Fear and Trembling in Corinth

by | Jul 2, 2023 | Podcast, Sermons

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Preacher: Pastor David Ball

Scripture: Acts 18:1-17

Weakness, Fear, and Anxiety are all a part of the human condition. We all experience them on almost a daily basis. While weakness, fear, and anxiety seem like things we must overcome in our lives, could it be that they are sign post that are pointing us in the right direction? That is exactly what they were for the Apostle Paul. They drove him to the grace of God in His Son Jesus Christ, just as they are meant to drive us to throne of God grace today.


Heavenly Father we do thank you for these ancient words you’ve come now by the power of your Holy Spirit draw us to the throne of grace we might find help and mercy in our time of and Jesus we pray all this in your mighty name amen you may be seated well it’s good to be back with you after being away the the past two weeks of feeling a little uh a little rusty which hopefully will get knocked off here uh pretty soon you know as we continue in this act series we have something today that’s a little different um and because it’s not something we always get to see especially in The Narrative of the acts account uh we you know acts Luke gives us for the most part the the events that are happening and what what’s going on and what happens as Paul continues in this missional journey and you know some of the things we can kind of can be misleading is we read these things we’re like well this is just one success after another like you know this he must have felt incredible and strong and uh and Invincible maybe not Invincible but you know like he he must have felt just this way all the time full of confidence and hope always and I think we can we can miss because we don’t always get a picture or we’re not always told what’s actually going on in the heart of Paul or any of these other folks of this of the early church on these missionary Journeys but today we do get a glimpse uh into what’s going on in the heart of Paul unfortunately it’s not in in the acts reading but in his letter to the Corinthians he tells us what was actually happening in his own heart uh during this time and we see it in First Corinthians chapter 2 verse 2 and 3. and this is what it tells us Paul says for I decided to know nothing among you except Christ Jesus and him crucified

and here’s where he tells what was going on inside of him and I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling yeah I don’t think that’s the the picture we normally get of Paul in these situations do we like we we see The Bold and The Powerful and the strong the uh the the one who’s calling out even his fellow Apostles uh for for not being consistent and being Hypocrites we see him as kind of this this mountain of an example of faith and uh and the steadfastness and that nothing must have ever been too hard for him but that’s not what he’s telling us here he’s saying that in his own heart when he went to the Corinthians uh he was in weakness he was in fear and he was in great trembling now the weakness it means that uh that word weakness it means that there was a weakness weakening influence of a particular problem that he was dealing with so there was something going on that was so daunting and took so much energy that it left him completely weakened by it and to fear means to to withdraw because of a feeling of inadequacy you know running in fear I mean that’s what it means right you you run in fear because uh because of what you see you don’t believe you have the you’re adequate enough to deal with the situation and so Paul’s telling us that he was in fear he felt incredibly inadequate to be able to handle what was going on in this moment in Corinth and then finally trembling trembling it means not just to sit there and Quake I mean quaking’s kind of the the outward invisible sign of it but it means a a a quaking that’s brought on by an anxiety of one who distrusts his ability to completely meet all the requirements around him

so Paul was not only uh weak because he didn’t feel like he could handle the particular problem he he will had feelings of withdrawing from it completely because of his own inadequacy and he had this anxiety this deep anxiety because he didn’t trust himself to be able to handle everything that was would be required for this mission to reach the people of Corinth this is incredibly contrary to I think what we usually think and what we’re we picture about Paul uh Paul’s experienced opposition we we’ve read all about that in the weeks before he’s faced suffering physical abuse imprisonment

but why weak in fear and trembling now he’s faced it all what is it about this moment

