By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)
Scripture Readings: Acts 17-18
Key Scripture Verses: Acts 18:9-10 (NIV, Life Application Bible) “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.’”
In these two chapters of Acts, Paul and other disciples are travelling and teaching the gospel. He has just left Athens and is now in Corinth. Paul was preaching to Jews and Greeks there. At one point the Jews became abusive to him and he told them that he would leave them and go to the Gentiles. Paul was frustrated with the Jews, but brought the message to many Corinthians who did receive Jesus and were baptized as a result of his preaching. God came to him in a vision to confirm that he was doing what he was supposed to do and not to stop.
This is another example of how the message of the gospel and the gift of salvation were not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles. Remember that Peter also received a vision and understood from God that he was not to make unclean “what God has made clean,” a message he understood as confirmation that he should pursue teaching the Gentiles about Jesus. Paul is being told directly that he should continue to preach in Corinth and not to be afraid but to continue his ministry there.
Paul had very direct encounters with Jesus. Paul who had persecuted Christians and had witnessed and approved of the stoning of Stephen, did an about-face and turned from oppressing Christians to being one of their greatest leaders. His faith was so strong that even though he encountered a lot of opposition at times, including imprisonment for teaching about Jesus, he never lost his faith, but followed Jesus until his death.
God may not speak to us directly in visions, but he does address us through his word and through examples of faith such as Paul’s. Paul’s example should make people think about his message. Paul not only believed that Jesus was who he said he was, he encountered him personally and was forever changed by that encounter on the road to Damascus. This passage is yet another example of how he directly encountered the Lord through a vision encouraging him to continue his ministry in Corinth.
Paul was told by God to continue preaching and teaching the gospel message, in spite of being charged for promoting religious beliefs that the Romans did not approve. He followed God’s instructions faithfully. His example is for all of us. His message is for all of us.
Jews and Gentiles alike could see the faith that Paul had. It shouts at us from the Bible passages—Paul believed that Jesus is the Christ, the awaited Messiah! Paul spent the rest of his life teaching that Jesus is the one true God who provides salvation from sin and the hope for a new tomorrow, the gift of everlasting life in the kingdom of God. Paul so believed the message and wanted to spread it and share it that he dedicated his life to teaching others about it.
The message is for all who will receive it. Those of us who also believe in Jesus should find our faith strengthened by Paul’s example. May we read and study God’s word so that we may also have the faith to share his love with others, without fear, to anyone who will receive it.