Acts 18:1-18 contains two major intersections with secular history. The first is the expulsion of the Jews from Rome during the reign of Claudius (Acts 18:2). Information from extra-biblical sources locates this event in A.D. 49. The other major intersection is the mention of the proconsul Gallio (Acts 18:12). Because proconsuls in Corinth were appointed for one-year terms, information from inscriptions and other data accurately dates Gallio’s term of office to a.d. 50-51. Critical scholars often doubt the historicity of the book of Acts, but there are many casual references such as these that confirm its picture of history.
Timothy must have traveled from Thessalonica to Berea with Paul and Silas (Acts 17:10, 14,15) after their expulsion from Thessalonica. He then briefly joined Paul in Athens, and was sent from there to Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3:1, 2). There he joined up with Silas (Acts 18:5) and eventually journeyed to meet Paul in Corinth. First Thessalonians must have been written from Corinth shortly after Timothy’s arrival. Paul knew what people were thinking in Achaia, where Corinth was located (1 Thess. 1:7, 8), and in 1 Thessalonians he was responding to information brought to him by Timothy (1 Thess. 3:5, 6).
Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:2. What’s Paul’s main point in this passage? What do we learn from these verses about Paul’s missionary strategies in Athens and Corinth?
Paul must not have been satisfied with the outcome of his encounter with the philosophers of Athens, for in Corinth he decides to take a more direct approach to the Greek mind. In doing so, he does not reject the idea of “meeting people where they are,” for he clearly promotes such an approach in the same letter (1 Cor. 9:19-23). What he demonstrates in Athens and Corinth is that the process of meeting people where they are is not an exact science; it requires constant learning and adjustment. Paul did not take the same approach in every city. He was very sensitive to changing times, cultures, and circumstances.
Read again the passages for today. How is the main message there relevant to us today, when the “wisdom” of the world so often clashes with the “foolishness” of the Cross?