The apostle Paul is known for having been commissioned by Jesus to reach the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7). However, we mustn’t think that this meant Paul indiscriminately sought any and every Gentile he could find. Rather, the Scripture describes Paul’s efforts as being focused on “God-fearers among the Gentiles” (Acts 17:17). Even when Paul said to the Jews in Corinth, “From now on I shall go to the Gentiles,” (Acts 18:6), he only went next door (Acts 18:7). And in the very next city he entered, which was Ephesus, and started at the synagogue once again (Acts 18:19) reasoning with Jews.
Does this mean that Paul was vacillating? Hardly. It simply indicates that Paul focused his attention on the Gentiles where he had the greatest chance of success – that is, those Gentiles who were already convinced that there was but one God, that He was righteous, and that the Jews spoke for Him. This is what made them “God-fearers” in the eye of the Jews. And they hung around synagogues – not around the red-light district of town.
Among both Jews and Gentiles of that age, there were those who feared God and those who didn’t. The preaching of the gospel polarized each of these two populations, drawing those whose hearts were tender toward God to Him – hardening and repelling the rest.
The true people of God could not be determined by whether or not they were Jew or Gentile, but by whether or not they loved righteousness (Hebrews 1:9). This is still true today.
The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.