|Paul’s time in Corinth, as recorded in Acts 18, should serve as a reminder that the church has been called to infiltration, not isolation. Corinth was a city steeped in sexual immorality and pagan idolatry. Sexual sins that God had forbidden were actually practiced as part of worship of the Greek goddess Diana. Yet God told Paul that He had many people in that city so he should not be afraid to speak.
God did not say, “Paul, get out of there! It’s pagan!” He said, “Paul, it’s pagan and that’s right where I want to use you.”
And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, saying, “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.”
We need to remember that whenever we try to reach a lost and dying world trapped in immorality and idolatry, there is always going to be opposition – often times from the ultra religious. Jesus was criticized for those with whom He kept company. Being a friend of sinners was viewed as a negative by the religious elite. Yet, sinners are the very ones we are sent to with the gospel. The church is not supposed to isolate itself and only talk to each other while shunning the world.
1 Corinthians 5:9-11
I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.
It is interesting how often the church shuns the ones we are supposed to reach and welcomes the ones we are supposed to shun. (Shun means to avoid or ignore.) We have been hearing of the wonderful work of God in places like Iran and Afghanistan. We have all heard testimonies of people whom God picked up out of the gutters of life and and saved and transformed. The reason we can hear such things is that someone shared the gospel with them. Yes, it could have been through a dream like we are hearing about in Iran, but most often it is through person to person witnessing.
Our world is growing more bizarre and evil by the day, and it would be easy to isolate ourselves from it and just wait for the Lord to come and get us. Yet, it was Jesus who said we are to “occupy” until He comes. The other side of the coin we are watching today is the “if you can’t beat em, join em” kind of attitude where the church is becoming more like the world. Thus, Christians are figuratively running to the temple of Diana seeking after worldly pleasures.
Yet, even with both of those things being true, God still says to us, “Do not be afraid, I have many people in this city.” The statement the Lord made to Paul in Acts 18 was implying that there were many that the Lord was going to save, and Paul should not view the city as a fruitless situation.
We know this from the context in the previous verses where we read;
When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
We live in a time where our message is largely rejected by the masses. We live in a time where many in the church want nothing to do with the people of the world, and are settling for surviving instead of thriving. We live in a time where many in the church live just like the people of the world, rejecting anyone who calls them to repent claiming that repentance is works and we’re saved by grace.
That does not mean that God is no longer saving souls, and it does not mean there are no more people in your city He wants you to reach.
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Remember God has many people He is going to save in the Tribulation. He will save many more during the Millennium. Yes, most will reject Him and masses will chose Satan over God at the end of the thousand years. But none of that changes the fact that God is still saving many, even in the midst of perilous times and circumstances.
You might feel like you’re living in Corinth and watching people who claim to be Christians flocking to the pagan temples, and, yet, God is not done saving. Therefore, we should not be done witnessing.
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
God wants to save people you encounter every day, and guess who He wants to use to reach them? You guessed it! That person that greets you in the mirror every day is the someone He has called to go to the world and preach the gospel!
Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus