him – not only where they fellow Jews and now fellow believers in Christ – but they also shared a common trade. They were tent-makers – as was Paul.

We tend to think of Paul as a professional minister, right? – rather than a blue-collar worker. But this passage tells us that not only was he a tent-maker by trade, but he was active in that trade – working alongside Aquila and Priscilla to earn his living while in Corinth.

Now for much of his ministry, Paul was able to dedicate all of his time to preaching the Gospel. That’s what God had called him to do, and to do that, he had people who provided for his needs so that he could fully give his time to sharing the Gospel – much like the missionaries that we support today! Missionaries like Alex & Amber or Roy & Tiffany depend on our giving so that they can dedicate their time to the ministries that God has given them – rather than having to spend all that time simply trying to provide for their families. It’s critical that we support them not only in prayer – but also with some dollars and cents so that they can do the tasks that God has given them to do!

And so likewise, in a similar fashion, Paul had people supporting his ministry so that he could share the Gospel full-time without worrying about how to provide for his needs. However, it seems that at this stage in his ministry, his current funding had run out and so out of necessity, he had to split his time between earning a living and preaching the Gospel. 

And of course, I’m sure Paul spoke about the Gospel even while he was working. I imagine that as Paul bought the leather for his tents from the suppliers or sold his finished products in the marketplace – I’m sure Paul never missed an opportunity to share about Jesus Christ!

And neither should we! We don’t have to be in full-time ministry to share the Gospel with the people around us! In fact, people who aren’t in full-time ministry often have all kinds of unique opportunities to share with people who would never cross paths with a pastor or missionary. For a lot of people who wouldn’t ever step foot into a church, your voice might be the only Gospel they ever hear! So don’t neglect to make the most of those unique opportunities that you have as you simply go through your regular work day! Your workplace is just as much a mission field as anywhere!

And so for Paul, at least in this stage of his ministry, his mission field was the tent-making shop Corinth! And so as he earned his living throughout the week, he continued to share about Jesus to whomever he could. And then, on the weekends, he made the further effort of sharing the Gospel at the local synagogue. We read in verse 4.

4 Each Sabbath found Paul at the synagogue, trying to convince the Jews and Greeks alike. Acts 18:4

Despite working all week long at his ‘regular job’ – Paul still put every effort into his ‘weekend’ ministry at the synagogue – trying to convince the Jews and Greeks that Jesus was the Messiah!

He did this until finally, Silas and Timothy managed to catch up with him and were reunited with him in Corinth. And after they arrived, Paul once again started preaching full time! It says in verse 5.

5 And after Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul spent all his time preaching the word. He testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. Acts 18:5

It’s interesting that at this point – after Silas and Timothy arrived – Paul begins spending ALL of his time preaching the Word. It seems that now, Paul no longer had to work as a tent-maker to provide for his needs – somehow that was taken care of for him so that He could dedicate his all of his time to preaching the Gospel.

And we actually get a bit of an explanation of what happened in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 11:8, Paul writes:

 I “robbed” other churches by accepting their contributions so I could serve you at no cost. 9 And when I was with you and didn’t have enough to live on, I did not become a financial burden to anyone. For the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me all that I needed.

2 Corinthians 11:8-9a

Here we can see that Timothy and Silas (the brothers who came from Macedonia) had brought along enough financial support for Paul so that he could preach the Gospel without charge (and apparently without having to continue his work as a tent-maker!) Paul never wanted to charge anyone for preaching about the free gift of God – and so he either supported himself or accepted gifts for that purpose from other believers.

And just as a further note, it seems that the believers who had given this financial support for Paul was the church in Philippi – based on what we read in Philippians 4:15…

As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. Philippians 5:15

And actually, as we read on, we see that not only did the church in Philippi send financial support to Paul this time, but they continued to support him throughout the rest of his ministry… He continues….

16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. 17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. 

18 At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

20 Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.

Philippians 5:16-20

Now this may be a bit of a rabbit trail, but I think it’s important to mention. Our gifts to support those people who are ministering full-time for the Lord – are not only a huge blessing to the people we support – but Paul says our gifts are like a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God.

It’s not just a gift for that person or for that ministry – but it truly is a gift to God – and He is pleased and honoured by that sacrifice!

And I know sometimes we feel like we’re barely making it by ourselves – we can’t afford to give anything to anyone else! But I love that verse 19… “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

We can always be generous – because we serve a generous God. If we trust Him, He will always supply all our needs!

