To me, chapter 30 seems to be about competing visions of and for the future. Paul has a vision of one world united in the kingdom of God under Christ. The religious establishment has a vision of the chaos and turmoil that would undoubtably be the “birth pangs” of such a transformation. When we read Acts today, it is very easy to judge those who sought to stop Paul and the rest of the early church, but I think that’s being unfair to them. We may disagree with their METHODS, but, generally, I think their MOTIVATION was to preserve what they thought of as the purity of the people of God.
I think it’s not so much that those who opposed Paul had no vision. Rather, their vision of the future was myopic. They could see in the near term that Paul was advocating a major upheaval of the social order of they day.
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28)
It’s hard to think of a more disruptive statement than this in the well ordered society Paul was speaking to! Is it any wonder that the religious leaders of the day, charged with a sacred trust to preserve the purity of the Jewish people, would see Paul and his message as something to be stopped at any cost?
But those who opposed Paul weren’t the only ones who suffered from near sightedness. We see it also within the church. When Paul is preparing to go to Jerusalem, he receives word of a prophetic vision, showing that Paul would be bound if he continued. So the fellow believers urged Paul to change his plans. But Paul would have none of it. He had a different vision. It’s important to note that Paul did not deny the validity of Agabus’ vision. Quite the contrary — he accepted is as valid. It’s just that he saw beyond that limited vision, to the greater plan that lay ahead.
So, what does all of this mean for us? Are we open to seeing where God may be doing a new thing in the world, even if it disrupts and destroys things we’ve held dear, even sacred? And how do we know when that “new thing” really IS of God?