Paul’s stay in Corinth was not to be like his ministries cut short in Philippi, Thessalonica and Beroea. No, in Corinth it would be much different than how Paul had come to expect in his ministry in Europe; he would remain here until he was satisfied with his labor and leave on his own terms. But, how could Paul know this? Once trouble broke out, it had been his manner to leave, so that he would not bring the wrath of the enemy upon the new and emerging church of God. Paul was made aware of what to expect through a vision from the Lord.
Paul claims in 1Corinthians 2:3 that he began his ministry at Corinth in much fear and trembling. Sometimes we hold up an image of a figure who is courageous and without fear and think, this is Paul. However, this is not how Paul describes himself. Certainly, he was courageous, but not because he lacked fear but went on serving Jesus despite his fears. Luke’s account shows us who Paul was afraid of. It was his own countrymen, the Diaspora Jews (Acts 18:6, 12; cp. 2Corinthians 11:26). No doubt, even before the Lord appeared to Paul, Paul was able to see the evidence of the storm gathering on the horizon. It would come like it had before. The opposition was already so great, he had to leave the synagogue and headquarter his ministry in the home of a gentile and Roman citizen in the very shadow of the Jews’ meeting place for worship and discussion. All the ingredients of trouble were present, and it would be only a matte or time before public opposition erupted.
The words of the Lord that Luke narrates echo the words of the Lord to Isaiah the prophet:
“Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, And gather you from the west. “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring My sons from afar And My daughters from the ends of the earth, Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” (Isaiah 43:5-7 NASB)
The Lord’s words: “I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:10), interpret his sons and daughters whom he gathers in the Isaiah reference. Furthermore, the promise of protection finds root particularly in the Lord’s words to Jeremiah:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5 NASB)
Compare Paul’s own words in Galatians 1:15 of being called from his mother’s womb to serve the Lord.
“Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD. Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. “See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:8-10 NASB)
Compare Luke’s account of Paul’s vision in Acts 18:9-10, “Don’t be afraid… for I am with you. Go on speaking and don’t be silent. No man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.”
We are able to see from this vision that the Lord had commissioned Paul (or recommissioned him) to preach the Gospel and gather his people from the east and the west, from the north and the south—all who are called by his Name. Just has he had done with the prophets of old the Lord did with Paul in Corinth.