The apostle Paul was arrested, jailed and put on trial because he was accused of:
- teaching against or opposite the people of Judea/Israel
- teaching against or opposite the Law of Moses
- teaching against or opposite the Temple
What does the text say?
Acts 21:27-28 27Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, 28crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”
Paul had just finished observing/keeping the Nazarite Vow rites in the Temple as prescribed by the Law of Moses when these accusations where shouted. At the behest of James and the Jerusalem “Christian” Council Paul had observed this Mosaic Law in order to prove to everyone that he did not preach or teach against the Law of Moses in any way, shape or form. Paul did this to prove that he himself also lived his life in observance of the Law of Moses (see “You Yourself Also Live in Observance of the Law“).
In the following verses (and the rest of Acts for that matter) in which Paul pleads his case, he never once proclaims, declares, asserts or even insinuates that the Law of Moses has been abolished and no longer needs to be kept. Paul is being accused of a crime, breaking and blaspheming the Law of Moses, which could eventually lead to his death. Never once though, does he declare for his own defense that the Law doesn’t apply to him or that it’s a ‘fulfilled’ Law and no body needs to keep it anymore. Never once!
What does Paul say in his own defense? Not only does he deny the three accusations listed above, quote the Law and refer to the Law with valid, Present Tense grammar, but he confesses to acts of keeping the Law of Moses!
What does the text say?
Acts 23:5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
In this verse alone, which is Present Tense in the Greek, Paul is acknowledging the current validity of the Law of Moses in four ways:
- Paul acknowledges the office of the Levitical High Priest as current and valid.
- Paul acknowledges that this High Priest is in authority over him, calling him a “ruler”.
- Paul is quoting the Law of Moses when he says “for it is written”, Exodus 22:28 – “You shall not revile God, nor curse the ruler of your people”, thereby validating that this commandment in the Law of Moses is current and valid.
- Paul observes and keeps this same commandment by admitting that he broke it in verse 3, and he then repents from the transgression of breaking it here in verse 5
All of this took place years, if not decades, after the cross and ascension of Jesus.
Acts 24:14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything according to the Law and written in the Prophets,
Paul acknowledges the Law of Moses, claiming he is “believing everything according to the Law“. The word “believing” in the Greek is Strong’s G4100 – πιστεύω/pisteuō and is a verb that means to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in. The words “according to” in the Greek is Strong’s G2596 – κατὰ/kata and is preposition, which in the Accusative case means agreeable to, in reference to agreement or conformity to a standard. And in this sentence the “standard” to which this preposition is referring to is “the Law”.
Paul admits to thinking to be true, placing confidence in, agreeing with, and conforming to “everything” written in the Law and Prophets. This is his defense against the accusations that he not only broke the Law but taught against it, and violated the Temple. If Paul really believed that the Law was abolished, wouldn’t a better defense have been to claim just that? Instead, he states that he agrees with and conforms to “everything“ in the Law?
This is critical!
Note that Paul never mentions that the Law of Moses has been abolished as his defense! He never claims that the Law of Moses does not apply to him! I ask you, if you were being accused of breaking a Law that brought the death penalty but believed that the Law had been abolished or repealed, wouldn’t you scream at the top of your lungs that that Law did not apply to you anymore???
Acts 24:17-18 Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia—
This is Paul’s defense before Governor Felix; ‘I purified myself’ and ‘I presented offerings/sacrifices‘. He’s being accused of teaching against and breaking the Law of Moses and his defense is that he actually “kept and observed the Law of Moses”!
Once again, we have another Holy Spirit inspired Scripture which takes place post-resurrection that describes Paul in Israel, this time to “present offerings” and “purified in the temple”.
The Greek word for “offerings” is Strong’s G4376 – προσφοράς/prosphora, and is always used by Paul for offerings to God. That is why he specifically separates the giving of “alms”, or charity, from “presenting offerings” in his dialogue. Paul uses this word 8 other times in the NT and all 8 times it refers to offerings to God. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states that this word “prosphora” is an oblation, whether bloody or not, a “sacrifice” to God.
