So did Paul give up his Jewish customs? At times he did, for he did not want to be a stumbling block to others and confuse them (1Co 9:20-22); however, for the most part he kept a lot of the Jewish customs. On his second missionary journey, he hurried back to Jerusalem to keep the Passover (Ac 18:21). On this journey he also seemed to have kept a Nazarite vow (Ac 18:18). On his third missionary journey, he observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread in Philippi (Ac 20:6) and wanted to get to Jerusalem in time for Shavuot [Pentecost] (Ac 20:16). Therefore, Paul did not live like a Gentile in every aspect. However, he was not bothered by blending the two.
So how do we reconcile this? Paul’s main emphasis was that Jesus Christ came and died for the sins of mankind and everyone needs to hear about him, accept him, receive salvation through Him, and receive the Holy Spirit in order to live a life then pleasing to God. Everything else was just tradition. The Law of Moses had shown them their sin (Ro 3:20); keeping it did not save them (Ro 3:23, 28). Salvation through Jesus Christ is for all, both Jew and Gentile (Ro 3:21-31). Paul saw no problem with keeping the Jewish traditions/customs or even the Law itself as long as it was kept in its proper context. It is something one chooses volitionally to do but not committed to do. Therefore, there was no need to impose this on Gentiles as it was not necessary for salvation. However, anyone, either Jew or Gentile can decide to keep the Jewish feasts and any other customs as long as they know this is not making them any better than anyone else (1Co 8:8).
Paul’s teaching is a good lesson for us today. Our customs and heritage are very important to us, as well as they should be. However, we should not let any custom or tradition make us feel superior to anyone else. We are all equal in Christ. Jesus Christ came to die for the salvation of all. It is our faith in him that saves us and that is the equalizer. All other things that we do or do not do are based upon personal conviction and have no bearing on our goodness or righteousness. It is not have much faith we have but the object of our faith that makes the difference. Let’s let Paul’s life be our guide.
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