I want to begin by apologizing for yesterday’s typo. I inadvertently labeled chapter seventeen’s study as chapter sixteen. To be honest, it made my day that people noticed, that means some are studying.
In today’s chapter we see that Paul has ended up in Corinth. As we read through these verses we often imagine that Paul is on the go continuously. We see here that he stayed there for one and a half years. This seems like just a foot note to us today, but it is much more. Corinth was known through out the region as a basic cesspool for debauchery. Sexual immorality was a huge problem in this city. God had ordained Paul to not only preach the Gospel, but also to disciple the new believers. Paul could have chosen easier locations in which to preach, or perhaps he could have simply presented the Gospel and left; but he knew that God had different plans for the city of Corinth. This is why we see additional protection from God toward Paul. Once again, in this chapter, we see a man who picked a fight with the wrong guy! As I wrote to you earlier: When a person is on a mission that is not his or her own, a mission that is ordained by God, he or she is not one to be trifled with. This Jewish leader named Sosthenes was humiliated and beaten by gentiles in front of the very magistrate that was set up to hold order in the region. Gallio the proconsul of Achaia ignored the beating of Sosthenes and acted as if nothing had happened.
Today there are many who claim to be evangelists who travel from place to place in order to preach the Gospel. (Before I go any farther I want to begin with a clause: the following statements do not apply to all in this group.) These men preach and then simply move on without any discipleship. The model of evangelism given by Jesus was friendship evangelism. Jesus invested in the lives of people, grew relationships and showed them the way to salvation. These people then followed Him to learn from Him. We have things turned over backward today in a couple of different ways. The first way is the mindset that the pastor is the evangelist. In this view of evangelism, the plan is to get people to come to church. We feel that if we get them there, that pastor guy can tell them about Jesus. The model that we are looking at in the early church is not laid out that way. The apostles (the first pastors) were teaching doctrine to the people so that they could lead their friends to Christ. At the point that these friends repented, they intern joined the church in prayer, breaking of bread and holding to the apostles doctrine. In this different, modern model we see churches that try so hard to lure the world into the church that they try to appease the world with the message and the worship among other things. Sin is tolerated, because after all we are trying to reach a lost world. This model causes the main line of teaching and preaching to be a salvation message. When this happens, a church will be comprised of people who have not been given any depth to their faith. This group will essentially be a group of new born babies for life. This exacerbates the problem and causes people to believe that they are not able to lead others to Christ due to the lack of discipleship and personal time in the Word. Therefore the pastor is the towns paid evangelist. The second way we often turn things around backward is through, what began this topic, the evangelist. Jesus did not call us to make converts; He instead called us to make disciples. One cannot make disciples as Jesus commanded us to do in the great commission without relationships. Jesus also added to His Words “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” A man who is only willing to give a speech and leave is not being obedient to the command of Christ. I have also noticed, through personal experience, that many self proclaimed evangelists are those who have failed at the pastorate (again, NOT ALL!). These are the ones that may say “I love the ministry if it weren’t for the people.” Friends this is no ministry at all. Some, who have no patience or people skills, decide to go on the road. How much easier is it to feel as though you are the mouthpiece of God without getting to know the hurts, obstacles and problems of your people. How much easier is it to obey the words of Jesus when He said “A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another as I have loved you.” People are much easier to love when you don’t get to know them! But how much more beneficial is it when we do as Jesus did with His disciples; these guys were not very “lovable.” James and John were known as “The son’s of thunder” due to their brashness and fighting. All twelve of them, as Jesus is trying to explain that He was to be crucified, were arguing as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom. James and John even got their mommy involved in an argument over who would sit at Jesus’ left and right in the kingdom to come! Peter was a hot head that just blurted out what ever came into his mind without any filter. After the resurrection on the beach as Jesus is instructing Peter; all Pete could think about was: “What about John?” Jesus had to abruptly tell Peter “What is it to you if he tarries until I return.” Jesus worked on these relationships, he nurtured them and He loved these men regardless of their short comings. Just as he loved you enough that the Bible says in Romans 5:8 “But God commended His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” When we love and direct those around us into disciples, we do as Paul did and we do as Jesus did to make disciples.
May God continue to bless you in the studying of His Word.