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What was Paul's vow in Acts 18:18?
by Dr. Brad Black 
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ē What was Paul's vow in Acts 18:18?
"And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow."
This is a very good question because that vow is very important to how Christianity was spread and influenced and how we got several books in the New Testament. Nevertheless, letís start with the basics first. The vow that Paul is talking about is a Nazarite vow. We know this by the verse where it says that Paul had shorn his head. If you look at the requirements for ending a Nazarite vow, they had to shave their head and the hair was burned as a sacrifice unto the Lord. Please read below:
Numbers 6:13-21
King James Version (KJV)
13And this is the law of the Nazarite, when the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall be brought unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation:
14And he shall offer his offering unto the LORD, one he lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin offering, and one ram without blemish for peace offerings,
15And a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings.
16And the priest shall bring them before the LORD, and shall offer his sin offering, and his burnt offering:
17And he shall offer the ram for a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, with the basket of unleavened bread: the priest shall offer also his meat offering, and his drink offering.
18And the Nazarite shall shave the head of his separation at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall take the hair of the head of his separation, and put it in the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offerings.
19And the priest shall take the sodden shoulder of the ram, and one unleavened cake out of the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and shall put them upon the hands of the Nazarite, after the hair of his separation is shaven:
20And the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD: this is holy for the priest, with the wave breast and heave shoulder: and after that, the Nazarite may drink wine.
21This is the law of the Nazarite who hath vowed, and of his offering unto the LORD for his separation, beside that that his hand shall get: according to the vow which he vowed, so he must do after the law of his separation.
You see a Nazarite had to do some very specific things to be a Nazarite. Please see below:
Numbers 6:2-8
King James Version (KJV)
2Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD:
3He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.
4All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk.
5All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.
6All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body.
7He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is upon his head.
8All the days of his separation he is holy unto the LORD
Because of their vow, the Nazarite was whole unto God or they were to be doing the Lordís work. The most famous Nazarite is Samson. In addition, because his hair was cut he no longer was a Nazarite; the Lord left him, and he lost his strength of the Lord. Please read the story in Judges 13-16.

Now that we have some background, we can see why Paulís vow is so important. Paul needed to go back to Jerusalem to fulfill his vow of Nazarite; look again at Numbers 6:21Ē: according to the vow which he vowed, so he must do after the law of his separationĒ So Paul must return to Jerusalem and the temple to fulfill his vow. However, Paul is warned several times not to got Jerusalem.

Acts 20:22-23
King James Version (KJV)
22And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:
23Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
Acts 21:4
And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.

Acts 21:10-12
King James Version (KJV)
10And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.
11And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
12And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.
Because of Paulís vow, he went on to Jerusalem and was put in prison and the rest of the book of Acts is about this experience. However, God used this to help spread the Gospel. Because of Paulís imprisonment, we got the books of Acts and Luke because Luke was a companion of Paul in prison. Most of Paulís epistles were written while his was in prison. We would not have over half of the New Testament if Paul had not been put in prison. While in Rome, Paul also helped spread the Gospel. In the book of Acts, it talks about Paul teaching to all who would come hear him.
Acts 28:30-31
King James Version (KJV)
30And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
31Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.
Now you can see why this vow is so important. We would not have most of the New Testament if Paul had not been compelled to return to Jerusalem to complete his Nazarite Vow. Most likely, he would not have been imprisoned and would have made missionary journeys until he died instead of being forced to reach out to the gentiles through his letters.

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