At the end of the previous chapter, Paul's audience for his "testimony" had just tried to kill him for (in their view) having profaned the temple by sneaking a Gentile in past the Court of the Gentiles (what people of color in the south once knew as "the back of the bus").
However, once the crowd knew that Paul was in Roman protection, and once he began to address them in Hebrew (Aramaic), they became quiet and ready to listen (
) -- at least for awhile.
, Paul tells of his Jewish upbringing and background (a great way for all of us to begin our own testimonies -- who we were in our "BC" [before Christ] days):
Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now." And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. Then he said: "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished."
I am indeed a Jew: Paul is speaking as a Jew to other Jews; he is careful to lay the common ground between them.
at the feet of Gamaliel
: Paul notes that he was taught by
, one of the most prestigious and famous rabbis of the day (
). Note also that
Paul makes sure they understand that he still served the God of his fathers (that he had not rejected Judaism per se) but that the Jews had rejected God in Jesus Christ.
zealous toward God as you all are today: Paul also reminds the crowd of his
credentials as a persecutor and prosecutor of "the
Way" (an early manner of referring to Christianity taken from
John 14:6). As cops, our "
credentials" are an important part of establishing our own God-given authority and
credibility. Understand also that
Paul had been a Christian for more than twenty years by this time but could still relate to those who were not believers. Likewise, we must not forget who we were before we were saved (and before we were cops).
In Acts 22:6-11, P
aul adds the next part of a believer's testimony by describing how he came to faith in Christ.
Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' So I answered, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said to me, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.' And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me. So I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.' And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus."
Suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me: Paul was a determined persecutor of Christians (followers of "the Way") and Jesus until this heavenly light shone on him. It is as if Paul is saying: "I was just like you all, until I had an encounter with Jesus. Jesus met me and my life was radically changed." Again, what an example for us to follow!
I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting: Paul also came to understand he was persecuting Jesus Himself, the shining Lord of glory, brighter than the noonday sun.
And since I could not see for the glory of that light: The brightness of that light made Paul blind. In persecuting Jesus he was spiritually blind, now he is also physically blind - and must humbly be
led by the hand into the city of Damascus.
In Acts 22:12-16,
Paul describes his response to the supernatural experience in Damascus.
Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, came to me; and he stood and said to me, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight.' And at that same hour I looked up at him. Then he said, 'The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'"
Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews: Paul notes that it was
Ananias, a man with
credentials as a good Jew, who received him into the Christian family.
The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will: In Paul's speech, we see that both he and Ananias are both simply acting like good Jews. They are not resisting God nor denying their heritage. In short, they were
OBEDIENT (as we must be).
(c) Verse 14 is a wonderful picture of the
(another word we understand as peace officers) we all have before God: To
know His will
see the Just One
(Jesus), and to
hear the voice of His mouth
(His word, the Bible).
Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance and saw Him saying to me, 'Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.' So I said, 'Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You. And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.' Then He said to me, 'Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.'"
I was in a trance and saw Him saying to me: Paul had a powerful vision of Jesus while in the temple but he never referred to it in his letters, and seems to only mention it now out of necessity. Paul's Christian life was founded on God's truth, not spiritual experiences, and he didn't even like to talk a lot about his spiritual experiences (God's desires that we focus on His word vs. "experiences" and "feelings").
Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles
: When Paul was touched by God in Damascus, he was told then of his call to preach to the Gentiles (
), so the words from Jesus to Paul in the temple at Jerusalem were not new. However, we can see that in his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion, it would have been easy for Paul to care so much for the conversion of Israel that he would want to concentrate on that - that's why Jesus gave him the reminder in the temple. Paul also
made it clear that it wasn't his idea to preach to the Gentiles; this was God's plan (obedience), not his. Folks, this is exactly how we should seek to fulfill our own ministries and callings (and EVERY Christian is called to ministry [service] in accordance with God's specific plans for each of us).
In Acts 22:22-23, the
crowd riots in response to Paul's message (I've been in more than a few riots/violent protests in my career).
And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!" Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air.
And they listened to him until this word (added emphasis mine): The mob that had tried to kill Paul, and had then listened intently to his whole testimony, erupted into rage over the utterance of
one word -- "
Gentiles." The Jewish mob was incensed that God's salvation could be given freely to believing Gentiles.
Think of it:
"Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!"
over one word:
. Again, understand the implication here: the Jews looked at the Gentiles (anyone who was not a Jew) as being less than "human" and lower than a stray dog or even (in some contexts) human waste! Yes, there was discrimination and prejudice (sin) long before it arrived on our shores here in America!
