15After this we packed our things and left for Jerusalem. 16Some believers from Caesarea accompanied us, and they took us to the home of Mnason, a man originally from Cyprus and one of the early believers. 17When we arrived, the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem welcomed us warmly.
18The next day Paul went with us to meet with James, and all the elders of the Jerusalem church were present. 19After greeting them, Paul gave a detailed account of the things God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry.
20After hearing this, they praised God. And then they said, “You know, dear brother, how many thousands of Jews have also believed, and they all follow the law of Moses very seriously. 21But the Jewish believers here in Jerusalem have been told that you are teaching all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn their backs on the laws of Moses. They’ve heard that you teach them not to circumcise their children or follow other Jewish customs. 22What should we do? They will certainly hear that you have come.
23“Here’s what we want you to do. We have four men here who have completed their vow. 24Go with them to the Temple and join them in the purification ceremony, paying for them to have their heads ritually shaved. Then everyone will know that the rumors are all false and that you yourself observe the Jewish laws.
25“As for the Gentile believers, they should do what we already told them in a letter: They should abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality.”
Most commentaries see this as an attempt by Paul and the other apostles to appease the Jews at the expense of strictly following and preaching the gospel. It seems like Paul agrees to it, even though it is the exact opposite of what most of his letters and preaching were about. We will see that Paul pays a heavy price for this.
But perhaps this is God’s way of making the break between the old Jewish path to salvation through rituals, and the new path of salvation through faith. Perhaps there needed to be an ugly scene to make it clear to the apostles that they could not appease the establishment. I obviously don’t know. It could have also been a personal moment of learning for Paul. Some of Paul’s greatest letters were written when he was in prison. Perhaps he needed this trial and imprisonment to write those great parts of the New Testament.
Lord, help me to learn from my trials and use them for your glory.