Monday, May 14, 2007

On to Corinth! Acts 18:1-17

When I say the name of this city, what sort of things run through your minds? Give me your best shot. Ready? Las Vagas, Bangkok, Singapore, Corinth!

Well, if you are thinking of anything that deals with sex, you got it right! This city of Corinth, which was smaller that Tokorozawa at 200,000, was noted for its unsavory outlook on life. Sexual sin was worshiped here. Male and Female Temple prostitutes were paid well for their services. A REAL 'RIP-ROARING CITY, where Horace put it, “None but the tough could survive.”

Paul went to Corinth after the short stay in Athens. While there, Paul met a Jewish man named Aquila, a native of Pontus. Pontus was on the north east side of current Turkey. It was in the Asian province. (Paul was forbidden to go there by the Holy Spirit but this is the second time people from there meet with Paul.) This man and his wife had just returned from some time in Rome. They had to leave that city. The Roman Emperor Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. That was in 49 A.D. Some say that the problem was that there were so many disagreements from the Jews in Rome, that Claudius just had enough. Some say it was because some Jews were preaching Jesus and that caused the problem. Pick one.

Now Aquila came from Pontus. That area later became a large Christian area. By the beginning of the First World War, the Turks forced many people groups out of 'their' country. The Young Turks, as they were called, killed over 350,000 Ponic Greek Believers in an ethnic cleansing that also did away with many more Armenians and other minority groups. It is becoming an issue today as Turkey is looking to join the European Union. Some have not forgotten nor forgiven the Turks for those killings.

Because Aquila and Priscilla were workers of leather in making tents, Paul joined them. He too was a worker of leather. A common practice at that time for a preacher to be bi-vocational. His workweek looked like this: Six days at work in the Aquila Tent shop and one day off to reason with the Jews and Greeks in offering them salvation through Christ Jesus.

Things changed for Paul once Silas and Timothy returned from Macedonia. They brought with them some gifts from the Believers back home. This monetary gift was described in 2 Cor 11: 9

And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.
And again in Phil. 4: 15

Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only;

Before the gift came, Paul was not a burden to the new group of believers. He supplied his own money for food and living. He engaged in tent making to offer his Gospel without charge. Working for the might Buck was not his goal in life. His strategy was to work when necessary and preach at all times. We can learn from Paul that if you don't work, you don't eat.
Eph. 4:28

He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
And in 2 Thessalonians 3:8

nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.
And for sure, 2 Thessalonians 3:10

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."
Now, with his team back in place, Paul goes after the goal with a great deal of power. He

“devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.”
The term is used today of being a Full Time Christian Worker. It implies that there are some part-time Christian workers or even a Profession Christian full time Christian worker, as opposed to being an unprofessional Christian full time Christian worker. Do these words bother you? They do me.

Some time passes between verse 5 and verse 6. Here Paul was preaching away and one by one, a family here and a group of people there, all came to know His presence in their lives. People are living a new or reborn lifestyle. Some are just different now that they have placed their trust in Jesus-since they believed that He died for them-that He will return once again. This must have gotten into the Jewish leaders faces and they began to feel threatened. Not that Paul was preaching that people forget the Jewish ways, no, he was showing them that they could live a life in Christ Jesus without being captive to the Law.

When we look at what kind of ministry Paul did there in that wicked city, we can see that he followed the Lord's commission given in Matthew 28:19-20.

  1. He came to Corinth (his going from someplace),
  2. he won the lost to faith in Jesus (make disciples),
  3. he baptized them and he taught them as verse 11 says:
So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.
Now, the Jews opposed Paul.

