How does this Jewish vow affect the doctrine of grace Paul so earnestly preached?
ESV - 23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow.
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The question is "How would Paul's doctrine of grace been affected had he completed the vow in Acts 21:23?" Paul's position on his teaching about the Grace of God would not be affected at all. Notice: 1 Corinthians 9:19-22: For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake.........
Why did Paul go along with James and the others and agree to this? Fear, it was for fear of the "zealous of the law" Jews. Thousands of them, according to scripture. Their fear was real, as Paul had run ins with them earlier. But to go that far and engage in sacrifice, there had to be something to it. They wanted no doubt left in their minds of his (Paul's) devotion to the law. Mere keeping feast and eating kosher was not enough in their minds, It was an all or nothing proposition. But was this wise? Peter earlier had said Acts 15:9 "...purifying their hearts by faith." Faith in Christ, not sacrifice. Again 1 Peter 1:22 "Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that you love one another with a pure heart fervently:"He knew! Paul in Hebrews 9: 23,24 (He may have been the one who wrote it) said, "It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be 'purified' with these; but the heavenly things themselves with 'better' sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:" Then he wrote in Galatians 2: 16-21, " 'Knowing' that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not 'frustrate' the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." What are you saying Paul? Or are you saying one thing and doing another? Are you not "frustrating" the grace of God by doing sacrifice? No matter as it was not completely carried out and within 12 or 13 years later the whole temple was destroyed, stopping sacrifice for ever. Fulfilling Christ prophesy Luke 21:6. AS Christ is the final sacrifice. The effect? Mere frustration added to an already stumblingblock gospel,1 Cor. 1:23 KJV.
Acts 21:27 “When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him.” Notice the phrase “when the seven days were almost finished…” But we KNOW he did purify himself on the first day himself because Acts 21:26 says so. He just didn't get to complete all the seven day rites in accordance with Num 6:9-12. I don't feel Luke is trying to get us to focus on Paul not being able to complete the vows. The point is, he did in fact seek to contradict the rumors by following through with the vows and with sacrifices (Acts 21:24). As we read this passage, at first it does seem as if we have two seemingly contradictory convictions or concepts occurring in the text. I say “seemingly” because in point of fact, the Bible cannot contradict itself. Allow me to articulate what I believe the unspoken “contradictions” are, and then allow me to attempt to harmonize them. As one reads through the Bible with eyes opened by faith, one comes to the following conclusion affirmed by “Conviction A”: Jesus came to bring the sacrifices to their fullness by his once and for all sacrifice on the cross and in doing so accomplished our eternal redemption (Rom 3:24; 1 Peter 2:24; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:3-5). As a Christian, I hold with a firm conviction to “Concept A.” As one reads through the TaNaKH (OT), one must come to the conclusion implied by “Concept B” that as long as the Temple stood, atonement existed on two levels: temporal and eternal. Temporal atonement for the worshippers as well as for the Holy Sanctum was procured by offering the mortal blood of animals on the altar at the Sanctuary. This temporal atonement ONLY provided “sanctification for the purification of the flesh” (Lev. 16:16 corroborated with Heb. 9:13, 14 demonstrate this temporal atonement explicitly). Conclusions: If Paul is bringing a sacrifice AFTER Yeshua has already accomplished his finished work on the cross, YET while the Temple was still standing in Paul’s day, then the only conclusion that harmonizes “Concept A” with “Concept B” is that Paul’s animal sacrifices were for temporal atonement ONLY. He still affirmed in his heart and spirit that Yeshua’s blood afforded him eternal atonement. I don't have a problem with Paul’s sacrifices because I don't believe Paul felt his sacrifice competed with Yeshua’s sacrifice on the cross. Indeed, as the Heb 9:13, 14 passage shows us, they work in tandem as long as there was a standing, functioning Temple. Of course, temporal atonement is a moot point today since there is no Temple. Lastly, if my stated conclusion is invalid (and there are other possibilities that I did not cover in this short space), then one is left with Paul either compromising on his convictions about Yeshua—a position we KNOW cannot be tenable, or we have Paul acquiescing out of fear of those Jews who were all “zealous for the Law” (Acts 21:20, 21), a position I don't feel suits Paul who demonstrated time and time again in the book of Acts that he was not afraid of opposition. Paul would not simply “become a Jew” just to win the favor of these pro-Torah Jews—especially since they were already believers. To wit, 1 Cor. 9:20 cannot be Paul’s way of approving “situation ethics,” else this would also excuse “doing wrong in order to get a chance to do right.”
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