A cool Sunday morning breeze flows through the screen door, with beautiful sunshine flooding the room, creating a great atmosphere for an interesting question to come to my mind as I read from Acts 22. Here it is, “Who are my Gentiles?” Funny how it doesn’t seem to have the punch it did in prayer, but read on and I think you will understand just how big a deal it is. Let me take a moment to set the stage with a little background info.
The Apostle Paul had gone to Jerusalem to bring a report on his mission trips to the elders of the Church. After receiving his report, the Elders informed him of accusations around the city that Paul was consorting with Gentiles and telling Jews, who lived around them, they didn’t need to follow the laws of Moses. Of course, the Holy Spirit had told him numerous times that trouble awaited him at his return to Jerusalem. The Elders encouraged him to go to the temple and join others in a purification rite, hoping this would calm the accusers down.
It didn’t work. Having been arrested while going through the Jewish purification rite Paul is accused of bringing Gentiles with him to the temple. They drag him and the men with him out of this holy space and begin to beat them. Read Acts 21 for all the details.
An amazing story unfolds in Acts 22 as Paul tells the people of how he was a Jew that stood out among other Jews. He spoke about how aggressive he was in his faith, even to the point of pursuing, imprisoning, and killing people who dared to move from the roots of Jewish faith. Paul told them how he was the one who held the cloaks and gave his approval for the stoning of a man called Stephen, a man known to many as part of a movement called The Way. The people were listening and tracking with him as the tale unfolded.
Then Paul told them about how on the way to Damascus to arrest more people of The Way he experienced the most unusual thing. He described how Jesus appeared to him and gave him instructions. Paul told them about how he was blinded by a bright light, a light those traveling with him saw as well. And he told the people about how he had come to believe in Jesus. All through which the people listened intently as he spoke without interruption.
They listened until he told them about the commission he had received from Jesus. This is where it gets really interesting. Paul told the people about his encounter while praying in the temple, how he fell into a trance and God spoke to him during this time. God said, “Go away from here! I’m sending you far away – to the Gentiles!” It was at this point the people listening that day began to shout and call out for his death. This is when they stopped listening that day. When Paul began to talk about the commission from Jesus to go and teach the Gentiles, the Jews listening that day only wanted one thing; they wanted him dead.
(Tomorrow we will post the impact of this story as I read it from Acts)