Athens and Corinth: a world of difference.
NOVEMBER 8, 2022
Athens and Corinth: a world of difference. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
That was Steve Brown. He’s an author, seminary professor, and our teacher on Key Life, a program all about God’s radical grace. We’re committed to bringing you Bible teaching that’s honest, straight-forward, and street-smart. Keep listening to hear truth that’ll make you free.
Thank you Matthew. If you have your Bible, and we’re going to go to a new text during this broadcast. We finished up the 17th chapter of Acts and Paul’s visit and failure at Athens. He was speaking to intellectuals and that’s hard going sometimes. In Acts 17:21, Luke says.
Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
In Pilgrim’s Progress, you might remember that Faithful and Christian are walking together and they meet Talkative. And all he wants to do is talk. When Faithful pins him down, Talkative decides that he doesn’t want to travel with him anymore. Well, that’s what happened in Athens. But then Paul moves on to Corinth, and so let’s go to the 18th chapter of Acts where that happens.
After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, lately come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and they worked, for by trade they were tentmakers. And he argued in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with preaching, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and revised him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justice, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of this synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with all his household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no man will attack you to harm you, so I have many people in this city. And Paul stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. But when Gallio the proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, saying, “This man is persuading men worship God contrary to the law.” when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, I would have reason to bear with you, O Jews. But since it’s a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” And he drove them from the tribunal. And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of it.
Now, what we’re going to do is we’re going to take a little bit of time and compare Athens and Corinth. Athens was Paul’s greatest failure. And Corinth was probably Paul’s greatest success. Athens, was by the way, the cultural capital of Greece. Corinth was the commercial capital. It was situated in the strategic south end of the narrow isthmus connecting continental Europe and Corinth. And made Corinth a wealthy and prosperous city. Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Rakaia and was destroyed and refounded in 46 BC by Julius Caesar. Corinth’s strategic location as a commercial bridge, it’s two natural deep harbors and a very big rock behind the city, which rose some 1,700 feet provided natural protection from invaders. All combined, all of that to make not only Corinth prosperous and wealthy, but also perhaps more important for our considerations as we study Acts, made Corinth one of the most corrupt cities in the whole Roman Empire. I mean, this was the New York of the ancient world. Fairly recent excavations, by the way, have uncovered the great Agora, the largest non-religious structure in all of ancient Greece. And in a space of only 100 by 80 feet, there were discovered 33 bars, taverns, and saloons. Corinth, as one might expect, was a great cosmopolitan city, many languages, many cultures, many races, many creeds from all throughout the ancient Mediterranean world. In Corinth, Paganism was rampant. You’ll find in that city the great temple of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty and lust. Sexual perversion, immortality ranked only second to making a buck as the chief diversion of the city. Now, if you’ve been reading ahead and if you are familiar with the New Testament. You’re aware that whereas Paul’s efforts in Athens failed, his efforts in Corinth were an unbelievable success. It’s interesting to note that more space in the New Testament is devoted to Corinth than to any other church. It is even more interesting to note, that more space is devoted to Corinth than any of the gospel writers devoted to Jesus himself. How about that sports fans? No church was established in Athens, and other than the short passage in Acts, we know little or nothing of what happened to the few believers who came to know Christ with Paul’s ministry in Athens. The question before the house is this. Why in the world was Paul so successful in Corinth and such a failure in Athens? Now, it becomes immediately apparent if you take the time to notice, there is one obvious difference between Athens and Corinth, and it’s this. In Athens, Paul spoke to the wealthy, in Corinth Paul spoke to the poor. In Athens, Paul directed his ministry to the bourgeoisie and in Corinth he spoke to the proletariat. In Athens, Paul spoke to intellectuals, in Corinth, he spoke to the uneducated mostly. You can find that in I Corinthians 1:26 through 29. You know the text.
For consider your call, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
Sometimes now that the church is fairly accepted, we forget our roots. Our roots are not in the elite, not in the wealthy, not in the powerful, but in the foolish and the weak. Our roots are rooted in a church of the common people. We live in a time where the elites are incredibly and insufferably self righteous. We live in a time when the talking heads always with their nose stuck up in the air and their peacock feathers flying in the breeze, pretending to know better than you do and want you to be quiet, to shut up and do what they say do. That’s always been true and do you know what God has done? God has raised up the terrible meek. That would be you. That would be me. God has gone to the outcast and the poor and the sinners. Jesus was accused of being a friend of sinners and drunks and prostitutes, and he was that. And do you know why? Because in our weakness, we know our need and in that need we run to Jesus. A rich intellectual won’t do that. You think about that. Amen.
Thank you Steve. What a difference from Athens to Corinth. As that old saying goes, location, location, location. Our text today was Acts chapter 18 versus 1 through 17. And we will continue digging deeper into this chapter tomorrow. Hope you will join us for that. Well, as we have seen again and again here in Acts, great answers start with great questions. And here’s a great question. Why did Jesus have to die? Well, Steve gave a sermon a while back on that very subject, and I think it will help answer that question. It’s titled, happily enough, Why Jesus had to Die. And it is a fantastic lesson. In fact, we put it on a CD and we would be happy to send it to you, for free. Just call us right now at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also drop an e-mail to Ste[email protected] to ask for that CD. By mail, send your request to
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