The Lord Has Many in This City
It doesn’t seem that Paul sojourned in Athens very long, given the sparse response there to the gospel. A few converts are mentioned but that is all; it does not appear that he planted a church there. Instead, he moved west about forty-six miles to Corinth, a commercial city situated perfectly between the Peloponnese further west and the rest of Achaia east. Travelers would pass through Corinth moving from one place to another. It was also known for sexual license. But all of this only made it that much more appealing to Paul as a strategic place for planting a church and spreading the gospel. He soon met two Christians, a married couple, Aquila and Priscilla, Jewish Christians who had fled Rome when Emperor Claudius expelled all the Jews from the city (ca. A.D. 49). And to verify Luke’s account, we have a report from Roman historian, Suetonius, to this effect: “Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, [Claudius] expelled them from the city,” an apparent reference to the agitation of Jews on behalf of Christian witness in the city, though the pagan Suetonius did not know how to spell, “Christus,” and surely couldn’t care less. At any rate, Paul and the Christian couple struck up a lasting friendship while Paul and Aquilla shared their trade of tentmaking.
And as usual, Paul entered the synagogue and preached Jesus as the Christ. And as usual, some Jews and God-fearers believed, and those who didn’t expressed their displeasure. Having done all he could do, Paul shook out his garments as an expression of finis, and proclaimed that he would now go to the Gentiles. This is exactly what Paul said at the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia (13:46-48), and was his customary approach: preach first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles.
The beautiful part of the passage is when the Lord said to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” How Paul needed to hear those words—the man who had been hounded from town to town now hears that he can stay awhile, and he did, for eighteen months. And he received two wonderful promises: first, the Lord said, “I will be with you,” which is the greatest promise in all the Bible. And second, the Lord told Paul that He had many in the city, another passage telling us that the Lord knows those whom He is calling out of the darkness unto Himself. So we may preach with confidence. It is ours to be faithful; it is God’s to give the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6).