Acts 21:27-36 - Paul's Life - Not His Own

Acts 21:27-36 – Paul’s Life – Not His Own
Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 21:27-36

The title is drawn from the way Paul lived his life for Christ and the cause of the Gospel.
Our text details yet another situation where Paul could have walked away giving the warnings he received about the coming sufferings he would face.
Yet, he chose to be obedient to God’s call on his life no matter the cost.

The question is why did Paul live with such abandon?
Why did he live his life as if not his own?


This theological and real world reality of Paul’s life is yet another way we should seek to imitate him.
I would describe this theological and real world reality as a life of forfeiture.

Paul lived like he did because he had forfeited his life to Christ!

Forfeit means “to lose or to be liable to lose”.
It is the idea of losing ownership of something.
When we enter into a relationship with Christ a forfeiture happens.
In fact, salvation is not even possible if forfeiture of our life does not take place.
Our life is no longer ours but Christ’s.

In the words of Jesus:
Mark 8:35 - For whoever would save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
Luke 17:33 - Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.

Through his actions, Paul demonstrated that he lived his life in forfeiture.
We will explore two things in our text that illustrate Paul’s life of forfeiture – obedience and suffering.

Forfeiture of ownership revealed through his Obedience:
Obedience to God via submission to James.
As discussed the last few weeks, Paul in obedience to God, obeyed the wishes of James and the rest of the elders in the church at Jerusalem.
His ability and willingness to submit to authority demonstrates a view of himself much different than our own.

Obedience to God in going to Jerusalem.
His obedience to God’s call to go to Jerusalem, despite the cost, can also be traced throughout Acts.

Acts 19:21 - Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”

Acts 20:16 - For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.

Acts 20:22-23 - And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.

Acts 21:15 - After these days we got ready and went up to Jerusalem.

Paul’s willingness to obey God’s call to go to Jerusalem was not even thwarted by prophecy of suffering and the pleading of his disciples.

Acts 21:10-12 - While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ” 12 When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem.

And the reality of suffering leads us to the next way Paul demonstrated his forfeiture.

POI – In fact, at the very beginning of Paul’s ministry, suffering was ordained by God.
Acts 9:16 - For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

Forfeiture of ownership revealed through his Suffering:
Paul, by enduring so much suffering for Christ’s sake, demonstrated he lived his life in forfeiture.

Vs. 27 – laid hands on him.
Vs. 28 – false accusations.
Vs. 30 – seized and dragged him out of temple.
Vs. 31 – sought to kill him.
Vs. 32 – beat by crowd.
Vs. 33 – arrested and bound in chains.
Vs. 35 – violence of crowd directed at him.
Vs. 36 – away with him.

There are countless other examples of the suffering endured by Paul in the Book of Acts.
What are some of the other examples?

Clearly we see, then, that Paul was obedient to God’s will and suffered for Christ’s sake.
How is it that these actions demonstrate that Paul lived his life in forfeiture?

How do Paul’s actions reveal a life in forfeiture?
The obvious answer to this question is that the obedience and suffering we discussed do not serve his own interests.

So Paul was either crazy or his obedience and suffering served the interests of the one to whom his life was forfeited – Jesus Christ.

In fact, Paul taught us that it was for Jesus and the Gospel he lived and not himself.

Acts 20:24 - But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Acts 21:13 - Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Philippians 3:8 - Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…

Suffered the loss” here is the same word often translated as forfeited.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 - For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

So we see in Paul’s own word’s the connection between a life of forfeiture and a willingness to be obedient and to suffer.

But we are not Paul.
Do we also have to live life like Paul?

Jesus speaks to the risk of resisting forfeiture of your life to the right thing – namely Himself:
Luke 9:25 - For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

So, again, without forfeiture of your life to Christ there is no salvation.
Jesus also reveals here that a failure to do so is costly – you gain nothing and lose it all.

But there is also a day to day forfeiture required and the Christian can resist this full surrender.

