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Acts #65 (chapter 18:1-8)

The Book of Acts

The Gospel in Corinth

Acts 18:1-8

 

The section of Acts that we will begin studying tonight is the first 18 verses of chapter 18 and it is some of the details of Paul's ministry in Corinth. And if you remember, we of the encouragements he sent to the Corinth believers was to "not grow weary in well-doing".

 

That was written out of his own experience because when he arrived in Corinth, he must have been weary. He'd been chased halfway around the world. He started out in Antioch of Syria on a simple missionary journey with Silas and traveled through Galatia, eventually to Troas and Philippi.

 

And everywhere he went, he was either persecuted or chased out of town. Most recently that had happened in Thessalonica and Berea, and he finally found himself alone in Athens. And even though there was no persecution, in fact, there was great opportunity to preach, there was minimal response to the gospel, so he didn't stay long there.

 

And now he's in Corinth. And he's discouraged and despondent, and maybe even physically ill. And true to his nature, God moves in to encourage him, and then use him to be an encouragement to others. In fact, that is what Paul will write to the Corinthians in the second letter. God is faithful to comfort, but He has designed that we will use the comfort we've received to comfort others.

 

 

Now, for everything Athens was in culture and beauty, Corinth was in immorality and filth. In fact, the actual name Corinth became a common term to refer to immorality. If you wanted to label someone as being immoral, just call them a "Corinthian".

 

And from the upper crust on down, the entire city was debased. And just as Paul could look out over Athens and see a city given over to the worship of idols, he could look out over Corinth and see a city that was not religiously corrupt, filled with worldly corruption.

 

There were several things that contributed to that. First, it's location. It was strategically placed for both north-south, and east-west travel, so it became a center of trade and travel. Therefore, and sailors and caravans and business people were going through it all the time.

 

It was also a place that tried to take advantage of these guests and visitors by providing entertainment and activities that would draw them to stay a while.

So it lent itself greatly to a kind of immorality that became common and synonymous with its name.

 

And the religion of Corinth kind of evolved out of this environment of corruption. On top a a giant hill, they built the Acropolis, which was a fortress, but

on the top of the Acropolis, they built a massive temple to the goddess Aphrodite, who was sort of the goddess of sexual activity.

 

Ministering and serving in this temple were a thousand priestesses, and their particular ministry was the ministry of prostitution.

So every evening, these thousand priestesses descended from the Acropolis, and infiltrated the city of Corinth and plied their trade. And so it was a wide-open carnival atmosphere. The whole city was nothing but a great big hustling territory for professional prostitutes.

 

Corinth was also important politically. Corinth was to Greece what Washington D.C. is to America in a sense. It was a provincial capital, which meant that the proconsul of Rome stayed there, and the headquarters were there.

 

And eventually, there will be a church there also, but it will become deeply influenced by the culture around it. Some of the members will become involved in sexual immorality, and instead of dealing with it, the church will celebrate it. And that wasn't the only problem.

 

In fact, Paul will eventually write two letters to this church, trying to straighten them out. Over and over again, he tells them to shape up and clean up and live like Christians should live.

 

And here in the 18th chapter of Acts, Paul makes his first entrance into this town and God is going to use him to choose out some believers to begin a church. It must have been like trying to find diamonds in a septic tank. But that was the nature of evangelism in Corinth.

 

In fact, in regard to that, notice what we read in

 

Acts 18:10

 

Isn't that amazing? In the filthiest, most vile city in the world, God was still at work! And I find it interesting that in the most religious city in the world, Athens, Paul didn't stay long. But in the most wicked city in the world, Paul stayed a long time. In fact, Corinth became almost a base of operation for the Gospel.

 

It was from the city of Corinth that Paul wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians and Romans, and it was back to the city of Corinth that he wrote the two letters that bear the city's name. So the Church in Corinth is a very significant place, scripturally speaking.

 

So Paul arrives in Corinth, but he was really discouraged. But God is a God of encouragement, and that's what these first 18 verses are highlighting. In this section, we see God encourage Paul in four ways, and over the next couple of weeks, we'll take a look at those.

 

The first thing God uses to encourage Paul is

 

1. Companionship

 

verses 1-5

 

So Paul arrives in Corinth, he's alone and he doesn't know anybody. And through some of the things he writes back to Corinth at a later date, indicate he was very discouraged. For instance, in the 1 Corinthians 2:3, he says, "I was with you in weakness and in fear, and in much trembling."

 

Now we typically don't think of Paul in those terms, but he's describing himself and his arrival in Corinth.

And in the letter he wrote to the Thessalonians while he was in Corinth, he said in I Thessalonians 3:7, "Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith."

 

While he was in Corinth, he received word about how well the church was doing in Thessalonica and it comforted him while he was in affliction and distress.

 

He was at the bottom regarding his ministry. Nothing was working out like he thought it would. There had been so victories along the way, but also, lot of opposition. And now he's in Corinth, and it's going to hell in a hand basket, and he just didn't know if he could handle it. It just looked like too much.

