Missions

The Apostle Paul Shares the Gospel in Corinth, a Metropolis City

line-of-corinthian-columns

Paul left Athens, a university city, and went to Corinth, a metropolis city. Corinth was Paul’s last major place of witness on his second missionary journey. It was 46 miles west of Athens, and both politically and economically affluent. Corinth was known for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and here devotees promoted immorality in the name of religion.

Did you know that the word Corinthian meant to be sexually immoral? Also, there was a saying “to act like a Corinthian” was used of practicing fornication, and “Corinthian girls” was synonymous to prostitutes. It’s like the slogan: “What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas.” Of course, we know that isn’t true. Your sin will always find you out.

Based on the context of Corinth, it makes more sense why the Corinthian church had sexual problems since they lived in a city that highly promoted it. If you were to examine your own city, what sins do you think plague our city? How has that infiltrated the church?

In verse 2-3, we hear about two Jews that came from Pontus, modern day Northern Turkey. Close to the Black Sea. These two names suggest they came from a high social class. This passage informs us what the atmosphere was like during Paul’s day. Emperor Claudius was ordering non-Roman citizens to leave Rome around 50 AD. It has been said that the reason he expelled the Jews was because they were sharing their faith and upsetting the establishment. Claudius opposed sharing religion among the people, even in those regions where he allowed natives to worship freely. It’s almost as if there was this separation of church and state. You could worship in your own sanctuary, but couldn’t share this during your public life. How is this situation similar to today? What happens if one overemphasizes freedom of religion (Saudi Arabia) or freedom from religion (North Korea)?

This passage also reveals Paul was a tentmaker by trade. Scripture teaches that apart from occasional gifts (Phil 4:15), Paul’s practice was to be self-supporting by working at his trade and not to be dependent on the charity of church members. Tent makers was not just tents, it was leather good. A more accurate word might be “leather-worker”. Ancient tradition suggests all rabbis must have a trade. Do you think pastors should get a trade job too? Why or Why not? Answer: secular job put you in the middle of culture on regular basis, Christian-only huddle, and smaller churches unable to afford full-time pastors, digital world offering flexible secular jobs.

In verse 4, same language was from last chapter. He is reasoning with people in the synagogue. He is relating to them at their level since he grew up in Judaism. This word, along with persuade is used about 14 times throughout the book of Acts so it is obviously an important concept. In verse 5, it says the Apostle Paul was occupied with the Word of God. That means he was diligently searching Scripture to help him grow in his understanding. What are some strategies you have to stay occupied in God’s Word?

In verse 6, when the Jews opposed and reviled him for believing in Jesus, he told them: “Your blood be on your own heads. I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” He is referring to Ezekiel’s words in 33:1-7. Blood means the responsibility for your judgment by God. Paul is saying he has done everything possible to warn them of their sins and persuade them to trust in Christ for salvation. He has been a watchmen, staying “awake” when everyone else is sleeping. How are you being a watchmen for Christ at work, in school, in public?

In the next couple of verses, Paul is sharing the gospel with many Corinthians and they are believing and getting baptized. As much as Paul was rejected, he was also successful in adding people daily to the church. In fact, the whole theme of Acts revolves around the Holy Spirit’s movement and the growth of the early church. We have to water and plant, but it is Christ who makes the increase. How can we be effective as a ministry to bring more people into our community?

Here in verse 9 the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision. He told him not to be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people. What a powerful statement. How encouraging would that be to hear that directly from God? Well, we know that Paul spent 18 months in Corinth and was successful here. He wrote the book of Thessalonians during this ministry time. Even though the proconsul was trying to condemn Paul, God protected him. This gave him greater assurance that he was called to be a missionary there for some time. Do you struggle with where God wants you to be? Have you received any signs that assure you that, for this moment in time, you are where God wants you to be? Why or Why not?

Just a historical side note, but the names Gallio and Sosthenes are important. They indicate the exact time period this is happening to Paul. Even the proconsul judgment seat has been excavated in Corinth and was located in the open air in the marketplace. Luke was telling the truth when he was writing the gospel of Luke. This is not a mythological book, but a historical narrative. In verse 16-17, it says that the Jews beat up Sosthenes, who was the ruler of the synagogue. He was persecuted for standing with the apostle Paul. Jesus warned us that we will be persecuted for our faith, even by religious folks. Have you ever been persecuted by religious folks before?

