After the death and resurrection, of Jesus. Part 14
By Terry Cropper
It is difficult for us today to appreciate the position, of the Jewish
Christians those in Israel who had come out from the Mosaic covenant. To
forsake their Jewish customs which had been pasted down by their
fathers for over a thousand years, would not happen overnight. Paul was
at the center of this problem after his conversion his personal
encounter with Jesus Christ.
In A.D. 59, Paul makes a decisions
to go to Jerusalem (Acts 19:21). On his way, he collected the offerings
of the churches in Macedonia and Achaia for the saints in Jerusalem
(Acts 24:17-18; Romans 15:25-27). He also met with believers in the
cities where his ship made port on the way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:17-36;
21:3-6, 8-14). In each of the cities where Paul stopped, the Holy Spirit
revealed that imprisonment and persecution awaited him at his
destination in Jerusalem (Acts 20:22-24; 21:4, 10-14). Convinced that
God had called him to suffer for the name of Jesus, Paul pressed on
until he arrived in Jerusalem.
On his second day in Jerusalem,
Paul and some of his companions met with James in brother of Jesus and
the Jewish leaders (elders) of the church. James was one of the key
pillars of that mother church. In considerable detail, Paul reported to
them how God had used his preaching of the gospel to save many Gentiles
(Acts 21:19). These Jewish brethren rejoiced when they learned that
many Gentiles had come to faith in Jesus.
In a endeavor to keep
their Jewish heritage many Jewish Christians linked Christianity to
Judaism, together as Acts tells us there were many thousands of the
early Jewish Christians who were "zealous of the law."
21:17-22 And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us
gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the
elders were present. When he had greeted them, he told in detail those
things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You
see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and
they are all zealous for the law; but they have been informed about you
that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake
Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to
walk according to the customs.
Keeping the law of Moses still
reflected in the thinking of the Hebrew Church in Jerusalem thirty
years. Here in the bosom of the mother Church were ten-thousands of
thousands of messianic Jews who believed in Jesus who were still very
much caught up in the Torah; “zealous for the law”.
Christians were upset because they were informed that Paul was teaching
all the Jewish brethren who are among the Gentiles to forsake the law of
Moses telling them not to circumcise their children or observe the law
(Acts 21:21) This was not true of curse Paul was teaching the Gentiles
not to observe the law. James and the elders wished to convey this
to Paul as a matter of serious concern. (Acts 21:21-22).
Circumcision was a major factor in Jewish identity. We should keep in
mind Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, long
before Moses was given the law. (Genesis 21:4)
Anyone who was
against the gospel were eager to believe the worst about Paul and his
ministry and gladly believed the reports that Paul had turned against
their Jewish heritage something that was far from the truth. Even the
believing Jews in Jerusalem were being persuaded that Paul was teaching
Jewish believers that they should not circumcise their children or
continue to observe their Jewish customs.
James and the elders
were deeply concerned that these false reports about Paul might do harm
and even hinder Paul’s ministry among them. James suggested a course of
action to prove that this was a false charge, that Paul in fact did
“live in observance of the Torah.” (Acts21:24) They asked Paul to
publicly participate in a vow with four other Jewish men who had taken a
vow. He was to take these four men and go through a purification ritual
with them, paying their expenses to do so. This symbolic action would
demonstrate that he continued to worship as a Jew. Without delay, Paul
set out to comply with this request. (Acts 21:23–26) Paul accepts the
Nazarite Vow to prove to all the believers that he kept the Law. He
purifies himself according to the Temple rite and joins four other
Jewish believers to have their heads shaved (the Nazarite Vow).
He was ready to offer animal sacrifices in the Temple as part of his
purification and Vow, along with paying for the animal sacrifices for
himself and the four other men. (Acts 21:26) Because he shaves his head,
we know this is a Nazarite Vow because this is the only Mosaic vow
where the head is shaved. (Numbers. 6:1–21) Paul did not stop being
Jewish because he had found the Jewish Messiah.
the law had no power to save but to forsake all Jewish practices and
customs would only embolden the enemy of the gospel with their
accusation that Paul had forsaking or was perverting (their Jewish
heritage). Paul therefore needed to undergo the ritual purification to
putting an end to the rumors.
While Paul was wrongly accused
James and the elder brethren in Jerusalem gladly embraced Paul when he
arrived. There is no hint of division or of hostility here, but only
warm brotherly love. There is only a false rumor about Paul and that had
a negative impacted on Paul and his ministry. The church leaders were
right to be concerned. This was for the good of all.
Jewish opponents accused him of forsaking or perverting the (Jewish
heritage) in effect, they accused him of not being a Jew (Acts
18:12-13). Elsewhere especially in Acts 26, Paul strongly argues that he
is a true Jew. He has not completely forsaken Judaism but has embraced
its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
The charges that Paul taught
Jewish Christians (living abroad in Gentile territory) to forsake their
Jewish culture and traditions were false. Jews who are saved did not
need to completely forsake their Jewish heritage. Paul circumcised
Timothy despite preaching against the necessity of circumcision. (Acts
16:1-5). Why did Paul circumcise Timothy? The Jews would not have
received any word spoke by Timothy on the grounds that he hadn't been
circumcised, and therefore it was necessary to circumcise him to allow
the Jews to give him a hearing. Paul know that it wasn't necessary for
a person to be circumcised in order for that person to be saved?
Although Paul never, ever, imposed the Torah, the Law of Moses, on the
body of Christ he did not tell the Jews they had to forsake (all their
Jewish heritage). Paul’s actions were consistent with his own “rule in
all the churches” namely, that Jewish believers should not (remove their
circumcision), nor the Gentile believers must become circumcised. 1
Corinthians 7:17-20 But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord
has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the
churches. Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become
uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be
circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but
keeping the commandments of God is what matters. Let each one remain in
the same calling in which he was called.
Did Paul ever tell
anyone not to be circumcised YES HE DID but in older to be justified by
the law. Galatians 5:3-6 5 And I testify again to every man who becomes
circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become
estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have
fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope
of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor
uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
Many of the Jews had a hard time giving up all the Jewish heritage that
had long been a part of their life and change did not come over night.
That is why Paul said I became as a Jews to win the Jews. 1 Corinthians
9:20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under
the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under
the law), so as to win those under the law. It always helps to have a
understanding of the back ground in which Scripture was written. Paul
became a mighty warrior for God after his conversion.