Paul had ample cause to be discouraged and no doubt was, just as we have causes to be discouraged and are. But now comes the good news. At this very point, when Paul was most discouraged, God intervened in several important ways to encourage him.
1. God sent Silas and Timothy from Macedonia. One of the things that had made it difficult was that Paul had been alone. He had tried to carry on alone in Athens. Now he was trying to carry on alone in Corinth. That gets to you after a while. Sometimes we think we can carry on alone. But we cannot, at least not for very long. We need one another. That is one reason why God has given us the church, and it is why he has established a plurality of leadership in the church. Christian work is supposed to be a team effort. So, although for perfectly good reasons, Paul had gone on alone and had begun the work in Corinth alone, God knew that he did need help and therefore saw to it that Silas and Timothy came south from Macedonia to help him.
2. God undertook for Paul financially. When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia they brought help from the Macedonian churches. It is what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians when he says, “The brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed.” Who were these brothers from Macedonia? They were Silas and Timothy. This means that the churches at Philippi, Thessalonica, and perhaps at Berea too, said, “Paul is out there on his own now. I wonder how he is getting on. What if he doesn’t have enough money to live on, if he can’t even buy food to feed himself? He’ll have to go to work if that’s the case, and that will take time away from his preaching. Let’s take a collection and have Silas and Timothy take it to him.” So they sent Paul money.
I think that is the way verse 9 should be taken: “When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching.” Why? Because now he no longer had to work at tentmaking. Their financial help released him to do what he was particularly called by God to do.
3. God blessed the missionary activity. Although Paul had not had great success through his initial preaching in the synagogue, God now began to give him fruit for his efforts. We are told about Crispus: “Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord” (v. 8). Here was a Jewish believer. Crispus is not a Jewish name, but he must have been a Jew since he was the leader of the synagogue. Then in the same verse we are told, “and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.” Titius Justus, a Gentile, must have believed, too (v. 7). It had been a slow start. But now the Word of God was beginning to take effect, the Holy Spirit was blessing, and men and women—one here, two there, another one here—were beginning to place their faith in Jesus Christ. The last thing God did to encourage Paul was to speak to him, saying that there would be great blessing on the work in Corinth. Each part of what God said deserves special attention.
1. “Do not be afraid” (v. 9). What? Paul afraid? Could Paul—the one who stood up to a stoning, who had allowed himself to be beaten, who sang songs of praise while in prison in Philippi—could this man be afraid? Yes. He must have been afraid, because God does not waste words and God was telling him not to be. Paul must have been afraid because of the hostility of the Jews and because of what might happen to him again.
2. “Keep on speaking, do not be silent” (v. 9). Why these words? Speaking is what Paul did, after all. That was his calling. How could Paul do anything but keep on speaking? Obviously, he must have been tempted to stop. He might have been thinking, “This does not seem to be the way the work should get done. I have been preaching and teaching. It is not bearing fruit. Perhaps I should seek out a different methodology. Liturgical dance perhaps. Maybe I should get into popular music. Maybe I should go on television and have a talk show.” But God did not tell Paul to change his methods. The results had been meager. But God said, “Keep speaking. Keep teaching.” Why? Because God has chosen to bring men and women to Christ through His Word. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”