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As we saw in our previous article, the brethren who conducted Paul from Beroea received a commandment for Silas and Timothy that they should come with all speed to Paul at Athens. We do not know that Silas ever came to Paul at Athens, but Timothy came and was sent back to Thessalonica. While Paul waited at Athens his spirit was provoked within him for he saw that Athens was full of idols. It is apparent that human wisdom, called philosophy, did not clear the minds of the Greeks, who sought after wisdom, from the evils of idolatry and the immorality which ever attends it, so that Greeks with all their professed wisdom knew not God any more than did the other heathen who were regarded as barbarians.
Paul reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue and also in the market place every day with such as met with him. Certain of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him, and some said, "What would this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods because he preached Jesus and the resurrection." A babbler means a seed-gatherer, spoken of birds that pick up seed that is sown, hence used of poor persons who picked up things dropped in market places, also spoken of as worthless, abject fellows. They regarded Paul as having picked up stories and went round retailing them in the market places. The word for gods is demons. Demons, according to the Greek mind, are described in the following words, given in Parkhurst's lexicon, "Every demon is a middle being between God and mortal men." If you ask what he means by a middle being? he will tell you... "God is not approached immediately by man, but all the commerce and intercourse between gods and men is performed by the mediation of demons." "Demons are reporters and carriers from men to the gods, and again from the gods to men, of the supplications and prayers of the one, and of the injunctions and rewards of devotion from the other." Was there ever a greater satanic triumph than this to keep men from God, and God from men? This same iniquity is enthroned in the Roman Catholic Church wherein the legendary figure of the Virgin Mary is the supposed intercessor on behalf of the poor deluded Romanist. The Scriptures are clear as crystal that there is one Mediator between God and men, Himself Man, Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2.5). There is also only one High Priest, Jesus the Son of God (Hebrews 4.14). Rome has enthroned (supposedly) Mary as queen of heaven, the prime intercessor between Rome's votaries and God the Father and the Son. Besides, she has endless intercessors in angels and saints. Christ, the sole way of approach to God the Father, is debased and creature mediation exalted. This is paganism with a veneer of Christianity.
The essence of the Epicurean and Stoic forms of philosophy has been summed up as "Pleasure and Pride," the unbridled lust of the flesh in the Epicureans, and the glorification of the flesh in the restrictions which they thought seemly to apply to themselves, on the part of the Stoics. These philosophers took Paul and brought him to the Areopagus (Mars' Hill) and there they inquired what this new teaching was. Then we are told of the occupation of the Athenians, that they spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear, some new thing. It has been well said about all spiritual and fundamental knowledge, that what is true is not new, and what is new is not true. Principles are not new, applications of principles may be.
In the midst of the Areopagus, Paul addressed the assembly, and spoke of their superstition (which means to be "very reverent to demons.") May we say in passing that demon-possession was one of the things that the Lord and His apostles had to contend with? Paul spoke of the objects of their worship and of seeing an altar with the inscription, "To AN UNRNOWN GOD." This provided Paul with his subject and he declared to them the God whom they did not know. His address, given in brief by Luke, was like all Paul's ministry, both oral and written, Spirit-given, masterly and clear, and withal powerful. The God he proclaimed to them was the Maker and Lord of heaven and earth and all things therein. He "dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is He served by men's hands, as though He needed anything." He is the Giver of a]l things, and He is not far from each one, for all created intelligences live and move and have their being in Him, and in consequence men, because of the nearness of God to them, should feel after Him and find Him. He cited the writing of certain poets, as proof that men should not think of the Godhead as of wrought gold or silver, etc., for man is God's offspring. This was written by both Aratus of Tarsus, and Kleanthes of Assos. We must distinguish between man as an offspring of God by creation, and the believer in Christ being a child of God by regeneration, these are two entirely different relationships. Though Adam is said to be son of God, in Luke 3.88, yet through the entrance of sin, and death through sin, the original relationship was lost, and man, to become a child and son of God; must be born again. An idol is a stupid, vain thing, and, as Paul said, "We know that no idol is anything in the world, and that there is no God but one" (1 Corinthians 8.4). They that make and worship them become like unto them, for man becomes like the object of his worship. But what is behind idol-worship? That too Paul makes plain. "But I say, that the thing which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have communion with demons" (1 Corinthians 10.20 mg.). Here the Roman and Greek churches, and others, are unveiled in their idolatry; their sacrifices of the mass, etc., are forms of demon worship.
