Stop Being Afraid
INTRO: Good morning. Last time our text was in Acts 17 and we left the apostle Paul boldly preaching in Christ’s Name to the so-called wise men of Athens. Today we will look at the first verses of Acts 18.
In chapter 17 as usual, we found there were those who were convinced and believed that God was the creator of all things and we found those who weren’t convinced and didn’t believe. No organized opposition to Paul's preaching developed in Athens, but he did not remain there very long. I suspect it was probably because of the arrogant snobbery of the intellectuals who dominated Athenian society at that time.
Luke tells us in Acts 18:1 that “After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth.” Luke didn’t explain why Paul left Athens or how he journeyed on to Corinth. The journey of some forty miles could have been made in two days on foot or one day if one sailed, but which ever route he took, the final destination was Corinth.
I heard about a man who hadn't attended church in years, then suddenly began attending faithfully on Sunday mornings instead of going fishing as was his normal habit.
The preacher was highly gratified and at the end of service one morning told him, "How glad I am to see you at service with your good wife!"
"Well, Preacher," said the fisherman, "Quite honestly, it's a matter of choice. I'd much rather hear your sermon than hers."
I. When we think of the city of Corinth, honesty is not the word which most people back then would have used to describe it. Let me share with you some background information about Corinth. Corinth was the capital and chief city of Achaia [uh - K AY – uh] which is in the area we call Greece.
A. Corinth became an important city because of its location just one and a half miles south of the Isthmus of Corinth. It was able to control that four-mile-wide neck of land. The city also commanded the eastern port of that peninsula, Cenchreae, [Sen’KRE-uh] which is mentioned in Acts 18:18.
1. To save time and avoid the one hundred and fifty miles of dangerous waters around the tip of Greece, ships would unload their goods on one side of the peninsula and have them carried to the other side. Some smaller ships were even pulled across and placed in the water on the other side. In that way Corinth was a trading center by land and sea.
2. It was also strategic militarily speaking. Although the Romans were a minority in the population, there was a strong force stationed there as this was one of the colonies established by Julius Caesar. This was a port city with all the positive and negative aspects you would expect to find there. The commercial prospects of the city attracted a lot of people. It was mostly settled by Jews and Greeks, both of which were significant in the city. Many other nationalities mixed with those major groups.
B. If Corinth was well known for anything, it was well known for its corruption. Charles Pfeiffer, in Baker's Bible Atlas, writes, "Greeks, Romans, Jews and adventurers from the entire Mediterranean world came to Corinth for trade and vice in all its forms. ’To live like a Corinthian,' became synonymous with a life of luxury and licentiousness."
1. As could be expected, the city's morals were the scandal of ancient times. The Greek language "made a verb out of the city's name, 'Corinthianize' (kəˈrɪnθɪəˌnaɪz) was an intransitive verb meaning “to live a promiscuous life”. The low point for the reputation of the city was prior to the Roman period, but it was still as bad as most major trade cities of the time when Paul was there.
2. I bring this up because while the reputation of Corinth was much spoken of, in reality many cities of this time were scary and getting more so for Jews and Christians.
II. Next Luke tells us in Acts 18:2-3 that Paul - “... found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. ”[NKJV]
A. In Corinth, Paul found two Jews, Aquila, who was from Pontus which was a province between Bithynia [bih-THIHN-ih-uh] and Armenia [aar•mee•nee•uh], and his wife Priscilla, who was also known as Prisca according to 2 Timothy 4:19. Luke reports they, and all other Jews, were expelled from Rome by the Emperor Claudius. This may have been sometime between AD 49 to 52 and was likely because of the continuous disturbances within the city which were attributed to the Jews. I can imagine this had to be frightening being placed under edict to leave the city.
1. All Jews, even the wealthy and learned, were taught a trade. Alexander Campbell wrote; "The Jewish law, after their exile, held that a father who taught not his son a trade, taught him to be a thief." Paul arrives in Corinth and like all good Jews, Paul had a trade, that of tent maker. He immediately found two Jews who had the same occupation with whom he could live and work. We might say Paul was a leather worker because tent making included any type of leather work in Paul's day.
2. Paul's later writings do make it clear that these two became special friends and allies of the apostle as he preached the gospel of peace. Romans 16:3 - “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.”
III. Paul had some success in Athens but a lot of rejection too. I certainly would have been discouraged with the reactions of those philosophers in the Areopagus.
A. Now God has set the stage for the next part of Paul’s journey, and the preaching in Corinth. Acts 18:4-8 – “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was constrained by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, "Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.'' And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 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.”[NKJV]
1. As we have seen many times, Paul first preached in the synagogue when he got to a city. It was during this time that Silas and Timothy once again joined his company. It seems possible from 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 that Silas may have come from Berea, while Timothy more than likely arrived from Thessalonica. Luke tells us that it was around the time of their arrival when “Paul was constrained by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. ” meaning that he became fully occupied in telling the Jews about Jesus being the Messiah.
2. When the Jews rejected the truth and spoke against the Lord, Paul shook out his garments and began to preach to the Gentiles. Off he went to the house of Justus, which was next door to the synagogue. Next Luke tells us that Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed and was baptized by the apostle's own hands according to 1 Corinthians 1:14 where he writes – “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,”[NKJV].
B. I note that it wasn’t only Crispus who believed and was baptized. Those in Crispus' family and many other Corinthians also believed and were baptized. You know, I for one can’t figure out how anyone can study the Book of Acts and not understand the importance of baptism. It’s all over the book.
1. I think the only way a person can miss it is that they don’t want to understand the importance of it. I don’t want to go into the importance of baptism again because we have covered it in other chapters.
2. I do want to point out something else we see here and other places when studying the Book of Acts and that is this. Not everyone wanted to know or be convinced that Jesus was the Messiah.
3. The same is true today when you share the good news with people, and find they are just not interested, don’t put yourself down and feel like you’re a failure. You’ve done exactly what God wants you to do.
C. I have heard it put this way; every single human being on this planet deserves the opportunity to reject the gospel at least once.
1. Every time you share the gospel with someone, that’s what we call faith and obedience. It’s faith in God because you trusted Him to help you through that fear of sharing.
2. It’s obedience because He commanded us to share that message in Matthew 28:19-20.
IV. You’re not responsible for people’s responses to the gospel. However, it can be very discouraging and it can bring about a very real fear.
A. Let me ask you; is there a place to which you won’t go because of fear?
1. Maybe it’s your best friend who isn’t a Christian yet, and you’re afraid that if you share the gospel with them, you will lose them as a friend.
2. Maybe it’s your family members and you’re afraid to tell them the good news about the Christ because they might reject you.
3. Maybe you’re afraid to fully commit to God because you believe people will think you take your faith too seriously.
4. Maybe God has blessed you with the gift of teaching or preaching but you’re afraid to step out in faith and trust God to help develop that gift. None of us does an exemplary job the first time we attempt a task. It takes time to develop and just a craftsperson must be an apprentice first, someone who teaches must put in the time to learn themselves and then practice.
B. I do not doubt but many of us have experienced this sort of fear. I suspect that fear even lingers when we are in the process of teaching or preaching. We experience fear not only about failure, and rejection, but we experience fear of saying the wrong thing that might turn someone off and they end up missing the gospel message.
1. Psalm 56:4 says; “In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”[KJV]
2. Whatever God asks us to do, wherever God asks us to go, we need to have the same mindset as Paul when he looked at Corinth and thought to himself, I am afraid but I will go and trust God. After all what can mortal man do to me?
V. I imagine you are wondering; How do we know that Paul experienced fear in Corinth? Read with me now Acts 18:9-10 – “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.''”
A. Does that surprise you? It did me. The great apostle who suffered so much rejection and bad treatment. Like I said earlier fear is a very real feeling, but God does understand. He understands when we are frightened and He certainly understood when the apostle Paul was afraid in Corinth. In fact God was so aware of Paul’s fear that He spoke to Paul in a vision encouraging him and telling Paul to continue preaching and teaching. This promise of the Lord did not mean that men would not assault Paul, but that they would be unsuccessful in their efforts to thwart his preaching.
B. God tells Paul “I have many people in this city.” There were many people in that city who were not yet saved, and there would be many who would accept the gospel when they heard it. This was a promise from God to Paul. Luke continues in Acts 18:11 – “And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”
C. Folks, one of the most serious problems with fear is that it paralyses. It paralyses our will and our ability to act. It sucks the determination from our heart, and mocks our every effort to step out in faithful obedience to our Lord.
1. The Bible is filled with the tears of men and women who give in to our enemy named “Fear.” There are people who betrayed both themselves and their God while held prisoner in fear’s grasp.
2. It was fear which cast its shadow over Aaron so that he yielded to the Israelites’ demand for an idol.
3. It was fear that froze the hearts of the ten spies so that they told the people of Israel the giants in the land of promise could not be overcome.
4. It was fear which entered the tents of Saul’s warriors and released its venom into the bloodstream of Israel’s army so that God’s people trembled before an uncircumcised Philistine, named Goliath.
5. It was fear that caused Peter to weep alone in the darkness after his denial of Jesus.
6. It was fear that gripped Elijah when he said in 1 Kings 19:4 – “"It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!''” and then in verse 14 “... I alone am left... ”
D. You and I know that feeling all too well, don’t we? We long to take our God at His word and we long to make His precious promises ours, but so very often fear sows the seeds of doubt in our minds. When fear begins, our best intentions dissolve in a sea of indecision.
1. Paul says, in Philippians 4:19 – “... my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Fear whispers in our ear, “What if?” and our peace of mind disappears like smoke in the wind.
2. Intellectually we can we grasp the meaning of our Lord’s words in Matthew 11:28 – “"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” But fear is like a lead weight that threatens to drown us in a bottomless sea of anxiety and worry.
3. The Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Still fear invades our soul by a dozen different doors. Instead of boldly preaching the word of God to others, we almost whisper the good news, in the hope that someone, anyone will hear our whispers. You see, folks, we’re all suffering from fear. Fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear of rejection, fear of change, fear of darkness, fear of crowds, fear of financial loss, the list is endless.
E. As that fear squeezes the joy from our lives, it is joined by guilt because we know in our heart of hearts that our lives without joy have no power to attract an unbelieving world.
1. That is bad news because when fear is around, guilt and despair are not far behind.
2. There is good news however, and that is fear can be conquered, and it can be conquered by using our number one weapon. Its name is Faith, and its source is the Word of the Holy Spirit. Its fruit is optimism, hope, and courage.
3. The Bible tells us that faith banishes fear in Psalm 27:1 – “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?”
I am convinced the way to conquer fear is by filling our minds with the promises we read about in the word of God. When we fill our minds with God’s promises then and only then, will the ridicule of unbelievers and the rejection by people be powerless to harm us.
Faith is also the answer for despondency. The Bible says in Psalm 33:20-21 – “Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, Because we have trusted in His holy name.” When we trust God and His promises, joy will begin to follow, because trust and joy are inseparable.
There are no doubt times when we all worry about the future. In these days concern for what the future will bring, can paralyze people just as certainly as other fears. Are you worried about the future? Listen to what Isaiah says in Isaiah 57:13 – “When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you. But the wind will carry them all away, a breath will take them. But he who puts his trust in Me shall possess the land, and shall inherit My holy mountain.” People today look to many things to help them in an uncertain future. Truly those things are as idols and have no real power to save.
Is the prospect of death a shadow upon your happiness? Listen to what Paul said to his young friend Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:12 – “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”
You probably have talked to people who believe that the world is getting out of control and is becoming more and more unsafe to live in. Does the world appear to be out of control to you? Listen to what Isaiah says in Isaiah 14:27 – “For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?''” The point of all this folks is, faith banishes fear!
It is time for us to stop being afraid. Although God asks us to go to frightful places or asks us to share His word with someone and we’re afraid to, we need to remember the promise of Hebrews 13:5, where God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”.
One night the house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee out his bedroom window to the roof.
The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you."
He knew the boy had to jump to save his life.
All the boy could see, was flame, smoke, and blackness and he was afraid to leave the roof.
His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you."
But the boy cried, "Daddy, I can't see you."
The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters."
We need to remember that although we can’t see God, if we would just have faith in Him and know that He sees us, then that’s all that really matters. Paul realized that and trusted God to help him overcome his fear in Corinth.
We need to do the same, we need to trust that God will give us the strength and courage to overcome any fear we may have in our lives.
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
Reference Sermon: Mike GloverPrint
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