Did Paul Practice Jewish Sacrifice After His Conversion?

Did Paul sacrifice animals and hold to Jewish law when he was in the temple after his conversion? This is a question that arises from the book of Acts. Two specific examples are the following two verses.

“So Paul went to the Temple the next day with the other men. They had already started the purification ritual, so he publicly announced the date when their vows would end and sacrifices would be offered for each of them.”
‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭21:26‬ ‭NLT

“After several years away, I returned to Jerusalem with money to aid my people and to offer sacrifices to God.”
‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭24:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

There are a difference of opinion concerning this question from the book of Acts. The issue at stake concerns a possible hypocrisy of Paul or an inconsistency of his theology. Elsewhere, in the writings of Paul he is clear the Jewish law is no longer sufficient but it is Jesus Christ crucified and his resurrection that provide the means of forgiveness.

Starting with Acts 21:26 we see direct textual evidence that Paul participated in the ritual cleansing before entering the Temple. This behavior is surprising given the teachings of Paul that justification is from Christ alone.

“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭3:21-28‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So one could ask the question, why did Paul observe the ritual cleaning before entering the temple? The Bible does not provide a direct answer to this question. However, one can venture to say that Paul was acting in accordance to Jewish custom in order to stay innocent of any possible accusations that he was disregarding Jewish law. To disregard the law held true criminal penalties. Therefore, the ritual cleansing while a surprise would not necessarily fall into sin. Perhaps another reason for Paul participating in the ritual cleansing was his desire to reach others with the Gospel.

“Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭9:19-22‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Paul admits in 1 Cor 9:19-22 that he was willing to become whatever he needed to become in order to preach Jesus. This tactic is used by missionaries today across the globe. Therefore, if Paul washed himself in order to preach Jesus then so be it as long as he avoided sin.

This leaves the second and more potent question. Did Paul provide an animal for sacrifice in the temple. Translations interpret this verse in different ways. In fact several translations do not render in English the wording “sacrifices to God”. Here are a few other popular translations and their handling of this verse.

“After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭24:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“After many years, I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my nation,”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭24:17‬ ‭HCSB

“Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭24:17‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Comparing these translations it can appear to provide two different verses. With the NLT being an outsider with the rendering of “sacrifices to God”.

I chose the NIV, and HCSB as they are both a dynamic translation philosophy, which is the same as the NLT. A dynamic translation philosophy means the scholars behind the translation did not render the translation word for word. In a dynamic philosophy the interpreters concentrate more on thought for thought with the idea of reader comprehension in mind. The KJV is a formal translation that is more concerned with word for word and less with readability. But even the KJV uses some thought for thought as the Greek into English does not transfer word for word.

The truth is biblical interpretation is both an art and a science. If we return to the original language it is clear the NLT rendering and the other translations are faithful to the original language.

Here is the verse in Greek from the manuscript used by the NLT interpreters “δι᾽ἐτῶν δὲ πλειόνων , ἐλεημοσύναςποιήσων εἰς τὸ ἔθνος μουπαρεγενόμην καὶ προσφοράς” . With προσφοράς being the word that provides the translation “to offer sacrifices to God”. Elsewhere the NLT translation for this term is
“an offering, an offering, offering, offerings, sacrifices”

Each time this term is used for offering, it is in more the traditional sense.

“I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬
The rendering offering to God is the word προσφορὰ.

“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬
Notice in this verse we have the terms offering and sacrifice. Interesting enough the term standing behind sacrifice in this verse is θυσίαν and not προσφορὰ which is standing behind the English word “offering”.

θυσίαν means
[a] sacrifice, an offering, offerings, sacrifice, sacrifices. But what is interesting here is the other verses that use this word for sacrifices.

“And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.””
‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:33‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.””
‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Notice when this term is used it is used in direct relation to temple sacrifice. The previous term we explored is used more in offerings.

Putting it all together I fully believe Acts 24:17 is best understood as a offering of money. A sacrifice in the sense that Paul was giving something up for God. Therefore, it can be concluded based on the textual evidence from the original Greek manuscript that was used for the NLT translation that Paul did not sacrifice an animal in the temple.

Luke 10: Strength In Numbers

Greetings,

In Luke 10, we read of the 72 being sent out by Jesus Christ to preach the gospel. Jesus did not send them out by themselves, but sent them out in pairs. Ministry work is best done with the assistance of others. It is important to understand that the Christian walk is not meant to be a walk of isolation, but a faith lived within the church community. There is something to be said for strength in numbers.

