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By Pastor Earl Herr

Thought for the Week

Un-Compromising Compromise


November 7, 2019

Illustration by John McConahy

Scriptures to Read:

Acts 21:17-26

Galatians 4:4-11

Romans 4:1-4

Romans 4:5-12

Romans 4:13-19

Romans 4:20-15:2

I Corinthians 9:19-23

Paul has arrived at Jerusalem at long last. His first days were delightful. He was able to give reports to the Church Leaders in Jerusalem of the wonderful works God has been doing through Paul and his traveling companions. They in turn spoke of the thousands that were now part of the Church from Jewish heritage and still here in the Jerusalem/Judea area. But a problem arises. The problem was actually settled in the record of Acts 15 during the "Jerusalem Council." Then and there the Church agreed to things that would be expected and required of Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians. But, a rumor was in wide and strong circulation.

Often rumors have "not a leg to stand on" but they travel with great speed and cover vast distances. The rumor was that not only was Paul giving the "Jerusalem Council" guidelines for Gentile Believers, he was telling Jews they should only follow those principles, should ignore Moses, The Law, and all their Jewish heritage. This was not true and there was no evidence to support it but it was still widely accepted.

The Jerusalem Leadership thought they had a way to stop the rumors. They proposed it to Paul. He would not really need to make any compromise. Actually Paul was already involved in making a Nazarite vow. Nazarite vow was for a specified time: During that time the person could not eat or drink any grape products, could not cut his/her hair, and could not come in contact with any dead body. At the end of the vowed time, sacrifices were made: A ewe lamb as a burnt offering, a ewe lamb as a sin offering, a ram as a peace offering, a basket of unleavened bread, specially made cakes, a meat offering and a drink offering. Finally the hair was cut off (shaved) and burnt. This vow was taken in demonstration of love for God. They proposed Paul make his Nazarite vow public and he also pay for the costs involved for four other men taking the vow.

As said, Paul needed no compromise for he had not abandoned his Jewish heritage in any way. But as you can see it was a pretty expensive thing to pay for the vows of the other four men. Paul's primary concern was that people should trust in Jesus for their salvation, not in traditions, rituals, customs, and ceremonies. Gentiles did not have this heritage and so had no trust in them. Paul did not want them to get involved lest they begin to trust in human works. He was also concerned Jewish Christians might revert to such things and abandon their trust in Christ Jesus alone for their salvation.

Paul believed people (Jews and Gentiles alike) should be free to observe and free to abstain from the traditions, rituals, customs, and ceremonies of Jewish ancestors. Observing or abstaining could be real problems and create strife and divisions in the Church. Paul did not want strife and division so he accepted the proposal. It would not compromise him but seemed a good compromise to discredit the rumors circulating. It did not work.


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