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.
23 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.
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.
I’m not sure James read the book of Galatians. It was, of course, written to Gentiles and Jewish people living far far away from Jerusalem. James is still kind of stuck in chapter 10 and grasping what it means that the Holy Spirit has come upon Gentiles.
This is a perfect example of Paul doing what he called “To those under the law, I became like one under the law.” Paul knows he doesn’t have to be in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. He has done a Nazirite vowlike these guys that are shaving their heads. So he does still do Jewish things, though he is free from the law.
James remembers the Acts 15 letter and the council that decided to let the Gentiles become Christians without becoming Jews first. But also remember that Peter wavered and was indecisive about what all of that meant when he was eating in Antioch. Paul opposed him to his face, but he’s not picking any fights here in Jerusalem with James.
There is so much to be said here about humility and unity! This is going to get Paul arrested, tortured, maybe even killed. And he goes along with it! It’s not like he’s going to sneak in to the theater after the movies starts and sit in the back row, either.
Paul has so much trust in Jesus that he is going along with the plan exactly as he should. He takes the four men with him right into the temple. They have shaved heads, so it’s obvious that they are making a vow. And they don’t just loiter in the court of the Gentiles. They have to go into the court of Jewish men, pass money and sacrifices right to the priests, and stand there and participate in prayers with them.
Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, and the so-called Sons of Aaron, face to face with the blood of a sacrifice on their hands.
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