Suffering And The Sifting Process: Acts 18:12-17
“12) But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, 13) saying, “This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” 14) But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you; 15) but if there are questions about words and names and your own law, look after it yourselves; I am unwilling to be a judge of these matters.” 16) And he drove them away from the judgment seat. 17) And they all took hold of Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and began beating him in front of the judgment seat. But Gallio was not concerned about any of these things.” Acts‬ ‭18‬:‭12‬-‭17‬
Though Gallio did not hurt the Christian cause in Corinth, he didn’t help it either. He remained neutral. He drove the whole group from his presence.
With that move, the Jews grabbed Sosthenes, who was a leader of the synagogue and began beating him in front of the judgement seat. Gallio was not moved by any of these things. He was unwilling to get involved in their religious squabbles.
It is interesting that both Crispus and Sosthenes are identified as leaders of the synagogue at Corinth. (Compare Acts 18:8 and Acts 18:17) Paul mentioned both of them by name in first Epistle to the Corinthians. (See 1 Corinthians 1:1 and 1 Corinthians 1:14) It shows the devotion both of them had for Jesus Christ. The reference to Sosthenes in 1 Corinthians 1:1 indicates that he joined Paul’s team on his next missionary journey.
This brings up an interesting point about the persecuted church. They are willing to suffer for Jesus Christ and the gospel. By contrast, the western church is not willing to suffer for Jesus Christ and the gospel. The first question related to mission trips raised by western believers is inevitably: “Can you guarantee our safety?” Their eyes are on self and not the cause of Christ.
It does not surprise me that Paul recruited Sosthenes to join his team. In Acts 18:17 he proved his devotion to Christ by his willingness to suffer for Him. He was publicly beaten for the cause of the gospel.
The early church understood that a unique blessing is bestowed on those willing to suffer for Jesus and the gospel. Let me quote 1 Peter 4:14; “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” The Holy Spirit bestows a special grace on those who suffer for the gospel.
Sosthenes and many early believers were sifted, confirmed, refined and strengthened through suffering. Their faith was like gold refined by fire. (1 Peter 1:6-9) The doctrine of suffering has not been understood or embraced by the modern western church.
Things are beginning to change. Many governments around the world are becoming like Gallio; they are not concerned about religious squabbles. They neither help nor hinder the cause of the gospel.
The storm clouds endured by the secular political climate of the early church are starting to gather again. Within a few decades things shifted from favor to neutrality. Then from neutrality to opposition. Then from opposition to oppression. Then from oppression to severe persecution. And finally from persecution to absolute intolerance, prosecution and punishment.
This trend baffles me, but it is both a biblical and historical pattern. It is time for the western church to grow up, stand up and toughen up! The sifting is already beginning. (See Luke 22:31-32) Jesus spoke about it related to Peter. God uses it for good in those who love Him.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global