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God Keeps His Promises Acts 18:9ff


God Keeps His Promises

Text:  Acts 18:9–23 

Paul is in Corinth and what happens next teaches us a very simple but important lesson.  That God always keeps his promises, sometimes does so through the most unexpected agencies, and always to bring about His glory, and His will.

‘PROMISE’ Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

1 God’s Promise of Protection. V12

Let’s look at this very precious promise.

  • The Promise Received.  Paul has received a promise from the Lord.  It allays his fears, for everywhere Paul has gone so far he has been badly treated.  In the main this ill treatment has come from the Jews.  So enthusiastic were they in their determination to stamp out Christianity that they actually followed Paul from town to town, stirring up the local people against him. In Corinth, Paul had received a promise from God that no harm would befall him there.  V9-10 
  • The Promise Believed.  It was a matter of faith.  When God gives us a promise he is faithful to his word, and he always keeps that promise.  So, resting on the promises of God, Paul reminded in Corinth, and openly continued his evangelistic activities, fully knowing that he was sheltering under the umbrella of God’s providential care.  v11 
  • The Promise Tested.  Now, there is an interesting development, and it gives us a little bit of background.  Naturally, the Jews become incensed by Paul’s declaration of the Messiah, who died and rose again, and who offers us forgiveness and peace with God.  So,
    • The proconsul.  V12, Lucius Junius Gallio was the top Roman official in Greece at that time.  At this time he had just recently been appointed to this high office, and perhaps the Jews believed that they could use his inexperience in office to influence him to rule against Paul, and have him punished, or even put to death.  So, 
    • The posse.  the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul,  The Jews, with their usual antagonism to the gospel, and hatred of the preaching of Christ as the Messiah prophesied in the OT, organised themselves.  They ‘rose up against Paul with one accord”. It was a well planned, organised effort.  and brought him to the judgment seat.  How could they have done this?  Synagogues were communities, with rulers who exercised some amount of discipline over their community members and they were tolerated by the Romans, who were happy enough for these troublesome people to discipline their own communities and keep them in line.  How would Paul have felt when the synagogue police arrived to take him into custody that day?  After all, God had promised him that he would come to no harm…
    • The prosecution.  13 saying, “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law. Now the question needs to be asked, – what law was Paul breaking?  The Misha or the Talmud, the traditions of the Jews, or was it the civil law, the Lex Romana?  Either or both, could be the case.  
      • Was it the law of the Jews? – The charge is vague, and perhaps they hoped that Gallio would simply assume that the civil law was bring broken, and an illegal religion being practised, for Gallio was a civil magistrate.  If they were claiming that Paul broke the Talmudic law, they were certainly correct, but those traditions of the Jews were not a suitable way to worship God.   Matthew 15:7-9.  
      • Was it the laws of Rome? At the same time, in the Roman Empire religion was tightly regulated, and all religions had to be authorised by the state.  And Christianity, if it was a stand-alone faith, was unregistered. 

So we have a perfect storm brewing against Paul and the missions team.  A rookie governor, a troublesome minority demanding justice, an ambiguous charge, and the danger of a judicial precedent that will further the Jewish agenda, and hinder the spread of Christianity.  What happens next is worth underlining in your Bible.   

  • The Promise Kept.  Now, let’s see how God kept his promise and protected Paul in this time of extreme danger.  Gallio wouldn’t hear the case! Paul was about to speak in his own defence, when Gallio stopped him. 14-15  If it was a matter of civic law the Jews were complaining about Gallio would have heard the case and adjudicated on it.    But Gallio saw right through their pretend offence, and he knew they had another agenda and he dismissed their case.  He did this with some force too!

So, see how God fulfils his promise of protection to Paul.  The apostle is preserved from the Jews, and given the permission of the highest official under Caesar to continue his evangelistic work – and God in his sovereignty used an ungodly pagan to accomplish his will!  And not for the first time either.

2 The Precedent that’s Produced. 18 And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while

Usually, after an uprising among the Jews and its violent aftermath, Paul has to leave, for his own safety, and for the gospel to be carried elsewhere, but in Corinth, after being arrested by the synagogue council enforcers and forcibly dragged before the Roman authorities, Paul remains in Corinth for a good while.  Why the difference in Corinth?   

  • The Jews were knocked back.  It seems that at this point Gallio called upon the Lictors to do their stuff! 16-17 There were gentiles there too and those Greeks who were there that day decided to join it with the Lictors, and they grabbed Sosthenes, the new ruler of the synagogue and beat him.  I wonder is this the same Sosthenes, mentioned in 1st Corinthians 1:1   If so, then that would indicate that he too came to Christ at some time after this event. 
  • Gallio took no further notice of them! After telling us that the Greeks had beaten Sosthenes, Luke tells us that Gallio was simply indifferent.  But Gallio took no notice of these things.  Matthew Henry surmises that Gallio simply watched as the beating was taking place, and didn’t intervene, because he really just couldn’t care less about the religious squabbles among the Jews, and he likens him to this Christians who are at ease in Zion, and careless about matters of faith.  Perhaps so. 

Now, why would this incident have encouraged Paul to remain in Corinth, living right next door to the synagogue and preaching and teaching the Christian doctrines of free salvation, forgiveness and pardon in Christ alone, by faith alone?  Because Gallio was senior enough in the Roman hierarchy that whatever decision he made would set an important legal precedent, – a precedent that would not be challenged anywhere in the Roman Empire for the following ten years.  That decade was a decade of unfettered Gospel activity for Paul. 

© Bob McEvoy April 2021

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