God Has Paul’s Back

 

Acts 18:1-17

After leaving Athens, Paul moved onto Corinth, where Silas and Timothy would eventually meet him. While there, he once again began teaching n the synagogue. He quickly became acquainted with a man named Aquila and his wife, Priscilla who had been forced to leave Italy because of the decree of Emperor Claudius, banning all Jews from the region. Since all three of them were tentmakers, Paul worked with Aquila and Priscilla, remaining in Corinth for a year and a half.

After some time, the synagogue had heard enough of Paul’s teaching, and rejected it; Paul also had had enough of the synagogue as it turns out. Yet even so, some there had received his message, including the synagogue leader, and a fledgling church began in the city. Paul now turned his full attention to proclaiming the good news to gentiles.

At some point in this process, Paul had an interesting vision from the Lord:

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. (18:9-11)

Some time later, probably many months later, after Paul had obeyed the Lord’s instructions, an incident arose:

While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment.  “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.” (18:12-13)

In the verses that follow, we see something unusual take place, for the proconsul Gallio has no interest in the matter, since it concerned Jewish law, and essentially told the Jewish leaders to take a hike; Paul was free to go. The crowd that had been ginned up by the synagogue leadership then turned on the synagogue leader, beating him right in front of the proconsul, who did nothing whatsoever to stop them.

God had important work for Paul and the others to do in Corinth, which was a vitally important city in those days. Paul had been faithful to the Lord’s command, and the Lord had seen to it that Paul’s work would continue, and had dealt with those who had attempted to interfere. Once again, there is an important lesson for us with regard to whom it is that is actually in control of events.

God is most notable in Scripture for His restraint; He doesn’t throw His weight around as a rule, preferring for reasons entirely of His own to allow a certain leeway for men and spiritual opponents to exercise freewill. However, when His eternal purpose is being threatened, He steps in. Although it is difficult for many of us today to wrap our brains around it, sometimes He steps in and exercises His judgment, as in this case. We might say that this cannot be, for God is love and He would never act in a way that isn’t “nice”, but this is a rather naive view in my opinion, for love isn’t the same thing as “nice”. God’s love is unlimited, and His purpose is loving indeed, since it is all about forgiveness and the gift of eternal life in fellowship with God in His everlasting love. However, there is a line that must not be crossed in this model, for if a man rejects God’s grace and seeks to prevent salvation and grace coming to others, he will discover that he is dealing with a God of justice, who will not permit him to deprive others of God’s loving grace. Thus, the new synagogue leader learned a valuable lesson that day about messing around with God’s purpose… I wonder if he lived to tell the tale; Luke does not say.

 

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