What came out to me in this chapter, was that in every city, Jews believed Paul as well as the devout (synagogue attending) Gentiles, but there were always Jews who did not believe. Paul (and later, Apollos, whose Greek name suggests he or his parents at least had been Hellenistic Jews) reasoned with them on what is showing up to be the sticking point: that Jesus was the Messiah promised from the Scriptures. We have to remember the New Testament did not exist as yet. The Scriptures were the Old Testament as we know it.
Now why could the Jews not recognize Jesus when He came? There was specific prophecy that placed the Messiah in Jesus’ generation (the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel, Dan 9:24-27). There are two pictures of Messiah painted in the Old Testament. The most well known is Messiah who was like David – the conquering Messiah who would rule and reign in righteousness. This is the Messiah the Jews were looking for. Even the disciples were looking for Messiah who was like David at first, because they asked Jesus before His ascension, Will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel (Act 1:6)?
The second picture of the Messiah which is less well known, but which is there and can be seen once you know what to look for, is Messiah who was like Joseph. It was the son of Joseph, Ephraim, who received the blessing of Israel (Gen 48). Throughout the time of the patriarchs, the son who received the birthright and the blessing of Abraham, received the honor of being the ancestor of the Promised Seed of Gen 3:15. Abraham had two sons, and it was the second son, Isaac, who received the birthright and the blessing. Isaac had two sons, and it was the second son, Jacob, who received the birthright and the blessing. Jacob had twelve sons. Jacob, under the direction of the Spirit, split the birthright and the blessing up. He bestowed the birthright and the kingship onto Judah (Gen 49:8-12, ancestor of David, ancestor of Jesus Christ in the flesh), and the blessing onto Ephraim (Gen 48), the second son of Joseph.
The Promise of the Seed “split up” too, if you will – not into two separate persons, but two separate comings. The first coming of Messiah was like Joseph, who suffered because of the sin of his brothers, and saved them out of death. The second coming of Messiah will be like David, who subjected his enemies and who ruled and reigned in righteousness.
The prophecies of Messiah who was like David were overt in Scripture. The prophecies of Messiah who was like Joseph were covert in Scripture (Gen 37-50, Isa 53; Isaac was also a foreshadow of Messiah who was like Joseph, Gen 22:1-19). God prophesied of Messiah who was like Joseph, because He is the God who tells the end out of the beginning (Isa 46:10). But He covered over the prophecy, because if the rulers of the age had known what they were doing, they would have never crucified the Lord of Glory (1 Cor 2:8).
Jesus did not fit the Jews’ picture of Messiah who was like David. When Paul and Apollos were showing powerfully from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ, I am sure what they were revealing, was that Moses and the Prophets prophesied that the Promised Seed would have to come first to suffer, as Messiah who was like Joseph, before He could come second as Messiah who was like David.
So what about the charge against Paul that the Jews brought, that he was persuading men to worship God contrary to the Law? This is because the first commandment says to worship God only, and Him only shall you serve (Deu 5:6-7). “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One,” (Deu 6:4). This verse can also be translated, The Lord is our God, the Lord alone is God. But polytheism and idolatry was something only pagans did. The Jews worshiped one God only. They spent 70 years in captivity in Babylon to learn that lesson. They were not going to forget it. For them, unless it was revealed to them by the Spirit (Mat 16:13-17), the concept of a Messiah who was the Son of God, and who was God, was anathema and contrary to their understanding of the Law.
Just a note about vs.18-21: if the Law was abolished, then what was Paul doing obeying points out of the Law? Cutting his hair because he had taken a vow, is a reference to the Law of the Nazirite (Num 6:1-21). Refusing to stay longer in Ephesus, because he had to celebrate the Feast in Jerusalem, was a reference to the command that males were to present themselves before the Lord in Jerusalem for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (Exo 23:14-17). Who forgot to send him the memo that the resurrection of Jesus had done away with all these things?