In this study we’re going to take a close look at Acts 21 and the apostle Paul’s fourth and final journey to Jerusalem, since his conversion. At which time 10’s of thousands of Jews, that misunderstood some things Paul said concerning the Law, beat him and attempted to kill him. (Acts 21:27,31)
To keep Paul from being killed, Roman soldiers took him into custody. And ultimately sent him to Rome to stand before Caesar. Where he would eventually be beheaded for the faith. (Act 21:31; 26:32)
There are a three important factors to consider in this chapter that are not only crucial in our understanding of Act 21 but also in our understanding of salvation.
First, the timing. We know from Paul himself that the events of Act 21 took place at least 20 years after the death and resurrection of the Yahushua, the Messiah. And most historians believe it to have been 22 to 27 years later. We’ll examine this more closely in a moment.
Secondly, the confusion. We’ll take a look as to why there was all the confusion that took place here among the literally 1000’s of Jews that were misunderstanding Paul and things he said concerning the Law. ’Confusion’ that the apostle Peter warns us about.
Thirdly, the sacrifices. We’ll examine more closely the ‘sacrifices’ that Paul offered in the temple for himself and the 4 other men that were ‘under the vow’.
1) The ‘timing’ of Act 21
We’ll establish the approximate time of this account. Which will help us in understanding what was happening here and why.
Paul tells us in the book of Galatians that he ’did not’ go to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles immediately after his conversion. He continued on his original journey to Damascus. Only now, after meeting the Messiah on the road, rather than going to Damascus to imprison the followers of Yahoshua, he went there to preach the very faith which he once tried to destroy. Proving in their synagogues that Yahoshua is the Messiah. (Gal1:15-18; Act 9:1-22)
Contrary to what many in Christianity today believe, it is important for us to notice what Paul ‘did not’ preach. He ‘did not’ preach that the Law had been done away with. A fact that will become very obvious as we discuss Act 21.
Then after 3 years we went to Jerusalem for a total of 15 days, at which time he first become acquainted with Barnabas, who then lead him to the apostles Peter and James.
(Act 9:23-27; Gal 1:18-19)
Act 9:26 When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.
Act 9:27 But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Master on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Yahushua.
Gal 1:17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
Gal 1:18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
Gal 1:19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Master’s brother.
After having his life threatened, the brethren in Jerusalem sent Paul to Caesarea, a seaport along the Mediterranean coast. And from there he returned to his home in Tarsus. Where, as far as we know, he remained until years later when Barnabas went to Tarsus to request Paul’s help in the preaching work at Antioch.
We’re not told why Barnabas went from Jerusalem to Antioch, and then to Tarsus to bring Paul back to Antioch, rather then going to Tarsus first. But I believe it could have been that Barnabas after arriving in the Greek city of Antioch and knowing that Paul spoke Greek, for it was the Grecians that Paul was disputing with in his first visit to Jerusalem, at which time they wanted to kill him (Act 9:29). So Barnabas decided to go to Tarsus and bring Paul back with him, to help in the preaching work.
Which might also explain why Paul was called the ‘chief speaker.’ (Act 14:12; Act 11:20-26: Act 21:37)
While at Antioch, Barnabas and Paul are sent to Jerusalem with aid from the brethren in Antioch, because of the famine that was in the land in those days. This would have been Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem, that we know of.
(Act 11:28-30; Act 12:25 - 13:1)
Paul’s 3rd visit to Jerusalem, and one that played a pivotal roll in what transpired in Act 21.
From Paul’s letter to the Galatians we know that it was at least 17 years after his conversion on the road to Damascus, that he went to Jerusalem, in Acts 15 (Gal 1:18, 2:1). And depending upon how many years from the resurrection of the Messiah to Paul’s conversion, which many scholars believe to have been 3 years, it could have been up to 20 years, from the beginning of the preaching of the gospel, until the events of Act 15. Which is important in our understanding of what transpired here and in Act 21. (Gal 1:15 - 2:2).
Gal 2:1 Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also.
Gal 2:2 It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. (NASV)
(An in depth study of Act 15 is in the process of being written and will soon be available.)
Paul said it was because of a ‘revelation’ that he went to Jerusalem. And upon arriving there he went to the apostles ‘in private out of fear’ in the event that he might have been running in vain. (Gal 2:2)
What was the ’revelation’ that caused Paul to go to the apostles, ‘in private, out of fear‘ ?
Act 15:1 Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."
Act 15:2 And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.
It was the question as to whether the brethren had to be circumcised ‘to be saved.’
And later, after Paul’s arriving in Jerusalem, a ‘sect of the Pharisees’ stood up saying,
"It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses." The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. Act 15:5-6
There are a couple of questions that have to be answered here:
Why, after more then 17 years of preaching the gospel, was this question of keeping the Law and circumcision, just now being asked?
