The Conversion of The Corinthians: Acts 18:1-11; 1 Corinthians

By Donnie V. Rader

Near the end of his second missionary journey, Paul went to Corinth with the gospel of Christ. This seems like a most unlikely place to expect to find people interested in the gospel and therefore establish a church. Corinth was the commercial capital of Greece. It was a city of half a million people. It was filled with immorality. I am told that 1000 prostitutes served daily at a pagan temple in the city. It was the Las Vegas or Atlantic City of that day. Furthermore, Paul faced opposition as he attempted to instruct the Corinthians in the way of the Lord (Acts 18:6, 9,10).

However unlikely it may have seemed, many were converted and a church was established in Corinth. Let’s consider what we know about their conversion.

The Message

The message Paul preached was “Jesus is Christ” (Acts 18:5). Later, in writing to those who were converted, he said that when he came to Corinth, “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

The word that was presented was not the wisdom of men (1 Cor. 2:1), but the testimony of God that their faith would be in God and not man (1 Cor. 2:5).

Paul said the gospel that he preached and they received was the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

These passages tell us that the message revealed who Jesus is, the sacrifice he made, the salvation that is available through him and how man must obey him.

The Response

How did the Corinthians respond? What did they do upon hearing the message? Obviously, there were some who turned a deaf ear (Acts 18:6). However, “many” did respond in obedience.

They heard the gospel (Acts 18:8). They believed the preaching about Jesus (Acts 18:8; 1 Cor. 15:1-4, 11). They repented of their sins. They turned from lives of sin to serve God. Later, in writing to these brethren, Paul listed fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, covetous, drunkards, thieves, revilers and extortioners and said, “such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:9-11, emphasis mine, DVR). They had changed; they had repented. They were baptized (Acts 18:8; 1 Cor. 15:29).

The Change (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

In becoming Christians, the Corinthians had to and did make some drastic changes in their lives. From this we learn:

1. The gospel of Christ can change the worst of lives. Some of those in the church at Corinth had been fornicators, others were homosexuals, some idolaters, some thieves and others were drunkards. Sin doesn’t get much worse than that. But, they changed! They stopped their practice of sin. If they could change and live right  anyone else can too.

2. The life they lived after obeying the gospel was different  it was a life unto God. After turning from their sins, they were instructed to give their lives to glorifying God (1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31), following Christ (I Cor. 11:1,3), walking worthy and living lives of a separate people (2 Cor. 6) and fearing God (2 Cor. 7:1).

3. Sin must cease when one becomes a Christian. True repentance demanded that their fornication, homosexuality, drunkenness, etc. stop! Notice again, that the text says, “such were some of you” (emphasis mine, DVR). Their continuing in sin was past tense.

All who come to God must cease their practice of sin. That includes those who live in adultery. If the practice of homosexuality must cease (meaning they must cease their sexual relationship), so must those who have committed adultery by remarrying (Matt. 19:9), i.e. thy must cease their sexual relationship.

The Results

Various terms and expressions are used to describe those who were converted by the gospel. These words tell us what they became by obedience to the gospel.

A church was established (1 Cor. 1:2). The term that is translated by the word church means the “balled out.” Thus they were called out of sin and darkness into the salvation and light.

They were sanctified which means they were separated from sin and unto God (1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11). The term saints also suggests this separation.

They were saved (1 Cor. 1:21; 15:2), washed (1 Cor. 6:11) and justified (1 Cor. 6:11). Consequently they gained the hope of eternal life (I Cor. 15:50-58).

You can be saved just like the Corinthians when you believe the same message, obey the same commands and make the same kind of changes. You will also receive the same results.

Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 20, p. 15
October 21, 1993