Sunday, January 1, 2017

How Does Paul Treat Christian Zealots?

Acts 21
Paul Returns to Jerusalem

0 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”26 The next day Paul took the men and purified him

After Paul says farewell the Ephesian elders, he starts his journey back to Jerusalem. Though he is urged by his fellow brothers that trouble awaits him in Jerusalem, he is not dissuaded. Even Agabus, the prophet, ties his hands and feet as a sign as to how Paul is going to be handed over jailed by his fellow Jewish brothers and sisters. Paul responds by saying,

"Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

Finally, when Paul arrives in Jerusalem, he recounts to his fellow Jewish brothers all God had done on his missionary trips, including many Gentiles coming to faith. The Jewish brothers have their own good report that thousands of Jews have now come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. But due to their Jewish upbringing, they were zealous for the law. In fact, the rumors were the Paul taught against the Law of Moses and was urging Gentiles to do it as well. So the believers urge Paul to join some of the zealots and participate in their purification rites, as prescribed by the law. Here is where we see Paul's heart for his fellow Jews. Instead of blasting them for being too reliant on the Jewish law that was now fulfilled in Christ, he joins them. He knows they are now converts but still have a love for the Law they were brought up with. Perhaps they had even more zeal now that they had come to realize that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law.

Paul's shows great discipline and patience with these new believers. He could have come in town and told them they were wrong, but he chose a different route. He became one of them, joined in their rites, and presented himself in the temple with them.

What can learn from Paul? First, just because we have been freed from the Law in Christ, it is not good to use our freedom cause others to stumble who haven't found such freedom yet. Sometimes we take our newfound freedom and flaunt it, so that a new believer might have a hard time understanding our actions. Paul takes the path of walking in their shoes, and not using his knowledge pridefully. Paul reminds us that the Christian life is one of humility, where we are always thinking of others as better than ourselves and putting their needs above our need to be right all the time.

Where are you tempted to be prideful about your faith and freedom in Christ? How might you like Paul be able to reach out to those who are still learning how to use God's laws and fulfill them as Jesus did. Think of those you can join in at their level of faith and share the life giving freedom Jesus has given you at His pace and by His leading.

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