Apostle Paul made his first visit to Corinth in the year 52 AD (Acts 18:1-11 KJV). Corinth is a city found on the isthmus connecting the Peloponnesus to the rest of Greece. Due to its strategic location, Corinth was an inevitable converging zone for the North-South traders and the East-West traders. The isthmus was also a convenient and safe link for sailors from Adriatic Sea to Aegean Sea. Earlier on, Corinth was famous both as a commercial and political capital of Achaia; attributes that lifted it to the cosmopolitan status. As a result of that, religious syncretism and immorality were prevalent, bereaving the town its previous moral reputation. This negative publicity attracted a lot of attention of missionaries like Paul who were inspired by God to make an intervening attempt to salvage the morality of Corinth.
Paul's Reception and Missionary Work at Corinth
Apostle Paul arrived in Corinth at the time when Claudius Caesar had banished all Jews from Rome. He immediately met Aquila and Priscilla; a Jew couple that had suffered the ordeal of that expulsion. Incidentally, they just like Paul were tentmakers, which motivated Paul to live and work with them in that trade for about eighteen months (Oxley, 2009).
During his stay in Corinth, Paul perpetuated his practice of visiting Jew families first (Romans 1:16 KJV). He would also visit the local synagogue every Sabbath to try to minister to them the gospel message. It was during this time that Silas and Timothy met him after their extended stay in Macedonia. The duo affirmed to Paul the overwhelming support from Macedonians. The compliments galvanized Paul tremendously, making him more committed to his ministry than before.
Conversely, his commitment would trigger rebellion from the Jews, accusing him of being blasphemous in his teaching. This revolt did not dampen his spirit at all as he courageously moved to the Gentiles who welcomed him wholeheartedly. It was consistency and Paul's relentless endeavor that saw many Corinthians, including Crispus, the head of the synagogue, believe in the gospel. One night, Paul received a vision from God instructing him to audaciously continue with his message and not to be discouraged by anything because He assured him of his protection (Acts 18:9-10 KJV).
Paul's Indictment & Departure
As fate would be, the infuriated Jews again attacked Paul and brought him to the seat of judgment before Gallio who was the Proconsul of Achaia. They accused him of trying to convince people to worship God in a manner contrary to the law. In a differing opinion, Gallio trivialized the allegations and declined making any ruling, saying he did not have the jurisdiction over such issues. Paul was then exonerated on the basis of the matter being a Jew doctrine, but not a civil affair. Paul, in the company of Aquila and Priscilla, left for Cenchrea and then across the Aegean Sea to Ephesus. They lively in Ephesus until they later met Apollos (Act 18:19 and 26 KJV); there he had his hair cut as had vowed before.
Significance of Paul's First Missionary Journey at Corinth
Though characterized by a mixture of accord and discord, Apostle Paul's missionary journey at Corinth was not a futile exercise. As revealed in his first epistle to Corinthians, Paul made serious observation of lifestyles of people, which would later be used as a benchmark for strengthening the missionary work around the world (Fee, 2014). In the first place, Paul noted with concern that there was a serious division among the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:10-4:21 KJV). He saw that the lack of unity was indeed a big threat to the spread of Christianity as he likened it with the body of Christ, which was being torn apart due to antagonistic factions that existed in church.
Coupled with that, Paul witnessed sexual immorality and warned about its repercussions. He was dismayed by the level of sexual immorality that was displayed among the Corinthians. In his ministry, he rebuked this sinful act, saying that those culpable ought to be punished, but not tolerated the way the situation was. He further alluded that those guilty of sexual immorality should be delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that their spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Cor. 5:5 KJV).
In the same fashion, the apostle witnessed a heinous habit whereby believers filed lawsuits against each other. In his opinion, it was a serious misnomer for a believer who had grievance against another believer to go before the unrighteous in order to have his or her case determined. This way the church would be subjected to ridicule in full glare of the world; a situation that discourages other believers. He emphasized the wish that a believer ought to live pure lives and be a good example for the unrighteous, but not shamelessly wronging each other and then stooping too low by taking their private matters to be determined by the unrighteous.
How It Works
Similarly, Paul addressed the subject of marriage where he noted a serious lack of commitment in conjugal matters. He would then passionately encourage married couples to submit unconditionally to each other in order to salvage the marriage institution. Paul also cautioned all people to stay true to their marital status rather than longing for a seasonal shift in their positions for this was tantamount to commit adultery and or fornication. His focal point was to absolve Christians from all kinds of apprehension so that their main focus would be the Lord Jesus (Oxley, 2009).
Likewise, Paul witnessed abuse of Christian liberty whereby some people did not any wrong in eating food and libations that had been sacrificed to idols. He argued that since idols did not have real existence, believers compromised their conscience by being partakers in such ungodly meals. He defended the holiness of God, cautioning Christians against doing actions that would demean God's glory or trip one of their own into sin (Thiselton, 2000). Furthermore, the order of the church was one of the Paul's prime concerns. He witnessed that women never wore head scarves as a routine, which was a habit that contravened the conventional practice in church. In fact, he reiterated roles of men and women in an analogy with God and Christ. He insisted on the right order to be followed during the church services when believers congregated to partake of the Lord's Supper for them to benefit from its essence.
More so, Apostle Paul alluded that spiritual gifts were useless in the absence of true Christian love (Fee, 2014). He witnessed numerous situations when gifts of prophesy and speaking in tongues were inappropriately administered by staunch believers. This would display a lot of disorder and confusion during worship, which he strongly protested against, saying it amounted to hypocrisy.
Finally, Paul encouraged Corinthians to embrace the subject of giving whereby he urged believers to take a collection to saint in Jerusalem on a weekly basis. This later saw the church of Jerusalem grow stronger due to the generosity that was being witnessed among believers. However, when he was in Corinth, Paul did not take money from them though some had expressed the giving heart (Thiselton, 2000). This was a sign of humility on the Apostle's part so that the Corinthians who had adversely fallen short of faith would be elevated. However, some believers viewed this as suspect, terming his ministry to be spurious and inferior to the Sophists who were used to receiving money because it was worth nothing in the sense it was freely given.
The missionary journey of Paul at Corinth was timely given rampant vices that were being practiced especially by believers and that threatened relevance of the church in the society. The epistles reveal a lot about the apostle and Christian faith that developed subsequent to his journey. They also describe the conflict that erupted between the apostle and the then besieged church from which reconciliation was born and flourished into unity and piousness of the church again. It is worthy to note that the first visit of Apostle Paul to Corinth was instrumental in determining direction and strength of the Christianity in the whole world. It revealed the true image of the then church and the true image of Christ's warriors with Paul as the role model. It depicted the magnitude of strength required to root out the chronic burden of sin in the society and the relentless spirit that God's ministers should employ in their fight. Paul is hitherto reckoned as the prominent apostle of Jesus who fearlessly and shamelessly defended the gospel to the brink of death, but was never browbeaten. It is high time his example was emulated by contemporary clerics in the fight against the ever rising social ills witnessed in the society, but worse still in the today's church. The Church of Christ should be freed from the devil's baited snares that have seen a good number of God's people comfortably, but unconsciously entrapped.