In an online conversation a while back, a seminary educated (seemingly intelligent) individual, referring to Acts 21:20 said, “In the case of Acts 21 it was weaker brothers who were zealous for the Law.”
That statement stuck in my craw and settled in my ‘draft box’ to ferment… If we take that simple statement and draw a corollary, it would say, ‘Brothers who are strong in the faith don’t concern themselves with obedience to the Law.’ Or, taking it to the next level we could say, ‘The stronger one’s faith is, the less Law they need to keep…’
So… Just how strong does one’s faith need to be for, say, lying? Stronger faith lets you steal as well? Still stronger you can…
I knew this sentiment, “weaker brothers were zealous for the Law,” a lie straight from the pit of hell, was in different corners of Christendom, but did not realize how pervasive until I started digging a little…
I have an IVP commentary on the Book of Acts written by one of my seminary professors, William J. Larkin, Jr., Ph.D. Early, as I was coming to a full understand of our Father’s Ways, I pulled it off the shelf to scrutinize his treatment of various passages in Acts that I was seeing as having been flipped upside down by Christendom. Acts 21:20 was one such passage. Larkin says,
While it is easy to see how such implications might be drawn from Paul’s teaching of a law-free gospel, there is no evidence that Paul ever instructed Jewish Christians this way (Rom 2:25-30; Gal 5:6; 6:15). In fact, Paul was most scrupulous not to offend the conscience of the “weaker brother,” the Jewish Christian who maintained ancestral customs, and even went so far as to have Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3; Rom 14:1–15:13).
Of course, he trots out the demonstrably fallacious ‘civil, ceremonial and moral law’ divisions that I’ve written about before.
Now, lest you think I have taken it out of context, we are blessed to have the whole book available online!! Notice that he never addresses the very clear statement at the end of verse 24 that says, James speaking to Paul,
but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law.
According to Larkin, ‘zealous for the Law’ = ‘weaker brother.’
Hoping to NOT find more of this sentiment I read some C. E. B. Cranfield and will come back to that, because he pleasantly surprised me… until….
First, another online resource that demonstrates the gravity and pervasiveness of this undermining of obedience is at our finger tips!! Bible Hub, a supposed quality resource, has these quotes from commentaries on its Acts 21:20 page:
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary: … James and the elders of the church at Jerusalem, asked Paul to gratify the believing Jews, by some compliance with the ceremonial law. They thought it was prudent in him to conform thus far. It was great weakness to be so fond of the shadows, when the substance was come. The religion Paul preached, tended not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. He preached Christ, the end of the law for righteousness, and repentance and faith, in which we are to make great use of the law. The weakness and evil of the human heart strongly appear, when we consider how many, even of the disciples of Christ, had not due regard to the most eminent minister that even lived. Not the excellence of his character, nor the success with which God blessed his labours, could gain their esteem and affection, seeing that he did not render the same respect as themselves to mere ceremonial observances…
Pulpit Commentary: … All zealous for the Law. This is a remarkable testimony to the unanimity of the Christian Jews in their attachment to the Law of Moses, and throws light upon the Epistle to the Galatians and many other passages in St. Paul’s Epistles. It explains the great difficulty experienced in the early Church in dealing with converts from Judaism.Zealous (ζηλωταὶ). So the fierce sect of Zealots were called at the time of the Jewish wars (see Josephus, ‘ Bell. Jud.,’ 4. 6:1, and elsewhere).
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible: … and they are all zealous of the law; of the law of Moses, of the ceremonial law, as Paul might see by their being at Jerusalem, to keep this feast; for though they believed in Jesus of Nazareth as the true Messiah, yet they had not light enough to see, that he was the sum and substance of all the ceremonies of the law, and that they all ended in him; and therefore were zealous in the observance of them, and could not bear to hear of their abrogation.