God overlooked the times of the ignorance of the Gentiles in the past, but now, since the coming of Christ, a new era had been opened up in the world-wide message of the gospel, and men all everywhere are commanded to repent. This repentance toward God is in the light of the day of the judgement of the inhabited earth, and that by the Man Christ Jesus, the appointed Judge. This Judge was once dead but has been raised from the dead. This reference to the resurrection of the Lord brought the proceedings to an end, for some mocked at the thought of the resurrection of the dead. Others said, "We will hear thee concerning this yet again." But in contrast to the mockers and the procrastinators, there were those who made their decision as the result of that day's address, of whom were Dionysius, and a woman called Damaris, and others with them.
Whether these believers formed a church of God in Athens is not revealed to us.
Following this Paul departed from Athens and came to Corinth (Acts 18). He tells us what spirit he was in when he approached the commercial centre of the province of Achaia. He says, that he came not unto them with excellency of speech or of wisdom to proclaim the "Mystery of God," even Christ (Colossians 2.2). His purpose was to preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2.1-5). When he arrived in Corinth, he found a Jew named Aquila, who with his wife had been, with other Jews, expelled from Rome by the emperor Claudius. So Paul came unto them and being of the same trade as Aquila he abode with them, and they wrought as tentmakers together. Those were great days for Aquila and Priscilla his wife. So thoroughly discipled and profoundly taught were they by Paul, that wherever you find that godly pair they are found devotedly serving the Lord, and at one time they laid down their necks for Paul (Romans 16.3, 4).
Paul, as his custom was, entered the synagogue and reasoned and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. But when they blasphemed he shook out his raiment, and said unto them, "Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles." He left them and went to the house of Titus Justus, a worshipper of God, whose house adjoined the synagogue. Then we are told that " Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized" (verse 8). Paul was encouraged by the Lord in a vision saying, that he was not to be afraid, but to speak, for He was with him and that no man would harm him, for He had much people in Corinth. Paul remained there for a year and six months teaching the word of God among them. During those months the church of God in Corinth was planted by Paul (1 Corinthians 3.5-9). Paul planted and Apollos watered and God caused it to grow. Planting involves the sowing of the seed of the gospel broadcast, and when the seed has germinated in the hearts of believers, and they have become plants, then those believers were called out from those with whom they were previously associated (2 Corinthians 6.14-18), and planted together (or added together, Acts 2.41, 47) to grow and bear fruit unto God.
The Jews here, as in other Gentile cites where Paul had been, rose up with one accord and brought Paul before Gallio, the proconsul, and charged him, saying, "This man persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law." When Paul was about to make his defence, Gallio said, " If indeed it were a matter of wrong or of wicked villany, o ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: but if they are questions about words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; I am not minded to be a 3'udge of these matters. And he drave them from the judgement-seat." Then the Jews in their bitter enmity laid hold on Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgement-seat, but we are told that Gallio cared for none of these things.
After these scenes in Corinth Paul tarried yet many days, then he took his leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and with him went
Priscilla and Aquila. These accompanied him only to Ephesus. Paul entered into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews, and when they asked him to remain longer he consented not, but promised to return, in the will of God, and then he set sail and landed at Ceasarea. When he landed he went up and saluted the church and then went on to Antioch.
We know of only two churches in Achaia, Corinth, and Cenchrea to which Phoebe belonged, but that does not mean that there were not many more.
The epistles to the Corinthians are the only epistles which are distinctly addressed to the church of God, with all saints who were similarly gathered elsewhere, so all epistles were addressed to those who were in the churches of God. Some are addressed to individuals, others sent to specific churches, and others to groups of churches either in a Roman province or in a number of Roman provinces.
