Summary: In this first sermon in the series, we introduce the city of Corinth, the beginning of the church in Corinth and Paul's purpose in writing 2 Corinthians.

A. As we begin the new year, we are beginning a new sermon series on the book of 2 Corinthians.

1. I’m calling the series “Learning to Lean on God.”

2. In my 22 years here at Wetzel Road, we have never preached through this letter, so I’m looking forward to it!

3. During 2008, we preached through 1 Corinthians, but I wanted to give us a little break before we came back for 2 Corinthians.

B. How many of you have heard of the Appalachian Trail?

1. Have any of you ever hiked the trail?

2. The Appalachian Trail is the longest continuous walking trail in the world. How about that?

3. It stretches over 2,170 miles and passes through 14 states, beginning in Georgia and ending in Maine before it enters Canada and literally ends at the Atlantic Ocean.

4. Each year about 2000 wide-eyed, enthusiastic hikers set out to walk the entire trail.

5. Very few make it to the end. Half of the walkers don’t even make it one third of the way.

6. One in ten of them drop out within the first week.

7. There have been cases of people who have travelled half way around the world and spent a small fortune on travel, equipment and supplies only to pull out of the hike within 3 days.

8. They come expecting a nice stroll through the woods with the sun shinning, and birds singing.

9. But what they get are rocks, steep mountain climbs, rain, ticks, bears and snakes.

C. It all goes to prove that the saying it true: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

1. It’s when things get difficult, when things aren’t as easy as you thought they might be, that you see people’s real character.

2. That’s when you see what people are made of; their true colors.

D. Life as a Christian can be tough going.

1. There are usually many good and easy times, but there are also plenty of difficult times.

2. And the Christian trail is a life long one. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

3. When Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, the going was tough for him, and therefore, we get a glimpse into what Paul was made of, and how strong was his faith and character and commitment.

5. Let’s spend a few minutes talking about the city of Corinth and Paul’s relationship with the Corinthians.

I. The City of Corinth

A. Corinth was located on a narrow strip of land connecting Northern Greece with the Peloponnesus.

1. Corinth was a thriving center for travel and trade in the first-century world.

2. It controlled north-south commerce by virtue of its strategic location.

3. And because sailing was difficult around the Peloponnesus, Corinth also had command over east-west traffic between Rome and the Near East.

4. It was safer to transport cargo overland at Corinth between its port cities of Cenchrea on the east and Lechaeum on the west than to run the risk of navigating harsh seas.

5. The Corinthians came up with an ingenious system that used rollers and slave labor to drag cargo and even small ships overland for the four miles from one port to the other.

B. The city of Corinth was enormously wealthy and had both the assets and liabilities that accompany prosperity.

1. Over the years, a pleasure-mad and immoral atmosphere had been cultivated in Corinth.

2. Corinth came to be what one historian described as “the cesspool of the ancient world.”

3. Drunkenness, prostitution, brawling, murder, and assorted other sinful things took place there.

4. Sounds like one of our major cities, right?

C. Corinth was the capital city of the province of Achaia when Paul wrote his letters.

1. Its population was something near a half-million souls.

D. What religion there was at Corinth centered around the polytheistic gods of Greco-Roman mythology.

1. In particular, the worship of Aphrodite – the Greek “goddess of love” – had a large following.

2. The acropolis of Corinth shown in this picture, is known as Acrocorinth, and it rises about 1800 feet above the surrounding plain. At the highest summit was the Temple of Aphrodite.

3. This cult certainly contributed to the immorality of the city since the priestesses of the cult were “sacred prostitutes,” and the worship center was nothing more than a brothel.

4. Corinth housed other religious shrines too, most notably a temple to Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, as well as sites for worshiping Isis, the Egyptian goddess of seafarers, and her Greek male counterpart Poseidon.

5. Also, there was a synagogue in Corinth for the Jewish community to worship in.

II. The Beginning of the Church in Corinth

A. Perhaps few elderships or missions committees would have selected the city of Corinth as a promising site for a church planting.

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