Paul, vows, Temple and the work of Christ

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Puritan Board Post-Graduate
In Acts 21, it James tells Paul to vindicate himself from the charges that he telling people to forsake Jewish customs. Acts 21:26 tells us he went to be purified and offer an offering.
Is this only contextualization? It seems strange that Paul should fail against the law and it's yoke and it's advocates in the Judaizers, claim it's fulfilled in Christ and then do this in light of that.
Was he not preaching that the ceremonial law is no longer binding? Or are Christian Jews somehow still bound? It seems confusing.


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Well, oddly, I just preached this passage (up to v25) myself.

With regard to Paul's behavior, remember 1Cor.9:2,
"...and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;"​
Paul is not beyond conforming to the social mores of those around him, provided he can do so without a moral or doctrinal misstep.

One must have the answer to the question, Why in this case? That explanation comes from the meeting just prior. It was the considered attitude of the body that, in order to quiet the accusers of Paul--and by him the NC church generally--the apostle might demonstrate the lie spelled out in v21.

The issue arose because amidst the Jewish believers, heretics sprang up exploiting the sincere love of God's law maintained (arguably kept better) by faithful Christian Jews; together with a twisting or not-teaching the decree of Jerusalem Council, so that a number of the faithful were misled concerning what Paul taught to Jews to whom he came preaching the gospel out there interspersed with the Gentiles. They were poisoned against Paul and missions. The same message was poured out in the wider Jewish society, where anti-Gentile and anti-Christian prejudice were fused.

James, speaking for the church, had a simple solution: Paul could put to rest rumors that he despised the law or taught fellow Jews contempt for Moses by publicly proving himself an exemplary Jew, someone who valued the law and encouraged others Jews the same, vv23-24.

V20 gives us the best contextual word by which to read the suggestion that follows it:
"And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord."​
Immediately then comes the testimony of the problem and proposed solution. But before that, they heard "in detail" all that Christ had accomplished by Paul among the Gentiles over the past few years (5yrs since his last visit back to Jerusalem, plus representatives of churches visited during all 3 mission ventures over a time of 10yrs); plus reporting the Gentiles sending a substantial financial gift back to declining, suffering Judean church by Paul's and the Gentile brethren's hands.

It requires importing a view that Paul played a hypocrite here (or was persuaded to compromise his principles of a free-gospel) to judge an error either on his part or of the assembly presided over by James. Had there been no riot, few would question the convenience of the solution; but the aftermath makes men critical, looking for a suitable target of blame. It would certainly take the shine off Paul's report and the glory uplift to the Lord, if the very next thing was seen to be a massive compromise of principle or worse, of the gospel.
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