Jesus put it this way: And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow meLuke 9:23.

Deny” is often translated as “renounce”, “reject” or “refuse” in the New Testament.
Strongs defines it as “to disregard ones own interests” and “to act entirely unlike oneself”.

Our lives our not ours anymore and we are called to deny, renounce, reject and refuse them daily - a life of forfeiture.

I think Acts reveals that Paul’s was an example of a life lived for Christ that was fully forfeited on a daily basis.

Why do we resist forfeiture and what are the consequences of resistance?
The easy answer is that we don’t want to obey, submit and suffer.

As a result of our resistance I think we lose our full portion of peace and satisfaction in Christ this side of heaven.

And our struggle to retain ownership of our life after we have forfeited it to Christ at salvation accounts for some of the frustration and lack of spiritual growth we experience as a Christian.

How have you demonstrated forfeiture of ownership of your life on a day to day basis?

POI - When something is not ours we tend to take more risks with it!
Whether it be a yard tool, a rental car or a vacation house.
We care less about it's condition and more about how it serves its purpose.
Paul knew his life was not his and so he took risks.
Living a life of forfeiture can be freeing and exhilarating!

Caution Forfeiture may lead to death & persecution at worst and not living in a comfort zone at best!


Acts 21:20b-26 – Submit & Accommodate the Weak – Part III

Acts 21:20b-26 – Submit & Accommodate the Weak – Part III

See last weeks lesson and review the snares of cultural baggage such as our American individualist “faith filter”.

From that lesson we learned:
Being zealous for the wrong things is a result of a weak faith.
A weak faith is informed by and manifests itself through our cultural baggage.
Our cultural baggage creates for us a "faith filter" by which we respond to the Bible.
Our faith filter as Americans is Individualism.

George Kateb, in his book The inner ocean: individualism and democratic culture, provides a great summary of the cultural baggage of American individualism:

He says individualism produces “a movement toward allowing individuals to make up their world as they go along. That is a principle aspect of individualism, and the hidden spring of self-centered behavior.”

He says that an alternative to this individualism is submission.

And to the individualist, “such submission in itself diminishes the people who endure it.”
One way submission diminishes the individualist is that it limits him from the satisfaction “intrinsic to the effort to make up the world as one goes along.”

One further insight from one of our church missionaries on the limitations of individualism:
You will not succeed on your own, but as you carry the power of God through your church. – N.

His insight, informed by both his “collective” not “individualistic” Arab cultural background and his experience as a Muslim missionary, flies directly in the face of American individualism.

We, of course, would agree with N., but deep in our hearts we still want to succeed “on our own”.
To paraphrase George Kateb, ultimately we don’t want to be diminished by submission.
We simply have a mental and cultural bent against submission, but we must seek to purge its influence.

This leads us to the second reason Paul complied with James & the elders request.


Paul obliged James and the other Elders request in Acts 21:23-24 because he was submitting to their authority.
Or to put another way, he was submitting to God’s will.

The Bible makes God’s will in this regard very plain.
As we examine His will, it will not be hard for us to see how it is at odds with our American individualism.

Hebrews 13:17 - Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Hebrews is telling us to “trust, yield to & suffer yourself to be persuaded by” and “resist no longer” your pastors.
They are accountable to God for how they lead and pastor us and we are accountable to God for our submission.

Titus 2:15-3:2 - Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. 1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

“Submissive” here is a picture of troops arranging under the command of a leader to accomplish a purpose.
Is also literally means that we are to “yield to our leaders admonition or advice”.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 - We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

“Over” here denotes that they “superintend” and “preside over” us.
It is the same word used in 1 Timothy 3 where Paul teaches that a qualified elder or deacon is to “manage” their children and keep them submissive.

2 Corinthians 10:8 - For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed.

And yes, the pastor/teacher does have that authority and they aren’t to be ashamed of it.

