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Question: Should Christians make a Vow?
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Acts 18: 18 So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.
19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.
20 When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent,
21 but took leave of them, saying, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem;
but I will return again to you, God willing.” And he sailed from Ephesus.
22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch.
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In summary, In order to keep his vow, Paul leaves Corinth, cuts his hair, and goes to Jerusalem to attend a feast.

What is a vow?

A vow is an action that one promises to others or to God. An oath is very similar. While swearing, as in swearing to keep an oath, is invoking something dear to you to convince another that you will do as you say.

In marriage we exchange vows to each other. The vows are our public promises to each other with God and man as our witnesses.

In court in the United States, we swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God, while placing our hand on the Bible.

Also in the United States while accepting a government office or military position, we take an oath to serve and to protect.

Vows are special commitments we make to others and/or to God.

Vows are often mentioned in the Old Testament. I observed a few types of vows, such as, the conditional “if – then” type vow. For example, if God gives me this, then I will offer Him this. Then I also observed a consecration type vow, like the Nazarite vow. This type of vow is not motivated to get something, but is motivated by making a deeper commitment to God.

God is very serious regarding vows, and if they are not kept, one should expect chastisement. Therefore, do not be rash and count the cost before making any vow.
Eccl. 5 :1 Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.
2 Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few.
3 For a dream comes through much activity, And a fool’s voice is known by his many words.
4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed—
5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.
6 Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands?

So should Christians take a vow?

As with the marriage vow, I can see how promising God you will do something can bring your level of commitment to a higher level. For example, I know of a girl who committed to stay a virgin until she was married. The symbol of her commitment was a purity ring. She never called this a vow, but I think essentially this promise to stay pure is a vow. Another example is some church members fill out commitment cards to provide future funds for a building project or another work for God’s kingdom. They are putting their commitment in writing.

Could a vow be used to improve personal spiritual disciplines?

Yes, I think a vow could be used to improve spiritual disciplines. For example, if you promise God you will read the Bible and pray everyday for a period of time. Imagine how much more motivated you would be to read and pray after you made the promise than if you didn’t make the promise. This could apply to just about any spiritual activity you have been neglecting.

What about conditional vows?

Now personally, I just don’t feel comfortable with the conditional “if -then type” vow. It just seems like your making deals with God. However, the Old Testament has good and bad examples of this type of vow. What do you guys think?

What about Paul’s Vow?

Now regarding Paul, we are not told much about his vow. I read four commentaries, and they did not agree with each other. Some thought this was a Nazarite vow while others thought not. I don’t think it was a Nazarite vow because the law required him to cut his hair at the door of the tabernacle. If Paul was on his way to Jerusalem to keep the feast and to fulfill a Nazarite vow, then why did he cut his hair in Cenchrea, a bay town near Corinth. And the text says nothing of Paul going to the Temple when he arrived in Jerusalem, but it only mentions that he visited the church there. So Paul’s vow here is a mystery and we would only be speculating as to his motive behind the vow. However, he sure seemed committed to keep his vow, even to the point of leaving his work at Corinth, not staying in Ephesus, and traveling all the way to Israel to keep the feast.

What about Jesus’s words regarding not taking any oaths?

Now some Christians take Jesus words in Matthew 5:33-35 as a command to not vow, take any oath, nor to swear. However, the four commentaries I read agreed that this was Jesus correcting the Jews that they were making rash oaths and they were wording their oaths so they could technically get out of them without being guilty. Therefore, Jesus was teaching there is no point in making an oath like that, but that they should instead be honest with each other.

Conclusion

Other than my wedding vows, the subject of vows is very new to me. I am open to other people’s study in this subject. Please make comments below.

Below are some links and references regarding vows.

God bless,

Bob at @smallgroupbible

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References

The best link I found regarding the Bible’s teaching on vows.
https://bible.org/seriespage/value-vow-leviticus-27

John Calvin’s commentary regarding Jesus’s teaching on oaths.
http://www.studylight.org/com/cal/view.cgi?bk=39&ch=5

Various other internet search quotes and scripture references regarding vows.

Ligonier Ministry
But why do human beings even need to make oaths and vows? It is because of sin. Scripture says that “all mankind are liars” (Ps. 116:11), not because people tell nothing except lies but because we are all prone to twist the truth and to look for wiggle room when it comes time to fulfill our promises. Thus, we swear oaths to assure others of our trustworthiness. In taking an oath or vow in God’s name, we are saying that our word is so truthful that we are willing to suffer the judgment of the Lord if we break it. Even if no man sees us break our word, God will, and He will hold us accountable. Oaths are tangible signs by which we guarantee the authenticity of our promises. On a divine level, however, God swears oaths not because He is untrustworthy; rather, He swears oaths as a condescension to us, to give us help in trusting His promises.

