The following week almost the entire city [of Pisidian Antioch] turned out to hear [Paul and Barnabas] preach the word of the Lord. But when some of the Jews saw the crowds, they were jealous; so they slandered Paul and argued against whatever he said.
Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, "It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles. For the Lord gave us this command when he said,
'I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.'"
— Acts 13:44-47 NLT
Paul and Barnabas operated under two strong convictions regarding their responsibilities to share the Good News:
- They were to share the Good News of Jesus with Jewish people and God-fearers first (Romans 1:16-17).
- If they concluded that people had rejected the Good News of Jesus, they were to move to their next opportunity and share the message there, just as Jesus had instructed the disciples (Luke 9:1-6, 10:1-12). For Paul and Barnabas, the next opportunity sometimes came by going to a different town and sometimes by going to the Gentiles.
Not only was this policy of going to "the Jew first and also the Gentile"
(Romans 1:16) a wise strategy, but it was also a sign of respect for God's chosen people — a respect Paul carried with him throughout his life and teaching. (See Romans chapters 9-11, and especially Paul's moving statement of anguish in Romans 9:1-5.)
Still, today, there are choices to be made about where to serve and spread the Good News, so we need to always seek the Spirit's guidance.
O Father in heaven, thank you for the example of Paul and Barnabas and their passion to share Jesus with people who did not know him as their Lord. Jesus, please continue to pour your Holy Spirit into me to stir, inspire, empower, and guide me and to give me the words, courage, and grace that I need to share Jesus effectively. In the name of the Messiah, Jesus, I pray. Amen.