This morning we come to, again, our study of Acts 18:1-18, and I would encourage you to turn in your Bible and prepare your heart for what the Spirit would teach you through the Word. This is the story of the arrival of the Apostle Paul and with him the Gospel in the city of Corinth.
We might subtitle this whole passage, at least from the perspective we're looking at it, "Encouraging the Discouraged," because as we approach the passage, we are seeing the Apostle Paul at the low ebb. He had lows as well as highs. At this point he is discouraged, as we have seen very clearly—and I don't want to belabor the point. Through the circumstances at Corinth, God really sets about to encourage His discouraged apostle.
We read the Psalm earlier together that indicates that Christian is going to have trouble, that the child of God is going to have trouble, but God is going to see him through it. God is going to encourage him, and that's exactly what we find here. In fact, out of his experience at Corinth, Paul wrote back to the Corinthians and said, "God is the God of all comfort."
So God sets about to comfort the apostle through a series of circumstances that we find in the founding of the church at Corinth. Psalm 27:14 says, "Wait on the Lord," and that's good advice. That's always difficult. We want what we want now and sometimes cannot allow for God to put us through deep water, through trying times, with the patience to wait and see what He's going to do. The psalmist said, "Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thy heart. Wait I say on the Lord." In response to that, Isaiah said, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall walk and not be weary. They shall run and not faint." If we learn to wait on the Lord, we'll find ourselves encouraged. God is a God of comfort.
We saw that as Paul arrived in Corinth on his second missionary journey—verse one says that having departed from Athens he came to Corinth—that he was discouraged. In 1 Corinthians 2:3, he wrote, "I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling." He arrived with some real problems in his own heart and mind, and then when he faced the city of Corinth, that only increased his problem. The very threat of the city itself, with its sinfulness, must have caused his trembling to increase.
God moves hastily to comfort him and to encourage him. We showed you that there are four ways that God encourages him. We've been through the first two. Simply to remind you, God encouraged him with companionship. God encouraged him with some very dear friends whom he was to meet. We find in verse two, "He found a certain Jew named Aquila born in Pontus, lately come from Italy with his wife, Priscilla. They came because Claudius commanded all Jews to depart from Rome. And he came unto them, and because he was of the same craft, he abode with them and worked, for they were by occupations tentmakers or leatherworkers."
The apostle is introduced to two people who become lifelong fast friends and co-laborers in the Gospel. God encouraged him immediately in his loneliness and in his discouragement and in the tremendous task that was at his feet, the task of evangelizing this sinful city. He encourages him with two friends and coworkers.
Then on top of that, He allowed him the ministry on the Sabbath, working the rest of the week. Verse 4 says that, "He reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, persuaded the Jews and the Greeks." Soon God even encouraged him further with his friends, two old friends. New friends were good. Old friends were better. When Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia, and we found out from the other writings of Paul that they came bearing good news and bearing money so that he didn't have to make tents anymore, but he could fulfill his apostleship, and he could spend all his time preaching.
Paul was encouraged by his friends. Certainly all of us can relate to that. Very often in times of discouragement, God sends along someone we love very deeply to minister to us in comfort and encouragement.
Secondly, he was encouraged by his apostleship as well as his companionship. We found in verses 5-8 that when he was freed up by the offering of the Macedonian Christians brought to him by Silas, that he then began to preach. As he began to really give himself to preaching, things really began to pop. If he was encouraged by friends, he was doubly encouraged by converts. People started getting saved, and his heart became thrilled. We find in verse 5 that it says, "Paul was then" —and it says in the authorized "pressed in the spirit." What it should say is, "Paul was then totally given over to the Word, or the ministry of the Word." Freed up from doing anything else because of the offering of the saints.
He then testified to the Jews that Jesus was Messiah. He began immediately his apostolic work among the Jews, but they organized opposition. Verse 6, "They opposed themselves, blasphemed, and he shook his raiment." That is, he released himself from responsibility by that gesture. He said, "Your blood is on your own heads. I'm clean." In other words, "I've delivered the Gospel. I've done my part. It's up to you. You're responsible. From now on, I will go to the Gentiles."
Then he began his ministry among the Gentiles. He departed from there, entered a certain man's house named Titus Justus. We found that that probably is the Gaius mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:14 whom Paul baptized and mentioned also in Romans 16:23. His name may be Gaius Titus Justus.
He went into this man's house. This man was one who worshipped God—that is, a Gentile who attached to the synagogue. His house was next door to the synagogue. He had his first convert, apparently, if this be Gaius.
The second one was in verse 8. "And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord and all his house." That must've been a fantastic story. I wondered often to myself as I've gone over this, "Why doesn't it say more about how in the world Crispus, the chief of the synagogue, got saved?" It must've been bad enough for the Jews to have to endure the salvation of the man who lived next door without having to see their own leader saved. On top of that, his whole house. "And many of the Corinthians hearing were believing and were being baptized." All imperfect tense Greek verbs, which means they were continuously occurring, continuous action. Day by day, people were hearing. Day by day, were believing, and day by day were being baptized. Not all at once.
