THE ACTS 35
A RABBI TEACHER AND TENTMAKER PREACHES CHRIST
In Acts chapter 18, Paul has left Athens and come to Corinth. Here he met Priscilla and Aquila. They became friends because they shared a common vocation. They were tentmakers. The word in the original really means leather workers. In this area there was a cloth called cilicium made from the skin of certain goats which were native to the area. It was highly prized for making tents, draperies and curtains. Paul was a Rabbi, and by Jewish law a Rabbi had to have a trade, for he was not allowed to take money for teaching the Law. Paul prided himself on not being “a burden” to any of the people he taught. He was undoubtedly a skilled leather-worker, and this would furnish
him with much of his livelihood.
As was his custom he went to the Synagogue and preached Christ, reasoning with the Jews and Gentiles there and using the Scriptures to prove to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. However, the Jewish leaders, as usual, opposed him and became abusive. As a result, the record says, he shook out his clothes, in protest, and said, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From
now on I will go to the Gentiles”.
Paul and Barnabas did the same thing to the Jews in Antioch, when they expelled them from the region. We need to look carefully at this strange behavior on the part of the Apostle Paul. In those days, shaking the dust from your clothes or shoes was a symbol of final rejection. It said, “I want nothing more to do with you”. What motivated this devoted Apostle to exhibit such behavior?
God’s purposes for mankind can never be served by forcing His will upon them. He gave man freedom of choice from the beginning and left him to choose between God and his own selfish desires. Never would God violate that. These Jews had shown Paul that they did not
want to hear or even examine the truth. They only wanted their own interpretation of God’s Law, which suited them. Any interpretation of it which did not leave them as the exclusive people of God was unacceptable to them. Their rejection of Paul’s teaching was not because they did not believe the Scriptures he was pointing to, and the interpretation that he was making known. It was because they did not want to accept that. As we have said before, God only accepts those who want whatever His will is for them. Others are not His sheep and do not belong in His fold.
The most pervasive problem in Christendom today is not that some people do not believe in God or in Jesus Christ. It is that those who claim to believe, love the things their particular group teaches, and do not want to examine the truth for themselves or question anything which would not be accepted by their group. Christendom is made up of “joiners”, loyal to whatever church they join, instead of people who want to know God better, and the will of the Lord more perfectly. Paul, following the will of God, turned his back on those who were more interested in defending their own way, instead of wanting to know the true Will of God.
God showed His approval of Paul’s actions by appearing to him one night and telling him to keep on preaching the way he did and not to fear, because He was protecting him and no man would harm him. No better endorsement could be asked for than God’s personal stamp of approval.
Being in Corinth was a difficult task, even without the opposition of the Jews. Corinth was well-known as a city of corrupt morals and debauchery. In fact the word Corinthian was a word for someone who had no morals at all. So, even though Paul ignored the Jews, he still faced a difficult task preaching the Christ in a city in which immorality was a way of life for the people.
We will learn more of that when we study the letters of Paul to the Corinthians. In our next essay we will leave Acts for a bit in order to better understand the problems Paul had to deal with in this city of Corinth. We will take a look at the beginnings of Paul’s first letter to them, as he journeyed to other places in his missionary work.