From Trials to Triumph


Advice to Compromise Leads to Disaster

“You see, brother,” they said in response to his testimony, “how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; they are all zealous for the law, and 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 observe the customs... . Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take 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 live in observance of the law. But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what had been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity.” RSV. TT 211.2

The brethren assured Paul that the decision of the former council concerning Gentile converts and the ceremonial law still held good. But the advice now given was not consistent with that decision. The Spirit of God did not prompt this instruction; it was the fruit of cowardice. TT 211.3

Many of the Jews who had accepted the gospel still cherished the ceremonial law and were only too willing to make unwise concessions, hoping thus to remove prejudice and win their countrymen to faith in Christ as the world's Redeemer. Paul realized that so long as many leading members of the church at Jerusalem should continue to cherish prejudice against him, they would work constantly to counteract his influence. He felt that if by reasonable concession he could win them to the truth, he would remove a great obstacle to the success of the gospel in other places. But he was not authorized of God to concede as much as they asked. TT 212.1

When we think of Paul's great desire to be in harmony with his brethren, his tenderness toward the weak in faith, and his reverence for the apostles who had been with Christ, it is less surprising that he was constrained to deviate from the firm course he had hitherto followed. But his efforts for conciliation only hastened his predicted sufferings, separated him from his brethren, and deprived the church of one of its strongest pillars. TT 212.2

On the following day Paul began to carry out the counsel of the elders. The four men under the Nazarite vow (see Numbers 6) were taken by Paul into the temple. Those who advised Paul to take this step had not considered the great peril to which he would thus be exposed. He had visited many of the world's largest cities and was well known to thousands who had come to Jerusalem to attend the feast. Among these were men filled with bitter hatred for Paul. For him to enter the temple on a public occasion was to risk his life. For several days he was apparently unnoticed; but as he was talking with a priest concerning the sacrifices to be offered, he was recognized by some Jews from Asia. TT 212.3

With fury of demons they rushed upon him. “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching men everywhere against the people and the law and this place.” And as the people responded to the call for help, another accusation was added—“moreover he also brought Greeks into the temple, and he has defiled this holy place.” RSV. TT 212.4

By Jewish law it was a crime punishable with death for an uncircumcised person to enter the inner courts of the sacred edifice. Paul had been seen in the city with Trophimus, an Ephesian, and it was conjectured that he had brought him into the temple. This he had not done; and being himself a Jew, his act in entering the temple was no violation of the law. TT 213.1