Why would Paul go to the temple to do this if all of the “sacrificial laws” were done away with? Paul made a special trip to Israel in order to present oblations/sacrifices/offerings to God “before“ James suggested he complete the Nazarite Vow and “before“ all of the accusations were brought against him.
Why would he do this hypocritical act if he had been proclaiming throughout the known world that the Law of Moses is abolished???
Then we have Paul in verse 18 stating that he was found “purified” in the Temple. This is a direct reference to Acts 21:26.
What does the text say?
Acts 21:26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.
Here again, we see Paul observing and keep the Law of Moses, this time purifying himself for Temple offerings according to the Law of the Nazarite vow as per Numbers chapter 6. I have elaborated on this event in my blog “Hypocrite or Hard to Understand?”
Here in Acts 24:18 (as well as 21:26) the word “purified” in the Greek is Strong’s G48 ἡγνισμένον/hēgnismenon meaning: having been ceremonially cleansed. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states: to take upon oneself a purification, and is used of Nazarite or those who had taken upon themselves a temporary or a life-long vow to abstain from wine and all kinds of intoxicating drink, from every defilement and from shaving the head.
If Paul had been teaching and preaching that the Law of Moses was abolished and done away with then why, oh why would he perform such a hypocritical act as this ceremonial rite from the Law of God as given through Moses? He blatantly admits to purifying himself and giving offerings at the temple in his testimony for his defense.
Either the Law of Moses is abolished or it is valid; it cannot be both.
Acts 25:8 Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.”
Paul is testifying, in court, that he has neither offended the Law nor offended the Temple of God. He didn’t say there is no Law anymore to offend. He said he committed no offense against the Law.
The word for “offense” in the Greek is Strong’s G264 – ἁμαρτάνω/hamartanō. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon it means: to miss the mark, to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor, to do or go wrong, to wander from the law of God, violate God’s law.
88% of the time in Scripture this word is translated as sin. Paul is claiming for his defense that he has not sinned against the Law or the temple, which is what the authorities have charged him with.
I ask again, if there wasn’t a Law of Moses to offend anymore wouldn’t it have been a better defense to have claimed “I don’t have to obey the Law of Moses because it’s been abolished” or “I’m a Christian now, the Law of Moses has been done away with and doesn’t apply to me anymore!”?
Paul didn’t claim anything remotely close to that. What he did proclaim for his own defense was that he did not offend/violate/sin against the Law or the Temple.
The fact that Paul claimed he did not offend/sin against the Law is admission that the Law could be sinned against, validating it as current and not done away with.
Acts 28:17 After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
As in Acts 25:8 above, Paul here confesses that he had done nothing against the customs of the fathers, and he did nothing against the people of Israel.
The word “against” in the Greek is Strong’s G1727 – ἐναντίον /enantoin and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states this as: opposite or contrary to; opposed as an adversary, hostile, antagonistic in feeling or act.
The word “customs” in the Greek is Strong’s G1485 – ἔθεσι/ethesi and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states this as: usage prescribed by law, institute, prescription, rite.
Paul is claiming that he did nothing hostile or opposite to the prescribed law/institute of the ancestral fathers of Israel.
In all of these verses Paul clearly defends himself in court by claiming that he did not sin against, violate or oppose the Law of Moses or the Temple, which is exactly what he was accused of; i.e. sinning against the Law of Moses and sinning against the Temple.
What does the text say?
Acts 21:27-28 27When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, 28crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man (Paul) who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”
Paul unequivocally denied these accusations. Not only did he deny sinning against or opposing the Law and the Temple, he freely admitted to keeping the Law as part of his testimony!
At no time did Paul ever claim for his defense that the Law of Moses had no legal authority over him or that he was no longer required to keep it.
This entire chain of events started in Acts 21:20-26, when Paul went to the Temple to take part in the Nazarite vow ceremonies in order to prove to the whole world that he kept and observed the Law of Moses and did not teach against it.
Final thought: “Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.” | James speaking to Paul, Acts 21:24