 

  1. it was precisely at that point that God said, "You need some friends." And God decides to comfort him through companionship by bringing into his life two people who become lifelong friends. in verse 2, we are introduced to Aquila and Priscilla.

 

Now apparently, they are Christians before they met Paul. They came from Rome and there had been a church there for a long time before Paul came along. In fact, Paul wrote to the established church in Rome from Corinth. And when persecution broke out against the Jews in Rome, Claudius shipped them all out. And I think it highly probable that is the reason Aquila and Priscilla are now in Corinth.

 

Paul meets them for the first time here in Corinth and he will write about them again and again.

 

verse 3

 

Now, we always think of Paul as a tentmaker, but the word used here is "leather worker" and it's only used here in the New Testament. But Paul apparently was a leather worker. Some historians believe he was identified as a tent maker because where he was from, they would separate the goat hair from the hide, tan the hide for leather, and weave the hair to make tents.

 

  1. Paul was a leather worker as were Aquila and Priscilla. By the way, another thing historians tell us in that in the Jewish synagogues of that day, it was common for people to sit together according to their trades. If that is true, maybe that is where Aquila and Priscilla met Paul. Maybe they sat with him in the synagogue.

 

By the way, that brings up an interesting thought. Have you ever thought about how your life is impacted by random encounters? Most of us sit in church with our friends, people we like to be around and know well.

 

But there are probably some people here at any given meeting that would be a blessing and encouragement to you, but you will never meet them simply because you always sit in the same place with the same people. That's true of Sunday School also.

 

Well, somehow Paul met Aquila and Priscilla, and the next thing you know, verse 3 tells he just took up residence with them and worked with them, which tells us they had the great Christian virtue of hospitality.

 

verse 4

 

So in Corinth, Paul served as a bi-vocational missionary. He worked through the week and every Sabbath, he was down at the synagogue talking about Jesus.

 

Now, there are a couple of things I want to mention before we move of. Remember, Paul is discouraged and alone. To encourage him, God brings two friends into his life, and at the same time, also gives him opportunity to continue his ministry.

 

That is the power of companionship. By the way, notice what happens in

 

verse 5

 

If new friends are wonderful, old friends are even better! And God gave Paul two new friends, and then brought his old friends, Silas and Timothy back around.

 

And it doesn't really indicate anything about the emotions that accompanied their coming, but you know Paul had to be thrilled!

 

Remember, Paul was waiting for them to come while he was in Athens, and we aren't told whether they ever did or not. If they did, they weren't with him when he traveled to Corinth.

 

  1. now they've come to join him and it must have been a joyous reunion. That's the way God works! He encourages us with one another, and allows us to make some new friends along the way.

 

Before we close tonight, let me mention one other way God encouraged Paul. He did through companionship, and He did through his

 

2. Apostleship

 

It's great to have friends around and be blessed through their companionship, but one of the greatest encouragements in the ministry is when God is working in and through your ministry.

 

I'm sure there must have been a lot of times when Paul felt like a failure in the ministry. But notice what happens here in Corinth:

 

verses 5-8

 

Paul, encouraged and renewed, goes out to preach and share the gospel. First, he spent time with the Jews telling them about Jesus. But they refused his message. In fact, they called him a blasphemer. They organized an opposition movement against him.

 

  1. that becomes a real turning point in Paul's ministry in that he turns his attention to the Gentiles. And in a symbolic gesture, he shook his garments.

 

That was reminiscent of Jews shaking the dust from their feet after traveling in a Gentile country. It was a Jews way of insulting the Gentiles and their place in society.

 

 

 

So Paul turns it around and starts shaking all the dust out of his garments in the faces of all those Jews, and saying in effect, "You don't like Gentile dust on your shoes. I don't want Jewish dust on my cloak." And he shook it right out in their face.

 

Now you know if they weren't mad by then, they were really hopping when that was done. That flagrant kind of insult must've absolutely torn them to pieces. He was done with them. Shook out his whole cloak. And then he made a statement that was interesting. He said, "Your blood be upon your own heads."

 

That's again a statement that the Jews made. It's in Joshua 2:19, 2 Samuel 1:16,, 1 Kings 2:37, and perhaps elsewhere. And do you remember in Matthew 27:25? "That the Jews, when Jesus was being crucified, cried out 'His blood be upon us and our children.'" They wanted to accept the responsibility for Christ's death.

 

The phrase means we accept the responsibility for His death. And Paul is saying here, "Your blood is on your own hands. I'm clean. Why? I fulfilled my responsibility. I delivered the Gospel. I presented it clearly. You are responsible for what you do.

 

And, notice verse 7 says he departed from there. And we would expect him to leave town and get on down the road. But notice how verse 7 continues: he went next door!

 

verse 7

 

And the indication is this man became a Christian along with others.

verse 8

 

He is literally only one door away from where he was openly opposed and insulted and yet people are converted!

 

Listen: We need to learn we do not serve in isolation. God is involved in all we do and he has the resources to encourage and bless our faithful service. He uses companionship and apostleship, and next time, we'll see how He encourages him with fellowship and hardship.

 

Let's pray.

 

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