Paul left Athens alone and probably discouraged. Athens was one of the few stops where he did not plant a church. He may have thought that he had failed to make much impact. But at his next stop, Corinth, God had some serendipities to refresh and renew his disheartened spirit. God also allows seasons of sadness in our lives. But because of his tender mercies, he will bring us through as we learn to trust him. Pray for insight as you begin.
ON TO CORINTH, the crossroads of trade in Greece and the location of Aphrodite's (goddess of love) temple with over 1000 priests/prostitutes. The city was so corrupt that "to Corinthianize" came to mean "to practice sexually immorality."
1. A. Paul arrived in Corinth without companions. In his first letter back to the church there, he expressed his emotional state at the time he arrived. What did he say in I Corinthians 2:1-3?
B. Can you recall a season in your life when you were discouraged or depressed? If so, when? How did God minister to you? What did you learn?
C. List effective ways to overcome discouragement or depression? Which has worked best for you?
2. Read the list of Paul's hardships endured on these trips in II Corinthians 6:4-10. Which would have been the most difficult for you? What can we learn about perseverance from Paul? Are you persevering? If so, share your insight with the group.
3. A. What gift of encouragement did God give Paul soon after his arrival? Why were they in Corinth? What did they have in common? (18:2, 3)
B. (Digging Deeper) Solomon wrote often about the blessings of friendship in Proverbs. Using a concordance, find Solomon’s wisdom on the subject and apply your findings to your own life and friendships.
C. Are friends a priority in your life? What can you do to find friends and to be a better friend?
D. What additional gift of encouragement did God send Paul? (18:5a) What did they bring with them? (II Corinthians 11:9) How did this help Paul? (18:4, 5b)
E. How has God encouraged you recently? Be specific.
F. God often uses his people to encourage his people. Ask God who needs encouraging. Think of a way to encourage that person this week. Share with the group any results.
4. A. As usual, who opposed Paul? How did he respond? (18:6, 7a)
B. Was this response vindictive or painless for Paul? What were his feelings as he observed his fellow Jews reject Christ? What would he have traded to win them? (Romans 9:2-5)
C. Nevertheless, what was Paul’s response to those who stubbornly rejected Christ? (18:6)
D. Do you, like Paul, love someone who stubbornly rejects Christ? Can you force their faith or win them with persuasive arguments? What can you do? If you know anyone you assumed was unreachable but came to faith, share this with the group.
5. Where was Paul's new headquarters? Who joined this new church at Corinth? (18:7b, 8)
6. A. What special way did the Lord encourage Paul in 18:9 and 10?
B. How did Paul respond to that promise? (18:11)
In verses 12 through 17, we see how God kept His promise.
7. A. Who brought Paul before Gallio, the Roman proconsul? What charge did they make? (18:12, 13)
B. Why did Gallio refuse to hear Paul's defense or judge the case? (18:14-16)
C. (Digging Deeper) Does God still use secular authorities to protect the church and promote the gospel? Can you think of any examples from scripture? What does this teach us about God?
D. What happened on the courthouse steps? In your opinion, why? How was Gallio affected? (18:17)
E. Who was Sosthenes? (18:17) What probably happened to him later? (I Corinthians 1:1)
(Note: Gallio's decision set a precedent which protected Christianity for several decades. The Jews accused Paul of breaking Roman law, but Gallio declared that Christianity was a Jewish sect and therefore legal as Judaism. If Gallio had decided against Paul, Christianity would ultimately have been outlawed all over the Empire.)
BACK HOME TO ANTIOCH, by way of Ephesus and Jerusalem.
8. A. What did Paul do before he set sail out of Cencherea, Corinth's seaport? Why? (1 8:18b)
(Note: A Nazarite vow (Numbers 6:1-21) was often made out of gratitude for past blessings. This temporary vow involved abstinence from alcohol and from cutting one's hair. It was concluded by shaving one's hair completely off and offering the hair as a sacrifice at Jerusalem.)
B. Who went with him as far as Ephesus? (18:18, 19a) Why do you think he may have left them there?
C. What did Paul promise the Ephesians who requested he stay? (18:20, 21)
The trip by sea from Ephesus to Jerusalem's port city of Caesarea was a voyage of about 500 miles.
9. A. Why do you think he may have stopped in Jerusalem (in addition to completing his vow) before returning home to Antioch? What did he do at the end of the first trip? (14:27, 28)
B. Paul had established churches in most of the key cities of Galatia, Macedonia and Achaia, failing only in Athens. As Paul reviewed the work God had done, how do you think he felt?
C. Share a time when you reflected on God's completion of a major accomplishment in your life? How did you feel?
D. (Summit) Read I and II Corinthians, Paul's letters to the church in Corinth. Consider the immoral atmosphere’s impact on the Corinthians as you study about this church plagued by many problems.
The best thing to do behind a person’s back is to pat it!