TO A JEWISH AUDIENCE
Pray for those who ask about your faith. Ask God for wisdom so you may speak the truth without unnecessarily offending others
Read Acts 21:17–26
17 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. 18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. 19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
20 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 himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.
New International Version (NIV)
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ReflectThink of how you have heard the Gospel presented. Were the presentations gracious or offensive?
In Jerusalem, Paul met James and the original elders to give an account of his journey. Paul related one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry (19). Note Luke’s careful language here: God was the author of the work, the Gentiles were the fortunate recipi-ents, and the ministry was done through Paul. What an ethos: God first, others next, then us. But Paul was no longer among the Gentiles; he was in Jerusalem. This was an unfriendly cultural context. Even newly converted Jewish believers were suspicious of Paul. So, the elders asked Paul to show respect for their Temple culture and purify himself, so that all would know Paul lived an orderly life, keeping the Law.
This last phrase must have rankled Paul a bit, having written so eloquently about how we Christians are set free from the Law. But that was not the argument for that moment or that context. Paul acquiesced to their request—out of respect for the culture, and out of respect for the elders. Paul was respectful and culturally astute in Jerusalem.
Think of a “hot topic” in your world right now. How could you introduce Jesus into a conversation about that topic?
God, grant me eyes to see the culture around me so that I can present Jesus Christ graciously to those I meet.