what is it about Corinth well we’re going to look at what it is about Corinth that has him in this this state of uh of weakness and fear and and trembling uh but I think this is something we can all relate to I I think we feel we feel the same way about so many things on a daily level in our lives but especially when it comes to sharing our faith with others don’t we you know there’s a reason we don’t do it and and the reason we don’t do it is because we feel weak completely inadequate don’t have the ability we have a fear of inadequacy or if we do it that it’s going to make us feel inadequate and we have that sense of uh of anxiety that that we don’t have what it takes to be able to live up to all the requirements that it’s going to take to be able to just share our faith with someone else and to help them come to know the Lord this applies especially to that in this context as Paul’s going into the mission field but I think it applies to every situation and challenge that we’re facing uh in our lives but what was it what what was it about Corinth that made it so challenging to Paul who’d faced all these other these other challenges that lived through him he had even been beaten up left for dead and went back into the city but yet this one has got him well this is what we know about Corinth Corinth by ancient standards was a huge City this was the the capital of the the province of Ikea and it was huge about 750 000 people one of one of the largest cities in the ancient world uh and uh and what Corinth was known for was of being a commercial epicenter people of business and of trade and commerce these were some powerful people who had incredible influence you know uh korres was located on that very narrow land bridge only about three miles wide the connected the peloponnese peninsula with the the mainland of of Greece to the north and so for that reason Goods would come into the port and they could take them uh they could take them along that three mile and it would save them from having to go all the way around and so everything was coming through there and that meant money was flowing uh that means people were getting uh the smart and the the successful were uh were incredibly uh were incredibly successful at what they were doing and so that result is is core does this major epicenter of Commerce and finance and Paul found that intimidating incredibly intimidating because within that there was a strong sense of Pride among the Corinthian people with their own wealth with their own sophistication their culture their business you know in the ancient world they were really kind of four uh big cities that all were known for for something in particular we’ve been through uh much of them uh for for Corinth it was this uh it was this pride of wealth and sophistication and culture and Finance in Athens it was that intellectual you know that they were known for their intellectualism and education and Ephesus was kind of like a cultural and religious uh World there that was kind of the epicenter of things that drove uh how the people thought how they acted Rome uh is is the place of governance right it’s like the Washington DC all have their the particular challenges of what Paul’s facing but here the pride that he was facing among these very wealthy sophisticated High culture Business Class People was intimidating to him it filled them with weakness and fear and even trembling to be able to to be able to preach the gospel into the midst of them think about he’s preaching a gospel that requires humility a gospel that’s calling us uh not to be strong on our own but to be weak calling us not to try to to make life for ourselves it’s saying come and die to yourself and so he’s speaking it directly into the stronghold of the pride of the Corinthian people and he felt it he felt the burden and he felt the fear the anxiety the the trembling but also like many major commercial centers even today right uh places that are known for for business and wealth Court was also famous for its corruption uh and its immorality uh classic uh the classic Greek word for fornication is actually Corinthian corinthianize they took the word itself from the Corinthian people uh at the the center of kind of the worship life and and Corinth was the temple to Aphrodite the Goddess of love and as part of that uh that Temple they had a thousand female slaves and there’s thousands female slaves were sent out to Rome the streets as prostitutes and so this was a this was a terrible place in that sense there was a deep oppression and there was this incredible immorality it man ran right but in the city and Paul’s here preaching this Gospel of humility and of holiness of the turn from this life that you’re living and turn towards the Living God calling people out of darkness and into his life

you can imagine how why he’s feeling the fear the trembling the weakness it’s taunting what he’s facing I know you can relate to this you know I I I you know since this myself each Sunday just just preaching and you guys aren’t half as bad

or so we think right or so we think right thank you but it’s something I do feel I feel incredibly when you’re opening the Lord word you feel you feel completely inadequate there’s this fear and there’s this anxiety that I don’t know how to do it I can’t I can’t do it

you know when we feel fear it literally means that we feel like we don’t have the resource to face what’s in front of us we’re doubting that what we have is enough to accomplish the task we don’t trust that we’re actually what we’re what we’ve been trusting in and putting our faith in has the power or the ability to actually help us in that moment and that’s what Paul was feeling and that’s what we feel when we’re filled with weakness uh and with fear and with anxiety that’s what Paul was feeling in Corinth

about the people in it but in verse 9 in the midst of that feeling because we don’t get the feeling it acts right and the acts we get the narrative all that happened and God worked through it all and through Paul and wonderful things happen but I just think it’s important to look at the heart of what was going on in him uh in the midst of it all in verse 9

this is what the Lord did for Paul 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 his incredibly gracious word that God gave to Paul do not be afraid I’m with you keep going don’t stop keep speaking don’t be silent because I am with you and I have many in this city who are with me as well and it gave Paul incredible uh incredible confidence it gave him the what he needed to be able to go on you know Paul went boldly on to proclaim the gospel he was even brought before the pro console we read about but God was with him God even used that Pro Council right to protect Paul the uh to vindicate him it was an important moment actually because not only was the pro Council supporting Paul what he was doing was he was validating Christianity he didn’t realize he was doing that but uh but the Jews wanted to say this Christianity isn’t really a part of of who we are this isn’t it but when he looked at it all he said this is your problem this is a this is an estate problem this is y’all’s problem to work out and so he was validating in Roman law the Christian faith and you know you might be saying you know I I feel that you know I I feel that fear I feel that trembling I I I fear I feel weak all the time when it comes to sharing my faith or in facing and things that I’m going through in my life and you might say you know you know that’s great for Paul but God hasn’t given me a vision he hasn’t reassured my heart he hasn’t given me that kind of confidence because if I got a vision you know then I’d be good then I’d be good you know at least that’s what I can think but has God really not given us a vision has God really not spoken into this into our own lives well Genesis 26 24 God said to Isaac I am the god of Abraham your father fear not for I Am With You Genesis 46 God spoke these words to Joseph I am God the god of your father do not be afraid but go down to Egypt Brian will make you a great nation I myself will go down with you and I will bring you up again in Joshua 11 6. God spoke to uh to Joshua do not be afraid of them of the Canaanites for tomorrow I will give you over I’ll give them all over to Israel and First Chronicles 28 David said in a prophetic word to his son Solomon be strong and courageous and do it do not be afraid do not be dismayed for the Lord God is with you he will not leave you or forsake you how about Jeremiah 1 8 God declared through his Prophet Jeremiah do not be afraid of them for I am with you to deliver you says the Lord God has given his testimony and his vision to us in his word over and over and over again