God Bless

Luke 9: The Cost Of Discipleship

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Luke chapter 9 finishes with Christ instructing on exactly the cost of being his disciple. We are told that the cost of discipleship is to forsake desires of self for the cause of the Kingdom.A man approaches Christ and says he wants to follow him, but first he needs to bury his father. He is told by Christ to let the “dead bury the dead”. This can appear stunning to those not familiar with the cultural time in which Jesus lived. However, the statement is far more stunning to someone who has researched the culture of 1st century Israel.

It was the duty of a son to see that his parents were properly buried. It was viewed as the ultimate fulfillment of honoring mother and father. The process could take months and require multiple grave sites. However, no matter what, it was imperative an individual see to the final affairs of their parents.

Therefore, what Christ was indicating was it was more important to honor the heavenly father by proclaiming the Gospel. One must be willing to forsake everything for Christ. Luke 9 draws to a close with this verse ” But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). What this means is a person cannot serve God if they are still holding on to the old. One cannot be a new creation but yet operate in old ways. The plow could represent a legalistic approach “Law”, but now that Christ has came a new covenant is now in place.

Luke 9: Who is Jesus Christ?

Greetings,

In Luke chapter 9 we find speculation as to who Jesus Christ really is. Some people think John the Baptist, maybe Elijah, others think possibly an older prophet. Peter when questioned directly by Jesus answers “messiah”. This question as to whom Jesus Christ really is, is the most important question each of us will ever have to answer. Today,people are still trying to answer this question and have developed theories that Christ was a political revolutionary, or Christ was a great moral teacher. These people present various arguments as to why they think this to be the case. However, the question still stands, who is Jesus Christ? Was he just a prophet or teacher, or was he who he said he was, is he God incarnate, is he the messiah, this question can only be answered by you.

God Bless

We are failing at our Calling: Job Title: Missionary

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The Role of the Christian is to be a missionary. This does not mean you need to travel to remote areas of the world in order to serve in a missionary role. In fact most Christians will never serve in a far away country. The vast majority will serve locally in their home communities.

The influence of the church is rapidly decreasing in the USA. With the decline in church attendance comes a natural decline in workers who are able to engage the local community for the cause of Christ. If this trend continues the church in America will be a fringe group within the next two generations.

A reason for the decline is not due solely to sweeping secular influences. No, we as Christians share the blame for the decline because we have not worked diligently to advance the gospel in our own neighborhoods. We have failed to advance the gospel as we were called to do in a real meaningful way.

Perhaps it is time to look at successful missionaries and the methods they use to engage the cultures in the area they are serving. This means stepping back to square one and attempt to build trust with the communities that we reside in. We must not assume the people we interact with know anything about Christianity.

We must be willing to start all over. The churches that are left need more cooperation and less competition with each other. Programs built from sound preaching should highlight the command to spread the gospel. Mature Christians need to lead by example and train up newer Christians in how to engage a community. Workshops from seasoned missionaries need greater promotion to help train up Christians in community engagement.

All of this of course is dependent on how many churches are willing to allocate a significant amount of their resources for community missionary activities. If we cant get people into the church, lets take the church to the people.

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

Savior And Lord

There are people in the pews today that profess Jesus as their savior but they know him not as their Lord. There is a distinction that must be made between savior and lord. To profess Jesus is your savior is to understand the redemption brought forth by the sacrifice that was made by Christ on Calvary. To profess Jesus as your Lord is to allow him to be the sovereign king in your life. When Jesus is lord it is his will be done in your life and not your own. Undoubtedly, many people say Jesus is their savior but know him not as their lord but the reality is Christ the redeemer, Christ the savior is only this to you if he is your lord.

What Do You Mean When You Say God Has Forgiven Your Sin?

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“He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross “Colossians 2:14

 What do we mean when we say that God has forgiven our sins. We must be careful to communicate to those inquiring about the Christian faith what we mean when we say God forgives sins. It is true that as Christians we believe God has forgiven our sins. However, God has not simply decided to forget about the transgressions of those who believe in Jesus Christ. The sin debt of a christian was paid by Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary. It was on this cross that God brought judgement of sins to Jesus Christ. Those who believe in Jesus Christ and profess Him as their savior do not merely have their sins forgotten, it is their sins were paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross.

Walking With God

He has told you men what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: Only to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God

Micah 6:8

To walk with God is to live your life in accordance to His will. We are to love and show others the love of Christ. This can be difficult at times after all we are still in a fallen world and subject to sinful actions. However, we only fail when we do not learn from our actions and grow in our faith. Scripture is clear about how we are to interact with the world around us, we are to act justly and love faithfulness, and be humble in our walking with God.