Whispers of a Bigger Story


From a message delivered at a National Office chapel on March 15, 2019

Hidden within the pages of our holy text are little nuggets that contain God’s whispering voice.

One such story begins when the apostle Paul plants the Church of Corinth. As often happened for Paul, tension arises around him. Eventually, his opponents bring him to the Roman court where Gallio presided. They accuse Paul of preaching a message contrary to the Jewish law and demand something be done about it. But before Paul can defend himself, Gallio speaks up, “If you Jews were dealing with something of significance, like a felony under the Roman law, I’d deal with it. But since you’re dealing with matters of your own religion, I’m not taking this case.” (See Acts 18:14-16.)

The next moment is often overlooked. Paul’s accusers then turn on the synagogue leader, Sosthenes, and give him a public beating. The text says that Gallio “showed no concern whatever” (Acts 18:17). He lets them do whatever they please. Sosthenes pays the price for their anger and no one cares. End of story.

Or, maybe not.

We find the name Sosthenes once more, in another verse that is often overlooked. In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul opens with these words, “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes” (1 Cor. 1:1).

Now, we can’t prove this is the same Acts 18 Sosthenes—but there is evidence to support that it is. I love the probable story that arises: what we thought was just a bad end—an innocent man getting beaten up while nobody cared—ends up being a fascinating “God’s not done with the story” story. Here’s Sosthenes, standing at Paul’s side as his aide. It’s possible that the educated former synagogue ruler served as the scribe who recorded the dictation of Paul’s teaching and hand-wrote the letter we still have in our Bibles today.

I can’t prove that—but I do know this: Sometimes we think we’ve come to an end of a story. But, no—take a closer look. Tucked away there’s a little hint that God’s still at work in a bigger way, a whisper that there’s still a bigger story being written. Maybe you and I have what feels like an end-of-chapter, closed story right now. No, no—look a little closer. Listen for some whispers of the Spirit.

We’ve certainly seen this in the Alliance family, in times when we thought a story was over. Seven martyrs in Vietnam . . . war . . . evacuation. Now there are 1.1 million believers in Jesus in that country. We could tell those stories the world over. But I’m curious about where it’s true in your life as well. It might look like the end of a bad chapter—but look a little closer. It might not be over.

John Stumbo

President, U.S. Alliance

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