But when Gallio became governor of Achaia, some Jews rose up together against Paul and brought him before the governor for judgment. They accused Paul of “persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to our law.” But just as Paul started to make his defense, Gallio turned to Paul’s accusers and said, “Listen, you Jews, if this were a case involving some wrongdoing or a serious crime, I would have a reason to accept your case. But since it is merely a question of words and names and your Jewish law, take care of it yourselves. I refuse to judge such matters.” And he threw them out of the courtroom. The crowd then grabbed Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and beat him right there in the courtroom. But Gallio paid no attention.Acts 18:12-17
- Was Sosthenes a follower of Jesus himself? (1 Cor 1:1) Is this the same guy?
- Why would they beat up on another follower of Jesus (and/or Paul) when the case has been thrown out of court?
- Why does the governor do nothing?
Hints in the text to help you solve the confusion.
- First notice Luke tells us that the leader of synagogue who became a believer was Crispus. (18:8).
- Sosthenes here in this story is not necessarily the same Sosthenes who is mentioned in 1 Cor 1:1.
- This Sosthenes was now the leader of the synagogue in Corinth. Assumedly he has replaced Crispus.
- Luke does not mention Sosthenes as being one of those who became a believer. It is clear that Sosthenes is now the leader of the synagogue to replace Crispus.
- Who are the crowd who grabbed Sosthenes and beat him?
- Are they the same crowd as mentioned at the beginning of this encounter?
The key to understanding this passage is not to focus on Sosthenes but to focus on who this crowd is that beat up Sosthenes. It is certainly not the same crowd that dragged Paul before the Tribunal. Why would they turn around and beat up the leader of their own synagogue? It makes no sense. That is what is confusing about this.
It is more likely a crowd of citizens, Greeks and Romans who were observers of the proceedings and who then turn on these rabble-rousing Jews. They attack Sosthenes, as the leader of those who dragged Paul before the court to teach him a lesson.
- What is interesting is that Luke states clearly that Gallio does nothing about it! Why?
That would then explain why Gallio does nothing about the fact that Sosthenes is beaten in the court room. It was summary justice dispensed by the citizens of the city. It was the hard-line Jews who were so upset by Paul preaching Christ crucified and resurrected. They were pushed over the edge in hearing it and therefore lashed out. But the citizens of Corinth themselves minister street justice to the rabble rousers. Thus Gallio looks at what is happening in his court room and does nothing. I think he would have reacted if the Jewish mob had attacked one of Paul’s followers. But the fact that the leader of this band of Jews was attacked was poetic justice, so Gallio turned a blind eye.
- What was going through Paul’s mind?
- What would be going through your mind?
- What happened to the word Paul was given in the vision?
“Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.”
This makes me think of times in the past that God has given me a word of prophecy or a word of knowledge and I have thought I had it figured out what He meant. Only to realise I had assumed some things and became confused because it didn’t work out like I thought. But it was still in accord with what God told me in the beginning. Isn’t that what happened here? God told Paul he was safe and not to be afraid but to speak out and he would be fine. No one would attack him, despite the fact that the Jews are baying for blood – “for many people in this city belong to me”. We automatically think that means there are many who are followers of the Way, or People of God. But not necessarily! These ones who seemingly belong to God are those who just want to see people treated with fairness. Those who are willing to administer “street justice” when they see injustice.
God indicates in His Word what He requires.
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what the LORD requires of you – to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
So we see here an example of example of Greeks and Romans doing what God’s own people ought to have done, but can’t because they are blinded by their sense of injustice. So we see the irony of God saying many people in this city belong to me. (Gem 1741). Sometimes it surprises us who God uses. A puzzling passage which confuses us becomes clear when we have all the pieces rightly aligned.
For Compassion to be biblical and practical, it has to take us into boldness. If it doesn’t, it leaves us closer to sympathy.Randy Clarke
Impossible is just an opinion.Anon
The mind replays what the heart can’t delete.Ian Vail
Just because things aren’t going the way you planned doesn’t mean they aren’t going the way they should.Ian Vail
Your life is short. You have no clue when this ride will end. Stay present and live fearlessly.Rick Godwin