The name Sosthenes is mentioned twice in the New Testament. Once in Acts, referring to a Jewish leader who tried to silence the gospel, and later in 1 Corinthians, as a companion and co-worker of the apostle Paul in spreading the gospel.
There are times when unexpected names pop up in scripture that make us scratch our heads or shrug our shoulders and move on – regardless of what order you read in the Bible in. But all of scripture is God-breathed and useful (2 Tim 3:16), including unusual (or seemingly random) names.
The name Sosthenes means “powerful Savior.” Let’s take a closer look at the two separate mentions of a man (or men) named Sosthenes in the New Testament. We can’t be sure if these two mentions refer to the same man, but it is possible—and they may be more relevant than you think!
Mentions of Sosthenes in The Bible
Let’s set the scene for the introduction of Sosthenes in The Bible. Paul, the apostle, had been preaching to the Jews in Corinth about Jesus being the Messiah, and they had rejected the truth (Acts 18:6). There were some converts though. In fact, Crispus (the ruler of the synagogue) and his whole household trusted in Jesus (Acts 18:8).
The Lord told Paul in a dream to stay and keep preaching (Acts 18:9-10). So Paul shared the gospel with the Gentiles (non-Jews) and continued his work in Corinth for 18 months.
Then, the Jews, who were still sick of Paul and his preaching, decided to accuse him before the Roman ruler, Gallio, of being a law-breaker. But Gallio wasn’t interested in matters of the Jewish religion and as a result, dismissed the case. Sosthenes (the new ruler of the synagogue) was taken and beaten up—either by the frustrated Jews he led, or the Greeks for disrupting the peace.
Acts 18:17a (ESV) And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal.
Were There Two Sosthenes in the Bible?
Now Sosthenes was not an uncommon name at the time of the early church, so we can’t be sure if the next mention refers to the same man or not. Let’s take a look. We see Paul mention Sosthenes right at the beginning of his letter to the Corinthian church—the church that was made up of the Gentiles and converted Jews mentioned in Acts.
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God that is in Corinth…1 Cor 1:1-2a (ESV)
Is it possible that the man who tried to silence the gospel, became a servant of the Lord Jesus and a friend of the church? Yes! The gospel redeems and transforms lives! It moves you from being an enemy of God to a friend of God, and into union with Christ.
Do you remember how Paul went from being a zealous Jew and persecutor of the church to a Christian minister after placing his trust in Christ (Acts 9:20-22)? That’s what the gospel does. That’s what God does. That’s why Jesus died for us.
Colossians 1:21-22 (ESV) And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.
Which “Sosthenes” Are You?
There are two types of people in this world: the “Sosthenes” of Acts and the “Sosthenes” of 1 Corinthians.
The first Sosthenes (in Acts) heard the Gospel and rejected it. The second Sosthenes (in 1 Corinthians) embraced salvation and set to work serving The Lord. There is no neutral position with God. You are either for God or against Him.
If you’ve heard the truth about who Jesus is, why He came, and how you can be reconciled to God the Father through His death—you have a choice to make, Beloved. Will you reject Him, or embrace Him?