DURING the first century of the Christian Era, Corinth was one of the
leading cities, not only of Greece, but of the world. Greeks, Jews, and
Romans, with travelers from every land, thronged its streets, eagerly
intent on business and pleasure. A great commercial center, situated
within easy access of all parts of the Roman Empire, it was an important
place in which to establish memorials for God and His truth.
Among the Jews who had taken up their residence in Corinth were Aquila
and Priscilla, who afterward became distinguished as earnest workers for
Christ. Becoming acquainted with the character of these persons, Paul
"abode with them."
At the very beginning of his labors in this thoroughfare of travel,
Paul saw on every hand serious obstacles to the progress of his work. The
city was almost wholly given up to idolatry. Venus was the favorite
goddess, and with the
worship of Venus were connected many demoralizing rites and ceremonies.
The Corinthians had become conspicuous, even among the heathen, for their
gross immorality. They seemed to have little thought or care beyond the
pleasures and gaieties of the hour.
In preaching the gospel in Corinth, the apostle followed a course
different from that which had marked his labors at Athens. While in the
latter place, he had sought to adapt his style to the character of his
audience; he had met logic with logic, science with science, philosophy
with philosophy. As he thought of the time thus spent, and realized that
his teaching in Athens had been productive of but little fruit, he decided
to follow another plan of labor in Corinth in his efforts to arrest the
attention of the careless and the indifferent. He determined to avoid
elaborate arguments and discussions, and "not to know anything"
among the Corinthians "save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." He
would preach to them "not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in
demonstration of the Spirit and of power." 1 Corinthians 2:2, 4.
Jesus, whom Paul was about to present before the Greeks in Corinth as
the Christ, was a Jew of lowly origin, reared in a town proverbial for its
wickedness. He had been rejected by His own nation and at last crucified
as a malefactor. The Greeks believed that there was need of elevating the
human race, but they regarded the study of philosophy and science as the
only means of attaining to true elevation and honor. Could Paul lead them
to believe that faith in the power of this obscure Jew would uplift and
ennoble every power of the being?
To the minds of multitudes living at the present time, the cross of
Calvary is surrounded by sacred memories. Hallowed associations are
connected with the scenes of the crucifixion. But in Paul's day the cross
was regarded with feelings of repulsion and horror. To uphold as the
Saviour of mankind one who had met death on the cross, would naturally
call forth ridicule and opposition.
Paul well knew how his message would be regarded by both the Jews and
the Greeks of Corinth. "We preach Christ crucified," he
admitted, "unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks
foolishness." 1 Corinthians 1:23. Among his Jewish hearers there were
many who would be angered by the message he was about to proclaim. In the
estimation of the Greeks his words would be absurd folly. He would be
looked upon as weak-minded for attempting to show how the cross could have
any connection with the elevation of the race or the salvation of mankind.
But to Paul the cross was the one object of supreme interest. Ever
since he had been arrested in his career of persecution against the
followers of the crucified Nazarene he had never ceased to glory in the
cross. At that time there had been given him a revelation of the infinite
love of God, as revealed in the death of Christ; and a marvelous
transformation had been wrought in his life, bringing all his plans and
purposes into harmony with heaven. From that hour he had been a new man in
Christ. He knew by personal experience that when a sinner once beholds the
love of the Father, as seen in the sacrifice of His Son, and yields to the
divine influence, a change of heart takes place, and henceforth Christ is
all and in all.
At the time of his conversion, Paul was inspired with a longing desire
to help his fellow men to behold Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of the
living God, mighty to transform and to save. Henceforth his life was
wholly devoted to an effort to portray the love and power of the Crucified
One. His great heart of sympathy took in all classes. "I am
debtor," he declared, "both to the Greeks, and to the
barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise." Romans 1:14. Love
for the Lord of glory, whom he had so relentlessly persecuted in the
person of His saints, was the actuating principle of his conduct, his
motive power. If ever his ardor in the path of duty flagged, one glance at
the cross and the amazing love there revealed, was enough to cause him to
gird up the loins of his mind and press forward in the path of
Behold the apostle preaching in the synagogue at Corinth, reasoning
from the writings of Moses and the prophets, and bringing his hearers down
to the advent of the promised Messiah. Listen as he makes plain the work
of the Redeemer as the great high priest of mankind--the One who through
the sacrifice of His own life was to make atonement for sin once for all,
and was then to take up His ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. Paul's
hearers were made to understand that the Messiah for whose advent they had
been longing, had already come; that His death was the antitype of all the
sacrificial offerings, and that His ministry in the sanctuary in heaven
was the great object that cast its shadow backward and made clear the
ministry of the Jewish priesthood.
