Acts 26:17

ESV delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you
NIV I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them
NASB rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you,
CSB I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them
NLT And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles
KJV Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,

What does Acts 26:17 mean?

Paul is giving an overview of the first few directions Jesus gave him. First, Jesus met him in a blinding light as Paul approached Damascus to arrest Christians. Jesus asked him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?…I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:4–5; 26:14–15). Later that week, Jesus revealed His purpose to Paul, as a servant and witness of the things Jesus will teach Paul to the Jews, Gentiles, and kings (Acts 9:15; 26:16).

"Delivering" is from the Greek root word exaireō. It can mean to rescue, but it also means to select one person from many. Jesus "delivered" Paul in both ways. First, He chose Paul—the persecutor of the church—to be His messenger. Second, He delivered Paul from danger. In Damascus, Paul escaped out a hole in the city wall (Acts 9:23–25) and in Jerusalem, he escaped the Greek-speaking Jews and fled home to Tarsus (Acts 9:29–30). Throughout Paul's ministry, he escaped many times, although often only after being beaten.

That Paul needed to be rescued from the Jews stung badly. Paul had a deep desire for his fellow Israelites to accept their Messiah (Romans 9:3–5). He thought that his former lifestyle of violently persecuting Jesus' followers should lend credibility to his new identity as a Jesus-follower. Jesus told him, no. It was time to leave (Acts 22:17–21). God may have let him see the opposition to his teaching in Jerusalem to strengthen his resolve in going to Gentiles. Not only would the Jews in Jerusalem not listen to Paul (Acts 22:18), but the same leadership who commissioned him to persecute Christians (Acts 9:1–2) tried to kill him (Acts 23:12–15; 25:24).

One of the reasons Paul is on trial is because of false charges brought by Jews from Asia, the southwestern province of modern-day Turkey. They accused him of bringing Trophimus, a Gentile from Ephesus, into the temple (Acts 21:27–29). This is a serious charge; it would defile the temple according to the Mosaic law, and to defile a religious structure was a capital offense according to the Roman law. Paul didn't bring Trophimus to the temple, but here Paul explains why he spends so much time with Gentiles: Jesus told him to.
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