'After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.' Our journey to Corinth began in the early morning to beat the afternoon heat. Heading west from the culture of Athens, we travelled one and a half hours on a busy highway, the Saronic Gulf on our left and vast olive plantations to our right. The bay at the entrance to the isthmus of Corinth, connecting Italy to Asia Minor, is bordered by the Peloponnese mountains and looks remarkably like Port Lincoln in South Australia. Corinth, like modern port cities, attracted traders and sailors, and was notorious for its immorality. Its 200,000 residents worshipped Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Her temple, situated high on the Acro-Corinth, housed perhaps 4,000 prostitutes who traded sex for spirituality. In the fifth century B.C., the Greeks coined a verb for immorality - 'to Corinthianize.' Does it surprise you that Paul came to Corinth in weakness? He is often thought of as being invincible and unstoppable in faith and fervor. Yet, in his own words, Paul came in 'distress' (1 Thessalonian 3:7), in 'weakness', 'fear', and with 'much trembling.' (1 Corinthians. 2:3) Not only was Paul afraid, he needed financial help to continue travelling. This was the first time in his missionary journeys that he had to work at his trade in order to keep teaching. When considering Paul's anxiety about the well-being of new believers in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:1-8) and that he may not have fully recovered from the beating he had received in Philippi, we can understand his burden and his weakness. A tentmaker, Paul formed a partnership with a Christian couple named Aquila and Priscilla. From the fledgling Macedonian church he also received a financial gift (Philippians 4:10-14). Every Sabbath Paul went to the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews and God-fearing Greeks, persuading them that Jesus is the Christ. No sooner had he begun preaching than the Jews fiercely opposed him. So Paul went next door to the home a Gentile worshipper, Titius Justus. Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, his family and many other Corinthians believed and were baptized (18:7-8). God showed his faithfulness to Paul with the promise of future protection and opportunity to preach. Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision saying, 'Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city,' (18:9-10). This is one of six visions that Paul received, all at critical moments. Paul had only just come to Corinth, yet the Lord in his foreknowledge saw the gospel deposing the decadent deity Aphrodite, and growing. 'I have many people in this city.' One such person was the new governor, Gallio, who arrived in Corinth in the summer of AD 51. When the Jews sought to get rid of Paul, Gallio refused to hear the case. That this Roman proconsul refused to rule against Paul meant that for the next decade Christianity had some legal protection. Still, the mob was always menacing, and they attacked Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue. Is this the same Sosthenes who is called a brother in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:1)? Having suffered the unprovoked violence of the crowd, did the godly and kind character of the young Christians convince him to believe the Gospel?
Recently, a Yazidi Muslim was trapped on Shinjar Mountain in Iraq by Isis terrorists. There he witnessed 170 men being killed and many women and children sold into slavery. Disallusioned with Islam, that man turned to Jesus, describing the difference between Islam and Christianity as 'the difference between earth and sky and heaven. We were thinking every day, why are we not behaving like Christians?' Christianity is a belief that behaves. May that be true of me and you!