“Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46; NASB95)
Paul said that the Gospel came “to the Jew first” and then “to the Greek.” It was in the city of Athens where Paul came to the local Synagogue to speak to local Jews about the Messiah that the shift took place. Many of the Jews were eager to hear about Jesus and believed in Him. When the leaders, however, “saw the crowds” (v. 47), they began to incite the crowd against Paul and Barnabas and the message of Grace.
Be careful who you follow! Sometimes your leaders can draw great crowds of people away from the truth. Most often these evil leaders do so from a selfish motivation. Because the Jewish people were led by self-empowering leaders, the focus of the Gospel shifted from the Jews to the Gentiles.
This was foreseen early on in prophecy, when Noah prophesied in Genesis 9:27 “May God enlarge Japheth, And let him dwell in the tents of Shem….” Japheth became the father of the Greeks (and Europeans) while Shem became father of the Semitic peoples. Japheth has been enlarged (in wealth) and is dwelling in the tents of Shem, of whom it was said “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem” (Genesis 9:26).
What does this mean today? First, we love the Jews and are grateful for our Jewish heritage. Second, we are awed by the grace of God who opened a window of grace so that “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”, whether Jew or Gentile. Third, we have a new principle in Evangelism: Go where the action is!
Paul and Barnabas were simply following the instruction of Jesus who, when he sent out the 70 witnesses, instructed them to shake the dust off their feet if they were not well received.
I recently heard from one mission strategist that baptisms (conversions) could double worldwide if we would shift our missionaries to the most responsive nations of the world. While we have an obligation to send the Gospel everywhere (“BOTH in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the remotest parts of the earth;” Acts 1:8), we also have a responsibility to find responsive peoples and saturate those areas with the Gospel. This is how the early disciples turned the world upside down for Christ!
Is there a responsive person, family, neighborhood, or people group near you?
In His Grace,
Dr. Randy White
For more solid Biblical teaching, including a daily radio broadcast
from Dr. White, please visit Randy White Ministries.