Paul "testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ." From the
Old Testament Scriptures he showed that according to the prophecies and
the universal expectation of the Jews, the Messiah would be of the lineage
of Abraham and of David; then he traced the descent of Jesus from the
patriarch Abraham through the royal psalmist. He read the testimony of the
prophets regarding the character and work of the promised Messiah, and His
reception and treatment on the earth; then he showed that all these
predictions had been fulfilled in the life, ministry, and death of Jesus
Paul showed that Christ had come to offer salvation first of all to the
nation that was looking for the Messiah's coming as the consummation and
glory of their national existence. But that nation had rejected Him who
would have given them life, and had chosen another leader, whose reign
would end in death. He endeavored to bring home to his hearers the fact
that repentance alone could save the Jewish nation from impending ruin. He
revealed their ignorance concerning the meaning of those Scriptures which
it was their chief boast and glory that they fully understood. He rebuked
their worldliness, their love of station, titles, and display, and their
In the power of the Spirit, Paul related the story of his own
miraculous conversion and of his confidence in the Old Testament
Scriptures, which had been so completely fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.
His words were spoken with solemn earnestness, and his hearers could not
that he loved with all his heart the crucified and risen Saviour. They
saw that his mind was centered in Christ, that his whole life was bound up
with his Lord. So impressive were his words, that only those who were
filled with the bitterest hatred against the Christian religion could
stand unmoved by them.
But the Jews of Corinth closed their eyes to the evidence so clearly
presented by the apostle, and refused to listen to his appeals. The same
spirit that had led them to reject Christ, filled them with wrath and fury
against His servant; and had not God especially protected him, that he
might continue to bear the gospel message to the Gentiles, they would have
put an end to his life.
"And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his
raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am
clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. And he departed
thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus, one that
worshiped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue."
Silas and Timothy had "come from Macedonia" to help Paul, and
together they labored for the Gentiles. To the heathen, as well as to the
Jews, Paul and his companions preached Christ as the Saviour of the fallen
race. Avoiding complicated, far-fetched reasoning, the messengers of the
cross dwelt upon the attributes of the Creator of the world, the Supreme
Ruler of the universe. Their hearts aglow with the love of God and of His
Son, they appealed to the heathen to behold the infinite sacrifice made in
man's behalf. They knew that if those who had long been groping
in the darkness of heathenism could but see the light streaming from
Calvary's cross, they would be drawn to the Redeemer. "I, if I be
lifted up," the Saviour had declared, "will draw all men unto
Me." John 12:32.
The gospel workers in Corinth realized the terrible dangers threatening
the souls of those for whom they were laboring; and it was with a sense of
the responsibility resting on them that they presented the truth as it is
in Jesus. Clear, plain, and decided was their message--a savor of life
unto life, or of death unto death. And not only in their words, but in the
daily life, was the gospel revealed. Angels co-operated with them, and the
grace and power of God was shown in the conversion of many. "Crispus,
the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house;
and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized."
The hatred with which the Jews had always regarded the apostles was now
intensified. The conversion and baptism of Crispus had the effect of
exasperating instead of convincing these stubborn opposers. They could not
bring arguments to disprove Paul's preaching, and for lack of such
evidence they resorted to deception and malignant attack. They blasphemed
the gospel and the name of Jesus. In their blind anger no words were too
bitter, no device too low, for them to use. They could not deny that
Christ had worked miracles; but they declared that He had performed them
through the power of Satan; and they boldly affirmed that the wonderful
works wrought by Paul were accomplished through the same agency.
Though Paul had a measure of success in Corinth, yet the wickedness
that he saw and heard in that corrupt city almost disheartened him. The
depravity that he witnessed among the Gentiles, and the contempt and
insult that he received from the Jews, caused him great anguish of spirit.
He doubted the wisdom of trying to build up a church from the material
that he found there.