1 Peter 5:4-5 - And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.

This is literally a comparison between the “not as superior” and their relationship to the “superior” – the elders.
This phrase, “be subject”, means that the “not as superior” are to “yield to” or “to obey” the “superior”.

POI – Peter gives us insight into how our pastors are to lead.
And as Hebrews revealed, they will no doubt be accountable to God to do as Peter teaches.
1 Peter 5:1-3 - So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

John Piper provides further insight for us:
“I think “domineering over” (katakurieu) means using power without a servant heart, and trying to sway people without setting an example for them, and exerting influence for the enhancement of one’s own status and ego—not for the glory of Christ and the good of the people. This command should make them tremble with the weight of spiritual responsibility, rather than gloat over the right to rule.”
Piper, J. (2007). Sermons from John Piper (1990-1999). Minneapolis: Desiring God.

POI – Is there occasion to disobey our pastor/elders?
After explaining the 1 Peter 5 passage, John Piper goes on to argue that a pastor/elders shortcoming in this area does not negate the will of God for us to obey them.
He states explicitly that “Now none of this nullifies Hebrews 13:17.”

In fact, teaching twisted things to draw away or teaching a false gospel is the closest the Bible comes to giving a green light to disobedience.

Acts 20:29-30 - I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Galatians 1:8-9 - But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Verses such as these are very specific:
They show an elder speaking Biblical corruption and angels or anyone preaching a contrary gospel.

Using these verses as examples, John MacArthur says:
“Unless the shepherds ask the sheep to do something that is unscriptural or sinful, the sheep ought to obey and submit to the shepherds’ leadership”
MacArthur, J. (2002). 1 & 2 Thessalonians (174). Chicago: Moody Press.

An example of how our “faith filter” tries to justify our rebellion when it is not warranted:
We look for personal fault in those who are in authority over us and then rationalize that they are not worthy of our submission because of their fault.

So God’s will for us is to submit to, yield to, obey and resist no longer our pastor/elders.
It is to this Biblical principal that Paul yielded and it is to this that God expects us to yield.
In fact, Hebrews says it is to our advantage to do this so that our pastor/elders can lead us with joy!

More comments about the effects of cultural baggage in light of what we have learned the past 2 weeks:
We are called by Paul to renew our mind.
Romans 12:2 - Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This “testing” is not a subjective testing but a leveling of our crooked thinking and experience against the perfectly straight line of God’s word.
Our misplaced zeal, our weak faith, our faith filter, all influenced by our cultural baggage, need to be leveled against God’s word.

So, one way we renew our mind is to submit all of this to God’s truth.
And in so doing we have to jettison our cultural baggage!
To do otherwise is to be disobedient to God and remain enslaved to our self-interests and cultural baggage.

Oswald chambers gave us some insight into how failing to do this can be problematic.
It is quite possible to be living in union with God through the Atonement and yet be traitors mentally. It is easy to be traitors unless we are disciplined along the lines that Jesus taught, viz., the need to submit our intellect to Him as He submitted His intellect to His Father. - Chambers, O. (1996, c1947). Biblical ethics. Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott.



Acts 21:20b-26 – Submit & Accommodate the Weak – Part II

Acts 21:20b-26 – Submit & Accommodate the Weak – Part II


Acts 21:26 - 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.

What Paul did:
As we discussed last week, Paul purified himself and paid for the sacrifices of four men who were completing their Nazarite vow. (To see what this entailed, please refer back to Part I of this lesson).
We determined that James was asking Paul to oblige the ceremonial law not a moral law.

We noted that Paul taught all were free from the constraints of the law:
Galatians 3:23-25 - Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,

Nevertheless, we saw that he obliged James’ request anyway.

Because of this, we want to explore what motivated Paul to do these things.

And we want to find answers to the following questions:
Paul certainly knew he didn’t really need purifying, so why did he agree to do so?
Wouldn’t Paul’s participation in a blood sacrifice devalue the work of Christ on the cross and confuse Gentile converts?
Did Paul actually “live in observance of the law” as James stated?