Paul had his audience all up until this point. In their minds, they didn't mind all this talk about Jesus, but they could not stand the idea that God might save Jews and Gentiles alike and in the same way (again, not unlike how people of color were once treated in this country).
(b) The Jews of that day did not have a problem with Gentiles becoming Jews. But they were incredibly offended at the thought of Gentiles becoming Christians just as Jews became Christians, because it implied that Jews and Gentiles were equal, having to come to God on the same terms.
Likewise, many people today are offended that "good people" must be saved the same way "sinners" are; they want a gospel that will keep them separate from the "riffraff" of society (hmmm -- sounds like us in law enforcement). On this, Pastor Guzik wrote, "D
o we express our disdain of the perishing through indifference? We may not riot like the mob in this chapter did, but we may say by our inaction: 'I won't give you the gospel; I don't really care if you perish in hell!'" Thus again must be our Code 3 (lights and siren) sense of urgency to obediently and boldly share the hope we have in Christ with others!
Acts 22:24, t
he Roman commander (akin to a police Lieutenant or Captain today) demands an explanation for the riot:
The commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him.
The commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks: This Roman "peacekeeper" may not have understood the language Paul was using (he knowing Greek and Paul speaking in Aramaic), but he understood a riot and the consequences of letting a mob get out of hand.
But when it was explained to him, he must have thought it absurd and offensive: All this rioting springing out of the hatred of Gentiles, people just like the commander himself.
Examined under scourging
: It is suggested that Paul be beaten with a
. This was quite different from being beaten with a rod or a normal whip (which Paul had experienced in
2 Corinthians 11:24-25
). On the contrary,
-- a common but terrifying form of punishment at that time (as it was applied horrifically to our Savior) -- often left men dead or crippled for life. However, it was, by law, NEVER to be applied to a Roman citizen (on penalty of death for the person who did so).
And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?" When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, "Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman." Then the commander came and said to him, "Tell me, are you a Roman?" He said, "Yes." The commander answered, "With a large sum I obtained this citizenship." And Paul said, "But I was born a citizen." Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.
As they bound him with thongs: Paul had his hands tied with leather straps so his hands joined around a wooden pole and his back was totally exposed and the skin stretched tight (meaning that it would split open as soon as he was struck with the scourge, much like as occurred in Jesus' scourging). He was ready for a brutal beating, one that would not stop until he had "confessed" to the crimes he was accused of - but at that moment he announced his Roman citizenship (as the Lord directed him).
Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman
: When this became known, the reaction was immediate. It was a potential death penalty offense to even bind a Roman citizen without due process, and they had already violated Paul's rights by binding him in
the commander was rightly afraid (just as we might be if we violate someone's rights today).
With a large sum I obtained this citizenship:
Roman citizenship could not be bought for a fee, only for a bribe. Normally, it was obtained only through birth or as a very high reward. Clearly, this ranking Roman "Fed" had purchased his citizenship via "illegal" albeit accepted (corrupt) means.
(d) Paul reveals that he was
born a citizen; his parents (or grandparents) must have been awarded the rights of citizenship for some good done on behalf of Rome.
Paul was also an extremely rare individual. It was uncommon to find such an educated, intelligent, devout Jew who was also a Roman citizen. God used Paul's unique background in a special way, even as he wants to use your unique backgrounds to carry out His will and plans for us.
In Acts 22:30, the
Roman commander arranges a hearing of the charges against Paul before the Jewish council (the Sanhedrin).
The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them.
He wanted to know for certain why he was accused: Using bribery to obtain his citizenship aside, this Roman "police" commander seems to be a fair and upstanding man. Though he is not acquainted with the dispute between Paul and the Jews, he seems to desire a just resolution. We would do well to follow that example.
And commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them
: So now, Paul will get what is essentially a dramatic second chance. The opportunity to preach to the mob on the temple mount ended in another riot, but he will get to speak before the Sanhedrin (
) the next day. The Sanhedrin was the
Jewish governing "congress" and Paul would have the opportunity to speak before this same group that he was once a member of! Dr. Luke clearly tells us in
that Paul had a vote -- something that could only happen if he was a member of the Sanhedrin. God
had revealed His plan to Paul right at his conversion: He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake (
). Paul knew the general plan; but just like us, he didn't know the details or how it would all work out. Just like us, he had to trust and obey God!