Acts 18:1-4 – Paul in Corinth

As usual, Paul attends the synagogue meetings in the city and argues that Jesus is the Messiah.  This ministry is more successful when Silas and Timothy catch up to Paul, allowing him to devote himself to preaching. It is as a result of this synagogue ministry that there is another “rejection” of the Jews, parallel to Acts 13 and 28.  Paul declares that from that time on he will go to the Gentiles, as he did in Acts 13 as well.

Two key converts are mentioned – Titius Justus, a god-fearing Gentile and Crispus, the leader of the synagogue (See the comments for Richard Fellow’s view on Crispus and Sosthenes).  A third convert is implied in Romans 16:23 – Erastus, the “director of public works” (NIV) or city treasurer. It is unusual for Paul to identify a person by title like this, but this is an important title (Theissen, 76) What makes this person of particular significance is that in 1929 an inscription was discovered honoring Erastus, identified as the aedilis of Corinth, a title normally translated by the Greek agoranomos. The title given in Romans is that of oikonomos of the city. While this is not exactly equivalent, it is close enough that many have made the connection between this convert in Romans 16:23 and the city manager of Corinth in the mid-50’s.

Erastus Inscription from Corinth

Erastus Inscription from Corinth (January 2019)

Paul may have been concerned that his success would breed a violent back-lash from the synagogue, as it had in Thessalonica. In fact, Paul has seen this happen before.  The normal pattern is for him to enter the synagogue and face serious persecution.  He is not afraid for his own life, in fact, he seems more than willing to suffer physically for the Gospel.

1 Cor 2:3-4 indicates that Paul was afraid his ministry was destined for failure.  He does not yet know of the fate of the Thessalonican believers, perhaps even Berea is unknown to him.  Athens likely did not result in a church.  Will Corinth go just as badly?  Yet in 1 Cor 2, Paul claims that any success in Corinth was based solely on the the power of the Holy Spirit, not his own rhetorical ability.

1 Corinthians 2:3-4 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

In Acts 18:9-10 Luke tells us that Paul has a vision in which the Lord tells Paul that he will not be harmed in the city of Corinth and that there are many people in the city that are “the Lord’s.”  There are three short, related commands: Do not fear, continue to speak, and do not be silent.

If these commands reflect Paul’s mood prior to Silas and Timothy’s return, then it is possible that Paul considered, like Jeremiah before him, do remain silent and not open himself up to further persecution (Jer 20:7-12).  Like Jeremiah, Paul cannot keep the Gospel to himself, he must be what he is, the light to the Gentiles.  Even if this means he will be persecuted.  This vision encourages him to continue, since his Gospel message will be received in Corinth.

He will remain in the city 18 months, Paul’s longest place of ministry since his commission from Antioch in Acts 13.


H. J. Cadbury, “Erastus of Corinth” JBL 50 (1931) 42–58; J. Murphy-O’Connor, “The Corinth That Saint Paul Saw” BA 47 (1984) 147–59; Gerd Theissen, The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity. Essays on Corinth (Philadelphia:  Fortress, 1982); Bruce Winter, After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2001)

19 thoughts on “Acts 18:1-4 – Paul in Corinth

  1. I think your solution in the article is elegant and satisfies me, at least. I have never been convinced by “two Sosthenes.” While there is something attractive about Paul converting not only one, but two synagogue leaders, I just do not think that is clear from Acts / 1 Cor. I read your paper quite a while ago, but I will give it another look this weekend, thanks for the link.

  2. Thanks, Phillip. From inscriptions we know that synagogue rulers were benefactors of the synagogue community. I suggest that, after his conversion, Crispus diverted at least some of his benefactions towards (uncircumcised) believers (leaving less for the Jews). This explains why:
    1) “many hearing become believers”.
    2) The Jews resented the inclusion of those (uncircumcised) who “worship God in ways that are contrary to the Law”.
    3) Crispus was named “Sosthenes” (saving strength).
    4) He was beaten by Jews (who would have felt that he had not met his obligations as their benefactor). A.D 51 was probably a time of food shortage in Corinth. In the ancient world it was common for the people to attack high status individuals whom they held responsible for their hunger.
    5) He was included as co-sender of 1 Corinthians (his role as founding benefactor gave his name authority).

    I think this tightens the arguments for Crispus-Sosthenes.

