3 July Acts 21:17-26

3 July. Paul tries to pacify the Jews who oppose him

"In Jerusalem the believers were glad to see us. The next day Paul went with us to visit James [the brother of Jesus], and all the elders were there. Paul greeted them and told them everything God had done among the non-Jewish people through him. When they heard this, they praised God."

"Then they said to Paul, 'Brother, you can see that many thousands of Jews have become believers [in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah]. And they think it is very important to obey the law of Moses.'"

"'They have heard about your teaching, that you tell the Jews who live among those who are not Jews to leave the law of Moses. They have heard that you tell them not to circumcise their children and not to obey Jewish customs. What should we do? They will learn that you have come.'"

"'So we will tell you what to do: four of our men have made a promise [taken a vow] to God. Take these men with you and share in their [Jewish ritual] cleansing ceremony. Pay their expenses so they can shave their heads [in accordance with the Jewish law]. Then it will prove to everyone that what they have heard about you is not true and that you follow the law of Moses in your own life.'"

"'We have already sent a letter to the non-Jewish believers. The letter said: "Do not eat food that has been offered to idols, or blood, or animals that have been strangled [against the Jewish law]. Do not take part in sexual sin."'"

"The next day Paul took the four men and shared in the [Jewish ritual] cleansing ceremony with them. Then he went to the [Jewish] Temple and announced the time when the days of the cleansing ceremony would be finished. On the last day an offering [for a sacrifice on the Temple altar] would be given for each of the men."

          (Acts 21:17-26)



Paul arrived in Jerusalem in the late summer or early autumn of 57AD. He went immediately to see James and the other Jewish leaders of the impoverished Jerusalem church to take the offerings brought by his Gentile companions from their prosperous Gentile churches, and to report on his missionary work amongst them.

The Jewish believers were pleased to see Paul and his Gentile companions; but there was a problem.

Should Jews who believed in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah (the 'Christ' or 'anointed one') continue their life-long practise of following the Jewish customs and rituals laid down in the law of Moses (including circumcision and not eating with Gentiles), or should they quietly abandon the Jewish customs (like ritual washing, not healing on the Sabbath and refusing to eat with sinners and Gentiles) that Jesus had criticised (see Luke 11:37-46, Luke 6:1-5 & Luke 5:29-32)?

Paul was in a quandary. On the one hand, he didn't want to give up his Jewish roots; on the other hand, he believed in his heart, and preached that Jesus had made the Jewish ritualistic and sacrificial system redundant.

The traditional Hebraic and Aramaic-speaking Jewish believers in Jerusalem had become more conservative since the Greek-speaking Jewish believers were forced to leave following the stoning of Stephen in 35AD (see Acts 8:1).

They were concerned that Paul – a Greek-speaking Jew who had been living with Gentile believers for the past few years – wasn’t keeping the Jewish religious customs. So they argued that Paul should join in the Jewish purification rites and then make an offering after seven days at the Temple.

Against his better judgement, Paul caved in to the leaders' demand that he should pacify the conservative Jews in Jerusalem, and join four Jewish believers who had vowed to spend seven days in a Jewish ritual cleansing ceremony.

Perhaps Paul knew all along that this policy of pacification would go seriously wrong, but what could he do when confronted with opposition from within his own leadership team?

Tomorrow, we'll discover just how wrong it DID go...

The photo (by Djampa) shows children playing at Batey Mahase Square in Old Jerusalem.

You can read more about the Jewish opposition to Paul in Jerusalem @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/paul-meets-violent-oppos…/

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