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Scripture References
Genesis 28
20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on,
21 “so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God.
22 “And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

Lev 22
21 ‘And whoever offers a sacrifice of a peace offering to the LORD, to fulfill his vow, or a freewill offering from the cattle or the sheep, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it.

Numbers 6
1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD,
3 ‘he shall separate himself from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins.
4 ‘All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin.
5 ‘All the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the LORD, he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.
6 ‘All the days that he separates himself to the LORD he shall not go near a dead body.
7 ‘He shall not make himself unclean even for his father or his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because his separation to God is on his head.
8 ‘All the days of his separation he shall be holy to the LORD.
9 ‘And if anyone dies very suddenly beside him, and he defiles his consecrated head, then he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing; on the seventh day he shall shave it.
10 ‘Then on the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting;
11 ‘and the priest shall offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, and make atonement for him, because he sinned in regard to the corpse; and he shall sanctify his head that same day.
12 ‘He shall consecrate to the LORD the days of his separation, and bring a male lamb in its first year as a trespass offering; but the former days shall be lost, because his separation was defiled.
13 ‘Now this is the law of the Nazirite: When the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall be brought to the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
14 ‘And he shall present his offering to the LORD: one male lamb in its first year without blemish as a burnt offering, one ewe lamb in its first year without blemish as a sin offering, one ram without blemish as a peace offering,
15 ‘a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and their grain offering with their drink offerings.
16 ‘Then the priest shall bring them before the LORD and offer his sin offering and his burnt offering;
17 ‘and he shall offer the ram as a sacrifice of a peace offering to the LORD, with the basket of unleavened bread; the priest shall also offer its grain offering and its drink offering.
18 ‘Then the Nazirite shall shave his consecrated head at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and shall take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offering.
19 ‘And the priest shall take the boiled shoulder of the ram, one unleavened cake from the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and put them upon the hands of the Nazirite after he has shaved his consecrated hair,
20 ‘and the priest shall wave them as a wave offering before the LORD; they are holy for the priest, together with the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering. After that the Nazirite may drink wine.’
21 “This is the law of the Nazirite who vows to the LORD the offering for his separation, and besides that, whatever else his hand is able to provide; according to the vow which he takes, so he must do according to the law of his separation.”
22 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:
24 “The LORD bless you and keep you;
25 The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;
26 The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” ’
27 “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”

Numbers 21
1 The king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South, heard that Israel was coming on the road to Atharim. Then he fought against Israel and took some of them prisoners.
2 So Israel made a vow to the LORD, and said, “If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.”
3 And the LORD listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of that place was called Hormah.[fn]

Numbers
1 Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which the LORD has commanded:
2 “If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.
3 “Or if a woman makes a vow to the LORD, and binds herself by some agreement while in her father’s house in her youth,
4 “and her father hears her vow and the agreement by which she has bound herself, and her father holds his peace, then all her vows shall stand, and every agreement with which she has bound herself shall stand.
5 “But if her father overrules her on the day that he hears, then none of her vows nor her agreements by which she has bound herself shall stand; and the LORD will release her, because her father overruled her.
6 “If indeed she takes a husband, while bound by her vows or by a rash utterance from her lips by which she bound herself,
7 “and her husband hears it, and makes no response to her on the day that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her agreements by which she bound herself shall stand.
8 “But if her husband overrules her on the day that he hears it, he shall make void her vow which she took and what she uttered with her lips, by which she bound herself, and the LORD will release her.
9 “Also any vow of a widow or a divorced woman, by which she has bound herself, shall stand against her.
10 “If she vowed in her husband’s house, or bound herself by an agreement with an oath,
11 “and her husband heard it, and made no response to her and did not overrule her, then all her vows shall stand, and every agreement by which she bound herself shall stand.
12 “But if her husband truly made them void on the day he heard them, then whatever proceeded from her lips concerning her vows or concerning the agreement binding her, it shall not stand; her husband has made them void, and the LORD will release her.
13 “Every vow and every binding oath to afflict her soul, her husband may confirm it, or her husband may make it void.
14 “Now if her husband makes no response whatever to her from day to day, then he confirms all her vows or all the agreements that bind her; he confirms them, because he made no response to her on the day that he heard them.
15 “But if he does make them void after he has heard them, then he shall bear her guilt.”
16 These are the statutes which the LORD commanded Moses, between a man and his wife, and between a father and his daughter in her youth in her father’s house.

1 Sam 1
11 Then she made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”

Ecc 5
4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed—
5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.
6 Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse[fn] and destroy the work of your hands?

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