And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.
Sometimes we must give up our rights in order to minister to others. It is usually a weaker vs. stronger brother case. For instance, I’ve experienced debate among believers when it comes to hair, dress, food, and amusement. Sometimes it seems as if the more liberal stand is the “stronger” person and the more conservative stand is the “weaker,” but that is not a fair general portrayal (I won’t get into that argument now). Whatever the issue, it is always a beautiful thing when one bends to the other’s preference in order to not hinder the cause of Christ for liberty sake. It is Christian love in action.
The reunion in Jerusalem with the Jerusalem believers was a happy one. Paul reported to James and the elders all that the Lord had done through them and they glorified God. However, the elders brought up a problem that they were having with the zealous Jewish believers struggling with the circumcision thing, abstaining from certain meats and other customs that they were taught all their life. The elders asked Paul to put aside his liberty and minister to the Jews by making a public act of purification along with four other Jewish men who were under a (probably Nazerite) vow. Paul would also go the extra mile and pay all the expenses of purification of these four men to show the Jewish believers that he himself observes the law. They also agreed that this argument was already settled in Acts 15:1-21 and sent a letter to the Gentiles stating that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from drinking blood, abstain from things strangled and from immorality. Paul followed their advice and followed through with his own purification and paid for not only his sacrifices, but also for the sacrifices for the other 5 men, quenching any doubts about Paul’s respect to traditional practices.
Some scholars have come down hard when describing this passage, calling the zealous Jews all kinds of names. When someone has been brought up a certain way, and then the rules change, it can be a very difficult thing, especially for the older generation (which I am now, I am told). I believe that it is a beautiful show of love for Paul to do what was described here. He does not just ignore the concerns of the “zealous” believers, he squelches the potential gossip by participating in a purification ceremony. Like Paul wrote in I Corinthians 9:20, “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the Law, as under the Law, that I might gain them that are under the Law.”
U.S. citizens are all about rights. As believers, we should be willing to give up our rights in order to minister to others. Jesus Christ gave up all His rights to save us from our sins, how much more should we be willing to give up our own rights to minister to others for whom He gave His life? Are you willing?
Written by Kaye Dee Richards. Kaye Dee lives with her husband Colin in Morrison, CO. They have 4 children, Joshua, Amelia, Victoria, and Julia.
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