Compromise Recommended but Refuted

The blessing of God is promised to the peacemaker, but the religious negotiator had better watch his step. Darkness and light can never be brought together to talk. Some things are not negotiable. (A.W. Tozer, Man, The Dwelling Place of God). … More

Compromise

Paul finally arrived in Jerusalem and went before the church leaders to give a missionary report of what God had done in his journeys (vv. 17-19). They listened very politely but when he was finished they told him they had a local situation that perhaps he could help them settle (vv. 20-21). They had been hearing of Paul’s strong stand on salvation by grace alone, which was totally apart from the law. Now they were brought face to face with Gentile believers who were the fruit of Paul’s labors. When we come down to the bottom line, we discover that they were really not interested in world evangelism at all. They turned at once from the thrilling story of Paul’s missionary adventures and success to a criticism of his neglect of their petty religious rules.

Many of the professing Christians in the Jerusalem church were trying to force Christians to keep the Jewish law. They wanted all Gentiles to be circumcised. James, the recognized leader of the Jerusalem church, and the elders, had a proposition all worked out which they put to Paul (vv. 22-24). They wanted him to exhibit to the people that he was a pro-Judaistic Christian and one of their own kind (Gal. 6:13), even if only for the sake of show. They had four men who were taking a vow, and suggested that Paul join them and go through the Jewish ritual of purification, complete with a shaved head (vv. 25-26). They even suggested that he pay for the offerings for those men.

Paul reasoned that if it would reconcile his Jewish brethren he was willing to do what the Jerusalem elders requested. Paul’s purpose in taking a Nazarite vow was in keeping with his passion to reach Jews of his day for Christ. He would bend over backwards and do anything short of compromising his own convictions in the Gospel. For the sake of Christian unity and peace he was willing to pay the price demanded of him by the elders. However there is no evidence that his compromise did the slightest amount of good.

Application

It should never be my goal to please the people in the Church, but to please the Lord. I always need to stand true to what the Bible teaches and not what man may try to get me to do.

Acts 21:17-26 (English Standard Version)

When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified God. 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, 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. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 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. 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." 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.

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