The year was approximately 52 A.D., 22 years after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Under the dynamic and inspired leadership of the Apostle Paul, Christianity was spreading throughout the Roman Empire. But preaching the Gospel was a HAZARDOUS and a DANGEROUS mission that required a great deal of courage and faith in God!
Almost everywhere Paul went, multitudes of the ruling classes, government officials and merchants--as well as common labourers and slaves--received the Word of God with joy! But there was often a lot of BAD PUBLICITY and PERSECUTION stirred up by religious rivals and jealous ENEMIES! One time, fleeing from his religious enemies in Turkey, Paul sailed across the Aegean Sea to Athens, Greece. From there he journeyed down the Grecian peninsula to the city of Corinth 50 miles away. Corinth was at the center of the Roman Empire's trade routes, and one of the largest, richest and most important cities of the day.
After only a short time there, Paul met a Jewish couple named Aquila and Priscilla, who were tent-makers by profession. They readily received Jesus into their hearts and invited Paul to stay in their home. Paul helped them make tents, and every Sabbath day went with them to the local Jewish synagogue where he preached and tried to persuade the Jews that Jesus was their Messiah, the Son of God.
The chief ruler of the synagogue was a Jew by the name of CRISPUS, and as he listened to Paul, he became convinced that what he was saying was the TRUTH, so he and all of his household joyfully received Jesus into their hearts! But there were OTHER Jewish leaders who did NOT receive the Truth, and chief among them was a man named SOSTHENES. In his hatred for Paul who was winning the congregation to Jesus, Sosthenes stood up and began to publicly oppose him, blaspheming the name of Jesus! He began spreading vicious lies and rumours and soon had Paul expelled from the Synagogue!
It was not long after this that Crispus, because of his conversion to Christianity, was expelled from his leadership of the synagogue, and Sosthenes, greedily lusting for power, took his place as the new leader.
With his message rejected by the self-righteous, religious Jews, Paul went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a Christian whose house was built right beside the synagogue. From there, he began preaching the Gospel to the GREEKS of Corinth, who were not so self-satisfied with religious traditions, and soon a large number of them were converted to Christianity!
This was too much for the religiously-jealous Jews to bear! Sosthenes flew into a fury and his verbal attacks in the synagogue became harsher and shriller: "In all of our years in Corinth," he cried, "WE have not been able to win these Greeks to our religion! Yet Paul, in just a few months, has won MULTITUDES of Corinthians to his false doctrine of faith in Jesus!"
How he would have loved to have had Paul killed or deported from Corinth, yet there he was, living in Justus' house right next door, winning hundreds of hearts to Jesus! Full of hatred and envy at Paul's success, Sosthenes began spreading a barrage of lies against him to the Greeks throughout all Corinth. The situation began to appear very bleak for the young Christian Church in the city! One night, Paul wept and prayed desperately about the situation:"Lord," he cried out, "there are 400,000 people in this city that have never heard about You, and that desperately need to find Salvation! You canNOT allow this ONE little man, through his persistent lies against the truth, to drive us out of this city! Lord, consider all these hundreds of thousands of poor lost people who won't hear the Gospel of Salvation and who will be left in darkness if this demon-inspired man succeeds in his evil campaign!"
That night, as Paul slept, the Lord comforted him, and spoke to him in a vision while he was dreaming: "Paul, do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am WITH you, and NO one is going to be able to attack and harm you, because I have MANY people in this city."
Encouraged by this wonderful promise from the Lord, Paul boldly stood up against the lies and misinformation of his outspoken religious enemy and continued preaching and winning souls to Jesus in Corinth for the next year and a half!"We've got to STOP Paul before he wins any more people to Jesus!" Sosthenes declared, burning with hate and jealousy. "And here's what we'll do...."
Paul was sitting reading in Justus' home when suddenly he heard a large mob gathering outside the nearby synagogue. Louder and louder it grew! Within a minute there was a heavy pounding on the door, and suddenly the mob, led by Sosthenes, burst into the house! "There he is! SEIZE him!" he shouted. Paul rose to his feet, and instantly a dozen men were upon him & had pinned him to the wall! "If I could judge you according to OUR religious laws," Sosthenes snarled, "I would have you stoned to DEATH right here on the spot! I MYSELF would throw the FIRST stone!--But Roman law requires that you get a civil trial, and we don't want to get OURSELVES in trouble by killing you, so we'll have to let the ROMANS condemn you!""But I've broken no laws or done anything legally wrong." Paul answered his accuser, "You have no case against me."
Sosthenes stuck his face right up to Paul's, his evil eyes gleaming inches away, and said, "Shut up, you dog, and look outside! There is a mob of several hundred GREEKS with us who are now persuaded that you HAVE broken Roman laws!--And by the time WE get finished accusing you, the Romans will crucify YOU just like they did your JESUS!" With that, he spat in Paul's face, and led the mob down the streets of the city to the great marble palace where the Roman Governor's judgement seat was.
Now the proconsular Governor of Greece was Junius Annoeus GALLIO, the younger brother of the famous Roman senator Seneca. Upon hearing that "a SERIOUS LEGAL CRIME had been committed", he admitted the mob of Jews and enraged Greek citizens into his court.
When they had assembled before the Governor, Sosthenes stepped forward and began to accuse Paul. "This man," he charged, "is persuading the people to worship God in ways CONTRARY to the LAW!" Sosthenes began bringing one accusation after another against Paul, and the Governor became concerned at the multitude of serious criminal accusations that were being levelled against Paul! He became more and more puzzled by their fiery accusations, for, from the few reports HE had heard, Paul had been doing GOOD in the city, even HELPING the peace and order situation by having converted former trouble-makers to Christianity!
Suddenly Governor Gallio gave a wry smile as he realised what was happening. "This is ridiculous!" he thought, "this is nothing more than RELIGIOUS JEALOUSY and arguments over tradition and doctrinal differences!--And yet they're trying to get me to pass judgement on him by accusing him of having broken some LEGAL law!"
Finally Sosthenes and the other Jews finished their accusations, and just as Paul was about to speak in his defense, Gallio rose to his feet and said, "If you Jews were making a complaint about some actual wrong-doing or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. But since it involves questions about WORDS and NAMES and things having to do with your own RELIGIOUS laws, settle the matter yourselves! I will not be a judge of such matters!"
Motioning to the guards, Gallio then had the entire mob driven out of the Court. Seeing Paul still standing there, he said to him quietly, "You are free to go."
As Paul emerged from the court building and descended its great steps, he noticed that an angry quarrel had broken out between the Jews and the angry mob of Greeks who had been tricked and misled by Sosthenes' lies about Paul. Furious that Sosthenes had gotten them all stirred up over nothing, the angry crowd now turned upon him and began beating him for having deceived & used them!
Paul stayed on in Corinth for quite some time after this, teaching and preaching the Word of God and winning thousands of souls to faith in Jesus! In fact, by the time he left, one of the strongest groups of Chris tians in all Europe had been established, and an untold multitude of precious souls had found true happiness and meaning in life!
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