1 Corinthians 9:19-23 - For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Titus 3:9 - But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

Paul makes clear that he will oblige a group’s idiosyncrasies if it allows him to more effectively share the Gospel. (Obviously, he draws the line at violating God’s moral law).
Paul also makes clear that bickering over the law is a waste of time.
In his pragmatism, he teaches Titus that no good can come from trying to change the behavior of those Jewish believers whose affections are wrapped up in the ceremonial law.

But there is an even more significant underlying problem associated with those that Paul is talking about above.

In 1 Corinthians 9:22, from our verses above, Paul tells us that “to the weak I became weak”.
In my opinion, this is Paul’s summary description of all those he described in verses 19 through 21.

The weak in faith:
Romans 14:1-2 - As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.

Romans 15:1 - We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

1 Corinthians 8:6-13 - yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Paul knew that there was a inverse relationship between a weak faith and our freedom in Christ.
Those that were weak in faith were more likely hold on to the customs and ceremonies that guided their lives before Christ.
Paul tell us that those who “have knowledge” (who understand their freedom in Christ) are to be aware of this and accommodate the weak.
The Jewish believers he was accommodating were weak in faith as evidenced by their love of the ceremonial law.
The freedom they had in Christ from this law had eluded them.

How has the freedom we have in Christ eluded us because of weak faith?

But Paul, in his genius, takes the implications for the weak even further.
He teaches us that their zeal can be misplaced.

The weak in faith are zealous for the wrong things:
Luke describes the Jews in our main text as:
Acts 21:22 – “…zealous for the law.”

In the case of these Jewish believers, we see that they were zealous for the law.
Understanding what we have learned about the actions of those that are weak in faith, it is clear that we can say that a weak faith allowed a zeal for the ceremonial law to flourish.
And so Paul became as one under the law and participated in all that James asked of him to accommodate not only their weak faith but their misplaced zeal that flowed from that.

Unbeknownst to us, how have we let our weak faith lead us to be zealous for the wrong things?
Misplaced zeal can be spiritual growth killer.

The source of misplaced zeal for the unbeliever:
Romans 10:2-3 - For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

For the unbeliever, self-righteousness in any form informs a misplaced zeal.
And it can be a hindrance to salvation.

The source of misplaced zeal for the believer:
1 Corinthians 8:7 – “…through former association with idols…”
Acts 21:21 – “…according to our customs.”
Romans 14:2 – “…eats only vegetables…”

For the believer, “cultural baggage” informs our misplaced zeal.

By cultural baggage, I mean the patterns of thoughts and behaviors in our culture that, by their very nature, hurt our ability to interact with God’s truth in a biblically responsive manner – Paul's examples are association with idols; our customs; our dietary restrictions; etc.
From our text, we see that the cultural baggage for the Jewish believers was the ceremonial law.
In just a moment, we will explore what our cultural baggage might be.

Cultural baggage, symptomatic of weak faith and the foundation of our misplaced zeal, can influence the believer in detrimental ways.
It can cloud our spiritual judgment AND, in conjunction with our weak faith, lead us to be zealous for the wrong things and hinder our spiritual growth.

I think it is important here to further explore the detrimental effects of cultural baggage on both the Jewish believers in our text and in our own lives.

Be aware of cultural baggage:
How did the cultural baggage of the ceremonial law in verse 22 inhibit the growth of the Jewish believer?
In our lesson text today, we can clearly see it was a source of tension with those believers who were past it - Paul.
We also can see that it enabled them to be easily mislead by those spreading rumors about Paul –verse 21.
It also clouded their view of Paul and his gentile ministry, which limited their ability to receive teaching from Paul.
And by teaching, I mean that those weak in faith and clinging to cultural baggage are in a place where “spiritual meat” is not an option.
They are limited to milk because of the freedom in Christ they have yet to fully come to comprehend.

