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Paul’s Nazirite Vow

The sermon text for Sunday will be Acts 21:17-26. After all the controversy about whether Paul should go to Jerusalem, he finally ends up there. He is warmly greeted by James and the elders of the Jerusalem church (v. 17-18), but then is promptly warned that the Jewish Christians in the Jerusalem church do not think very fondly of Paul (v. 20-22).

James and the elders decided to make Paul look as appealing as possible to the Jewish Christians. Since the Jewish Christians placed such a heavy emphasis on the Mosaic Law, and it was their assumption that Paul didn’t uphold the Mosaic Law, the leaders of the Jerusalem church thought it would be a good idea of Paul participated in four men’s Nazirite vow. Since the Nazirite vow was distinctively Jewish and was a component of the Mosaic Law (Num 6:1-21), the leaders of the Jerusalem church hoped that anyone who observed Paul participating on this vow would give Paul a more favorable interpretation. Namely, they were hoping that the Jewish Christians would think more favorably of Paul because of his participation in the Nazirite vow.

Upon receiving this instruction, Paul complied and went forth with the plan.

Questions: Does this seem deceptive to you? Do you think the leader of the Jerusalem church were acting inappropriately by instructing Paul to become involved with these four men’s Nazirite vow?

Should Paul have refused to participate with the vow? After all, the vow is intended for those who desire to “make a special vow to the Lord” (Num 6:2) and not to influence the opinion of man.

When Peter began to behave differently in front of the Jewish Christians while in Galatia, Paul rebuked Peter to his face (Gal 2:11). How are the actions of Paul (here in Acts 21) any different from those of Peter? Is Paul playing the hypocrite?