Gospel In An Immoral Culture (Acts 18)


Charles Barnes, early SPBC pastor from 1961-1970, said Severna Park was in the middle of a triangle of influence: Annapolis, Washington D.C., and Baltimore. We have potential to influence Maryland / Region / World without even having to leave our state.

Likewise, Paul’s aim for spreading the gospel was to travel and stay in strategic locations. The next few chapters we discover familiar and powerful cities of Paul’s travels: Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome.

EXAMINE  Acts 18

1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

As mentioned last week, Athens was a city of cultural influence and Corinth was similar but significantly larger. Scholars estimate Athens’ height population around 50K but Corinth perhaps around 300-500K.[1] The city was renowned for several reasons[2]

  • Area: The city was located along a canal that spared sailors traveling over 200 miles (multiple weeks) around land. Positioned along a trade route allowed the city not just economic prominence but social reputation.
  • Architecture. City dates back to 3000 B.C. during Bronze Age. Even today “Corinthian” columns are the most ornate and distinguished.
  • Bronze work. Corinthian bronze was sought throughout Roman Empire for use in temples, palaces, theatres, music, and even mirrors (cf 1Co 13:12). Even the Jerusalem Temple used bronze for one of its gates known as the “Beautiful Gate” (Ac 3:2). Paul may have alluded for bronze usage in musical instruments as clanging symbols (1Cor 13:1).  
  • Competition: The city served to entertain athletes every two years with the Isthmian Games (second only to the Olympian/Athens Games).[3]
  • Depravity. The city also contained a sizable temple to Aphrodite which loomed over 1,900 foot summit, and having over 1,000 temple prostitutes. One philosopher even coined the phrasing to “Corinthianize” meant to live a depraved and devilish lifestyle.[4]

And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them,

Paul entered the city alone but quickly found some new friends: Aquila & Priscilla. Apparently, they were both residents of Rome but became refugees fleeing religious persecution after a Roman decree in 49 A.D. that expelled Jews creating civil disturbance at the instigations of “Chrestus” (Latin spelling of Christ).[5]

— How did they hear the gospel in Rome and become Christians? Scripture does not indicate for certain beyond Jews from Pontus and Rome hearing the gospel in Jerusalem during Pentecost (Ac 2:9-10).

Interestingly, Priscilla and Aquilla are always named together, and she is named before her husband 4 of 6 times (cf Ac 18:18, 26; Rom 16:3 Paul’s “fellow workers,” 2 Tim 4:19; see also Ac 18:2; and 1 Cor 16:19 host of house church. It’s possible Pricilla was more prominent either socially in Rome, or more likely due to her involvement in the church. Some even suggest they were co-authors of Hebrews, though this is entirely speculation.

  • How many spouse teams serve together not separate, and/or utilize their home for gospel advance? Few actions cultivate relational alignment and exciting adventure in families than when they serve together. It’s one of the “silver bullets” to children continuing in the faith when they become adults.[6]

Few actions cultivate relational alignment and exciting adventure in families than when they serve together. It’s one of the “silver bullets” to children continuing in the faith when they become adults.

and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.

Paul, along with Priscilla & Aquilla, worked with leather and made tents. Undoubtedly, their income was used for personal support and their public ministry. Likewise, we need people today who are willing to use their dollars to make a difference for the gospel.

Numerous times Paul referenced the labors of his own hands to not be a burden on individuals or churches (Ac 20:34; 1Co 4:12; 1Thes2:9). There was a saying that Jewish fathers who did not teach their sons a trade were teaching them to become thieves. Men should work to earn a living.

Yet, there is also the understanding that gospel ministry is worthy to support financially (cf Rom 15:27-28; 2 Cor 8-9; 1Tim 5:17-18).  

  • In all, our workplaces are essential places to be a witness.[7]
    • Work with competency. (cf. Prov 16:3; 22:29)
      • Serve in ways no one else would.
      • Competency does not mean perfection.
    • Work with character (Prov 5:21; 15:3; Eph 6:5-9)
      • The world is watching our life and listening to our words.
      • Model generosity and teamwork.
    • Work with Christianity (Eph 6:19-20; Col 3:17; 1 Pet 3:15)
      • Relate to all co-workers, especially those on fringe: custodial, mail clerks, interns, unsocial or untalented. Eat meals together – Jesus was a friend of sinners!
      • Support families: pregnancies, marital issues, deaths, etc.
      • Talk about Jesus, church, prayer, in everyday ways.
      • Place Bible on desk… but be ready for questions/discussion.  

Our workplaces are essential places to be a witness. Christians must work with competency, character, and communicate about Christ in the ordinary of everyday.

And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.

When Paul’s mission team members Silas and Timothy arrived, he was able to focus more on multiplying disciples than making tents. It is likely the Philippian/Macedonian churches contributed to Paul’s mission work (cf. Php 1:3-4; 4:15-19). Likely also, Silas & Timothy supported Paul to study and teach the Scriptures.

When Paul preached Jesus to the Jews in Corinth, many rejected him.
So, Paul shook out his garments, and told the Jews they were responsible for their faith decision, and he would focus primarily on the Gentiles.