What cultural baggage do we have as Americans that can hinder are spiritual growth?
If you are stuck in neutral in your walk with Christ, it may be because of the cultural baggage you have never given any thought to.

With respect to our Christian work, our biggest cultural baggage is our individualist culture.
Below is a list of the differences between an individualist culture (ours) and a collectivist culture (the one in which the Bible was written).
As you go through the list, examine how much of what an individualist culture stands for is counter to the principles that we are taught in the Bible.

Individualism vs Collectivism Cultures

The U.S. is an Individualist culture and the Middle East, then and now, is a Collectivist culture.
Clearly, both have their pluses and minuses.

One of the minuses an Individualistic world view brings to bear on our Christian walk is that we mistakenly create our own individual form of Christian faith.
We filter everything we learn from God’s word through our Individualistic “faith filter” and adapt it to our circumstances.

This causes us problems on two fronts: We have a problem with a surrender and submission to letting Biblical truth transform our lives; and we have a problem with Church Authority, especially when it is at odds with “my faith”.

With regards to Biblical truth, we hear the truth of God’s word and process it (warp it) through our “faith filter” with the end result being a faith that is often at best self-centered and at worst unbiblical.
This is one reason why, in my opinion, there is a such a huge disconnect between what the power of the word of God and the spiritual immaturity of the average American believer.

A classic example of this is, “I have prayed about it and the Lord has given me a peace about not doing “x”.” When “x” is an issue that we are commanded to do by the Bible and therefore needs no further word from God.

With regards to church authority, we see man or men who have Biblical authority over us as just individuals (see above list) in their own right who have no more authority over us than some stranger.

POI - We are guilty of sin collectively, not just individually, because of our relationship to Adam.

And this leads us into the 2nd reason Paul obliged James request.
A reason that, because of our individualist culture, is very difficult for us to practice - submission

We will delve into this next week.


Acts 21:17-24 - Submit & Accomodate the Weak - Part 1

Acts 21:17-24 - Submit & Accomodate the Weak - Part 1

Diving Deeper Lesson outline for Acts 21:17-24

The title is drawn from James request to Paul to placate the believing Jews of Jerusalem.


Acts 21:20b-22 - And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come.

So somebody, probably the Judaizers many say, were saying that Paul was teaching the Diaspora Jews to “forsake Moses”, to “not to circumcise their children”, and were no longer to “walk according to our customs”.
Presumably, they were to abandon these before they could come to Christ.

Whether or not this rumor was true or not, the Jewish believers who were “zealous for the law” were up in arms and James saw it as his duty to bring peace and unity to the body.

Was the accusation true?

Paul on Moses:
Acts 13:38-39 - Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and 39 by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses

Acts 28:23 - When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

Romans 10:18-19 - But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” 19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

The law of Moses could not produce the freedom that belief in Christ could.
The correct understanding of the law of Moses points to Christ.
Moses knew that Israel would reject the Messiah AND have a problem with His relationship with Gentiles.

Paul on Circumcision:
Romans 2:28-29 - For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Galatians 6:12-15 - It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.

1 Corinthians 7:17-19 - This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.

A circumcision that is meaningful is a circumcision of the heart done by the Holy Spirit.
(BTW - This is exactly what Moses taught in Deut. 10:16)
Circumcision of the foreskin has become a way to impress man and avoid persecution.
Obedience to God’s moral law not his ceremonial law is what counts for something.

Paul on Jewish customs:
Romans 10:12-13 - For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 14:1-3 - As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.

Salvation from God sees neither ethnic nor cultural differences.
Some have found the freedom from cultural baggage that Christ provides and some have not yet done so.

So, did Paul teach, as far as we can tell, that believing Jews were to abandon the laws and customs of Moses?
In fact, what kind of vow did Paul participate in earlier in Acts?
What was the gist of Paul’s teaching on the law of Moses?

Now we will see that even though Paul never taught what was said of him, James made a demand of him.


