Paul’s First Letters To His Corinthian Friends

During his stay in Ephesus, Turkey, Paul seems to have written two letters to his friends in the new church in Corinth, Greece.  The first of these letters (referred to in the second) has been entirely lost.  The second of these letters is commonly known as 1st Corinthians (291).

The Holy Spirit had led Paul to plant the Corinthian church several years earlier.  And Apollos had had an effective ministry in Corinth, while Paul was in Ephesus.  But by the time of this letter, a number of issues & questions had arisen in the Corinthian church.

There was division in the church. Some of the Corinthian Christians were lining up behind Paul, but some were lining up behind Peter & others were lining up behind Apollos. Paul appealed to the Corinthian believers (& to us) not to permit any such divisions in the church.

division

Different teachers may emphasize different things about Jesus.  But the most important thing for all members of the body of Christ is to remain focused on Jesus, not on specific church leaders.

Sexual misconduct by church members was going uncorrected.  Paul’s corrective was that all believers should ask God, often, to point out anything in us that is offensive to him.

MISERERE CONFESSION

The lust for physical satisfaction & emotional comfort is so powerful, that we easily lose sight of how our selfish sexual sin is offensive to God.

Marriage was being treated as a temporary relationship for worldly convenience, instead of as a permanent union to glorify God.

Marriage

In his letter, Paul responded to various questions about marriage:

  • Isn’t it better to remain single than to marry? Staying single is good for those who can do it in a godly way, said Paul. But he stressed that marriage is intended by God for most people, — in part to provide godly expression for those natural human sexual appetites with which God has created us.
  • May husbands or wives abstain from sex in their marriages? Only by mutual consent and only for periods of prayer & fasting, said Paul. So long as the sex act was an act of love & respect, Paul opposed the unilateral withholding of sex by either marriage partner.
  • May a believing spouse leave an unbelieving spouse? No, said Paul, because God may want to use the witness of the believer — both to bring the unbeliever to faith in God, and to raise their children up unto God. But, if the unbeliever insists on leaving, then let him go.

(291) 1 Corinthians 1-7

Jesus Versus Artemis

Before Paul left the city, there was a serious incident in Ephesus (290).  As Gentiles had become Christians & started worshiping the one true God, they had stopped worshiping the local false goddess, named Artemis.

Demetrius, a silversmith who made & sold silver models of the temple of Artemis, saw his business declining as a result.

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So he called a meeting of all the local artisans who had similar businesses, and he said to them, “You can all see for yourselves that this fellow Paul is ruining our business. He has convinced many people that Artemis is not a goddess at all, so there is a real danger that her temple will lose all significance.  Worse than that, it’s possible that Artemis herself will become completely discredited!”

As the crowd of artisans heard these words, they became furious & started shouting, “Hail Artemis of Ephesus!”  Before long, the uproar spread throughout the whole city of Ephesus.

A mob grabbed Gaius & Aristarchus (two Greek Christians who were friends of Paul) and rushed them to the main assembly hall. Paul wanted to tell  the mob about Jesus & appeal for the release of his friends, but the other believers wouldn’t let him take that risk. Friendly governmental authorities even sent Paul a message begging him not to show himself in the assembly. Meanwhile the mob in the assembly hall was in chaos; many people didn’t really know why they were gathered there.

The Jewish believers sent Alexander to address the mob on behalf of Gaius & Aristarchus.  But when he was recognized as a Jew, the mob shouted him down, chanting, “Hail Artemis of Ephesus!” And this general uproar continued for two hours.

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Finally, a city leader was able to calm the mob. “Fellow Ephesians!” he said. “Gaius & Aristarchus have not robbed temples or said evil things about Artemis. If Demetrius & the other artisans have any specific accusation against them, they must bring charges in court, according to our law. If there are larger policy issues to be considered, that will have to be done in a legal meeting of our citizens. But we cannot continue in this way; there really is no excuse for all this uproar.”  So the city leader dismissed the meeting.

After all the excitement died down, the Holy Spirit led Paul to call together the believers & share with them words of encouragement.  Afterwards, Paul said good-bye to them & left Ephesus for the Macedonian region of Greece.

 

(290) Acts 19:23-20:1

Jesus Changes People In Ephesus

During this time in Ephesus, God was also using Paul to do miracles (289).  When his aprons & handkerchiefs were given to sick people, they were healed of their diseases & evil spirits were expelled from them.

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There were some Jews who also tried to use the name of Jesus to expel evil spirits – saying, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.”

One time, seven brothers — who were the sons of a Jewish High Priest named Sceva — were attempting to minister in this way, to a man possessed by an evil spirit.  But the evil spirit said to them, “I know Jesus, & I know Paul, but who are you?” Then the evil spirit attacked them violently & overpowered them all.

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They ran away — wounded & with their clothes torn off.  All the Jews & Gentiles who lived in Ephesus heard about this; they were all astonished & began to give the name of Jesus greater honor.

The Holy Spirit led many believers to begin confessing their sins publicly, as they testified how Jesus was changing them.  Many of those who had practiced magic even burned their “magic books” in public; altogether, they had paid fifty thousand silver coins for all those books.

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So, through many such powerful demonstrations, the good news kept spreading & the church there kept growing stronger.

Subsequently, Paul began planning to travel through Greece, and then go on to Italy, before returning to Jerusalem. He sent Timothy & Erastus, two of his co-workers, to make ministry preparations in Greece, while he stayed a while longer in Ephesus.

 

(289) Acts 19:11-22

Paul Serves Jesus In Ephesus

While Apollos was in the Greek city of Corinth, Paul arrived in the Turkish city of Ephesus (288).