God began to fulfill his apostleship. People became believers. What an exciting time. Just that little phrase, "many of the Corinthians believed," has in it a volume of testimony that we wouldn't even begin to describe. The Bible doesn't say. We heard about a person who was saved out of this and saved out of that. We hear the testimony of some guy says, "I used to be this. I used to be that. God transformed me." We get excited about that.
We read something in the Bible, like "many of the Corinthians believed," and we say, "Oh." It doesn't have anything. It doesn't say anything exciting. We think, "Let me give you something exciting to put alongside it."
Paul wrote back to the Corinthians. This is what he said in 1 Corinthians 6:9. He said, "Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. Be not deceived. Neither fornicators"—sex sin—"nor idolators nor adulterers"—people who fool around outside their marriage—"nor effeminates, nor abusers of themselves of mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the Kingdom of God." You say, "Man, what a list of lousy, corrupt people." The next verse says, "And such were some of you."
Every one of those little names that are included in verse 8 of Acts 18, the word "many," there is a volume of testimony that the Spirit of God didn't tell us. Someday when we get to heaven we can hear all about it. God was doing miracle after miracle after miracle in the salvation of souls.
What happened? First of all, he must've been encouraged by his friends that he met and secondly, by his converts. Can you imagine the thrill in his heart when he started seeing God just pull these people out of the Corinthian society one at a time? What a fantastic thing was going on.
Thirdly, and this is the point at which we stopped last time, he was encouraged not only by companionship and apostleship but by fellowship. He was encouraged by his friends, his converts, and thirdly by his God, the God of all comfort.
In 1 Samuel 30 David was distressed, David was discouraged, and it said, "He comforted himself in his God." I mean, if my friends are encouraging, and converts are encouraging, God is more encouraging in His own personal presence in my life. That's really what happens in verses 9-11.
You can imagine that when Titus Justus got saved, as the Bible says—there may have been a guy saved before him. There may have been others saved. We don't know for sure. It's possible that others were saved. Maybe even Stephanas and his house. Let's assume for this particular passage when Titus Justus, or Gaius Titus Justus was saved, you can imagine the irritation of the Jews. You see, he was attached to the synagogue, as is indicated by "he worshipped God" in verse 7.
Then on top of that, when Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue was saved, that must've really infuriated them. Then in addition, many were believing and being saved. Of course, by this time, they were tremendously antagonistic toward the apostle, whom they already had been antagonistic toward before anything happened back in verse 6.
To give you a little idea, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians at this time. It was right at this time that he wrote the letter. He wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 these words, "The Jews who both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets"—there are people who would exonerate the Jews from killing the Lord Jesus, but Paul did not. That does not mean that they are totally guilty, but they did do that. They killed the Lord Jesus. They were in on it, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us, and they please not God and are contrary to all men.
He says, "The same ones who killed Christ and their own prophets are persecuting us." Verse 16: "They are forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved." Apparently, after this thing began to happen, and some Gentiles started getting saved, the Jews got uptight, and the persecution started. They were trying to stop Paul from preaching. It was really intense.
Over in II Thessalonians, he wrote them another letter, and he told them essentially a similar thing. II Thessalonians 3:1. He says, "Finally, brethren, pray for us that the Word of the Lord may have free course." In other words, there was the bottling up threat that there was going to be a stoppage to their ministry. Verse 2: "And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men."
He was really being threatened at that time. The Gospel was about to come to a grinding halt. Unreasonable and wicked men were threatening and persecuting, so it was a tough go. At that point, even after his friends and his converts, he needed super encouragement, so God Himself comes. I just love verse 9: "Then spoke the Lord to Paul." Boy, that's good, isn't it? The personal touch.
God is personally involved with His servants. How exciting it is to know that. So many times when we serve Jesus Christ, we get the idea that we're merely a piece of the organization. We're just a drop in the bucket. We're just one little piece of what God's doing, and He's really not interested in us. He's sort of a great, big controller of a great, big machine. He just pushes all the buttons, and you may be a little bearing somewhere, and God never touches that. He just punches buttons and everything makes you—
That isn't it at all. God is personally, actively involved in the life of every servant. "And then the Lord spoke to Paul." He did so in the night in a vision. I told you last time that Paul had these visions from God—special times when he came to special crises and he didn't know which way to go. Here he was at a time of discouragement—tremendous pressure, tremendous persecution. You know something? It's amazing to think about as we went and prayed earlier, he said, "God, help us to have the same kind of boldness that Paul had." As you go to the book of Acts you don't very often see Paul running out of that, but here you do.
