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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Acts 18:1-12 - The Gospel comes to Corinth

Paul was on his own in Athens, but that was not the case in Corinth. In addition to Silas and Timothy, who rejoined him there, he met a couple who would be very important in the development of the gospel in different places - Aquila and Priscilla. They had been forced to leave Rome by the government. Usually when they are mentioned, her name comes first, which has led some to suggest that she came from a noble family. More importantly, they were probably followers of Jesus, although it is possible that they were converted through Paul's messages in Corinth. The reason why it is assumed they were Christians is that a Roman historian's reference to the expulsion from Rome can be read as indicating it was connected to trouble involving Jewish Christians.

It may have been the case that the reason why Paul went to see them initially was to get temporary work as a tentmaker and also lodging. Having ensured that he had such, he was then able to engage in his primary activity, which was participating in the synagogue services in order to explain the gospel to his hearers and persuade them to follow Jesus. And that was how Silas and Timothy found him, 'occupied with the word,' which is a wonderful description of a preacher.

His colleagues seem to have arrived when things were getting difficult for Paul, which is another example of God's timing regarding providing support for his servant. Many of the Jews strongly opposed Paul, leading him to stop attending the synagogue service and to commence evangelising among the Gentiles. 

Yet Paul did not move far physically, holding his new meetings next door to the synagogue. While such a setting may have been provocative, it was also suitable for keeping contact with any in the synagogue who wanted to know more. The outcome was that both Jews and Gentiles were converted, a reminder that opposition is not a barrier to progress. 

One of the Jews was Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, with his household. His replacement in the synagogue is mentioned in verse 17, and he could be the same Sosthenes who is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:3. Perhaps Sosthenes was assaulted by the Jews because he was not, at that time, very opposed to the gospel, and perhaps the attack on Paul by the Jews led Sosthenes to become a Christian as well. The dispute before Gallio, who refused to intervene in what he regarded as an internal Jewish dispute, probably gave the church some civic protection in Corinth, which is another reminder of how God can overrule the tactic of those who oppose the gospel.

From several points of view, Paul's time in Corinth can be regarded as successful. Therefore it is striking to observe that during his time there he was so afraid that he needed a special word of assurance from Jesus assuring his servant of his presence and protection, and promising him success through his preaching and teaching. The real team at work in Corinth was not Paul and his colleagues. Instead they laboured knowing that the leader of the team was the Lord in heaven. And he was building his church.

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