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The Return of Silas and Timothy

25 Feb

We almost forget that Paul was led to Europe by a vision (Acts 16:9-10), for he was either asked to leave or expelled from the first three cities in which he preached, and as a result he wasn’t able to spend as much time as he would have liked in any one of them. While in Athens he despaired over the trouble he knew some of the believers were in, especially those in Thessalonica and sent both Silas and Timothy back to the new churches to encourage the brethren, and to help them in any way they could (1Thessalonians 3:1-2).

Meanwhile Paul had moved on to Corinth where he shared the Gospel in much fear and trembling (1Corinthians 2:1-3). Although Paul had, indeed, received a heavenly vision to evangelize this part of Europe, he received very little encouragement to substantiate this understanding. He seems to have met with nothing but trouble, and all those, whose lives he touched, seem to equally attract nothing but trouble. But when Silas and Timothy arrived in Corinth, Luke implies that Paul’s spirit was renewed (Acts 18:5). He felt stronger in spirit and shared the Gospel more vigorously. What do you suppose changed?

For one thing, it seems Silas and Timothy brought back the report that the bitter persecution at Thessalonica had been put in the past (1Thessalonians 1:6, 2:14). Moreover, Silas may have brought back evidence of the Philippians’ continued concern for Paul and the preaching of the Gospel (cp. Philippians 4:15), which may have permitted Paul to leave off laboring in leather goods for awhile and devote himself to evangelizing. The change in Paul’s labor may also indicate that both Silas and Timothy were now able to labor themselves to support both themselves and Paul, as he devoted himself exclusively to the word of God. In any case, once the spirit of Paul was strengthened, opposition increased as well (Acts 18:6). Once the Jews at Corinth resisted Paul’s preaching by speaking evil of Christ—not merely disagreeing with the Gospel, but blaspheming the Way—Paul broke off fellowship with them (cp. Luke 10:10-11 and Nehemiah 5:13) and turned to the gentiles (Acts 18:6).

When Paul left the synagogue, he might have expected that things would begin to turn against him so that he’d be driven from the city just as had been the case in the cities of Macedonia, but he received a vision from the Lord (Acts 18:9-10), telling him that he had no reason to fear. In this city he would not be cast out, because the Lord would call many at Corinth who would join the company of believers. As a kind of firstfruits from Corinth, Gaius Titius Justus left with Paul and opened his home to him for the purpose of sharing the Gospel—where the church could meet and from where Paul could discuss and debate with those interested in Christ. Moreover, Crispas, the synagogue’s ruler (or one of them) left with his household to join with Paul as well (Acts 18:7-8; cp. 1Corinthians 1:14 and Romans 16:23). So, Paul was able to continue in Corinth for an unusually long period of time—a year and a half or from about the autumn of 51 CE to the spring of 53 CE, when he sailed off to Jerusalem (Acts 18:11, 18).

Before Paul was finished in Corinth, it would probably have become a predominantly gentile church. As we consider Paul’s vision from the Lord (Acts 18:9-10), we can take heart that the Lord knows us even before we know him. We are reminded at this point of the words of the prophet, Isaiah:

Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east [where they are dispersed] and gather you from the west. [Acts 18:10] I will say to the north, Give up! and to the south, Keep not back. Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth—Even everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, whom I have made. (Isaiah 43:5-7 AMP)

The Lord, through the ministry of Paul was creating one new people of God out of both Jews and gentiles, males and females, bond and free (Luke 13:29; cp. 2Corinthians 5:17 and Colossians 3:10-11).

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