Act 21:18-24 18On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him (Paul), “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, 21and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. 22What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus, all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself (Paul) also live in observance of the law.
In the verses above, James was concerned because he knew there was ‘hearsay‘ about Paul; ‘rumors‘ that he taught against Moses and circumcision. However, James knew this to be false, as he clearly stated in verse 24, “there is nothing in what they have been told about you” (Paul). What were they told about Paul? Verse 21 states, some were told that Paul taught ‘to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs’. This was a false accusation brought against Paul according to the Holy-Spirit-inspired Luke, who wrote the letter of ‘Acts’ (please click this link and read ‘Paul’s Day in Court‘).
This passage is perhaps the most obvious verse in the Bible that proves the apostle Paul himself, kept the Law of God given through Moses. James knew that Paul was misunderstood (as Peter warned us, 2 Peter 3:16-17). So, James encouraged Paul to prove that he did not teach against circumcision nor the Law of Moses, in order to establish that ‘there is nothing in what they have been told about him‘ and that he ‘lived in observance of the Law‘, as James said in verse 24.
What does the text say?
Acts 21:24b “Thus, all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself (Paul) also live in observance of the law.“
Here in verse 24, the word “live“ in the Greek is Strong’s G4748 στοιχεῖς/stoicheis which is in the Present Tense (years after the cross). This is derived from steicho: to march in (military) rank (keep step), i.e. (figuratively) to conform to virtue and piety — walk (orderly). Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states stoicheis to mean: to walk, to direct one’s life, to live.
Also, in verse 24 and in the Present Tense (years after the cross) is the word “observance“. In the Greek, this is Strong’s G5442 φυλάσσων/phylássōn, and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states this to mean: to guard, i.e. to care for, to take care not to violate; to observe.
What does the “Word of God” say about the apostle Paul and the Law of Moses?
It says he “marched to”, kept in step with” and “directed his life to guard, observe and not violate” the Law of Moses. This is declared many years after the ascension of Jesus.
Therefore, according to the Holy-Spirit-inspired Word of God, those rumors about Paul, that he taught others to forsake the Law of Moses and to not circumcise the male children, were “nothing“; they were “false accusations” (Please click this link and read ‘Zealous for the Law‘).
The “false accusations” in Acts 21:21 are either ignored, or they are being taught as “true accusations“ by today’s mainstream theology.
Not only does the ‘Word of God’ state that Paul did not teach against circumcision or the Law of Moses, but the Holy-Spirit-inspired Word of God states that Paul himself was living his life observing/guarding the Law of Moses when James spoke these words!
Yet, mainstream theology has claimed for centuries that the apostle Paul condemned the Law as bondage, teaching that it was abolished and done away with.?.?.
Tragically, the current mainstream doctrine teaches the opposite of what the Word of God teaches.
If the mainstream establishment doesn’t hide this information by ‘sweeping it under the rug’, the most common way to excuse away this scriptural fact about Paul is to haphazardly declare, “Well, Paul was a Jew and not of the nations/gentiles”. The argument that “Paul was a Jew and only Jews can keep the Law” is illogical, hypocritical and unscriptural.
That “excuse” is unsound for three reasons:
- First, the Law of Moses is either abolished or it’s not. Period. How in the world could it be abolished for the nations/gentiles, who never had it in the first place, but current and valid for ‘the Jews’? This illogical line of reasoning has led to a similar type of misinterpretation in ‘Galatians’; please click this link and read ‘Galatians Part 1: Freedom or Bondage‘.
- Secondly, if Paul preached that the Law of Moses was abolished, revoked, canceled and done away with throughout the known world but kept it himself then, as a hypocrite, he was teaching unsound doctrine.
- Lastly, there isn’t a single Scripture to back up the idea that the Law of Moses is current and valid today for “believers of Jewish origins” but abolished for the “believers who used to be of the nations/gentiles”.
This ‘excuse‘ is man-made dogma and should be summarily dismissed as blasphemy; it makes God a respecter of persons.
There are, however, numerous quotes ‘out of Paul’s own mouth’ that state there is no difference between Jew and Greek, there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles in the body of Christ. In Christ, whatever ‘doctrine’ is right for one, is right for the all.
What does the text say?
Romans 2:9-11 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.
Romans 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.
1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
Galatians 3:28-29 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Ephesians 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
ALL are the same before the LORD. According Paul, there is no Jew and there is no Greek before God; “If”… if you are in Christ, then you are “Abraham’s offspring”! According to Paul, “all in Christ” are the same. The same father Abraham, the same offspring and the same heir. Not one set of rules for the believer of Jewish origins and a different set of rules for the believer of non-Jewish origins. The same offspring, the same body, the same heir.
According to Paul, all are the same. All are equal in the body of Christ before God.
Even with all the ‘misunderstood’ verses in Paul’s letters, these verses in the ‘Acts of the Apostles’ listed at the top of this page, conclusively settles the matter. Paul did not teach against the Law of Moses nor circumcision, but he did personally observe, guard and keep the Law of God given through Moses decades after ‘the Cross of Christ’; at least according to the Word of God!
Final thought: Paul instructs us many times in his letters to imitate him, to do the things he does (See 1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1; Philippians 3:17, 4:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:9).
What did he do?
The apostle Paul lived in observance of the Law post-resurrection.
This study can now be watched on YouTube @ ‘You yourself also live in observance of the Law‘.
- For further study of Paul’s teachings, as well as the original Greek, please see the ‘Page Links’ at the top of this page or blog posts at the bottom. Be like the Bereans, and test Paul’s doctrines to the “Scriptures”. Please ‘share’ this study. Thank you for your time!