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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 17: Paul Revisits Corinth.

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It was autumn when Paul again visited Corinth. As he beheld the Corinthian towers and lofty citadel in the distance, the clouds that [p. 184] enshrouded the mountains and cast a shadow upon the city beneath, seemed a fitting emblem of the error and immorality which threatened the prosperity of the Christian church in that place. The mind of Paul was agitated by conflicting thoughts. He was to meet his children in the faith of the gospel. Some of them had been guilty of grievous sins. Some of his former friends had forgotten his love and the sweet friendship and confidence of earlier days. They had become his enemies, and questioned and disputed whether he was a true apostle of Christ, intrusted with the gospel. Though the majority of the church had turned from their sins and submitted to the commands of Paul, yet it could not be with them entirely as it was before their immorality. There could not exist that union, love, and confidence between teacher and people, as upon the occasion of his former visit.

There were still some in the church, who, when reproved by the apostle, had persisted in their sinful course, despising his warnings and defying his authority. The time had come when he must take decisive measures to put down this opposition. He had warned the Corinthians of his purpose to come and deal in person with the obstinate offenders: "I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that if I come again, I will not spare; since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me." He had delayed his coming, to give them time for reflection and repentance. But now all who continued in their course of error and sin, must be separated from the church of Christ. They had charged Paul with timidity and weakness because of his long forbearance through love for their souls. [p. 185] He would now be compelled to pursue a course which would disprove this charge.

As Paul thus approaches Corinth, how striking the contrast to the close of a former journey, when Saul, "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord," drew near to Damascus! How widely different the appearance, purposes, and spirit of Saul and Paul! Then he was intrusted with the sword of secular power, he was the agent of the Sanhedrim, the Jewish inquisitor, the exterminator of heretics, seeking victims to imprison, to scourge, or to stone. Filled with pride, he rode toward Damascus, with servants at his command to convey his prisoners to Jerusalem. Now he journeys on foot, with no outward tokens of rank or power, and no officers of justice to do his bidding. The utmost that he can do to punish those who disregard his authority, is to separate them from a society whose members are everywhere regarded as ignorant and degraded. His enemies declare that his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible. Yet the apostle is not so powerless as he is represented. He bears a commission from the King of kings. All Heaven is enlisted to sustain him. His weapons are not carnal, but mighty through God to overthrow the strongholds of sin and Satan.

There has been as great a change in the spirit of the apostle, as in his outward appearance. Then he was "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples;" he "made havoc of the church;" he "haled men and women to prison;" he "compelled them to blaspheme;" he was "exceedingly mad" against all who revered the name of Jesus. His heart was filled with [p. 186] bitterness, malice, and hatred; yet he was so deluded as to imagine himself serving God, while in reality doing the work of Satan. Now the proud, passionate nature of Saul has been transformed by the grace of Christ. His heart yearns over his most bitter opponents. The thought of causing them pain, fills him with sorrow. He wrote to his brethren, "If I cause you grief, who is there to cause me joy?" He entreated them to spare him the necessity of dealing severely with them. All that was good and noble in the character of Saul remains, the same zeal burns upon the altar of his heart; but it has been purified, and sacredly consecrated to the service of Christ.

Paul was accompanied to Corinth by a little band of fellow-laborers, some of whom had been his companions during the months spent in Macedonia, and his assistants in gathering funds for the church at Jerusalem. He could rely upon these brethren for sympathy and support in the present crisis. And though the condition of the Corinthian church was in some respects painful and discouraging, there were also reasons for joy and gratitude. Many who had once been corrupt and degraded worshipers of idols, were now sincere and humble followers of Christ. Not a few still regarded the apostle with warm affection, as the one who had first borne to them the precious light of the gospel. As he once more greeted these disciples, and saw the proof of their fidelity and zeal, he felt that his labor had not been in vain. In the society of his beloved companions and these faithful converts, his worn and troubled spirit found rest and encouragement.

For three months Paul stayed at Corinth. [p. 187] During this period he not only labored unweariedly for the church in that city, but he found time to look forward to wider missions, and to prepare for new conquests. His thoughts were still occupied with his contemplated journey from Jerusalem to Rome. To see the Christian faith firmly established at the great center of the known world, was one of his dearest hopes and most cherished plans. A church had already been raised up at Rome, and the apostle desired to secure their co-operation in the work which he hoped to accomplish. To prepare the way for his labors among these brethren, as yet strangers, he addressed them by letter, announcing his purpose to visit Rome, and also by their aid to plant the standard of the cross in Spain.

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