Today's reading tells the story of Paul returning from a missionary trip and going to the home of James, Jesus' brother. During the visit Paul was informed, "They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs." (v. 21). This is, of course, not true so Paul asks what he should do. The reply is, "Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses," (v24).
Often a Jew who has been in Gentile territory for a lengthy time would undergo ritual purification upon returning to his homeland. OK, but what is the point of all of this? I feel the point is that sometimes believers must submit to authorities to avoid offending others, especially when such offense would hinder the spreading of the Word. Thus, even though Paul did not fully agree, he did go through the purification ritual and paid for the others to do the same.
Those who think Paul may have been wrong for going along with this request perhaps overlook one of the marks of Paul's ministry. I am speaking about 1 Corinthians 9:30, "When I am with the Jews, I become one of them so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with those who follow the Jewish laws, I do the same, even though I am not subject to the law, so that I can bring them to Christ." This was one of those times when it was not worth it to offend the Jewish authorities. Spreading the Word is too important to push others away by not complying with a custom.
Wishing you the best in your walk with Christ,