Journal Acts 16 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation are mine)
Scripture: “Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. (Timothy) was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium.
Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him and he took and circumcised (Timothy) because of the Jews who were in those places (for they all knew (Timothy’s) father was a Greek.
As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem.
So, the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.” (Acts 16:1-5)
Observation: Humm, is this a conflict with the arguments of Chapter 15? No, it isn’t, but it does leave room for head-scratching…
Analysis: A few objectives are listed in this section of scripture:
- Paul wanted to take Timothy with him on a trip to other churches.
- Paul had “observances” to deliver to all the churches visited on this trip.
- The churches were “strengthened in the faith” and had daily increases because of it.
Were these conscious objectives by Paul? The first two he had somewhat control over, the third could only be faithfully hoped for.
I noticed the curve ball being thrown.
In the previous chapter Paul and Barnabas argued against some of the other brother’s insistence that believers MUST be circumcised—not SHOULD, nor ADVISABLE, but MUST. To clarify, these guys said No Circumcision, No Salvation; there isn’t an option.
After deliberation, the subject was taken to the Apostles and the church in Jerusalem where, after MORE deliberation, Peter made a decree, “Not necessary. Since my vision from God about the Gentiles being part of God’s plan for the Church, it is the right thing to do NOT to put this requirement upon them.”
However, when inviting Tim to come along for the ride, Paul asks Timothy to be circumcised.
Was Paul being two-faced about the subject? Short answer: No. If no, why not?
I can only pull from what Paul himself says: “To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” 1 Cor 9:22. Paul and especially Timothy put this principle in action not for any other reason than to serve their opponents who would have stumbled if it wasn’t done.
This is difficult. My tendency is to “stand up for what I think is right. Be unmovable in the face of opposition or disagreement.” Paul and Timothy weren’t being weak, complacent, and accommodating: they were showing strength in the Gospel.
Like I said: difficult.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, when does this get practiced? When is the Col 2:14 firmness appropriate (“But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the Gospel, I said to (Peter) before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” and the Acts 16:1-5 is?
Help me have discernment to know which is appropriate and which is not for the time I need to decide—and keep my tongue controlled when in doubt. AMEN.