God Speaks in the Night

God Speaks in the Night

“God Speaks in the Night”

(Acts 18:1-23)

Series: The Church on Fire!

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

First Baptist Church Henderson, KY

(2-24-08) (AM)


  • Take God’s Word and open to Acts, chapter 18.


We continue to make our way through the book of Acts in our expository preaching series, verse-by-verse, through an exhilarating book, a study of the church in its early years as it spread throughout the known world.  In chapter 17 we read about Paul among the philosophers of Athens.  In chapter 18 we read about Paul’s leaving Athens and entering Corinth.  He leaves a city known for its philosophy and enters a city known for its immorality.


We’re going to study most of chapter 18 this morning, verses 1-23 to be exact, but before we pray I’m going to read two particular verses to help prepare our thinking for what God is saying to us in this passage.  When Paul arrives in Corinth, he is weak, anxious, and fearful (1 Corinthians 2:3).  For this reason, the Lord appears to Paul in the night and speaks to him.  Let’s stand and read what our Lord Jesus says to Paul in the night.


  • Stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.


9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 

10 “for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” 


  • Pray.




I was 23 years old and had been married just one year when I spent several weeks away from my new bride in a training program just south of Atlanta.  The training would take several weeks and was so intense that we were required to live on site in housing at the facility.  It was the Chick-Fil-A Corporation and I was classified there as a business intern.  Upon completion of my training, Michele and I and our miniature Schnauzer, Sammy, would move to San Francisco, California where we would live and operate a Chick-Fil-A restaurant.  That training was very intense.  And what most people didn’t know was that while on the outside I projected a very confident demeanor, on the inside I was battling fear, anxiety, and insecurity.


One evening as I prepared for bed, my roommate, an older and wiser man than I, was also preparing to go to sleep.  We were talking about various things and then the conversation turned to spiritual things.  I don’t know whether he picked up on some of the things I was struggling with and sensed my fears but, as he prepared to drift off to sleep, he shared with me that an encouraging verse of Scripture to him was Jeremiah 29:11.  I had never read Jeremiah 29:11—I had never read Jeremiah—and had to search for the book in the index of my Bible.  Imagine how that verse encouraged me when I read where God said to His people, “I know the plans I have for you…plans of peace and not of evil; plans to give you hope and a future.”  I underlined that verse in my Bible and received encouragement that evening from the God who speaks in the night.


That’s what I want to talk to you about from chapter 18 in the Book of Acts.  I want to talk to you about the God who speaks in the night.  The Apostle Paul was a human being just as we are.  He needed spiritual encouragement and God brought it to him one evening as he lay no doubt lay awake in Corinth.  I want to share with you how God can encourage you and me as we seek to live for Him.  How many of you would like to be encouraged this morning, can I see your hands?  Good.  Here’s encouragement number one:


I.  Be Encouraged by God’s People (1-8)


One of the reasons why regular attendance in worship and Sunday school is so important is because we are relational beings and we need one another.  You can’t be a growing Christian without others.  The New Testament is filled with imperatives that require our being with others.  For example, we’re told to pray for one another, encourage one another, love one another, and bear one another’s burdens.  We can’t do those things alone.  We can’t demonstrate these “one anothers,” sitting inside the seclusion of our living rooms with the blinds drawn.  We are relational beings and we need one another.  God encourages us through His people, through other Christians.  Let’s read about it in verses 1-8:


1 After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. 

2 And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. 

3 So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. 


I shared with you earlier that when Paul entered Corinth he was weak, anxious, and fearful.  We know that not so much because of what we read here, but what we read in one of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians that he would write later.  In 1 Corinthians 2:3, Paul writes that when he came to the Corinthians, he was with them, “in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.”  Things didn’t go particularly well with Paul’s missionary work in Athens among the philosophers there at the Areopagus.  Remember only a few had become believers.  Others mocked and waved Paul off.  Paul was a human being so I feel certain there was probably some discouraging second-guessing about his preaching as he walked the 50 miles west from Athens to Corinth.  He’s leaving the city of philosophy and entering the city of immorality.