Paul right here was at the point of stopping his preaching. It was so difficult. That's when he was saying to the Thessalonians, "Pray for us that the Gospel might have free course." He was at the point of quitting right here. You say, "How do you know that?" Because the Lord came to him and said, "Be not afraid"—verse 9-"but speak and hold not your peace." Which implies that Paul was really thinking about stopping his preaching.
You say, "Well, for him to do that, man, it must've been really intense." It was. The Lord says, "Don't stop. You just keep preaching. Don't lose your peace."
The reaction of Paul was, "Well, I mean, don't just leave me there. I mean, why should I keep doing it? For what reason? What guarantees do I have?" The Lord gives him three, and they're in verse 10. I want you to get them. They're three promises that a Christian can apply in his own life.
No. 1—"Keep preaching, Paul, for I am with thee." Oh, what a powerful statement. In the Greek it's an emphatic. "I Myself am with thee." The emphasis is on God's very presence. That's the promise of power. I don't know how to get the message across. I don't even know how to get it across to myself, but I don't really think any of us understand what that means. I don't think any of us can fathom the power of God. Maybe you can understand the fact that once there was nothing and the next instant there was everything, you'll understand something of His power.
That a God who could speak everything into existence must have some kind of power. I often think of God generating things through space at the unbelievable speeds that He does. Think of the kind of fuel that it must take to drive things at that rate. God has power, unbelievable power.
The Bible says in Ephesians 3:20 that, "Because we are filled with all the fullness of God, we can do what we can't even dream." It actually simply says, "We can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or—" What? Or think, According to the power that works in us.”
I say that, and I urge you to believe that, and yet I'm not even sure myself that I understand that. I mean, I look at myself and I say, "Man, are you ever playing around in the sandbox. Are you ever playing tiddlywinks with the power of God. You haven't even begun to see what God can do." That's essentially what God is saying to Paul. "Paul, I Myself am with you." What is implied in "I Myself" is all that He is. "What do you have to fear? I Myself am with you."
I remember one time I was called into court to testify in an attempted murder. I was to be a witness. The guy who had committed the crime, or several—there were two of them—had committed the crime had made some pretty nasty statements to me and some threats and all this and that and sent their mother to talk to me. She said some things that were just kind of scary, but anyway, I was going to go to court and testify, anyway.
I went into court and this one guy—he was really a baddy—I went into the courtroom, and he looked over at me, and I'll never forget what he said. He was just the nastiest looking human. He was a huge guy, about 260, 255, a tremendous guy. He says, "We'll get you." That's what he said. I had this great, big policeman on one side of me, and another one on the other side, and I said, "Hi, fellas."
All these people in the courtroom— I was safe. I had a tremendous sense of invincibility. I'll never forget the feeling I had. Then I knew that behind that door where he was going to go there was—boom!—this big cave that he was going to be in. I don't know how you can relate that to your own life, but sometimes when I think about God, I think that no matter who approaches me, I'm invincible, because He stands beside me. He carries with Him not the authority of a city or the authority of a people but the authority that is His own, the authority of the universe. His strength and His power is all amassed on my behalf.
So he says, "Paul, don't stop preaching. I Myself am with you. The people who are out there trying to threaten you might as well take a broom and try to sweep away the beach." Paul senses, I'm sure, in response to what God says, a certain kind of invincibility.
I was reading this week in the book of Judges—what a great book—just to read how God works. You read through that thing, and you read about Othniel, the first judge, 3:10, and how God uses him in a great victory over a certain king. Then you read about Ehud—remember that fantastic story about Ehud? The children of Israel were serving the Eglon, the king of the Moabites, and they shouldn't have been under the servitude of the Moabites, so God is going to use Ehud to kill Eglon. He gets this dagger, and he sticks it in him, and he's such a fat man that his fat closes around the guy's hand. Anyway, it's a long story. Very interesting. Read it sometime. Third chapter of Judges.
Then you go a little further, and Shamgar takes an ox goad and kills those hundreds of people with an ox goad. You wonder where do these people get the strength and the ability and the power? Then you read about Deborah and Barak and the defeat of Sisera and the unbelievable account of having his head nailed to the ground, the terrible defeat of what's actually happened. They just put a spike through his head and ping! nailed him right down.
Then you read about Gideon and how Gideon narrowed down his army to just a few men, and he wiped out the enemy. Then you come to one man by the name of Samson. He kills 30, turns around and kills 1,000, turns around and kills 3,000 at the end of his life, and you say, "What in the world? How could those men do that? How could they ever have the power?"
You know what the key to the whole Book of Judges is? There's a statement in 2:18. This is what it says: "And the Lord was with the judges." That's the key. That's the whole key to the book. The Lord is with them. When the Lord is with you, you have power. That's exactly what He's saying to Paul. "You have the promise of power." Christian, I think He says that to us. Before we panic and run from our opportunity, recognize Who is with us. Jesus said, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Get a sense of your power.
The second thing He says to us, not only power but preservation. "No man shall set on thee to hurt thee." That's the negative. The positive is, "I'm with you." The negative is, "Nobody's going to hurt you." Boy, what a tremendous thing.
I want to show you something. Go to II Timothy 4—a couple of verses there, 17 and 18 and maybe 16. Paul came to the end of his life. God says to him there in Corinth, "Don't you worry. Nobody's going to hurt you." Can you imagine the confidence it gave him?
Well, look at verse 17 of II Timothy 4. Well, verse 16. Let's start there. He says, "At my first defense, no man stood with me but all men forsook me." He means his first Roman imprisonment. At his second Roman imprisonment, Demas forsook him, remember? Onesimus and Luke stayed with him. At his first Roman imprisonment, everybody left, and he was alone. Everybody bailed out on Paul, and he was alone.
I like this. He says, "All men forsook me." He says, "I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge." He says, "That's OK, God. I don't hold that against them. I forgive them. I forgive them."
You say, "Paul, you were alone there. You needed some help, you needed some support. How could you be so forgiving?" "Well," he says, "it was nice to have them," but verse 17 "notwithstanding the Lord—" what? "Stood with me." I like that. "And strengthened me, that by me the preaching might be fully known and that all the Gentiles might hear, and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion, and the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work and preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom."
That's confidence. Now the Lord comes to him in Corinth and says, "I will protect you. No one will hurt you." At the end of his life, he says, "You know what? No one's hurt me. God keeps His promises."
I don't know what that lion was. Maybe that's the lion that the Bible talks about as Satan who goes about as a roaring lion, toothless but he roars a lot. Maybe that's the lion he was delivered out of. Maybe it's the lion of persecution. Maybe it's the lion of death. He says, "The Lord stood with me." Oh, what a tremendous statement. "The Lord stood with me."
When you understand the power of the God and the preservation of God amassed in your behalf, you have nothing to fear. Absolutely nothing to fear. There is no Christian in the world who has any right to fear, because the power of God is amassed in your behalf, and His preservation is your promise.
Paul says, "Not one thing going to happen to me. He'll deliver me from every evil work, and He'll preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom." He had a tremendous sense of security.
In Luke 21, where He talks about characteristics of persecution in the last days, and He says, "But don't worry, because not a hair of your head will perish." What a statement. You can't always take that literally. Some of the hairs of all of our heads may be perishing in the process of life, but what He's saying, some of you are perishing disastrously, but what He is essentially saying is that in terms of enemies and attacks against you, not the smallest infringement on your life can take place outside the plan of God. What a promise. "Don't stop. My power is there. My preservation is there."
The third thing—and I like this, watch—is the third reason not to stop. Verse 10. "I have many people in this city." The third reason to keep preaching is really potent. He says, "Because I promise you results."
I venture to say that if I asked all of you, gave you a three-question quiz, and I said, "Do you believe that you have the power of God within you?" You'd all say, "Yes," because you know that theologically. You probably have experienced some of that.
I say, "Do you believe in preservation? Do you believe that God can keep you, that He's faithful to keep that which is committed on Him?" You'd say, "Yes." If I said, "Do you believe that God absolutely is producing fruit in your life?" I think some of you would say, "Uhhhhh."
Sometimes I think what we underestimate God and I think we don't think that God is really producing fruit. I think some of us run a little short on the promise end of things. I've had Christians actually come to me and say, "You know, John, nothing's happening in my life."
Well, there may be some truth in the admission, but I want you to know something. I believe that God promises to every Christian alive fruit in his life. I believe that absolutely.
Notice what He says here. "I have many people in this city." In other words, there are some elect here chosen before the foundation of the world, who are waiting to hear the Gospel so they can believe. Salvation comes about and eternity pass by election in time by the response of faith, but God says, "I have chosen them. Their names are in the Book of Life. They need to hear the Gospel, so they can respond to it now."
You'll notice it didn't say Paul then went around and found all the ones with "E" stamped on their back and gave them the Gospel. No, he just preached the Gospel to everybody and let God worry who was elect. His responsibility wasn't to pick and choose. His responsibility was to deliver the Gospel to everybody. God would take care of that.
That's the divine side of salvation, beloved. The Bible teaches that God chooses people to salvation. Some people get uptight about the doctrine of election. They panic, because they think that makes everything unfair. Panic if you want. Better that you should stop your panic and find out how you can deal with it scripturally, because it's there. It's in the Bible.
I used to panic a lot about it, too. "Oh, I don't understand the election." I was in this sort of theological quandary about it. Finally, I just decided, "Well, it's there. I'm going to believe it." That's the most peaceful thing in the world. "I just believe it. I don't understand it. I just believe it."
In II Timothy 1:9, just to give you an illustration. ____ deal with Scriptures, for example God, who had saved us and called us with that holy calling not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace. You are called, and you are saved, because He wanted to do it and graciously did it. You didn't have anything to do with it.
