The Jews Make an Accurate Charge Against Paul

Paul was warned at his conversion that he would suffer many things for the sake of Christ (Acts 9:16) — and that was true. On his second journey, his persecutions multiplied. He was beaten and imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:22-24), and the city officials asked him to leave their city (Acts 16:38-39). He did, traveling to Thessalonica where he made many converts. His persecution did not abate, though. He fled to Berea and was followed there by opponents from Thessalonica, so he fled to Athens. He wasn’t persecuted in Athens but was ignored. He traveled alone from Athens to Corinth because he left Silas and Timothy behind to nourish the infant churches in Thessalonica and Berea. Paul preached in Corinth, but when Timothy and Silas finally reached him there, he renewed his efforts “constrained by the word, testifying to Jews that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18:5). As to be expected the Jews “opposed themselves and blasphemed” and Paul shook off his garments and said, “Your blood be upon your own heads: I am clean.  From henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6). His efforts met great success for “many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). Even Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, was converted! God urged Paul to persist in his efforts saying, “Be not afraid but speak and hold not thy peace for I am with thee and no man shall set on thee to harm thee: for I have much people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10). God’s promise to Paul was true and yet, while he was not physically harmed at Corinth, persecutions persisted from the Jews.

The opposition of the Jews in Corinth reached a boiling point and they “rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, saying, This man persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law” (Acts 18:12-13). Was their accusation true? Yes.

Paul did persuade men to worship God contrary to the law. He taught men that circumcision was not necessary (1 Corinthians 10:19), but the law taught they must be (Exodus 12:48); that Sabbath keeping was not demanded of them (Colossians 2:16-17) while when a man picked up sticks on the Sabbath, he was put to death (Numbers 15:32-33); that the law did not justify (Galatians 3:11-14) and that the sacrifices required by the law were non-essential and of no value (Hebrews 10:4-10). Yet, for all this, Paul only taught what the law taught.

The law pointed to a new era in which God would set up a new order of things. In Joel 2:28-32 God pointed to a new day “in the last days” in which God would pour forth His Spirit upon all flesh and His people would consist not only of Jews, but Gentiles as well. Isaiah prophesied that in the last days “God would set up His kingdom and all men would flow into it” (Isaiah 2:2-4). Daniel prophesied that in the days “of these kings” (Rome) God would set up His kingdom and further that the king of that kingdom would be David’s seed (Psalm 110:1) and that the rule of that king would extend over all mankind (Daniel 7:13-14). Furthermore, Moses, the giver of the law, had said that “a prophet shall the Lord God raise up unto you, from among your brethren, like unto me; to him shall ye hearken in all things whatsoever he shall speak unto you. And it shall be that every soul that harkeneth not to that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people” (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22-23).

In addition to these words, Peter added, “Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and them that followed after, as many as have spoken, they also told of these days” (Acts 3:24-25). Two of those prophets were David and Jeremiah. David predicted that the priesthood under Aaron would cease when he said, “The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4). Aaron’s priesthood consistently changed through the death of those who were appointed high priests: Christ’s priesthood never changes because He lives eternally.

Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31 that God would make a new covenant with Israel and Judah that would be different from the covenant Moses revealed, and that all men should submit to that covenant.

Paul did preach that men were to worship God contrary to the law, but he also taught what the law said would come to pass and to which all men were to be obedient. The Jews in Corinth were right in their charges against Paul; they were wrong not to yield to Him whom their law said was coming. Jews today can legitimately say what those Jews 2,000 years ago affirmed. But, like those, Jews today have a responsibility to accept and follow the Prophet like Moses who has come and of whom Moses wrote.

Jim McDonald

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