He’s entering a thriving commercial port city, a city so full of sin and immorality that he had to be a little fearful as he wondered how the folks there would receive his message.  Corinth was full of worship of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love.  Each evening as many as 1,000 so-called “temple prostitutes,” would descend the Acrocorinth where Aphrodite’s image was housed, and these prostitutes would wander the streets of Corinth, offering their “services.”  So full of sin, lust, and debauchery was the city of Corinth that the name “Corinth” became synonymous with sexual activity.  For 500 years, “to Corinthianize” meant “to engage in sexual immorality.”  Little wonder, then, why God’s Spirit is leading Paul to this city.  These people needed the Gospel.


The Bible says in verses 2-3 that Paul met in Corinth two wonderful people, a married couple named Aquila and Priscilla.  We’ll be reading about them again later, but imagine how much encouragement Paul drew from this couple!  They were tentmakers as was he and they were Christians as was he.  They shared the same trade and they shared the same faith.

Jot down this text in the margin of your Bible: Romans 16:3-4.  There Paul writes, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life.”  Paul doesn’t tell how Aquila and Priscilla “risked their necks” for his life, but they obviously put their lives on the line in some way that demonstrated they were true Christian friends.  God encourages Paul through His people.  So Paul is energized to do the work to which God has called him.  Verse 4:


4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. 


Paul is encouraged to go on reasoning in the synagogue.  And here come more of God’s people to encourage Paul.  Remember Silas and Timothy?  Here they come now from Macedonia.  Paul continues to grow bolder as he is encouraged by fellow Christians:


5 When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. 

6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 


That’s a way of showing that a person was not guilty for sharing the truth with someone (Nehemiah 5:13; Ezekiel 3:18-19), shaking the garments and saying, “Your blood be upon your own heads.”  It’s like saying, “I’m not responsible for your refusal to trust Christ.  I have done my part.”


7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue.


Here’s another person from whom Paul draws encouragement.  Paul leaves the synagogue and goes right next door and enters the house of this guy named Justus.  Paul didn’t go far, did he?!  I mean he goes out of the door and turns and goes into the next.  Apparently this arrangement is a great aid to Paul’s ongoing work in sharing the Gospel because verse 8 tells us that the very ruler of the synagogue becomes a Christian:


8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized. 


What fantastic encouragement Paul receives!  He is encouraged by God’s people.  So often the answer to our own times of discouragement and doubt comes as we surround ourselves with other people.  The New Testament just takes for granted that all Christians are active members of local churches.  In the Bible there really is no notion of a person’s merely “attending” a church.  There is an expectation that all Christians have joined their names officially to a body of believers with whom they are accountable and growing together, fellowshipping with one another, encouraging one another.


After our monthly men’s breakfast yesterday morning a number of our men drove over to one of our member’s homes where they donned camouflage clothing and took up these weapons, small guns into which they eagerly stuffed scores of little plastic balls full of paint.  Then these men gleefully took up strategic positions in the woods and joyfully commenced to fire upon one another—a paintball war!  And as I left my oldest son with them to partake of the madness and drove to the comfort of my warm home I thought, “Even in the flurry of a paintball war there is fellowship, relational encouragement that comes to Christian men when they hang-out with one another–and shoot one another!”

We need one another.  Be encouraged by God’s people.  Number two:


II.  Be Encouraged by God’s Presence (9-17)


Apparently, despite the relative success Paul receives in Corinth, he still battles fear and anxiety.  Why else would we read these words in verses 8-9 that we read at the opening of our message?


9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 

10 “for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” 


God speaks to Paul in the night and He speaks a message of encouragement to him.  God is speaking in the person of Jesus Christ.  He says, “Do not be afraid.  Keep speaking.  Don’t keep silent.”  In other words, “Don’t quit!  Keep sharing the Gospel!”  And why should Paul not be afraid?  Verse 10, God says, “For I am with you.”  I love that statement!  I am with you.


That’s the same thing God had said to Joshua as he prepared to lead God’s people into the Promised Land.  God said in Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”


And one of my favorite verses in the Bible is Isaiah 41:10.  God says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”


God also promises Paul His protection and tells him that there are people in Corinth who will be saved when they hear the Gospel.  The Lord says in the latter part of verse 10, “I have many people in this city.”  That’s God’s way of saying, “I know who the people are here in Corinth who will become Christians.”  However you deal with God’s foreknowledge and the doctrine of His election, you have to conclude that God encourages Paul to keep sharing the Gospel because there are still more people in Corinth who will respond favorably to what he has to say.  Paul’s so encouraged by that truth that verse 11 says:


11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. 


