< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Ministry with Others - Part 1

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ministry with Others - Part 1

This lesson covers Acts 18:1- 19:10

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."

Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city." So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court. "This man," they charged, "is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law."

Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, "If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things." So he had them ejected from the court. Then they all turned on Sosthenes the synagogue ruler and beat him in front of the court. But Gallio showed no concern whatever.

Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken. They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, "I will come back if it is God's will." Then he set sail from Ephesus. When he landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.

After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."

So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied.
Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

On Paul’s missionary journeys, he rarely stayed in one city for any length of time. This was mostly because his preaching the gospel often resulted in hostility and he was chased out of town!

In this story he heads to Corinth, about 50 miles west of Athens. I always thought Corinth must have been a wonderful church because it had 2 books of the Bible named after it and there are churches today named Corinth, but the city Corinth back then was known for 2 things; greed for material gain and sensual lust.

The Roman writer Horace said that Corinth was a town where “no one but the tough survives.” It was a center for the cult of the goddess of love, Aphrodite, and the Greek geographer, Strabo, reported there were love priestesses(prostitutes) attached to her temple. In fact, prostitutes of the time were known as “Corinthian girls”!

Corinth was a major transfer port for traffic and commerce moving between Asia Minor and the Aegean Sea in the east and the Western Mediterranean and Rome. It was an ancient city that fell victim to the Romans in 146 BC. The consul, Mummius, butchered its men, sold its women and children into slavery and burned it down.

For 100 years it lay abandoned. Then in 44 BC Juslius Caesar re-established the city as a Roman colony and named it Colonia Lous Julia Corinthiensis (or Corinth, the praise of Caesar.)

In 27 BC Augustus carved Achaia out of Macedonia and made Corinth its capital. And after that Corinth boomed.

By Paul’s time Corinth had surpassed Athens in culture, trade and interchange of ideas. It was a cosmopolitan city of about 500,000 inhabitants and its hustling, bustling urban streets attracted characters hawking their wares, negotiating the transportation of their goods across the isthmus or taking a break from their travels.

These “breaks” often turned into debauchery. Eventually the Greeks coined a new verb, “to Corinthianize” which meant to practice immorality.

We usually think of Paul as being strong, bold and brave in his preaching, but he had had limited success in Athens and he was alone as he set out for Corinth. These facts, along with the notoriety of Corinth itself led him to confess later to the Corinthians, “I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.”

But, he ended up staying there longer than any other city on his missionary tours except possibly Ephesus.

Through out his ministry he returned twice to the city and he wrote them at least 4 times, 2 or which became the books in the Bible.

If the gospel could succeed in Corinth it could succeed anywhere! But, Paul needed much patience, firm admonition, persistent correction, moral guidance, liturgical direction and clear teaching to minister to them.

But Paul came to Corinth, alone.

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