And why was it something the apostles and elders had to have ‘much debate’ over? (Act 15:7). It obviously wasn’t something that was discussed prior to this, since the apostles and elders ”came together to look into this matter”. (Act 15:6)
If, as so many today believe, the Heavenly Father’s ‘perfect, holy and righteous Law’ (Ps 19: 7; Rom 7:12; 3:31) was done away with when the Savior died, this should have been a easy issue to resolve, not something they would have had ‘much debate‘ over, after 20 years of preaching the gospel.
Circumcision was given to Abraham as the seal of the covenant that Yahuweh made him and all his descendents after him (Gen 17:1-27; Gal 3:6-9). And it was practiced by Abraham’s descendents, for 1,200 years prior to Moses receiving the Law at Mt. Sinai and 1,500 years after the Law was given. And never did anyone, including the Messiah, Yahushua, tell Israel to stop circumcising their children.
As a matter of fact when the apostles in Act 15 sent Paul and Barnabas to go and deliver the degrees that were decided upon by the Elders in Jerusalem, the first thing Paul did was to circumcise Timothy. Why? In order that Timothy could go along with him and deliver the decisions that were made by the apostles, to the Gentiles. (Act15:22-25)
Act 16:1 Then came …a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:
Act 16:2 Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.
Act 16:3 Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and he took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.
Act 16:4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.
(If anyone would like a further explanation of this I’d be happy to do so. I know some people believe Paul did this to keep from offending any of the Jews (1 Thes 2:5). But stop and think about it for a moment. Paul is on his way to tell all those that would listen, what the apostles in Jerusalem decided upon. And ‘if’ the apostles decided circumcision was no longer to be obeyed by Abraham‘s descendents or the gentiles that joined themselves to Israel, circumcising Timothy should have been the last thing Paul would have done. But the question of whether someone had to be circumcised, wasn‘t an issue. That was settled by Almighty Yahweh 3,000 years prior (Read Gen 17:7-19, esp. 13-14. And the 4 times the Almighty uses the word ’everlasting’. Does anyone want to say he made a mistake? )
Why than was the issue of circumcision brought up to begin with?
Because in Judaism at that time, as it is today, for a gentile to join Israel (Eph 2:11-13; Rom 11:13-18) and be made partakers of the covenants, the adoption as sons and the promises, all of which belong to Israel, according to the flesh (Rom 9:1-4), ), they had to be:
first, taught the Law, the Torah.
secondly, the had to be circumcised
and finally, they had to be baptized.
"In that order."
Not baptized first and then circumcised, as the apostles were doing at that time and afterwards.
And Paul being a Pharisee, taught according the strictest order of the Law, by the most prominent Rabbi of his day, knew that. (Phil 3:5; Act 22:3; 26:5) And when these Jews from Antioch reminded Paul or that, it was a ‘revelation’ for Paul at that time (Act 15:1-2; Gal2:2) .
Upon which he went to the apostles in Jerusalem, ‘in private, out of fear’ to make sure that he hadn’t been ‘running’ (or preaching) in vain. That is, to make sure circumcision wasn’t required ’before’ baptism, as he was taught all his life, prior to his conversion.
You see the precedence of first baptizing a new gentile convert, and then having him circumcised and learning the law, which he would learn in the synagogues on the sabbath day (Act 15:21) was established by Yahuweh himself, with Cornelius (Act 10:1-6).
When Yahweh first accepted the gentiles in to the faith in Act 10 he had to give the Jews a sign that He had now accepted them. Because up until this time the apostles were forbidden by the Messiah, himself, to preach unto the gentiles (Matt 10:5; 15:24). So Yahuweh gave them that sign, in that he gave Cornelius and his family, who were all Romans and almost definitely spoke Latin, the ability to praise Yahuweh in what had to have been the Hebrew tongue, for Peter and the 6 Jewish brethren ‘understood them’ to be "glorifying Yahweh". (Act 10:44-48). At which time, Peter realizing that since Yahuweh had accepted the gentiles, they could be baptized in to the body of the Messiah and be saved (Act 10:47-48). And again, then afterwards they would be circumcised and learned the rest of the Law in the synagogues on the Sabbath day. (Act 15:21; Act 11:18).
So the reason that the issue of circumcision wasn’t brought up until over 20 years after the resurrection of the Messiah, Yahushua, wasn’t because of a question as to whether it still had to be done or not. As I mentioned earlier Yahuweh settled that issue 3,000 years prior, when he said to Abraham, that ’all’ of his descendents, and all those who would join themselves to Israel ’had to be’ circumcised “Forever”. (see verses above).
The issue was, should circumcision be done ‘before’ or ‘after’ baptism. Was a gentile ‘saved’, accepted by Yahuweh, after he was baptized into the body of the Messiah, even prior to circumcision? Yahuweh gave Peter the answer to that question when he gave Cornelius and his family the Spirit, as he did the apostles on the day of Pentecost. (Act 10:44-48; 15:7-8)
I don’t mean this in a derogatory way, but it is the fact that since Christians today have been told that the Law no longer has to be obeyed, they understand almost nothing of the Almighty’s Law and the customs of that day, this very basic fact concerning the need to be circumcised 'first' prior to baptism would not have been understood. Thus all the confusion among the gentiles churches today concerning circumcision.
