I’m studying Acts 14 this morning, and came upon a heartbreaking discovery…
And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.
But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.
The background is that Paul and Barnabas are taking the Gospel across western Asia (modern day Turkey). After a successful stop in Antioch-Pisidia, the preachers moved on to Iconium. Now, I say “successful” stop in Pisidia, despite the fact that the salvation of the Gentiles caused quite an angry stir among the Jews in the city. Despite that, when Paul entered Iconium, the first place he visited was the local synagogue, so as to take the Gospel “to the Jew first” before taking it “to the Gentile” (Acts 1:8). As a result of his preaching, Jews became believers in Jesus, and so did Gentiles.
Unfortunately, just as it happened in Antioch, when the Jews saw the same message of Jesus be preached to and accepted by non-Jews, they grew angry and sought to torpedo the whole affair.,
Keep in mind, it wasn’t the newly-converted Christian Jews that were angry at the idea of sharing the Kingdom with Gentiles; it was the “unbelieving” Jews that were hot under the collar. Later in church history, a segment of Jewish Christians will arise—the Judaizers—who will demand Gentile brethren keep certain customs of the Jews. Paul will combat that heresy in books like 2 Corinthians and Galatians. Here, the problem is non-Christian Jews trying to impose their will on the church.
And what, exactly, did these sinning Jews do about the problem of Jew-Gentile spiritual integration? Why, they conspired with Gentiles to put a stop to it! The enemy of my enemy is my friend, I guess. Let it not be said that these Jews thought doing anything with Gentiles was bad voodoo. They didn’t mind getting their hands dirty with non-Jews; they just didn’t want to get their hands clean with them.
Let that sink in for a minute as you think about how racial prejudice in all its forms has existed for ages and ages.