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Planting the Church at Corinth…Kingdom Advance Through Weakened/Empowered Servants
To this point, Paul has preached in Cyprus, Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and now Corinth.
Paul has faced abundant difficulty.
Since coming to Europe he has been beaten at Philippi, faced governmental rejection at Thessalonica and Berea, and finally he faced snobbish indifference at Athens.
No doubt, the gospel has taken root in these places and kingdom fruit has been produced. We read about that fruit in Acts as well as the letters of the New Testament in which Paul writes back to these new believers in order to encourage them and address various issues.
When Silas and Timothy arrive at Corinth in verse 5, they will bring news about the Thessalonians regarding their standing firm in the faith (1 Thessalonians 3:6-10), they have a missionary offering from Philippi (2 Corinthians 11:9; Philippians 4:14-15) and this is in addition to the reunion with his team of Silas and Timothy. Paul does get to taste the fruit of his labor.
But also in today’s passage Paul finds himself in need of some direct encouragement from the Lord and a reprieve in the onslaught of difficulty as he is now in the city of Corinth, 50 miles from Athens, a most difficult city.
For some 500 years, the verb “korinthiozesthai”, to “Corinthianize” meant to become sexually immoral. Deviation was rampant. When Paul wrote Romans 1:26-28 he was describing what he saw in Corinth.
No break from the hard work of the mission and no “normal” situation.
Paul, perhaps, has understood the pattern of his ministry. Preach, see God be faithful in people believing the gospel, see miracles, plant churches and then Paul gets beat down or ran out of town or slandered or thought to be a backwoods hayseed with backward ideas.
The centerpiece of this passage seems to be the Lord’s vision to Paul to encourage him in the work as much, and maybe more so, than the work itself.
We see the kingdom advance but we see it advance through weakened yet empowered servants of the faith.
What do we see? What does it mean?
The Lord encourages his servant in the work Acts 18:9-10
- The Lord commands Paul to not be afraid
- The Lord commands Paul to keep speaking
- The Lord promises his presence
- The Lord promised physical protection this time
The Lord provides situational encouragement as the kingdom advances Acts 18:1-8; 11-17
- Paul made deep friendships forged with long-term partners v. 1-2
- Paul had fruitful domain engagement as a means of support and disciple making v. 3-4
– Domain engagement: Tentmaker
“Tentmaker” has become an adjective to describe “bi-vocational” ministry. In fact it was Paul’s actual job. Paul engaged the domain of business in making tents for the Roman army and any other person or business that needed shelter.
One of the most important activities we can engage in is using our domain of engagement to subdue creation and make disciples. That is the example Paul set here.
“The international job market in today’s business world is an argument for tentmaking because it does not exist by accident, but by God’s design. “The secular job is not an inconvenience, but the God-given context in which tentmakers live out the gospel in a winsome, wholesome, non-judgmental way, demonstrating personal integrity, doing quality work and developing caring relationships.”
The international business world is God’s “repopulation program,” transferring millions of hard-to-reach people into freer countries, and opening doors for Christians in hard-to-enter countries so that many can hear the gospel.”
- Paul was occupied with “the word” v. 4-8
– Persuade: to move or effect by kind words or motives
– Occupied: to hold fast…to press together
– Testifying: to bear witness
– Staying with a non-Christian, Gentile convert to Judaism “Titius Justus”
– Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue believes!
- Paul had 18 months of peaceful fruitfulness v. 11
- Paul received civil rescue from religious persecution v. 12-17
How can we obey?
- We should be encouraged that the kingdom advances even when we are weak…so don’t quit when we are weak or down.
- We should be encouraged that perhaps our most fruitful seasons will be when we are weak…so work for and expect fruitfulness when we are weak.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
- We should be encouraged that perhaps our most fruitful work will be messy…so don’t be discouraged when messy things happen.
Paul’s ministry at Corinth would be full of spiritual “land mines”.
– Church discipline over immorality.
– A tenuous relationship with the church.
– Perceptions of Paul’s ministry as being “inferior”.
– Paul’s necessary correction of the church’s libertine attitudes toward sexuality bleeding over into the abuse of the Lord’s Supper and abuse of spiritual gifts.We should be encouraged that hard, complicated, challenging and messy ministry is just the way it is this side of that fall and God can and will see us through it as he builds his kingdom…and he will build his kingdom!
4. We should be encouraged that hard, complicated, challenging and messy ministry is just the way it is this side of that fall and God can and will see us through it as he builds his kingdom…and he will build his kingdom!
Acts 18:10 “…for I have many in this city who are my people.”
 R. Kent. Hughes, Preaching the Word, vol. Acts (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1989), 239.
 Ruth Siemens as quoted by Josh Pilgrim