“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, through or by the will of God.” And we stop there. “and Sosthenes, our brother.”
Paul had a rough time of it in Greece. He had landed in Neapolis from Asia Minor after hearing and obeying the call to come into Macedonia and help us. Acts 16:9. He didn’t stop to think of the cost or the consequences. He wasn’t deterred by the religious fanaticism by his fellow countrymen, or the military might of the Romans, or the rationalism of the Greeks. He had submerged his will to the will of God with regard to his own salvation and life’s vocation. He was willing to go anywhere where the eternal will of God called him.
That is the true missionary spirit, without which no man can serve God acceptable. Paul might have been discouraged by what happened to him in Greece from the port of Neapolis, the present city of Kavala. He had gone about ten miles to the famous city of Philippi. There, the result of his preaching was imprisonment for himself and Silas. Yet, far from being downhearted, they sang in jail. God performed a miracle through an earthquake, liberating them and at the same time saving the Philippian jailer.
As Paul was leaving this man and his family, now Christian believers, he must have reflected that imprisonment was indeed worthwhile. He may have even praised the Lord for the earthquake. What seemed calamitous to some people can be used of God to accomplish His plan for others, perhaps even you.
Paul then proceeded to the city of Thessalonica, where as a result of his witness he had to escape for his life. From there he went to Berea where he rejoiced to find some diligent students of the Old Testament Scriptures. Then he took a boat to the port city of Athens, Piraeus.
He walked up to the very seat of the world’s learning, the Acropolis, where on Mars Hill he delivered his famous address. Philosophers ridiculed him, but he was undaunted. He proceeded some 50 miles south to the Roman world most sinful city, Corinth. He believed that where sin abounded, grace would much more abound, and he was going to put it to the test now in a city so vile that they called prostitutes priestesses, and even built a temple in their honor.
Paul was not sent to Corinth by any church or missionary society, he went there prompted by the Spirit of God. He worked for his living, and stayed with fellow believers and craftsmen, Priscilla and Aquila. On Saturdays he went to the synagogue to preach the gospel. When he declared that Jesus was the Christ, Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, a Roman convert to Judaism, threw him out.
Next door to the synagogue lived a God-fearing man by the name of Justus, who invited Paul to start preaching in his house. Perhaps while Paul was preaching in the house of Justus, Crispus could hear him next door through the open windows. However, it may be, the Gospel won out.
You see, in each instance it was not because of the will of man, but in spite of man’s initial opposition that the gospel triumphed. Crispus received Christ. He was baptized, and others with him. You can well imagine the uproar in Corinth when it was learned that the man who had excommunicated Paul had now become a believer in Christ. Crispus too was undoubtedly excommunicated from the synagogue.
Another man, apparently a Greek convert to Judaism by the name of Sosthenes, and you find his name only in 1 Corinthians 1:1.
“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God, and Sosthenes, our brother.”
Now you also find the name of Sosthenes also in Acts 18:17. It describes the coming of Paul to Corinth. So he, Sosthenes, was a Greek convert to Judaism and he seems to have been elected to replace Crispus as the chief ruler of the synagogue when Crispus was excommunicated after becoming a believer in Jesus Christ.
A tougher man than Crispus, Sosthenes vowed to put an end to the preaching of Paul. He hailed him to court to what they called the judgment seat, the bēma, which can be seen in Corinth today. There, Sosthenes brought his trumped accusations before the Roman governor Galieo. He, being a just man, rejected these accusations and dismissed the case.
But strangely enough, some Greeks who were present at the trial, though not apparently Christians, were outraged at the injustices heaped on Paul by his own countrymen. When Sosthenes came out of court, they began beating him unmercifully. Paul, of course, had nothing to do with this punitive act. That great apostle of love could not have remained indifferent while watching this scene. If we have any understanding of Paul’s personality, he must have interfered on Sosthenes behalf assuring him that he [Paul] was not the one who had put the Greeks up to it.
I can well imagine those loving arms of Paul being thrown around his persecutor and hearing him say to him,
“Sosthenes, I love you. I too persecuted the Lord Jesus Christ and His followers. But now I am His apostle. Not by my own will, but by the will of God. And I will lay down my life for Him. Sosthenes, you too can be saved the same way, even though you are trying to put me in jail, I love you. The day will come when I shall call you my brother in the Lord.”
Well, then the day comes when Sosthenes too accepts the Lord. And Paul was writing the Corinthians from Ephesus a few years later, and in the beginning of his letter he called Sosthenes “the brother”. By so designating him, it was if he was saying at the start that love never fails.
It can accomplish that nothing else can. Paul wanted the Corinthians to realize that their former persecutor was now “the brother”. “All other false” is the exact translation of the Greek. Sosthenes, of course, should not be considered the co-writer of this epistle with Paul, his name is followed by the designation of brother merely to demonstrate to the Corinthians the power of the gospel in their midst.
He was the brother….to the Corinthians and to him an example of the power of God to save unto the uttermost.
You’ve got to affirm the power of the gospel if you’re going to preach it with power. You’ll only fight onto victory if you believe victory is possible.
Said an archbishop to the manager of an acting group:
“Tell me, how is it that you actor should the attention of your audience so vividly, that you cause them to think of things imaginary as if they we were real, while we as the church speak of things that are real, but our congregations take them as imaginary?”
“The reason is plain,” said the actor. “We actor speak of things imaginary as if they were real, while too many in the pulpit speak of things real as if they were imaginary.”
No wonder much preaching is both uninteresting and worthless. It was said of one famous old preacher, “He showed us the fires of hell and then he swept our souls up to the gates of heaven.”
When you talk about Christ, you have to believe in the transforming power of the gospel if you expect to convince anyone else of its power to save.