and Jesus himself what did he tell us what did he tell us he says I am with you always to the very end of the age you know I think we don’t have we can’t get off on the idea that that God hasn’t given us the vision God’s given us his ultimate vision for us his ultimate testimony to encourage us and to assure us that we can trust in his promises

that the fear and the weakness and the anxiety are actually pointing us back to him

the fear and the the anxiety the weakness is actually the fuel believe it or not it’s actually the fuel that fires the engine of Gospel Mission because they draw us away from ourselves and our own strength and doing things by our own Charisma or our own wisdom speaking with flattering words to people things that aren’t really true and they point us towards the almighty Sovereign God of all of creation let’s look at what each of these what Paul says about them in other places first in weakness about weaknesses in second Corinthians 9

or first second Corinthians chapter 12 verses 9 to 10. Paul says this about weakness but God said to me my grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect and weakness therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness so that the power of Christ May rest upon me for the sake of Christ then I am content with weakness insults hardships persecutions and calamities for when I am weak then I am strong our weakness

it’s just waiting us so that we are insufficient within ourselves that we can’t do it on our own and it points us to the sufficiency of God’s grace for you and for me in our weakness we’re aware of our need our desperate need for Christ and our weakness the power of Christ then comes and works in us and makes us strong you know doesn’t it most of the time work when I’m feeling pretty strong and confident and what’s going on I don’t need Christ and I don’t even look to him I do things in my own power I make decisions that I think are best but when I’m weak and I know I’m weak when I know I can’t face it when what is in front of me is so daunting that I know I’m inadequate that’s what I turned to the grace of God and his son Jesus Christ I receive his love for me anew that I can’t do it on my own her weakness actually fuels us to Christ and to his grace and to rely on him how about fear in Romans 8 verse 15. this is what Paul says about fear for you did not receive the spirit of Slavery to fall back into fear but you have received the spirit of adoption as Sons by whom we cry Abba Father our fear you know what it really just exposes in US it exposes just the the surface deep level of our faith that we don’t really trust God that we don’t really believe him it exposes our unbelief and what it exposes in our unbelief is our own self-reliance but even then when the fear comes and when we experience it we recognize it it’s pointing us back it’s pointing us back to who we really are our true identity in Christ as adopted Sons and Daughters of God with who have been given the right to cry out Abba Father to call God our loving daddy fear makes us aware and brings us back to who we really are how about the trembling that anxiety that we feel that we all feel Philippians 4 6 Paul wrote do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with Thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God again when we’re feeling that anxiety that anxiety drives us to prayer to Thanksgiving to actually ask God for the things that we need I mean it is a sorry state of my heart I know and I’m sure it is of ours that when things are going great when I’m not feeling that anxiety my first reaction isn’t what it should be to pray or to realize that I need God’s help that I can’t do this on my own that I am inadequate in every way to fulfill what’s required to get this done and to do what’s before me I had a an event that was going on a couple weeks ago that was that had me so in this state that all I wanted to do was run away you know we’ll just go you know go bury yourself somewhere you know just just don’t exist anymore I don’t I don’t want to be in this situation I was feeling I was feeling that kind of of anxiety about it but that anxiety had this power in me to drive me to the Cross to drive me to Christ to actually opened up a midday prayer I don’t always do the midday Prayer I confess and our Anglican prayer book uh but it drove me to it drove me to the midday prayer because it happened to be midday when I was really feeling this high anxiety and it drove me to prayer and defined in him a helper and I forgotten was even there

anxiety is the fuel that drives us to prayer so often

friends fear the weakness

the anxiety it’s not something that any of us want it’s not something that any of us desire but they’re there for a reason and the reason they’re there is to drive us to the grace of God and a son Jesus Christ for us that he is sufficient that we are weak but in him we are strong they the fear drives us to remind us who we really are that the spirit of fear we’ve fallen into isn’t the reality the reality is that in Christ by his death and by his resurrection and faith in him that we are Sons and Daughters of God that he loves us that he’s given this this incredible position that’s who we are and that he is with us always in the midst of our anxiety it drives us to prayer into the cross and so what I want to say in the end here is not to dismiss them not to dismiss the the fear and the weakness and the anxiety of something that’s just undesirable and something that we have to just wish away or do away with use them for what they’re meant to be to drive you to Jesus

may drive us to him the power of His Holy Spirit we pray Heavenly Father we are weak we are afraid and we are anxious people about so many things so many things that we’re facing that we don’t want to be facing Lord but the truth is those things just expose where our hearts really are that we aren’t trusting in you that we’re relying on our own strength

Lord holy spirit will you help us that when we are filled with this uh this weakness and fear and anxiety that you would use it to drive us to you and to cling to your promises to know that you are with us always to the very end of the age that we are not alone that we might find our strength not in ourselves but in your gospel of grace alone

will you especially we pray Holy Spirit free us to share the faith that we have with those around us to not allow the fear and the weakness and the anxiety to keep us I’m continuing to speak but to hear that those words that you spoke to Paul think do not be afraid but keep speaking never be silent

you may you use us in our weakness and our Frailty to reach others with the light of your gospel of grace and Jesus may you receive all the honor and Glory amen




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