As he was planning to leave the city for a more promising field, and
seeking earnestly to understand his duty, the Lord appeared to him in a
vision and said, "Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:
for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have
much people in this city." Paul understood this to be a command to
remain in Corinth and a guarantee that the Lord would give increase to the
seed sown. Strengthened and encouraged, he continued to labor there with
zeal and perseverance.
The apostle's efforts were not confined to public speaking; there were
many who could not have been reached in that way. He spent much time in
house-to-house labor, thus availing himself of the familiar intercourse of
the home circle. He visited the sick and the sorrowing, comforted the
afflicted, and lifted up the oppressed. And in all that he said and did he
magnified the name of Jesus. Thus he labored, "in weakness, and in
fear, and in much trembling." 1 Corinthians 2:3. He trembled lest his
teaching should reveal the impress of the human rather than the divine.
"We speak wisdom among them that are perfect," Paul afterward
declared; "yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of
this world, that come to nought: but
we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which
God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of
this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the
Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,
neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath
prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His
Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is
in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit
which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us
of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom
teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things
with spiritual." 1 Corinthians 2:6-13.
Paul realized that his sufficiency was not in himself, but in the
presence of the Holy Spirit, whose gracious influence filled his heart,
bringing every thought into subjection to Christ. He spoke of himself as
"always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that
the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." 2
Corinthians 4:10. In the apostle's teachings Christ was the central
figure. "I live," he declared, "yet not I, but Christ
liveth in me." Galatians 2:20. Self was hidden; Christ was revealed
Paul was an eloquent speaker. Before his conversion he
had often sought to impress his hearers by flights of oratory. But now
he set all this aside. Instead of indulging in poetic descriptions and
fanciful representations, which might please the senses and feed the
imagination, but which would not touch the daily experience, Paul sought
by the use of simple language to bring home to the heart the truths that
are of vital importance. Fanciful representations of truth may cause an
ecstasy of feeling, but all too often truths presented in this way do not
supply the food necessary to strengthen and fortify the believer for the
battles of life. The immediate needs, the present trials, of struggling
souls--these must be met with sound, practical instruction in the
fundamental principles of Christianity.
Paul's efforts in Corinth were not without fruit. Many turned from the
worship of idols to serve the living God, and a large church was enrolled
under the banner of Christ. Some were rescued from among the most
dissipated of the Gentiles and became monuments of the mercy of God and
the efficacy of the blood of Christ to cleanse from sin.
The increased success that Paul had in presenting Christ, roused the
unbelieving Jews to more determined opposition. They rose in a body and
"made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to
the judgment seat" of Gallio, who was then proconsul of Achaia. They
expected that the authorities, as on former occasions, would side with
them; and with loud, angry voices they uttered their complaints against
the apostle, saying, "This fellow persuadeth men to worship God
contrary to the law."
The Jewish religion was under the protection of the Roman power, and
the accusers of Paul thought that if they could fasten upon him the charge
of violating the laws of their religion, he would probably be delivered to
them for trial and sentence. They hoped thus to compass his death. But
Gallio was a man of integrity, and he refused to become the dupe of the
jealous, intriguing Jews. Disgusted with their bigotry and
self-righteousness, he would take no notice of the charge. As Paul
prepared to speak in self-defense, Gallio told him that it was not
necessary. Then turning to the angry accusers, he said, "If it were a
matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should
bear with you: but if it be a question of words and names, and of your
law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters. And he drave
them from the judgment seat."
Both Jews and Greeks had waited eagerly for Gallio's decision; and his
immediate dismissal of the case, as one that had no bearing upon the
public interest, was the signal for the Jews to retire, baffled and angry.
The proconsul's decided course opened the eyes of the clamorous crowd who
had been abetting the Jews. For the first time during Paul's labors in
Europe, the mob turned to his side; under the very eye of the proconsul,
and without interference from him, they violently beset the most prominent
accusers of the apostle. "All the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief
ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio
cared for none of those things." Thus Christianity obtained a signal
"Paul after this tarried there yet a good while." If the
apostle had at this time been compelled to leave Corinth, the converts to
the faith of Jesus would have been placed in a perilous position. The Jews
would have endeavored to follow up the advantage gained, even to the
extermination of Christianity in that region.
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