17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” (Acts 22:16-21 (ESV)
When Paul tells of his conversion in Galatians, he says he didn’t go up to Jerusalem but into Arabia. Some might see a discrepancy between Galatians and what he says her. But here he just explains why he didn’t come to Jerusalem. He didn’t stay long enough for it to be considered a stop, nor did he come to Jerusalem with the gospel but was told to leave before he could be dumb enough to get into hot water. Paul had planned on preaching there, and thought that perhaps people knowing who he had been and with what zeal he had persecuted the church.
It’s not that novel of a thought. It is still rather pervasive today. Listening to testimonies is often a bit strange, a person isn’t always sure whether or not the person is bragging about past sinful exploits or praising the grace of God. People often think others will be impressed by the radical transformation that has occurred. But this isn’t really true. It can often give the impression that the only point to Christianity is to act like a crutch to bring a person out of addiction, and other harmful lifestyles. Often they concentrate too much on the person and not enough on Christ.
Jesus knew what the reaction to Paul would be. He would send Paul to those places he would be accepted. It would take a while for Paul to get there, but he would not stay in Jerusalem. A prophet isn’t accepted in his hometown.