18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.
19 When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law;
21 but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.
22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come.
23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow.
24 Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.
25 But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from thing soffered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”
26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them.
Peter was the Christ-appointed leader of the Messianic Church in those early days when “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (See Matthew 16:19; Acts 1:15; 2:14; 2:37; 5:29, etc.). We have seen too, how James, “the Lord’s brother” (not even one of the twelve) gradually gained the ascendancy over Peter, probably because of his physical relationship to our Lord. Thus we find Peter reporting to “James and to the brethren” in Acts 12:17. Later Paul mentions James alone as present with Peter at Jerusalem during an earlier visit there (Galatians 1:19). Next we find Peter merely testifying at the council at Jerusalem while James presides and brings the council to close with the words : “Wherefore, I decide” (Acts 15:19). Still later, at Antioch, we see Peter intimidated by “certain who came from James,” so that he separates himself from Gentile believers with whom he has been enjoying fellowship (Galatians 2:11-12). And now Paul and his companions go in unto James, and so final is his authority that the record states merely that “the elders were present” (Acts 21:18). At the council, some 14 years previous, “the apostles and elders” had gathered together to discuss Gentile liberty from the law (Acts 15:6). Now there is no trace of evidence that any of the apostles are even present; the record mentions only “James and the elders.” If any of the twelve apostles are to be included among the “elders,” but are not even designated as apostles, we have still further evidence of the secondary character of their position at this time. James, whose very name means “Supplanter,” has wholly taken over Peter’s position. — Stam, pages 13-14.
forsake Moses (v.21) = apostasy from Moses
Years before, at the great Jerusalem council, Peter had stated that God had put “no difference” between them and the Gentiles, purifying the Gentiles’ hearts by faith. He had further urged his brethren to to place a yoke upon the neck of the Gentile disciples which neither the Jewish fathers nor their children had been able to bear (Acts 15:9-10). He had even gone so far as to say: “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they” (Acts 15:11).
As a result of this magnificent testimony, James, Peter, John and the whole church had given solemn and public recognition to Paul as the apostle of the uncircumcision and the apostle of grace (Acts 15:23-29; Galatians 2:7-9). The church at Jerusalem should have gone on from there, as Peter did (2 Peter 3:15-18) and should have now accepted Paul in accordance with that agreement. But under James and his party they had declined and gone backward, rather than forward, spiritually. — Stam, page 17.
Paul did teach that the law had been fulfilled in Christ and that it was therefore unnecessary to observe its ceremonial rites — and he taught this not only to the Gentiles but also to the Jews which were among them.
“After the reading of the law and the prophets” in the Pisidian synagogue, the rulers asked Paul for a “word of exhortation.” In response the apostles gave them a word of exhortation in respect to each. With respect to the law he exhorted them not to trust in it, but to trust in Christ, saying: “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39). — Stam, page 23.
must certainly meet (v.22) — a meeting in opposition to Paul
pay their expenses (v.24) — It was considered meritorious among rich Jews to pay the expenses for sacrifices for poor Nazarites
shave their heads (v.24) — upon accomplishing their vows during which they were forbidden to do so
Their proposition, therefore, was this: Paul himself was evidently not under a vow at this time, but they had four men who were, and Paul could join publicly with them in their vow by purifying himself and paying for the sacrifices marking the consummation of their vow — a considerable amount, since two doves or pigeons, one he-lamb, one ewe lamb and a ram had to be offered for each of the four (Numbers 6).
This procedure was evidently not uncommon at that time. Indeed, Josephus tells how Agrippa I courted Jewish favor by thus financing Nazarite vows. — Stam, page 29