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible: … And they are all zealous of the law – They still observe the Law of Moses. The reference here is to the law respecting circumcision, sacrifices, distinctions of meats and days, festivals, etc. It may seem remarkable that they should still continue to observe those rites, since it was the manifest design of Christianity to abolish them. But we are to remember: (1) That those rites had been appointed by God, and that they were trained to their observance. (2) that the apostles conformed to them while they remained at Jerusalem, and did not deem it best to set themselves violently against them, Acts 3:1; Luke 24:53. (3) that the question about their observance had never been agitated at Jerusalem. It was only among the Gentile converts that the question had risen, and there it must arise, for if they were to be observed, they must have been imposed upon them by authority. (4) the decision of the council Acts 15 related only to the Gentile converts. It did not touch the question whether those rites were to be observed by the Jewish converts. (5) it was to be presumed that as the Christian religion became better understood – that as its large, free, and catholic nature became more and more developed, the special institutions of Moses would be laid aside of course, without agitation and without tumult. Had the question been agitated at Jerusalem, it would have excited tenfold opposition to Christianity, and would have rent the Christian church into factions, and greatly retarded the advance of the Christian doctrine. We are to remember also:….
Yaddaa, yadda, yech!!
Yep… there are more. Enough to demonstrate the utter contempt Christendom has for the Law of God, Jews, and the very context for right understanding of Scripture, statements to the contrary not withstanding. Makes me ill. (Now you know why I can’t even read most commentaries! Many parts are undiluted poison.)
Notice the presupposed idea that ‘Jesus’ came to establish some new religion! Further, pay attention to the contempt for Jews and their love of God’s Law!
I guess the ‘well
educated indoctrinated’ pastor quoted in the opening paragraph was only parroting what he had been taught… Why think if you don’t have to!
In his two volume International Critical Commentary on Romans, C. E. B. Cranfield has an interesting comment about Acts 21:20 and zeal in his notes on Romans 10:2 (Volume 2, pg.514). He says,
Such zeal for God is the hallmark of orthodox Judaism in every century. ‘Every page of Rabbinic literature’, observes Billerbeck, ‘reminds one of this word of the apostle.’ Both ζῆλον and Θεοῦ are emphatic and important here. Their zeal is a zeal for God. It has no heathen fanaticism of an empty ideology, but zeal for the true God…. There is no support here for any patronizing superciliousness on the part of Christians, Indeed orthodox Judaism puts much that passes for Christianity , and even much true Christianity, to shame both in respect of the seriousness of its zeal and by the fact that its zeal is really zeal for God.
Sounds good, right? Defending the zeal of the Jews in their observance of God and HIS Law. Well… some pages later (694-695) in his discussion of Romans 14 and the weaker brother Cranfield determines that,
…weakness of the weak consisted in a continuing concern with literal obedience of the ceremonial part of the OT law… the weak, while neither thinking they were putting God in their debt by their obedience nor yet deliberately trying to force all other Christians to conform to their pattern, felt that, as far as they themselves were concerned, they could not with a clear conscience give up the observance of such requirements of the law as the distinction between clean and unclean foods, the avoidance of blood, the keeping of the Sabbath and the other special days.
Yeah, I guess these guys simply cannot understand what עוֹלָ֔ם , olam means. To understand that word is to destroy their replacement religion. But, I digress.
In my opening statement I quote a pastor as having said, “In the case of Acts 21 it was weaker brothers who were zealous for the Law.” I wonder if he thinks David, King of Israel was weak in faith. Maybe Moses was weak in faith? How about the apostles? Were they weak in faith? (See my MANY posts revealing that Paul ALWAYS kept the whole Law!) And, the biggie… Yeshua’s faith was the weakest of all, because He kept the Law perfectly!!
Wow. Just boggles the mind at that level of twistedness to warp Scripture into that pretzel… Truly, sad!
To my readers, GET. OUT. OF. BABYLON! Return to the ancient paths, where the good way is and you will find rest unto your souls! (Jeremiah 6:16-19) Yeshua our Mediator has made a way through His blood sacrifice to allow us back into covenant! Let us not be sidetracked or blinded by the false religious systems of men… Judaism OR Christianity. Rather, find and walk in The Way. (Acts 24:14)