[After being instructed by the leaders of the Jerusalem church to join in the Jewish purification ceremony of four men,] 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 21:26 NLT
, we focused on the leaders of the Jerusalem church and the pressure they put on Paul to participate in and pay for the purification ceremony for four men who had taken a vow. The leaders wanted to appease Paul's Jewish critics. Having come to Jerusalem hoping to weld together the hearts of Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus, Paul followed the leaders' instructions. This effort blew up in Paul's face. Rather than appeasement, the exact opposite occurred. Paul's Jewish critics from the province of Asia saw him in the Temple, and they knew he had come to Jerusalem with representatives from Gentile churches, so they accused Paul of violating the Temple by bringing Gentiles into the Temple (Acts 21:27-28). While I'm saddened by the result of what Paul did to appease these Jewish critics, I do believe what he did was submitting to the church leaders in Jerusalem and was consistent with the heart of someone who genuinely ached for all people to come to Christ, regardless of their race, social standing, or gender!* Paul's Christian ministry always tried to take into consideration the context of where that ministry was happening. He could live like a Jewish person or he could live among Gentiles. He sought never to offend because he wanted to win as many Jewish and Gentile people as possible to Christ.*
O Father, give me a heart like the apostle Paul for people who are lost. I want to imitate him in this passion just as he imitated the Lord Jesus' love for the lost.** Holy Spirit, increase your influence in my heart and will as I offer myself to be used to reach others seeking to know Jesus, especially the ones who do not realize that he is the one they are yearning to find. In Jesus' name and for his cause, I pray. Amen.