Church at Corinth

INTRODUCTION: The city of Corinth had a firm civil government, and a mixed population of Gentiles and Jews when Paul first arrived there from Athens. He met a Jewish couple, Aquila and Priscilla, who had recently come from Italy. Paul lived with them and they worked in the same trade as tent makers. Paul went to the Synagogue each Sabbath and used scripture to prove that Jesus is the promised Messiah, but only some who heard, accepted the truth. After a short time, Paul taught the believing Jews and Gentiles in a location separate from the Synagogue, and he continued teaching at Corinth for a year and six months. Some years later he returned to Corinth during the period known as his third missionary journey, but had to change his plans to leave by ship when his personal safety was threatened.

NOTE: All scripture is from the 1964 Bible in Basic English.


A - FROM ATHENS TO CORINTH

Acts 18 "1 After these things, he went away from Athens, and came to Corinth. 2 And there he came across a certain Jew named Aquila, a man of Pontus by birth, who not long before had come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had given orders that all Jews were to go away from Rome: and he came to them; 3 And because he was of the same trade, he was living with them, and they did their work together; for by trade they were tent-makers. 4 And every Sabbath he had discussions in the Synagogue, turning Jews and Greeks to the faith. 5 And when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul was completely given up to the word, preaching to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they put themselves against him, and said evil words, he said, shaking his clothing, Your blood be on your heads, I am clean: from now I will go to the Gentiles. 7 And moving from there, he went into the house of a man named Titus Justus, a God-fearing man, whose house was very near the Synagogue. 8 And Crispus, the ruler of the Synagogue, with all his family, had faith in the Lord; and a great number of the people of Corinth, hearing the word, had faith and were given baptism. 9 And the Lord said to Paul in the night, in a vision, Have no fear and go on preaching: 10 For I am with you, and no one will make an attack on you to do you damage: for I have a number of people in this town. 11 And he was there for a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them."

COMMENTS: Corinth was another area outside of Israel where Jews settled after their dispersion through several centuries because both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel had fallen to foreign capture and domination. Though the Jews had the Old Testament scriptures, the religious leaders in Jerusalem had rejected Jesus as the promised Messiah even after his resurrection. The widely dispersed Synagogues continued to follow the teaching of the chief priests, so they did not believed that Jesus was the Messiah. When Paul the apostle traveled as an evangelist, he sometimes worked his occupation to meet his personal needs, and that was the way he began at Corinth by partnering with Aquila and Priscilla. He presented Jesus as the Messiah every Sabbath as he spoke at the Synagogue, and there were some Jews and Gentiles who placed their faith in Jesus. but there was strong opposition to Paul's teaching by leaders in the Synagogue.

When Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia to reunite with Paul, he moved into full time ministry with believing Jews and Greeks who met at the house of a man named Titus Justus, a God-fearing man. Crispus, the ruler of the Synagogue, with all his family, had faith in the Lord; and many others of Corinth, hearing the word, had faith and were baptized. The Lord told Paul in a vision to continue preaching without fear and he would not be harmed because God had a number of people at Corinth. Paul remained there for a year and six months teaching the word of God until Jewish opposition became more organized.


B - JEWS MADE CHARGES AGAINST PAUL TO A NEW CIVIL RULER

Acts 18 "12 But when Gallio was ruler of Achaia, all the Jews together made an attack on Paul, and took him to the judge's seat, 13 Saying, This man is teaching the people to give worship to God in a way which is against the law. 14 But when Paul was about to say something, Gallio said to the Jews, If this was anything to do with wrongdoing or crime, there would be a reason for me to give you a hearing: 15 But if it is a question of words or names or of your law, see to it yourselves; I will not be a judge of such things. 16 And he sent them away from the judge's seat. 17 And they all made an attack on Sosthenes, the ruler of the Synagogue, and gave him blows before the judge's seat; but Gallio gave no attention to these things. 18 And Paul, after waiting some days, went away from the brothers and went by ship to Syria, Priscilla and Aquila being with him; and he had had his hair cut off in Cenchrea, for he had taken an oath."

