Founding the Corinthian Church
Open Your Bible
Acts 18:1-28, Isaiah 51:1-2, James 4:13-15
When I was in college, I wanted to work for the State Department. Specifically, I wanted to be a foreign service agent and work in embassies around the world. I interned for State, which was an incredible experience, and returned home with a tension brewing in my wandering heart. I had learned that foreign service officers moved every two or so years. But not only did they move, they often changed regions, learning new languages and cultures. It seemed exhilarating but exhausting, and I felt the Lord calling me to set down roots in Nashville. It didn’t come easy, and it still doesn’t. I am learning the balance between deep and wide, between rooted and winged, between slow and never-resting.
I think Paul must have been surprised when the Lord tapped him to stay put in Corinth, to water the seed of a church he planted there. Paul was a traveler, a prisoner, a letter-writer. He’s a man known for his journeys, not his stayings. But he did stay, in Corinth and later in Ephesus (Acts 19:10).
In Acts 18, the Lord’s command to Paul is simple. “Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent. For I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to hurt you, because I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9–10).
Paul shows us what it means to obey the Lord, and to let God do the work. He wrote to Timothy that as a follower of Jesus he would be “a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master” (2Timothy 2:21). And the Corinthian church grew because of Paul’s commitment to those people, the early conversion of Crispus (Acts 18:8), and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
When Paul left Corinth, he began his third missionary journey. And this same chapter that records Paul’s 18-month stay in Corinth also shows us his short visits to Ephesus (v.19), Jerusalem, Antioch, and his “traveling through one place after another in the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples” (v.23).
The Bible is full of stories of goings and stayings, the way our lives tend to be shaped and shake out as well. We don’t know where the Lord will call us next; whether he is going to fling us across the globe, or have us stay in the same place forever. And one is not necessarily better than the other, despite what my wandering heart wants to believe. God’s Church is global, and local. It is the singing of hymns across time and continents, but it is also the ordinary prayers of a small country congregation. And the Lord will always do the work. He will always go before us (Deuteronomy 31:8). We can give thanks for Paul, and for the ongoing spread of God’s gospel around the world and through time, and petition God that He would always make our steps abundantly clear.