“I, Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle,
together with brother Sosthenes,
send greetings to the church of God in Corinth.”
Last Sunday’s second reading, and there he was, Sosthenes,
I’ve never heard of him, or at least, never taken any notice of him before.
He was clearly important as far as St.Paul was concerned.
Sosthenes is mentioned earlier in the New Testament.
I “Googled” him, and was directed to the Acts of the Apostles chapter 18,
which talks of when Paul first reached Corinth.
Paul taught in the synagogue there, but many were angered by his teaching.
However, some significant synagogue members converted,
amongst them Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue,
which moved him to leave his post.
Sosthenes then took his place as leader of that synagogue,
and he brought an accusation to the authorities against Paul,
on grounds of him inciting insurrection.
Gallio the pro-Consul thought it too trifling a matter for him -
with the sensible attitude of “choose your battles”!
so he said: “I will not be a judge of such things”,
and he turned a blind-eye to those Greeks who captured and injured Sosthenes.
What happened in between Acts 18 and 1 Corinthians chapter 1?
Paul liked a challenge.
It looks as though Sosthenes was one such.
Sosthenes was clearly a man of zeal, faith and intellect.
Paul, remembering what he was like when he was Saul,
perhaps recognised something of himself in Sosthenes,
and clearly Paul’s influence on Sosthenes was immense enough
to turn him from being a man against Paul
to one of his greatest supporters, strong enough to travel with Paul to Ephesus.
This is where we next meet him,
introduced at the very beginning of the first letter to Corinth,
no longer in Corinth, no longer leader of the synagogue there,
and recognised as a significant help to Paul.
Was he there as an evangelist –
an example of someone “before meeting Paul" and "after meeting Paul”?
Or was it that he was there as a scribe,
writing the letter at Paul’s dictation?
Scholars agree that 1 Corinthians was written in late 56 or early 57,
when Paul and Sosthenes were in the city of Ephesus.
Writing on Paul's scale was generally performed by highly-trained slaves or servants.
Perhaps Paul took on Sosthenes after the Corinthian Synagogue debacle,
The production of a manuscript, even as short as a personal letter,
was a laborious process,
and required skill to follow dictation quickly and accurately,
probably in a form of shorthand,
and then transcribe with reed and ink on a papyrus sheet or roll,
one copy for the author of the letter and the other for the recipient.
Paul's first letter to Corinth was a love-letter, but with a stern message.
Corinth had a reputation for sexual license, and Paul's letters to Corinth
addressed his concern that this was a problem even amongst Corinthian Christians.
Paul was also concerned that the Churches in Corinth were becoming divisive.
Divided Corinthians split into cliques, each claiming the patronage
of one of the great leaders of the Church.
“some for Apollos, some for Cephas, some for Paul…….” Paul meets their dissensions head-on in this letter,
by pointing out that they deny baptismal reality.
We are baptized in the name of Christ,
not in the name of any human leader.
It seems to have been envy, resentment, cliques and negativity
that was at the bottom of the Corinthian problem.
Corinth was NOT a LOVING CHURCH.
That’s why Paul told them of “The More-Excellent Way” in 1 Cor 13.
This is The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity:
which celebrates Difference, not Division;
when we pray for unity and understanding between all Christians.
Paul’s most earnest wish was unity amongst Corinthian Christians,
as it must have been for Sosthenes.
Lord, may I be your letter of hope to others;
May my living convey the message you desire the world to receive,
and may love be your signature on my heart. Amen.