In the first century, the city of Corinth was located in the province of Achaia, a region which today lies in the territory of Greece. When Paul went to Corinth on his second-recorded preaching trip, great things happened. We read in Acts 18:1-11 about the preaching and work that the apostle did there.
What a tremendous start the church of the Lord had in that ancient city! To the glory of God, “. . . many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized” (18:8). In the biblical text, we see three important factors in the conversion of those lost souls: the preacher, the message, and the response of the hearers.
The Preacher – The preacher was the apostle Paul, a former persecutor of the church (Acts 8:1; 9:1,2). In Corinth, Paul at first “reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks” (18:4). Later he continued his teaching in the private house of Justus (18:7), who was a worshipper of the God of heaven and lived next door to the synagogue. Paul reasoned with people and persuaded them (18:4). This implies that in the preaching of the gospel, there is an appeal to the intellect of the listeners. True conversion to the Christ always is preceded by understanding as well as a personal choice to obey on the part of the one who is converted.
As a preacher, Paul searched for fertile soil. When the Jews rejected the gospel message, Paul said, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles” (18:6). Today we need to keep searching for good soil, that is, people who have “a noble and good heart” (Luke 8:15). In the process of teaching the gospel, Paul did not shy away from “hard” cases. Among those whom Paul taught was Crispus, the ruler of the Jewish synagogue and most likely not one whom most people would consider to be “a great prospect.” Yet, Crispus believed and was baptized (18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:14).
The Message – To his listeners in Corinth, Paul preached Jesus as the Christ/Messiah (18:5). Verse eleven describes Paul’s message as being “the word of God.” Paul later wrote to the saints in Corinth and reminded them that he had preached “the gospel” to them (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). To say that Paul preached “the Christ,” “the word of God,” and “the gospel” – those are three expressions that simply describe the same message. By the Spirit, Paul preached only one message, not three.
Why preach the gospel? Because it is God’s power to salvation (Romans 1:16). Why preach the gospel? Because those who hear it, believe it, and obey it receive salvation (Mark 16:15,16). Why preach the gospel? Because only through it are men born again (1 Peter 1:22-25).
In order to be saved from their past sins, people need to hear the gospel of the Christ, not something that is “similar to” the gospel. Anything short of being the real gospel cannot save lost people. In this day of “do almost anything to attract a crowd,” let us remember that we cannot entertain or party people into Jesus. We must with kindness, yet without apology, boldly proclaim the gospel to those who are lost outside of the Lord. God’s gospel is what draws people to Jesus for salvation (John 6:44,45)
The Response – Sadly, some who heard Paul’s preaching rejected it, opposing him and blaspheming (18:6). On the other hand, thankfully, some of the residents of Corinth “received” the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1). Such a mixed response to gospel truth should not surprise us. The book of Acts is filled with similar examples, including this one in the city of Rome: “And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved” (Acts 28:24). Remember, Paul, a great preacher, preached the greatest message, but still not everyone obeyed it. We can expect the same today.
“Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). The expression “believed on the Lord” describes what Crispus did. In this instance, the word “believed” is used to mean an obedient faith that includes all that a lost person must do in order to receive the remission of sins. But Crispus was never baptized, was he? In fact, 1 Corinthians 1:14 says that he was baptized. Many others also were saved in Corinth. And what did they do in order to be saved? They heard the gospel, believed it, and were baptized (Acts 18:8). There was one way, not two, for everyone in Corinth to be saved. Because “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34), what He requires one lost person to do in order to be saved, He requires of all others.
The conversion of the ancient Corinthians involved a faithful teacher, the right message, and the proper response to that message. Friend, have you obeyed the gospel? We urge you to accept heaven’s invitation of salvation by turning to the risen Son of God in faith, repentance, and baptism for the remission of your sins. It will be the best decision of your life. God will bless you for it, and He will add you to His family, which is His church.
— Roger D. Campbell