Acts 21:25
As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.
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(25) As touching the Gentiles which believe.—See Note on Acts 15:20. St. James, it will be seen, adheres still to the terms of the concordat sanctioned at the council of Jerusalem. He has no desire to withdraw any concession that was then made, and the Judaisers who in Galatia and elsewhere were, in his name, urging the necessity of circumcision, were acting without authority. He thinks it fair to call on St. Paul to show that he too adheres to the compact, and has no wish to disparage the “customs” of the Law. St Paul, it will be seen, readily acts upon the suggestion. All promised well; but an interruption came from an unexpected quarter and overturned what seemed so wisely planned in the interests of peace.

21:19-26 Paul ascribed all his success to God, and to God they gave the praise. God had honoured him more than any of the apostles, yet they did not envy him; but on the contrary, glorified the Lord. They could not do more to encourage Paul to go on cheerfully in his work. James and the elders of the church at Jerusalem, asked Paul to gratify the believing Jews, by some compliance with the ceremonial law. They thought it was prudent in him to conform thus far. It was great weakness to be so fond of the shadows, when the substance was come. The religion Paul preached, tended not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. He preached Christ, the end of the law for righteousness, and repentance and faith, in which we are to make great use of the law. The weakness and evil of the human heart strongly appear, when we consider how many, even of the disciples of Christ, had not due regard to the most eminent minister that even lived. Not the excellence of his character, nor the success with which God blessed his labours, could gain their esteem and affection, seeing that he did not render the same respect as themselves to mere ceremonial observances. How watchful should we be against prejudices! The apostles were not free from blame in all they did; and it would be hard to defend Paul from the charge of giving way too much in this matter. It is vain to attempt to court the favour of zealots, or bigots to a party. This compliance of Paul did not answer, for the very thing by which he hoped to pacify the Jews, provoked them, and brought him into trouble. But the all-wise God overruled both their advice and Paul's compliance with it, to serve a better purpose than was intended. It was in vain to think of pleasing men who would be pleased with nothing but the rooting out of Christianity. Integrity and uprightness will be more likely to preserve us than insincere compliances. And it should warn us not to press men to doing what is contrary to their own judgment to oblige us.As touching the Gentiles - In regard to the Gentile converts. It might be expedient for Paul to do what could not be enjoined on the Gentiles. They could not command the Gentile converts to observe those ceremonies, while yet it might be proper, for the sake of peace, that the converts to Christianity from among the Jews should regard them. The conduct of the Christians at Jerusalem in giving this advice, and of Paul in following it, may be easily vindicated. If it be objected, as it has been by infidels, that it looks like double-dealing; that it was designed to deceive the Jews in Jerusalem, and to make them believe that Paul actually conformed to the ceremonial law, when his conduct among the Gentiles showed that he did not, we may reply:

(1) That the observance of that law was not necessary in order to salvation;

(2) That it would have been improper to have enjoined its observance on the Gentile converts as necessary, and therefore it was never done;

(3) That when the Jews urged its observance as necessary to justification and salvation, Paul strenuously opposed this view of it everywhere;

(4) Yet that, as a matter of expediency, he did not oppose its being observed either by the Jews, or by the converts made among the Jews.

In fact, there is other evidence besides the case before us that Paul himself continued to observe some, at least, of the Jewish rites, and his conduct in public at Jerusalem was in strict accordance with his conduct in other places. See Acts 18:18. The sum of the whole matter is this, that when the observance of the Jewish ceremonial law was urged as necessary to justification and acceptance with God, Paul resisted it; when it was demanded that its observance should be enjoined on the Gentiles, he opposed it; in all other cases he made no opposition to it, and was ready himself to comply with it, and willing that others should also.

We have written - Acts 15:20, Acts 15:29.

25. touching the Gentiles … we have written and concluded that they observe no such things, &c.—This shows that with all their conciliation to Jewish prejudice, the Church of Jerusalem was taught to adhere to the decision of the famous council held there (Ac 15:19-29). These ceremonies (after their accomplishment in Christ) not being at all necessary, they were not imposed upon any that received the faith of Christ from amongst the Gentiles, or other nations; only suffered for a while unto the Jews that turned to Christ, for the hardness of their hearts, and inveterate zeal for them.

Things offered to idols, &c.: of these things, See Poole on "Matthew 15:29".

As touching the Gentiles which believe,.... This is said, to show that the Jews were not offended with Paul, for not insisting upon the circumcision of the believing Gentiles, and their conformity to the ceremonial law; and to remove an objection that Paul might make, that should he comply with this advice, and the believing Gentiles should hear of it, it might be a stumblingblock and a snare to them; who by his example, might think themselves obliged to regard the law: Beza's ancient copy adds, "they have nothing to say to thee"; for as it follows,

we have written and concluded; some years ago, at a meeting of the apostles, elders, and brethren at Jerusalem, when Paul was present; and of which he reminds him, to prevent any objection of this kind; where it was unanimously agreed on and determined,

that they observe no such things; as circumcision, and other rites and customs of the law, and particularly the vow of the Nazarite, which Gentiles are free from: hence it is said (u),

"Gentiles have no Nazariteship;''

upon which one of the commentators says (w), if a Gentile vows Nazariteship, the law of the Nazarite does not fall upon him, he is not obliged to it:

save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, &c. see Acts 15:19.

(u) Misna Nazir, c. 9. sect. 1.((w) Bartenora in Misn. Nazir, c. 9. sect. 1.

As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.
Acts 21:25. “Yet the liberty of the Gentile Christians from the Mosaic law remains thereby undiminished; that is secured by our decree” (chap. 15). The object of this remark is to obviate a possible scruple of the apostle as to the adoption of the proposal.

