"Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother
Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
I Corinthians 1:1-3
I was inspired to write this by the sermon at church this morning.
After leaving Athens, Paul went to Corinth, to establish a church there. This journey is described in Acts 18. This journey could not have been made gladly, because Corinth of that time had a reputation for immorality. Prostitution was endemic, including cult prostitution by both men and women. The name of the city actually became a by-word, "to corinthianize", meaning "to be devoted to sexual excess."
However, Paul came with a promise from God (Acts 18:10): "I have many in this city who are my people." Paul had the comfort of God's election, knowing that God had chosen from eternity past, particular individuals in Corinth to know Him through the ministry of Paul. I suspect that this would be a great comfort to all Reformed ministers, knowing that human sight may look on their ministries as hopeless, but God's purposes of grace guarantee them eternal success.
And what was the fruit of Paul's ministry? I Corinthians 6:9-11 demonstrates the triumph of the Gospel. "Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." The very people whose morality was the butt of jokes in a society known for bathhouses and orgies are now made new creatures in Christ!
I think this demonstrates a number of things. First, it shows the lie to the Arminian accusation that Calvinism kills the evangelistic spirit. Here it is actually the encouragement to Paul's evangelistic effort. Second, it exposes how small our view of grace is. As our pastor asked us today, who do we prefer for evangelism and church planting? Middle-class, upright people (which is not to say that I don't believe such people need the Gospel). Who would we least expect to reach? The very people that Paul announces were former prostitutes! Our hands are too clean and our Gospel is too small!