“While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. 13 “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.” 14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.”16 So he drove them off. 17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.” Acts 18.12-17
It doesn’t make sense to me that the crowd would turn on Sosthenes and not Paul. It was Sosthenes, the Jewish synagogue leader, whom they beat and did so in front of Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia. This all happened in Corinth as the Jews were making “a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgement.” But rather than beating Paul, the crowd persecuted Sosthenes.
Gallio doesn’t want to get involved in this religious dispute. He says so himself, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.“ And after driving them off, the crowd turns on Sosthenes rather than Paul. Was it because Paul was a Roman citizen and Gallio represented Rome? And who was Sosthenes besides being the leader of the synagogue? (God did make a promise to Paul recently that he would not be harmed while in the city.)
Sosthenes was beaten for his beliefs. This happens throughout Scripture and history. People are killed for believing and following Jesus. Just this weekend I read about a Nigeria Baptist pastor who was killed for being a Christian. While I sit comfortably in my own plush office at a multi-million dollar seminary, others across the world are dying for their faith. What is my response going to be to those who are suffering a dying for the gospel? Am I to recruit and train ministers who will live in peace with fat salaries preaching in middle class churches? Or are we too asked to go, like Paul, to the ends of the earth and take the gospel to whomever will listen?
I think we all know the answer to this. We are to go where he sends us and be the hands and feet of Christ. Sometimes he will allow us to be in harms way, and other times he will protect us. But in all things, we serve Christ for his glory and to spread the good news of his grace. Even martyrdom has a place in the Kingdom in living and dying in a manner that glorifies God.
And while I sit in comfort, I prepare to be put in the battle if God so chooses to direct. In addition, I pray for those who are having to radically stand up for their faith. For those who are facing persecution, I pray for strength, for courage and for a will to endure for the sake of the Cross.
We look no further than Jesus to see persecution in the Church of God. He endured the cross for our shame and died for our sins. Is he asking us to do the same? Are we ready to suffer for the Gospel?
“O Lord God, it is spring in Texas and all around me is new life – green grass, brilliant bluebonnets, redbuds blooming. And what I see in nature is happening to much of your church — you are doing a new work among us. From revivals to outpourings of your Spirit, to healings of pastors and parishioners alike, you are on the move. Your work does not stop or cease. Come now, Holy Spirit, fill me with your power and love. Help me know the truth of your grace and to experience the compassion of the cross. Help me be willing to go where you send me, to suffer for you, or to be raised up for you. Help me be all that you have called and created me to be. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Ame