One of our dear brothers has stopped coming to church because he is wrestling with two questions: (1) Why do many Christian theologians believe that Paul kept Nazirite vows and offered sacrifices at the temple, even after the crucifixion, if the Old Testament law was done away with? (2) One small and predictable change to an O.T. law about circumcising gentile converts (in Acts 15) caused massive turmoil in the predominantly Jewish first century church. If the other Old Testament laws also were abrogated, why then isn't any comparable fuss recorded in the New Testament? -- L.P.
At last, a reply. We receives 1000s of emails, and sometimes the backlog takes a couple of years to clear [original Q sent in 2011; reply 2015]. Anyway, hope I can help you now!
Right -- most commentators see Paul as adopting a Nazirite vow as a temporary expedient, to emphasize solidarity with his Jewish Christian brothers. This fits nicely with Paul’s outreach strategy outlined in the second half of 1 Cor 9. The reason circumcision was such a big deal – as opposed to, say, the command to wear blue tassels on your cloak (Num 15:38) – is that it is one of the three major markers of Judaism. The other two are Sabbath observance and keeping kosher. It also helps to know how huge an issue circumcision was during the Seleucid and Hasmonean periods, when many Jews chose death over compromising in this area. Last, there was a difference between following Torah (all or part) as a matter of culture and as a matter of justification or righteousness. Those Christians in the first generation or two following Pentecost understood clearly that salvation was by grace through faith in Christ alone -- even if they preferred to continue following ancestral customs.
But to quit the fellowship just because not all if one's questions are answered -- this is not a mature behavior. In fact, such a disposition would soon have us all leaving church. I say this because of this question: Don't all of us have some unanswered questions? Is God's grace not sufficient to support us during the months or years or decades it may take to receive clarity?