Today I want to show you some surefire NT evidence that Paul kept the Law even AFTER his encounter with the risen Yeshua.
Let’s take a look at some Biblical passages from the Book of Acts.
“On hearing it, they praised God; but they also said to him, “You see, brother, how many tens of thousands of believers there are among the Judeans, and they are all zealots for the Torah. Now what they have been told about you is that you are teaching all the Jews living among the Goyim to apostatize from Moshe, telling them not to have a b’rit-milah for their sons and not to follow the traditions.
“What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. So do what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow. Take them with you, be purified with them, and pay the expenses connected with having their heads shaved. Then everyone will know that there is nothing to these rumors which they have heard about you; but that, on the contrary, you yourself stay in line and keep the Torah.
“However, in regard to the Goyim who have come to trust in Yeshua, we all joined in writing them a letter with our decision that they should abstain from what had been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what is strangled and from fornication.”
The next day Paul took the men, purified himself along with them and entered the Temple to give notice of when the period of purification would be finished and the offering would have to be made for each of them. The seven days were almost up when some unbelieving Jews from the province of Asia saw him in the Temple, stirred up all the crowd and grabbed him. “Men of Israel, help!” they shouted. “This is the man who goes everywhere teaching everyone things against the people, against the Torah and against this place! And now he has even brought some Goyim into the Temple and defiled this holy place!”-Acts 21:20-28
Let me start off first by reminding you that the New Testament assumes its readers know Torah.
So for anybody with even a cursory understanding of Torah, it should be pretty obvious that the above verses from the Book of Acts are dealing with four men who had become defiled during the period of their Nazarite vow.
How do we know this?
We know this because the men are entering a 7-day purification period and that involves the following two things:
-purchasing the proper sacrifices
-shaving one’s head
Notice how we’re told that Paul also had his head shaved and participated in the purification rites together with the men.
The evidence is in folks and there’s no denying it.
Paul had undertaken the vow of a Nazarite.
Now some pastors or Bible teachers may say that Paul just joined the men in the purification rituals as just an act of unity or to show sympathy.
No such thing.
Taking a Nazarite vow before the Lord was a very, very serious matter.
There is no way Paul would have have been putting on some act as a show of unity.
Let’s take a close look at the words of James the Just to Paul in this passage:
“Take them with you, be purified with them, and pay the expenses connected with having their heads shaved. Then everyone will know that there is nothing to these rumors which they have heard about you; but that, on the contrary, you yourself stay in line and keep the Torah.”-Acts 21:24
Apparently, there were rumors going around that Paul was a Torah breaker and James wanted to put these rumors to rest.
Here’s the thing.
James knew that once Paul underwent the Nazarite purification rituals, he was going to be walking around Jerusalem bald-headed.
That would have a been a clear and unmistakeable sign to anyone he encountered that he followed the Law of Moses.
I mean there would have been no doubt.
There’s also another verse in Acts that informs us that Paul was at the end of a Nazarite vow (of course, you’re only going to realize this if you know Torah).
Here’s the verse:
“Paul remained for some time,
then said good-bye to the brothers
and sailed off to Syria,
after having his hair cut short in Cenchrea,
because he had taken a vow;
with him were Priscilla and Aquila.”
One issue that needs to be addressed here is that the completion of a Nazarite vow is supposed to take place at the Temple in Jerusalem.
Normally, one’s hair was shaved off in Jerusalem, offered up as a sacrifice and then burned.
So why did Paul get his hair cut in Cenchrea?
My answer is I don’t know for sure, but there are some possible reasons we can think of.
Possibly during these times, rabbinic law permitted Jews who had taken the Nazarite vow and were dispersed in a location far from the Temple to cut their hair in whatever foreign land they were currently residing in and then maybe store their hair to be brought to the Temple at a later date.
Or maybe Paul didn’t have his hair completely shaved.
Maybe he just had it trimmed a bit and then afterwards when he went to Jerusalem he was planning to have it completely shaved.
I’m not 100% sure.
One final question I want to attempt to answer is how was a Nazarite really different from a Levite?
I mean the Levites are the ones God has chosen to be dedicated to Him for lifelong service, right?
So why even have Nazarites?
That’s a challenging question for sure.
First, one major difference is that Levite Priests were those who were born into lifelong service to HASHEM.
In fact, the Levites were’t even considered a part of Israel.
However, a Nazarite was somebody who was an ordinary Israelite who of his own voluntary will decided to fully dedicate himself to God for a certain period of time.
This may be similar to a believer who decides to be a missionary for a year or two to a foreign country.