Paul now found himself in the city of Corinth, a metropolis that thrived economically and was culturally and spiritually diverse. It was also a city plagued with sin and even had a temple with 1000 sacred prostitutes. Much like modern America, it was a place of wealth, diversity and an "anything goes" attitude.
As a missionary with no local support structure in place, Paul made his living making tents with a married couple, while going to the local synagogue on weekends to try and persuade both Jews and Greeks of the truth about Jesus. When Silas and Timothy arrive, however, he is able to devote his full time to preaching and teaching.
Even with all the effort he invested, their came a point when his Jewish audience rejected his message so strongly that Paul gave up on them, leaving them with the consequences of their own choices to turn away from God. Paul did find success with the leader of the synagogue, his family and many of the other Corinthians.
Paul also received an incredible guarantee from Jesus in a vision: He should not be afraid to keep speaking. No man will harm him.
Imagine the kind of excitement and confidence Paul gained for the remainder of his time in Corinth! He was able to preach without fear! His safety from attack was a sure thing!
How much more effective could we be in living our lives for God if we choose to trust him and not spend time fearing the things that might happen to us?
Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half. Eventually, the Jews got together and forced Paul to stand trial before Gallio, the governor of Achaia (most of Greece). They tried to accuse Paul of promoting a religion not sanctioned by the government. Judaism was a religion protected by Roman tradition because of its ancient history. But if the Jews could prove that Paul’s beliefs were a new religion, it may have been outlawed by the government.
In another parallel to American culture, some people make room for every religious belief except for Christianity. Hopefully we will never see a time in America where parts of the Bible are considered so offensive that their public expression or recitation is outlawed. This could have been the case for Paul, but Gallio was unwilling to judge the case presented.
In verse 17, it’s unclear exactly what’s happening. It could be that the Jews were disciplining a Christian sympathizer, or beating their leader for getting them into trouble with Gallio. It may also be that local Greeks followed Gallio’s somewhat "anti-Jewish" lead and took to venting their own hatred on the Jew’s leader. (See the IVP Bible Background Commentary of the New Testament for more on this verse.)
Next week: Being empowered by correction.
Coffee House Question
Why do you think Christianity is sometimes singled out for criticism while other religions are left alone?