You say, "When was that done?" "Which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." You know when salvation was given to you? "Before the world began." It's there. It's in the Bible.
Well, there are other verses. Have you ever read II Timothy 2:10? Listen to this. "Therefore, Paul says,"—in the verse before, he says, "I have to go through a lot of stuff. I get kicked around a lot." He says, "I endure all things." "What for, Paul?" "For the elect's sake."
What a statement. "For the elect's sake? What do you mean?" That they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. In other words, that they may be able to respond to the truth that God has granted them from before the world began.
"You're preaching for the elect's sake?" That's what it says. Those are ____ Scriptures you say God's unfair. "You mean God just sits up there and says, 'I choose you and I—'" The Bible says God chooses before the foundation of the world and writes the name in the Book.
You say, "But that's not fair." No, you can't say that. You can't say it's not fair, because if you say it's not fair, then you're judging God, right? Are you the standard of what's fair, or is He? Is it your ignorance that limits your understanding, or is He ignorant and doesn't understand what you know? Ohhhh. Watch that one.
Allow yourself to be ignorant. It's bliss. In fact, in Romans—I love Paul's argument. In Romans, a guy comes home and says, "It's not fair. It's not fair. I don't understand that. God, how can You do that? Then if You're choosing people to be saved before the world began, how can You make me responsible?" In verse 20, Paul says, "Nay, but old man, who art thou that repliest against God?"
You know what his answer is to the guy who argues? "Shut up. Who are you? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, 'Why did You make me thus?' Why, the potter has power over the clay. The pot doesn't jump off and say, 'I don't like the way You made me. Make me different.'"
You can't argue with God. No, sir. 15 it says, "God says I'll have mercy on whom I'll have mercy, compassion on whom I'll have compassion." Listen, you cannot avoid scripturally the doctrine of sovereign election. It's all over the Bible. He's called us with a holy calling to salvation before the world began, not just to Christ's likeness. Not just to maturity but to salvation.
You say, "Well, John, does that mean that if you're not chosen, you go to hell? You mean to say that if I'm not elect, I can't come to Jesus?" No, the Bible never says that. The Bible also teaches human responsibility, doesn't it?
Go back to verse 6. What does it say? "He says to those _____ your blood be upon"—what? Your own heads. You see, the Bible teaches both of those things. You let them exist, as we said before in a paradox. You don't understand it. You just believe it.
People always say, "Well, yeah, if you believe in that doctrine, then you can say and do whatever you want." Have you ever heard that one? I hear that all the time. No, no, no. The Bible never allows for that.
In II Thessalonians 2:13, "We are bound to give thanks always to God for you brother and beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation." Election is not just to Christ's likeness. It's not just to maturity. It's to salvation.
You say, "But then you can live any way you want." No, no, no. Listen to Colossions. A very important passage. Get this. It's a good answer to give people who are always saying that people who believe in election and security of the believer have license to do what you want. Here's what God expects of His elect. Listen.
Colossions 3:12. "Put on therefore as the elect of God." Now if you are elect, do this. Put on this—tender mercy, kindness, humbleness, meekness, long suffering, forbearing one another, forgiving one another. If you have a quarrel, as Christ forgave you. Above all things, put on love, the bond of perfectness. Let the peace of God rule your hearts." Verse 16, "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly." Verse 17, "Whatever you do in word and deed, do all in the name of the Lord." Verse 18, "Wives submit to your husbands." 19, "Husbands love your wives. Children obey your parents. Fathers, provoke not your children. Servants obey your masters." Verse 22, "Whatever you do, heartily as under the Lord." "Masters," chapter 4, "give unto your servant." You think that sounds like license?
If you're the elect, that's what's required of you. That's what's expected of you. No, there's no license in that. So Paul is encouraged with the promise of resolve. I believe in sovereign election. As I said last week, I believe the burden's on God's part, because God also says, "Whosoever will, let him come." I think that's basic. Anybody who desires to come can come.
Let's go on. I want to digress for just a moment if I might. Go back to 18 and verse 10. Notice the statement in verse 10. "I have many people in this city." I believe that we can claim this promise in our lives and our watch, that God is going to grant to us fruit. I believe this. I believe that if you're a faithful Christian witness, somebody's going to get saved as a result of your witness. It may be that you water, may be that you plant, but it's going to happen.
Let me show you why I say that. Turn in your Bible to John 15:16. Listen to this. Pull your mind into captivity to it. Jesus said, in John 15:16, "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you." Now watch. "And ordained you that you should go and bring forth—" What? "Fruit."
It is ordained of a Christian that he brings forth fruit. That's basic. I don't think that any Christian needs to fear that in his life there is no fruit, there is no fruitfulness. Look at it again. "I have ordained you that you should go and bring forth fruit and that your fruit should remain."
Now let me take it a step further. Back up in chapter 15 to the first two verses. "I am the true vine. My father is the vine dresser. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away." Now if there is somebody who is not bearing fruit, he's removed. People have been confused about this passage, and they say, "Is that a Christian?" No, I don't believe that's a Christian. I believe it's a non-Christian who attaches externally to Christ.
