Some people cannot reconcile the Jewish Paul of the book of Acts with the opponent of the Law that they believe the Paul who wrote the letters to be. That is because they do not understand the context of Paul’s letters or the primary audience to whom they were addressed.

Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. His God-given responsibility was to bring the Gentiles into a righteous relationship with the God of Israel through the New Covenant which Messiah brought. He makes this very clear throughout his letters. His primary audience is Gentile believers. Every time Paul refers to himself as an apostle, he is reminding his audience of his God- given authority to the Gentiles. He is very conscious of his particular calling.

"Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith." Rom. 1:5

"I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles." Rom. 1:13

"I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Messiah Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore I glory in Messiah Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Messiah has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done." Rom. 15:15-18

"You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols." 1Cor. 12:2

"Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods." Gal. 4:8 "they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh." Gal. 6:13

"Therefore, remember that formerly you, who are Gentiles in flesh and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)..." Eph. 2:11

"For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Messiah Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles – Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you...To me, the least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Messiah..." Eph. 3:1-2,8

"So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the rest of the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking." Eph. 4:17

"To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Messiah in you, the hope of glory." Col. 1:27 "In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the flesh, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Messiah...When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Messiah. He forgave us all our sins." Col. 2:11,13

" ...They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God." 1Ths. 1:9

"And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle ...and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles." 1Tim. 2:7

The gospel had gone out from Jerusalem to the Gentiles, through Jewish believers like Paul. The Jewish believers In Jerusalem had given sacrificially in response to God’s goodness to them. They suffered great persecution, and a famine had come.

So Paul wrote to and went to the congregations he had established among the Gentiles to ask them to give back a measure of the immeasurable gift they had received. Some, like the congregations in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth, gave freely. Others did not. We have no record that the Gentiles in Rome gave anything, though Paul exhorted them to do so.

"Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings." Rom. 15:25-27 Paul not only commanded Gentile Christians not to boast against the Jews (Rom.11:18), but he also insisted that they recognize their ongoing debt for entering into the Jewish relationship with God.

Earlier, Paul had used the response of the Gentile believers in Macedonia to encourage the Corinthians in Achaia. "And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part." 2Cor. 8:1-6

Chapters 8 & 9 of 2 Corinthians are entirely devoted to encouraging the Gentile believers to give for this need. Paul wanted the Gentiles themselves to be an acceptable offering to God.

Because the Gentiles could enter into God’s New Covenant with Israel without first becoming Jews, the message that Paul proclaimed to them was not exactly the same as that proclaimed to the Jews. Even though he knew that God had revealed that message to him in the Scriptures, Paul was somewhat uneasy about the difference, because he knew that "no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation." 2 Pet.1:20

So Paul went to the apostles in Jerusalem. "I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain." Gal. 2:2

Paul thought they might reject the gospel that he was preaching to the Gentiles. "But on the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, just as Peter of the circumcision. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle of the circumcision, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. Jacob, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised." Gal. 2:7-9 [Notice that both Jacob's letter and Peter's first letter are specifically addressed to the Diaspora, i.e Jews living outside the land of Israel. Ja.1:1; 1Pet.1:1; cf. Jn.7:35]

They recognized Paul’s authority to teach the Gentiles. He recognized their authority to teach the Jews. Paul’s letters are quite understandable in this context. There was no conflict between how he lived as a Jew and what he taught as apostle to the Gentiles.

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