What does Acts 21:23 mean?
ESV: Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow;
NIV: so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow.
NASB: Therefore, do as we tell you: we have four men who have a vow upon themselves;
CSB: Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have made a vow.
NLT: Here’s what we want you to do. We have four men here who have completed their vow.
KJV: Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;
NKJV: Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow.
Verse Commentary:
Before Paul followed Jesus, he persecuted the church. He chased Christians down, arresting them, and voting for their execution (Acts 26:10). After Paul met Jesus in Damascus and returned to Jerusalem, the church didn't believe news about his conversion. Barnabas had to take the chance to determine if he had really changed. Then he went all over Jerusalem, preaching about Jesus so aggressively he got death threats. So the church elders sent him home to Tarsus (Acts 9:26–30).

Years later, Paul and Barnabas came to Jerusalem to confront James about the Pharisaical Christians he sent to Syrian Antioch and Galatia who kept telling the Gentile Christians they needed to be circumcised (Acts 15:1–4; Galatians 2:12). James disavowed the messengers, saying he never sent them, and agreed Gentiles did not have to convert to Judaism to follow the Jewish Messiah (Acts 15:6–29).

Given all this, it's understandable that the elders of the church in Jerusalem have mixed feelings about Paul's presence. They're happy his mission to build up churches and bring Jews and Gentiles to Christ is so successful (Acts 21:19–20). But the Pharisee-Christians are spreading a new rumor: that Paul is telling not just Gentiles, but Jews as well, to abandon the Mosaic law (Acts 21:21).

The solution the elders come up with is for Paul to take part in a very public Jewish religious rite. Four men have reached the end of their Nazirite vow, but they each need a significant sacrifice to finish. If Paul provides the animals they need, he will prove he is still dedicated to a proper understanding of the Law.
Verse Context:
Acts 21:17–26 is an account of Paul reporting to the "upper management" of the early church. He has spent the last several years along the coastline of the Aegean Sea, establishing the church in Ephesus and building up the congregations in Troas, Macedonia, and Corinth. Now he returns to Jerusalem to give an account of his ministry. James and the elders of the Jerusalem church also have news: a rumor is going around claiming Paul teaches that Jews who worship with Gentiles should entirely forsake the Mosaic law. Ironically, when he cooperates with the elders' recommendation to prove his respect for Old Testament truth, Paul is again falsely accused and arrested.
Chapter Summary:
In Acts 21, Paul returns to Judea from his third missionary journey and promptly gets arrested. He begins by visiting Philip in Caesarea Maritima. Church elders in Jerusalem ask Paul to help men fulfill a Nazirite vow, to dispel rumors he has apostatized his Jewishness. While doing so, Ephesian Jews accuse Paul of bringing one of his Gentile Ephesian companions into the temple. The Roman military tribune keeps the enraged crowd from tearing Paul limb from limb by arresting him.
Chapter Context:
Acts 21 fulfills the fears of many of Paul's friends. Throughout the last part of his third missionary journey the Holy Spirit has been telling him he will be arrested in Jerusalem (Acts 20:23–25). When Paul reacts to dire personal prophecy, the Jesus-followers in Caesarea Maritima try to stop him from going on (Acts 21:8–14). Through a complicated trail of rumors, lies, and wrong assumptions, things go according to the Holy Spirit's foreknowledge and Roman soldiers arrest Paul. He will face the next 5 years in custody in Caesarea and Rome, but he will spread Jesus' story the entire time (Acts 22—28).
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
Accessed 6/14/2024 8:40:09 PM
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