The gospel is “punching above its weight”. So far, it has won converts in four European cities, but now it comes to Corinth, the toughest of them all.
Corinth had two harbours and was renowned not only as a place of prosperity but also of idolatry and immorality.
As usual, Paul approaches the Jews first, but is again opposed by them (vv. 5–6). In response, Paul shakes the dust off his feet as a sign of God’s judgment on their hardness of heart (v. 6; see Luke 9:5, Acts 13:51).
The missionaries leave the synagogue and begin preaching to the Gentiles. Although the gospel is rejected by the Jews, it works effectively among the Gentiles (vv. 7–8). After Corinth, the team leaves for Syria and finally returns to Antioch (vv. 18, 22).
In each city where there is opposition, God used the hostility to open up new areas of endeavour. The missionaries left Philippi, came to Thessalonica, were sent to Berea, escorted to Athens, and then went out of the synagogue in Corinth into the house of Titius Justus (v. 7). God uses the bad as well as the glad to see His purposes fulfilled.
What keeps the missionaries going in the face of such opposition? Paul was not a loner—he had meaningful and supportive friendships (vv. 1–3). Paul was sustained by the timely arrival of Silas and Timothy and the good news they brought with them (v. 5; see also 1 Thessalonians 3:6). A direct word comes to Paul from God (vv. 9–10)—he is not to be anxious or silent, for God has His elect and will call them out through Paul’s ministry.
Ministry is always a battle, but there will be a Lydia, a jailer, a Dionysius, Damaris, Jason, and many others to encourage us along the way. While bearers of the gospel might fall, God’s message is unstoppable, and there will always be others to take up the baton. He buries His messengers, never His message.
Paul’s ministry was persuasive (Acts 17:4; 18:4) and he keeps persuading, even when imprisoned (Acts 28:23–24). The fact of God’s sovereign control in the face of fierce opposition means that Paul never backs off in his ministry. Even in his trial before Festus and King Agrippa, Agrippa says to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28).
Paul persuades as long as he has breath.
What special promise of God encouraged Paul (vv. 9–10)? How does this word encourage you?
Identify how each hindrance of the gospel recorded in these chapters opens up new opportunities for ministry. What does this teach you about God?