A Commentary by John Stott
Acts 18:1-18a). 1). Paul in Corinth.
*After this* (that is, following his Areopagus speech and its aftermath) *Paul left Athens and went to Corinth* (1). It was about this journey (as was noted at the end of the last chapter), in anticipation of his mission in Corinth, that Paul later wrote: ‘I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling’ (1 Cor. 2:2-3). We need to penetrate deeper into the causes of Paul’s fear and the reasons for his resolve. What was it about Corinth which occasioned his alarm and necessitated his decision to preach only Christ and his cross?
It was surely the pride and the immorality of the Corinthian people which intimidated Paul, since the cross comes into direct collision with both. To begin with, the Corinthians were a proud people. Their intellectual arrogance emerges clearly in Paul’s correspondence with them. They were also proud of their city, which Julius Caesar had beautifully rebuilt in 46 BC, They boasted of its wealth and culture, of the world-famous Isthmian games which it hosted every other year, and of its political prestige as the capital of provincial Achaia, taking precedence even over Athens. But the cross undermines all human pride. It insists that we sinners have absolutely nothing with which to buy, or indeed contribute to, our salvation. No wonder that not many wise, influential or upper-class Corinthians responded to the gospel. (1 Cor. 1:26ff).
Secondly, Corinth was associated in everybody’s mind with immorality. Behind the city, nearly 2,000 feet above sea level, rose the rocky eminence called the Acrocorinth. On its flat summit stood the temple of Aphrodite or Venus, the goddess of love. A thousand female slaves served her and roamed the city’s streets by night as prostitutes. The sexual promiscuity of Corinth was proverbial, so that *korinthiazomai* meant to practise immorality, and *korinthiastes* was a synonym for a harlot. Corinth was ‘the Vanity Fair of the Roman Empire’. But the gospel of Christ crucified summoned the Corinthians to repentance and holiness, and warned them that the sexual immoral would not inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9ff)
It is in these ways that Christ’s cross, in its call for self-humbling and self-denial, is a stumbling block to the proud and the sinful. Hence Paul’s ‘weakness, fear and much trembling’ and his necessary decision in Corinth ‘to know nothing…except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:2-3)
Tomorrow: Acts 18:2-6. a). Paul stays with Aquila and Priscilla.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Acts. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.