Wednesday, January 20, 2016

 

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

 

Topic #IV: The Church Advancing to the End of the Earth (Acts 13-28)   

                    

Subtopic E: Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 21:15-23:22)                                       

                

                          

Lesson: IV.E.1: Welcomed by Brethren (Acts 21:15-26)                           

 

 

ACTS 21:15-26 (KJV)

 

15 And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem.

16 There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.

17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.

18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.

19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.

20 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:

21 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.

22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.

23 Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;

24 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.

25 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.

26 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.

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Paul’s third missionary journey was complete, having begun after a visit to “the church” in the holy city (18:22) and now ending there.  His Greek mission was also complete.  He would not return.  Luke had prepared his readers well for this reality.  Paul had made the fact clear in his address to the Ephesian Elders (20:25).  Paul’s own forebodings (20:22) and those of the Christians at Tyre and Caesarea have prepared us for the events that are about to unfold in Jerusalem.  Paul showed notable courage in appearing openly at Jerusalem for the festival.  His Gentile converts would not be there to support him; Jewish Christians present might well include some of his Judaizing opponents from Antioch, Galatia, and Corinth; and there would be crowds of orthodox Jews such as had plotted against him at the various towns he had visited.  Paul would no longer give his witness as a free man in the subsequent narrative of Acts.  He would be in chains, but the chains would be unable to bind his witness.  His witness would indeed become bolder.

 

 

 

COMMENTARY

 

15 And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem.

 

Paul’s journey was now nearly complete.  There remained only the final sixty-four miles overland between Caesarea and Jerusalem; a two-day journey by horseback and three days by foot.  After spending several days in Caesarea at the house of Phillip, Paul and his party packed up their belongings and set out for Jerusalem.  For this final leg, they may have used pack animals{1].  This is all the more likely when one recalls that they were carrying the sizable collection from Paul’s Gentile churches.  It would have been a considerable group making the trip, including Paul and Luke, those delegated by the churches to assist Paul in delivering the collection (20:4), and some of the Caesarean Christians (v. 16).

 

Although they had been told repeatedly that Paul would be beaten and arrested in Jerusalem, Paul’s traveling companions continued to travel with him.  They would not leave Paul in his moment of crisis. Nothing could have been more definite than these warnings, but, like Christ on his final journey to Jerusalem, Paul knew what was ahead.  Yet he did not allow the prospect of danger and suffering to prevent him from pursuing God’s will.  Sometimes in obedience to the will of God, believers may find it necessary to refuse the reasonable counsel of friends who mean well, but do not understand the compelling leading of God’s Spirit.

 

  Jerusalem was southeast of Caesarea, located on a high plateau, so travelers were always said to go “up” to it (11:2; 15:2).

 

 

16 There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.

 

A more plausible translation is, “There went with us also certain disciples of Caesarea, and they brought us to one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we did lodge.”

 

Once in Jerusalem, the Caesareans led them to the home of a disciple named Mnason (pronounced may’-son) with whom arrangements had been made for their lodging.  This gesture by the Caesarean believers and especially Mnason was particularly helpful, because few homes in Jerusalem would be open to Paul and his Gentile companions—an important consideration if this was indeed the season of Pentecost (the fiftieth day from Passover), for the city would have been crowded with Pilgrims. [It is possible that Mnason who lived in Jerusalem had been visiting in Caesarea when Paul and his cohorts arrived there.]  He was “an old disciple,” not an aged disciple, but probably “a disciple of long standing,” perhaps one of the 3000 converted on the day of Pentecost, or even more likely, drawn to the Savior Himself during His lifetime. He may have been a founding member of the Jerusalem church, and Luke, showing his characteristic interest in hosts, probably had many questions about what it was like in the early days of the church. Luke further described Mnason (his Greek name) as a Cypriot (originally from Cyprus), so we may infer that a few Hellenists were left in the church of Jerusalem after the dispersion that followed Stephen’s death.

 

 

17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.

