Sunday, January 02, 2011

Paul's Interactions with the Corinthian Church

According to Acts 18, Paul first preached the Gospel in Corinth during his second missionary journey.[1] Corinth was an ancient Greek city that had been rebuilt as a Roman colony in 46 B.C. Corinth had a unique location, at the narrowest point in the mainland of Greece, and therefore provided easy access to the Aegean Sea on the east and the Adriatic Sea on the west. Though the Romans had opened up extensive seagoing trade routes and navigational methods were well advanced, ancient sailors still preferred to travel close to the coastline whenever they could, and Corinth took advantage of this to establish itself as one of the foremost centres of trade and transportation. Though there were plans to build a canal from the Aegean Sea to the Adriatic, even in New Testament times, it was many centuries later before the project was carried through. At the time when Paul visited the city, it had two separate harbours on each of its coasts—Lechaeum and Cenchreae—and between the two was an intricate construction like a conveyor belt, along which vast numbers of slaves would haul ships from one harbour to another. Corinth became an important transit point at which ships could pass from the Aegean to the Adriatic, without navigating the dangerous southern tip of Greece. Because of its strategic position, roughly midway between the eastern end of the Mediterranean and Italy, there was always a constant stream of traffic.[2] Paul clearly recognized the strategic importance of Corinth, remaining there for the next 18 months working as a tentmaker[3] and living with Aquila and his wife Priscilla who has recently moved to Corinth from Rome.[4] During this time, Paul began his ministry in the synagogues as was his custom. So fruitful was Paul’s time in Corinth that even Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire family came to faith in Jesus Christ.[5]

After Paul’s 18 month stay in Corinth, he returned to Antioch (Acts 18:23) and then began his third missionary journey.[6] After successfully ministering in Ephesus for some time, Paul had planned to visit Corinth while en route to Macedonia and then again on the way back intending to sail from Corinth to Judea.[7] It was during Paul’s time in Ephesus that 1 Corinthians was written. After receiving negative reports on the goings on in Corinth, Paul set out immediately to Corinth. This visit, called the “painful visit” to use Paul’s own words, was a disaster. Paul departed Corinth unexpectedly leading to charges of Paul being fickle. Paul may have departed to allow time for the wounds between himself and the Corinthians to heal though he was not about to let the situation slide.[8] Paul sent another letter, one of two believed to have been sent to the Corinthians now lost, carried by Titus that demanded the punishment of the ringleader causing the problems between Paul and the Corinthians. This letter was well received by the Corinthians leading to the writing of 2 Corinthians.

Paul addressed the charges of being timid and inconsistent in 2 Corinthians. Some still rebellious elements of the Corinthian church accused Paul of being timid in person and expressing boldness in the safety of a letter.[9] Paul assured the Corinthians that he would be equally bold in person if need be. In addition, Paul’s opponents in Corinth boasted of their accomplishments claiming credit for the work Paul had started. Paul refused to commend himself for the work our Lord accomplished through him. Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that he had not accepted financial support from them that he had not been a financial burden on them. This was used by Paul’s opponents to claim that Paul did not love them. Paul’s defense was simple: his refusal to accept funds from the Corinthians prevented his opponents from boasting that they worked on the same basis as Paul.[10] After delivering what is called the “fool’s speech” defending his apostolic credentials, Paul reminds the Corinthians that he has no interest in their material possessions and insisted that on his third visit, he would speak with the power of Christ sparing no offender from his rebuke.



[1] Carson, D A, and Douglas J Moo. An Introduction to The New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 420.

[2] Drane, John William. Introducing the New Testament, Completely Revised and Updated. Oxford: Lion Publishing plc, 2000), 310.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Carson, D A, and Douglas J Moo. An Introduction to The New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 421.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Lea, Thomas D., and David Alan Black. The New Testament: It's Background And Message (2nd ed). (Nashville: Broadman & Hollman Publishers, 2003), 404.

[7] Carson, D A, and Douglas J Moo. An Introduction to The New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 422.

[8] Ibid, 423.

[9] Lea, Thomas D., and David Alan Black. The New Testament: It's Background And Message (2nd ed). (Nashville: Broadman & Hollman Publishers, 2003), 423.

[10] Ibid, 424.

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