He goes next door to the synagogue to a man named Titius (Tish-Us) Justus, and he received the gospel. Also, the synagogue ruler Crispus also received the gospel. And many Corinthians heard the gospel and were baptized!

  • Christians need to go next door – minister in own zip code before outside it.
  • #WhosYour1 strategy. 1 person or family / 1 street or hallway

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 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.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Amid Paul’s ministry in Corinth, he has uncertainty. Consider the reality that in previous cities, Paul experiences significant hostility.  

  • Cyprus: demonic opposition (Ac 13:8)
  • Pisidia: persecution and pushed out of town (Ac 13:50)
  • Iconium: mistreatment and stoning (Ac 14:5)
  • Lystra: riots and stoning left for dead (Ac 14:14, 19)
  • Antioch return: theological accusations (Ac 15:1-2)
  • Asia: forbidden by Holy Spirit (Ac 16:6)
  • Macedonia: beat with rods and imprisoned (Ac 16:23-25)
  • Thessalonica: mob attack, forced to leave town secretly (Ac 17:5-9)
  • Berea: dissension and forced to leave (Ac 17:13-14)
  • Athens: mocked (Ac 18:32)
  • Corinth…

So, Paul had incremental fears and increasing worries

  • 1 Cor 2:3 “weakness and fear, and much trembling.”
  • 2 Cor 1:8 “we were utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.”
  • 2 Cor 11:23-28 hard labor, countless persecutions and left for dead, shipwrecked, danger night and day, many sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, cold exposure, daily pressure and anxiety, burdened for the churches.

Fear can stall you. As Paul was tempted to give up, so you too can be stuck in your spiritual journey and stalled in your purpose. There is a cultural trend happening in the workplace called “quiet quitting.” It’s when people withdraw from giving their all, and the slow drift creates disconnection and division. For churches, instead of membership one dismembers themselves from the fellowship of the body.

  • It’s ok to be exhausted, or to admit feeling empty. But it is not godly to end relationships or forsake your church family.
    Heb 3:12-13 “Take care brothers & sisters, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today”, that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness of sin.”

Fear can silence you. Apparently, the apostle Paul was tempted to shrink back in witness and withdraw. Yet, the Lord encouraged Paul to go on speaking and not be silent. We can be tempted not speak or share about Jesus because of fears of what others will say, or how we will be perceived. Instead, the Lord reminds us His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9).

Fear can stimulate you. The fear of the Lord defeats all other fears. The Lord’s vision inspired Paul to feel how God feels over the brokenness of cities, and to see the lost as God views them: “I have many in this city who are my people.” (Ac 18:10) Who were the people God viewed as His own? It was the people whom God called according to His purpose, those whom He foreknew; those he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:28-29). Paul’s comfort was not in his own plan but God’s purpose. Like Paul, we need to let our fears stimulate us to deepen our devotion to the Lord in prayer, and widen our compassion for the lost in our communities.

There’s more people to be saved, more work to be accomplished, more fruit to grow, more blessings to receive, more glory to God to give. Let’s lean in, press on, and move forward with all the Lord has for us.

Fear can stall you. Fear can silence you. But fear can also stimulate you. The fear of the Lord defeats all other fears.


Paul shared the gospel in immoral city of Corinth, and he stayed there for 18-months. After a year-and-a-half, there was a church making a difference for the kingdom of God. How do we know?

1 Corinthians 6 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Our aim in SP is to create a gospel culture that makes a tangible difference in our community.  A gospel culture requires awareness & action.

AWARENESS. We want to raise the awareness of SPBC in our community. How does SP/AACO view us?
– Church with the sign / big field / egg hunts & vbs  / pig roasts

But shouldn’t we be known for more?

  • Church that loves families.
  • Church to go when I have problems bc they help and offer hope.
  • Church that helps us to know Jesus.
  • Church that helps me understand the Bible; truth in love.
  • Church that makes disciples.

How can we raise awareness?

  • Swag: shirts, stickers, other.
  • Social Media: check-in, share, talk about
  • Serve: hear the cries, see the needs… prayerwalking
  • Spread the word: invest & invite.

We are ambassadors/advertisements/antidotes for sin disease.

ACTION. A gospel culture requires not just awareness but action.

  • Become a meaningful member.
  • Become a greeting compass N-S-E-W. First impressions team.
  • Become a friend. Like Pricilla & Aquilla / Silas and Timothy.
  • Become a worker: children’s ministry, gospel family group leader, local mission mobilizer seeing needs & meeting them.

Maybe you see yourself as a Corinthian but instead you need to see yourself through Christ: Washed. Forgiven. Free. Full of hope. If that’s you today, we invite you to trust in Jesus Christ and talk with one of our elders.

[1] Darrell L. Bock, Acts, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 577.

[2] https://drivethruhistory.com/corinth/

[3] Darrell L. Bock, Acts, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 577.

[4] Charles R. Swindoll, Acts, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2016), 356.

[5] John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 383.

[6] See research with https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/stickyfaith

[7] Further thoughts from a previous sermon: https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2015/03/30/life-in-proverbs-my-work-before-god/

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