20 And 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; 21 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. 22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come.
This section shows the response of the Jerusalem leadership to Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles.
And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord.
The Christian leaders in Jerusalem glorified God for Paul’s effectiveness in reaching Gentiles for Christ (Acts 21:19). It has been estimated that, during the first century, about 25,000 to 50,000 Jews came to Christ.
And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads [thousands] of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law;
Jerusalem leaders told Paul of the “myriads of Jews” who believed and were “zealous for the law.” Not only had thousands of Gentiles come to Christ, but thousands of Jews in Palestine as well. These believing Jews remained devoted to customs of the ceremonial law; that is, they remained loyal to the feasts, Sabbaths, rituals, and dietary regulations.
but they have been informed [hearsay] about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses,
The Jerusalem leaders communicated their concern about a false report that Paul was teaching Jews to “forsake Moses.” This was a serious allegation against Paul.
saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.
The report claimed that Paul instructed the Jews to refrain from circumcision and other customs of the Jews. This report was not accurate because Paul himself observed Jewish customs (Acts 16:3; 18:18; 1 Co 7:18-19). He taught Gentiles that circumcision was inconsequential for them to be saved, but he never taught Jews not to regard Jewish customs or circumcise their sons.
What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come.
The Jerusalem elders challenged Paul to deal with the situation about these rumors before the Jews heard that Paul had arrived in the city.
Salvation is God’s work, not men’s.
If salvation is solely God’s work, why were converted Jews still hanging onto the Mosaic law? They undoubtedly came to know God via the Mosaic law; they knew Him through the ceremonies and rituals. Interestingly, the apostles did not rebuke them for doing this since the book of Hebrews opposes believers harking back to the ceremonial law. The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 did not prohibit Jewish believers from observing ceremonies of the law.
In other passages, Paul viewed Jewish believers with “weak” consciences as those who needed understanding from those who had a clear grasp of the grace of God (Ro 14:1ff; 1 Co 8-10). Until people come to a firm understanding of the grace principle, they need room to grow toward that end. The book of Acts records the transition between the law and grace; new Jewish Christians needed time to adjust to God’s new economy of grace during this period. God gives Jews time to leave their Jewish heritage.