COMMENTS: The Jews who opposed Paul and his teaching about Christ tried to bring charges against him before the civil ruler of all of the southern part of Greece known as Achaia. Paul did not even need to defend himself, as this ruler named Gallio said he would only consider cases for civil laws, not for religious laws regarding the worship of their God. When he sent them away from the judge’s seat, the crowd of Jews took out their anger on Sosthenes with a beating, which was ignored by Gallio. Sosthenes was identified as the ruler of the Synagogue , apparently the replacement for Crispus who had become a Christian. Paul waited for some days, but then went by ship to Syria accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Paul had had his hair cut off in Cenchrea, for he had taken an oath, but the purpose of his oath was not recorded. God had protected Paul as promised in the vision.


C - AQUILA AND PRISCILLA REMAINED AT EPHESUS AS PAUL TRAVELED ON

Acts 18 "19 And they came down to Ephesus and he left them there: and he himself went into the Synagogue and had a discussion with the Jews. 20 And being requested by them to be there for a longer time, he said, No; 21 And went from them, saying, I will come back to you if God lets me; and he took ship from Ephesus. 22 And when he had come to land at Caesarea, he went to see the church, and then went down to Antioch. 23 And having been there for some time, he went through the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, making the disciples strong in the faith."

COMMENTS: There is no immediate indication whether Silas and Timothy left with Paul, or remained at Corinth. Acts also does not reveal whether Aquila and Priscilla had ever attended services in the Synagogue at Corinth. When Paul arrived at Ephesus he did go to the Synagogue without Aquila and Priscilla, and he had discussions with the Jews there. They requested that he stay longer; but when he declined he told them he would return if God permitted. Paul left Ephesus by ship and landed at Caesarea where he went to see the previously established church, and then he went down to Antioch . That was the church that had sent Paul out for his first two "missionary journeys," where Paul could be refreshed by the company of many well-grounded believers. After remaining there for some time, he went back through the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, making the disciples strong in the faith.


D - APOLLOS MET PRISCILLA AND AQUILA AT EPHESUS

Acts 18 "24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, and a man of learning, came to Ephesus; and he had great knowledge of the holy Writings. 25 This man had been trained in the way of the Lord; and burning in spirit, he gave himself up to teaching the facts about Jesus, though he had knowledge only of John's baptism: 26 And he was preaching in the Synagogue without fear. But Priscilla and Aquila, hearing his words, took him in, and gave him fuller teaching about the way of God. 27 And when he had a desire to go over into Achaia, the brothers gave him help, and sent letters to the disciples requesting them to take him in among them: and when he had come, he gave much help to those who had faith through grace: 28 For he overcame the Jews in public discussion, making clear from the holy Writings that the Christ was Jesus."

COMMENTS: Aquila and Priscilla had been coworkers with Paul at Corinth, and now their deeper relationship with Christ Jesus became very helpful to a well educated Jew who had come to Ephesus from Alexandria. Apollos was fervent as he taught about the Lord Jesus without fear; but Aquila and Priscilla heard that he knew only about John's baptism, so they took him in and gave him more complete knowledge about the way of God. When Apollos had a desire to go to Achaia, the brothers gave him help, and sent letters to the disciples requesting them to receive him among them warmly. Apollos was very helpful in Corinth to those who had faith through grace because he was very effective in public discussions with Jews: making it clear from the scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.


