Reading through the Bible together
Corinth was “the marketplace of Greece.” The city was built on a narrow stretch of land where all ships from east and west could come and trade. All north and south land traffic in Greece also went through Corinth. Being rich and cosmopolitan, the city attracted all sorts of people. It was a colony of Rome, that’s why so many citizens there had Latin names, like Aquila and Priscilla, Claudius, and Justus. Possibly rivaling the market and commerce was Corinth’s corruption and immorality. The principal deity was Venus or Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and sex. One thousand priestesses, temple prostitutes, plied their trade on the city streets every night.
When Paul went to Corinth, he thought long and hard about his experience in Athens. He was headed to a city that was equally as cosmopolitan and pagan as Athens, except that it was less sophisticated and more immoral. He made a decision: he would focus on the cross. Preaching in the synagogue, “his hearers could not but discern that he loved with all his heart the crucified and risen Savior.” The Corinthians saw “that his mind was centered in Christ, that his whole life was bound up with His Lord” (The Acts of the Apostles, pp.247, 248). Most Jews rejected the message of the cross, so Paul turned to the Gentiles (v.6). He began giving Bible studies next door, at the home of a Roman believer in God, and “many of the Corinthians . . . believed and were baptized” (vv.7, 8).
But the city was so immoral, so bent on evil, that Paul feared for the kind of church these believers would make. He considered moving on to “greener pastures.” That’s when Jesus intervened on behalf of the Corinthians. He assured His servant in a night vision that all would be well, to keep sharing the gospel, that “many people in this city” would respond to his labors (vv.9, 10). Paul continued there for a whole year and a half (v.11). “A large church was enrolled under the banner of Christ” in that place (The Acts of the Apostles, p.252).
Those working for God will find great challenges. The enemy is a mighty foe. However, God is greater and more powerful, and infinitely loving. He is able to save from “the uttermost to the uttermost.” Never give up doing the will of God. With Him, all things are, indeed, possible. After the comparative disappointment in Athens, and the lack of spiritual maturity that was the prospect in Corinth, God used the Corinthians and their problems to inspire Paul to write some of the most important instructions in the entire New Testament.
Ron E. M. Clouzet
NAD Evangelism Institute Director
Professor of Ministry and Theology
Seminary, Andrews University