 

When Paul arrived in Jerusalem, he received a somewhat mixed reception.  On the one hand, he was received “gladly” by the brethren there.  This is the only bright spot in the story of this visit of Paul to Jerusalem; but, this does not mean that all of the Christians in the city responded in like fashion to their arrival.  If Paul delivered to the elders, the collection from the Gentile churches, this may account in part for their enthusiastic welcome of Paul and his companions.  Just who formed the reception committee is not at all clear.  Perhaps it refers only to the associates of Mnason with whom Paul lodged (v. 16).  It is more likely that Luke intended verse 17 as a general introduction to Paul’s arrival at Jerusalem and that “the brethren” were the reason for his favorable reception by the Jerusalem Christian community as a whole{2].  These Gentile converts who came with Paul provided visible evidence of God’s work of salvation in the Roman world.  This initial unofficial reception may have taken place at Mnason’s house.

 

What was it that made the Jews so glad?  Was it the money or one of the other factors mentioned above?  If so, their appreciation was short-lived.  It is not even recorded that they so much as thanked Paul for all his efforts or his Gentile friends for their generosity.

 

 

18 And the day following Paul went in with us{8] unto James; and all the elders were present.

 

Not everyone was glad that Paul was there.  There were some with reservations, and these quickly unfolded the next day when Paul and his traveling companions reported to the elders of the Jerusalem church (v. 18){3].  No mention is made of the apostles—had any other apostles been in Jerusalem on that occasion, it could hardly fail to have been noted—so we assume that most of them had died or were out of the city. Leadership of the congregation—the house churches that met in Jerusalem—was now in the hands of a group of elders, with James, the brother of Jesus, as the presiding elder{4].  This at first sight seems remarkable in the case of one who in Jesus’ own time was not a believer, and may have been partly due to the thoroughly Jewish idea that religious offices were essentially hereditary, so that Jesus’ nearest male relative would seem to be marked out by divine right to be his vicegerent (substitute) until His return.  Being the brother of Jesus certainly helped his rise into the hierarchy of the Christian church and many of the elders and members of the congregation might have already read the epistle of James, the first of all the New Testament epistles.  James had sent it to the Jewish believers in other lands and it had been in circulation for over a dozen years.

 

This was a historic meeting.  The Elders of the Jerusalem church were brought face to face with Gentile believers, fruit of Paul’s labors in distant lands.  But Paul probably did not know more than one or two of the believers in the Jerusalem church, which by now numbered thousands and might have had as many as 70 elders—making up a kind of church Sanhedrin.  They were all there on this occasion.

 

 

19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.

 

On an earlier occasion—at the Jerusalem conference—when Paul gave a report of his successful Gentile mission, it was met with stony silence (15:12). The phrase “declared particularly” means “reported in detail, item by item,” that is, Paul shared accurately each one of the things that had occurred since the last time he was in Jerusalem.  As always (14:27; 15:4, 12), Paul gave all the credit and glory for his accomplishments to God.

 

 

20a And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said . . .

 

Now his report was received with greater enthusiasm (see v. 19).  The elders “praised God” for the fruits of Paul’s work among the Gentiles.  At the Jerusalem conference they had endorsed Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles, and so they naturally received the report of his missionary successes with some elation.  But Paul’s success had created some problems for them, and now they related those to him.  Probably James spoke for the group. 

 

 

20b  . . . and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:

 

 

 

Their new situation was partially due to their own success in the Jewish Christian mission and the many thousands of new converts who had been made.  There were many among Paul’s listeners who had stirred restlessly as his remarkable story unfolded.  What was so marvelous about thousands of Gentiles being saved?  After all, they could tell of thousands of Jews being saved, and their converts were “zealous for the law.” 

 

What a letdown for Paul.  Here was the death knell to his hopes that the rift between Jew and Gentile in the church might be bridged by the Gentile gift and by the story of the gospel in Gentile lands.  Here he came up against narrow-minded religious pride and the belief that nothing would ever change so long as Jerusalem and the Temple{10] stood as symbols for Moses and the law.

 

