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The Scriptorium

Condescension, not Compromise

Paul takes a vow to show good faith.

Acts (19)

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Luke 24.27

The video for lesson 19 is the same as for lesson 17. You can view it by clicking here (scroll down to Lesson 17).

Read and meditate on Acts 21.17-26.
Paul’s first task in Jerusalem was to salute the Church and report to the leaders how God had blessed their decision concerning the Gentiles (Acts 15) through his ministry. Paul was not a “Lone Ranger” apostle; he was part of the larger Body of Christ and practiced appropriate submission to the brethren.

For reflection
1.  They received the report from Paul with rejoicing. What do you imagine the effect of this report to have been on the faith of those Jerusalem saints?

2.  James (the text says, “they”, but it was probably James speaking on behalf of all) knew that what the Jews were saying about Paul was not true. Paul was not telling Jews not to circumcise their children or to abandon their traditions. He had circumcised Timothy, after all, and he’d made haste to be in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. He was a living refutation of the lies that were being told about him. Should unbelievers fear that the Gospel will eliminate or destroy all their most cherished traditions, values, and beliefs? Explain.

3.  Nevertheless, James and the brethren wisely believed that some condescension to Jewish sentiments was appropriate, and Paul agreed. It would do no good in the end, as we shall see, but the message is clear: To the best of our ability, without compromising the Gospel, we must be ready to meet people where they are. What are the implications of this for you in your own Personal Mission Field?

4.  Don’t read anything negative or paternalistic into that word condescension. Jesus con(with)descended (came down among) to us in order to lift us up to the Father, and we recognize that as a supreme gesture of love. Paul hoped he might be able to do the same. But there are no guarantees. We can do our best to honor people and meet them where they are, but we should still expect the same kinds of reactions we saw in Acts 17.32-34. How should we prepare to respond to each of these?

5.  Paul was not obligated to submit to the ceremonial laws or traditions of the Jews. He understood that, with the coming of the great High Priest, these laws had been abrogated (Heb. 7-9). But submitting to them was not sinful, at least, not to the extent Paul did. To offer a sacrifice would have been sinful, but submitting to a vow and a period of separation for the purpose of holiness is perfectly acceptable, within the appropriate context. The same is true of a great many traditions and practices from other cultures and even other religions. We can and should meet people “on their turf” to the extent that we can do so without violating the Gospel or the Law of God. Can you think of an example of how condescending to meet an unbeliever “on his turf” might be appropriate for you?

It would soon be known that Paul was in Jerusalem, and the believers there rightly hoped to defuse any explosive situations by giving Paul an opportunity to show good faith to the Jews. In our day, why do you think many unbelievers harbor hostility to the Gospel?

Closing Prayer
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!
For my soul trusts in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge,
Until these calamities have passed by.
I will cry out to God Most High,
To God who performs all things for me.
He shall send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. Selah
God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.
My soul is among lions;
I lie among the sons of men
Who are set on fire,
Whose teeth are spears and arrows,
And their tongue a sharp sword.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.

Psalm 57.1-5

T. M. Moore

Each week’s studies in Acts are bound together into a free PDF that you can download for personal or group use (click here). Each week also features a video related to the studies of the week, which you may find helpful as you work through our studies in Acts.

Acts is the record of Christ’s ongoing work as King and Lord. This is the work of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven. Read more about the implications of this work in our new book,
The Kingdom Turn (click here).

Please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452. Or, you can click here to donate online through credit card or PayPal.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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