Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Did Paul Hypocritically Practice The Law And Tradition Which He Preached Others Not To Do?

Why Apostle Paul Needed A Hair-Cut Vow?

Question : Brother, I have one doubt in Acts 18:18, which says Paul had his hair cut off at Cencherea because of a vow he had taken. Could you please explain me why he need a hair cut?

Answer: Greetings to you in Jesus wonderful name! Apostle Luke the first historian of the Church writes about vow-haircut details that Paul the apostle did in
Acts 18:18 about which he revealed saying, "So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.". Luke does not say exactly what the vow is openly, but it most likely refers to a religious vow which according to the Jewish Law, is a way of expressing thanks in devotion towards God (Psa 56:12).

The Bible never prohibits people to take a vow but it only says that it is totally foolish to take one and not fulfill that which was promised to be fulfilled towards God (Eccl 5:4; Matt 5:33-37). Bible advises people rather not to make a vow rather than to make one and not fulfill it (Eccl 5:5; James 5:12). The law of Moses also reveals the same thing when it says, "21 “When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you. 22 But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you. 23 That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth. " (Deut 23:21-23). Moses spoke about it in details when he said, "If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth." (Num 30:2). The whole chapter of Numbers 30 is all about the do's and don'ts of vow or oath taking towards the Lord.

Vow is made using a material or symbolic gift returned to God as a sign of gratitude for what He does for a person (Psa 76:11). When someone says that a particular thing is holy, it belongs to the Lord, or it is given as a payment of gratitude to the Lord once they receive favor from Him (Prov 20:25). When going through impossible deathly situations of life, a person who appeals to the Lord to help him, and promises to return something or someone in return for the favor he receives from Him is what is known as a vow (Psa 66:14; Job 22:27). All the vow-gift that are returned back to God goes to His temple for the work of the ministry of God that are done through it (Psa 66:13; 116:14-19).

It is a sin to break the vow made to the Lord (Deut 23:21-23), every one who have sinned by breaking his oath unlawfully during the Old Testament time have to offer the trespass offering to the Lord to receive forgiveness from the Lord (Lev 5:4-13). Also there was a special vow that people took to separate themselves for the holy use in the Lord's service and devotion towards Him that was described as Nazarite vow, that is when either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazarite, to separate himself to the Lord,...All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long (Num 6:1-5).

When Jewish men were under a Nazarite vow, normally lasting 30 days and rarely beyond 100 days, or in short periods of mourning [see early Jewish commentaries on Leviticus 10:6] only then did Jewish men refrain from going to a barber. And interestingly, during the time Jewish men would let their hair grow [not to lengths like the hair of women], they were forbidden by God to enter His Temple like that.

While under a Nazarite vow these men devoted themselves to contrition and humility (even shame for some of their actions), and they were required to stay out of God’s Temple during their vow. God would not allow such men letting their hair grow to come before Him in the Temple. But when their period of “shame and contrition” was over, God allowed them to cut their hair at the threshold of the Temple and then, with the sacrifice of an animal and other purification rites, they could then re-enter the Temple.

If that kind of vow is what Paul had taken, then Paul might have vowed that for certain days or months that he would not cut his hair but would give thanks to God and worship him. If that is the reason, probably he would have fasted during this period, refraining from certain foods (1 Cor 7:5-7). At the end of the those days or months he would have cut his hair, having fulfilled his vow.

Paul the apostle always taught that keeping the law was not a salvation requirement, but can be a way of relating to such Jewish people who keep the law. Here is what apostle Paul himself says about his way of life, " 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you." (1 Cor 9:19-23).

The above verse clearly gives us a idea why Paul must have taken vows to keep the law of God even though he was teaching the Gentiles not to follow the law of Moses in order to please God, but walk in the Spirit to live a empowered life of victory and therefore receive great eternal reward (Gal 5:1, 16, 25). Even at the end of his ministry among Gentiles, when God revealed that he must go to Jerusalem and then to Rome, Paul took four men who have taken a vow already to the temple under the instruction of Apostle James and all the elders to make sure that no Jews get offended by the doctrine he had already preached to the Gentiles all over the world (Acts 21:15-30). Years before he took Timothy his apostolic son in the Lord to the temple to make him get circumcised so that it would be easy for him and his apostolic company of people to witness to the Jews who keep the law, who would not normally have any communication with those who do not keep the law and tradition (Acts 16:1-3). But this kind of outreach of becoming all things to all men did have its setback when some of the false brethren tried to bring them back in to bondage to the law and as a result of it Titus being a Greek was compelled to be circumcised (Gal 2:1-10). Paul was clear about the gospel of Jesus Christ which was committed to Him by the personal revelation given to him by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and have clearly told that salvation is a free gift of God from the first day received to the last day lived on this this planet earth (Rom 5:16-19; 6:23), and therefore all humans can only receive by faith in Christ Jesus this free gift of salvation, and therefore the benefits of salvation might get restrained from the believers if after salvation they try to perfect themselves further through keeping the customs of the law (Eph 2:8; Gal 1:11-12; 5:2-4; 3:3).

So from the above exposition we come to understand that Paul cut His hair and kept the vow to make sure all the Jews could relate with him to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ and be saved through faith in Christ Jesus which is the only way for them to get saved from sin (John 8:24; Gal 3:28). At the same time being a born Jew, he would have loved to keep his fleshly appetite under check through fasting and prayer (1 Cor 9:27). This was not done to please God, but to be effective in overcoming sin, overcoming demonic opposition, increase in faith through obedience and be devoted towards the Lord Jesus to fulfill His purpose for his life (Matt 17:19-21; Mark 2:19-20; Acts 1:9; 13:2-3; 14:23).

We also know that many in the pagan religion do the same and give their hair to their so called gods when they have taken a vow, and the fulfillment of their plea comes true. Where ever there is a original God has spoken about in the Bible, Satan as a angel of light wants to replicate it to form man made religions to distract people away from the true God of the Bible (2 Cor 11:13-15; Jer 44:17; Isa 2:20).

In traditional Hindu societies, women do not cut their hair as this is what beautifies a woman and gives her dignity. Therefore, when hair is given as a offering, it is given as an act of devotion towards their deities. Men also make hair offerings as an act of devotion. People in Hindu religion go to the place of pilgrimage, there they have the hair cut/shaving done which are offered to the temple as part of an offering to fulfill some promises they made on some difficult periods or on some sufferings. A Hindu widow after her husband's death, in the past was forced to shave her head in line with Hindu tradition to make the society understand that she is a widow to humiliate her and even a evil custom named as 'Sati' [i.e. burning of the wife who is alive with the dead body of husband] were stopped by missionaries who fought against these customs and made it a crime under the law of the land with the help and effort of the government, now it rarely happens only here and there rarely and sporadically because of the society getting educated through the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Biblical law from the British influence of the past.

So Paul's hair cut is in no way a pagan ritual, or any Jewish ritual that he practiced for salvation of his soul, instead it was just a way in which he related himself to the Jews to make them understand the gospel and also keep himself fit spiritually against the fleshly indulgence that threatens every man to make them purposeless and move away from the perfect will of God (Isa 58:6-9; Rom 12:2).

Much Blessings....


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