Scriptures

Acts 22

Introduction

“Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defence.” When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.” Acts 22:1-5

In the previous chapter, we read how Paul explained to the captain that he was a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia.

He went on to ask the captain for permission to speak to the very multitude that only moments before had sought to kill him and when permission was granted, Paul gestured with his hand to gain the attention of the audience and a hush fell over the crowd and Paul began to speak to them in Aramaic and so, this chapter is a continuation of these events.

Remember that most of Paul’s audience was primarily Jewish, that’s why he addresses them as ‘brethren and fathers.’ Also remember what we said previously, Paul’s accusers had said he taught against the Jews, taught against the Law of Moses and the temple and brought Greeks into the temple, defiling the holy place, Acts 21:28.

And so Paul’s response to their first accusation was that Paul himself was a Jew. He was born in Tarsus, but he was reared in the city of Jerusalem as a pupil of the highly respected Jewish teacher, Gamaliel. He had been taught the law, which was handed down from the Jewish fathers, in a most precise way.

In fact, he had become a zealot for God, just as had his accusers. His zeal had reached the point where he persecuted those following Christ’s way by binding, imprisoning and ultimately assisting in their deaths.

And so what Paul does next is what any good lawyer would do in a courtroom situation and that is call in the witnesses. As witnesses to his zeal, Paul mentioned the high priest and council of the elders.

And he tells the angry mob that he had personally received letters from the high priest and elders to give him authority to go to Damascus to bring Christians from that city in chains to Jerusalem to be punished.

It’s much easier to talk to people when we have been in their shoes. Paul understood these people because he was just as zealot about their beliefs as they were. He had walked in their shoes and fully understood where they were coming from.

Because Paul sees himself as a sinner in need of salvation, and because he could relate to his Jewish audience because he’s been where they are, Romans 3:23. It’s no wonder that he goes on to share his testimony about his encounter with the risen Lord Jesus.

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ “‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. “‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.  “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked. “‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.” Acts 22:6-11

Paul began to share with them about the unique conversation with the voice from heaven which he had while on the Damascus road. Remember, Luke had already reported this to Theophilus in Acts 9, but here Paul adds the fact that the bright light was seen at noon, when it outshined the sun at its brightest.

And so Paul fell to the ground, and the voice asked why he was persecuting Him. And to accurately answer the question, Saul as he was known at that time, had to know who was speaking and Jesus then clearly identified himself to him. Remember that the only sense in which Saul, or Paul, persecuted Jesus was in that he persecuted the church, or Jesus’ body.

Paul continues and tells them that his travelling companions were afraid and did not hear the voice of our Lord in the sense that they did not understand it nor obey it.

But Saul fully understood and asked what the Lord would have him to do. And so Jesus tells him to go into the city to be told what was planned for him, both in reference to his own salvation and that of many others.

And so off they went, with Paul’s companions leading him to Damascus because he was blind.

“A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him. “Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking. ’Quick!’ he said to me. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'” Acts 22:12-21

In Damascus, a devout, God-fearing man named Ananias came to Paul, restored his sight and told him that God had appointed him to know His will, see the Righteous One and hear His voice. He further said God planned for him to be a witness to all men and told Paul to be baptized in order to have his sins washed away.

Paul then told the multitude that he returned to Jerusalem and was praying when the Lord told him to leave quickly because they would not receive his testimony. And even though Paul argued with the Lord, telling Him the Jews knew of his zeal, the Lord told Paul to depart because He would send him to the Gentiles, Acts 9.

In many ways not only was Paul blinded by the light, but we were also all blinded by that same light. And we all need to be able to talk about our road to Damascus to unbelievers because we’ve all been there. When we were merrily walking along life’s road when all of a sudden we ‘heard’ someone speak about God, Romans 10:17.

And then we were blinded by the bold truth that we are sinners and in need of rescuing from our sins. Blinded by the truth that we can’t make it to heaven on our own, we need Jesus to help us.

Blinded by the truth that our lives were in a mess and no one could help except God Himself. Blinded by the bold truth that no one would forgive us for the things we had done in the past except God Himself.

If there were ever an eloquent and confident speaker with a reason to run away, the apostle Paul would always come to mind. But as we are about to read, eloquence and confidence speaking isn’t going to help anyone if your audience has already made their minds up.

Paul was given permission and he basically goes ahead and shares his testimony about his encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. And it seems that the crowd were perfectly willing to listen to Paul until he mentioned the taboo subject of the Gentiles.

“The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the commander ordered Paul to be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and questioned in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this.” Acts 22:22-24

 

To understand the Jews reaction to Paul’s words, we really need to understand the Jew. A Jew could not stand the Gentiles, in fact the Jew saw the Gentiles as unclean. If a Jew were walking down the street and he saw a Gentile coming towards him, the Jew would cross the street to avoid being anywhere near him.

Luke tells us that the Jews’ hatred of the Gentiles was so great that the very mention of them enraged the audience and moved them to call for Paul’s death.

They began to throw their garments and dust in the air, perhaps in preparation to stone the apostle.  And so the chief captain had Paul taken into the castle and prepared to flog him until he told the truth.

Paul The Roman Citizen

“As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.” The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I am,” he answered. Then the commander said, “I had to pay a big price for my citizenship.” “But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied. Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.” Acts 22:25-29

Paul being the educated man that he was knew his rights and he knew the law. So he asked if the law would allow them to flog an un-condemned Roman citizen.

The centurion in charge of the flogging didn’t want break the law so he immediately told the chief captain, who, in turn, asked if Paul was a Roman. And so, after Paul said yes, the captain said that he had bought those privileges for a great sum of money.

But Paul, he didn’t pay for the privilege of being a Roman citizen, Paul said he was born into Roman citizenship. And so before making a terrible mistake by having Paul flogged, everyone quickly withdrew but the captain was still worried because he had bound a Roman.

Why was he worried? Well, not only did he understand that the Roman law prohibited Roman citizens to be flogged without a trial, but he also understood that the law prohibited a Roman citizens to be bound without being charged first.

We already read about a similar situation to this when Paul was imprisoned in Philippi, Acts 16:37-39.

Citizenship had its privileges and God used those privileges to protect Paul until God got Paul where he needed to be which was Rome. Make no mistake about it, Paul was a Roman citizen, but he understood where his real citizenship lay.

He says to the church in Philippi, ‘our citizenship is in heaven,’ Philippians 3:20. He says, ‘is’ in heaven, present tense, in other words heaven is our present possession.

The Philippians could understand that, remember Philippi was a Roman colony. It was 600 miles from Rome and a lot of people had never been to Rome but they were Roman citizens.

They dressed like Romans, they ate like Romans, they spoke the Roman language, they lived the Roman culture and they obeyed the Roman laws.

But what Paul is saying is, ‘we too are citizens of a city we haven’t seen yet, talk like heaven people, dress like heaven people, obey the laws of heaven, live the culture of heaven.’

In other words he says, “he wants us to live here, like we’re already there, let our walk reflect where we’re going’.

Paul Before The Sanhedrin

“The next day, since the commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them.” Acts 22:30

Paul told the officials ‘after’ they had been beaten in Philippi about his citizenship and everyone panicked and asked them to leave the city. But here, Paul pulls out his ‘get out of jail free card’ and tells the Roman authorities about his citizenship and they too panic.

The chief priests and all the council were commanded to come together, while Paul was standing before them.

Sadly, this is another example of how chapter breaks really don’t work at times. To read what Paul said before the Sanhedrin, we need to move on to the next chapter.

Go To Acts 23

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

Philippians 4:19

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