E - PAUL RETURNED TO EPHESUS WHILE APOLLOS WAS AT CORINTH

Acts 19 "1 And it came about that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul, having gone through the higher country, came to Ephesus, where there were certain disciples: 2 And he said to them, Did you get the Holy Spirit when you had faith? And they said to him, No, we have had no knowledge of the Holy Spirit. 3 And he said, What sort of baptism did you have? And they said, The baptism of John. 4 And Paul said, John gave a baptism which goes with a change of heart, saying to the people that they were to have faith in him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus. 5 And hearing this, they had baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had put his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they had the power of talking in tongues, and acting like prophets. 7 And there were about twelve of these men. 8 And he went into the Synagogue, and for three months he was preaching there without fear, reasoning and teaching about the kingdom of God. 9 But because some of the people were hard-hearted and would not give hearing, saying evil words about the Way before the people, he went away from them, and kept the disciples separate, reasoning every day in the school of Tyrannus. 10 And this went on for two years, so that all those who were living in Asia had knowledge of the word of the Lord, Greeks as well as Jews. 11 And God did special works of power by the hands of Paul: 12 So that bits of linen and clothing from his body were taken to people who were ill, and their diseases went away from them and the evil spirits went out. 13 But some of the Jews who went from place to place driving out evil spirits, took it on themselves to make use of the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, I give you orders, by Jesus, whom Paul is preaching. 14 And there were seven sons of a man named Sceva, a Jew and a chief priest, who did this. 15 And the evil spirit, answering, said to them, I have knowledge of Jesus, and of Paul, but who are you? 16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was, jumping on them, was stronger than the two of them, and overcame them, so that they went running from that house, wounded and without their clothing. 17 And this came to the ears of all those, Jews and Greeks, who were living at Ephesus; and fear came on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was made great. 18 And a number of those who had faith came and made a public statement of their sins and all their acts. 19 And a great number of those who were experts in strange arts took their books and put them on the fire in front of everyone: and when the books were valued they came to fifty thousand bits of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord was increased very greatly and was full of power."

COMMENTS: The text reveals that while Apollos was at Corinth Paul returned to Ephesus. There is no detail in this passage to indicate how much Paul may have known about Apollos at that time, or how long Aquila and Priscilla remained at Ephesus. The description of twelve Jews who received the Holy Spirit; the mistake by certain men of assuming to have special powers by the mere mention of the name of the Lord Jesus; and the commitment demonstrated by public destruction of false idols by converted craftsmen, are important verses to consider about the impact of the gospel at Ephesus. However, since they are not directly related to Corinth, I will not make other comments about them in this study. Paul was at Ephesus for at least two years and three months before leaving for Macedonia and Achaia.


F - PAUL PLANNED TO GO TO MACEDONIA AND ACHAIA

Acts 19 "21 Now after these things were ended, Paul came to a decision that when he had gone through Macedonia and Achaia he would go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I have a desire to see Rome. 22 And having sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, into Macedonia, he himself went on living in Asia for a time. 23 And about that time a great outcry took place about the Way. 24 For there was a certain man named Demetrius, a silver-worker, who made silver boxes for the images of Diana, and gave no small profit to the workmen; 25 Whom he got together, with other workmen of the same trade, and said to them, Men, it is clear that from this business we get our wealth. 26 And you see, for it has come to your ears, that not only at Ephesus, but almost all through Asia, this Paul has been teaching numbers of people and turning them away, saying that those are not gods who are made by men's hands: 27 And there is danger, not only that our trade may be damaged in the opinion of men, but that the holy place of the great goddess Diana may be no longer honoured, and that she to whom all Asia and the world give worship, will be put down from her high position. 28 And hearing this, they were very angry, crying out and saying, Great is Diana of Ephesus. 29 And the town was full of noise and trouble, and they all came running into the theatre, having taken by force Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia who were journeying in company with Paul. 30 And when Paul was about to go in to the people, the disciples did not let him. 31 And some of the rulers of Asia, being his friends, sent to him, requesting him seriously not to put himself in danger by going into the theatre. 32 And some said one thing, and some another: for there was no order in the meeting; and most of them had no idea why they had come together. 33 Then they took Alexander out from among the people, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander, making a sign with his hand, was about to make a statement to the people in answer: 34 But when they saw that he was a Jew, all of them with one voice went on crying out for about two hours, Great is Diana of Ephesus. 35 And when the chief secretary had got the people quiet, he said, Men of Ephesus, is any man without knowledge that the town of Ephesus is the keeper of the holy place of the great Diana, who was sent down from Jupiter? 36 So then, because these things may not be doubted, it would be better for you to be quiet, and do nothing unwise. 37 For you have taken these men, who are not doing damage to the holy place or talking against our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and the workmen who are with him have a protest to make against any man, the law is open to them, and there are judges; let them put up a cause at law against one another. 39 But if any other business is in question, let it be taken up in the regular meeting. 40 For, truly, we are in danger of being made responsible for this day's trouble, there being no cause for it: and we are not able to give any reason for this coming together. 41 And when he had said this, he sent the meeting away."

