Do not be afraid but go on speaking!
What fears do you have? In psychology, fear is categorized into normal fear and phobia. Normal fears include fear of the unknown, fear of public criticism, and fear of change. These fears are all related to human perceptions and concepts. On the other hand, phobias are much more diverse. Some fear thunder and lightning, some fear blood, and others fear the dark or even non-existent ghosts. This wide range of fears is also referred to as "Phobia" in English. Phobia is an irrational reaction associated with a specific object that disrupts behavior, and the main symptoms are anxiety and fear. Psychologists classify phobias into over 100 types based on the object causing fear. For example, acrophobia is the fear of heights, claustrophobia is the fear of enclosed spaces, and nyctophobia is the fear of darkness. What phobias do you have? Acrophobia, claustrophobia, or perhaps a fear of public speaking? Do you fear interacting with people? Do you feel anxious, blush, or tremble when standing in front of a crowd, not knowing how others perceive you?
Today's passage from Acts 18:1-11 tells us that when Paul arrived in Corinth after leaving Athens, he faced opposition from the Jews who opposed him when he testified that Jesus is the Christ. In the face of such challenging circumstances, the Lord appeared to Paul in a vision at night and said, "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent" (v. 9). When we examine why Paul, who was under persecution and opposition, could boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ without fear, we can find four reasons in today's passage.
The first reason is that Paul had excellent fellow workers.
Among these fellow workers, we encounter a couple in today's passage from Acts 18:2 as Paul arrives in Corinth. They are none other than Aquila and his wife Priscilla, recent Jewish immigrants from Italy due to Emperor Claudius's command to leave Rome. When Paul arrived in Corinth, he went to Aquila and Priscilla, and they became his hosts, working together in making tents (v. 3). During weekdays, Paul engaged in tentmaking with them, and on the Sabbath, he entered the synagogue, reasoning and persuading Jews and Greeks (v. 4). Other significant fellow workers we already know are Silas and Timothy (v. 5). These two had accompanied Paul from Thessalonica to Berea and then to Athens, eventually arriving in Corinth on the same journey as today's passage. Imagine the strength and encouragement Paul must have received from these co-workers. Silas and Timothy, who had been with Paul through persecutions from Thessalonica to Berea, and now they joined him in Corinth. How significant must this support have been for Paul? Another co-worker was Titius Justus, a God-fearing Gentile believer (v. 7). When Paul faced persecution from the Jews opposing his testimony about Jesus being the Christ (v. 5), he took refuge in the house of Titius Justus, a Gentile believer who lived next to the synagogue. It was a change of residence from the house of Aquila and Priscilla, showing the various co-workers and their roles in Paul's ministry. When thinking of Paul's fellow workers, I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up." The Bible emphasizes the value of companionship in ministry, stating that the labor of two people is more fruitful and that they can support each other in times of difficulty.
The second reason is that Paul saw the fruit of preaching the gospel.
Look at Acts 18:8 - "Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized." When Paul fearlessly proclaimed the gospel in Corinth, Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his whole household believed in the Lord. Not only that, but many Corinthians who heard Paul also believed and were baptized. How empowering and fulfilling must this have been for Paul? Witnessing the eternal fruits of the gospel amidst persecution, the believers formed in the Corinthian church—Paul's spiritual children—must have brought tremendous joy to his heart. For Paul, these fruits were his "joy and crown" (Phil. 4:1). The salvation of souls, the fruit of the gospel, was a great source of joy for Paul. Despite persecution, he boldly proclaimed the gospel, and the eternal impact of his ministry brought immense joy.
The third reason is that Paul was held captive by the word of God.
Look at Acts 18:5 - "When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah." As Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul, having reliable co-workers such as Silas and Timothy in Corinth, could now invest more time in preaching the gospel. In verse 5, it says Paul testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. Paul, being anchored in God's word, testified boldly despite facing opposition from the Jews. Being immersed in the word of God, Paul spent more time engaging in gospel testimony. It is evident that the more time we spend meditating on and investing in God's word, the more our faith grows, making us bolder and unshaken in the face of fear and challenging situations.
The fourth reason is that God was with Paul.
The Lord appeared to Paul in a vision at night when he was facing persecution and said, "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent" (v. 9). Why did God say this? Look at verse 10: "For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you because I have many people in this city." God's promise to Paul was not that he would never face violence or persecution again, but that no harm would come to him, regardless of any persecution he might face (Park). Why did God give such a promise to Paul? The reason was that there were many people in the city who belonged to the Lord (v. 10). In other words, because there were many people in Corinth who needed to be saved, the Lord planned and arranged for the continued testimony of the gospel through Paul. Therefore, the Lord preserved Paul's life and commanded him to fear not, be silent not, but boldly preach the gospel through a vision at midnight. In the end, holding onto this promise, Paul resided in Corinth for one year and six months, successfully carrying out the ministry of preaching the gospel.
Like Paul, we should not be afraid but speak out. We should not be silent but proclaim the gospel. Why is that? The reason is that God says to us, "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent" (18:9). Why should we not be afraid and be silent but proclaim the best news, the gospel of Jesus Christ? Look at Isaiah 41:10 - "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Not being afraid and proclaiming the word of God,
(Relying on Immanuel God who is with us)