Our Brit Khadashah portion this week has Sha’ul in Yerushalayim. We learn a lot about the Jew, Sha’ul, in this chapter. He is a dual Citizen of both the Roman Empire and Yisra’el. He speaks HEBREW, and some are surprised to learn he speaks Greek [NOT the other way around]. He STILL KEEPS the TORAH, even long after he has become a believer in Messiah Yeshua. Not only does he keep it, but he acts as a Rabbi in the making of a very serious offering IN THE TEMPLE.
Our chapter picks up with his arrival back to Yerushalayim, after having been all over Eurasia to declare the B’sorah. The Galatian error of Acts 15 and the book of Galatians had already occurred! And the issue had been SETTLED. The conclusion of Jewish leaders of the many THOUSANDS of Jewish believers [Acts 21:20] was that the new Gentile believers in Messiah Yeshua did NOT have to ‘convert’ to Judaism in the way of Shammai, the way Gentiles still must convert to Judaism today, with circumcision being the final sign of conversion to a manmade religion, and ‘salvation’ being the reward of keeping Torah, but that JUST LIKE FOR THE JEWISH PEOPLE, TRUST in MESSIAH YESHUA ALONE saves a soul, and obedience to the Torah is the outward expression of GENUINE FAITH. The Jewish community of believers in Messiah laid on the Gentile believers about four different Torah precepts that comprise the equivalent of several chapters of the TORAH as a LITMUS TEST for continuing to worship in the synagogue! They declared that they were SAVED, but reminded them that they would continue to hear the Torah in the Synagogue on Shabbat. [chapter 15, and 21:25]
In chapter 21 of Ma’asei HaShlikhim, Sha’ul, called here Pavlos, which is his name among the Gentiles, a rumor had preceded him to Yerushalayim: “but they [Jews who keep Torah AND believe in Yeshua the Messiah, see v. 17 and 20] have been informed about you that you teach all the Yehudim who are among the Goyim to forsake the Torah of Moshe, stating that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to follow after the customs of the Torah.” This is a very, very serious infraction in the mind of an observant Jew, and still is today. But, what Gentile believers in Messiah have done for about 1700 years is to teach that what was spoken against Pavlos in this chapter, which was a lie, is actually TRUE!
Very ‘advanced’ Bible readers read these verses, and yet turn around and teach that “Paul” abandoned his Jewish lifestyle, and turned against his own people. But, after this chapter explains what Pavlos was to do to try to overturn this rumor, the Jewish Leaders of the Congregation of Messiah Yeshua in Yerushalayim said this:
“…then everyone will know that what has been said against you is a lie, and that you [Sha’ul/Pavlos] yourself uphold the Torah and obey it.”
In order to prove to the Jewish BELIEVERS in Messiah [v 17 and 20] that he did NOT turn his back on Torah after having come to faith, NOR on the TRADITIONS of Moshe, Sha’ul went into the Temple and took a Nazarite vow. This is a personal vow of consecration. Sha’ul was asked to enter into the Vow of a Nazir with four other Jews, and go the whole way with them through the vow. This meant that during the duration of the vow, a duration they selected, they would be like Shimshon [Sampson], a Nazir, and like Yokhanan HaMatbil, not eating grapes or drinking wine or strong drink, and not cutting their hair for the duration of the vow. At the END of the vow, which could go on for months, or even years [we’re not told how long this one lasted], the Nazir was to shave his head. Sha’ul volunteered to pay for all five hair cuts at the end of the vow. And, he went into the Temple with them, and they performed the last rite of the vow, making an animal sacrifice to end the days of purification. Sha’ul did NOT put his trust in this for saving himself, because he already trusted in Messiah. But, he participated in TEMPLE WORSHIP, and, as an advanced Rabbi, “informed them how to complete the days of purification until the gift [animal sacrifice] of every one of them was offered.” [21:26] True, after all that happened, a mob of Yisra’elis DID arrest Sha’ul, and beat him, and want him prosecuted. But, Gentile readers today mysteriously forget verse 20: “see how many thousands there are in Y’hudah [Jews in Israel] who are believers, and they are all zealous for the Torah.”
It was a LIE that Sha’ul broke Torah and taught others to do so. Sha’ul, many would argue, should be considered great in the Kingdom of Messiah. Even those who THINK he was a Torah breaker, and taught others to break the Torah AND the customs of Moshe. They would agree he was great in the kingdom, even though they do not ‘see’ that his teaching was consistent with Yeshua’s, both of whom were Jewish Rabbis, Rabbi meaning ‘Torah Teacher”. But, Sha’ul clearly taught Torah AND Jewish customs to JEWS [Acts 19:10, 21:26] AND GENTILES [Acts 19:10, 1 Cor 11:2, 2 Thess 2:15, 3:6]. Following Yeshua’s lead, and becoming great in HIS KINGDOM by TEACHING THE TORAH!
“Do not expect that I have come to weaken the Torah or the Nevi’im; I have not come to weaken it, but to confirm it. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one yod, nor a stroke [of the pen] shall pass away from the Torah until everything comes to pass. Whoever therefore tries to loosen even one of these smallest mitzvot, and teaches men so, he shall be regarded as small in Malkhut HaShamayim; but anyone who observes and teaches them [the mitzvot/commandments of the Torah], he shall be regarded as great in Malkhut HaShamayim.”
And religious leaders the world over ALL teach the LIE, that Sha’ul turned away from the Torah, completely. It was a LIE then, and it is a LIE today….