Let’s read Acts 21:18-21, “And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he rehearsed one by one the things which God had wrought among the Gentiles through his ministry. And they, when they heard it, glorified God; and they said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of them that have believed; and THEY ARE ALL ZEALOUS FOR THE LAW: and they have been informed concerning thee, that thou teachest all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children neither to walk after the customs.” 

The book of Acts is a transitory book.  It takes us from the ascension of Christ into Heaven (Acts 1), it shows us the beginning of the church (Acts 2), it shows us the conversion of Saul (Acts 9), and the introduction of the Gentiles into the church (Acts 10)…plus many more instances that show us how the Lord was working among His people during this period of time.

Paul the apostle (formerly Saul) was known in Jerusalem as a great persecutor of the church (Acts 9:21) and they were quite naturally afraid of him.  After Paul had begun his work for the Lord, he was later received by the church in Jerusalem. (Acts 15:4).

In our portion in Acts 21, we see that when Paul returns once again to Jerusalem, he is ‘received gladly’ (verse 17).  When Paul visits the elders of the church in Jerusalem, he tells them of all the work the Lord is doing among the Gentiles (anyone who is not a Jew is a Gentile).  At this point, the elders inform Paul that it is rumored that he has been teaching against the Law among the Gentiles by saying that circumcision is not necessary…and some other traditions are not being kept.  This was concerning to those in Jerusalem because they “ARE ALL ZEALOUS FOR THE LAW.”  These Jewish believers were still trying to follow the Old Testament Law and were fervent in keeping the Law.

Had Paul spoken against the Law as they had heard?  Let’s read Acts 15:1-2, “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.”  In the early church, some Jewish leaders insisted that circumcision was necessary for the Gentiles to be saved.  Paul and Barnabas disagreed and contested the teachings of these men.  This led to many believing elders gathering at Jerusalem to seek the Lord’s guidance in these matters. 

I encourage you to read Acts 15 and the Jerusalem council that resulted from questions like these.  James concluded the council by stating, “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.” (Acts 15:19-20).  We then read in verse 22 that, “pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church…”  After hearing from Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and James, all agreed that the Gentiles (and all believers) were not under the Law and issued a statement that asked the Gentile believers only to abstain from any behavior that could dishonor the Lord. 

Perhaps this caused the rumors that the Jewish believers in Jerusalem were concerned about.  They believed on the Lord Jesus but were not ready to leave the Law behind.  Paul would go on to teach very clearly that we are NOT UNDER THE LAW, but we are under grace.

  • Romans 6:14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for YE ARE NOT UNDER THE LAW, but under grace.”
  • Galatians 5:18, “But if ye be led of the Spirit, YE ARE NOT UNDER THE LAW.”

As I said at the beginning that the book of Acts is a transitory book.  It took a while for some of the Jewish believers to understand that the Law, of which they had sought so intensely to keep, had now passed away as we read in Hebrews 8:13, “A new covenant (testament), he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”  Paul would go on to teach that circumcision had no spiritual value.  He said in Galatians 5:6, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”  (CC)  (526.2)