Acts 21:23-24 - Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.

First, Paul is told to cover the expenses of 4 men who were about to complete a Nazarite vow (see Numbers 6:1-21).
James asked him to pay for the ritual haircutting, but it also would have included the accompanying sacrifices (vs.26) required to complete the vow.
In so doing, James believed Paul would “up his street cred” as a law observing Jew to the thousands of Jewish believers.

The book of Numbers tells us exactly what Paul was paying for:
Numbers 6:13-20 - “And this is the law for the Nazirite, when the time of his separation has been completed: he shall be brought to the entrance of the tent of meeting, 14 and he shall bring his gift to the Lord, one male lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish as a sin offering, and one ram without blemish as a peace offering, 15 and a basket of unleavened bread, loaves of fine flour mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and their grain offering and their drink offerings. 16 And the priest shall bring them before the Lord and offer his sin offering and his burnt offering, 17 and he shall offer the ram as a sacrifice of peace offering to the Lord, with the basket of unleavened bread. The priest shall offer also its grain offering and its drink offering. 18 And the Nazirite shall shave his consecrated head at the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire that is under the sacrifice of the peace offering. 19 And the priest shall take the shoulder of the ram, when it is boiled, and one unleavened loaf out of the basket and one unleavened wafer, and shall put them on the hands of the Nazirite, after he has shaved the hair of his consecration, 20 and the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. They are a holy portion for the priest, together with the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed. And after that the Nazirite may drink wine.

Second, Paul is also told to purify himself.
Most take this to mean that Paul, having come from Gentile lands, was considered unclean by the believing Jews, and so therefore in need of purification.
And implicit with this was that purification was needed before he could accompany the 4 men to the completion of their Nazarite vows.

To be thorough, we must understand that Jews had obligations to both ceremonial law and moral law.
To understand this superficially, I think we can say that these obligations can be seen as external (e.g., circumcised foreskin) and internal (e.g., circumcised heart).
But for the believing Jew mentioned in verse 20, these obligations were not displaced by faith in Christ.
In fact, we just learned that Paul apparently did not teach that believing Jews should abandon them.
So we must keep all of these in view to fully grasp what is going on in our text.

To help us do this, we need to define moral and ceremonial law.
Please keep in mind that they can overlap with each other, so we shouldn’t be to wooden in our understanding.

Ceremonial Law:
“The ceremonial law, described mainly in Exodus 25:1–40:38 (as well as in Leviticus and Deuteronomy), involves the tablernacle, the clothing and function of the priests, and the sacrifices and offerings.”
Enns, P. P. (1997, c1989). The Moody handbook of theology (57). Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press.

This law included such things as dietary restrictions (e.g., could not eat any blood) and quarantine restrictions (e.g., menstruating women),

It is said that the ceremonial laws, in addition to setting the Jews apart culturally, dealt mainly with how to worship God.
In reference to ceremonial law, J.I. Packer says:
The ancient Israelites centered all of their activities on the worship of Jehovah…In great detail, the Bible described the ceremonies of worship that were so important to the life of God’s people. These scriptures show that even though a person cannot please God on his own, God makes that person able to worship Him acceptably.
Packer, J., Tenney, M. C., & White, W. (1997, c1995). Nelson's illustrated manners and customs of the Bible (384). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Moral Law:
The moral law is found, though not exclusively, in the 10 Commandments.
The moral law is prefaced with “I am the Lord your God…”, it is therefore said of it that:“the standard of moral measurement in deciding what was right or wrong, good or evil, was fixed in the unwavering and impeccably holy character of Yahweh, Israel’s God. His nature, attributes, character, and qualities provided the measuring stick for all ethical decision.” Kaiser, Toward an Old Testament Theology, p. 114.

Which of these two, moral law or ceremonial law, was Paul asked to oblige?
That it would show Paul to be "observant of the law" tells us what about the law?

We will finish this lesson next week when we deal with Paul's response.