In our last message we saw that Paul gave the message of Salvation to the Jews in Corinth, but they rejected the message and reviled and attacked him. So Paul brushed the dust of their presence from his clothes and left them to their own devices.
But he didn’t go very far. There’s a little humor here. He literally went right next door. In fact, from the Greek text it’s clear that the house of Titius Justus and the synagogue actually shared a common wall. That had its effect because the first thing we read about after his move is that Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, was won to Christ. He believed in the Lord, together with all his household. So Paul still had access to the synagogue. And among the other citizens of Corinth there was a tremendous response. Many who heard Paul believed and were baptized.
One thing we should notice is that while Paul is in Corinth, Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia. There arrival evidently allowed Paul to fully devote himself to preaching from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ. Interestingly, we aren’t told just what it was that enabled Paul to suddenly devote himself to preaching. But what Luke hasn’t said here, Paul wrote in his Letter to the Philippians:
“And as you Philippians know, at the beginning of my gospel ministry, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in this matter of giving and receiving except you alone. For even in Thessalonica on more than one occasion you sent something for my need” —Philippians 4:15-16
Those Philippians knew what was most important! I suspect that most of us assume Paul was supported in the same way that modern missionaries are today. I already said that Paul was a “tent-maker missionary,” being supported by his own labors most of the time. One reason for this was that this was Paul’s personal conviction, as seen in 1 Corinthians 9:1-23:
“Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you, for you are the confirming sign of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defense to those who examine me. Do we not have the right to financial support? Do we not have the right to the company of a believing wife, like the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Peter? Or do only Barnabas and I lack the right not to work?
“Who serves in the army at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Who tends a flock and does not consume its milk? Am I saying these things only on the basis of common sense, or does the law not say this as well? For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.’ God is not concerned here about oxen, is he? Or is he not surely speaking for our benefit? It was written for us, because the one plowing and threshing ought to work in hope of enjoying the harvest. If we sowed spiritual blessings among you, is it too much to reap material things from you? If others receive this right from you, are we not more deserving?
“But [now here is Paul’s point] we have not made use of this right. [Did you catch that? He had every right to expect support, but never asked for it].
“Instead we endure everything so that we may not be a hindrance to the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple eat food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar receive a part of the offerings? In the same way the Lord commanded those who proclaim the gospel to receive their living by the gospel. But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing these things so that something will be done for me. In fact, it would be better for me to die than—no one will deprive me of my reason for boasting! For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason for boasting, because I am compelled to do this. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward. But if I do it unwillingly, I am entrusted with a responsibility. What then is my reward? That when I preach the gospel I may offer the gospel free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights in the gospel.
“For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to all, in order to gain even more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) to gain those under the law. To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law. To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some.
“I do all these things because of the gospel, so that I can be a participant in it” —I Corinthians 9:1-23
Paul is plainly telling the Philippians that their giving to him is the exception, rather than the rule. Not only did they send Epaphroditus to minister to Paul in his imprisonment, they also sent financial support. In part, this may have been due to the fact that this is the way prisoners were cared for—by contributions from friends and family. But it would seem that on this occasion, the Philippian saints sent money to Paul as an expression of their love and partnership in his ministry:
“I thank my God every time I remember you. I always pray with joy in my every prayer for all of you because of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now” —Philippians 1:3-5
One day in 1793, William Carey and some friends were discussing the need for foreign missions. Andrew Fuller, a fellow minister who was at that gathering, recalled, “We saw there was a gold mine in India, but it was as deep as the center of the Earth.” Fuller asked who would venture to explore that mine. Carey spoke up and addressed his friends: “I will venture to go down, but remember that you must hold the ropes.”
By “holding the ropes,” Carey meant consistently praying for him, financially supporting him, and regularly communicating on his behalf with the churches in England. His friends agreed.
Carey went to India and made possible the translation of the Bible into numerous languages. Many have called Carey the father of modern missions, but he saw his relationship with his supporters in England as a brotherhood. He traveled to India, but he knew he was only able to accomplish what he did because his partners back in England were “holding the ropes.”
Because of the support from the Philippian church, Paul was able to spend all of his time preaching the gospel. I suspect that it was a combination of Paul’s intensified ministry and a greater number of converts that precipitated the strong Jewish reaction. As he had done before, Paul responded by turning from the Jews to focusing on the Gentiles. And as I already pointed out, he didn’t have far to go. He simply moved from the synagogue to the home of Titius Justus, a Gentile believer who lived next door to the synagogue. This must have really irritated the unbelieving Jews, because Paul’s ministry would still impact those attending the synagogue.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts