Sat, 18 October 2008
Acts 18 describes how Christianity came to Corinth. After a difficult sojourn in Athens, Paul arrived in Corinth alone. Soon he met a Jew named Aquilla and his wife Priscilla, with whom he shared the same trade, and began persuading Jews and Greeks in the synagogues to follow Christ. The Scriptures account that the Jews quickly "opposed and reviled” both Paul and his ministry (v 5-6). In response, he "shook out his garments and said to them, 'Your blood be upon your heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles'" (v 6).
After departing from the synagogue, he began a highly contentious form of evangelization to the Gentiles and God-fearers, establishing his base in the house "next door" to the synagogue (v 7). God protected Paul's oft-threatened ministry in Corinth, saying to him in a night vision, "Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man shall attack you to harm you; for I have many people in this city" (v 9-11). After Gallio became proconsul of Achaia (roughly modern Greece), the Jews unite to accuse Paul of spreading an illicit religion (cf v 12-13). Gallio refuses to be the judge of such debate, forcibly ejecting the Jews from his court (cf v 14-15). Tension between Jews and Gentiles is excruciatingly high in Corinth, as expressed by the small riot that ensues (cf v 16-17).
Paul later wrote an epistle to “the church of God which is at Corinth," (1 Cor 1:1-2). Here he stresses the presence of a universal (i.e., catholic) Church with local manifestations. In the Greek, "the church of God which is at Corinth" does not refer to a local assembly, but rather to a universal church which is represented in Corinth. It is important to note that Christians derive the term for church, ecclesia, from the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament), where the entire Hebrew people is called the ecclesia of Israel, an assembly of millions. Ecclesia never refers to just a local community in the Septuagint.
Early in the epistle, Paul links Jesus Christ to the grace which the Corinthians have received (cf v 4). In spite of having received the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and other spiritual gifts, however, Paul indicts them for misusing these gifts to further theological causes in a mean-spirited manner (cf v 5). The task of a Christian is to grow in holiness, to love one another and to evangelize, never to be contentious or self-seeking.
Music: Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15, performed by the Skidmore College Orchestra. www.musopen.com