Today’s Reading: Acts 24–26
People thought Paul a plague and a causer of dissension (Acts 24:5) because he steadfastly urged the people of God that the priority of God was on the lost, on the regions beyond. Paul countered that he only believed all things written in the Law and the Prophets (v. 14), his point being that the whole Bible establishes that missions is the priority of the church. Paul essentially said, “It is not my intent to offend anyone. I’m just doing what all the Scripture tells us all to do.” Missions being priority of the church and the message of the Bible causing consternation to the spiritually comfortable is no excuse for the frustrated missionary to be inflammatory or provocative. Let us do and speak what is right and biblical without being wrong or carnal in how we do it. Paul was never unnecessarily abrasive.
When Paul gave a review of his own life and ministry, he framed them essentially on his hope in the promise of God made to “our fathers” (26:6), a direct reference to God’s promise to Abraham that all nations of earth will be blessed in Jesus. For this hope (that the resurrected Jesus was indeed the promise to Abraham) Paul was accused by the Jews. The problem was neither Messiah nor resurrection; the problem for the Jews was Gentile inclusion. Paul was empathetic, for he himself struggled against what God wanted to do in all the earth until he got knocked off his horse on the Damascus road and God told him that he was to go to the Gentiles.
There are equal and opposite errors regarding the gospel and all peoples. On one side the Jews did not want to share “their” Jehovah. They had to be forcefully taught that Jehovah did not belong to them; they belonged to Him, as do all peoples. That error exists today in a subtler form, for now we don’t actively exclude but neither do we actively include. The flipside error is to think that any people can participate in the gospel outside association with Israel, the unique people God historically chose. Paul’s mandate was to invite the Gentiles into an inheritance among those Jews sanctified by faith (v. 18). The subtle error on the Gentile side is to think that Jehovah is now “ours”—but this too is idolatry. We all (Jew and Gentile) are His with equal access, for light must go and reside in both Jew and Gentile (v. 23). Yet, Jehovah biblically is indeed called the God of Israel, not the God of Babylon, the God of Rome, the God of China, nor the God of America. Jehovah certainly is Lord and Potentate of all, but historically He chose Abraham and sons. We join that story, fully adopted, equal rights, joint heirs of the promises—but grafted in with the natural branches. Let our grafting in inspire humility even as we revel in equality.