God’s Word for You
Acts 21:22-24 Christian freedom
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, January 5, 2021
22 What’s to be done? Surely they will hear that you have come. 23 So do what we tell you. We have four men who have taken a vow. 24 Join these men, go through the rite of purification with them, and pay for them to have their heads shaved. Thus all will know that what is being instructed about you is nothing, but instead that you yourself live the law and keep it.
The advice that James and the other elders gave to Paul was to go through the purification after the vow with four other men, and to pay the cost of their vow.
Each of the five men (Paul was to join them) had to present himself at the entrance of the temple to begin a week long period of purification and cleansing. At the end of the week, each man presented himself once again along with a basket of unleavened bread, an additional grain offering, a drink offering (wine) and a ram for a fellowship offering. There were also two ewe lambs brought for a sin offering and a burnt offering (Numbers 6:14-15). After the lambs were slaughtered and sacrificed and while the ram’s meat was boiled (to be shared as a communal meal), the men would have their heads shaved (Numbers 6:18) and the hair was taken to the altar and burned under the sacrifices that were being made on their behalf. After the offering was waved before the altar, each man who had made their vow (part of which was to abstain from wine) could drink wine once again, and they would share the drink offering they brought (Numbers 6:20).
The advice Paul was given was that he should pay for all of this to take place: for all five rams, for all ten ewe lambs, the five grain offerings, five baskets of unleavened bread, and five skins of win. This was an expensive gift, and it expressed total commitment to the Lord. It was hoped that when people saw this happening, surely they would understand Paul’s dedication to God. Paul’s willingness to go through with this is an example of his words: “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law” (1 Corinthians 9:20).
Was Paul sinning by doing what he did? To answer that we need to answer this: Was Paul placing himself under the law of Moses for his own salvation (no he wasn’t) or for the benefit of another Christian’s soul (yes he was)? His action falls under the seventh of the following eleven statements:
Adiaphora (Christian Freedom)
- Whatever God has commanded for forbidden does not belong in the area of Christian liberty (1 Corinthians 6:13-20)
- Christians will not allow themselves to be mastered by anything; Christians will not do what is harmful to them (1 Corinthians 6:12)
- Do all things to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31)
- Do not give offense (1 Corinthians 8:13; 10:32)
- Do everything in a spirit of love (1 Corinthians 16:14)
- Do everything in an orderly way (1 Corinthians 14:40)
- Do not place obstacles in the way of ministering to others (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)
- Do not judge your brothers (Romans 14:10)
- Do what leads to peace and mutual edification (Romans 13:19)
- Do not use your liberty as a license for sin (Galatians 5:13)
- When the gospel is at stake, do not give up your Christian liberty (Galatians 5:1)
When, like Paul, we find ourselves in a position to exercise our Christian Freedom, we need to remember the souls of other people. If I do such a thing, will it hurt someone else’s soul? Will it help them? Paul was being urged to do this for the sake of the souls of many people. Let everything we do be for the benefit of the people around us, and for the benefit of our own souls, as well. When we fail, when we hurt others or hurt ourselves (or both), may God give us forgiveness and guidance as we move forward in our lives by his grace.
Pastor Timothy Smith