We are presenting the following excerpts from studies of others; we do not necessarily agree with all details as presented, but believe these to be beneficial to our readers. Names of Bible books have been expanded to aid in searches.
The first is an excerpt from Study V of Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 6, pages 227-229:.
The account of Paul’s course, recorded in Acts 21:20-26, is reflected upon as being contrary to his own teachings of the truth. It is claimed that it was because of wrong doing in this instance that Paul was permitted to suffer so much as a prisoner and was finally sent to Rome. But such a view is not borne out by Scripture-stated facts. The record shows that throughout this entire experience Paul had the sympathy and approval of all the other apostles, and, above all, the Lord’s continued favor. His course was at the instance of the other apostles. It was testified to him by prophecy, before he went to Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-14), that bonds and imprisonment awaited him; and it was in obedience to his convictions of duty that he braved all those predicted adversities. And when in the very midst of his trouble, we read, “The Lord stood by him and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome'”; and later we find the Lord again showing him favor, as we read, “There stood by me the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” (Acts 23:11; 27:23,24.) In view of these facts, we must seek an understanding of Paul’s course in correspondence with his uniformly bold and noble course–esteeming very highly the work and testimony which God not only did not reprove, but on the contrary approved.
Coming then to the examination of Acts 21:21-27, we notice (verse 21) that Paul had not taught that Jewish converts should not circumcise their children; nor did he repudiate the Mosaic law — rather, he honored it, by pointing out the greater and grander realities which Moses’ law so forcibly typified. So far, therefore, from repudiating Moses, he honored Moses and the Law, saying, The law is just and holy and good, and that by it the knowledge of the heinousness of sin had been increased; that the Law was so grand that no imperfect man could obey it fully, and that Christ, by keeping it, had won its rewards, and now under a New Covenant was offering everlasting life and blessings to those unable to keep it, who, by faith, accepted as the covering of their imperfections, his perfect obedience and sacrifice.
Certain ceremonies of the Jewish dispensation were typical of spiritual truths belonging to the Gospel age, such as the fasts, the celebration of new moons and Sabbath days and feasts. The apostle clearly shows that the Gospel of the New Covenant neither enjoins nor forbids these (the Lord’s Supper and Baptism being the only injunctions of a symbolic character commanded us, and they, new ones). — Colossians 2:16,17; Luke 22:19; Matthew 28:19.
One of these Jewish symbolic rites was that observed by Paul and the four Jews, which we are now examining, termed “purifying.” Being Jews, they had a right, if they chose, not only to consecrate themselves to God, in Christ, but also to perform the symbol of this purification. And this is what they did — the men who were with Paul having made, additionally, a vow to humiliate themselves, before the Lord and the people, by having their heads shaven. These symbolic ceremonies cost something; and the charges presumably made up the “offering” of money — so much for each, to defray the expenses of the Temple.
Paul never taught the Jews that they were free from the Law, — but, on the contrary, that the Law had dominion over each of them so long as he lived. He showed, however, that if a Jew accepted Christ, and became “dead with him,” it settled the claims of the Law Covenant upon such, and made them God’s freemen in Christ. (Romans 7:1-4) But he did teach the Gentile converts that they had never been under the Jewish Law Covenant, and that for them to attempt the practice of Jewish Law ceremonies and rites would imply that they were trusting in those symbols for their salvation, and not relying wholly upon the merit of Christ’s sacrifice. And to this all of the apostles assented. — See Acts 21:25; 15:20,23-29.
The following is from Frank Shallieu’s commentary on The Acts of the Apostles, pages 147, 148.
“Many thousands of Jews … which believe … are all zealous of the law”; that is, although many thousands of Jews became Christians, they continued to follow the Law faithfully. It was difficult for some to discard their old beliefs. For this reason, some of the brethren advised Paul to minimize any confrontations with the Jews by shaving his head under the Nazarite vow and going to the Temple with four others who had also taken Nazarite vows and shaved their heads. Many Jewish Christians urged Christians to obey the Law as well as the precepts of Christ.
With the Galatians, Paul had tried to show that the Jew was no longer obligated to follow the ceremonial features of the Law but that voluntary compliance was permissible under certain circumstances. Making the Law mandatory was the wrong principle. For example, Paul refused to have Titus circumcised but did have Timothy circumcised (Galatians 2:3-5; Acts 16:1-3). To the Jews, Paul was a Jew, and to the Gentiles, he was a Gentile in order to win converts (1 Corinthians 9:20,21). In other words, to comply with a feature of the Law under peer pressure would be compromising principle, but to voluntarily, in advance, follow a custom of the Jews was a different matter. If a Jewish Christian wanted to take a Nazarite vow or to tear his clothes and put ashes on his head in connection with mourning, he could do so. Here in Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost, the brethren thought Paul would be better received and heard by both Jews and Jewish Christians if he did not appear too radical.
Contrary to comments from three Reprint articles in the Expanded Biblical Comments, Paul properly followed the advice of the brethren. Although his actions boomeranged, as we shall subsequently see, he was correct to take the Nazarite vow and go with the other four. On multiple occasions, Paul demonstrated his courage, so he was not peer-pressured in taking the vow. He was simply listening to advice from the brethren, and he had been solicitous of going to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost, evidently intending to take a vow anyway.
When the brethren realized his intention, they suggested he go to the Temple with four others. That way people would see him and conclude he was not that radical, for sometimes people exaggerate what they seem to think is a fault in others. From a sanctified common-sense standpoint, Paul’s following the advice of the brethren might have brought positive results, but as the Lord had foreseen, trouble would ensue and Paul had been told earlier what awaited him in Jerusalem. His reply was, “I am ready to be bound in Jerusalem and to die for Christ” (Acts 21:13 paraphrase).
And in regard to wisdom, Paul had more wisdom than any of the other brethren. Therefore, he acted within his rights. On another occasion, Paul said that he could eat meat offered to idols but that doing so might stumble others. Offering meat to an idol did not affect the meat, for the idol was like a nonexistent entity. However, he was very careful in regard to the consciences of others. While he felt free to do certain things, he refrained when doing so would offend a brother. Paul was considerate of the feelings of others, and now, in this situation in Jerusalem, he was considerate of the brethren who were giving him advice.
Comment: Paul was told that persecution awaited him, so he may have followed this advice for an even higher motive, which was to show the brethren that whatever Providence determined would happen and nothing man could do would change the situation. Then his actions in following the advice would be even more to his credit.
Comment: It was difficult for some to make the transition from the Law to liberty in Christ, and Paul was trying to help them.
Regarding eating things sacrificed to idols, see our study:
For the Sake of the Other’s Conscience
Some other studies related this this: