Damariscotta Baptist Church
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

09/18/16 Sermon - In Corinth

 “In Corinth”

Acts 18:1-17 

Paul is getting close to the end of his second missionary journey. Last week we read about his time in Athens where he spent time waiting for his friends Silas and Timothy to catch up with him. He was invited to share his beliefs at the Aeropagus but it turned out when he started talking about the resurrection, many of the intellects mocked him. Although some did join him Paul decided he had to be on his way. He sailed to Corinth. While there, like every other place he had been, on the Sabbaths you would find him at the synagogue sharing the gospel with both Jews and Greeks.

The city of Corinth was in great need of evangelizing. At this point in history it was a major city of the Roman Empire and served as an important crossroads of trade and travel. Corinth had two harbors which rivaled Athens for its commercial ventures. This also lent itself to being a haven for hedonism and immorality. Corinth was known for its loose living and especially for its rampant sexual immorality.

If you were to study classical Greek you would learn that to “act like a Corinthian” meant you practiced fornication and a “Corinthian companion” would have been another name for a prostitute. This was attributed to the worship of Aphrodite, also known as Venus, the goddess of fertility and sexuality.

This historical information is significant to understand as it was when Paul was in Corinth, that he wrote his letter to the Romans. So when you read in Romans 1:22-32, of his description of the Gentile corruption you can begin to understand what he was writing about.

But rather than leave Corinth because of the filth around him, Paul understood that because people from all over the Empire traveled through this city, if there was a strong church living there, the gospel would be heard by those people and taken home.

What an opportune situation!

It doesn’t take Paul long to find others who are like him. He becomes acquainted with a Jewish couple, Aguila and Priscilla and they start working together. It turns out they had a great deal in common. Not only were they all Jewish, Roman citizens, they were also tentmakers. Tentmaking had become an important part of Paul’s ministry. He had learned the trade when he was studying during his Jewish training. It was custom in Judaism for scribes and rabbis not to receive payment for their teaching so they also needed a job while they studied and taught the law.

Even today, missionaries are called, “tentmakers” if they are working to help pay for their ability to be serving God on the mission field.

Eventually Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia. They brought Paul news from the Christians in Thessalonica of how they were keeping up in the faith, which Paul recorded at this time, in his first letter to the Thessalonians.

While in Corinth Paul continued to receive news from the previous churches he had planted. Paul recorded some of this information in  2 Corinthians 11:8-9. Paul writes that while he was in Corinth, the Christians in Philippi sent him money so he was able to stop tentmaking for a while and spend more time building up the church in Corinth.

Paul had a strong desire to minister to the Jewish believers. However, while his friends and he were testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, for whom they had been waiting, the Jews opposed them.

Paul did not want to waste his time so he shook his garments and told them they would have to live with their beliefs, and he was done sharing the good news to the Jews, he was going to take the Message to the Gentiles. He left the synagogue and walked in to a Gentiles house, whose name was Justus, who lived next door to the synagogue.

Fairly dramatic, but it resulted in Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue coming to Christ, he and his household. We are also told in 1 Corinthians 1:14, that Crispus was one of the few in Corinth whom Paul personally baptized and if you continue reading in 1 Corinthians Paul writes about what kind of people were being baptized in Corinth at the time, chapter 1, verse 27;

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,  so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Paul was writing encouragements to those in Corinth, but God was sending special encouragements to Paul. Late in the night the Lord spoke to Paul by a vision, Acts 18:9-10; “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”

This must have been a real encouragement because Paul ended up staying in Corinth for a year and a half. This was about half of the time Paul took to make his entire second missionary journey.

Before we take a closer look at this message from God to Paul, I think it is important to note that this was Paul’s message, given at a particular time for a particular purpose. Therefore, we cannot take it out of its context and start claiming it for ourselves. However, I do think we can learn from the principles it contains.

The first thing God says to Paul is, “Do not be afraid.”

This implicates that Paul was indeed, afraid, or God wouldn’t have had to tell him not to be. We don’t often think of Paul being afraid. If you asked theologians for adjectives for Paul, being afraid probably wouldn’t be on their lists.

What was causing Paul to have fear?

