Paul has just left Athens – known for its culture and learning…and just 50 miles away, he arrives in Corinth. Corinth is a large port city noted for its commerce and, let’s say, its loose morality and reckless extravagance. Many travelers come and go – it is a city of many cultures – a melting pot of people and beliefs. Politically, Corinth was a Roman colony and capital of the province of Achaia.
A quick side discussion: Based on Luke’s chronological lynchpin for this text of Paul’s interaction with Gallio occurring about 52 AD, I wonder if about 17 years prior – when Paul had his conversion experience on the road to Damascus…do you think Paul knew/understood the cultures of Athens and Corinth? Was he prepared? For a little more insight into Paul’s thoughts on this, take a look at 1 Cor 2:1-5.
Paul meets Priscilla and Aquila…he stays with them and then we see Paul’s standard way of interaction. He goes to work in the synagogue, every sabbath, to proclaim Christ – his usual base of operation. Paul’s message was one of salvation in Christ and in shaking the dust from his clothes he is saying to these people that their life depends on Christ – eternal life to be exact and their deaf ears yields a ‘woe be to you’ message and Paul’s moving on to the Gentiles.
Don’t miss the next point – Paul has to be frustrated with those in the synagogue…you have to believe, based on the previous 17 chapters of this book and for Paul, the last 8 chapters, that the mission is clear – grow the church! And just at this most important time, when Paul may be at his wits end…he receives a word from God…’Keep doing what you are doing – there are many in this city (and beyond) that are my people…I will be with you – don’t be afraid. Be strong and courageous for I will be with you.’ Words reminiscent of Joshua 1 that have literally stood the test of time for Joshua, Paul and for us as well. So Paul stays for 18 months to grow the Corinthian Church – despite those that “opposed and reviled” him. Paul may have felt lonely in this strange city but he has connections with Aquila and Priscilla, Titus, Crispus and, of course, Silas and Timothy.
The remainder of the passage is provided in large part by Luke for historical and recordable purposes – creating irrefutable points for a credible history. And let’s not forget about God’s involvement in this whole scene. The most important point though, is Paul’s founding of the Corinthian church. Paul’s mission has been and will be growth of the church.
The same message is true for us today, we can get lost in the details…in our own comforts…but if we change the church from a people going out into just a building or location, we are missing the point of this passage…of the overall import of Acts and, quite frankly, the entire Bible.
My dear friends…”there are many people in my city” God says to Paul – the same is true here in Joliet, Plainfield, Shorewood, Crest Hill, Channahon, Minooka – well, you get the point. We “should not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent”. We are a people called to be in mission to grow Christ’s Church. Paul came to Corinth not knowing a thing about these people – he came armed with one thing and one thing only…he knew Christ Jesus crucified…he came knowing that our wisdom did not yield faith rather, that faith was grounded in the power of God.
“There are many people in my city”…how is God calling you in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit to go out like Paul and speak boldly…in Joliet, Shorewood, Plainfield, Crest Hill, Channahon?