I’ve just been recently re-reading the biography of George Muller – one of my personal heroes of the faith. If you don’t know him, he was really the founder of modern day orphanages – before that orphans just had to fend for themselves on the streets! So he started all these orphanages back in the 1800s and throughout his life, his orphanages cared for over 10,000 orphans. But what’s most amazing is that through all those years of ministry, he never asked any man for a single penny. He simply prayed to God and asked God to supply all his needs – and God faithfully did! Throughout his life, God always provided for Him, for his family, and his 10,000+ orphans! It truly is an amazing story!

But don’t forget that our God today is that very same God from back then. The same God that supplied all of George Muller’s needs was the same God that supplied all of Paul’s needs. And that same God will continue to supply for all of your needs too.

It’s like Jesus said in Matthew 6:25…

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Matthew 6:25-33

What a joy it is to know how much God cares for us – and how generously he gives us all things!

But like I said – that’s a bit of a rabbit trail. 

To get back to our passage, now that Paul has received a generous gift from his supporters, he is able to preach the Gospel full-time once again!

5 And after Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul spent all his time preaching the word. He testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed and insulted him, Paul shook the dust from his clothes and said, “Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent. From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.”

Acts 18:5-6

As usual, the majority of the Jews rejected Paul’s message of the Gospel. Even though Paul had faithfully proclaimed the message of Salvation to the Jews in Corinth – he had done all he could to explain to them and convince them that Jesus was indeed the Messiah – But they still refused to listen to him. We see here that they opposed and insulted him! And so eventually, there really wasn’t anything else Paul could do for them. Their rejection of Christ would lead to their own destruction. That’s why Paul said “Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent.”

Paul had fulfilled his responsibilities to God by telling them how to be saved – and so now the decision (and the responsibility) lay with them. No one could blame Paul for not warning them.

And that’s maybe a good point for us to ponder today. Have we faithfully carried out our responsibilities to tell the people in our lives about Jesus? Can we honestly say with Paul that we have done all that we could to convince our friends, our family, and our co-workers about Jesus and their need for him?

And if not, maybe we need to do something about that – because God has given us the responsibility to tell them about Jesus!

There’s a passage in Ezekiel that illustrates how serious this responsibility is! In Ezekiel 33, God says to the prophet Ezekiel:

When the watchman sees the enemy coming, he sounds the alarm to warn the people. 4 Then if those who hear the alarm refuse to take action, it is their own fault if they die. 5 They heard the alarm but ignored it, so the responsibility is theirs. If they had listened to the warning, they could have saved their lives. 

6 But if the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, he is responsible for their captivity. They will die in their sins, but I will hold the watchman responsible for their deaths.’

7 “Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel.”

Ezekiel 33:3-7a

The verses then go on to explain that Ezekiel was to be a spiritual watchman – and warn the Israelites of their sin and to plead with them to repent and turn back to God! It was a pretty serious responsibility! 

And In a similar way – Paul and even us today – are in a sense, the watchmen for the people around us. God has given us the responsibility to warn them of the coming judgement and to tell them the way of salvation! Of course, we can’t force them to act upon our warnings – ultimately that’s a decision that every person has to make for themselves – but it is our responsibility to do all that we can to show them how to be saved!

So let’s make sure that we are faithful watchmen for the people around us!

And so for Paul, having been that faithful watchman and having done all that he could to warn the Jews, Paul determined now to turn his attention to the Gentiles. Verse 7

7 Then he left and went to the home of Titius Justus, a Gentile who worshiped God and lived next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, and everyone in his household believed in the Lord. Many others in Corinth also heard Paul, became believers, and were baptized. Acts 18:7-8

As we see in these verses, Paul’s efforts paid off! Many people in Corinth became believers – including Crispus – the leader of the synagogue! It’s kind of interesting that Crispus (a jew) didn’t become a believer until after Paul turned his attention to the Gentiles. Maybe it was the incredible life-change he saw in Titius-Justus – the next-door neighbour to the synagogue – that finally convinced him that there was something real about this Jesus fellow!

Of course, we aren’t told those details – that’s just my speculation! However it happened, many people were coming to know the Lord, they were being baptized, and the church in Corinth was growing.

And so, as you might imagine, whenever good things are happening for the Kingdom of God, Satan is quick to show up to try to interfere.