First I think we have to ask what was Paul’s desire?

Paul’s biggest fear was that his work would be stopped by the opposing Jews like it had been done before in Thessalonica and Berea or by the secularism that was so prolific in the city.

How often are we stopped from doing what the Lord would call us to do by those things around us that oppose what we do, often we are stopped by what we “think” others will say or think. Often those around us are not actually directly opposed but they are caught up in the world’s view of things rather than focused on what God sees as important?

God not only told Peter what not to do, but He also told him what to do.

What Paul needed to do was to obey His command not to be afraid, and to “speak and not keep silent”. In other words, Paul was to keep sharing the Word of God. Silence was not an option.

Paul wrote to the Romans, chapter 10, verse 17;  Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

If Paul gives in to all of the unwelcome things around him then the word of Christ doesn’t get said, and if Paul, or someone doesn’t say the word, it won’t get heard and then faith will not come. Notice it is not Paul that needs to be heard, but the Word of God that needs to be heard. The Word of God must continue to be shared and heard so that those who are lost can be saved.

In this vision, God not only tells Paul what he shouldn’t do and what he should do, He also gives Paul the basis for why He can command it.

Paul can choose not to be afraid and to keep sharing the gospel because God has promised that Paul is not alone, God stated, “I am with you.”

Let’s face it, when you understand what that statement really means, to have God with you, and exactly who is saying it, you should need no other reassurance.

But not only does God promise Paul that He is with him, he also reminds Paul that he is not in Corinth as a lone soldier. God reminds him that there are many believers in the city. Based on what we have heard about the livelihood of the city and the things Paul has been up against, it is no wonder Paul could have been discouraged and wondered if he was the only believer out there.

That resonates with what is happening today in our own time and place. We don’t hear much about what God is doing on our social media today. God things are not being proclaimed on television or in the papers. Not because God things aren’t happening, but mainly because it doesn’t sell papers or make high ratings for newscasts. Therefore, we often feel like we are lone rangers and then find it difficult to keep speaking the truth.

This vision must have been significant in Paul’s life because he manages to stay in Corinth longer than in any other place in his ministry. Probably one of the “worst” places on earth he could have been, but one of the most significant, in need of God’s word and love.

Somehow, we think that if God is in something than there should be no trouble. We get angry with God when difficulties come as if we think we should be above difficulties. When, not at any time, does God assure Paul things are going to be easy without bumps in the road.

As the next thing we read, is that the Jews of Corinth attempt, unsuccessfully I may add, to convict Paul before the civil authorities.

The Jews want to get rid of Paul, but they don’t want to look “bad” in front of the people so they decide to take Paul to the judgement seat of Gallio, the proconsul of Corinth.

Should Paul be convicted there, he would not only be kicked out of Corinth, he would have had to leave the entire province. They attempt to convict Paul of persuading others to worship God in ways that were against the Jewish law.

Should Gallio agree with the Jewish leaders, a precedent would have been established. So if Paul were to go to another province they would have had to convict Paul as well. However, the Jewish leader’s plan backfires, because Gallio chooses to do nothing, and by doing nothing Christianity was seen as an “approved religion” rather than being banned.  

Paul was ready with a rebuttal, but he doesn’t need it, because Gallio was not swayed and was not going to be used by the Jewish leaders to do their dirty work. Nothing comes of the Jewish attempt to convict Paul, but the townspeople aren’t impressed with the actions of the Jewish leaders so they manage to beat Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, probably not so much because they are sympathetic to Paul, but more likely because they were anti-Jewish. Either way, it turns out that Sosthenes follows his predecessor, Crispus and later becomes a Christian, as it was written in 1 Corinthians 1:1.

The attempts to remove Christianity from being a part of daily life continue today. Our Western world has definitely changed from being Christian to becoming more “worldly”. As the world seems to become more secular and ungodly we find ourselves in quite the same predicament as Paul, while in Corinth.

We need a vision of our own from God.

Until we receive one, we can borrow Paul’s.

Ø  Do not be afraid

Ø       Speak and do not be silent

Ø       God is with us

Ø       No one will attack you to hurt you

Ø       God has many people in this city

 Greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world. 1 John 4:4

Let’s pray.