Week 6: July 10-16, 2016
Read: Acts 18:1-23 (Mission in Corinth)
The Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent (Acts 18:9b). What a powerful confidence and directional boost. When we are clear about our direction in life whether personally or as a church, it narrows our focus, sharpens our energy and gives us courage. Prayer, searching and examining our heart and options can lead to the peace of mind we need to step out and risk. When we take a stand and a few steps in the new direction, we discover if in fact is is right. Few of us have a visioning experience like Paul so we must use another human skill called experimentation. To experiment can be a fun adventure. No matter what, we always learn from our experiences.
Looking in the Mirror
Keep the eyes of your mind on the finish line. Run with purpose the race that is set before you. Run resolutely! Paul ran with the clear purpose of his calling to reveal Jesus Christ and plant the church across the Roman Empire. There was early success, setbacks, suffering, team member turnover, opposition, and changed lives. If we know our purpose and our role, God will do the rest.
Spotlight on Pricilla and Aquila
Priscilla, or Prisca as she is known in Paul’s letters, was a Jewish woman who had become Christian apart from the ministry of Paul and Silas. She was one of the first known Christians living in Rome. She is celebrated by the church as the first example of a female preacher or teacher in the early church. Together with her husband, Aquila, she was a friend and important co-worker of Paul. Aquila was originally from the city of Pontus on the south shore of the Black Sea in Asia Minor. Like Priscilla, he was a Jewish Christian.
Priscilla and Aquila had been among the Jews expelled from Rome by the Roman Emperor Claudius in the year 49 C.E. When Paul arrived from Athens, he met Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth. Paul lived with them for nearly 18 months. Priscilla and Aquila were tentmakers and leatherworkers like Paul. The family that owned such a shop would have slept in a loft above the workshop, accessible from a wooden ladder at the rear of the shop…A hired worker, such as Paul, would have made his bed in the workroom (Fant and Reddish, p. 51). “To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands” (1 Corinthians 4:11-12). These verses remind us of how demanding it was to be an artisan trying to make a living 7 days a week and create time to preach, teach and plant a church.
The evangelists and teachers of the early church like Priscilla, Aquila and Paul, had to work at portable jobs to provide for daily needs yet maintain the mobility to move from city to city. Such was the life of the evangelists, church planters and disciple-makers. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: I proclaimed God’s good news to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. But when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for my needs were supplied by the friends who came from Macedonia. So I refrained and will continue to refrain from burdening you in any way (2 Corinthians 11:7b-9). Paul, Silas and Timothy worked “night and day” to not be a burden in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:9). With only a couple of hours left in a day after work, this is another reason why a mission team was so important to multiply the impact in a city like Corinth.
When the first mission visit in Corinth was over, Priscilla and Aquila started out to accompany Paul when he proceeded to Syria, but stopped at Ephesus in the Roman province of Asia (Acts 18:18-19; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19). After serving the Lord in Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila returned to Rome (Romans 16:3-5). They were instrumental in the planting and development of at least three churches: Rome, Corinth and Ephesus. These were three of the major cities in the Roman Empire at that time.
Paul was called to be a witness to the Gentiles yet he always began his work in any city at the local synagogue out of respect for the promise of God to the Jews. In Corinth, Paul’s preaching was met with resistance by the Jews. This became a turning point in Paul’s ministry when he fully embraced his calling to the Gentiles (Acts 18:6). It is interesting to note that Crispus, the leader of the synagogue later became a Christian. Titius Justus, a Gentile worshiper of the God of the Jews opened his house, located next door to the synagogue, to be used for the house church in Corinth.
Paul did a symbolic action of kicking the dust of Corinth off his feet (18:6 just as he had done in Antioch of Pisidia in Acts 13:51. This is the same instruction Jesus gave to the disciples when he sent them out in Luke 9:5 as well as the 70 lay witnesses in Luke 10:11). This action is comparable to saying “I wash my hands of this decision” or throwing your hands up in the air and saying “I am done with this.”
We know quite a bit about the church in Corinth because of Paul’s two or three visits and his two lengthy letters (it is evident that Paul wrote a missing letter prior to First Corinthians as shown by 1 Corinthians 5:9: I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with…) that tell us a lot about the challenges faced internally and externally by the Corinthian church. We could create a lengthy list of problems faced by this church including disorder, division and disrespect. Paul’s letters were intended to encourage, correct and answer questions raised within the church while Paul was in Ephesus.
The Roman Empire made Corinth the capital of Greece, not Athens, as it was a much larger geographically as well as in population. Corinth was located on the isthmus which connected the mainland of Northern Greece with the Peloponnese of Southern Greece. The isthmus is just shy of four miles wide with Corinth in the center with two ports on either side: Lechaion, located on the Gulf of Corinth (west side) and Cenchreae, situated on the Saronic Gulf (east side).
A ruler named Periander (ruled Corinth from 627-587 B.C.E.) was responsible for much construction and dreamt of digging a canal across the isthmus which never happened. Instead he constructed the diolkos, a stone roadway that permitted small ships to be skidded in grooves on a wheeled platform from one side of the isthmus to the other. This development enabled vessels to go to either gulf without having to sail around the tip of the Peloponnese, a particularly treacherous stretch of water…Not coincidentally, the diolkos also enable Corinth to become rich from its charges for such convenience, (Fant and Reddish, p. 47). Corinth’s development of warships and its navy meant that many sailors and shipping crews lived and visited Corinth.
Aquila, Priscilla and Paul would sell many tents to sailors who looked for housing while they were in port. Prostitutes were in abundance in Corinth and they were easy to spot as they kept their hair short. It is for this reason that Paul instructed the Christian women of Corinth to not cut their hair for the sake of purity before God (1 Corinthians 11:15). As a result, Pentecostal, Amish and other conservative churches hold to this practice for the women of the church.
Paul’s vision he received in Corinth was to be a bold witness for Jesus Christ. He was instructed to not be afraid. I believe that this is a word for the church today. Let us not be afraid but keep our eyes on the goal as we run resolutely, with full purpose. May our gratitude for the love of the Lord Jesus Christ overflow in us so that as we see God’s opportunity, we may clearly show the Lord’s love with other people. May all who are distant from Christ and his church come to believes worship and serve him.
- What has captured your attention as you think about the mission of the church in Corinth?
- What is implied in the study theme to run resolutely? In what way are you or are you willing to do just that?
- Why do you think it is so important that people distant from Christ and his church come to faith and worship and serve him?
- What is God calling you to do?