Day 127: Doing as the Jews Do

Acts 21:15-25 :

After these days we took up our baggage and went up to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea also went with us, bringing one Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we would stay.

When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. The day following, Paul went in with us to James; and all the elders were present. When he had greeted them, he reported one by one the things which God had worked among the Gentiles through his ministry. They, when they heard it, glorified God. They said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law. They have been informed about you, that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children neither to walk after the customs. What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. Therefore do what we tell you. We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them, and purify yourself with them, and pay their expenses for them, that they may shave their heads. Then all will know that there is no truth in the things that they have been informed about you, but that you yourself also walk keeping the law. But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written our decision that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from food offered to idols, from blood, from strangled things, and from sexual immorality.”

Paul never taught that the Jews should stop obeying the Law. He did teach that that following the Law of Moses no longer commends a person to God, but, in fact, he thought that you should continue in the customs of your people as long as they don’t harm your relationship with Jesus. In other words, you are free to take up a discipline that has nothing to do with your relationship with God.

In the culture I live in, this is easy to understand because many Christians around me are involved in strict diets of some kind or another. The Bible doesn’t tell them to follow a particular eating ritual, but many still believe it is good for their bodies and even their minds. What they decided to do is between themselves and the Lord as long as it doesn’t go against the clear teachings of the Bible.

By going back to Jerusalem and taking a vow, Paul was identifying himself with the people that he dearly loved. He would do anything to save his own beloved Jewish people. I don’t think I can even begin to understand the depth to which Paul loved his own people and I think it is important for us to understand this when looking at his actions here.

Paul says in another part of the Bible that he became as much like the people he was preaching to as he could in order to bring them to God through Jesus. Here we see that Paul was willing to take a certain vow that the Bible doesn’t even record in order to get as close to his people as he could.