And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!” All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?” Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.Acts 9:20-22
So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. God knows people’s hearts, and He confirmed that He accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for He cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”Acts 15:6-11
Instead, they saw that God had given me the responsibility of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as He had given Peter the responsibility of preaching to the Jews. For the same God who worked through Peter as the apostle to the Jews also worked through me as the apostle to the Gentiles.Galatians 2:7-8
Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum. My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else.Romans 15:18-20
To answer the issue related to Paul preaching to Jews and Peter to Gentiles – the simple answer is that they did both. Look at the beginning of Peter’s two letters. The first makes it clear that he wrote to the Jews and the second makes it clear that he had broadened his approach to all who had the same faith in Christ.
This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.1 Peter 1:1
This letter is from Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to you who share the same precious faith we have. This faith was given to you because of the justice and fairness of Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour.2 Peter 1:1
Paul initially started by going to the synagogue first and then to the Gentiles in each place he visited. He tells us in Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Peter’s letters clearly have the same intention. Paul’s comments in Romans 11 indicate the same concept. The Gospel is first for Jews and then because the Jews rejected it the Gospel was taken to the Gentiles. I think that’s God’s concern and order. But it is also clear that Peter was the first one God sent to breach the Gentiles with the Gospel when he sent him to Cornelius in Acts 10. The concept of the man who challenged me long ago of Paul’s vision being suspect and Peter’s being stronger is nonsense. God dwells in light for He is light. The thought of the vision Saul had of Jesus being satan masquerading as light is nonsensical. I won’t even bother to prove it as it is a waste of my time. What is interesting is that both of these apostles go to both Jews and Gentiles. That is how the gospel works but it is true that Paul was primarily focused on the Gentiles and Peter primarily focused on the Jews. All of Peter’s early preaching was directed toward the Jewish leaders. There is no question that he was equipped by God for the task despite not having graduated as rabbi. There is no question that Paul was suited to taking the gospel to both Jews and to Gentiles. His mind and his approach was perfectly matched to either. But God chose to use Paul primarily to take the Gospel to the Gentiles and Peter seemingly was chosen to take the Gospel primarily to Jews. Peter initiated the Gentile thrust and Paul continued it. But while Peter’s primary mission field remained to the Jews in Jerusalem, he was actually the first to introduce the gospel to all major groups: Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles.
- How did Saul immediately start preaching about Jesus?
- How did Saul prove that Jesus was the Son of God when he had only met Him in a vision?
- What proofs did Saul use and where did he get them when he hadn’t been with Jesus?
As I suggested at the time we dealt with the vision Saul had, the power of the experience radically changed Saul. Paul knew all the verses and the details related to the Coming Messiah. But until he had met Jesus on the road to Damascus he refused to believe that this so-called Messiah from Galilee could be the true Messiah. It was not that Saul could not have preached about the Messiah and used all the proof verses to prove this man Jesus was the one they were looking for. The issue was more a blockage in the ability to believe Messiah could come in this way and die, than Saul’s knowledge of the Messianic verses. Once Jesus met him Saul was forever changed. When you have an experience like that; an encounter with the radiant Shekinah Glory of God, you are radically changed. I don’t think Saul would have debated whether he had seen a vision like Peter or whether he had come face to face with the Risen LORD of all Glory after the realisation dawned on him.
After Paul had become convinced that Jesus the Messiah had risen from the dead and was standing in front of him, the issue was not could he preach that Jesus was the Messiah? The heart of the issue was whether Paul himself believed it. Paul simply had to realign in his thinking with all of the Messianic references from the Old Testament and apply them to Jesus. That bit was easy. It was not an intellectual problem, it was a heart problem. It was the same kind of problem for me to realign my learning and education to look again at the facts in the light of there being a God rather than my prior twisted evolutionary view. Once the worldview had changed, to change the approach to preach that Jesus was indeed Messiah was easy. The same is true of me with the notion of evolution vs creation. Its a case of seeing the facts with new eyes.
- How could the people who heard Saul suddenly accept that he was on their side?
- Why did they accept him so soon?
Saul arrived in Jerusalem a true outsider. His old compatriots, the non-Christian Jews, were now his adversaries. His old enemies, the Christians, were not yet his “brothers.” He may have been staying with his sister while he tried to make contact and associate with the disciples. The church was afraid. So notorious were this persecutor’s past deeds that even after several years they continue to place a cloud over the reports of his conversion. Barnabas, true to his name (Son of Encouragement) acted as Saul’s sponsor and encouraged them to receive him. It is possible that Barnabas was already acquainted with Saul, knew his integrity of character, and was convinced of the genuineness of his conversion. Barnabas’ prestige with the apostles and other believers in Jerusalem was such that when he gave them his guarantee that Saul was now a true disciple of Jesus, they were reassured.
Barnabas’ role in introducing Saul to the apostles was huge. It was Barnabas who smoothed the way and persuaded the others that Saul’s conversion was genuine. Once that had been accomplished Saul then spent time with Peter. Gal 1:18-20 forces us to interpret Luke as speaking generally. According to Paul’s own testimony affirmation, the only leaders of the Jerusalem church whom he met on that occasion were Peter and James, the Lord’s brother. “Next, after three years I went up to Jerusalem to get to know Peter, and stayed with him for fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles, except James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you, in what I am writing to you, as God is my witness, I am telling no lie.” Once Peter had accepted him Saul would have been accepted. Then as he began to speak to Jew and Gentile alike, the nature of his conversion soon became obvious. I suspect one of the reasons Saul’s conversion is mentioned three times in the Book of Acts is that it was necessary for him to keep telling his testimony in order to spell out what had happened to him wherever he went.
We are happy when others seek the kingdom but not happy when “all these things” are added to them.Anon
The disciples thought if Jesus wasn’t in the boat they would die. But they didn’t realise they had just seen the key to their promise fulfilled.Ian Vail
They didn’t catch the fact that the food multiplied in their hands not Jesus’ hands.Ian Vail
God gave us an ordinary world packed with potential and turned you loose to create the extraordinary. Within is the seed to be extraordinary.Ian Vail
Some people come and go, others stay and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never the same.Ian Vail