They were all “zealous for the law.” Faithfulness to the Torah was nothing new for the Jewish Christians.  Basically, that was what the agreement at the Jerusalem conference was all about.  The Jewish Christians would remain faithful to the Jewish law, but Gentile converts would not be subjected to it except for the special provisions of the apostolic Decree (v.  25).  What was new to the present situation is hidden in the word “zealous.” Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem probably was in the spring of A.D. 56 or 57 during the procuratorship of Felix.  Josephus described this period of the mid-50s as a time of intense Jewish nationalism and political unrest.  One insurrection after another rose to challenge the Roman overlords, and Felix brutally suppressed them all.  This only increased the Jewish hatred for Rome and inflamed anti-Gentile sentiments.  It was a time when pro-Jewish sentiment was at its height, and friendliness with outsiders was viewed suspiciously.  Considering public opinion, Paul’s mission to the Gentiles would not have been well received.  The Jerusalem elders were in somewhat of a bind.  On the one hand, they had supported Paul’s witness to the Gentiles at the Jerusalem Conference.  Now they found Paul a persona non grata and his mission discredited not only among the Jewish populous, which they were seeking to reach, but also among their more recent converts.  They did not want to reject Paul.  Indeed, they praised God for his successes.  Still they had their own mission to the Jews to consider, and for that Paul was a distinct liability.  The elders were especially concerned that Paul’s presence in the city not cause division or disruption among the “thousands of Jews . . .  zealous of the law (Acts 21:20).

 

You get the impression that the legalists had been working behind the scenes.  No sooner had Paul finished his report than the elders brought up the rumors that were then being circulated about Paul among the Jewish Christians.  It has well been said that, though a rumor doesn’t have a leg to stand on, it travels mighty fast!

 

 

21 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.

 

Jews from the Diaspora (dispersion) were likely the ones who spread the reports among the Jerusalem Christians that Paul was inciting Jews to abandon their ancestral customs—these “men of the circumcision” went out of their way to hound Paul and to hinder his work (11:2; 15:1-5).  The more he spoke of the doctrine of salvation by grace, the more he was falsely accused of telling the Jews of the Diaspora to forsake (turn away from) Moses.  The rumor started by them was that he was encouraging Diaspora Jews who lived in his Gentile mission fields to forsake the law of Moses and to abandon the practice of circumcising their children.  Almost the same things were said about Jesus and Stephen: He was teaching the Jews to forsake the laws and customs given by Moses.

 

The Jerusalem Jews had been well stuffed with the lies the Jerusalem church elders now disclosed to Paul.  These were serious charges, for these matters struck at the very heart of the Jews self-identity as the people of God.  The Torah, particularly in its ceremonial aspects, set them apart from all other people.  Circumcision in particular was a sort of badge, a physical mark made in the flesh of every Jewish male on the eighth day after birth to denote his membership in God’s covenant people{5].  Would Paul have urged Jews to abandon this “sign of the covenant”?  There is certainly no question that he argued strongly against seeing circumcision as a guarantee of salvation.  It could be no substitute for faith in Christ, for becoming a new creation in the Spirit (Galatians 5:6; 6:15).  Consequently, he adamantly opposed circumcision of his Gentile converts.  But there is no evidence that he ever encouraged Jewish Christians to abandon the practice and considerable indications to the contrary (Acts 16:3; 1 Corinthians 7:18).

 

The same can be said for Paul’s attitude toward the Torah in general.  He rejected flatly the supposition that the law could be a means of salvation.  He saw faith in Christ, not law, as the sole basis for one’s acceptability to God.  He adamantly opposed anyone who sought to impose the Torah on his Gentile converts, and this was very much within the spirit of the Jerusalem conference (15:10, 19, 28).  But there is no evidence that he urged Jewish Christians to abandon their ancestral law, and Acts would indicate that he himself remained true to the Torah in his own dealings with Jews (18:18; 20:6; 23:5).  In short, Paul saw one’s status in Christ as surpassing the distinction between Jew and Gentile— “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).  Being in Christ neither required that the Gentile become a Jew nor that the Jew cease to be a Jew (1 Corinthians 9:19).  Still, there may have been a grain of truth in the rumor that Paul was encouraging Jews of the Diaspora to abandon the Torah.  It would not have been Paul’s having actually urged the Jews to do so but rather the social situation of Paul’s Diaspora churches.  In the Diaspora, Jews who became Christians would almost inevitably have transferred from the synagogue to the predominantly Gentile churches.  Acts 19:9 would indicate that this had been the case in Ephesus.  Having left the base of support for their Jewish identity in the synagogue, there would be the natural inclination to adapt to the ways of the Gentile majority in the Christian churches.  Whether or not this was the case, Paul himself had not urged Jewish Christians to abandon the Torah, and there is no evidence that the elders themselves lent any credence to the allegations.  Still, they had to deal with them.  Paul’s presence would soon be known throughout the Jewish Christian community (v. 22).  Something had to be done to offset the rumors, because the Jewish Christians believed the lies.  We are not told whether or not James believed these rumors about Paul, but evidently the majority of the Christian Jews did.  Paul was presumed guilty until he proved himself innocent.