The first epistle to the Corinthians has much to do with church order and government and in it many errors are corrected. Paul deals with sectarianism first of all, in chapters 1-4. In chapter 5 he deals with immoral conduct. In the first part of chapter 6 with brother going to law with brother, and in the second part he returns to the matter of moral conduct as to the proper use of the believer 5 body, which is temple of the Holy Spirit. Chapter 7 deals with the matter of marriage and the proper behaviour of husbands and wives, and also with the case of virgins and virginity. Chapter 8 deals with the fact that there is one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, and in contrast to this, with the matter of idolatry, and things sacrificed to idols. In chapter 9 he deals with his apostleship ; his determination not to be a burden to any in his service for the Lord; his zeal in reaching sinners with the gospel and his keeping his body in control as necessary in this work. In the first part of chapter 10, he deals with sundry examples of how God dealt with Israel in the wilderness, as providing instruction for us now. Then in the second part he returns to the matter of idolatry, and says that saints are to flee idolatry. In the first part of chapter 11 he deals with the headship of the man and the proper conduct of men and women in assembly life. The sign of headship was to be seen in the man having his head uncovered in all assembly gatherings, and the woman having her head covered, an evidence of her subjection to the man. Also he
points out the matter of the hair, the man if he had long hair it was a dishonour to him, and the woman if she had long hair it was her glory. There were to be no contentions about such things in the churches of God. In the second part of the chapter Paul deals with the matter of the church being together in church and with the proper order of the Lord's Remembrance, in regard to which there was evidently much disorder in the church in Corinth. This order in regard to the remembrance Paul claimed he had received directly from the Lord. He shows how the Lord had been judging the Corinthians because of their wrong condition and the improper way in which they were carrying out the Lord's command regarding the Remembrance. In chapter 12 he deals with spiritual gifts, and shows that just as the members of the human body have their proper functions for the well-being of the whole, even so the members of Christ's Body have their peculiar endowment of gift to be used for the good of the Body. Then in chapter 13 he shows the more excellent way in which gifts are to be used. All that was done was to be done in love, for love never faileth. They were to follow after love, but at the same time they were not to despise spiritual gifts. In chapter 14 Paul deals with prophecy and speaking with tongues. Tongues were human languages. Prophesying was the act of conveying a message from God to His people, and it was unto edification, and comfort, and consolation (verse 8). Unless a person spoke in a tongue known to those in the church or could have it interpreted, either by the speaker or an interpreter, then he was to speak to himself and to God, but was to keep silence in the church. The speaker in a language knew what he himself was saying, for he could speak to himself and edify himself. There was nothing in the speaking in tongues of the nature of the modern speaking with tongues, where the speaker does not know what he or she is saying. Moreover, no woman is ever recorded as speaking in tongues. In chapter 15 Paul deals with the truth of resurrection, that is, the raising up of the bodies of persons who have died. There are many references to the truth of resurrection in the Scriptures, especially in the New Testament, the resurrection of the dead being one of the first principles of Christ (Hebrews 6.2), but nowhere is the subject dealt with to such length, and in so much detail, as in this chapter. The resurrection of the dead rests on the fact that the Lord Himself has been raised from the dead. The first part of chapter 16 deals with the collection for needy saints, in this case for the needy in Jerusalem. Each first day of the week the saints were to lay by them in store as each may prosper, so that no collections should be made when Paul came to Corinth. Paul had given instructions to the churches of Galatia and of Macedonia regarding the collection for the saints. Sundry other matters are mentioned in the second part of this chapter.
In the second epistle to the Corinthians we have various matters mentioned which are dealt with in the first epistle. Paul in chapters 10-12 finds it difficult to defend himself and his apostleship before the Corinthians because of the evil work of those who were false apostles and deceitful workers (11.18-15). How sorely Paul was beset with perils without and perils among false brethren! But he won through and gained the crown which will adorn the victor's brow in the coming day of reward.