“Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized. Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.’ And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:8-11).
How do you feel about speaking to others about Jesus and salvation through Him? Does it make you nervous? Are you afraid that they may react negatively to your efforts to share the gospel with them?
We typically think of Paul as always being bold in his proclamation of the gospel. He had shown eagerness to proclaim Jesus as the Christ from the very beginning of his conversion (Acts 9:20-22). He had gone on missionary journeys in which he went to various cities proclaiming Jesus as God’s Son and telling men what they needed to do to be saved. However, was there ever a time when Paul struggled with sharing the gospel with others or doubted his own ability to do so?
In the opening passage above, while Paul is in the city of Corinth on his 2nd missionary journey, we see the Lord encouraging Paul in a vision saying, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent” (Acts 18:9). This begs the question: “Was Paul afraid to speak while he was at Corinth?”
It would appear from this and other passages that Paul was afraid to speak and this is why the Lord encouraged Him. Later, when Paul writes to the Corinthians, he tells them, “I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3). It is obvious that Paul was struggling with some fears while he was at Corinth. Perhaps, his fears were because all the persecutions he had endured for Christ had caught up with him and wearied him (2 Corinthians 11:23-28), the opposition he had already faced from the Jews at Corinth (Acts 18:4-6), or his own lack of eloquence, as compared to others, that intimidated him (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1, 4). We are not told what the exact reason he afraid, but we do not he came to Corinth with “fear and trembling”.
The Lord did not frown upon Paul because he struggled with some fears with sharing the gospel while at Corinth. Instead, the Lord encouraged him saying, “…I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:10). After being encouraged by the Lord, Paul made a determination to share with the Corinthians the simple gospel message. Later he writes to them saying, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). He went on to do a great work for the Lord for 18 months preaching the gospel in the city of Corinth and ministering to the church that met there (Acts 18:11).
I am encouraged to see that God doesn’t look down on me when I struggle with my own fears in sharing the gospel with others. Instead, He encourages me. The question for me to consider is “Will I receive the encouragement the Lord gives to me to not be afraid, act by faith in the Lord, and share the gospel with others; or, will I cave into my fears, reject the Lord’s encouragement, keep my mouth shut, and not share the gospel message with those souls who need to hear it?” Today, I will embrace the Lord’s encouragement, knowing that He promises to be with me, and look for opportunities and share the good news of Jesus with the many people in my city who need to hear it!
“‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’. Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20).