Let’s move on to Acts 21.
It’s very important in what we’re about to read, to listen to what it is James wants Paul to do and why. I think the human mind because it is pre-conditioned to think a certain way, will often times as we’re reading something, cause us to read right over it. And because of our prior ’thinking’ we won’t grasp what we just read. And I believe this may be one of those times. So please consider carefully what is about to transpire here.
Upon Paul’s arrival to Jerusalem, he meet with James and all the elders. Who after greeting him and rejoicing in all that Yahuweh had done among the Gentiles, informed Paul how literally 10’s of thousands of Jews, all of whom believed in the Messiah and were ‘zealous for the Law’ were misunderstanding things Paul said concerning the Law.
Act 21:18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.
Act 21:19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things Yahweh had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.
Act 21:20 And when they heard it, they glorified Yahweh, and said unto him, You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:
Act 21:21 And they are informed of you, that you teach all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.
So these 1000’s of Jews were informed that Paul was telling Jews to
‘forsake Moses‘, meaning they no longer had to obey the Law that the Almighty gave to His people, Israel, through Moses, at Mount Sinai and
That they should not circumcise their children any longer, neither to walk after the customs .
I think I’d be safe in saying that most, if not all, in ’Christianity’ today would agree with what these 1000’s of Jews ’thought’ Paul was saying.
But were they correct in their understanding?
The apostle James realizing that these Jews who were ’zealous for Yahuweh’s Law’ were going to hear that Paul was in town. So let’s read carefully what James tells Paul to do. (vs. 22)
Act 21:23 Do this therefore that we say to you: We have four men which have a (Nazarite) vow on them;
Act 21:24 take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law.
For those that are unfamiliar with Yahuweh’s Law, the vow that Paul and these 4 men were under was a Nazarite vow. Which is described in Numbers chapter 6.
The purification rights, the paying of the expenses, which was for the sacrifices that had to be offered, which we’ll take a look at in a moment, and the shaving of the heads, were all the things that were ‘commanded’ for someone under a Nazarite vow.
And why did James want Paul to do all of this? So that all these 1000’s of Jews would know
“there is nothing to the things which they have been told about Paul”
And that Paul himself "walk orderly, keeping the Law." (vs. 24)
In other words they were mistaken in what they ‘thought’ Paul was saying.
The fact was Paul never told anyone to stop circumcising their children (Rom 3:1-2), nor to stop obeying the Law (Rom 2:11-13). For he, himself, walked orderly keeping the Law.
We’re going to take a look at exactly what it is that Paul was about to do by going into the temple to have the sacrifices offered up for himself and the other 4 men. But first let me ask, do you, the reader, believe James was telling the truth when he said, “there is nothing to the things which they have been told about Paul”?
Do you believe that Paul walked orderly and kept the law himself?
As incredible as it sounds, there are many today that believe James and Paul, together, were actually conspiring to deceive these 1000’s of Jews into believing something that wasn’t true. They believe that Paul ‘did’ tell people that circumcision and obedience to the Law wasn’t necessary any longer. And that what Paul was about to do, by going into the temple and having sacrifices offered up, was all just an act to make these Jews ‘think’ that he obeyed the law, but the truth was, according to some, he didn’t.
I’m a little reluctant in feeling that I have to defend Paul’s credibility. Of course I don’t believe for second that Paul, or James, every attempted to make someone believe something that wasn’t true, that's clearly called 'deceit'. Let alone, to imply that he was attempting to do so with literarily 1,000’s of his fellow "believers" in Messiah.
So allow me to simply quote Paul, and leave it at that. Ask yourself as you read the following passages if this sounds like a man that would have conspired with James, or anyone else, to 'decieve' these 1,000's of Jews into believing something that wasn't true. Namely, that Paul was not telling the Jews to stop circumcising thier children or obey the Law.
One more thing, if those that think Paul was about to do as James told him to, by going to the temple and offering up the sacrifices, in an attempt to decieve the Jews into believing something that wasn't true, "Why would you believe anyhting such a man had to say?"
2Co 4:2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of Yahuweh deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience…..
2Co 7:2 Receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man.
1Th 2:5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as you know, …. Yahuweh is witness:
Rom 16:18 For they that are such serve not our Master Yahoshua, the Messiah, …. by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
2Co 2:17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of Yahuweh: but as of sincerity, but as of Elohim, in the sight of Yahuweh, speak we in Messiah.
With that being said, and hopefully believed, let us move on and consider the actions of Paul and James in convincing these 1000’s of fellow believers in Messiah, that they were mistaken in what they thought Paul was saying about the Law.
Just as so many in Christianity and the Messianic movements today misunderstand some things the apostle Paul said concerning the Law, these 1000’s of Jews were also misunderstanding him. James wanted to prove to the Jews at that time and to those today, ‘that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about Paul, but that he, himself, also walk orderly, keeping the Law.’
Paul did not, as so many believe, ever tell anyone that the Law was done away with. To the contrary, he made it clear on numerous occasions that he obeyed it and also encouraged us to do the same.
Act 24:14 “"But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the Elohim of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets;
(It was the events of Act 21, the going to the temple and offering up the sacrifices, that Paul used to defend the fact that he obeyed ‘everything’ in accordance with the law” Law. Please read Act 24:11-21)
Act 25:7 And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove.
Act 25:8 While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, ….have I offended any thing at all.
(If there was just one thing Paul did contrary to the Law do you think these Jews would have used it against him? It was the things he said that were hard to be understood, that people misunderstood about him, 2 Pet 3: 14-17)
Rom 2:12-13 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: …..the doers of the law shall be justified. (also Jam 4:11)
(How can anyone be confused with what Paul just said here? The "doers of the Law will be justified" and those that don’t obey it, will ‘perish or be destroyed‘)
Rom 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Yahweh forbid: yea, we establish the law.
(Did Paul speak from both sides of his mouth as some believe? Did he tell some that they didn’t have to obey the Law, and then tell other that ‘we establish the Law through faith’? For fuller explaination of 'establishing the Law through faith' see the "Hard Sayings of Paul")
Rom 7:12-13 “….the Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good [the Law] made death unto me? Yahweh forbid. But it was sin…..,”
(Did Yahuweh do away with his Perfect, holy, just and good Law? Yahweh Forbid. Ps 19:7)
1Jn 3:4 “….sin is the transgression of the law.”
It would be hard for someone to confuse what Paul stated above about the Law. What was it than that he did say that caused so many to misunderstand him?
The apostle Peter warns us that some of the things Paul said are hard to understand. Things of which Peter himself admits to having a hard time understanding. (2 Pet 3:16)
Peter goes on to tell us that some people will be ‘destroyed’ for their misunderstanding of the things Paul said. And there is no question that the things people were and are misunderstanding, are things Paul said concerning the Heavenly Father’s Law.
2Pe 3:14 -16 Therefore, beloved, …. be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,….in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.
2Pe 3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of wicked (or ‘Lawless’ Strong’s #113) men and fall from your own steadfastness,
In understanding what Peter meant by “ be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” it’s important that we realize that the book we call the ‘New’ Testament didn’t exist yet. And would not exist for another couple of hundred years. Even the letters of the ’New’ Testament didn‘t exist, not even one, for at least the first 20 years of the apostles preaching (see Part 3 of the Hard Saying of Paul). For instance as we’ve seen above with Paul’s letter to the Galatians, which he wrote over 20 some years after the resurrection.
With that in mind, what is it Peter meant when he encouraged us to be found ‘spotless and blameless’? Of course he was referring to our being found without ‘sin‘ in our lives. ’Sin’ is a violation of Yahweh’s Law. (1 John 3:4) The very law that the Jews of Act 21, and the Christians of today, misunderstood Paul about, only with drastically different outcomes.
You see the 1000’s of Jews in Act 21 were upset with Paul because they ‘thought’, wrongly of course, that Paul was saying we no longer have to obey the Law. And they realized that to ’love Yahweh is to obey his Law’. As the apostle John tells us.
1Jn 5:3 For this is the love of Yahweh, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not hard.
And which of course is the reason David said all that he did about the Law.
Psa 119:77 Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for your law is my delight.
Psa 119:113 …..thy law do I love.
Psa 119:136 My eyes shed streams of water, Because they do not keep Your law.
Psa 119:142 ……..Your law is truth.
Psa 119:165 Those who love Your law have great peace, And nothing causes them to stumble.
Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
Contrary to the 1000’s of Jews who were ‘zealous for the Law’, the many Christians and Messianics of today, who are misunderstanding Paul, in ‘thinking’ he was speaking against the Law, rejoice in their thinking they don’t have to obey it. And for which, as Peter tells us, they will be destroyed. In that they are following ministers who preach against Yahuweh’s Law, in other words the very men Peter warned us about, the ’lawless’ ministers.
2 Pet 2:17“…...carried away by the error of wicked (or ‘lawless’) men ….”
The Reason for the Confusion
I don’t believe Paul could have made it any clearer when he stated that ‘the doers of the Law will be justified’ (Rom 2:11-13).
And the fact that ‘we establish the Law through faith.“ (Rom 3:31).
But it’s also clear that Paul said something’s concerning the Law that are hard to understand.
Things that the 1000’s of Jews in Act 21 misunderstood, and things that caused Christianity to form a 'new' religion, in which they’ve eliminated the Heavenly Father's Law, by their ’misunderstandings’ of things Paul said.
