Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 2v1-5 regarding his first contact with the city of Corinth: “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.”
When he was going the 50 miles or so from Athens to Corinth, Paul was alone. He had left the intellectual centre of the ancient world, Athens, and entered Corinth, the cultural capital of the ancient world. Do you sometimes think that Paul was like a superman, always brash and utterly confident when engaged in evangelism? According to that passage, he entered with great nervousness, weakness and fear. He was not confident in his own ability or the way that he spoke and reasoned. But why should Paul have been this way with the city of Corinth?
The city of Corinth is located on the narrow isthmus linking northern and southern Greece. It had two ports on either side, where small ships and boats could be dragged on greased planks the 3-mile journey across the isthmus, thus saving themselves a 200-mile journey through dangerous waters. It was therefore a natural place for fantastic links for commerce and culture across the known world. The world famous Isthmian games were held there. Paul’s reasoning for deciding to go there was probably along the lines of “If its good enough for commerce and culture to be spread from Corinth, even better for the Gospel to travel far and wide from that hub.” So he enters Corinth. But alas, with culture and commerce came its evil triplet – immorality. The temple, which overlooked Corinth, was dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite and had 1,000 prostitutes. Aphrodite was the goddess of love and sex. In those days to go “corinthianizing”, meant to go actively seeking immorality. These reasons are why Paul entered Corinth nervously – the proud and cultural intelligentsia, endemic immorality and the many temples to many gods including Aphrodite and Poseidon. The Corinthians were post-modern people, even before post-modernity! Their motto – “If it feels good, do it!”
Paul was nervous and weak in his own strength, but he was supremely confident in the Lord and the power of the Spirit to use him. What can we learn from Paul’s visit to Corinth and how do we apply them to our lives today in the 21st century? After all our modern cities and towns are no different from ancient Corinth!
Paul’s Message – The Gospel
- The Gospel is Trinitarian – The Gospel is The Father’s mysterious revelation through the Son’s work on the cross in the power of the Spirit
- The Gospel is Three Dimensional
- Breadth of the Bible – all of Scripture is about God’s plan of Salvation.
- Depth of the cross
- Length of God’s mission
The Gospel is anathema and unpopular. The Gospel is never popular, and if it is, then it is not a truly Biblically Gospel. We have a false Gospel being preached where financial prosperity is the central claim. We have a false Gospel where Jesus is a cure all being the central claim. For Paul, and for all true Christian Disciples, “Jesus and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2v2) is the true Gospel.
Paul faced Jewish opposition
- To the Jewish mindset, it was unthinkable that the Messiah would be crucified on a pagan Gentile cross (Acts18v6, 12-17).
Paul faced Gentile opposition
- Jesus’ exclusive claim to be the only way, the only truth and only life challenged Corinthian pluralism & universalism! The Corinthians lived a life filled with many gods, why would they want to settle for just the One – particularly one who had died?
· A life of holiness challenged Corinthian immorality! Exercise self-control? You are having a laugh, Paul. Ha ha.
- God’s power challenged Corinthian cultured intellect! Some of the Athenians told Paul he was a babbler, and so would have the cultured and refined Corinthian intelligentsia.
- Humility challenged Corinthian pride. To kneel at the cross, takes great humility. The Corinthians were a proud and cultured people, to whom the thought of humbly kneeling before a God was anathema. Much better to be devoting yourself to a goddess of sex. What more could a young Corinthian want than the mixture of religion and sex?
The same applies today. We are shouted down if we dare exclaim that Jesus is the only acceptable path to God. We are told there are no such thing as moral absolutes any more, and what’s right for you may not be right for me and providing I am not hurting anyone, stay out of my private business. Sex and sexuality are worshipped and adored as if they were gods in themselves. In an age of Scientific materialism and hyper-rationalism, people cynically laugh at us and say that we worship a dead man. We are often called fools for believing in Original Sin and deluded for believing in a God. Have you been called those things? I know I have. Humility is not looked upon as a strength today, its frowned upon as a weakness. The world says that if you want to get ahead in life, you need to be strong, show some backbone and don’t ever back down to anybody or anything. Certainly never admit you were wrong and had made mistakes! The way of the Gospel is to kneel before the Cross, admit your mistakes and sins and be prepared to serve and take up your own cross.
The world is quite willing to accept a harmless baby at Christmas, but not the violence of the cross that followed. That is why even atheists like Richard Dawkins like to sing Christmas Carols! The danger of Christmas is when the glorious incarnation of Jesus Christ, being both fully God and fully human, is diluted into fantasy along with Santa and his elves.
For more to think about please do read Acts 18v1-17, ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.
Q1. Am I using all opportunities to build relationships and tell others a truly biblical cross-centred Gospel?
Q2. Am I growing and changing into the very likeness of Jesus?
There are 2 more about Evangelism over the next 2 days! Stay tuned!
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