Paul in Corinth

I took this picture after climbing to a peak overlooking the city of Corinth, New York. As I approached the peak, it got me thinking of another Corinth- the Biblical city of Corinth, Greece. What did Paul see in Corinth, what was he feeling, as he approached the ancient city?  I’ll bet there are lessons for us today in what Paul had to say to the Corinthians of ancient times. Mini history lesson, here we come!

Ancient Corinth

In 146 BC, the Romans, mighty angry with the Greeks, burned down Corinth and left it in ruins. Julius Caesar rebuilt Corinth about 44-46 BC.  It became the Roman capital in its province even though it was mostly inhabited by Greeks.

Corinth was strategically located on a narrow strip of land between two bodies of water. It controlled two major harbors, and as a result, the trade routes between Asia and Rome. Corinth’s marketplace was larger than any other in Rome. It was prosperous and catered to sailors and traveling salesmen. However, the prostitutes, idolatry, and wine shops gave it an unsavory reputation. Corinth became a synonym for immorality.

The Church in Corinth

It was into this city that Paul traveled in about 52-53 AD as recorded in Acts 18:1-18 and started a church. He stayed with Aquila and Priscilla who, like him, were tent makers, for about a year and a half. His church in Corinth is considered one of his greatest churches.

Corinthian Church Problems

Immorality and spiritual immaturity plagued the early Corinthian believers. The church had only been established for a few years when they wrote to Paul about their problems and requested answers. Good first move! They were struggling, they knew it, and they wanted to do things right.

Paul starts out his first letter not only with a greeting to the Corinthians but to all; including you and me: (1:2) “To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”… Even though he was dealing with this particular church and its issues, there is a lot for us to learn from it.

Some of the topics Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians were questions the new Christians had as they were trying to live a Christian life in a divided church and an immoral society.

Paul corrected them and warned them that they were not to conform to the world around them. They were supposed to be living a godly life as an example in their definitely un-godly surroundings.

Has that changed much from the world we live in today?

Preach Christ Crucified

Paul’s answer was to plead with the Corinthians to focus on Christ. They were relying on their own so-called strengths instead of the core doctrine of what Jesus did on the cross.

Paul tells them, “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified.” (1:22-23) and “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” (1:30-31)

What a great reminder!  Our priority should be Christ’s gospel. We have the energy, wisdom and the power of God strengthening us to do just that.  Is there any sort of false pride in your life? We need to be humble and rely on God’s strength and power to overcome that as well.

1 Corinthians 13

Paul also stressed the need for true, genuine Christian love in the Corinthians’ lives. It was sorely lacking as evidenced by the conflicts, lawsuits, the disorder in their worship, etc. He tells them in 13:1 “And now I will show you the most excellent way.”

From there, he says that without love, whatever we say is just annoying noise. Without love, even possessing all the knowledge of the scriptures and supreme faith, we are absolutely nothing. We could be the greatest philanthropists on the face of the planet. But without love, there is zero profit.

Paul goes on to describe what true love is and how true love acts. Each of us is to look inward and ferret out where Christ’s love is lacking expression in our lives. Our emotions, our attitudes, our actions- how could we better reproduce Christ’s love?

I’m sure you’ve read Corinthians 13 many times. Reread it sometime this week with eyes wide open. What a beautiful message to the Corinthians as they struggled. What a beautiful message for us today.

Titus in 2 Corinthians

Later in that same year, after Paul wrote what we know as 1st Corinthians, he again wrote to the Corinthians. He had met up with Titus, who was returning from Corinth. Titus told Paul that his first letter had accomplished a lot of good in the church, but that some leaders were still denying Paul as a genuine apostle of Christ. They question his personal integrity. Since all is still not well in the church of Corinth,  Paul plans a visit.

Paul strongly defends himself even as he affirms his great love for the Corinthian church.  Paul’s struggles in 2nd Corinthians convicts me to pray for the pastors of our churches!  Leading a ministry can be trying, difficult and downright painful at times.

The other theme that resounded with me is the hope and encouragement Paul gives all of us as we suffer through trials.  Paul speaks of his “thorn” that tormented him, and likewise, not one of us is spared heartache and difficulty.  I’ve had the following verse on a card stuck on my bathroom mirror for years. I encourage you to insert your own name in it as someone did for me- “My grace is sufficient for you, AnnMarie, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

As I gazed over the city of Corinth NY a few weeks ago, I marveled at the beauty of what God had created. That little city is probably no different than the cities you and I live in. Our churches have the same issues, and we live in a world with issues that strain against our Christian teachings.

May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

I’ll leave you with Paul’s last written message to the people of Corinth.  It’s as perfect today as it was in 57 AD:

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  2 Corinthians 13:14.



2 thoughts on “Paul in Corinth”

  1. Thanks for the history lesson and great insights. I’m going to take your advice and pin that verse, personalized, to my bathroom wall as well. A good verse to wake up to!

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