As we continue our study of Acts into the eighteenth chapter we see the Apostle Paul leaving Athens, the intellectual capital of the Roman world, and coming into Corinth, the center of sensuality. Two extreme cities symbolizing the twin evils which, in every day and every generation, trap and enslave the hearts of people: intellectual pride and sensual lust.
Corinth is about fifty miles west of Athens, and, when Paul visited it, it was the capital of the Roman province of Greece, which they called Achaia. It was a center of commerce and trade, located on a narrow neck of land between the Adriatic Sea and the Aegean Sea. The Greeks had built a skidway across that narrow isthmus over which they actually dragged small ships on greased skids. It was a very beautiful city located in a magnificent natural setting. It was a resort, filled with beautiful temples and other buildings of various kinds.
It was also the center of the worship of Aphrodite, the goddess of sex. There was a great temple of Aphrodite on the Acrocorinth, the hill in back of the city, from which every evening a thousand priestesses of the temple would come down into the city streets to ply their trade, indulging in the worship of sex. Corinth had gained a reputation throughout the whole Roman world as the center of sensuality—guess you can picture Las Vegas or Bangkok, today. Whenever a citizen of Corinth was portrayed in a drama, it was as rather loose, morally, and usually as a drunk. So this is where Paul decided to go walking all alone in the dust of the road. It was, in other words, a typical Californian city.
As a result, it was infested with certain strongholds of evil which the apostle describes in his first letter to the Corinthians—places where evil was entrenched and was difficult to dislodge. Sexual license and perversion were rampant. Racial discord was prominent. There were family feuds and political tyranny. And, of course, spreading over all of this was the emptiness, meaninglessness, and the lack of purpose which paganism always produces. The apostle arrived as a total stranger, not knowing anyone, never having been there before, but confident that God would open the door. Luke tells us how he did it:
“From Athens, Paul traveled to Corinth alone. He found a Jewish man there named Apollos, originally from Pontus. Aquilla and his wife Priscilla had recently come to Corinth from Italy because Claudius had banished all Jews from Rome. Paul visited them in their home and discovered they shared the same trade of tent making. He then became their long-term guest and joined them in their tentmaking business. Each Shabbat he would engage both Jews and Gentiles in debate in the synagogue in an attempt to persuade them of his message” —Acts 18:1-4
When Paul left Berea and traveled on to Athens, he left Silas and Timothy behind in Berea, with instructions to join him as soon as possible. Paul worked during the day, but on the Sabbath, he went to the synagogue where he would proclaim the same message he preached everywhere: Jesus is the Messiah whose suffering, death, and resurrection the Old Testament prophets foretold.
Now this was a pattern we should be familiar with by now. When he came into a city he began in the synagogue. But he also needed to make a living as well. He always expected God to lead him to someone who would open the door to a city, and, probably in the marketplace, he ran into a fellow Jew who was also a tentmaker. This was Aquila, who, with his wife Priscilla, had just been driven out of Rome by the decree of the Emperor Claudius that all Jews must leave Rome. Since they were of the same trade they worked together. And, as you can imagine, it wasn’t very long before Paul led Aquila and Priscilla to Christ. These two are frequently mentioned in the pages of Scripture as faithful workers and helpers of the apostle. In fact, they soon go with him from Corinth to Ephesus.
Paul led them to Christ while he was at work. If nothing else, that should encourage some of you to use work as a place for getting to know people, getting to understand their needs, and as a normal place for evangelism—but not on company time. Work is an excellent place to connect with people who are searching for answers in life. [Just as a side note here, when you are at work don’t be rude, offensive, or a burden to your employer. I bring this up because I’ve known more than a few people to lose their jobs because they “felt” a need to preach and force salvation down their co-workers throats. No, be savvy, use tact, be loving and kind. Quite simply, love them into the Kingdom]. I love what Steve Camp sang, “Don’t tell them Jesus loves them, until you’re willing to love them too!” Just “preaching” to them won’t advance the Kingdom of God—but it may get you fired. I could give you several testimonies of how the Spirit of God was able to minister to my co-workers in each job I have held.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts