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24. Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also ivalkest orderly, and keepest the law.
25. As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.
Paul saw nothing, in this to which he need object. The case was very different from that of the apostle Peter,.who would have "compelled the Gentiles to live as do the Jews :" requiring them to obey the law of Moses. This Paul withstood, "because he was to be blamed."6 And the brethren here disclaim any such purpose, saying, as touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing. But though the law was no longer necessary, it bad not become sinful. And Paul being now amongst those who held the law in reverence, might properly conciliate their good opinion by complying with its ceremonies. He forced no one to observe that which divine authority no longer required: he would himself observe that which others reverenced, and which divine, authority had not expressly forbidden.
26. Then Paul took the men, and the newt day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.
6 Sec Galat. ii. 11—15.
The case was difficult in which Paul had here to act. There were dangers on both sides. On one side there was danger, lest he should needlessly offend the Jewish disciples, and so cause dissensions. On the other side there was danger lest he should encourage superstition, and uphold a law which was now "waxing old and ready to vanish away."7 Paul thought the first danger greatest, and for the sake of peace and good will, followed the counsel of the elders. "To the Jews he became as a Jew, that he might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that he might gain them that are under the law. And this he did for the gospel's sake.'"8
Human life abounds with difficulties of the same kind. There is fear of giving needless offence. There is fear of making undue compromise. With most persons, the last danger is the greatest. Nature commonly inclines to yield rather than to resist: to fall in with the current rather than oppose it. And, speaking generally, the purpose which Paul had in view, "that he might gain the more," that he might bring more over to God ;—this purpose is best answered by a steady and decided line of conduct. Nothing, in the end, obtains so much influence as consistent adherence to known principle. Then men see what we are: stablished and settled on sure ground: not double-minded, carried away by every wind, unstable in all our ways. Paul was thus firm and uncompromising in the whole tenor of his life, though he would "give none offence," neither to the Jews nor to the Gentiles.9 And he has recorded for our encouragement the comfort which he derived from this consistency. "Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience; that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world." 1
7 Heb. viii. 13.
'1 Cor. ix. 20—23: x. 32, 33.
PAUL IS ASSAULTED IN THE TEMPLE, AND RESCUED BY THE ROMAN OFFICER.—A. D. 60.
Acts xxi. 27—40.
27. And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,
28. Crying out, Men of Israel, help. This is the man that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place: and further, brought Greeks also into the temple; and hath polluted this holy place.
29. (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)
It may be often right to make concessions, as Paul had judged it to be on this occasion. But 9 1 Cor. x. 32. 1 2 Cor. i. 12.
frequently they are vain and useless, as also in this case it proved. Paul had entered into the temple with those who had a vow upon them, for the express purpose of escaping from the prejudice of his countrymen. But his presence in the temple provoked the very evil which he desired to avoid. The Jews which were of Asia, whom the religious festival had brought up to Jerusalem, came thither with all those bitter feelings which they had indulged against Paul for many years, whilst he had been preaching the gospel in their neighbourhood. We saw an instance of those feelings, in the charge made against Peter, " Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them." It was a still heavier reproach against Paul, that his language was, "In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but a new creature." He treated men who were neither " under the law" by birth, nor made obedient to the law by proselytism, as if they could be heirs of the divine favour. So they cry out, Men of Israel, help; this is the man that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and against the law, and against this place. It was the very accusation which Paul himself had encouraged against Stephen many years before. "This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law." 1 Now Paul was involved in the same charge. Though the Lord Jesus had declared, "Think not that I am come to destroy the 1 Acts vi. 13.
law and the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." Though Paul affirmed, "Do we then make void the law through faith? Nay: but we establish the law." Still he must labour under misrepresentation as an innovator and a reformer. Nay, they lay to his charge things that he knew not. They impute to him that he had brought Greeks into the temple, and polluted this holy place? They had seen Trophimus with him in the city: they presumed that he was with him in the temple also.
Religious truth has always been liable to these difficulties. In all ages, many, like these Jews of Asia, have brought charges against those who differed from them, which have had no other foundation than their own prejudices. Often, too, has it happened, that others, like Paul, have been treated with especial enmity, because they have changed former opinions, believing the things which once they denied. This consideration will lead all reasonable men to deal moderately and candidly with opponents. It will be a ground for calm inquiry—for complying with the precept, "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment."3 "Charity hopeth all things."
No such precept was attended to, no such moderation used, in the case of Paul.
* The Gentiles were only admitted into a certain court which was separated from the Jews by a partition wall. To pass that barrier, we learn from Philo, was a capital offence.
3 .John vli. 24.