Tuesday in the Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time

Acts 21:17-36

Becoming All Things to All People in Order to Win Some to Christ

Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth in his first letter: “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews.  To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law … I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them its blessings.”

This passage sheds light on what is before us.  The elders in the Jerusalem church gladly received Paul and rejoiced to hear of the conversion of the Gentiles.  But there was a problem: The Jewish believers (Christians) had heard that Paul was telling the Jews who became Christians in Gentile lands that they no longer needed to circumcise their sons or follow the law of Moses.  This was not true.  Paul regarded circumcision as a matter of indifference (1 Corinthians 7:9).  What he would not allow was that circumcision or keeping the law of Moses was a requirement for salvation because this ran afoul of justification by grace through faith in Christ alone.  In other words, if Jewish Christians wish to circumcise their sons and keep other Mosaic regulations, fine and well, as long as they understand that they are not saved by such observances nor make them a requirement of their Gentile brethren in the churches.

The elders of Jerusalem understood this, but rumors about Paul’s ministry had made matters difficult.  So to protect Paul and the integrity of the gospel, they ask Paul to pay the expenses of four men (Jewish Christians) who had taken the Nazirite vow (Numbers 6).  We note that Paul had taken such a vow on himself once before, though we do not know the exact cause (Acts 18:18).  Paul obliges, and as explained above, Paul compromised nothing in doing so: Paul would treat such a Mosaic regulation as a matter of indifference.  At the same time, Paul would also have to undergo a seven day purification process as a Jew who had spent a long time in Gentile lands.  As we see later in the passage, if the Jewish Christians were convinced, other Jews were not and an angry mob would have killed Paul had not Roman soldiers intervened.  But none of this mattered to Paul.  He would be as a Jew to Jews and as a Gentile to Gentiles for the purpose of winning some to Christ.  May we adopt the same attitude of the apostle.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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