 

 

22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.

 

It is evident that the Jewish church in Jerusalem regarded Paul as a troublemaker.  He attracted trouble and riots everywhere he went, and the last thing they wanted was a riot.  They fully expected trouble to erupt once Paul’s presence in Jerusalem was known to the unbelieving Jews, but instead of suggesting to Paul that he leaves Jerusalem, the elders had evidently worked out the possible solution among themselves of a means whereby Paul could by example demonstrate that he was still true to the Jewish law.  This they now suggested to him (vs. 22-24).  What they wanted was to exhibit Paul as a pro-Judaistic Christian—one of their own kind— “For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh” (Galatians 6:13).  Paul, of course, thought the whole thing was so much nonsense, but he was always the most conciliatory of men when no vital principle of the faith was involved.  Besides, what he wanted more than anything else was to have a ministry to his Jewish fellow-believers.  He was willing to become all things to all men if, by so doing, he might be able to win some (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

 

 

23 Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;

 

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 (23, 24a). There were four Jewish Christians, who appear to have been members of the church and, who had taken upon themselves a temporary Nazarite vow—a rather extreme expression of Jewish piety—but were now unable to afford the expense involved in terminating the vow.  Paul himself had taken a vow sometime before, possibly while in Corinth during his second missionary journey (18:18).  At the Corinthian seaport of Caesarea, he had shaved his head, indicating that the vow was over (18:18), and conceivably the apostle was purifying himself with the four men in order to participate with them in making an offering to legally terminate his own Nazarite vow. Vows are not part of New Testament Christianity.  They are essentially Jewish in character.  We rarely find them mentioned in the New Testament and never in the epistles.  The fact that Paul would take a vow is not to be interpreted as something recommended for Christians.  Paul was a Jew as well as a Christian, and he lived in a transitional period when the church was struggling to get out of the Jewish cocoon in which its life began.  Paul’s purpose in taking a Nazarite vow was in keeping with his passion to reach the Jews of his day for Jesus.  It underlines his determination to do everything in his power to reach the Jewish people.  He would bend over backwards to do so.  He would do anything short of compromising his own convictions in the gospel.

 

24 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.

 

The four were nearing the end of the period of their vow and soon would be completing it with the customary ceremony in the Temple.  This involved cutting their hair and burning it as an offering, which suggests that it was a Nazarite vow (18:18).  In addition, a number of costly sacrifices were required—a male and a female lamb, a ram, and cereal and drink offerings (Numbers 6:14).

 

The Nazarite vow itself was a Mosaic institution.  The Nazarite was to let his hair grow long, was to touch no dead body, and was to abstains from partaking of the fruit of the vine.  It seems that four of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem had taken a Nazarite vow and then had allowed themselves to become ceremonially defiled. Under the Mosaic law, ceremonial defilement called for ceremonial cleansing.

 

Paul was asked, probably by James, to join the four and bare the expenses of these rites{7] (perhaps the men involved were too poor to pay their own way out of the ritualistic predicament in which they had landed themselves), which included the cost of a dozen prime animals as well as the rest of it, just to prove he was still a Jew, albeit a Christian Jew.  But, if it would reconcile his Jewish brethren, Paul was willing to do it.  Aside from paying their expenses, Paul’s role in the matter is not altogether clear.  He obviously did not join in the vow because the minimum period for a Nazarite was 30 days, and only seven were involved here (v. 27).  Also it could not have been a matter of a Nazarite “purification” ceremony in which he participated.  There was such a purification ceremony in connection with Nazarite vows, but it was not a regular part of the Nazarite commitment; rather, it was a special provision in case the one under the vow came into contact with a corpse or became otherwise defiled (Numbers 6:9-12).  That could not be the situation here because the Nazarite who underwent the purification had to begin the minimum 30-day period of the vow all over again (Numbers 6:12).  The most likely solution is that Paul was the one who underwent purification.  Often a Jew on returning to the Holy Land after a sojourn in Gentile territory would undergo ritual purification.  Paul, having just returned from an extended stay in Gentile lands, would be considered ceremonially unclean.  He, therefore, needed to undergo ritual purification before participating (as their sponsor) in the ceremony marking the end of the four men’s vows.  There were regulations covering Nazarite vows in Numbers 6:1-21, and there is a provision covering accidental defilement (9-12).  The period involved was seven days (Numbers 19:12), which fits the present picture (21:27).  Paul thus underwent ritual purification to qualify for participation in the completion ceremony of the four Nazarites which took place within the sacred precincts are of the Temple.  This would be a thorough demonstration of his full loyalty to the Torah, not only in his bearing the heavy expenses of the vow but also in his undergoing the necessary purification himself{6].  The hope evidently was that the Jews would see Paul performing a purely Jewish ritual in the Temple, and that news of it would offset the rumors that surrounded him.

