Then spoke the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not your peace:…
speaks to us about three things.
I. THE WORKER. Paul, at a time of sore discouragement and depression. The best of men are but men at the best. The strongest men, apart from a firm faith in the Lord God, are as weak as the weakest. Now if any working Christian feels weak and discouraged, let it rally him to know that no affliction has overtaken him but such as is common to men.
II. THE WORKER'S MASTER.
1. He knows us just then and there, in the midst of all our weakness and discouragement, and makes His first concern the individual worker. He is not simply concerned with the whole mass and movement of the spiritual campaign, like some great general who cannot be concerned with the individual soldier. Christ is concerned in the whole; but at the same time He says, "I see every man who is tugging and fighting, and feeling himself discouraged." Have you noticed how the engine driver, when he stops, pays hardly any attention to the traffic? but he is out with the lubricator, pouring in a few drops in one place, and then in another, to cool and prevent friction, and to make everything sweet and easy in its working. So with Christ. You are an engine pulling away at some Bible class or Sabbath school, or tract distribution. You have hooked on to it, and do not mean to give it up; but you feel as if the wheels were barely turning, and that you are making nothing of it. Think of this: the Lord looks after the engine. Here He comes with oil, this comfort, and He is pouring it on to your overheated spirit.
2. The Lord's comfort just comes straight to the sore place. Now, Paul's greatest failing and fear, as suggested by the narrative, was: "It's no use my preaching here. To the Greeks it is like the idle wind; and to the Jews it is like the red rag to the bull." The Lord speaks straight to the point; and says, "Be not afraid" — pointing to the fact that he was afraid — "but speak, and hold not thy peace" — pointing to the fact that fear was belonging to muzzle his mouth. The word here used is worth noticing, for there is a lesson in it. In Athens they called Paul "spermologos," a chattering sparrow, a seed picker, a man talking a kind of rant, with the suggestion that it is not his own; it was picked up somewhere else, and we can't understand it. "Babble away, Paul. I will be with you, and to those who are saved the babbling will be the power of God and the wisdom of God." And so He says today, "I have put my words into thy mouth; therefore let thy tongue wag My words." You remember that, writing afterwards to these Corinthians, Paul told them he had determined to keep this simple speech. Said he virtually, "I rather refined the babble at Athens. So when I came to Corinth I determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Not with enticing words of man's wisdom, lest the gospel of Christ should be of none effect." We must take care that we let the Lord speak to us when we are depressed, and when we have fallen on times when the old gospel "won't do," when the spirit of the age demands something more scientific and philosophical.
3. The Lord gave him a word about personal safety — "No man shall set on thee to hurt thee." Let us go on with the work for which we are here. I wish we would look to the Master. Paul was looking at himself and at the Corinthians; Christ said, "Look at Me! I am nearer to you than your fears." "Lo, I am with thee alway, even to the end of the world." What was said to Paul was not new. You will find these words in the Bible over and over again long before this. There is a vast mass of Bible words known in the mass, but we need them in our own heart, and for our own lives. When Bishop Fisher was being led out to martyrdom, the scaffold a little unnerved and depressed him. He took his New Testament and sent up a prayer: "O God, send me some particular word that will help me in this awful hour"; and he opened the book at these words, "This is life eternal to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." He had seen that five hundred times before; but he closed his Testament now, saying, "Blessed be God, this will suffice for all eternity." It is a different thing you see when the "fear nots" and "I ams" come home to you when you are dying a thousand deaths in fearing one. As a commander once said to his soldiers when they represented how great was the enemy and how few they were, "How many do you count me for?" Another general was said to be worth a whole battalion. And who shall enumerate what God is worth?
III. THE MASTER'S VERDICT ON THE WORK — "I have much people in this city." I almost knew what was coming. You will always find that while the Lord is comforting Elijah, and David, and Peter, and Paul, and you, and me, there is a smile on His face, as much as to say, "You are forgetting 'I have much people in this city.' If the work had been yours, that were another thing. But this gospel is Mine. I weighed this Corinthian pigsty in the scales of My eternal purposes, and from all eternity I marked out my own in Corinth, and I will get them. Go out and call them. They will come." What a word that is to discouraged workers — "Much people in this city." I believe that literally, at that time, there were more Christians there than Paul thought of, and I believe today that your influence and mine is far wider than in our discouraged moments we are giving either God or ourselves credit for. No word can return to Him void; and He comes and says, "Paul, you are working well, and the results are at least equal to the output. I have got one of the best grips on the paganism of this century." Whatever department of social life you look at, if you look carefully through the Epistles to the Corinthians, you will find that there was a sample of Christ's saving grace there. It went right into the midst of Corinthian worldliness and commercial activity, and laid hold of Erastus, the City Chamberlain, and held him out as a sample. Then, again, there was the household of Stephanas. He got the families there, and we will get them, and the old gospel will get nations. And if he would say again, "Lord, there are people here sunken in drunkenness and in lasciviousness." Listen how the gospel told (1 Corinthians 6:9). How it must have encouraged Paul, this look of things from the Master's point of view. This is the doctrine of election in its practical shape. I like this election plan; it does not say that all will be saved — that is universalism, it is simply wind. Well, it is not so windy and does not make so large a show as other ways of putting it; but it infallibly says that somebody will come, and that is what I want.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: