Jump Start # 3003
Acts 18:1 “After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth.”
Our verse today follows Paul’s travels as he goes from major city to major city with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For many of these places, Paul was the first Christian to walk those streets. How difficult it would be to turn the minds of pagans and idolaters to the one true and living God.
But of all the places Paul traveled, this verse, so simple in language, is filled with difficulty and troubles. Athens, the great center of intellectualism. It is here that Paul witnessed the many idols that lined the streets of that great city. So many idols and so many gods, lest one be forgotten and offended, there was an altar to the “Unknown God.” Paul moved their minds from polytheism of paganism to the monotheistic faith in Jesus Christ. As he preached about the resurrection, some sneered. Others said that they would hear more later. A few believed. What a tough crowd to preach to.
From the intellectualism of Athens, Paul travels to the sewer of Corinth. Here open licentiousness, immorality and lusts of every flavor was flaunted daily in the streets of Corinth. It was as if the city had no conscience and no morals. Nothing was wrong and everything was tried and accepted. What a different atmosphere and a different set of problems that now faced Paul. It was intellectualism and reason and argumentation that he dealt with in Athens. But here in Corinth, it was people living like animals. It was pure gutter sensuality without any shame or remorse. Chapter six of Paul’s first letter to Corinth gives us a picture of what he faced. Fornication. Thieves. Drunkenness. Swindlers. Homosexuality. Idolatry. Revilers. Yet from that baseline group of people the church was formed. They were justified. They were washed. They were changed. They became saints of the Lord.
Athens to Corinth—what a great message for us.
First, it is important to understand where people are. The message in both cities was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, in Athens the approach was different than in Corinth. Jesus was a master of knowing His audience. John 3 has Jesus talking to the great Nicodemus, who is a scholar in the Law of God. The next chapter, John 4, Jesus is talking to an immoral Samaritan woman. Both need Jesus. However, knowing the audience, Jesus emphasized different things to them.
For some of our family and friends, it’s time to invite them to services. It’s time to ask them to read the Bible with us. For others, that’s not the starting point. They don’t know if there is a God and they have serious questions about the Bible being inspired. Know your audience.
Second, God often puts us in places that are not easy. Athens or Corinth—which would you rather be in? Both had their challenges. Both would be tough to preach to. Intellectual issues or moral issues? Or, both? Much too often, a young preacher gets discouraged and wants to move to another congregation. What he often is looking for is a congregation that has very few problems, a church that is running smoothly and what appears to be a pleasant work for him. Yet, what he needs to ask himself, “Why would I be needed there?” Our role is to preach and teach the Gospel. Situations that are difficult, an Athens, a Corinth, may make some run the other way, but for the true disciple, those places need the Gospel. Don’t be afraid of challenges. Don’t turn down a place because it’s going to be hard.
It is also interesting that God did not send Paul to a nice place after Athens. Go, get some rest. Recharge your batteries. Have a nice decade in a nice place. Take a vacation. Have a sabbatical. Nope. That didn’t happen. From Athens Paul goes directly to Corinth. From a headache to the pig pen.
Third, Paul got to work in both cities. People were converted. Churches were established. The seed was planted. Neither place was deemed impossible. Neither place was hopeless. I wonder if we give up too quickly on people and places. I wonder if we think in our times today that no one is interested. No one will come. No one can leave the sins that they are in. The Gospel is powerful. The power is not you, but in the Word. The hope is not in you, but the Word. Don’t throw the towel in yet. Don’t give up on our times. Don’t think all is lost and all is hopeless. Athens to Corinth—people were saved. Churches were started. It took work. It wasn’t easy. Yet, it was done.
Athens to Corinth—what a great reminder for us. Let us keep on teaching and pointing the way to Jesus.