Acts 18 tells the story of Paul’s first visit to Corinth. No church in the New Testament is more like our modern churches than the Corinthian church.
Corinth was a city of wealth and culture, seated at the crossroads of the Roman Empire, through which flowed all the trade and commerce of the empire. A beautiful resort city, it was also a city of immorality. On the hill that rises behind the ancient city stood a temple to Aphrodite. Every evening the priests and priestesses — male and female prostitutes — would come down from the temple into the streets to ply their trade. It was known throughout the length and breadth of the ancient world as a city of great and widespread immorality.
- Corinth was an exceptionally wealthy city and the 2nd most important city in the Roman empire.
- Corinth had access to both the Adriatic and Agean seas, as it sat on an isthmus.
- Ships and goods could cross this narrow land-bridge to avoid a long trip into the open sea.
- It was an important military outpost.
- The city, like Las Vegas today, was know for decadence and sexual immorality.
- Corinth had a population of about 200,000 free citizens, 500,000 slaves and a large population of freed slaves.
- The patron god was Poseidon, but it also had a large temple to Aphrodite. Temple worship consisted of visiting one of a temple priestess/prostitute.
- The Apostle Paul visited Corinth around 50 AD during his second missionary journey.
Paul in Corinth
- Paul left Silas and Timothy in Berea and traveled alone to Athens and then Corinth. He intended to stay in Corinth a short time, but after God’s vision, he stayed 18 months.
- Aquila is a Jew from Pontus (now northern Turkey). His name is Latin for “eagle” and he may have been a freed slave. It is unclear whether or not Priscilla is Jewish and whether she is also a tent maker.
- Priscilla’s name is often listed first. We can only speculate on the reason. She may have been the better teacher or simply had a closer relationship to Luke, the author of Acts.
- In 49 AD, the Emperor Claudius ordered all Jews who were not Roman citizens to leave Rome, causing Priscilla and Aquila to leave Rome.
- When Paul leaves Corinth, Priscilla and Aquila go with him to Ephesus, where they stay and host a house church.
- Paul begins his visit working as a tent maker during the week and preaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath.
- After the Jews reject him, he begins preaching to the Gentiles.
- Silas and Timothy arrive with a financial gift from Macedonia which allows Paul to preach full-time.
18:1After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. 2And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, 3and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers. 4And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. 5But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. 6But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7Then he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. 8Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized. 9And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” 11And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. – Acts 1:1-11 NASB
MAP: Paul’s 2nd Journey – visits Corinth on this trip
The Riot in Corinth
18:12But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, 13saying, “This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” 14But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you; 15but if there are questions about words and names and your own law, look after it yourselves; I am unwilling to be a judge of these matters.” 16And he drove them away from the judgment seat. 17And they all took hold of Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and began beating him in front of the judgment seat. But Gallio was not concerned about any of these things. 18Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow. 19They came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20When they asked him to stay for a longer time, he did not consent, 21but taking leave of them and saying, “I will return to you again if God wills,” he set sail from Ephesus. 22When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and went down to Antioch. – Acts 18:12-22 NASB
- Gallio is the brother of Seneca, the well-known stoic philosopher.
- Paul is charged with preaching an illegal religion, which could be punished by death.
- Judaism was a legal Roman religion. At this point, Christianity was considered a sect of Judaism and was therefore legal.
- Gallio’s ruling here gives Christianity legal protection for a few more years.
- Sosthenes became leader of the synagogue after Crispus converted and now has converted himself.
- The angry Jewish mob cannot beat Paul since he is a Roman citizen, so they turn on Sosthenes.
- This is probably the same Sosthenes mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:1.
Paul’s Letters to Corinth
- Paul probably wrote 4 letters to the Corinthians, but only 2 survived.
- Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus around 55 AD.
- Paul wrote 2 Corinthians from Macedonia around 56 AD.
- Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in response to a letter of questions from Corinth and a verbal report from “Chloe’s people.”
- Encouraged by new from Titus, Paul wrote 2 Corinthians to prepare for his coming to see them again (after Macedonia).
Map: Paul’s 3rd Journey – writes the letters during this time period.
For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast.