Select Page
Read Introduction to Acts

 

23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. 24 Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law. 25 But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.” 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them.

 

The elders of the Jerusalem church were concerned about a rift between Paul and those weak in faith about the law, so they offered a solution to the possible conflict.

21:23

Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow.

Jerusalem leaders tried to resolve the tension by offering a proposal about four men who took a vow (maybe a Nazirite vow). The plan involved Paul paying for the expenses of taking the vow and being “purified with them.”

21:24

Take them and be purified with them,

The elders suggested that Paul take the Nazirite vow or undergo a Jewish purification.

and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.

The Jerusalem leaders planned that Paul perform the rite of purification along with the four men who took the vow. This proposal was an attempt to disprove the rumors that Paul was hostile to the customs of Judaism.

21:25

But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

The Jerusalem elders recall their decision regarding Gentile believers that Gentile converts abstain from eating food offered to idols, food not properly slaughtered from fornication (Acts 15:19, 20, 29). Their proposal would show the Jews that Paul would respect Jewish customs. The elders made it quite clear that this process did not change the validity of the Jerusalem Council.

21:26

Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them.

In response to the elders’ request, Paul performed the week-long rite of purification in the temple with the four Nazirites.

PRINCIPLE:

The need to compromise is not always defection from biblical truth.

APPLICATION:

The apostle Paul did not violate the arguments of Romans or Galatians by following the suggestion of the Jerusalem leaders. He did not deny the finished sacrifice of Christ on the cross by offering an animal sacrifice. Paul had already written Galatians and Romans by this time. He previously took a Nazirite vow (Acts 18:18). He did this as a memorial, not as a payment for sin. He relayed his vow to Felix (Acts 24:17-18). To the Jew, he became a Jew to win them to Christ (1 Co 9:20).

The compromise by the elders in Jerusalem and Paul was an attempt for unity among believers in that city. Paul did not sacrifice direct biblical truth but a method of approaching people who had yet fully come to an understanding of the principle of grace. It is the same argument about the weaker and stronger brother of Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10. The issue is liberty versus sacrificing that liberty for the well-being of a fellow believer.

The argument is that it is not that it is wrong to practice Jewish customs so long as they do not trust them for salvation.

Share