What Christian Customs Are Not Lawful?

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Hi J____,
Thank you for your question concerning Act 16:21.

Act 16:20  And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,
Act 16:21  And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.
Act 16:22  And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.
Act 16:23  And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:
Act 16:24  Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

This all came about as the result of Paul casting a demon out of “a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination.”

Act 16:16  And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:
Act 16:17  The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.
Act 16:18  And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.
Act 16:19  And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,

This is all taking place in the Macedonian city of Philippi.

Act 16:12  And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.

You ask:

The customs being referred to are the customs Paul taught. Paul’s customs were the doctrines of Christ. Customs like “Love thine enemies… resist not evil… put up again thy sword, all who take the sword will die by the sword… our citizenship is in heaven… the weapons of our warfare are not carnal… etc., etc.
Here is what Paul tells these very Philippians, and it is the same thing he was teaching in Philippi when this all happened. Paul’s doctrine was consistent from church to church.

Php 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: (ASV)
2Th 2:15  Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

The Jews themselves, while insisting upon the death of Christ at the hand of the Romans, sided with Ceasar against Christ.

Joh 19:15  But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.

It was against the laws of Rome to confess to allegiance to any king but Caesar. So the customs of any who truly live by the words of Christ will always be contrary to the patriotic spirit of any person in any country at any time. Still we are commanded to place obedience to God above every other custom, principle or tradition in our lives.

1Jn 5:2  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
1Jn 5:3  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

There it is. Those are the customs which Paul taught and which robbed the masters of the divining damsel of the “hope of their gain.” That same doctrine deprives both the Romans and the Jews of “the hope of their gain” to this very day. God’s commandments are not referring to the law of Moses. His commandments are now spiritual and deal with the heart. His commandments teach that we are not citizens on this earth, and our allegiance is not to the kings of this earth. That is but one of the many customs Paul taught all who could hear his words.
There is a reason why Christ warned us all that any who truly followed Him would “be hated of all men.”

Mat 10:22  And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

I listed several of those reasons above.  The issue of citizenship  is only one of those reasons.
You also ask “observe what?” It is very unpatriotic to observe Christ’s “Love thine enemies” doctrine. Again, that is only one of many of the doctrines of Christ which deprive both Rome and the Babylonian orthodox Christian world of “the hope of their gains.”
I hope this helps you to see what is the customs taught by Paul, and what it was that he was teaching to those who heard his message to observe and to do.

Your brother in Christ,

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