Luke tells us in Acts 9:29 that Paul spoke boldly in the Grecian (or Hellenist) synagogues at Jerusalem. When he was at Damascus and spoke there boldly (Acts 9:27) of the Lord, Jesus, Paul had to flee for his life, and it seems it was no different for him during his short stay in Jerusalem (Acts 9:29-30). The Greek word that Luke used is found in the New Testament only nine times and is used of Paul in eight of those occurrences. It means, according to Strong’s Concordance, “to be frank in utterance, or confident in spirit and demeanor” (G3955). In other words, Paul spoke clearly and openly, laying his fate in the hands of the Lord.
If Paul preached Christ with frankness and confidence, what would that have looked like, if we were present to hear him? If we were Jews and our ears were not tuned to the Lord, we would be angered by what Paul claimed (Acts 9:22-23, 27, 29). What would upset us in the words of a sermon today, while we listened attentively in our Christian churches? Something in the words of Paul upset the Jews, who listened attentively to him, and it wasn’t simply that Jesus was the Messiah; otherwise no one in Jerusalem, including the Apostles, could have preached him, had the name of Jesus as the Messiah been offensive to the Jews. Paul’s frankness of speech when preaching Jesus had something more to it than the mere identity of the Messiah.
Had we been gentiles listening attentively to Paul and our hearts were not ready to be attached to the Lord, we would have been angered by Paul’s claim, as well. In 1Thessalonians 2:2 Paul mentions how he had been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, but instead of cowering away when enemies contended with him at Thessalonica he rather spoke out boldly for Christ. This implies that Paul had been preaching Christ boldly at Philippi when he was arrested by the authorities there. What occurred immediately before his arrest?
In Acts 16:16 Paul and the disciples met for prayer probably near the riverside (cp. Acts 16:13), for there most likely was not a synagogue in Philippi at that time. A young girl met with them there and probably witnessed Paul’s preaching. She was a slave and a soothsayer who brought her masters much financial gain (Acts 16:16) and probably reported back to them, concerning what she had witnessed. Her masters must have understood that they could take advantage of Paul’s work after he left and derive financial profit from the group, if it appeared that they were in partnership with Paul, so they had the girl follow Paul and use her influence to attract people to him (Acts 16:17). However, after a period of time Paul could take it no longer and called out the spirit of divination from the girl. Once the owners of the slave girl realized what had occurred, they took hold of Paul and Silas and brought them before the magistrates, complaining that Paul was illegally preaching a new religion.
This presents us with a problem. If these men knew Paul was preaching illegally, why didn’t they report him in the beginning? Why, instead, did they wish to be his partner? Wasn’t it because they desired to diversify and become richer and even more powerful than they were? They already seemed to be very influential with the magistrates, since they had Paul punished even without their listening to Paul’s defense! The men who accused Paul of wrongdoing were very powerful people in the community. If they knew what Paul was doing and thought it was illegal, the only reason why they would want to attach themselves to him would have been to become even more powerful and influential than they were then. Perhaps they wished to extend their influence to other cities. But, all their plans came to naught through the boldness of Paul.
There seems to be something attached to the Gospel of Christ that is unnerving to those having power and influence over others—whether religious authorities or financial lords. Could it be that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither male nor female, bond nor free (Galatians 3:28); thus, implying no one has advantage over anyone else in Christ, no matter where on the social scale he fits in this world! This would be unnerving to the authorities at Jerusalem, having to admit they had no advantage with God over the gentile. The same would be true throughout the Empire where the rich and powerful had no advantage over the lower classes, including slaves! The economy of Christ, boldly preached, turns this world upside down!