Gaining traction

Paul’s ministry began to gain traction after he arrived at Corinth. One of the factors that seemed to fuel the growth of his ministry was Paul’s conviction that he had been specifically called to preach the gospel to the non-Jewish populations around the world. A turning point occurred when Paul let go of his assumed obligation to preach to the Jews that were dispersed throughout the Roman Empire. It says in Acts 18:6, “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.”

While he was in Corinth, Paul received a prophetic message from Jesus. Luke tells us, “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, 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. And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:9-11). Jesus’ command to not be afraid suggests that Paul was experiencing anxiety because of the antagonism he was getting from the Jews (Acts 17:5, 13). The bravery he demonstrated in continuing to preach the gospel reflected Paul’s belief that Jesus was with him because he was fulfilling the purpose of his ministry, to spread the gospel around the world.

Paul’s extended stay in Corinth probably enabled him to develop closer relationships and deeper feelings for the Corinthians than he did at any of the other churches he established. The two lengthy letters (1 Corinthians & 2 Corinthians) Paul wrote a few years after his first visit to Corinth show that he had a great deal of concern for the Corinthians spiritual well-being. The city of Corinth which was “perched like a one-eyed Titan astride the narrow isthmus connecting the Greek mainland with the Peloponnese, was one of the dominant commercial centers of the Hellenic world as early as the eighth century B.C. No city in Greece was more favorably situated for land and sea trade. With a high, strong citadel at its back, it lay between the Saronic Gulf and the Ionian Sea and ports of Lachaion and Cenchrea” (Corinth in the Time of Paul, p.1641).

The Lord’s selection of Corinth as Paul’s temporary home base was likely due to its ideal location and culture. “It has been estimated that in Paul’s day Corinth had a population of about 250,000 free persons, plus as many as 400,000 slaves. In a number of ways it was the chief city of Greece…it was a crossroads for travelers and traders” (Introduction to The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, p.1640). In many ways, the Corinthians were similar to believers today. “Most of the questions and problems that confronted the church at Corinth are still very much with us — problems like immaturity, instability, divisions, jealousy and envy, lawsuits, marital difficulties, sexual immorality and misuse of spiritual gifts.”