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 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. ~ Acts 18:1

Let’s begin with Paul.  Here’s a guy who used to be the poster child for religious hypocrisy.  He had been passionate about rules, manmade regulations, and punishing, disgracing, and even approving of the murder of anyone who did not submit to and obey those practices.  He was the epitome of self-righteousness.  That is what he was.  This is exactly who he was before his conversion.

Miraculously, Paul was changed by none other than the power of God.  Here, now, in our eighteenth chapter of Acts, we find him Paul the missionary rather than Saul the murderer.  Now, he is traveling from place to place sharing the gospel with whomever he can whenever possible.   Now, he was a great evangelist missionary.  He went to people who were just like he had been previously to try and show them the truth of the gospel.

That’s what we find him doing in Acts chapter 18.  Verse one says he left Athens and went to Corinth.  In Athens he had preached in the synagogue and the marketplace every day.  (Acts 17:17) Every.  Single.  Day.  He points everyone in the vicinity to Christ.  He understands exactly how to answer them.  He knows all their objections and arguments before they even make them because, remember, he was what they were not too very long ago – lost.

He lands in Corinth and what does he do?

And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. ~Acts 18:2-4

First Paul makes some Jewish friends.  He gets to know some people who are in his line of work and he stays with them.  Then, he goes to the synagogue.  He goes into the most religious place of his time and the text says he “reasoned.”  He reasoned with everyone there every…single…week.  This would be like one of us going to a church who was operating in error every week and trying to explain to the leaders what the Bible actually teaches.

How did these very religious men react to his weekly gospel preaching and repetitive apologetics lessons?

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. ~Acts 18:5-7

Paul is testifying about Christ and the religious people “opposed and reviled him.”  In other words, they called him a liar.  They publicly slandered and abused him any way they could.  They did all they possibly could to hate him and rid their religious club of his true words and his teaching.

So, Paul leaves – but not without shaking the dust from his clothing and publicly denouncing their abuse and unbelief while professing his innocence as well.  Then what?

Instead of hopping right into another synagogue, Paul goes next door to the house of a man named Titius Justus.  So, next door to the synagogue he just got hated out of, he plants a church of pagans – well, Gentiles – who generally did not know God at least in any formal way.  But Justus did.  This house church becomes the seed of none other than the Corinthian Church.

This is truly amazing.  It is encouraging to know that justice took place in the house of a man who just happened to be named “Justus.”  It is in Justus’ house that God begins a great work in a city in desperate need of the gospel.  Awesome.

Next, the ruler of the synagogue gets saved along with his whole family.  The Holy Spirit comes to Paul and tells him to keep speaking and teaching.  The Holy Spirit encourages Paul and he continues in Corinth for a year and a half.

Later, the Jews gang up on him again and bring him before the civil authorities.  Verse 12 says they “made a united attack.”  All the unbelieving Jews band together to falsely accuse and discredit Paul.  It doesn’t work out well for them because the authorities end up beating the new synagogue ruler, Sosthenes, and dismissing the case.  (Acts 18:17)

What goes around comes around, folks.  These guys hated Paul and abused him for loving them enough to tell them the truth and the gospel faithfully – week after week – and they reaped exactly what they sowed.  Paul, on the other hand, planted a successful church by the hand of God.  The reason he succeeded is because he obeyed the Holy Spirit and because he absolutely, positively refused to compromise with religious regimes and falseness that centered on man’s work and self-sufficiency.

The gospel is all about God’s work.  Religion is all about man’s work.  I don’t know about you, but I am not the slight bit interested in the latter.

Be encouraged.  If religious people hate you, and they will if you tell them the truth – especially when they are operating in gross error, you are in good company.  They hated Paul, too, and he was the greatest missionary who ever lived.  And, of course, we can’t forget how much they hated Jesus.  With that, I leave you with Jesus’s words to the religious pretenders of his day:

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” ~John 8:39-47

 

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