Let me say it again, so that everyone might commit it to memory. Peter makes it clear that those people that are ‘untaught’ in the scriptures, the scriptures being the Tanak, the only bible they had at that time, and are being mislead by wicked or ‘lawless’ teachers will be destroyed. (2 Pet 2:14-17). Those are not my words, that's from the mouth of the apostle Peter himslef.
Let’s take a look at some of things Paul said, things that Peter calls ‘hard to understand‘ and which will ultimately cause many to hear those dreadful words of the Savior on Judgment Day, ‘depart from me you workers of ‘lawlessness’” Mat 7:23.
1st Hard Saying of Paul
Rom 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.
Many have taken Paul’s words ‘not under the Law’ to mean that we no longer have to obey Yahweh’s Law. Is that what Paul meant? Was Paul saying we no longer have to obey the Law because we’re not ‘under the Law’? Didn’t he just get through telling us that if we don’t obey the Law we’ll perish ? (Rom 2:11-13), and that we ’establish the Law through faith’ (Rom 3:31)? And now in chapter 6, he’s turning right around and telling us the Law doesn’t have to be obeyed any longer? Does anyone actually believe that’s what Paul was saying?
Paul obviously knew, by his experience in Jerusalem, recorded in Act 21, that people were drastically twisting things he said about the Law. So he immediately, in the next verse, answered the question that some were thinking, “Does not being ‘under the Law” mean we no longer have to obey it?
Rom 6:14 …..for you are not under the law, but under grace.
Rom 6:15 What then? shall we sin (that is break the law), because we are not under the law, but under grace? Yahuweh forbid.
Using the strongest possible language he could, he answers us, “Yahuweh Forbid.”
“How can we who are died to sin, live any longer in it” Rom 6:1-2
(If people would only realize that ‘sin’ is a violation of Yahuweh’s Law - 1 John 3:4, much of the confusion that so many have, would be eliminated. When we see the word ‘sin’ replace it with ‘the breaking of Yahuweh’s Law’ and many of the ‘confusing’ passages will become clear)
Twice Paul asks the question, can we continue to break Yahuweh’s Law, that is continue in sin? And twice he answers it “Yahuweh forbid”. (Rom 6:1-2; 6:14-15)
If ‘not being under the Law’ doesn‘t mean we no longer have to obey it, what does it mean? Let’s first answer the question that we can all agree on, ‘what does it mean to be ’under grace’? (Rom 6:14)
Grace, is defined as Yahuweh ‘undeserved kindness’, something he did for us that he didn’t have to do. And I believe we all realize exactly what that was.
Rom 5:8 Yahuweh commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us.
Being ‘under grace’ is reckoned as Yahuweh’s forgiveness, then being ’under the Law’ is our being ’guilty’ before Yahweh. The apostle Paul words it this way.
Rom 3:19 “…. what things so ever the law says, it says to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before Yahuweh.
Being ‘under the law’ is equated with being ‘guilty’ before Yahweh. And since we are now ‘under grace’, Yahuweh’s forgiveness, we are not longer under the condemnation of the Law. We are no longer guilty before Yahuweh.
The Heavenly Father paid a enormous price in redeeming us back to himself. He watched his only begotten Son, the first born of all creation, beaten, mocked, the hairs pulled from his beard, paraded naked through the streets of Jerusalem, and finally nailed to a tree. Why? Because his Law was to important to do away with.
You see Yahuweh had two options in eliminating sin. He could have:
One, done away with his Law and there by doing away with sin. For where there is no law there isn’t any sin. (Rom 5:13) or he could have,
Two, sent his only begotten Son to suffer a humiliating death, that the plenty of sin might be paid, and the Law remain.
He chose the latter.
So we, who have put our faith in the Messiah, and chose to walk even as he walked, in obedience to his Fathers Commandments (1 John 2:6), are no longer ‘under the law,’ because of the Messiah, Yahushua, we are now ‘under grace‘ the undeserved kindness of Yahuweh.
Rom 6:14 …..for you are not under the law, but under grace.
To illustrate the point further consider the following example:
Suppose a man is sentenced to death in the electric chair for murderer. He would be ‘under the law’ in every respect, under the guilt, under the condemnation, under the sentence of death etc. But just before his execution the governor, upon reviewing his case, decides that because of extenuating circumstances, he exercises his right as governor and pardons the man.
Now that the man is no longer ’under the law’ he found ’grace’ in the eyes of the governor. The law no longer condemns him, he’s free to walk out of that prison and there isn’t police man in the world that can touch him. He’s been totally ‘justified.’
But now that he’s ‘under grace’ and no longer ‘under the law‘, does that give him the right to go out and break the Law? Of course not, since he came so close to having his life taken from him, he would now be extra careful in obeying the law.
And in the same way, now that we’ve found grace in the eyes of Yahuweh, and are no longer ‘under the Law,’ being pardoned for our pass transgressing that we’ve committed in violating the Law, does that mean we are free to continue to go and break the Law. Again, Paul answers, “Yahweh Forbid, we establish the Law, through faith” Rom 6:3
"By the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be Justified..." Rom 3:20
Many, in their misunderstanding this passage, think that since we can’t be ’justified’ by the Law we no longer have to obey the Law.