Again, we’re not told the details, but we know that the Jews were very much opposed to Paul and his message – and I expect they may have doubled down on their opposition once Crispus – the leader of their synagogue – became a believer. But apparently that opposition caused Paul to grow a bit fearful – and to consider moving on to another city. Again, we don’t know the details, but we do know how God responded. Verse 9.

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! 10 For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” 11 So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God.

Acts 18:9-11

There are three very cool points to note in these few verses. First of all, we see that God appeared and spoke to Paul just when Paul needed it most!

Normally we think of Paul as this unshakable force for the Gospel who could stand in the face of any opposition. And to a certain extend he was! But he was still just a regular guy with limitations and weaknesses just like you and I! 

And from what we see in these verses, it seems that perhaps Paul had started feeling a bit afraid. Perhaps he was considering being silent! After all the beatings and jailings and stonings that he had already experienced, maybe he was just growing weary of it all! I know how weary we get sometimes, and we don’t go through anything like what Paul did – so I can certain understand that Paul was growing weary and thinking about throwing in the towel!

We’re not told the background to this, but it’s clear that God thought it serious enough to personally appear to Paul and give him this encouragement: “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you…”

And that’s the second very cool thing in these verses. God says “Don’t be afraid – I am with you.” Can there be any greater encouragement than that? I mean really – what could we possible be afraid of when the Sovereign all-powerful God of the universe says to us, “Don’t be afraid – for I am with you!”

As Paul would later write in Romans 8:31:

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” Romans 8:31

And I think most of us know that intellectually – we understand that as God’s children, His Holy Spirit dwells within us and He is with us every moment of every day. 

But when we’re in the thick of those difficult situations, when we’re faced with the unknown, or we’re going through the times of deep hurt – it’s pretty easy to forget that God is with us.

But He is! And he’s not just “with us” as in “being present with us” – but He’s also with us in the sense of him being on our side! He’s not against us – He’s with us! He’s actively involved in our situation – working together with us for our good and His glory!

And that brings us to the third very cool thing to note in these verses. God says to Paul:

“Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! 10 For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” Acts 18:9b-10

It’s that last phrase that really caught my attention: “for many people in this city belong to me.”

I think there are two encouragement in this.

#1. Paul was not alone. God had many others in this city – others like Aquila and Priscilla – and now Silas and Timothy – and Titius Justus, Crispus, and many others who had put come to put their faith in Christ already. There were many people in this city who belonged to Jesus and would support and encourage Paul as together – they worked for the kingdom of God.

But the second encouragement, (and I think probably more likely what God was trying to communicate to Paul) was that there were still many people in this city who had not yet come to Christ – but they would, through Paul’s continued witness!

It didn’t matter that they were currently lost sinners – from God’s omniscient point of view – they belonged to Him and it was just a matter of time until they would come to accept Him as their Lord and Saviour!

And so really, this was like a recommissioning for Paul. “Go speak out – Don’t be silent! There is still important work to be done! There are people in this city that need to hear the Good News – and you, Paul, need to go tell them! For there are many people in this city who belong to me!”

And so Paul staying in Corinth for another year and half  after that – the longest he spent in any of the cities that he had visited on his missionary journeys – preaching the Gospel and bringing many people to Christ.

And so to close this morning, I just want to leave you with this one last encouragement. 

Now I haven’t had a vision from God like Paul did, but I believe there are still many people in Penhold who belong to Jesus! People who maybe are not yet believers – people who perhaps have yet to hear the Gospel – but through the people here in this church, one day they will. God knows exactly who those people are – and from His point of view, they already belong to Him and God is coordinating their circumstances – perhaps preparing to cross their path with yours – so that you have the opportunity to tell them about Jesus.

As I mentioned last week, chances are, as you share the Gospel with the people around you – sadly, many people just won’t listen. They won’t heed your warnings and unfortunately their destruction will be on their own heads. But there are some out there who will listen! There are some that God knows already belong to Him – and they are ready to hear about the God who loves them more than they can imagine! They are ready to hear about the God who died for them and rose again to life three days later so that they can be forgiven and have abundant, eternal life!

They are ready to have their lives totally transformed – but it’s your responsibly to tell them!

And so I just want to encourage you this morning to be that faithful watchmen! May I encourage you with God’s words to Paul – “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be silent. Speak out!” For there are many people in this city who belong to Him.”

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