Summary: Do you ever find yourself in a place where nothing is going right? The Apostle Paul came to Corinth in just such a state. Learn how God brought him help and fellowship just when he needed it.
The recent plunges by the world stock markets, bank failures, fortunes lost, even suicides by financial planners—all bring back chilling reminders of the Great Depression. 25% of Americans were unemployed. People couldn’t find work that lasted and many people lost their homes. Discouragement was at an all time high and if Prozac had been available then, it would have poured out of pharmacies. No, I don’t believe we are in for GD 2.0 (that’s Great Depression 2.0), but it reminds me that hard times can fall generally on a nation or a world, and on the individually on our lives as well. It seems that sometimes everything we touch turns to dust, rather than gold. It’s at those times when you really feel like giving up. You have no money, jobs are scarce, people don’t like you and even ministry is dry. Who am I describing? The Apostle Paul.
Paul has had a real roller coaster experience since launching his second missionary journey. He thought he was going the right direction but twice the Holy Spirit told him “no.” He would go to a city and though there was initial excitement about the gospel, sooner or later the jealous Jews would run him out of town. He ended up in Athens where most of the reigning philosophers dismissed him.
He finds himself in Corinth, without friends, a job, money, or a ministry. At nearly his lowest point, the Lord brings him support when he needs it, just as he does for us as well. Let’s see how it happens.
1 – 4
Corinth is strategically located on isthmus connecting the Adriatic and Aegean Seas. In Paul’s time it was a city of 200,000 Greeks, freedmen from Italy, Roman army veterans, businessmen, government officials, and a large number of Jews.
It was a commercially prosperous city, as cargo could be transported just 3 ½ miles overland to avoid the dangerous journey by sea. The prosperity also brought with it great idolatry and immorality. Beginning with the 5th century to “corinthianize” meant to be sexually immoral. Corinth was also the center for worship of Aphrodite.
Paul comes here from Athens, discouraged and defeated. “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3). He’d had a hard time there, having escaped persecution Thessalonica, Berea, and then rejection by the philosophers in Athens.
Paul was a tent maker by trade, so he would rub elbows with others in the same trade, and that’s how he met Aquila and Priscilla. These two had been forced out of Rome on January 25, A.D. 49 by Emperor Claudius. The problem occurred with riots “at the instigation of Chrestus” according to Roman historian Suetonius. Many take this to mean “Christ” which means the dispute in the Jewish community was over Jesus.
Paul supported himself in ministry. He needed a job and so worked with and probably for this couple who had a leather working and tent making firm with branches in Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus. Not only did they work together, but Paul lived with them.
Discouragement didn’t stop Paul, and it seems that the meeting with Priscilla and Aquila gave him the resources and support to go back to the synagogues and try again. First, isn’t it great to find those along the way that you can work with and still worship with? I still count it a real blessing that I had the opportunity to work with two Christian photographers during my time as a reporter in Portland. Second, have you ever been to someone who was discouraged a place of support? You may not think you have incredible spiritual gifts, but imagine if these two had spurned Paul, not wanting more trouble for themselves. You can have a key impact on someone else
5 – 11
Remember how Paul had sent for these two to come to him when he was in Athens? They finally catch up with Paul in Corinth.
The pair brought good news from Thessalonica, a place where Paul thought he had limited success and much opposition. The good news helped Paul a lot!
1 Thessalonians 3:6-10 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?