After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;…
It has been said that Corinth was the Vanity Fair of the Roman Empire; at once the London and the Paris of the first century after Christ. You are a poor man, without money, without friends, and with no letter of recommendation to any person or firm in the great city. What would it mean for you to make a place and a reputation for yourself under such circumstances? Think how many forces within and without you would have to be involved in order to lift your single obscure personality into a commanding position, from which you could attract public attention and determine public opinion and action! The very thought of the task is calculated to discourage and even appall the average mind. And yet Paul not only faced the thought, but he actualised it. The question arises: How did he do it? In trying to answer this question, we shall find ourselves touching some of the secret springs of the power of a Christian personality in a great metropolis. The history of the gradual development of a personal character as it emerges from obscurity to eminence, from dependence to dominion, is full of inspiration. Not every man illustrates this evolution of soul power. Too often the process is in the other direction. More frequently the development stops where a good many peach crops do, under the late spring frosts. and ends only in leaves. While it is true that all men and women have not the natural endowments for making these great impressions upon their age and generation, it is also true that most men and women, by a right adjustment and discipline of the powers which God has given them, might do much more than they are doing to change and better the world. Let us look for a few moments at the picture which our sacred artist has given us of Paul in Corinth.
1. The first thing which the apostle did was to find employment. The first thing which a man must do if he would gain for himself an influence in any community is to show his ability to take care of himself in a material way. Labour is one of the foundation stones of soul power. A trade or a profession is the vantage ground within which the character is to grow, and from which it is to make itself felt upon the world at large. The man who will not work cannot rule. One of the first questions for a man to settle is, "What shall my lifework be? What employment shall I follow, in order that I may do my share in adding to the productive forces of the world?" There is no place in society for the idle or the lazy man. Among men, as among animals, parasitism leads to degeneration and uselessness. Wealth which stops work kills character.
2. In the next place, I notice that Paul preached while he worked. "He reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks." He did what every man and woman must do if they hope to make any permanent impression upon the community in which they live. He mingled his religious and secular life in such a way that the two played into each, or rather the one grew out of the other as the blossom grows out of the stem. The man who has within him possibilities of eternity, and the powers which belong to heaven, must of necessity be a preacher and a reformer wherever he lives and moves. If he has Christ in his soul as the motive power of his life, he must express Christ under the conditions of that life, not merely on Sunday and on prayer meeting day, but all through the week. Thus only will he save his trade or profession from the charge of being merely a makeshift whereby to earn his bread. His business as a merchant is a means of presenting Jesus Christ to clerk and customer. The most effective preaching of this day, I venture to say, is that which is done by the man who is following some honourable business, and at the same time by word and act ministering to the needs of the world in the name of Jesus Christ.
3. But I notice again that "when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit." That is, he was wholly seized and arrested by the truth of his religion, so that he applied himself to it with the utmost earnestness. I find here a very important suggestion in the line of developing personal influence in the community. The presence of Paul's two friends greatly added to his efficiency. A man works a good deal better with congenial spirits than he does alone. Every reformer knows what I mean when I speak of that loneliness which is necessarily connected with all pioneer work. Christ experienced it. Few personalities are strong enough to walk in advance of their age entirely alone. They can go on for a little while, but unless they find sympathy and cooperation they are liable to fall by the way. Eagerly they turn back, wistfully they look around the great sea of faces behind them, anxious to discover someone who has left the common ranks and moved up nearer to them. This was the way Paul felt when he waited and looked for the coming, of Silas and Timotheus. If Christians understood how much they could do by giving even their presence to a good cause, the world would be made better much more rapidly than it is now. It is astonishing how a half-dozen, or even two, thoroughly sympathetic workers in the church can turn a pastor's discouragement into joy and make an enthusiastic phalanx which can chase a thousand. Silas may not be a very able or eloquent co-worker; he may be a very modest and very inefficient man; and yet the single item of his sympathy may change Paul's pending defeat into a glorious victory. Not Paul alone, but Paul plus Silas and Timotheus, moved Corinth. Mass your personalities. Organise! It means victory.
4. But I discover one other condition of Paul's condition of Paul's success in Corinth, in this remarkable statement, which we find in the ninth and tenth verses of this chapter — "Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, 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." Here we have another illustration of the reality of the Divine presence and guidance in every human life. Paul had these manifestations of the unseen Christ for a special reason. They lived at a time when the world had had little or no Christian experience which could avail to encourage and cheer them. There was no great enlightened consciousness for them to appeal to. And so what God has given to us today in the form of a wide Christian sympathy and multiplied Christian experiences and a vast array of convincing facts he gave to these early disciples in the form of supernatural revelations. The Lord is not confined to visions and dreams in manifesting His presence to them that love Him. His promise, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world," was spoken to be fulfilled. Men practically bind their lives by material limitations and refuse to think that there is any influence or help from an unseen spiritual realm. The result is they fail in all high endeavour and come short of all true manhood and womanhood. It is just as true today as it was when Paul was asserting his Christian personality in Corinth, that the man who would work any great good for himself or his fellow men and make the world better for his having lived in it must have the actual help of the incarnate Son of God.
(C. A. Dickinson.)
Parallel VersesKJV: After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;