Acts 21: 17 – 26 Paul’s arrival at Jerusalem

Acts 21: 17 – 26 Paul’s arrival at Jerusalem

When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: ‘You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.’

The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.

*       *       *

There is no doubt that James and the elders in Jerusalem accepted that Gentiles could be saved, and rejoiced in that fact.

“Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised God.”

However, they had a problem. The first followers of the Way had been practising Jews, many thousands of them, and they were “zealous for the law”. In other words, the earliest church was essentially a Jewish sect, who continued to observe the law of Moses. While they wanted to include those Gentiles who believed, they also wanted to retain the beliefs and practices that made them distinctively Jewish. They believed that Paul was attacking a very important element of their identity.

As the elders told Paul, “They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs.”

To solve this problem, the elders suggest that Paul should demonstrate publicly that he himself was still living in accordance with Jewish laws and customs. They suggested this: “There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.”

Furthermore, James says: “As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”

The purpose of this plan was to force Paul to publicly demonstrate his support for the following doctrines:

  • The importance of ritual purity.
  • The centrality of the temple to worship and salvation.
  • Different standards of behaviour for Jews and Gentiles.

Are these things consistent with the teaching of Jesus?

Personally, I don’t think so.

Prayer

Heavenly Father,

You love us, and you call us to follow Jesus and love each other. Please help me to do that with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind and with all my strength.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

Published by pennygadd51

I write. I've written many pieces of flash fiction, dozens of short stories and two novels, with a third in progress.

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