  3. God told Paul to stay in Corinth because He had “many people in this city” (Acts 18:10). It seems that this vision is the main reason for Paul staying in Corinth. It is a good thing he did, because his ministry to the Gentiles in this city was wildly important to the growth of the early church. Paul started his ministry in Corinth in the synagogue, similar to the way he did in most other cities. The Jewish people blatantly rejected his message though. This brought him a lot of discouragement, but he stayed because God told him to. Paul left the synagogue and went to the home of Titius Justus, where people of The Way met for worship of God. His home was noted as a hospitable place, compared to the synagogue that Paul with great hostility (Jipp 93). This in important part of the story because it is interesting that the Gentile people are who Paul greatly impacts in this city. He intention was to reach the Jewish people, but God had a different plan. The Gentile people were reached in a radical way in this city because of this ministry. The gospel message was reaching people in Corinth (Long). Even people who would generally not accept religion, or those who were normally dedicated to the Jewish tradition believed. There were great people of mighty force who accepted the message Paul brought, which further confirms the need for him in Corinth. It was so important for him to be there that even when Paul faced persecution of teaching and preaching in Corinth, he stayed on, because that was his calling. God needed him to be there to reach the important people in the city who could then further spread the good news of Christ.

  4. Paul was successful in his trip and mission in Corinth. But one thing to keep in mind is the fact that Paul was in Corinth simply because of the vision that God sent him and with the factor that there were many individuals in the city. Paul would proclaim the Gospel and spread words of truth all around the city. He would proclaim it in the synagogues where people would come and listen to him speak and he would speak to people one on one as well. But there would be times where his message would be pushed aside and people would be hard-hearted and reject the truth that he was proclaiming. Throughout his time in Corinth, he had people welcome him in their home and provide him a place to stay. Titius Justus was the individual that was willing to provide Paul with a safe place, where he could live and speak the truth in a safe environment. There were people who would accept his truth and people would decline the truth. It is important to understand that in today’s society we will come across people who will regret what we tell them and will push aside the truth of the Gospel. No matter what Paul stayed in Corinth and he knew the trouble and persecution that was in store for him. We must keep our eyes on the reality of what is ahead of us and understand that our purpose is to bring God glory.

  5. Paul visited Corinth for eighteen months. He only remained in the city for so long because God spoke to him in a vision and told him to stay there because God would be with him and no one would hurt him. He also told Paul that he had many people in the city (Acts 18:10). During his time in Corinth, Paul was able to reach so many Gentiles. Paul had originally tried to preach to the Jews, but when he faced opposition, Paul told them that he was not going to preach to the Gentiles. After the opposition in the synagogue, Paul went to Titius Justus’ house because he was also a believe in the Way. While it may have been Paul’s plan to reach the Jews of the city, God had planned for Paul to reach many of the Gentiles of Corinth. This can happened to us in our lives today too. We plan out our lives and where we think they should go and God shows us the plan that He has for our lives. Typically, God’s plan is much different from our own. God’s plan is always much greater than our plans and Paul’s experience is such a great example of that.

  6. I realize that Paul was under the impression that persecution was imminent in Corinth, but I wonder if his main concern for leaving was due to the stubbornness of the Jewish people? He seems to be unconcerned for his own physical well-being (as mentioned in this post and seen in Acts 14:19-20 when Paul is stoned, then returns to the city once more to preach). I think that Paul is quite frustrated with the Jewish people and decides to stop seeking their specific people-group (Acts 18:6).

    I see verse 6 as an exasperated declaration of frustration with the Jews, and as the motive for the vision that Paul receives from the Lord. It would have probably made sense, if Paul was not going to preach to the Jews, that he would leave the synagogue to preach to the Gentiles in Corinth before moving on toward another city. However, God tells him in a vision not to leave Corinth because of the many that are there who belong to Him. What I see in this part of the passage is that God knows that not all Jews are going to be as stubborn as the religious leaders in the synagogue that Paul has had to deal with, and many Gentiles have yet to have heard the message. If Paul waits longer in Corinth, his companions will rejoin him (Silas and Timothy [Acts 18:5]) and the mission will have a chance to succeed.

    The specific names mentioned in Crispus (ESV) and Titius Justus seem to illustrate that Paul’s message is not only reaching “people” but it is reaching people of powerful standing in the society (both Jewish and Gentile). Paul might not be converting the religious leaders in the synagogue, but the conversion of someone like Crispus shows that some Jews are still receiving the message.

    I see this as an encouragement to us in our circumstances to continue to push forward in ministry even if our words seem to fall on deaf ears. It may be the case that we don’t know who is being impacted by our words and thoughts, or it may be that we just don’t realize that others find faith through our message. In a small way, I see this as Paul showing a reflection of God’s grace to the Corinthians by staying longer and sharing the message.

  7. Paul’s extended stay in Corinth was one that was very interesting to evaluate. He really did a lot of effective ministry, and it was rather interesting to see how God really placed a lot of direction in his life. There was not a lot of direction in the sense that Paul was brought to a lot of different places, and the fact that 18 months was the longest that Paul got to stay somewhere speaks a lot to the things that Paul got to do in his time doing ministry.

