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The Book of Acts Series

Acts, Chapter 22

John Baugh

March, 2010

Acts 22 (New American Standard Bible)

From Acts 21:

 

39But Paul said, "I am a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city; and I beg you, allow me to speak to the people."

 40When he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the stairs, motioned to the people with his hand; and when there was a great hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect, saying,

 

The last two verses of Chapter 21 of Acts serves as the introduction to Chapter 22 where we read Luke's record of Paul's defense to the Jews of Jerusalem. Chapter 22 opens with Paul speaking to the mob of Jews assembled at the barracks of the Roman Cohort.

 

Acts, Chapter 22

 

Paul's Defense before the Jews

 

1"Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you."

 

 2And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet; and he said,

 

 3"I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today. 4"I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, 5as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished.

Everything in Paul's introduction of his defense is stated to entice the Hews to listen to what he has to say.

1 - He begins by referring to the Jews, who Luke tells us are now carefully listening, as brothers and fathers. These are terms of respect they would assume they deserved.

2 - He then tells them that he himself is a Jew, even though he has (also truthfully) claimed his Roman citizenship to the Roman guards.

3 - Paul speaks to the crowd in their own language, Aramaic, a dialect of Hebrew, which is spoken throughout the city.

4 - He tells them he was born in the university city of Tarsus.

5 - He informs them of his rabbinical instruction, under the honored name of the great teacher Rabbi Gamaliel. Gamaliel, who had died only a year or two earlier, was one of five Jewish rabbis regarded as the greatest of all time. His nickname was "The Beauty of the Law," because of his insight and understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures.

6 - Paul reminds the mob that he, too, was as filled with zeal as they, and he even commends them for the zeal they are manifesting. Even though their zeal was mistaken, nevertheless it was sincere. He says "I know just how you feel. I felt that way too when I persecuted this band of Christians that you call 'the Way.'" He tells them that the whole Sanhedrin can bear witness that he was genuinely, sincerely, honestly zealous against the Christian cause, breathing out threats and slaughter.

 

He goes on from there to tell them the simple story of his conversion:

6"But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, 7and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?'

 8"And I answered, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said to me, 'I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.' 9"And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. 10"And I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.'

 11"But since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus.

 

 

In his defense, Paul uses his most powerful form of witness. He speaks of the events on the road to Damascus which led to his conversion.

He makes no attempt to preach to these people. His testimony is very solid ground. Regarding what happened to him, he is the highest authority and was able to speak to the crowd with great logic and conviction and so he tells his story with simplicity and little elaboration. Despite of his hostility to Christianity he was converted. This story has been told by Luke once, already. This record is Paul's version.

He continues on with his commission as an apostle:

 

 12"A certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13came to me, and standing near said to me, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight!' And at that very time I looked up at him. 14"And he said, 'The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. 15For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.'

There is no doubt that Ananias was a man of great courage. For him to do what he did - to go to the most feared man in Damascus, who had the authority to have him placed in chains and carried away to prison, and heal him, then call him brother - was a remarkable witness to his trust in the Lord.

Paul goes on:

The things Paul is telling the Jews have been in his memory for over 30 years, but he tells them as freshly as if they had happened a year earlier.

There is a reason he remembers so well. This is the point when Ananias conveyed the apostle commission to him.

The commission had three parts or aspects of ministry, as Paul clearly details.

1 - He was chosen to know the will of God, and from that knowledge he obtained the power by which he was to minister. As an apostle, Paul was sent out as a pattern Christian. That is what apostles are. They are not special people living at a high level of spiritual life, to which none of us can ever expect to attain. They live at the very level we are to live on.

The first thing that Paul was taught was to know the will of God, which was not where God wanted him to go, or what God wanted him to do. What Paul had to learn was that the will of God is a relationship to his Son. When Paul understood that, he had all the power he needed to do anything God asked him to do. That is the will of God - to have a relationship with Christ Jesus.

2 - On that basis, Paul was to see the Just One, the Lord Jesus. As he makes his presentation to the Jews, Paul looks back on his years and says, "This is what made me an apostle. I have seen Jesus Christ many times. He has appeared to me, and talked to me. He told me, directly and personally, the things that the other apostles learned when they were with him as disciples. That is how I know them." And, motivated by the love of Jesus Christ and an awareness of the majesty of his Person, Paul pushed on ceaselessly, out into the far regions of earth, performing his apostolic ministry.