Hopeful the above illustration helped us in understanding what Paul meant when he said, “By the deeds of the law no flesh will justified. “
But to help in our understanding of what Paul meant by us not being ‘justified by the Law, let’s consider another example:
If someone violated a traffic law by speeding or running a red light, and they received a ticket for ’x’ amount dollars, or possibly jail time, could they be ‘justified’ by the Law?
Yes, absolutely, if they paid their ticket or did their time in jail, they would be totally justified under the Law.
What if someone accidentally killed someone, in let’s say a traffic accident, and their punishment was 10 years in Jail, could they be ‘justified’? Again, the answer is yes. After serving their 10 years in jail they would be totally justified.
But what if the penalty wasn’t a traffic ticket or jail time, but rather it was death by electrocution, could they be justified under the Law. NO, they couldn‘t. There isn’t anything they could do to be justified, they have to die.
In the same way the penalty or ‘wages’ of sin isn’t paying a ticket or jail time, it’s death. And that’s why no man can be ’justified’ by the law.
Rom 6:23 …. the wages of sin is death; but the gift of Yahuweh is eternal life through Yahushua Messiah, our Master.
Paul told the Galatians that in the fullness of time, Yahuweh send forth his son, Yahushua, to redeem those who were ‘under the law‘? We’ found grace in the eyes of Yahuweh because of the sacrifice his Son made in dying on our behalf.
Gal 3:13 Messiah has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us….
Gal 4:4 But when the fullness of the time was come, Yahweh sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
Gal 4:5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Tit 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Messiah came to redeem us, not from the Law, but from ‘sin‘ or ‘iniquity‘, our breaking of the Law.
Sin is a violation of the law. (1 John 3:4)
(For other answers to the Hard Sayings of Paul, ask for the article by the same name.)
The ‘New’ Testament
I mentioned earlier the importance of realizing the Tanak (‘Old’ Testament) was the only scripture that the apostles had and used in ‘preaching the Good News of the Messiah’. And the Messiah, Yahushua, himself tells us that
“ It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of Yahweh. Every man therefore that has heard, and has learned of the Father, comes unto me. Jn 6:45
Realizing that even the first letter of the ‘New’ Testament wouldn’t have been written for another 20 -25 years after the Yahushua made that statement, how would someone have ‘heard and learned of the Father” ? It would have been through the reading of what so many today call the ‘Old’ Testament, more properly the Tanak.
So when Yahushua told his followers that they had to all be "...taught of Yahweh,” John 6:45. he was referring to their understanding and obeying the will of Yahweh, ‘His Law‘. Which would have been contained in the ’only’ scriptures in existence at that time, the Tanak (‘Old’ Testament).
Many examples can be given of the ’scripture’ that were used at that time, but for now let’s consider just a few.
When Paul preached unto the Bereans, it was said that they were more noble then all others. Why? The answer is because they didn’t simply believe what Paul was telling them, but they searched the ‘scriptures’ daily to see if the things Paul was saying were true.
Act 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
The only ‘scriptures’ the Bereans had were what so many today call the ‘Old’ Testament. If Paul was telling them that they no longer had to obey the Law, which of course Paul never did, they would never have believed him. For what they would have read ‘in the scriptures’ would have been such things as:
Deu 4:2 you shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish anything from it, that you may keep the commandments of Yahweh your Elohim which I command you.
Deu 5:32 you shall observe to do therefore as Yahweh your Elohim has commanded you: you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.
Deu 6:25 And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before Yahweh our Elohim, as he has commanded us.
Deu 12:32 What thing so ever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add to it, nor diminish from it.
Jos 1:7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou may observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou may prosper whithersoever you go.
Ecc 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear Yahweh, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
And as the Messiah told them when he was on earth, that as long as there was a heaven and earth, that ’nothing’ was going to be taken from the Law. Matt 5:17-18.
On another occasion, Paul for 3 Sabbath days, went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews from the ’Scriptures,’ (’Old’ Testament). Again did he show them that the Almighty changed his mind about his Law and it longer had to be obeyed? No, of course not. He preached the Good News, that Yahushua is the Messiah, the One that came to save us from ’sin’, the breaking of the Law. That Yahushua was the ‘Savior’ that Isaiah and Daniel and all the prophets, foretold of, the ‘One’ that all of Israel was waiting for at that time. (Isa 53; Dan 9)
Act 17:2-3 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,… that this Yahoshua, whom I preach unto you, is Messiah.
Yahushua being the Messiah is the Good News, nothing more and nothing less. The fact that Yahweh made a way that we might be redeemed back to him, through the shed blood of his Son, is everything.
Here are but a few examples of what the apostle and disciples preached:
Act 2:22; Act 2:36; Act 8:37; Act 9:22; Act 10:38; Act 17:3; Act 17:30-31; Act 18:5; Act 18:28.