Let me give you an illustration. From John 13 on, Jesus has been talking with His disciples, right? The event that has just occurred is the elimination of Judas. Judas has just left. Judas is in the mind of Jesus. He sits there and the contrast is there. Judas is out betraying Him. Jesus is talking to the 11, and Jesus is seeing in His mind two kinds of branches, the Judas branch and the true branch.
Now He says in the first two verses that there are two kinds of branches. There is the true branch, and there is the Judas branch. The Judas branch is characterized by what? No fruit. Let's go on.
Verse 6. "If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered and then gathered and then cast into the fire and there burned." It is my conviction that this is a picture of judgment and a picture of hell. It is not to be a picture of a Christian, because no Christian could be cast into hell. It's a picture of a Judas branch but notice the contrast.
Verse 4. "Abide in Me and I in you, as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine. No more can ye except ye abide in Me. I am the vine. You are the branches. He that abideth in Me and I in him the same bringeth forth much fruit."
So you have two branches. One has no fruit. One has fruit. The one with no fruit is burned. The one with fruit is purged to bear more fruit.
The point is simply this. The no fruit is the Judas branch. Externally attached to Christianity, on the surface attached to Christianity, outwardly attached to Christianity but not real and consequently doesn't abide. What is the characteristic of a true Christian? He continues, right? He abides. "If you continue My Word, you are My disciple for real." This one does not abide.
The one that abides—watch—bears fruit. I believe the promise of every Christian is that you're going to have fruit. I don't think there can be a Christian without any fruit. I really don't. I don't think that the branch that doesn't bear fruit can be a Christian, because I don't think you can have a Christian that doesn't bear fruit.
You say, "What makes you so convinced of that?" Well, several things. Let me give you an idea of it. In Ephesians 2:10, for example, it says this: "We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." We are saved in the good works. For example, James says, "Your faith without works is—" What?" Yes. If you don't have fruit, you're not even saved. I think that's just part of it. There are many other Scriptures. Many other Scriptures, that support that idea.
So I believe the promise of 15-16 is for every Christian. If you want further detail, and I'll get the tapes on John 15 and go over them carefully, but in John 15-16 you say if you're truly saved, you will bear fruit, and your fruit will remain. Christian, I really believe God has promised us fruit.
You say, "Well, John, what does that fruit consist of?" Well, it consists of many things. First of all, it consists of graces. Galatians 5, the fruit of the Spirit is what? Love, joy, peace, all the way down. That's fruit. How about this? Hebrews 13:15, "The fruit of your lips." Praise. How about the fruit of giving? Philippians 4:17, He talks about the fruit the Philippians bore when they gave him an offering. I Corinthians 14:14, fruit identification. Fruit of good works, Colossians 1:10.
And then fruit are other converts. In I Corinthians 16:15, Paul talks about the first fruits of Achaia, the first people saved. Fruit is many things, but all Christians can claim the promise that God is with me. No man shall hurt me, and God is going to cause me to bear fruit. I believe that. Don't be discouraged, Christians. There many be times when you appear to have barrenness in your life. Fruit will come. I looked out my backyard yesterday, and I saw two trees. One of them is a fruitless tree, and it just gets leaves, but oh, does it get leaves. It looks like nothing. It looks dead. I looked at another tree, and that tree is a peach tree that has peaches that big on it. There is another tree in our backyard that's an orange tree, and that was given to us by Grace Church long ago. They want to know if they could grow it on a tree, we could grow fruit on a tree as well as in the ministry. That was the basis on which they gave it. Don't judge my ministry by my tree.
Anyway, there are those two trees that bear fruit, and you know something? They are the scrawniest, most hopeless looking things I've ever seen, but when the season comes, they will bear beautiful fruit. So many times in the Christian's life, we go through the winter as we gain the strength and the direction for the purposeful times of fruit bearing that await us. Don't underestimate God. Don't limit God, and don't figure that if it isn't happening now, it isn't going to happen. Let God do it in His own time.
You have the promise of power, preservation, the promise of fruit. I'm telling you, Paul was so encouraged by this time, his heart was just blessed. Go back to 18 and look what he did. I just love this. He was thrilled, and in 18:11, after God had given him this threefold reason to keep preaching, he continued there a year and six months, teaching the Word of God among them. He had his strength renewed. He says, "Here I go, God," and he went a year and a half. From the autumn of 50 to the spring of 52 in that first century, the apostle continued to minister in that city, and people continued to be saved and built in the faith.
You notice what he did in his time there? Teaching the Word of God. That's his calling. So he was encouraged by his fellowship with God. God strengthened him. Lastly—companionship, apostleship, fellowship, lastly hardship.
