“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…Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” Acts 16:1, 3
After the previous chapters’ assurances that circumcision—a Jewish requirement in following the law given by Moses—is not required for salvation, the contrast here caught my attention. The apostles and elders of the early church had just confirmed that while the Gentile believers need to be encouraged to live lives that are pure and holy to God, they should not be made to conform to the law under the old covenant. During Paul’s journey to deliver these words to the scattered churches, we see these verses.
It isn’t a contradiction, only a contrast. It gives us a snapshot of how we are to line up our priorities. It was for the sake of the Jews that Paul and Timothy made this decision. They saw how important it was. Paul writes in Romans 14:13-15, “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother…For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.” This is practical application of that belief. They did not want any stumbling blocks or hindrances placed in the way of their brothers.
May God convict our hearts and open our eyes to know just how vital this is! We hold the key to life and hope for those around us. Let us not miss an opportunity to shine light on grace, to show the character and love of Christ in our actions and allow Him to define our speech and behavior. Nothing matters more. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes these words: “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 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 Corinthians 9:19-22).
Paul willingly made himself a servant to those he wanted to reach. He knew that the people he met, even his fellow believers he sought to encourage and strengthen in faith, would have prejudices and assumptions, baggage they carried. So in an effort to combat those hindrances, he laid down his freedoms and conformed where possible, because their knowing Christ was of much greater value than his own comfort. Timothy didn’t have to be circumcised for his salvation. The Spirit of God had already renewed and revived his soul; forgiveness was his. But if that act would keep the door open for someone else to hear and receive the grace Christ offers, it would be worth the pain. Let us live in the same way. Practically applying the selflessness and compassion of Christ in an effort to reach all that we can. It’s worth it. It’s worth everything.