 In verses 18-22, Paul returns back to Antioch after 18 months. During his trip, he stopped in Ephesus for a visit. They wanted Paul to stay in Ephesus, but the Holy Spirit wanted him to keep moving. Of course, we find out in chapter 19 that he does in fact return and minister in that city. At the end of the section, Paul is attending all these cities “strengthening all the disciples.” Why is it important to strengthen one another in the faith? Have you received any strengthening by a brother or sister? If not, would you like to?

Toward the end of this chapter, Luke mentions a Jew named Apollos, who is fervent, eloquent, and competent in Scripture, yet he was baptized by John only. He didn’t hear about the baptism of Jesus until Priscilla and Aquila came through. Therefore, Apollos knowledge of the Christian gospel was deficient in some way, even though he was teaching all that he knew about Christ accurately. What I love about this story is Priscilla and Aquila did not embarrass Apollos. Instead, they took him aside and explained to God more accurately. What can we learn about this story? I know for me, when a new believer comes to faith in Christ, they are oftentimes more passionate than most of us. They may not know the theological depth of the Trinity, but they are eager to share their faith with others. It should humble us as mature believers.

 Application Points:

  1. Warn unbelievers about God’ judgment on sin since you yourself will be held accountable when you stand before Him (v.6-7)
  2. Do not be afraid when people persecute you since God is your protector (v. 9-10).
  3. Cultivate communication with God and He will make it clear what he wants you to do for the advancement of His kingdom (v.18-22)
  4. Encourage new believers and respectfully correct them when they make mistakes (v.24-28).

Pray for Paradise Island: Fiji

800px-BureNavala2

WikiMedia

  • Population: 854,098
  • Capital: Suva
  • Official Language: English, Hindustani, and Bau Fijian
  • Area: Fiji is located 1,200 miles Northeast of New Zealand. There are two larger and 110 smaller inhabited islands, both volcanic and coralline. There is around 7,100 square miles of land in this area, slightly larger than the state of Connecticut.

Prayer Requests

  1. Fiji has an abundant amount of resources: forest, mineral, and fish. It also has one of the most developed economies in the Pacific and attracts many tourists each year to the beautiful island. Despite living in Paradise, the country suffers from coups, which are sudden violent groups that attempt to overthrow the government. Please pray that God would give the leaders in that country wisdom and patience as they combat these civil wars.
  2. People suffer from Alcoholism and abuse in the homes. Broken families are prevalent in Fiji. Ask God to convict the hearts of men and women who are captivated by the power of sin and break their chains of entanglement so they can live victoriously.
  3. The Indian people are working hard to build a positive community on the Island. Unfortunately, racism undermines their efforts. The British and Fijan people perceive them as outsiders and sub-human. Since Fiji professes to be a Christian country, it discredits the gospel in the eyes of most Indians. Pray that God would send revival to the churches and bring peace and reconciliation for all people. Jesus said he was coming back for every tribe, tongue, and nation, and that includes the Indian people.

The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Great Commission

800px-Bloch-SermonOnTheMount

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.” – Acts 1:8-9

Read Acts 1:8-9. Meditate on this scripture passage for 20 minutes and ask yourself: What is the main idea? What are good questions to ask? How can I apply this story to my life?

Main Point(s): Jesus is responding to his disciples question in verse 6, “When will you restore the kingdom of Israel?” The Israelites were expecting the Messiah to establish a literal, political monarchy where righteousness and justice would prevail over the Roman government. However, Jesus taught them that His kingdom was not of this world. His kingdom focused on the inward change in a person’s life. He said to his disciples “The kingdom of God is within you.”

Christians commonly call this regeneration. Regeneration is defined as an internal change of a person’s heart, mind, and soul when they get saved and are born again. Consequently, when Jesus talks about the Kingdom, He is explaining that their influence, through the power of the Holy Spirit, will bring this reality to fruition when they fulfill the great commission by going to the ends of the Earth, preaching the good news that God saves sinners.

The five-fold purpose of the great commission is: to proclaim the gospel (Matt. 28:19), to have victory over sin (Acts 2:42; Gal. 2:20; Phil 3:10), baptizing believers into union with Christ (Matt. 28; Mark 16:16), overcoming satanic forces (2 Cor. 10:3-4; Eph. 6:10-18) and manifesting gifts of healing 1 Pet. 4:10), which demonstrate the almighty power of Jesus.

