And the Lord said to Paul one night 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.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
Paul is laboring in Corinth. It’s his last stop on his second missionary journey. He is working hard in the synagogue, preaching and teaching and proclaiming Christ as the Lord. He is reasoning with them. He is persuading them. He is pleading with them. Verse 5 says that when Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia that Paul is occupied with the word. Paul is working hard!
Despite Paul’s hard work, however, he isn’t seeing the fruit of his labor. He is opposed and reviled. They won’t believe him. They listen and then try to convince him that he is crazy to read the scriptures in a Christocentric way. Paul becomes frustrated and proclaims his innocence because he has been faithful to preach the word of God and present the gospel clearly. If they won’t believe, it’s not for lack of trying to bring them to repentance. A few do believe, but most don’t. Paul isn’t seeing conversions. He is discouraged. It is hard soil. He has just left Athens where he did not plant a church and did not see many, if any, converts. Would Corinth be the same? Paul won’t give up – he stays a year and a half. Why?
In verse 9, the Lord appears to Paul in a vision and says, “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.” The next words Luke pens are these: “And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” The note in the ESV study Bible under verse 10 says, “Predestination implied successful evangelism.”
The Lord told him that He had already saved many people in Corinth, though they did not yet know it. They were going to come to Him, though they didn’t yet book their trip. His labor would not be in vain. That was enough for Paul. He didn’t leave because he knew God had many who were His. Paul stayed so that they would become His.
What hard soil are you tilling? Are you reviled and opposed? Are you not seeing conversions? It is possible that the Lord has many in your city that are His people. Be faithful. Stand strong. Preach the gospel. Be occupied with the word! If you preach it, they will come.