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There he found a group of new believers in Jesus & he asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” “We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit,” they answered. “Then, what kind of baptism did you receive?” Paul asked. “The baptism of John the Baptizer,” they answered.

Paul said, “John baptized people with water as a sign that they had repented & decided to stop sinning.  But John also told the people of Israel to believe in the one who was coming after him – who is Jesus.  Jesus baptizes people with God’s Holy Spirit.”

When they heard this, twelve of them asked to be baptized in the name of Jesus.  As Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them; all twelve of them began testifying boldly, in different languages & dialects, about how Jesus was changing their hearts & changing their lives.

005-paul-ephesus

For the next three months, Paul taught in the Ephesian synagogue, trying to convince the people that the kingdom of God which Jesus proclaimed really was good news. But some of the Jews in that synagogue stubbornly refused to believe in Jesus; instead they said evil things before the whole assembly about Jesus & about those who believed in him.

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So Paul left the synagogue, taking the Christian believers with him, and he began to hold daily meetings in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the people who lived in that area of Turkey, both Jews & Gentiles, heard the good news of Jesus Christ.

 

(288) Acts 19:1-10

Apollos

After spending some time in Syrian Antioch, Paul set out on his third mission trip, when he was about 50 years old (287).  He began by making a lengthy journey through the eastern Turkish regions of Galatia & Phrygia, strengthening the believers in the new churches there.

Paul may have worked with Epaphras at this time, serving churches in the Lycus River valley, particularly in the Turkish city of Colosse.

lycus

While Paul was on this journey, Apollos came to Ephesus in western Turkey.  He was a Jew who believed that Jesus was God’s Messiah; he was also an eloquent speaker who had a thorough knowledge of the inspired scriptures.  He taught in the synagogue about Jesus with great boldness & enthusiasm.

But at that time Apollos knew only the water baptism of John. When Aquila & Priscilla heard him, they took him home & got to know him, and they explained to him the Spirit baptism of Jesus.

Aquilla-and-Priscilla

Quite possibly, Apollos was filled with the Holy Spirit at this time, and fully surrendered his life & ministry to the Spirit’s leading.

Eventually, Apollos was called by God to go to Greece, and he was obedient to that call.  The Ephesian believers wrote to the Greek believers, urging them to welcome Apollos.  This they did, so that Apollos was provided an open door to help the church in Greece.  With his strong arguments, Apollos overcame the unbelieving Jews in public debates, proving from the inspired scriptures that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

 

(287) Acts 18:23-28

Paul Writes Again To His Thessalonian Friends

Paul’s second letter to his friends in Thessalonika was also written both to encourage them & to address questions that had come up about their faith in Jesus (286).

He began by sending greetings from himself, Silas & Timothy.  Paul again reminded the Thessalonian believers that persecution is inevitable for Christians in this world. But Paul also assured them that Jesus will make right all that now seems wrong, when he comes again to judge the world.

Some in Thessalonika were teaching falsely that Jesus had already come back to the earth a second time & that he would not be coming a third time.  Paul countered this by repeating the teaching of Jesus – who had told his chosen witnesses that great tribulation would be experienced throughout the world before his second coming.

This tidal wave of wickedness would not occur, Paul wrote, until the restraining power of the Holy Spirit, living in the body of Christ, had itself been temporarily restrained.  Since all of that had clearly not yet happened, Paul taught the Thessalonians to keep expecting that Jesus will come again.

second coming

When Jesus does return to the earth, all people — who refuse to believe the truth about God & who persist in the pleasures of sin – will be condemned before God.  But, all people — who believe & receive Jesus as savior & who faithfully follow him as master — will be saved from condemnation before God.

The Thessalonian believers had been chosen by God for this very salvation, Paul said.  So they should stand firm in the truth & traditions of their faith until the end.  And they should always give evidence of their faith by how they lived.

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Particularly, Paul encouraged his Thessalonian friends to pray & to work.

  • He asked them to pray for him, that he would also stand firm until the end.
  • And he reminded them to continue in good works of love toward other people, as the best defense against the sins which so easily arise from self-indulgent laziness.

 

(286) 2 Thessalonians 1-3

Paul Teaches His Thessalonian Friends

Continuing his first letter to his Thessalonian friends, Paul instructed them in continuing godly living (285).   For instance, Paul told the Thessalonians never to take advantage of other Christians, but always to mind their own business & earn their own living.

A question had arisen in Thessalonika about what would happen to Christians who had previously died, when Jesus comes back to the earth: Would they be taken to heaven?  Paul assured the Thessalonian believers that those, who had lived & died for Christ, would be raised & taken to heaven by Jesus.

Another question in the Thessalonian church concerned when Jesus would actually come back to the earth.  Paul reminded them of what Jesus taught – that this day will come upon us without warning, “like a thief in the night.”

secondcoming

Until that day, Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to let their hope of heaven motivate them — to continue showing their love for God by loving one another.  Evidence that they were on the right track would include:

  • Respect for local church leaders
  • Peace among church members
  • Warning ungodly members
  • Encouraging timid members
  • Helping members in need
  • Patience with all members
  • Focus on doing good
  • Rejoicing always
  • Praying always
  • Being thankful in every circumstance
  • Letting the Spirit lead them

spirit

  • Receiving & living by God’s messages
  • Discerning good from evil

Finally, Paul emphasized that staying on track with Jesus meant depending on the supernatural power of God’s Holy Spirit, for guidance & strength in every situation.

spirit 2

 

(285) 1 Thessalonians 4-5