When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them. (Acts 21:17-26)
James the brother of Jesus is now leader of the church in Jerusalem. He and the church council gave Paul a warning.
The many devout Jews who have come to believe in salvation through Jesus will hear of Paul’s arrival. They have been told wrongly that Paul has taught new Jewish believers elsewhere to reject Jewish law and customs. So James advises Paul for his safety to show that he himself remains a good Jew; and to do so by assisting the 4 men to fulfill their vow.
As for non-Jewish believers, James said, ‘We have already told them how much of the old Jewish law we feel they need to keep.’
However James’s plan did not succeed. Next time we’ll read how Paul would be attacked by a mob.