You say, "John, you mean you can be encouraged by hardship?" Oh, yes. By this I mean his enemies. He was encouraged by his friends, his converts, his God, and his enemies. You say, "Well, John, how can you be encouraged by your enemies?" A lot of ways. Let me give you three.
One—by who your enemies are. You know it will tell a lot about a man who his enemies are? If you've got very bad, sinful, evil enemies, that's good. You're doing something right.
Secondly, you can be encouraged not only by who your enemies are but by how ineffective they are. Have you ever noticed how your enemies work so hard and don't seem to get anywhere?
Let me give you a third thing. You can be encouraged not only by who they are and how ineffective they are, but you can be encouraged by seeing what God does to them. Have you ever seen your enemies get saved? Fantastic.
Watch what happens to Paul. This is really interesting. Verse 12 "And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia” Gallio, incidentally, was an interesting guy. He was the elder brother of a famous philosopher by the name of Seneca. Seneca was the philosopher of the Roman Empire. He lived in Spain, but his influence was all over the place. We have much information about Seneca. Gallio was his elder brother, and Gallio.
Incidentally, Seneca was the tutor of Nero and also the uncle of one of the world's most famous poets, Lucan, the Roman poet. It was a famous family, and Gallio was a really important fellow. He was the deputy or the proconsul of Achaia, which is a district. He was like a governor under the Roman emperor. A very important man.
Seneca said of Gallio that he was famous for his kindness. In fact, Seneca said, "No man is as sweet to one as Gallio is to everyone." He was a very, very kind man by reputation. It's interesting that he's called a deputy of Achaia, the proconsul of Achaia, because Luke was historically right on the nose. We have evidence to indicate that at this time, this is exactly who he was and exactly the right title that he had, and those titles changed historically, so this is another vindication of the accuracy of the Scripture.
Gallio was the deputy of Achaia. The Jews made an attack with one accord against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat. The way this proconsul deal operated was, Corinth was apparently a center for the proconsul's operation, although he may've moved to other areas, but he happened to be in Corinth there, whether permanently or temporarily, and he set up his movable judgment seat in the agora, the marketplace. People would come and bring their grievances and whatever there was to this thing, and he would sit in judgment. He had his lictors, his policemen, around to bring about the execution of the penalties, whatever that might have been.
The Jews realized, "If we just take Paul's case to the civic magistrates, the city fathers, all we're going to get is a city judgment. All it'll do is hinder his work in the city, and we want to get him stopped everywhere." So they said, "Let's take Paul's case to the Roman proconsul."
Any verdict by a Roman proconsul became like the verdict like any given judge in our courts. It became precedent. What the proconsul determined in one case could then become precedent for all other cases. So if Paul could be adjudged as a criminal, and his preaching stopped in Achaia, the other Roman proconsuls would take the lead from Gallio and do the same. Believe me, the history of Christianity would've taken a drastic turn for the next 10-12 years.
They had their little plot, and they marched up to his judgment seat in the agora with their case. Here is their charge. Verse 13: "This man—" or this fellow, whatever you want to put in there. It's just, "This one." "—persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law." Man, I've heard a lot of vague generalities but that takes the cake. What kind of an accusation is that? "This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law." What law?
Well, obviously, they were talking about Roman law, because they were trying to get this Roman to convict Paul of a crime. Christianity officially was viewed as a sect of Judaism. The Romans saw it as a sect of Judaism, therefore, it came under what the Romans called "religio licita." They had a category called "permitted religions." Although they believed in emperor worship, and you know all about that, they had category of permitted religions. Judaism was one of the permitted ones. Christianity was seen as a sect of Judaism.
What these Jews were trying to do was to get Gallio to acknowledge that Paul's brand of religion was not religio licita but religio illicita, and that it should be excluded, because it was not Judaism. They wanted to convict him.
Gallio was no dumbbell. He was cool, and I'm sure he'd heard Paul preach. He knew enough about the Jewish religion assuredly to know that the Jews had this and that and the other kind of standard, and they believed in a Messiah, and they were looking for their Messiah. All that Paul was announcing was that Jesus is that Messiah. Therefore, Gallio could see that Paul's brand of Christianity was, in fact, just a form of Judaism in his own mind.
Maybe they had a little different view on just who this Messiah was. It certainly was no crime, and that's exactly how he responds. It's exciting to see how God uses Gallio to accomplish His purpose. God does that. He either uses you willingly or unwillingly, wittingly or unwittingly, but He uses you. Everybody. Read Isaiah 44-45. Read about Cyrus, the pagan king who God kept calling, "My servant, Cyrus."
Anyway, Verse 14. When Paul was now about to open his mouth, here comes Paul, all ready to give his defense. You say, "What was he going to say?" I don't know, but I can give you a good guess. If you read Acts 24 and 26, you'll hear his defense before Felix and Agrippa. If you read those defenses, you'll get a good idea of what he would've said here. He probably would've gone on about the fact that the Gospel he preached was the true and central faith of Israel, the fulfillment of the promises of the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, the God of Jacob, and all this, tying it together that way. He didn't even say anything.