Questions: What is the Kingdom of God? Is it an actual physical, political, monarchy that will reign on the Earth? Is it those being born again into the Kingdom once they accept Christ as their Savior and Lord? Can it be both? What position should we take as Christians concerning the end times? What is the mission of the Church?

Application:  1.) When I am tempted to sin, I am reminded that the power of God gives me a way of escape. 2.) Having a global mission-wide perspective adds depth to my vision for serving God. 3.) When I trust in God’s ability to convert others, I can have more confidence when sharing my own faith to unbelieving family, friends, co-workers, and strangers.

Top 5 Least Evangelical Countries in the World

5. Yemen – Located in Western Asia, the Republic of Yemen is in the Arabian peninsula, borders the Gulf of Eden, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea. It ranks as the 50th largest country in the world at 203,850 square miles. The top 3 languages spoken are Arabic, Hindi, and Somalian. There are approximately 24.5 million people living there, of which 99.2% are Muslim.

How to Pray:  (1) The Human Rights Watch ranked Yemen worst out of 135 countries for discrimination and violence against women. Pray that the governing officials and male chauvinists would turn from their wicked ways and treat women with dignity, respect, and love. (2) Yemen was once known for trading coffee, but now the country has resorted to growing Khat, a flowering plant that acts as a stimulant, produces mild-to-moderate psychological dependence, and is classified by the WHO (World Health Organization) as drug of abuse. An estimated 80% of the adult population chew it, causing negative effects on productivity, social stability, and family life. Pray that God would help these people overcome their addictions through the power of the Holy Spirit.

4. Morocco – Located in the Northwest corner of Africa, this country is adjacent to both the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Inland, It is surrounded by the Atlas mountains in the north and Sahara Desert in the south. The top three languages are Arabic, Berber, and French. The Muslim population dominates this country with 99.88% of the population (32,738,475).

How to Pray – (1) The rural Moroccan Arabs are the majority people group, but they are particularly unreached and isolated from the gospel. Pray that brave missionaries will go to this uncharted people group and proclaim the message of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. (2) Spending on healthcare only accounted for 5.19% of the country’s GDP. This means that for every 10,000 inhabitants, only 6 physicians and 9 nurses are available. Pray that God would send more doctors to help supply this demand and pray for leaders in this country to invest in education and healthcare for the future.

3. San Marino – Located on the Italian Peninsula on the northeastern side of the Apennine mountains, this Republic is considered a sovereign nation with a population of 32,448 people. The official language is Italian. Based on the Operation World statistics, only 4 people are considered to be evangelical.

How to Pray (1) The Sammarinese are Catholic by tradition, but are known by others as a materialistic people. They are considered one of the wealthiest countries in the world, have a highly stable economy, and one of the lowest unemployment rates. Pray they wouldn’t rely solely on finance for their comfort, but turn to the living God to experience true love and joy that money can’t buy.

2. Tunisia – This country is located between Algeria and Libya, and is in the northernmost central part of Africa. It is mountainous and very agricultural. The official language is Arabic, but French and English are widely used. There are 10 million people, of which 99.37& are Muslim, 0.22% are Christians, and 0.001% are Evangelicals (1,154).

How to Pray – (1) A number of Salafist Islamic groups have destroyed artistic expression that is viewed to be hostile to Islam. Pray that the right of freedom of expression would be valued and God would open up the door for democracy. (2) Missionary effort in the past has opened the door for change. Pray that future missionaries would learn the Arabic language so they can speak the words of truth to the Tunisians in their own native language.

1. Turkey – Located between two continents: Europe and Asia, and two important bodies of water, the Black and Mediterranean Sea. Its been a strategic position since the beginning of time. The official language is Turkish, but there are over 45 different languages spoken in this country alone! Out of a population of 75.7 million, only 7,000 are considered to be evangelicals.

How to Pray(1) There has been much violence and persecution towards Christian in the past. For instance, in 2006 a Catholic priest was murdered and in 2007 Turkish Christians in Malayta were tortured and murdered by radical Islamists. Pray that God would give courage and trust amidst the social ostracism, harassment by security forces, and violent persecution. (2) Reaching the younger generation is important because over 60% of the population is under 28 years old. Pray that God would raise up a young Daniel to revive the hearts of the next generation.