In our last post the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent . . .” implying of course that he was at least beginning to become afraid and considering sitting back and keeping his mouth shut. And I don’t think anyone could blame him for that.
Well know that God’s timing is perfect. We also know that God knows our hearts perfectly. So, we must assume that if God chose to encourage Paul by a night vision, Paul must have needed it. For instance, in the Story of Job, there is a character by named Elihu. Elihu actually possessed a tremendous amount of wisdom and insight. Well, near the end of Job’s trial, Elihu began to explain to Job that no amount of agonizing or striving would compel the Lord to give an account of His actions, but that doesn’t mean that he never speaks at all. In fact, He does indeed “reveal His will; He speaks not only once, but He speaks again and again.” The problem is that either we are not listening or we simply don’t understand how He is speaking.
Then Elihu went on to explain a couple of the ways the Lord teaches us to know Him and His will. One way is by the direct inner teaching of the Holy Spirit “in a dream, in a vision of the night,” which is probably the only time many of us become totally separated from our “earthly” responsibilities and the simple “cares of this world.” The Lord “opens our ear” and gives us “wisdom and instruction” so that we will withdraw from our own purposes, agendas, and self-will and “so that we become disgusted with our own disappointing self-sufficiency.”
So I guess we can safely presume that at this moment in time Paul was afraid of what his opponents might do to him because he proclaimed the gospel. So his Father had to come in a “night vision” to comfort him and to encourage him to keep going. But why would he be afraid now, when he was beginning to experience a good measure of success?
Well think about it. He went to the synagogue and spoke to the Jews. They eventually rejected his message. He turned to the Gentiles and there was immediate response, a flood of people coming in. The Jews got angry and hostile out of jealousy, and he knew that the next step was Trouble, spelled with a capital T (“Ya got trouble, my friend, right here, I say, trouble right here in River City Right here in River City. Trouble with a capital “T” And that rhymes with “P” and that stands for pool!” Yeah, I remember that movie too). But I’m sure Paul expected that he would soon be ousted from the city by some arousing of the rabble, or of the authorities. It happened in every previous city he visited, so why wouldn’t it happen here?
All that being said, I think this is a beautiful description of the humanity of this man. Sometimes we think of Paul (and all Bible characters) as being so bold, so fearless—so above and beyond us—yet Paul suffered just as we do from apprehensions, forebodings, and fears. He didn’t relish being beaten, stoned, chained, and abused—any more than you would. In fact in a letter to these very Corinthians he says that very thing: “When I came to you . . . I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling;” —I Corinthians 2:1, 2:3. He certainly was afraid of what would happen to him there.
The reason, of course was that the city was responding to the gospel and the strongholds of evil were being broken down. The entrenched powers of darkness were being shaken. The life of the city was being disrupted by the awakening which was spreading because of Paul’s teaching. You’ll see this even more when we get the nineteeth chapter and Paul is in Ephesus. To these same Corinthians he will later write, “. . . for the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ . . .” —II Corinthians 10:4-5. Some of these strongholds of darkness and evil were being shaken.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts