By Dr. Mark Scott
Our lesson title is taken from verse 11 of our text: So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. The content was not Bible exposition as much as gospel announcement. Could teaching the gospel reverse an immoral city like Corinth? Paul thought so.
Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. This is like going from the frying pan into the fire. If Athens had philosophical objections to the gospel message, then Corinth had moral objections. Paul teamed with a dynamic couple, Aquila and Priscilla. They were Jewish Christians from Pontus but had been working in Rome. They ended up being expelled from Rome as a result of Claudius’s decree. It was hard in these earliest days for the Roman government to tell the real difference between Christians and Jews. In The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius said that this expulsion was due to the controversy over “Chrestus.” Most scholars believe this to be a misspelling of Christ.
The work in Corinth was young. Silas and Timothy were still in Macedonia, so there was no financial support coming from the churches for Paul’s missionary work. Therefore Paul worked with Aquila and Priscilla making tents. In other words, he was bi-vocational—at least for the time. Every young man in Torah school (Acts 22:3) was also taught a trade. While tent making was Paul’s day job during the week, he reserved his weekends for teaching the gospel. He reasoned (dialogued) in the synagogue with both Jews and Gentiles.
Church history indicates that, more often than not, the church leaders were not professional—they had other means of employment. But at other times the church funded the leaders. When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul was able to devote himself fully to teaching the Word of God as opposed to making tents. This is probably because Silas and Timothy brought some offerings from the Macedonian churches, which freed Paul from his other job constraints. Paul had freedom in Christ to accept money for his teaching (1 Corinthians 9:15-18) or refuse it (1 Thessalonians 2:9). But the content of his teaching remained the same, namely Jesus was the Messiah.
Paul’s full-time teaching ramped up the response and the opposition to the gospel. Certain Jews opposed Paul and became abusive. Literally, they “stood opposite him and blasphemed him.” Paul used a line with his opposition that had deep prophetic roots: Your blood be on your own heads. This essentially meant, “Take responsibility for yourselves before God” (Luke 9:5; Acts 13:51; Ezekiel 33:1-9). We see a repeated formula in this section of Acts: Jewish rejection leads to Gentile inclusion, which leads to Jewish jealousy and further rejection or acceptance. That is even the way God planned it (Romans 11:11, 12).
Paul left the synagogue and went next door to Titius Justice’s house to teach. This obviously chafed the Jewish leaders. But they were even more upset that one of their own, Crispus the synagogue leader, and his family became believers and were baptized with other Corinthians.
Corinth was not Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It was like plowing concrete. So to head off any discouragement, God came to Paul in a vision one night and encouraged him in four ways: 1. Don’t be afraid. 2. Keep teaching God’s Word. 3. I am with you (the Immanuel principle). 4. I have lots of prospects for the gospel here. Paul must have wondered, “Gospel candidates in this city? Really?” But Paul took the encouragement and stayed in Corinth longer than he had stayed anywhere else up to this point in his missionary career.
God’s Will and Teaching
Staying in Corinth for that lengthy period was not a walk in the park (Acts 18:12-17). The Jews stirred up the city and tried to get Gallio to weigh in against the missionaries. They even beat Sosthenes, the new synagogue leader (since Crispus had become a Christian). But the proconsul apathetically dismissed Paul’s opponents.
Finally Paul took leave of Corinth and headed back to Antioch of Syria (the conclusion of the second journey). On the way he had his hair cut at Cenchreae (evidently due to a voluntary vow he had made—see 21:24). He left Priscilla and Aquila in his brief teaching stay in Ephesus and agreed to return if God willed. God would will, as the third journey would show (19:1-7). Paul was committed to teaching God’s Word—even in the most wicked of places.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College and has held preaching ministries in Missouri, Illinois, and Colorado.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.