Answer to a Question on Acts 21:23-24

1/9/1999

You know, there is good reason to be a bit perplexed about that event. It is a very distinct possibility (based on the fruit of that choice he made to do the Jewish thing) that Paul was, as we say, functioning from “accommodation rather than revelation.” At the very least, “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial” (1Cor. 10:23). I’m sure some say that he was just being “all things to all men,” yet there is certainly hard to deny evidence that he crossed the line into compromise. It’s not difficult to see what he was trying to accomplish, at the request of the brothers that Paul wanted to stay close to. But, it is also true that the whole concept of how much Jewishness is to be a part of Christianity was still a little fuzzy to all of them. For awhile, they continued to honor the Jewish “hour of prayer.” And then ceased to view that as part of Jesus’ Plan. It was a shadow, not reality. It represented a “doorway” into the REAL thing, but it was not reality itself (Col. 2:17 context, Heb. 9-10, etc.). They later discovered the same about circumcisions. (In fact, the letter that came as a result of the circumcision discussion in Acts 15 is referred to in the chapter you were asking about.) Obviously, they were still trying to feel their way along in what is “Christian” and what is a “shadow” of the Jewish “visual aids” God gave mankind to prepare the Way.

If ANY good came from Paul’s attempt to appease the Jews, it was simply that it gave him a convincing argument when on trial (Acts 24:12-18). Puzzling? No doubt. But, it was then, and still is, “a Work in progress.” Why was Timothy circumcised by Paul, and Titus not? We’re learning, and because there are nuances in different environments, situations require intimacy with God rather than formula. “Take, kill, and eat!” was a MAJOR violation to Peter, or any Jew that cared, of all they had ever known of God’s Commands. But, God wants INTIMACY with us, to hear HIM, and He shakes us sometimes with things we can’t figure out with our minds. Part of the Plan, I reckon.

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