COMMENTS: After three months at the Synagogue and two years of teaching at the school of Tyrannus, Paul planned to go back through Macedonia and Achaia. The text gives us the insight that Paul decided that he then would go to Jerusalem, and that he also had a desire to see Rome afterward. Paul sent Timothy and Erastus, into Macedonia, while he remained in Asia for a time. A man named Demetrius, a silversmith, organized others of his trade to bring strong accusations against Paul for the way people were turning away from the worship of the goddess Diana in Ephesus and throughout Asia. A large crowd assembled and there was great anger and disorder for several hours in the city. Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia who were traveling companions with Paul, were taken by force into the theatre. Paul wanted to go into the theatre, but some of his friends convinced him that it would be too dangerous. Finally the chief secretary of the city was able to quiet the people, and he reminded them that it was well known that Ephesus had the holy place of the goddess Diana, who was sent down from Jupiter. Since that was true, he warned them about the severe consequences of such disorder when the court system was available to settle disputes. Without needing to specify the strength of Roman rule throughout the entire empire, the people understood that many soldiers could come in to restore order by force, so the crowd dispersed.


G - PAUL LEFT EPHESUS TO RETURN TO MACEDONIA AND GREECE

Acts 20 "1 And after the noise had come to an end, Paul, having sent for the disciples and given them comfort, went away from them to Macedonia. 2 And when he had gone through those parts and given them much teaching, he came into Greece. 3 And when he had been there three months, because the Jews had made a secret design against him when he was about to take ship for Syria, he made a decision to go back through Macedonia. 4 And Sopater of Beroea, the son of Pyrrhus, and Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia, went with him as far as Asia. 5 But these had gone before, and were waiting for us at Troas. 6 And we went away from Philippi by ship after the days of unleavened bread, and came to them at Troas in five days; and we were there for seven days."

COMMENTS: When the public uproar was over, Paul gathered with the disciples to comfort them, then he began his journey to Macedonia. Paul did much teaching as he went through the various parts of Macedonia, but there is no indication of how long he stayed before going into Greece. Paul was in Greece only three months, but there are no locations or individuals named, and no events described while he was there. However, when he planned to leave for Syria by ship, he instead traveled with his companions back up through Macedonia because the Jews had developed a plot against his life. Three men from Macedonia, one from Derbe, and three from Asia were named among his companions who went ahead into Asia when Paul stopped briefly at Philippi. They waited for the rest of the group at Troas. Those with Paul at Philippi left by ship after the days of unleavened bread, and came to the others at Troas in five days. Paul and all of his companions remained there for seven days. There is no more mention of Corinth throughout the rest of the book of Acts.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, I thank you for the record of the development of the church at Corinth, with some of the distinctions that church had from others Paul had established. Though there is no indication in the book of Acts that those who worshipped pagan gods posed any significant threats to that church; unconverted Jews who continued their worship at the Corinthian Synagogue were a source of serious opposition to belief in Christ Jesus. The church at Corinth had additional ministry from Apollos, an eloquent believer in Christ. He had been enlightened more in the faith by Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus before he traveled to Corinth with their recommendation. This background about those special teachers guided by your Spirit to minister the Word to the church at Corinth is helpful to me as I consider how various characteristics of wavering faith still had to be dealt with in the two letters Paul wrote to this assembly.

May I be careful to take to heart the content of those letters, since they apply as much today as they did at the time Paul wrote them. Help me to keep in the proper perspective the many physical and external changes that take place in the world over centuries of time. I want to fully appreciate the fact that the heart of man will always have the same characteristics within, and only the gift of faith in Christ will provide the eternal remedy for our sin nature. I offer all my praise to you Jesus, my Savior and Lord. Amen.

Published 10 November 2017