What did Paul find at Corinth?

By Irvin Himmel

It was on his second great journey that the apostle Paul came to Corinth. What did he find during the year and six months that he remained in that important commercial center? First, he found a Jew and his wife who were tentmakers by trade. Paul abode with Aquila and Priscilla because he was of the same craft. He worked with them in making tents (Acts 18:2,3). Second, he found a synagogue of the Jews. It was the custom of the Jews to build places of worship called synagogues wherever there might be enough Jews to justify the erection of such a house. Paul went into the synagogue each Sabbath to reason with the people and to try to persuade them to follow Jesus (Acts 18:4). Third, he found strong opposition. When the people who assembled at the synagogue opposed and blasphemed, he said, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6). Fourth, he found some who were willing to obey the gospel. Crispus, chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house, and many of the Corinthians heard, believed, and were baptized (Acts 18:8). Fifth, he found encouragement. Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia. Their arrival gave new impetus to Paul’s efforts. Furthermore, the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and said, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city” (Acts 18:5, 9, 10).

Later Developments

After Paul took his leave of the newly-established Corinthian church, Apollos went there from Ephesus and was a great help to the new converts (Acts 18:27, 28). Many problems arose in the months that followed. A factional spirit was in evidence, discipline was neglected, brethren became involved in lawsuits against one another, dissension arose over eating meats sacrificed to idols, the Lord’s supper was perverted, some began denying the resurrection of the dead, and there were abuses in connection with the exercise of spiritual endowments. Paul wrote a letter (1 Cor.) designed to correct, instruct, and edify the church at Corinth. That letter was penned during the time that Paul was at Ephesus on his third journey.

From Macedonia another letter (2 Cor.) was written by Paul to the Corinthians. In it he expressed uncertainty as to what he might find when he returned to Corinth. “For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: And lest when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed” (2 Cor. 12:20, 21).

What He Might Find

Note what Paul was fearful that he might find if he paid another visit to the brethren at Corinth:

(1) Debates -This refers to strife, wrangling, or contentions growing out of enmity. It is sad when God’s people are found wrangling rather than working; contending against each other rather than contending for the faith. (2) Envyings-“Jealousy” is the word used here in some translations. Paul told the Corinthians in the first letter that envying, strife, and divisions were proof that they were carnal or fleshly (1 Cor. 3:3). (3) Wraths-This term points to hot anger or keen indignation. There were heated animosities growing out of the opposing factions in the church. (4) Strifes-Thayer defines the word as meaning a courting of distinction, the desire to put one’s self forward, or a partisan spirit. “Disputes” is a good synonym. (5) Backbitings The reference is to evil speaking especially slandering someone behind his back. (6) Whisperings-This applies to secret gossip that is repeated in hushed tones to defame someone. (7) Swellings Vine says the word denotes “a puffing up, swelling up with pride.” Some preachers are troubled with this kind of swelling. (8) Tumults-The thought is that of disorder, confusion, and disturbance. One can catch a glimpse of the commotions in the Corinthian church by reading Paul’s first letter.

It would be humiliating to Paul to find such evils as these in the church at Corinth. It would be more disheartening if he visited them and found that they had not yet repented of other sins to which their attention had been called previously. What would Paul find in your community or mine, particularly among members of the church, if he could pay us a visit today? Would he commend, or rebuke?

Truth Magazine XXII: 17, pp. 285-286
April 27, 1978