  8. Very similarly to your other blog post about ‘Success Breeds Jealousy’, Paul defines success very differently than the world. As an example, his time in Corinth may not be what many people would consider successful, but yet Paul knew his job was to be a light to the Gentiles. He knew that Jesus had suffered on earth, and that we would experience suffering too.
    It really shows Paul’s character through even the fact that Corinth was the longest place of ministry. He was convinced that God was going to move amongst the Corinthians, and the backlash would just show him that the Name of Jesus Christ is one that people will reject, but that cannot stop Paul from sharing the love he has encountered.
    He also cannot deny that the Lord told him to not fear, to continue to speak, and to not be silent (Acts 18:9-10). It may be weird to think of the fruit of spreading the gospel being suffering, as Jesus speaks about we will know the kind of tree based upon the fruit (Matt 7:15-20). I do think there is correlation between a faithful servant and the suffering they endure. Paul knows how worthy the Lamb is to receive the reward of His suffering, so Paul allows himself to endure any suffering because he knows this life is only temporary.

  9. Paul wasn’t shy of getting physical to spread the Gospel, but rather like Long said, “1 Cor 2:3-4 indicates that Paul was afraid his ministry was destined for failure.” Paul rather was so worried that his calling to be the light to the gentiles would receive the same backlash as his ministry to the Jews did. But similar to Jeremiah, Paul could not hold back his calling. Instead of leaning on himself and his own abilities, all the glory and credit was given to the Holy Spirit, because even in Paul’s weaknesses, the HS was still working through him to make Christ’s name known. That would give Paul the confidence and humility to continue in his calling to be a light to the gentiles, and not hold back from fear of failure, because even in his failures, the Holy Spirit would “demonstrate his power” (1 Cor. 2:4)

  10. Paul’s ministry in Corinth had many similarities and many differences to his visits of other cities. Like normal, he preaches the gospel in the synagogue, but of course experiences opposition from some Jews. What we read next is Paul’s response and it is very similar to, like you said P. Long, Acts 13 when they turned from the Jews to preach to the Gentiles.
    I am surprised Paul keeps returning to the synagogues in the cities that he visits. It probably was very frustrating coming up against revilement from the Jews in each city. I would not be surprised if Paul felt a bit discouraged. I think that is why God gave him a vision to keep on speaking and to not be silent. I think God telling him that he has many in the city who are his people would be an encouragement to Paul knowing that there are others who are on his side.
    Community is so important. Paul receiving word from the Lord that there are others in this city, probably was a relief. At the beginning of this chapter we see Paul staying at the house of fellow tentmakers Aquila and Priscilla. It is cool to see people working together on everyday tasks and still living out the gospel. Paul still preached even though he was a tentmaker. This shows me how important it is to live out the gospel in the small things and in the mundanity of life. Whether writing a paper, being a waitress, or attending church, each day is an opportunity to share the gospel with anyone through our actions and our words.

  11. After Paul arrived in Corinth, The Lord spoke to him in a vision and said, ‘’do not be afraid, keep on speaking, do not be silent’’ (v9). God has encouraged Paul for a reason. In a new place with new people, Paul may be overwhelmed in this mission. Because the City of Corinth is not like any other city. It is the Greek mainland and the place where many cultures and religions minglet. Also, Corinth is a Roman colon. Since it is on the mainland, it’s really the place to do business. The place was filled with many people and many different kinds of gods. The reason God let Paul stay longer in this City to see the lives of Gentiles and know ways to stand firm in Christ. When Paul wrote letters to Corinth (1Corinth and 2 Corinth), we can see that the believers of Corinth were struggling with many differences such as, division over Christian preachers, Sextual Immorality, Marriage, and divorce etc… In letters, Paul was trying to correct them and encourage them. The things that happen in Corinth are still going on today. God is seeing the future will be messier than this. By the letter of Paul, now the church knows how to handle the issue when the same thing happens. To remember that, sometimes, we may not understand our daily life. It could be hard, happy, chaos, but those are the plans of God. we may not understand but will do when the time is due. All we have to do is stand firm on the Lord and ask or consult with Him in every circumcision. Since He knows the further, may will tell us what to do and how to prepare like He did to those who delight in Him. He may not appear as He did others but all is for His glory and for our security.

  12. Paul’s boldness for the gospel is very inspiring, and as Long puts it, Paul is not scared to suffer bodily harm because it might aid in spreading the gospel. Such a statement requires self-reflection, “would I be able to willingly enter a city or country knowing I could suffer beatings or death?”. Although Paul was reassured by God that he would not suffer physically in Corinth (Acts 18:9-10), he was still willing to go. However, I think that because God blessed Paul with this confirmation of safety, it gave Paul even more boldness to openly preach and proclaim the gospel of Christ. Have you ever had news that you just couldn’t keep to yourself but burned inside of you? I think that was how Paul felt with the message of salvation for the Corinthians since Long correlates the message of Paul like the message of Jeremiah. Perhaps the Holy Spirit gave Paul an extra does of courage, or perhaps it was Paul’s great love for the people of Corinth and for Jesus that he had to boldly share.