ἡμεῖς ἀπεστείλαμεν (see the critical remarks), we, on our part, have despatched envoys, after we had resolved that they have to observe no such thing (nothing which belongs to the category of such legal enactments). The notion of δεῖν (see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 753 ff.; Schoem. ad Is. p. 397 f.) is implied in the reference of κρίναντες (necessarium esse censuimus). Comp. Acts 21:21.

εἰ μὴ φυλάσσεσθαι κ.τ.λ.] except that they should guard themselves from, etc. See Acts 15:28. On (φυλάσσεσθαί τι or τινα, to guard oneself from, comp. 2 Timothy 4:15; Wis 1:11; Sir 19:9; Herod. i. 108, vii. 130.

This citation of the decree of the apostolic synod told Paul what was long since accurately known to him, but was here essentially pertinent to the matter. And for Paul himself that portion of the contents of the decree which was in itself indifferent was important enough, in view of those whose consciences were weak (1 Corinthians 8:1 ff.; Romans 14:1 ff.), to make him receive this reminiscence of it now without an express reservation of his higher and freer standpoint, and of his apostolic independence,—a course by which he complied with the δουλεύειν τῷ καιρῷ, Romans 12:11.

Acts 21:25. ἡμεῖς, cf. reading in [360] text, but in any case ἡμεῖς is emphatic, intimating that St. James and the Church at Jerusalem could not condemn St. Paul’s attitude towards Gentile Christians, since they had themselves consented to place these Gentile Christians on a different footing from that of the born Jews who became Christians.—ἐπεστείλαμεν, see critical note, cf. Acts 15:20 (Zöckler).—μηδὲν τοιοῦτον τηρ., see critical note.—Wendt with Schürer objects to the whole reference to the Apostolic Conference, and sees in the verse the hand of a Redactor, as in Acts 16:4 (see note, p. 346, edit. 1899). But the reference may well imply that St. James on his part was quite prepared to adhere to the compact entered into at the Conference with regard to Gentile Christians, and that he expects St. Paul on his side to show that he has no desire to disparage the law in the eyes of Jewish Christians.

[360] R(omana), in Blass, a first rough copy of St. Luke.

25. As touching the Gentiles which believe] The clause should commence with But, which is expressed in the Greek. The elders, while urging on Paul the course they have described in consideration of Jewish prejudices, are yet careful to distinguish from this the liberty of the Gentiles, and to confirm that liberty, and shew to the Apostle that they were of the same mind as when the council was held (Acts 15), they refer now to the decisions then arrived at.

we have written] Better (with the Rev. Ver.), we wrote. This is said in reference to the time when the decrees were first published (Acts 15:33). The verb used in that account for “write” (Acts 15:20) is the same which the elders employ here, and it is not the usual one, shewing that an exact reference is made to the proceedings of the former synod.

and concluded] Better (with Rev. Ver.), “giving Judgment.” This word also refers back to Acts 15:19, where James then said, “My judgment is, &c.” And although he is not specially named here as the speaker, there must have been one who at this time also gave utterance to the advice of the whole presbytery, and none was more likely to do so than he.

that they observe no such thing, save only] The oldest texts omit all these words, and they appear merely to be a marginal comment, echoing in part, but with a negative, the language of Acts 15:5; Acts 15:24. They do not represent any part of the form given in that chapter of the letter of the synod.

that they keep themselves from things offered to idols … and from strangled, &c.] The Rev. Ver. makes both the meaning and the English clearer: “that they should keep themselves from things sacrificed to idols … and from what is strangled, &c.” On the prohibitions and the reasons for them see notes on Acts 15:20.

Acts 21:25. Ἐθνῶν, the Gentiles) In antithesis to the Jews and Paul himself. By parity of reasoning, this equally appertained to the Jews, excepting the condition of that time [i.e. the Jews had always observed these precepts, whereas they were then for the first time imposed on the Gentiles].—ἡμεῖς) we ourselves.—κρίναντες φυλάσσεσθαι) The intervening words, μηδὲν τοιοῦτον τηρεῖν αὐτοὺς, εἰ μὴ, savour of a paraphrase. The old authorities have not the words.[125]

[125] Hence the shorter reading, although declared in the larger Ed. to be the weaker reading, is reckoned by the margin of Ed. 2 among those better established; and the Germ. Vers. expresses, no doubt, that paraphrase, but encloses it in brackets.—E. B.

The words are supported by CDEde as well as by the Rec. Text. But AB Vulg. Memph. Theb. Syr. omit them.—E. and T.

Verse 25. - But as for as, A.V.; have believed for believe, A.V.; wrote giving judgment for have written and concluded, A.V.; the R.T. omits the clause rendered that they observe no such thing, save only, in the A.V.; should keep for keep, A.V.; sacrificed for offered, A.V.; what is strangled for strangled, A.V. As touching the Gentiles, etc. What follows is, of course, a quotation from "the decrees that had been ordained of the apostles and elders that were at Jerusalem" (Acts 16:4), of which the text is given in Acts 15:19, 20, 28. Observe the use of the identical words - κρίνω, in Acts 15:19; Acts 16:4; and in this verse; and of ἐπιστέλλω, in this verse and in Acts 15:20, with its cognate διεστειλάμεθα and ἀπεστάλκαμεν, Acts 15:24, 27. This reference on the part of James to the decrees was very important as a confirmation of "the gospel which Paul preached among the Gentiles" (Galatians 2:2). It also marks distinctly the upright and honorable conduct of James, and the concord of the apostles. Acts 21:25Blood

See on Acts 15:29.

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