The Jewish Crowd’s Prejudice Against Gentiles

“As we think of prejudice no man has a right to treat any other man tolerantly, for tolerance is the assumption of superiority.” (Wendell Willkie).

Prejudice

Immediately after his conversion Paul had gone to Arabia.  From there he had returned to Damascus, he had run into opposition, escaped from his enemies, and made a brief visit to Jerusalem. It was probably at this time that he had the experience he is now describing to the crowd in the Temple court. A hushed silence had fallen on the crowd from the moment he begins to speak. Paul knew the people and their scorn and hatred for all things pertaining to the Gentiles. It would have been much safer for him to have rounded out his story with some patriotic remark about the Temple, but that would have not been the whole truth.

He tells how that when he had come back to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple enclosure, he fell into a trance (v. 17). The Lord said to him, “Hurry and leave Jerusalem! The people won’t listen to what you say about me” (v. 18). After Paul’s conversion he had begun to witness, as Stephen had done before him, to the Greek speaking Jews, and had brought to himself the same hatred that he had once felt for Stephen (vv. 19-20). The crowd continued to listen intently as Paul went on with his testimony. He was trying to get them to realize, by a rehearsal of his past, that he had some convincing reasons for changing his ways. By making this reference to his own past and how he was a determined persecutor of the Church, even to the point of having an active part in Stephen’s martyrdom, must have been clear to his listeners.

His crowd listened with interest until he started to talk about the Gentiles (v. 21). These Jews looked upon the Gentiles as dogs, and had a bitter hatred for them. The moment he mentioned the word Gentiles they flew into a rage. For Paul to go to the Gentiles was unpardonable. Then for him to tell them that the Jews were the ones who had crucified the Messiah was the crime of all crimes.

Application

There are people who are prejudiced and have a hatred toward people of another race or background? This was an attitude for many years in the southern part of the United States, as whites looked down on the blacks. Perhaps with some people this is still true, and it certainly doesn’t please the Lord. I need to ask the Lord to give me a love for people all around the world regardless of their race, color or creed. I may hate what they do but I am never to hate them as a person.

Acts 22:17-21 (English Standard Version)

""When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw him saying to me, 'Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.' And I said, 'Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.' And he said to me, 'Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'"

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