God-fearers covers a spectrum of Jewish-sympathizers who were attracted to Judaism, mainly for it’s morality and monotheism but were not willing to become a proselyte, who would be circumcised, would attend Jewish feasts, would have made a public statement of faith and for all intents and purposes were considered in the covenant. God-fearer faith is more of a pick-and-choose faith in that it is merged paganism with Judaism. For instance, Cornelius, being a centurion was probably a member of the imperial-cult. Some God-Fearers may have been more institutionalised, for instance the Aphrodisias inscription includes them as an official group of people, and traces of ‘rules’ can be found. However, these wouldn’t cover the whole spectrum of who God-Fearers were.
God-Fearers were invaluable to Judaism for two reasons: First, among God-Fearers were some very prominent members of the community who were encouraged to give financially and ‘have for a long time.’ Second, Judaism is an anti-Roman oppression religion. Jews stand against idolatry, polytheism, therefore against the imperial-cult, and worship one God who would free them. Some Jews believed that God would use men directly and stood in open hostility to Rome. Therefore, its my belief that God-fearers would act as a lens for Rome to view Judaism; members of the community who expressed a healthy interest in Judaism, but were not fanatical or anti-Rome. When the Gospel spread to the God-Fearers, not only was financial aid redirected from the synagogues to the Churches, but the lens was being removed from Judaism, leaving it more exposed.
In many ways the God-fearers were ideally ‘suited’ for the Gospel, being attracted by Jewish monotheism but not liking all the law. The Gospel Paul preached was justification by faith alone, and not by the law, so; ‘the Jews have been telling you that you’re not saved unless you’re circumcised and I’m telling you’re that your saved through believing in Jesus and not by the bondage of the law.’ ‘It was as natural for God-fearing Gentiles to embrace the blessings of the Gospel…as it was for the Jews to decline them.’
Geographically, in Pisidian Antioch, God-fearers greatly responded yet this was seemingly where God-fearers were most attached to the Jews, starting the persecution. In Philippi and Corinth, prominent God-fearers were converted allowing churches to be established. In Berea and Thessalonica, many God-fearers responded but possibly with the greatest hostility.
The significance of ‘God-fearers’ in the book of Acts is that they served as a dominant people for Paul to bring the Gospel to, being naturally affiliated with the Jews allowing sometimes a backdoor. They had a natural ideology that fit the gospel message, they sometimes provided rich resources and they redirected attention from Judaism. This makes them imperative in the spread of the Gospel and shows the sovereignty of God at work through the apostolic era. The God fearers were a legitimate people and we all too often minimalise their importance in the early church.