In today’s study I would like to clear up some of the statements that would mean much to the Jewish person of the first century, but not so much to us today. So instead of doing an exegesis on the chapter; I will instead simply write a brief paragraph on each of these statements or situations.
The first thing that would allow us a deeper view of the text is to understand the phrase “shook the dust of their feet against them.” At first glance the statement doesn’t make logical sense. How does one shake off their shoes “against” someone? To the Jew at this time, this action would have been a very clear communication. When Jewish travelers were to leave Jerusalem and return; they would stop at the border and shake the dust off of their clothes and shoes. The reason for doing this was to show that they were leaving the filth of the unbelieving corrupt world outside of Jerusalem. The dust was considered unclean and a disgrace. In the old testament we read that God told the people of Israel that nothing that defiles shall enter the camp. The camp of God’s people was to remain undefiled. So the action done by Paul and Barnabas sent a very straightforward message. The message was that now defilement came from unbelief. When shaking the dust off their feet “at them” they were calling these religious people unclean. The holy things of God were never to come into contact with something that was unclean. In a deeper sense they were showing the new covenant in Christ Jesus. In this covenant, righteousness (or being cleansed) was attained by grace through faith. The blood line no longer had anything to do with who heard the salvation message. This group had rejected the Gospel, so Paul and Barnabas simply moved on to those who were willing to hear and accept it. I believe that this is the essence of what is written in Hebrews 6:4-6a “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted of the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance…” These people had the full revelation of God and rejected it. What more could be done for them in order to cause them to repent? I believe that we as churches often cater to those who have rejected the true Gospel of Christ while losing our focus on so many who have not truly heard it.
The next thing that we can look at to gain a deeper understanding of what was being spoken is the mentioning that John the baptist said he was unworthy to latch Jesus’ sandal. When the Jewish rabbis trained the younger generation they, out of respect, became a servant to the rabbi. The students would run errands, fetch things and help with every day tasks. But it was written in the Talmud that a rabbi was not allowed to have a student latch or unlatch a rabbi’s sandal because it was considered too demeaning and went outside the scope of being a considerate servant. John the baptist used this tradition to illustrate how glorious Jesus was. John flipped the tradition on it’s head and stated that he was unworthy to latch Jesus’ sandal.
The third thing that we see in one little statement has nothing to do with the Jewish culture, but is easily overlooked. John, known later as John Mark, Left the mission and went back to Jerusalem. This mission trip must not have been what John had envisioned. These journeys were probably not the most comfortable and the Jews, for the most part, did not greet them with open arms. This action, as we will see later in this book, caused a rift between Paul, Barnabas and John Mark.
The last thing that I would like to mention out of this chapter is the reason for rejecting the Gospel by the religious Jews in the region of Pisidia. In verse 45 we see some of the men, who were content the day before, turn to wrath and began blaspheming the Word and the apostles who preached it. In verse 45 we are also given the reason. They were simply envious; jealousy caused them to reject and try and stop the Gospel. Their envy began when they saw the large crowds show up to hear the Word. These religious leaders felt jilted because the people were excited about what someone else was saying. The spot light, that was once on them, had shifted to the Savior and they would have no part in it. I want to encourage those of you who God is using to produce fruit. People have not changed. When God works, people become selfish and jealous. Many feel as if they have lost their importance, while many also see the active hand of God working in you and not them. When this happens these people are forced to really examine their walk with Christ, their time in the Word and the true reason for why they are working. Yes, once again, the people who gave the most resistance to the Gospel were not the lost sinners devoid of understanding, but the “church people.”
Thank you again for joining us in His Word together.