Old habits die hard. The mystery revealed by God through the Apostle Paul is that God would draw Jew and Gentile alike into one spiritual body, the church; that there was neither Jew nor Gentile, but that all were one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26), and that they were not under the law but under grace (Romans 6:14).
Now the church began way back in John 20:19-23 when God breathed life into that body of believers (compare Genesis 2:7; Ezekiel 37). However, as you read through the book of Acts, it’s apparent that the idea took a little while to catch on (2 Peter 3:16), even for the one who was eventually God’s instrument in making the revelation known.
Let’s run the verses on this.
Acts 15:19. The Jerusalem council determines not to bind the Gentile believers with the yoke of the law.
Acts 15:9-11. But during the council Peter also states (1) that there is no difference between the Jew and Gentile and (2) that the Jews have never been able to keep the law anyway.
Acts 16:3. Yet, before Timothy joins Paul on his travels, Paul has him circumcised. (Paul later learns better and doesn’t make the same mistake with Titus, Galatians 2:3-5).
Acts 18:18. Paul makes some kind of vow and shaves his head at Cenchrea. The reference in my margin is to the vow of the Nazarites (Numbers 6:18), but the shaving of the head in that instance was to be done at the door of the tabernacle. Whatever this was for, the implication is that it had something to do with Jewish law-keeping. I mean, I doubt he shaved his head because he lost a bet on a football game.
Acts 21:18-26. Curious. When Paul gets to Jerusalem, the elders introduce him to thousands of believing Jews who are zealous of the law and confront him about teaching Jews who live among the Gentiles to forsake the law of Moses.
Wait a second. If the Gentiles are not to be bound by the yoke of the law (Acts 15:19) and there is no difference between the Jews and the Gentiles (Acts 15:9-11), then why are these Jews zealous of the law, and why is it a problem for Paul to teach SAVED Jews who are a part of the church to forsake the law of Moses?
However, Paul responds by going along to the elders’ suggestion that he go down to the temple and purify himself with four men which have a vow on them. Seems like this would have been an excellent opportunity to withstand them to the face (as he did Peter in Galatians 2:11).
Interesting, huh? And here’s what I can take from it. What a blessing it is to have God’s complete revelation! 2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.