Same Gospel but Different Package: Acts 16:1-5
“1) Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, 2) and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. 3) Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4) Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe. 5) So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.” Acts‬ ‭16‬:‭1‬-‭5‬ ‭
Some look at this text as being hypocritical. Paul was delivering the decree from the Jerusalem council to the churches, yet he took Timothy and circumcised him. This requires some serious thinking and analysis. Let’s see if we can unpack this dilemma.
Technically, the Jerusalem decree applied to the Gentiles. Jewish believers who put faith in Jesus were free to observe the Law. They were what we call “Messianic Jews.” They put faith in Jesus as the Messiah. He was celebrated as the fulfillment of every prophecy, type, shadow, example and illustration of theological truth in the Old Testament. They were saved by faith in Christ the same way the Gentiles were.
When Paul later went to Jerusalem to keep a vow in the temple himself and to meet with Peter, he discovered the Jewish believers were all zealous for the Law. (See Acts 21:20-21) According to 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul had the liberty to minister to both Jews and Gentiles. He did not force the Gentiles to keep the Law and he did not force the Jews to forsake the Law, but he persuaded all people to put faith in Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
Paul’s message was that both Messianic Jews and believing Gentiles are part of the body of Christ and members of one another. (See Ephesians 2:11-22) To emphasize that point, because Timothy had a Jewish mother and grandmother, he had him circumcised because most of their ministry in that region was ministering to Jews. (See also 2 Timothy 3:14-15)
We make a big deal of Acts 16:1-5 today, but Paul had the freedom “in Christ” to navigate it without skipping a beat. He loved the Old Testament Scriptures and his Jewish heritage. He knew that being Jewish was an advantage (Romans 3:1-4) and he loved his Jewish countrymen. (See Romans 10:1-5; 11:1-5)
I personally believe Paul wrote both the books of Romans and Hebrews. Romans focuses on his Gospel to the Gentiles. Hebrews focuses on his Gospel to the Jews. Both lead to personal faith in Jesus Christ and the foot of the cross. Paul never forgot his audience. Every message he preached pointed people to Jesus Christ. It was the same gospel but in a different package.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global