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. Acts 18:9-10, ESVWhat do we learn from Jesus' message to Paul?
1. The Sovereignty of God. Jesus said he had many in the city who were his people. They had not heard the gospel yet, had not repented of sin and believed on Christ yet - but Jesus called them his people! The Bible teaches that God has a people who are his own, apart from the world; a people he has chosen from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-12) and given to Jesus to redeem (John 6:37, 44; 17:2, 6, 9). God's elect are precious to him; foreknown and loved! Jesus instructs a gospel worker to stay in the city so that all the people who are his will come to faith and be saved! Praise the Lord, who is sovereign in power and great in love for his people!
2. The Responsibility of Man. Not only does Jesus' message to Paul reveal that he has a chosen people, but it also reveals the means by which the chosen people will come to faith. "Go on speaking and do not be silent," Jesus said. Some people today misinterpret God's sovereignty and think things like, "If God is sovereign then it doesn't matter what we do; God's going to do what he's going to do anyway," etc. Sometimes they will ask questions like, "If God is sovereign in salvation then why evangelize?" This is fatalism, and is not what the Bible teaches. Yes, God is sovereign. But he has chosen to work through means. Even though Jesus has a chosen people in Corinth, he tells Paul to keep speaking and not be silent! He wants Paul to keep speaking the gospel, for this is the chosen means God has for bringing his people to Christ. See the great love of Christ for his people! He lovingly provides for them the means of their conversion - the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will hear through Paul, and they will certainly believe, for they are already referred to as the Lord's people.
3. A Specific Plan For Each City. We also learn that Jesus has a plan for cities. The Lord's plan for each city is not the same. In many cities Paul was quickly persecuted and run out of town. Just before coming to Corinth Paul preached in Athens and his message to the scholars was rejected for the most part. Paul left town and we have no record that he planted a church there. In Philippi Paul was beaten with rods and imprisoned (Acts 16:22-23). But Jesus now reveals to Paul that in Corinth, "no one will attack you to harm you." Persecution did come in Corinth, but God used the Roman proconsul, Gallio, to shut down the attack. Paul did not even have to open his mouth to defend himself (Acts 18:12-16). So Paul stayed there a considerable time, and planted the Corinthian church. Jesus has a specific plan for each city.
So, let us recognize the sovereignty of God. He has a people. But let us also realize that this people will come to faith in Jesus through the means of the preached gospel; they will hear through people like us, and they will believe! And let us seek the Lord for his plan in our city, and join him in his glorious work of building his church through the gospel!