Acts 16:3 – why?

Why did Paul have Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3) when he strongly resisted such for Titus (Gal. 2:3-5) and the Jerusalem meeting (Acts 15) had just conveyed the understanding that circumcision was not necessary for salvation?

Regarding that very thought and Acts 16:3, a portion of my sermon text this morning, here are comments by C.H. Talbert (from his very helpful book entitled Reading Acts) and by Carl Holladay (in his commentary on Acts in the Harper’s Bible Commentary), respectively:

“There are four major moves to the Gentiles in Acts. . . . In each of these cases, the extension of the gospel to the Gentiles is followed by an episode of Jerusalem approval. . . . In each of the last three instances, after the principle of Gentile inclusion has been established, there is a gesture on the part of the missionaries and/or the Gentile Messianists of solidarity with the other side. . . . It is within this context that 16:1-5 must be understood.”

“By showing that his action enhanced Paul’s and Timothy’s credibility among Jews (perhaps Jewish Christians) in the region, Luke is presenting Paul as sensitive to Jewish concerns (cf. 21:17-26; 22:3; 24:14).”

Or as John R. W. Stott put it:

“To those under the law he [Paul] was prepared to become like one under the law, in order to win those under the law. (1 Cor. 9:20) Was that not exactly what he was doing when he circumcised Timothy, as also some years later when he accepted James’ proposal in Jerusalem that he join in certain Jewish purification rites (Acts 21:17-26)?”

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