That’s encouragement to you and me as we share the Gospel, too.  I was studying my FAITH Evangelism material yesterday and looking forward to our time together tomorrow evening.  As over one hundred of us gather together tomorrow night to visit folks in our community we can be encouraged as Paul was by the fact that there are still more people in Henderson who will become Christians.  We don’t know who they are, but God does.  We’ll just be faithful and share the Gospel.  God doesn’t call us to be successful.  He calls us to be faithful.  And as we share we encouraged that God is “with us.”  He is with us!  Praise God we don’t go it alone.


God encourages Paul with His presence.  That doesn’t mean Paul still will not face difficulties.  Look at verses 12-17:


12 When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, 


Secular history tells us that Gallio is the older brother of Seneca, the philosopher.  Seneca was tutoring a young Roman named Nero, who would be the next emperor after Claudius.  So Gallio is the Roman guy “in charge” here in Corinth and Paul is brought before him at the judgment seat.  I am told that you can actually visit this very site today in Corinth and see the very place described here in verse 12 where Paul stood before Gallio 2,000 years ago.  The Jews have Paul there and what is their charge?  Verse 13:


13 saying, “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” 

14 And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. 

15 “But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters.” 

16 And he drove them from the judgment seat. 


So Gallio is like, “Look, this is not a matter of Roman Law.  This has to do with stuff important to you Jews so I’m not even going to hear this case.”  Then Gallio dismisses the Jews.  So what do they do?  Verse 17:


17 Then all the Greeks (and that’s probably better translated, “they,” as most translations have it, referring to the crowd led by the Jews) took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things. 


So the Jews continue to try to work against Paul and the spread of the Gospel, even beating the new ruler of the synagogue, a guy by the name of Sosthenes.  By the way, Paul mentions Sosthenes in the opening of his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:1).  And the Bible says that “Gallio took no notice of these things.”


Gallio’s indifference was under the direction of the providence of God.  That takes us to our final point.  We have said that the God who speaks in the night encourages us with His people and His presence.  Now, thirdly, we may:


III.  Be Encouraged by God’s Providence (18-23)

Because Gallio did nothing, Christianity was free to flourish in Corinth.  So we read in verse 18 that “Paul still remained a good while.”  Paul had freedom to share in Corinth with no fear of persecution from the Romans.  Let’s read the remainder of these verses, verse 18-23:


18 So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.


Having one’s hair cut off and “taking a vow” was a Jewish way of showing gratitude to God for the providence of His care, blessing, and protection.  Paul was likely thanking God for the 1 ½ years of ministry he had there in Corinth.


19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them (Priscilla and Aquila) there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.

20 When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, 

21 but took leave of them, saying, “I must by all means keep this coming feast (possibly Passover) in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” And he sailed from Ephesus. 


Paul believed in the providence of God.  God is in control of everything.  Paul says, “I’ll come back to you folks in Ephesus if it is God’s will.  He says, “I will return again to you, God willing.”  That’s a wise way to live.  “I don’t know for certain what God’s plans are.  If He providentially guides me back here, then I’ll see you again.  That’s my plan, but God is in control of all things.  Lord willing…”


Then we read of Paul’s returning to Antioch and we have the conclusion of his second missionary journey and the beginning of missionary journey number three in verses 22-23:


22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch. 

23 After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples. 




I was reading Steve Brown this week and he was writing about how little boys were initiated into manhood in one of the early American Indian tribes.  He writes:


The small boy was taken from his family and led into the forest.  He was told that he must spend an entire night in the forest alone.  You can imagine the horror of it all!  Every sound was something to fear and every shadow a monster.  But, as the sun would rise over the mountains, the boy’s first sight would be his father.  All night long, in the silence and just out of the boy’s vision, his father had stood, bow and arrow ready, watching over and protecting his son.  With incredible delight, the boy would run to his father shouting, “Father, you were there all along!”


The God who speaks in the night says to you and me, “Do not be afraid…for I am with you.”