This chapter tells us about how the church started in the city of Corinth. We can read much more about the development of this church in Paul’s later letters to the Corinthians (1 and 2 Corinthians). In those letters, we see the apostle’s ongoing pastoral care for the folks in that congregation.
We also see in Acts 18 Aquila and Priscilla, as well as the teacher Apollos – all of whom played important roles in the growth of the church in its earliest years. We can be thankful for the history that is preserved here.
Things were going well within the church in Corinth, at least among those who came to the church from among the Gentiles. More people were believing in the gospel and getting baptized. Notice, they “believed and were baptized.” Those two things went hand-in-hand.
And Paul received a vision in the night from God: “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” This is a warm and helpful assurance. Surely Paul appreciated this vision very much, and surely he began preaching even more boldly in Corinth.
And did you catch what happened next? “The Jews made a united attack on Paul …”
The vision, of course, wasn’t wrong. Paul wasn’t harmed. But again, we see the continued opposition to the gospel, especially among the Jewish leadership in these communities where Paul was ministering. The standard practice for Paul, and for Apollos as well, was to show God’s chosen people how Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. They would use the Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament) to show how Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecies.
And, of course, Jesus fulfilled those prophecies in ways many Jews did not expect. And the kingdom of God – according to Jesus’ own ministry – was now thrown open not just to the Jewish nation but to anyone who would believe. And opposition kept emerging.
And Paul was dragged in front of the Roman ruler of Corinth, a man named Gallio. And accusations were made against Paul. And Paul surely knew Jesus’ warning and encouragement for his followers – “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11-12).
And so Paul likely wasn’t worried about what to say. He knew the Holy Spirit would instruct him about what to say in that hour when he was put on trial before Gallio. And what did Paul say?
“But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews … ” Paul actually said nothing in his own defense. The Holy Spirit’s teaching to Paul in that moment about what he ought to say was quite clear: There was nothing to say. Someone else did all the talking. Someone else made the defense.
I wonder whether this is instructive for us today. We convince ourselves sometimes there is a lot that must be said. Arguments need to be made. People need to be convinced. Maybe none of that is necessary. Maybe the Holy Spirit will bring the words out of someone else’s mouth. Or maybe the Holy Spirit will plant the words in someone else’s heart.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t proclaim the gospel at every opportunity. We should. But some words aren’t for us to say. Sometimes we don’t have to say anything at all.
Is there a place for silence in your own life? We live in a world that won’t stop talking. Can you stop talking and let someone else – or the Holy Spirit – speak? Are there moments in life where really nothing needs to be said by us – even to ourselves?
This is the ultimate defense – when someone else speaks for us – when someone with ultimate authority makes the case and cancels the charges. Please think about that today.