  13. While Paul was in Corinth he was trying his best to convince people that Jesus is the son of God. He would attend the synagogue meetings and preach and talk about Jesus. Professor Long mentioned that Paul was worried that there would be backlash from the synagogue. Paul seems to have experienced back-lash multiple times it happened in Thessalonica and Paul actually experiences this all the time when preaching to the synagogue. The biggest thing that stands out to me about Paul in this blog post is that while all this backlash and persecution was happening, Paul wasn’t afraid, he wasn’t scared for his life, and like Long states in his blog, he was willing to suffer physically for the gospel. This is what a true follower of Christ looks like, Paul was ready to die for the word of God and that is truly powerful. However, one thing that Paul was afraid of was his ministry failing. “1 Cor 2:3-4 shows us that Paul was afraid his ministry was destined for failure”(Long). I think that what Paul was going through had to be pretty hard on him. He was maybe going to go silent at one point it seemed like. I don’t think that Paul would have actually gone silent and stopped preaching just because he was more afraid of his ministry failing than his physical body being injured or even killed.

  14. When reading the blog post Acts 18:1-4 – Paul in Corinth. In the beginning there is a point made that Paul is able to focus and “devote himself to preaching”. In 1 Corinthians 10 we see a verse about the church functioning as a body. A body needs all of its parts, as does the body of Christ. Without a piece of the body function the others have to take over and work much harder compromising the function that it was designed to do. While Paul was in Corinth before Silas and Timothy arrived he was doing the majority of the ministry on his own. Before the other men arrived he was unable to devote all of his energy and capacity to teaching and preaching the word, what God had called him to do. This principle has become very present in my life over the past few years, both in my health and in my church. Being a part of a small and intimate home church when everyone in the body is not pulling their weight, obeying and holding one another accountable the body suffers as a result. Each and every one has their own skill and gifts, the body needs them all in order for the gospel to be shared. Over the past year I have lost my hearing in one ear, this image has taken a new perspective in my life. The amount of energy that it takes me to get through the day, have a conversation, sit in a classroom can be exhausting. Just one arguably small piece of my body has stopped functioning and has absolutely altered the way I function, the body of Christ is the same.

  15. We know from reading Acts that Paul has been attending pretty much all of the synagogue meetings. Long talks about how this was way more important and successful when Silas and Timothy caught up to him. As stated in my last blog, the Jews ended up rejecting Paul and whatever it was that he was talking about. In Acts 18 Paul ended up saying forget this and went over to people who would give him the time of day and listen to what he had to say. Those people were the Gentiles. Another thing that Long makes very clear is the fact that Paul goes on this normal routine of going to the synagogue, speaking, and then ends up facing persecution. Paul is not afraid anymore and I think part of that comes from Acts 18 where Paul has his vision and is told that he will be protected. Before Paul decided to go on and speak he did have that fear in him that Long talks about in his blog. But once the vision was given to him from the Lord he felt almost invincible. Paul is now using that vision as motivation to keep sharing the gospel. He remained in the city longer than what most have imagined. Long talks about how Paul remained there for 18 months. Paul proved that there was nothing that could stop him from spreading the gospel. Paul did receive hate that would make most people want to turn away. I think someone from today’s day in time would have folded or failed when it came down to being in Paul’s shoes.

  16. Paul being in Corinth in Acts 18 is one of the most interesting parts of Acts to me and seeing everything that goes on in this chapter has a lot of information as well as the blog post talking about it. The importance of Acts chapter 18 while Paul is in Corinth or more so the most interesting part of this story is that Paul lived and worked in Corinth for 18 months as a tent-maker alongside Aquila and Priscilla while preaching and establishing a congregation of believers, before the three and they continued on to Ephesus. Another thing that is going on at the time of Paul being in Corinth is his reasoning and preaching the Gospel to the Jews of the city, but then soon after he was confronted. With this, it was strong opposition from several members of the city’s large Jewish community. While Paul was preaching he was preaching about the gods of many and the lords of many. But to us, there is one God the Father and one Lord Jesus Christ. While Paul was instructing the Corinthians members regarding the eating of meat that has been sacrificed to idols. This is what Paul was preaching during his time of being in Corinth while he was also working before he traveled somewhere else along the way of his missionary journey. This is interesting in the book of Acts because it is another one of those stories as Paul is on his way preaching to cities, there are many times he stopped in places maybe he didn’t mean to or plan to had planned to do something different. But from his preaching the Gospel to many people he knew it was his mission to spread the Gospel and that is what he did no matter where he was.

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