He was about to open his mouth, and Gallio spoke and said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of wrong—" The word "wrong" in the Greek means "legal wrong." Gallio was sharp. He was going to deal with the law. He says, "If this was an issue of legal wrong, if the man had actually done a crime—" If it was a breach of the law, or wicked villainy— In other words, something that was perhaps was outside the frame of the law specifically but was obviously villainous— He says, "If this was a case of crime against the law or of outright wicked villainy, oh ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you."
In other words, "If that's the case, then I would act in this case. If you actually had a case here, I would do something. It wouldn't be unreasonable for me to enter an issue of crime or of wicked villainy."
Look at verse 15. "But if it's a question of words and names—" In other words, he says, "This is semantics. You all talk about your same religion. You all talk about Abraham and Isaac and all of this. You all talk about Messiah, and now you've got one guy that thinks this is the Messiah, and you don't? That's a theological problem. You deal with that one. No sense of me getting involved."
He says, "If it's a question of words and names, this is just talk. This isn't action. There's no crime here. This is semantics."
"It's of your law, look ye to it. I'll be no judge of such matters." If he had judged against Paul, as I said, Christianity's history would've been drastically changed for 10-12 years, because it would've become the standard judgment against Christianity. Paul wouldn't have been able to go anywhere.
He didn't. God prevented it. Later on, God had him bring different verdicts and finally, Paul lost his life, but that was in God's plan, too, at a different time, a different place. Here, Gallio says, "Nothing doing. You don't even have an issue."
Verse 16: "He drove them from the judgment seat." You know what that indicates to me? That indicates to me that they didn't quit when he said, "Forget it. I'm not going to get involved." They probably really hung around and persisted. Finally, he called his lictors and said, "Get them out." He drove them out of there.
Those lictors had those little things that they used, and whack! whack! and away you go. Chased them out. "Clear the court!" he said, in effect.
Can you imagine? The Apostle Paul hadn't even opened his mouth. He was just standing there, watching all this going on. You see, you can get encouraged by who your enemies are, but you can also get encouraged by how ineffective they are, right? They were totally ineffective. They couldn't stop him.
There's a third way to get encouraged, and that's by what God does with your enemies. Watch this. Verse 17: "Then all the Greeks—" Incidentally, in the original manuscript, the best manuscripts say, "Then they all—" It leaves out the Greeks.
It says, "Then they all took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat, and Gallio cared for none of these things."
Who are these all that beat them? That's interesting to think about. Some people say it was the policemen, the lictors of verse 16 that beat Sosthenes up, because he kept persisting in the case. Others say, "No, it was the Jews. They were so mad at him, even though he was the chief ruler of the synagogue, they were so mad at him that he blew the case that his own Jews beat him up." Others say, "No. Because of the rough stuff that was going on and the hassle and the chasing and the driving them out, the Jews, already being hated, the people who were anti-Semitic, the crowd who didn't like the Jews, anyway, took the opportunity, and the Greeks beat up Sosthenes."
Whoever did it, Sosthenes got it. We really don't know who beat up Sosthenes, but somebody really let him have it. They beat him right in front of the judgment seat and Gallio "cared for none of these things." Gallio just turned an indifferent eye. He just said, "I'm not going to get involved in this deal." Which in a sense makes me think that perhaps it was the Jews who were beating up Sosthenes for handling the case so poorly.
Well, let me show you how God can encourage. Later on, Paul sat down and wrote a letter back to the Corinthians. This is what he said. Ready for this? He said in I Corinthians 1:1. Don't look it up, just listen. You ready?
"Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother unto the church."
Pretty exciting, eh? You see, God not only encourages His saints by who your enemies are if you're standing for righteousness but by how ineffective they are but by what He does to them when He transforms them. "Paul and our brother Sosthenes." That's exciting.
Things kind of cooled down. Verse 18 says, "And Paul after this tarried there a good while." He was able to continue his ministry.
Beloved, you know something? The Psalmist was right. If you wait on the Lord, He'll strengthen you—with friends, converts, with Himself, His own presence, and even through your enemies. "Trust and you'll know His joy that comes when He comforts."
Let's pray. Thank You, Father, for being the God of all comforts. Thank You, Lord, that in the times of stress, trial, and difficulty, we can turn to You and know that You are more anxious to comfort us than we are to be comforted, because this is the evidence of Your love to Your children. And yet, Father, the times of difficulty are the times of strengthening, and we would not know Your comfort if we did not know trial, and thus we would not know the God that You are.
Thank You for what You've taught us through the apostle. Help us to be followers of him as he was of Jesus Christ. Lord, we pray that You would bring to our hearts not only these words and thoughts but produce in us the motives that will change our actions, that we might more conform to the Word of God, to the Christ of God. In His Name we pray, Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.