A reconstruction of ancient Corinth in the video above
That’s what they call Las Vegas: “Sin City”. Earned from its prolific prostitution, strip clubs, gambling casinos, drug use and organized crime. Ancient Corinth had notoriety too. Greeks created a word for it. Korinthiazesthai—“to live like a Corinthian” (the verb form of the noun Korinthos). It meant “to live with drunken and immoral debauchery”. Or as Liddell and Scott bluntly define it in their Greek Lexicon, “to practice whoredom”. It was to the Sin City of ancient Greece, 50 miles west of Athens, Paul now headed.
The City of Corinth
Destroyed in 146 B.C. , Corinth was rebuilt a century later by Julius Caesar, making it a Roman colony and the administrative capital of the Roman province of Achaea.
The city boasted two seaports with a main land travel route from Rome to Asia. It thus became a major commercial trade center accompanied by great wealth.
“A famous temple to Aphrodite had [once]stood on the summit of Acrocorinth in the Classical Age (5th & 4th centuries B.C.) . . . It had fallen into ruins by Paul’s time, but successors to its 1,000 cult prostitutes continued to ply their profession in the city below. [This was worship by sexual intercourse to the goddess.] Many of them were no doubt housed in the lofts above the 33 wine shops uncovered in the modern excavations. Corinth was a city catering to sailors and traveling salesmen. Even by the Classical Age it had earned an unsavory reputation for its libertine atmosphere; to call someone ‘a Corinthian lass’ was to impugn her morals. It may well be that one of Corinth’s attractions for Paul was precisely this reputation of immorality.” (The Biblical World In Pictures).
” , , , there flourished far more [obscure] vices, which had come in with the traders and the sailors from the ends of the earth, until Corinth became not only a synonym for wealth and luxury, drunkenness and debauchery, but also for filth.” (William Barclay, The Letters To The Corinthians, p. 2-3).
The city was a sanctuary for the cults of the gods of Egypt, Rome and Greece. Aphrodite the goddess of love, Poseidon ruler of the sea and earthquakes, Apollo the god of music, Hermes the messenger of the gods, Isis the personification of the rainbow, Demeter the goddess of agriculture, Zeus the king of the gods, and more were worshiped there.
Corinth was arguably the most worldly city to which Paul took the Gospel.
Paul in Corinth
In Corinth we find events unfolding much as in other cities. Paul goes first to the Jewish synagogue. They oppose his Jesus-is-the-risen-Messiah message,, so he turns to the Gentiles. A number of Gentiles believe which leads the Jews to drag Paul before the Roman authorities. They conclude the Jews must settle the matter themselves, freeing Paul to continue his ministry. Here’s author Luke’s account in Acts 18:1-18a, TEV) . . .
- Paul met Aquilia and Priscilla, tent-making Jews who had been among Jews expelled from Rome by the emperor. have been caught up in the emperor’s expulsion of Jews from Rome. Until Silas and Timothy arrived, Paul plied his tent-making trade with the couple to support himself.
- Apparently Paul was fearful of opposition in the city—hence the encouraging vision from the Lord. Paul (in 1 Corinthians 2:3) admits that “I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling”.
- Does “many in this city are my people” mean the Lord had chosen many for salvation or many already believed? We’re not told.
- Paul remained in Corinth between 18 and 24 months, making converts and establishing the church.
Power of the Cross
Because Luke’s narrative is similar to that from other cities, we’re apt to read it with a yawn. We shouldn’t. The planting of a church in notorious Corinth testifies to the transforming power of the cross. Here is a wealthy city, thriving in its commercial trade, proud of its political stature, worshiping a plenitude of gods (to appease them for their blessings), and captivated by its illicit pleasures. If ever there was a city whose sin shut it off to the Gospel, Corinth was it.
But the Gospel unleashed a greater power. Listen to how Paul wrote of it later . . .
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
(1 Corinthians 1:18, ESV)
That greater power saved some of Corinth’s most morally corrupt . . .
“Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters,
not adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves,
nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers
will inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you.
But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified
in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
(1 Corinthians 6:9b-11, ESV).
Lost Loved Ones.
Have family members hardened in unbelief? Parents or sons or daughters so caught up in the world they have no interest in Jesus? Close friends drifting deeper and deeper into immorality or addiction, who seem far beyond saving? And years of praying and speaking haven’t made a dent in their disinterest or unbelief?
We can take courage from Corinth. The Holy Spirit can penetrate the hardest heart. Out of moral perversion and spiritual darkness the Lord Jesus Christ, by the Spirit of God, can wash the filthiest life, sanctify the most corrupt sinner and justify the guiltiest transgressor.
Into today’s sin cities the Savior still comes to claim his own.