The first letter written in the ‘New’ Testament was the book of Romans, which was written between 22 and 25 years after the resurrection. Keeping that in mind as we read Paul’s instructions to Timothy.
2Ti 3:15 And that from a child you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Messiah, Yahushua.
2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of Yahweh, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
2Ti 3:17 That the man of Yahweh may be perfect , thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Timothy by knowing the scriptures, the Tanak, would have realized that Yahushua came to put an end to ‘sin‘, not the Law.
The very reason that so many today have been deceived into believing the Law no longer has to be obeyed, is because unlike Timothy who had known the ’scriptures’ the Tanak, from a child, so many today have been deceived into thinking that Yahuweh’s Law is irrelevant. And through their misunderstanding of some things Paul said, in thinking he said the law no longer had to be obeyed, and according to Peter, they will be destroyed. (2 Pet 2:17)
1Jn 3:8 He that commits sin is of the devil; for the devil sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of Yahweh was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
The ‘sacrifices ‘ or ‘offering’
Many people in reading the account in Act 21, often times don’t stop to consider what it actually was James was telling Paul to do. As I mentioned and I don’t believe anyone with any understanding of the Tanak would disagree that Paul (Act 18:18) and the 4 men, were under a Nazarite vow.
So to prove to these 1000’s of Jews that Paul wasn’t speaking against the law and that he, himself, obeyed it, James wanted Paul to go into the temple and pay for not only the sacrifices that had to be offered up for himself, but also the sacrifices for the other 4 men, who were under the vow.
All of which was required by the Law for one who was under a Nazarite Vow.
And of course Paul did as James asked him to do:
Act 21:26 Then Paul took the men, and the next 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.
The question we’re going to answer here is what are the ’offerings’ or ‘sacrifices’ that a Nazarite vow demanded?
All the requirements commanded by Yahuweh for a person under a Nazarite vow are found in Numbers chapter 6.
Num 6:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto Yahuweh:
Num 6:13 And this is the law of the Nazarite, when the days of his separation are fulfilled: he shall be brought unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation:
Num 6:14 And he shall offer his offering unto Yahuweh, one he lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin offering, and one ram without blemish for peace offerings,
Num 6:15 And a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings.
Num 6:16 And the priest shall bring them before Yahuweh, and shall offer his sin offering, and his burnt offering:
Num 6:17 And he shall offer the ram for a sacrifice of peace offerings unto Yahweh, with the basket of unleavened bread: the priest shall offer also his meat offering, and his drink offering.
Num 6:18 And the Nazarite shall shave the head of his separation at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall take the hair of the head of his separation, and put it in the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offerings.
Before I go on, let me ask:
“Do you believe that James asked Paul to go to the temple along with the 4 men in Act21?”
“Do you believe it was a Nazarite Vow that Paul and these 4 men were under? “
“Do you believe Almighty Yahweh when he commanded, upon the completion of days for a person under the Nazarite Vow, that the ’sacrifices’ had to be made?”
Contrary to what you might have thought preciously, your answer to all of the above questions should be ‘yes’. Then let me ask you one more,
“Did James and Paul convince you, the reader, that Paul ’was not’ saying the Law was done away with?”
I realize that for someone brought up believing all their lives that the Almighty’s Law ended with the death of the Messiah that this is going to be very hard for you to accept. But the fact is, it was a Nazarite vow that Paul and these 4 men were under and it was a total of 15 sacrifices that Paul was going to be paying for, for himself and the other 4 men under the vow. that's:
5 - ‘he lambs’
5 - ‘ewe lambs’
5 - ‘rams’
A total of 15 animals had to be offered, along with the ‘basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings.’
And I’m sure that the fact that one of the 3 animals offered up for Paul and the 4 men with him, was a sacrifice for sin, will be shocking for some. But without question, it’s true.
Num 6:14 “….one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin offering,….”
Why would Paul be offering up a ‘sin’ sacrifice, some 20 years after the Messiah, Yahushua, died as a sacrifice for sin, once for all?
Heb 9:28 So Messiah was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Heb 10:10 “….we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Yahushua, Messiah, once for all.
For those that might be hearing this for the first time, please check all the passages that will be mentioned. And prove to yourself what your about to read is the truth.
Years ago, during a bible study I had a brother in the faith, at the time, ask me why if Ezekiel chapters 40 to 47 is speaking of the 3rd temple that is yet to come, which it is, why were ‘sin’ sacrifices being offered?
At the time I didn’t have an answer for him. But because of the fact that I didn’t understand it and I couldn‘t explain it, didn’t mean I could deny it. It’s was true.
In the 3rd temple, which is clearly yet to come, sacrifices ’for sin’ will be offered up.
(Ezek 42:13; 43:19-25; 44:27-29; 45:17-25; 46:20)
Now, all the glory to Yahweh, he’s shown me the clear explanation as to why Paul could and did offer up a ‘sin’ sacrifice in Act 21, and why they will be offered up again in the 3rd temple, described by Ezekiel.
In order to understand the answer to this we have to understand exactly why the Messiah, Yahushua had to die.
According the Law, which David tells us is a ’perfect’ Law, meaning it can not be improved on, if someone violated the law unintentionally or unknowingly, provisions were made for that person to be forgiven.
Again I realize how this is contrary to what a number of people believe, but it is scripture, and it is the truth. So please follow along and it will become clear in a moment.
In Leviticus 4 and Numbers 15, we’re told that if someone sins in ignorance they ’will be forgiven’.
The whole congregation
Lev 4:13 if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of Yahweh …
Lev 4:14-19 When the sin, which they have sinned against it, is known, then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation…
Lev 4:20 and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.
Lev 4:22 When a ruler has sinned, and done somewhat through ignorance against any of the commandments of Yahweh his Elohim concerning things which should not be done, and is guilty;
Lev 4:23-25 and if his sin, wherein he has sinned, comes to his knowledge; he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a male without blemish:……..
Lev 4:26 …… and the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.
The Common Person
Lev 4:27 And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, when he does somewhat against any of the commandments of Yahweh concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty;
Lev 4:28-30 and if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: then he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned….
Lev 4:31 ……and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.
Also in Numbers chapter 15.
The Whole Congregation
Num 15:16 One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourns with you.
Num 15:17 And Yahuweh spoke unto Moses, saying,
Num 15:18-21 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, ……..
Num 15:22 And if you have erred, and not observed all these commandments, which Yahuweh hath spoken unto Moses,
Num 15:23 Even all that Yahuweh hath commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day that Yahuweh commanded Moses, and henceforward among your generations;
Num 15:24 Then it shall be, if ought be committed by ignorance without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer …..one kid of the goats for a sin offering.
Num 15:25 And the priest shall make an atonement for all the congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them; for it is ignorance: and they shall bring their offering, a sacrifice made by fire unto Yahuweh, and their sin offering before Yahuweh, for their ignorance:
Num 15:26 And it shall be forgiven all the congregation of the children of Israel, and the stranger that sojourns among them; seeing all the people were in ignorance.
The Common Person
Num 15:27 And if any soul sins through ignorance, then he shall bring a she goat of the first year for a sin offering.
Num 15:28 And the priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sins ignorantly, when he sins by ignorance before Yahuweh, to make an atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him.
Num 15:29 you shall have one law for him that sins through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourns among them.
BUT, and this is the crucial point in our understanding the sacrifice of the Messiah, Yahoshua.,
Num 15:30 'But the person who does anything defiantly (intentionally), whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming Yahuweh; and that person shall be cut off from among his people.
Num 15:31 Because he has despised the word of Yahuweh, and has broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.
According to the Law, unlike the sins committed ‘unintentionally’ in ignorance, in which a person could be forgiven, there wasn’t anyway someone could be forgiven for a sin unto death, that was committed ’intentionally’ or defiantly. That person was ’utterly cut off’ from among Yahuweh’s people.
There wasn’t any way to justified in the law for sins unto death, committed defiantly or intentionally. So the Messiah, Yahoshua, died for the sins that we could not be forgiven for under the law.
Which is exactly the message that Paul preached in the synagogues:
Act 13:15 And after the reading of the law and the prophets (the Tanak) the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, you men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.
Act 13:16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and you that fear Yahweh, give audience…….
Act 13:38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man (Yahoshua) is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
Act 13:39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.
If there were provisions in the Law for ‘intentional’ sin, where by a man could be forgiven, as there is for ‘unintentional’ sin, then the Messiah would not have had to die. But there isn’t, the plenty when we defiantly sin against Yahuweh, is death.
Gal 3:21 Is the law then against the promises of Elohim? Yahweh forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
The sacrifices that were to be offered on the alter had to be done by ‘only’ the sons of Aaron, the Aaronic priesthood, often referred to as the ‘Kohanim‘. A priest of the tribe of Levi that wasn‘t a descendant of Aaron was forbidden on the treat of death if they were to even approach the alter, let alone offer a sacrifice on it.
Concerning the ‘sin sacrifice’ for the Nazarite.
In the same manner, the sacrifice for sin that was offered up for the person under the Nazarite vow, wasn’t for a sin that they intentionally committed, by rather a sin they ‘might’ have committed in ignorance, unknowingly.
There is obviously much more that can be said, and I will continue to add to this article, and hopefully explain some things better. I realize that for someone to hear some of what was said here for the first time, will take a while to be absorbed. But again, it’s the truth.
And it’s only the truth that will set us free, no one has every been set free by believing a lie. John 8:32
I’m sure there are going to be questions that some will have concerning some of things stated. Let me know and I’ll do my best in addressing them.
May Yahweh bless the honest and sincere heart that seeks him in spirit and truth.