And after Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul spent all his time preaching the word. He testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed and insulted him, Paul shook the dust from his clothes and said, “Your blood is upon your own heads—I a m innocent. From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.” Then he left and went to the home of Titius Justus, a Gentile who worshiped God and lived next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, and everyone in his household believed in the Lord. Many others in Corinth also heard Paul, became believers, and were baptized.
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God.Acts 18:5-11
- Why does he say the words, “Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent. From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.”?
- Why did Paul shake the dust off his feet and leave his own people behind and go to the Gentiles?
- Why did Paul just give up on the Jews and go to the Gentiles?
- Was he afraid of taking the gospel to the Jews?
- Was Paul not as effective as Apollos in evangelizing the Jews. It seems Apollos had more success. (I will leave this question until we get to the section about Apollos)
You will notice I have rearranged the questions into a more natural order and have put the last one first. The reason for doing that is so there is a more logical progression to your questions other than how they came to me. Secondly, the last question was the one that is easier to deal with. The answer can be gained from the Bible. The other questions are by way of interpreting the intent and purpose of people which is harder to do. The Jewish rabbis have a saying that we need to not just quote the words of God or Jesus but we must also say them with the “disposition of the Messiah”.
- In other words, how would Jesus have said them?
- How would God Himself have said the words?
- What tone and facial expression would he had used in the telling.
You know that there is so much more to communication than just the words said. It is hard to pick up ironic use of words in the written word. It is impossible to determine the facial expression or the tone of voice or the emphasis given to a particular word when it is written. To answer some of the other questions we have to draw some conclusions from things unsaid (at least unsaid in this part Luke is writing for us).
Why does Luke write, “But when they opposed and insulted him, Paul shook the dust from his clothes and said, “Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent. From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.” It is true that Luke is leading us toward this decision of Paul’s. Paul was present at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). He was the one to whom the vision of the man calling from Macedonia was given and so was instrumental is turning to the west and not the east. It is at this point that Paul comes out with his clear statement that he is shaking the dust off his feet regarding dealing with the Jews and he is turning to the Gentiles. At this point in Luke it has come “out of the blue” so to speak. But Luke has been leading up to this. Read Romans 9-11, especially Romans 11:11 onwards. Read Romans 15:14-22 where Paul talks more clearly about being a minister of Christ to the Gentiles. This is a ministry given by Christ to Paul specifically but he has been growing in the awareness of it. When you put it together with Paul’s statements in Romans it becomes clear. When Paul reached Corinth it is like the clarity of what he had to do had come to him. It is clear that God Himself had been impressing this upon Paul since the Council in Jerusalem and on the journey from Jerusalem after the Council until he got to Corinth. The opposition from the Jews has been mounting. They have pursued him everywhere he has gone. In each place he habitually went to the synagogue first and then to the market place and the Gentiles. Why make this clear-cut decision now? “From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.”
The answer is found in the words: Paul spent all his time preaching the word. He testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed and insulted him, Paul shook the dust from his clothes and said, “Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent.”
Luke’s preliminary words, before Paul makes his clear definitive statement, set the scene. Luke’s preliminary words show us the result of testifying to the Jews. Paul’s word are reminiscent of the Prophet Ezekiel.
I am not sending you to a foreign people whose language you cannot understand. No, I am not sending you to people with strange and difficult speech. If I did, they would listen! But the people of Israel won’t listen to you any more than they listen to me! For the whole lot of them are hard-hearted and stubborn. But look, I have made you as obstinate and hard-hearted as they are. I have made your forehead as hard as the hardest rock! So don’t be afraid of them or fear their angry looks, even though they are rebels.” Then he added, “Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself. Then go to your people in exile and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says!’ Do this whether they listen to you or not.”Ezekiel 3:5-11
“Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths. If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me. “If righteous people turn away from their righteous behaviour and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins. None of their righteous acts will be remembered, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn righteous people not to sin and they listen to you and do not sin, they will live, and you will have saved yourself, too.”Ezekiel 3:17-21
In regard to the reaction of the Jews to his message that Jesus is the Messiah, Paul has reached the point where he must shake the dust off his feet (or clothers) and focus on the Gentiles. I dealt with the idea of shaking the dust off your feet in Bible Gem 939.
Paul feels he has now absolved himself from the responsibility of going to the Jews first and is now free to go to the Gentiles. Romans 11 makes it clear that Paul sees that Jews having been set aside for a season until the Gentile harvest has come in. Imagine for a moment if Paul had persevered with hard Jewish hearts and never gone to the Gentiles. You and I might not be numbered among the redeemed. We would still be waiting.
I don’t think any of us can say Paul was afraid of the Jews. His heart for his own Jewish people which he expresses in Roman 9 clearly caused him to persevere again and again. Think back to the number of times he went back into a city to keep preaching after he had been persecuted. The example that springs to my mind is found in Acts 14 related to Lystra where Paul goes back into the city again despite having been warned to stay away. No, you can’t say Paul is afraid of the Jews. Rather Paul realizes the futility of persevering with a people whose hearts are too hard. He felt he had warned the Jews enough in all of these places he had been. It was now time to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul then proclaims himself innocent of their blood on the basis of the words of the prophet Ezekiel.
I want to be someone so committed to God, He actively looks for ways to support me in crunch times.Larry Jones
If you say: I believed God and trusted Him and He didn’t come through for me, then you only trusted God to meet your agenda.Timothy Keller
Don’t be afraid of your shadow, it’s really just a constant reminder that God’s light is all around you.Chika Yuddha
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.Psalm 91:1
Excuse me whose shadow is this? The Rabbis say it’s your shadow in the light of God; God Himself is pure light and can’t cast a shadow of Himself.Ian Vail
Pressure is a privilege; when adversity comes it’s an opportunity to do something special.Fred Dores