 

By taking part in this purification ceremony Paul was not violating his principles.  He never would have asked a Gentile Christian to do what he did, and he probably would not have recommended a Nazarite vow to the ordinary Jewish Christians.  But he could see nothing wrong in making this gesture of fellowship and goodwill toward other Jewish believers.  True, they held the narrowest Judaistic views, and it was unfair of James to make the suggestion at all.  It was all in keeping, however, with the narrow, legalistic views of the James’ faction in the Jerusalem church.  There is no evidence that Paul’s compliance did the slightest amount of good, but he was in a difficult situation.  To comply with their request might cause his Gentile friends to stumble; but to refuse to do so would confirm his Jewish brethren’s already low opinion of him.  Of the two evils, he chose the lesser, judging that the conscience of his Gentile friends, enlightened by his own teaching (Romans 14:1-15:7), was far stronger than that of these Jewish Elders, bound as they were by traditions and shackles that kept them imprisoned to obsolete forms and ceremonies.

 

 

25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written{9] 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.

 

James concluded his proposal to Paul with a reminder of the apostolic decrees.  The words in verse 25 are to be seen as an assurance to Paul that the basic decision of the Jerusalem conference had not been changed.  Gentiles still were not being asked to live by the Jewish Torah—only to observe those basic ritual matters that made table fellowship and social interaction possible between Jewish and Gentile Christians.  The elder’s proposal (vs. 22-24) was strictly for Paul, that he as a Jewish Christian demonstrate his fidelity to the law to offset the rumors in the Jewish Christian community.  In reality, the matter was neutral with Paul, as we learn from 1 Corinthians 7:18: “Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.” Paul did not insist that Christians from a Jewish background give up their ancestral customs.  So far as Paul was concerned, circumcision and all the rest of it was “nothing”— “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. (1 Corinthians 7:19).  So far as we can tell, Paul continued to observe the law throughout his life, especially in Jewish Company.

 

  The Elders hastened to assure Paul they had no intention of shackling his Gentile converts.  In fact, they implied, it would be a good idea if they remained aloof from the whole business now about to be transacted.  This was between Paul and them and the Jews of the world.  The proposal was a sort of compromise solution and thoroughly in accord with the picture of James at the Jerusalem Conference, for they made it clear that only certain definitely limited obligations have been laid upon Gentiles.  James wanted both to acknowledge the legitimacy of Paul’s law-free Gentile mission and to maintain an effective witness among the Jews, for which faithfulness to the law was absolutely essential.  Ultimately the compromise did not work—either in this instance for Paul or in regard to the larger issue of the relationship between Jewish and Gentile Christianity.  As Jewish nationalism increased, the Gentile mission became more and more of a liability to Jewish Christianity.  In the aftermath of the Jewish War with Rome and the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, Jewish Christianity was declared heretical by official Judaism; and it was no longer possible for a Christian Jew to remain in the Jewish community.  James understood the problem well and sought to present himself as a strict, Torah-abiding Jew, doubtless to strengthen the credibility of his witness to his fellow Jews.  Ultimately, he gave his life for his Christian witness, being put to death at the order of the high priest Ananus in A.D. 62.

 

 

26 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.

 

One commentator has suggested that we translate this difficult verse thus: “He entered into the Temple, informing the priests that within seven days (v. 27) the days of their purification would be accomplished; and he proposed to remain with them in the Temple for a whole week, until the legal sacrifice had been offered for each one of them.”