3 - Paul was to hear a voice from the Lord's mouth. That was his message -- to declare what Jesus Christ had said to him. It was the same message Jesus had given to the twelve, in the days of his flesh. That is how the eleven disciples (the twelve minus Judas) knew that Paul was a true apostle -- because he knew what they knew. And that constitutes the same message that God has for all of us today -- the words of his mouth, which Jesus had given to the Apostle Paul.

 

In the next section Paul recites a very strange thing. It is the confrontation he had with Jesus in Jerusalem:

17"It happened when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I fell into a trance, 18and I saw Him saying to me, 'Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.' 19And I said, Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You. 20And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the coats of those who were slaying him.' 21"And He said to me, 'Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'"

 

It is strange that Paul should include this episode in his account on this occasion. Of course, this event explains how and why he ultimately went to the Gentiles. In a way he testifies against himself here. He covers an episode which had occurred some twenty-seven years earlier when, three years after his conversion, he came back to Jerusalem intending to be the apostle to Israel and to preach to this nation about Jesus Christ. He apparently was convinced that he was equipped with all it took to reach Israel with the gospel, but nevertheless had to be lowered down over the city wall at Damascus in a basket to escape a plot by the Jews in that town to kill him. Discouraged by the events in Damascus, he moved on to Jerusalem to preach to Israel, but even the Christians of Jerusalem would not receive him and the apostles would have nothing to do with him, either.

Brokenhearted, he came into the temple to pray. There the Lord Jesus met him and said, "Get out of Jerusalem. Make haste, get out! They will not accept your testimony!" The strange thing is that, twenty-seven years later, here he is in Jerusalem again and Jesus has already said the very same thing to him (when he was with the believers in Ephesus) "Do not go to Jerusalem! They will not accept your testimony." Though Paul had been warned through the Spirit, he had tried anyway, and now he has come to exactly the same place.

At this point, his attempt to address the crowd explodes in his face:

22They listened to him up to this statement, and then they raised their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!"

 

23And as they were crying out and throwing off their cloaks and tossing dust into the air, 24the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, stating that he should be examined by scourging so that he might find out the reason why they were shouting against him that way.

 

Obviously, the Jews were very offended by Paul's statement. It had never been their intention to listen to his message of salvation by a Messiah they had never accepted and had been responsible for ignoring, condemning and finally eliminating while he was with them. IF they had no respect for him when he was alive, there was little reason to believe that many of them would accept him on the basis of the words of a follower, and so they reacted to Paul's message the same way they reacted to Jesus' message. They sought to kill him. And began to ready themselves to stone him, (throwing off their cloaks as they did just before killing Stephen).

The commander likely had no idea what Paul was saying to the crowd, because the apostle had been speaking in Aramaic. And when the place all of a sudden erupts he does not know what to make of it. So he thinks, "We'll get the truth out of him -- we'll scourge (beat) it out of him!" Scourging was a brutal and bloody process of beating a man on the bare back with leather thongs in which were imbedded pieces of metal and bone. It would have torn Paul's back to a bloody pulp. That was the cruel method the Romans used. It was the very thing that was done to Jesus the Day he was crucified.

25But when they stretched him out with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?" 26When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and told him, saying, "What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman." 27The commander came and said to him, "Tell me, are you a Roman?" And he said, "Yes." 28The commander answered, "I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money." And Paul said, "But I was actually born a citizen." 29Therefore those who were about to examine him immediately let go of him; and the commander also was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had put him in chains.

 

Roman law stated that no Roman was to be bound without due process of law. Furthermore, they were not to be beaten (Scourged) under any circumstances, even if convicted. The penalty for doing so was death. So the centurion knew he was in trouble when he learned that Paul was a Roman citizen.

It is interesting that in this case God used the laws of the state to protect his apostle.

Although we may stumble and falter, when we are doing God's work, for his kingdom, He will never abandon us. He never leaves us all alone. He will exercise a way to work it all out. God never abandons his people!

 

30But on the next day, wishing to know for certain why he had been accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Council to assemble, and brought Paul down and set him before them.

 

The next day, the tribune summons the high priests, the elders and the Sanhedrin together and has Paul brought before them. This concludes Chapter 22.

 

 

Copyright 2010, by ToBeLikeHim Ministries

 

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