(Article for publication week of 1-5-2011 AD)
"Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘be not afraid, but speak and hold not thy peace: for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city ’ " (Acts 18:9,10).
When the Apostle Paul first went to the city of Corinth to preach the gospel to every creature, the situation did not look very hopeful. The inhabitants of the city of Corinth were so vile and perverted that when a person was noted for his lewdness, he would be called a Corinthian. Corinth was as vile as any of the wicked cities here in Mississippi. There were only a very few that initially responded in faith to the gospel that Paul preached. But the Lord encouraged the heart of Paul with these words, “I have much people in this city.”
This is a statement that makes no sense to you unless you know and believe the Biblical doctrine of election. Even while they were in a state of unbelief and living in the grossest of sins, God declared “I have much people in this city.” They were the Lord’s people from before the foundation of the world. The sovereign decree of election had made them, and every heir of promise, the Lord’s people from all eternity. They were the Lord’s for God had justified them in eternity. And they were His for Christ stood as their Surety from all eternity and His saving work was an effective act in the mind and purpose of God eternally (I Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8).
Believer, did you know you were the Lord’s even before you believed in Christ? According to my text, you were. Even before you repented of your sins, and flew to Christ, you were one of the Lord’s. He has loved you with an everlasting love and made you His by sovereign grace.
Now, even though God confirmed to Paul that He had much people in the city of Corinth, Paul did not know who they were until they were converted. Although salvation is sure to God from all eternity, it is not sure to any of us until we have repented of our sins and believed in Christ, the Only Saviour of sinners. As we saw in last week’s message, “as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). Dear reader, entertain no hope of being one of God’s elect unless you are trusting in Christ Alone for your salvation. The sovereign decree of election has ordered that “They must come” (John 6:37a), but YOU MUST COME (John 6:37b).
Finally, our text teaches us to be hopeful in the day in which we live. We live in a culture as vile as Corinth. Our neighbors are, for the most part, as lost as the Corinthians. But the Lord still has His people. Let us preach and pray that God will call out His elect here in Mississippi and that it may be known that God has much people here.