Read 1 Corinthians 1:1-3
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The crowd then grabbed Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and beat him right there in the courtroom. But Gallio paid no attention.” (Acts 18:17, NLT)
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 286: Sosthenes. There is a bit of a mystery who Sosthenes is. In 1 Corinthians 1:1, Paul introduces him as a co-writer of the letter as well as a brother in Christ. That’s it. In Acts, there is a mention of a Sosthenes who was the Chief Ruler of the Synagogue at Corinth. In that account of Acts 18:12-17, which was discussed in part 267 of this devotion series, “The Mob”, Gallio was being pressured by an angry mob of people to punish Paul. Being the Roman Governor, Gallio did not want to get involved in religious matters and so he dismissed the case.
The angry mob then turned on their Synagogue leader, beating him instead. They, no doubt, probably felt that Sosthenes was guilty for not pushing Gallio hard enough to see Paul’s punishment through. So, as angry mobs are wont to do, they turned on their leader and beat him. Of course, Gallio did not interfere in his beating, but paid no attention to it.
Traditionally, Church Father’s and church scholars believed that this Sosthenes was the same one as the Sosthenes mentioned in 1 Corinthians. It makes sense why, given that Sosthenes was from Corinth and new the community, and being that Sosthenes was beaten for seeming sympathetic to Paul. Still, not everyone in modern Scholarship believes that the Sosthenes in 1 Corinthians is the same as the one in Acts.
Some modern scholars believe that this Sosthenes was a young Gentile man who Paul taught, a man who looks up to Paul as a teacher. These scholars reject this man, who was serving under Paul, being the leader of a Synagogue. I have not seen evidence as much as I have seen speculation and, thus, all I can say is this is a mystery that we may never have a conclusive answer on.
I am typically skeptical of modern scholarship going against tradition on a modernist whim and so, I will write on Sosthenes as if he were the same person as the Synagogue leader. A wise teacher once taught me that if there is no solid evidence against an ancient tradition, the ancient tradition should be generally believed. If such evidence exists, I will gladly change my mind, but I have yet to come across it.
What we have in Sosthenes is more proof that not all Jews were against Paul or early Christianity. Sometimes it seems to be conveyed that way. As has been discussed before, general phrases such as “the Jews” found in books such as John were really pointing to Jewish opponents, mostly Jewish religious leaders. They did not refer to the Jewish people as a whole. In fact, the author and editors of the Gospel of John were Jewish.
We can presume that this Sosthenes was not willing to put another Jew to death, even if the Jew was a follower of Jesus; thus, the mob turned on Sosthenes for not complying with their will. This was a risk that the Synagogue leader was willing to make to do what is right and, as it turned out, he became a believer and co-worker of Paul’s. The power of God is to bring love and reconciliation to all and, in Sosthenes, we see that power played out!
This should challenge us in our time. Right now, we see far too many leaders, religious and political alike, unwilling to take the risk to do what is right. Far too often, these leaders play it safe in order to hold on to power. Sosthenes challenges us to NOT do that. It is clear in the Scripture that Sosthenes’ leadership lost the confidence of the mob because he chose to do what was right. He took that risk and was willing to pay the price for it…because it was the RIGHT thing to do. Let us reflect on that and, like Sosthenes, Paul and others, put what is right over what is convenient and self-beneficial.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
False power will NEVER lead one to Almighty God.
Lord, help me to realize that without you I am powerless and that, in times of trial, it is important to surrender to what is right, rather than surrendering to the pressures of the world. Amen.