Summary: How God intervened in the life of Paul when he was discouraged.
A Study of the Book of Acts
Sermon # 31
“It is always too soon to Quit!”
by Dr. John R. Hamby
“A man was shoveling snow from his driveway when two boys carrying snow shovels approached him. “Can we shovel your snow mister?” one of them asked. “Only two dollars!” Puzzled the man replied, “Can’t you see that I’m doing it myself.” “Sure,” said one of the enterprising young men, “that’s why we asked. We get most of our business from people who are half through and feel like quitting.” [Warren Wiersbe. Be Daring. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1989) p. 56]. Well, that describes most of us at one time or another, we feel like giving up. Paul would later write to the same group that he is ministering to in this chapter, in 1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” But Paul did not feel that way when he first arrived in Corinth.
After he left Athens Paul went to Corinth. Verse one says, “After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth.” Corinth was a commercial center located on a narrow land bridge that connected the southern part of Greece, the Peloponnessus- with the northern part of Greece. This land bridge is only 4-7 miles wide. All commercial land traffic going between northern and southern Greece had to go through Corinth. In a similar fashion all sea traffic had to pass through Corinth that had a port on the eastern and western sides of the land bridge. The smaller boats would actually be skidded across the isthmus. Larger boats would be off loaded, the goods carried across, and reloaded on boats waiting on the other side. This was done because sailing around the tip of Greece was considered to dangerous in those days. At the time of Paul’s arrival the city would have been large and prosperous.
One of the most distinguishing features of the city was the Temple of Aphrodite, located on the hill overlooking the city. Aphrodite (or Venus as she was called by the Romans) was the goddess of love. There were about 1,000 temple prostitutes associated with this temple who entered the city each evening to ply their trade. One worshipped the goddess of love by having sexual relations with one of these prostitutes. Immorality in Corinth was so well know that to say who did not live in Corinth that they were a Corinthian, was an insult and a charge of sexual immorality. There was no city in the Roman Empire that was more corrupt.
I tend to believe that when Paul arrived in Corinth that he depressed and discouraged. When confronted with the depravity of this city he must have felt almost overwhelmed. Some have even suggested that Romans 1:26-28 are a description of what he saw in Corinth. He wrote, “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. (27) Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (28) And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;” Every depraved thing that the imagination of man could come up with Paul saw in Corinth.
Not only is Paul overwhelmed with immorality of Corinth; he is very much alone. Paul had left all of his co-workers, Silas and Timothy behind. He in Corinth he faced the challenge of presenting the gospel to an entire city with a population of around, 250,000 people. He was justifiably overwhelmed.
Once in Corinth an additional difficult had to be faced, was that he did not have any funds. One of the first things we are told, in verse two and three is that Paul met a “certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. (3) So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers.” Paul teams up with Aquila and Priscilla, in their tent making business in order to support himself. In missionary circles today we still call any missionary who support themselves on the field by working in the local economy as “tent making.”
In verse 4 we find that Paul, “reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.” It would appear the Paul because he worked full time as a tent-maker had to limit his ministry to what he could do on the Sabbath.