So there I was, reading my Bible. I was just beginning First Corinthians and I came across this strange name in the very first verse:
This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Sosthenes. (1 Corinthians 1:1 NLT)
Who is that?
So I searched that name to see if it was elsewhere in the Bible—and it taught me an incredibly valuable lesson…
My Advice on How to Read the Bible
I typically give this advice: read it fast, then slow. The idea is that for your first read through the Scriptures you should read as much as you can every time you sit down to read it.
I had a lady fully dive into that advice and she read the entire Bible in a month. It’s a big book, but it can be done if you want to put in the time. After all, we’re living in the age that binges shows on streaming platforms—we can put in the time if we really want to do something.
So, why read the Bible fast? Because it helps us get the big idea of what’s going on.
Going back to streaming, imagine I dropped you in season four episode seventeen of a TV show. How lost would you be?
Could you figure things out? Sure.
Are you missing a lot of the history of the show? Definitely.
And you can be sure you’re going to miss a lot of the connections and little references as the show moves forward.
Instead, if you want to really dig into any story—whether it’s a TV show, a book series, or the Bible—your best bet is to take in the whole thing to get the big idea, then go back and study it slowly.
So, when it comes to the Bible, read it fast then study it slowly. Get the big picture, then focus on the details. I know a guy who studied so intently that he stayed on one verse for six months—that’s right he researched the background, the history, the translation, and the meaning of one verse for half a year. Incredible!
Who Was Sosthenes?
That’s what was happening that day when I came across Sosthenes—I was focusing on the details. I could have read right over it, but I instead decided to study it. Here’s how I did the quick research and here’s how you can, too.
It was as simple as grabbing my phone, opening the Bible App, and searching for his name. In the results I had every single mention of him in Scripture. Being an odd name and a minor character, there were only two results: 1 Corinthians and Acts.
Then I went there in my Bible.
I wanted the immediate context of this verse to be included, so I went to the header that this verse is under and read the whole passage. (Note: These headers are not part of the Bible, they are simply included by the publishers to help you see how the verses group together.)
Then Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. (Acts 18:1 NLT)
Paul wrote 1 Corinthians and because he was mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:1, obviously the Corinthian church knew Sosthenes, so we’re probably in the right place and talking about the same guy.
Now, I’m going to skip a few verses for brevities’ sake, but I read the whole thing that day.
7 Then he left [the synagogue] and went to the home of Titius Justus, a Gentile who worshiped God and lived next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, and everyone in his household believed in the Lord. Many others in Corinth also heard Paul, became believers, and were baptized. 9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! 10 For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” 11 So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God. (Acts 18:7-11 NLT)
Hang with me, you need the whole setup to feel the full impact of who Sosthenes is…
12 But when Gallio became governor of Achaia, some Jews rose up together against Paul and brought him before the governor for judgment. 13 They accused Paul of “persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to our law.” 14 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. 15 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.” 16 And he threw them out of the courtroom. (Acts 18:12-16 NLT)
Here’s where Sosthenes gets name-dropped:
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)
- Paul rolls into Corinth and starts leading a bunch of Jewish people to Christ—including the leader of the synagogue, Crispus, and everyone living in his home.
- This makes the members of the synagogue that didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah really mad.
- They—the members of the synagogue and their new leader, Sosthenes—drag Paul to a Roman court.
- The court throws out the case and that’s when the synagogue leader, Sosthenes, is beaten.
Now, we don’t know what happened between Acts 18 and 1 Corinthians, but Sosthenes goes from a bitter enemy of Paul who had him arrested for preaching Jesus to becoming “our brother Sosthenes.”
So what does this mean for us? First, the Good News of Jesus changes things. Those who persecute you today may one day serve Christ alongside you. Don’t give up on people—because Jesus doesn’t give up on people.
But second, you have the tools to do this very same studying yourself. You have a Bible. You have the internet. You can discover things under the surface like this if you put in the time—it’s not just reserved for pastors and seminary professors. My friend who spent six months on one verse is a cyber-security expert, not a church staff member. Read your Bible, then study your Bible.
You won’t be disappointed.