25 “But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.” (Acts 21:25–26)
When I visited the Holy Land in 2012, there were times during my trip that I had to be sensitive to Jewish customs. For example, in some areas of Jerusalem it was customary for men to wear long pants and not shorts. Therefore, in order to not needlessly offend anyone during my visit, I wholeheartedly complied where and when the observance of certain clothing customs was requested.
Concerning the circumstances the Apostle Paul faced, Dr. John Walvoord writes, “The decision of the Jerusalem Council was once again reiterated (cf. Acts 15:20, 29). The elders assured Paul that their plan (mentioned in 21:23–24) did not conflict with the council’s earlier decision. Paul then followed the elders’ suggestion and purified himself with the four men (vv. 23–24). This did not conflict with Paul’s teaching that Jews and Gentiles cannot be brought under the Law to be saved. This was a matter of Jewish custom, not of salvation or of sanctification.”
Paul willingly complied with the Jerusalem church elder request. He paid the expenses for the Nazarites. He even participated in the purification rites with them. In no way was Paul compromising the Gospel. Rather, he was being an observant Jew by adhering to Jewish customs. Paul saw this as a small price to pay to maintain church unity.
Dr. Simon Kistemaker writes, “Paul maintained that Gentile Christians would sin if they were to observe Jewish ceremonial laws and customs, and Jewish Christians would sin if they kept the law for the purpose of meriting salvation.”
However, even though Paul, and believers today, seek to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3), that is not good enough for some people who are looking to cause divisions. We will witness this when we continue our study when next we meet.
Make every effort to maintain unity within your church. However, one should never compromise biblical truth for the sake of church unity.
Soli deo Gloria!