The trains of thought, Passover to Pentecost to Persecution and Things Paul Taught, are coming together in this post. In Acts 21:21 Paul was in trouble in Jerusalem and was talking to an angary crowd when he mentions that he was sent to the Greeks. Jesus had told him that he was to go to them and preach the Word. The crowd went crazy and Paul would be sent off to Rome.
Paul’s part in the Great Commission was the non-Jewish world. The Twelve eventually went but they were not going very fast “to all the world” and they seem to think that only people who believed in the Law were worthy of God. The death of Stephen had started moving disciples out of Jerusalem but the Twelve did not seem like they were going to leave their comfort zone.
Antioch was the church that really started bringing in non-Jews. It would be Paul’s base church for his missionary journeys. It would have the appearance of being the second most important church in Christianity for many years. There are several stories in Acts/ New Testament that take place in Antioch.
I have often wondered why Jesus would call Paul when He had trained the Apostles to do the job? I have come to think that it is because Paul could/would do the Great Commission with Grace in mind! I have to wonder if Paul’s extensive schooling in the Law and his life as a Pharisee opened his eyes to the fact that the Law could not be kept. He understood his sin against Jesus very well so he knew the true mercy that the Messiah had. Matthew and Peter should have had that revelation: Matthew was a hated tax collector and Peter denied Jesus and got to talk to Cornelius and his family. It seems that Paul alone had the strength and understanding to see beyond the Law into Grace and what actually was finished at the cross.
I am not trying to discount what the Apostles did, but as a group they had several “red flag” moments: Mark 8:14-21 when they forgot bread, Mark 9:34 they argued about who was greatest, and other times when they just did not get it. Their reluctance to go to non-Jews is possible another example of them not see clearly. It might seem that their closeness to Jesus clouded their eyes to what was really needed, maybe they felt they “had all the truth”.
Paul, on the other hand, understood the traditions of his religion but saw clearly the freedom the cross brought to mankind. For him, teaching Greeks and pagans about Jesus was done with the knowledge that Jesus had completed the Law. But many times, in Acts his teaching with his freedom in Jesus upset both Jews and pagans. It is a shame to see we have slipped back to wrong thinking! We will uphold our religious thoughts and favorite doctrines before fellowshipping in Jesus.