This is a very good question.  Let’s read Acts 21:26, “Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them went into the temple, declaring the fulfilment of the days of purification, until the offering was offered for every one of them.”  Paul was in Jerusalem.  Upon arriving here, he was greeted by his Christian brethren, and he had an audience with the Christian elders.  Let’s listen in to the words of James and the elder to the Apostle Paul. Acts 21:20-24 says, “…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. What is it therefore? They will certainly hear that thou art come. Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men that have a vow on them; these take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges for them, that they may shave their heads: and all shall know that there is no truth in the things whereof they have been informed concerning thee; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, keeping the law.”

So, we see it was under the advice of the Christian elders that Paul should take steps so that he not offend the believing Jews in Jerusalem.  In his actions, Paul gave the impression that he “walkest orderly, keeping the law.”  Paul was obviously referring to this incident when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:19-20, “For though I was free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more. And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, not being myself under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law.”

Was Paul wrong to go through this ritual to convince his Jewish brothers that he had not turned against the teachings of Moses and still considered himself to be under the law?  Did his words in 1 Corinthians 9:19-20 justify him doing this so that he ‘might gain Jews”?  Paul taught strongly and diligently that we are not under the law.  In Galatians 2:16 he wrote, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”  He wrote in Galatians 3:24-25, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.”  He wrote in Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”  There are more verses we could point to, but I think we can clearly see that Paul taught that salvation comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and not in trying to obey the law.

Although I find it very hard to criticize the behavior of the Apostle, I believe Paul was in error by purifying himself according to the law.  I can greatly appreciate his desire to not be offensive to his brethren, but we find the Lord Jesus Himself offended many with the words of truth.  Rather than act in such a way that appeared that Paul (and James and the elders) were still under the law, it would have been more profitable and God honoring for these men to be taught the truth as presented in Romans 7:4, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”  These believing Jews had been raised under the law, but now they were ‘dead to the law’ because of their faith in the Lord Jesus.  James and the elders should have taught them this ever before Paul arrived.  Because they did not, they found themselves in the position of asking Paul to go along with them.  I’m reminded of Peter’s words earlier in the book of Acts.  In Acts 5:29 we read, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”  May the Lord give us the strength to obey His Word and not to compromise His truths because we MAY offend someone with the truth.  We don’t want to intentionally offend men, but we certainly do not want to offend the God who loved us and sent His Son to die for us so that we might live eternally.  Let’s live and preach the truth and let the Lord deal with those who may be offended.  (194.2)