 

Paul was all too ready to be a Jew to the Jews (1 Corinthians 9:20).  We know from his letters that the collection from the Gentile churches had brought him to Jerusalem, and the major reason for this was to express the unity between Gentile and Jewish Christianity.  He knew the risks involved in coming to Jerusalem (Romans 15:31).  He was more than willing to participate in this symbolic act of Jewish piety if that would help to justify his Gentile mission in the eyes of the Jewish Christians.  He began his purification the next day and announced in the Temple the formal date when the Nazarite ceremony would be completed.  It would take place in seven days, when his own purification was fulfilled.

 

One could say that the purification ceremony, and everything associated with it were a waste of time and effort.  Once the Temple was gone, all these petty things, so dear to the hearts of the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem, would be swept away forever.  In the meantime, for the sake of Christian unity and peace Paul paid the price demanded of him by the Jerusalem elders, and for the best part of a weak he went through with it, hoping against hope that it might do some good.  Then his world exploded.  An era came to an end, and Jerusalem lived up to its Christ-rejecting reputation.

 

Luke’s tendency is to over stress the friendly relations between Paul and the Jewish leaders of the church, but the fact remains that he says nothing about any further support given to Paul by these leaders; indeed, once Paul is arrested they appear to abandon him to his fate.

 

WHAT IT MEANS TOO ME and YOU!  Friend, you don’t have to take a vow.  But if you want to take a vow, you can.  If you want to shave your head and take a vow, that is your business.  If you want to take a vow and let your hair grow long, that is your business.  It is all right with the Lord.  Under grace you have a right to do these things.  Under grace you have the right to make a vow if you want to do so—just so you understand that you are not saved by what you do but by the grace of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{1] The phrase,“we took up our carriages,” could mean that the little delegation saddled horses, equipped pack animals, or got aboard a horse-drawn cart in preparation for the trip to Jerusalem. 

{2] Some scholars interpret the “warm” reception as being caused by Paul’s collection for the Jerusalem church; but Luke had been silent about the collection all along, and there are no real bases in the text for seeing even a veiled allusion to it here.

{3] Note that the “we” narrative is discontinued at verse 18 and does not reappear until 27:1, where the journey to Rome begins.  For the intervening events, Paul alone was involved.

{4] The Jerusalem conference of Acts 15:6-29 seems to provide the transition to the new organizational structure.  There both apostles and elders assumed the leadership (6:22, 24).  Even there, however, James provided the main leadership in the decision-making process.  God had decreed that after the apostles were gone, the church was to be ruled by Elders— “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17).  “That rule well “means presiding well, or managing the spiritual interests of the church, well. The word rendered "rule" is from a verb meaning to be over; to preside over; to have the care of.

{5] By its physical nature, circumcision as “the mark of the covenant” was restricted to males, which shows the strong male orientation of first-century Jewish religion.  Females derive their covenantal status indirectly through their relation to their fathers or husbands.  They had no independent religious standing.

{6]Some interpreters see Paul using a portion of the collection to pay for the expenses of the vow, but this is wholly speculative since Acts is totally silent on the collection except for the single allusion in 24:17.  Evidently, paying the expenses of Nazarites was considered a particularly exemplary act of piety.  Josephus indicated that paying such expenses was one of the ways Agrippa I sought to win the favor of the Jews upon his return to Palestine. 

{7] Pay their expenses (v. 24): it has sometimes been supposed that Paul met their expenses out of the collection.  But there is some evidence that, despite his working to support himself and others on his missionary journeys, Paul had money of his own: he was able to maintain himself for two years in Caesarea and for two more in Rome, and Felix had hopes that Paul would offer him bribes.

{8] Paul went in with us: the first person plural is not used again until 27:1, though there is no reason to suppose that the author was not with Paul almost continuously until his arrival at Rome.

{9] A reference to the apostolic letter of Acts 15:23-29.  This reference to it does not necessarily mean that Paul is now being made acquainted with it for the first time.

{10] The Temple in New Testament times was surrounded by three courts.  The innermost court was the Court of Israel, where Jewish men could offer their sacrifice.  Only consecrated priests actually entered the temple building itself, and only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place—once a year on the Day of Atonement (Hebrews 9:7).  The second court was the Court of the Women, where Jewish families could gather for prayer and worship.  The outer court was the Court of the Gentiles, open to all who would worship God.  If any Gentile went beyond the barrier into the second court, he or she would be liable to the death penalty.

 

 

Make a Free Website with Yola.