What really happened at Corinth?
If the passages in Acts were the only
Bible references alluding to tongues, there would be little ground for
controversy or for the glossolalists to speak in unknown sounds. In that
case their practice, as generally manifested today, would be clearly out
of harmony with the Biblical guidelines. But Paul’s letter to the
Corinthians contains passages that have given rise to serious
What really happened at Corinth?
Let’s quickly glance back at the first
century and take a look at the background of the church that created the
An ancient trading city, Corinth was
refounded by Julius Caesar as a Roman colony in 46 B.C. Situated between
the Ionian and the Aegean Seas, on the isthmus connecting Greece with the
Peloponnesus, and supported by its renowned ports of Lechaeum on the west
and Cenchreae on the east, it soon became a major crossroads of
Mediterranean commerce. It is no wonder that the emperor selected it to be
the Roman capital of the province of Achaia, establishing it as the seat
of the Roman proconsul.
As a colony of Rome, its citizens were
also Roman, but other nations were equally well represented—witness the
fact that foreign deities such as Isis and Serapis were highly revered,
with temples nearly as impressive as those of the famed Apollo and
Aphrodite. Devil worship and sexual licentiousness were so prevalent that
Aphrodite’s temple alone was staffed by more than 1,000 female slaves
dedicated to satisfy the lusts of the goddess’s earthly subjects.
Realizing all of this, Paul’s efforts
to evangelize Corinth could certainly not have been an easy task. Upon his
arrival in Corinth, Paul first lived with Aquila and Priscilla. Acts 18:2.
From here he preached to both heathens and Jews In answer to opposition
initiated by two Macedonian visitors, Silas and Timotheus, Paul left and
moved in with Justus, a Jewish man whose house was located next to the
synagogue. Verses 4-7. His ensuing friendship with Crispus, chief ruler of
the synagogue, resulted in his converting the ruler’s entire household,
in addition to many other Corinthians.
"Then spake the Lord to Paul in the
night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: for I
with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much
people in this city. And he continued there a year and six months,
teaching the word of God among them." Acts 18:9-11.
For eighteen difficult months Paul
labored there; then he left for Syria, leaving behind him the nucleus of a
Christian church that was to continue his missionary work among the
multitude of nationalities represented in the city.
While he was at Philippi, the first
inklings of trouble among his newly created congregation reached him.
Chloe was the first one to break the
distressing news to him. 1 Corinthians 1:11. Soon after, it was also
reported to him by mail. 1 Corinthians 7:1. Then came the personal visits—with
even more bad news. Stephanus, Fortunatus, and Achaicus undoubtedly felt
that Paul had either not reacted in due haste or that the information
supplied him had not been adequate. At any rate, they felt obligated to
add their personal testimony to the already sordid reports. 1 Corinthians
Listening to them, Paul became convinced
that the church, formed during his second missionary journey and composed
chiefly of former pagans, had fallen into a bad state of spiritual
decomposition. The record of flagrant abuses of Christian living submitted
to him were indeed horrifying—not just in number
but more so in degree.
Paul must have been shocked when
confronted with the reports.
There was, for example, gross division
among the Christians; envying; strife (1 Corinthians 3:3); fornication;
incest (l Cor. 6:6); fraud (verse 8); association with drunkards,
extortioners, and idolators (1 Cor. 5:11); heresies (1 Cor. 11:19);
attending church in state of intoxication (verses 1&21); ignorance of
natural and spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1); denial of the resurrection of
the dead (1 Cor. 15:12); and abuses of the Lord’s Supper (l Cor.
Is it any wonder that Paul shuddered?