After a while, they became abusive toward Paul. His response was to shake the dust off his clothes in protest. In other cities, he had been treated very badly. Remember back in Lystra in Acts 14? You'd think Paul would get discouraged. You'd think he would give up. Paul was walking by Faith even in the middle of opposition. In fact, a pessimist would only see the pain and problems; an optimist would see only the possibilities but a realist sees the potential in the pain. That's Paul! He saw all to well where an angry crowd would take him yet he still went into the streets to reason with them. Why?
Romans 10: 1-3 Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. What does this shaking off the dust mean? Jesus had told His 12 that if you go into a certain town and they reject the Message, you are to brush off the dust from your shoes and move onto the next village. Luke 9:5
"If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them."
And again in Luke 10:10-11
But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.'
Paul wants the Jews to realize that he is clear of his responsibilities of the judgment that will come. They have blasphemed against the Lord by rejecting His Person. They are to face judgment for that fact. Paul uses wording from the OT from 2 Samuel 1:16
For David had said to him, "Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, 'I killed the LORD's anointed.'
Paul then walks out of the Synagogue and walks next door to the house of Titius Justus who is a worshiper of God. The synagogue leader also defects and follows Jesus with his WHOLE household falling in line to believe. (The Jewish group needs then to find still another leader to replace Crispus.) After, when the crowds of Greeks beat up the man Sosthenes, there is evidence that he too follows the way of Salvation and believes in Jesus later. 1 Cor. 1:1.

Face it, my friends, there is never an easy road to take when you are walking with Jesus. There is no better road. It is never easy to serve Him. If it were easy, something is most likely very wrong. Later, Paul would remind young Timothy in 2 Tim 3:12
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Some people today are preaching that to be a Christian and to have the blessing of the Lord would mean that there is nothing but blessings of prosperity. Francis Bacon (1600s) once said that “Adversity is the blessing of the New.” Paul was at peace with what was going on as he fell asleep that night and in that sleep, the Lord visited him with yet another vision.

Paul would have sung the great Hymn called Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine! by Fanny Crosby, had he known it. This was his testimony as well!

What ever happened between verse 8 and verse 9? Whatever it was, sparks were flying! Many now were coming to faith is Jesus. When was the last time you witnessed New Life? Who was the last person you know who came to Faith in Jesus? How long ago was it? Why? Here Titius Justus and Crispus and his whole family came to Jesus. many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.

WOW! What a sight! The numbers kept on growing, just like back in Jerusalem, and in Antioch. When it got like this in Philippi and at Berea and at Thessalonica, it was time for Paul to move on. It seemed to be that way right along. Why would it be different now? Can you just hear Paul telling his group, “Well, better get the bags packed. More are coming to faith and even more are getting angry. Before they come for me and drag me out to be beaten, I'd better go!”

But as he went to sleep, 9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision:

"Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city."

What was Paul's response? Verse 11
So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the Word of God.

Then the enemies stared again but Paul was holding on to the Promise of God! They took him to the bema for a hearing.

The Lord knows just when we need His special touch and reminder. It may not be like Paul's experience at all but our Lord's presence is still there. He will speak to us when we are in need of Him the most. Sometimes, He uses silence. During those times, it is hard but necessary to trust Him. He is faithful! He can say to your heart today:

“Fear not, My child. I love you with an everlasting love! I know what you need and I will supply ALL your needs in Christ Jesus. Timing is Mine. Do not fear nor let your heart be troubled. I am with you-forever! You are Mine!”

How can we remind ourselves of this promise? The next time you feel all alone or discouraged, remember:Hebrews 13:5

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

or Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Or Isaiah 43:1-7

But now, this is what the LORD says-He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel:"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;I have summoned you by name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, - Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in My sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.' Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth- everyone who is called by My Name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made."

This is Mother's Day. How can such a sermon turn to the likes of a Mother's Day sermon? I am not going to try. But for the sake that some are looking for something that deals with Mother's Day, Here is a Mother of all stories of how much God loves the people of the city of Corinth. He know who was His and He was planning for them to not only hear the Message but to embrace it.

How about you? Have you embraced the Gospel Message and followed your heart to the Cross.

I'd like us all to spend a few min, in fact, one min, before the Lord and let Him know where you are with Him. Maybe you need to ask Him to forgive you. Maybe you need to tell Him that you love Him. Maybe you need to just stay silent before Him and let the silence heal your troubled mind and soul.

You may want to pray this prayer:

"Lord, I'm Yours...and whatever the cost may be, may Your will be done in my life. I'm not here on earth to do my own thing, or to seek my fulfillment or even my glory. I'm not here to indulge in my desires, to increase my possessions, to impress people, to be popular, to prove I'm somebody important, or to promote myself. I'm not here even to be relevant or successful by human standards. I'M HERE TO PLEASE YOU!"

That is the prayer of my heart, and I know that I have much to learn until it is really true.

Let me know if you want to take this challenge on. I'd love to pray for and with you. Pastor Stan