God does amazing and wonderful things! He is a great and awesome God who brings light into darkness, order to chaos, hope in despair, and life into death. This is no more clearly seen than in his work of saving sinners. The Apostle Paul is proof.
When we first met Paul, he was on his way to Damascus to persecute and kill Christians. He was on a mission to destroy the church. To Timothy he admits, “I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent [of God] …I was the foremost of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:13,15). It doesn’t get any worse than that. He was a bad man.
But, by the time we get to Acts 18, he has become the first and greatest missionary, if not the greatest Christian, the world has ever seen. Where he once sought to destroy Christians, he now seeks to convert, disciple, and strengthen them. Where he once sought to tear the Church down, he now seeks to build her. Where he once organized efforts to stop the spread of Christ’s gospel, he now tirelessly organizes, participates in, and leads efforts to spread it around the world. WOW!
God is On a Mission.
From its beginning to its end, the Bible tells us that God is on a mission to save sinners and to build a people who will worship him and bear witness about him and his glory to the world. That’s what Acts is about. And, it’s especially the case in Acts 18 particularly verses 9-10.
While Paul is in Corinth, he receives a vision from God in which God tells him, “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.” Notice three things.
First, God has people — “there are many in this city who are my people.” The gospel has not penetrated and permeated Corinthian society yet. In fact, this is the first visit Paul makes to the city. It’s safe to assume that Paul’s visit is the first organized effort to spread the gospel in Corinth. But, God still had people in the city though they may not have known it at the time. God has people whom he has chosen from before the world existed and he works to bring them to himself in grace. Paul is the prime example — a murderer of Christians turned builder of the Church. God has people and he is building them in his mighty grace.
Second, God uses people to build his Church (his people) — “go on speaking and do not be silent.” The primary way that God has chosen, in his good pleasure, to bring men and women to himself is other people. He uses people to tell the story of Jesus and his love. He uses people to minister to others. He uses people to spread his fame throughout the world. Paul was one of those as are all others who have said “yes” to following Jesus.
Third, God promised his presence to Paul — “for I am with you.” Paul’s ministry in Corinth did not go as well as he would have hoped at first. He was reviled, opposed, and violently shaken by the Jews, and he was eventually brought before Gallio the proconsul of Achaia. Paul’s ministry throughout Macedonia can be understood in terms of persecution. He faced it wherever he went. However, while we can understand his ministry that way, we cannot define that way. His life and ministry is defined by the presence of God. Jesus promised his disciples that, as they were going into all the world, he would be with them until the end of the age (Matt. 28:18-20). Paul knew that presence.
Paul is On God’s Mission.
In rereading the story of Acts, I have been amazed by the way in which Paul continues to plod along the rocky path. He goes from Athens to Corinth to Antioch to Ephesus. He encounters one hardship after another, but he is not deterred. He is on a mission for God; he is on God’s mission. In every aspect of his life, he is devoted to reaching his neighbors and those who are far off. That’s the heart of the Christian. The children of the king want what the king wants. Paul had been transformed from a wicked man so that every other man would know that he is not beyond the reach of God’s grace. And, Paul wanted to tell them that.
Is that what I want with my life? Is that what you want? Do we want to be on God’s mission? Are we on God’s mission? Find someone to minister grace to today. Find someone to whom you can tell the story of Jesus and his love. God has promised to be with you as you live on mission for him.