Acts 22 - Outline of Acts (MENU page)
As chapter 21 closed, Roman soldiers had rescued Paul from the grasp of a rioting crowd in the Temple courts. As he was being taken up into the Fortress of Antonia, Paul received permission from the chief captain, to address the crowd from the stairway. As he began to speak, the crowd hushed to hear him.
1. Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence [which I make] now unto you.
2 (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,)
The crowd was quieted as Paul addressed them in the Hebrew tongue. Many of the rioters may have mistaken Paul's identity also. Now they stopped. Who is that man on the steps up to the fortress?
     There battered, bruised, bloodied, and bound in chains stood Paul. But as he opens his mouth, it is not anger and hatred that pours out. This is the man they wanted to kill. But amazingly, his words are full of love and respect.
     "Men, brethren (my kinsmen according to the flesh, my fellow Jews), and fathers (respected elders of my people)..."
     The crowd became yet more quiet.
3. I am verily a man [which am] a Jew, born in Tarsus, [a city] in Cilicia,
yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel,
[and] taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers,
and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.
4 And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
5 As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders:
from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus,
to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.
Paul introduces himself: a Jew, originally from Tarsus, a refined city, not an insignificant place, a center of philosophy and education on a par with Athens and Alexandria. But his religious education had been in Jerusalem under the renowned Jewish scholar Gamaliel. Paul had been thoroughly instructed (the word indicates: from childhood onward) "according to the perfect law of the fathers." He was no enemy of the Law or of this place, as they supposed.
     Furthermore, like them, he had once been zealous to defend the Jewish traditions and customs against "this way," that is against those who follow the One who is "the way, the truth and the life." 'I once persecuted them, as you intended to do to me today: unto death. The high priest knows who I am, as do the whole body of ruling elders. But let me tell you what happened to me.' He recounts his testimony of conversion (cp. Acts 9:1-18)...
6 And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey,
and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon,
suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.
7 And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me,
Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
8 And I answered, Who art thou, Lord?
And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.
9 And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid;
but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.
10 And I said, What shall I do, Lord?
And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus;
and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.
Paul, intent upon persecuting the followers of Christ, had been stopped in his tracks by a personal encounter with Jesus of Nazareth, who appeared in blazing glory above the brightness of the noonday sun. Paul's companions had seen the light and heard the sound of a voice (Acts 9:7), but could not detect any words or meaningful communication. But Paul, understanding all too clearly that he had been fighting against God, now humbly waited for further instructions.
11 And when I could not see for the glory of that light,
being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.
12 And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law,
having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt [there],
13 Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight.
And the same hour I looked up upon him.
14 And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will,
and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.
15 For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.
16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
The message, and also the release from his blindness, was brought to Paul by Ananias, a devout and well regarded Jew. God had chosen Paul for a special purpose. As we saw earlier (in Acts 9:15), he was chosen "to bear [the name of Christ], before the Gentiles, and kings, and..." also before "...the children of Israel..." as he was now doing.
     Here, Paul, as an ambassador for Christ, was presenting the nation of Israel another opportunity to receive their Messiah. In chapter 22, he addresses the people. In chapter 23, he will address the leaders of the nation.
     He comes to them as a Jew among Jews, a keeper of the Law, in good conscience before God, representing the One whom they have rejected. The time of national judgment is at hand. Fewer than 10 years remain before Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed by the Romans... not one stone would be left upon another, because they knew not the time of their visitation (Luk 19:41-44).
     Yet, they will treat the ambassador, as they had treated His Master, crying "Away with him" (v.22; 21:36; cp. John 19:15).
 
     But, perhaps some would hear and believe. Paul's prayer would be that some, who were now (as he had once been) zealous against "the way," might yet "repent, and be baptized... in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins..." (v.15,16; see Acts 2:38). As we saw previously, water baptism cannot wash sins away. The remission of sin is through faith in Christ's shed blood, His death and resurrection. Baptism is a public declaration of that faith, and of identification with Him.
     From the time that Paul had first met Christ, he had been yearning that his people should know Him, too (Rom 10:1-4). At that time, he had sought opportunity to speak to his Jewish brethren, but the Lord had forbidden him.
17 And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem,
even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance;
18 And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem:
for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.
19 And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee:
20 And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by,
and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.
21 And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.
At Paul's first visit to Jerusalem, following his conversion about 25 years earlier (Acts 9:26-30), the Lord had told him to depart quickly from the place. Paul had tried to reason with Him, saying that surely they would respect his testimony, because he was well known to his people for his zealous defense of their traditions... even overseeing the martyrdom of Stephen.
     But the Lord, knowing that the Jews would not receive Paul's testimony, had other plans for him. He would send him to bear the Gospel of Christ, to the Gentiles.
22. And they gave him audience unto this word, and [then] lifted up their voices,
and said, Away with such a [fellow] from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.
23 And as they cried out, and cast off [their] clothes, and threw dust into the air,
24 The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle,
and bade that he should be examined by scourging;
that he might know wherefore they cried so against him.
As the Lord had foretold, on that earlier occasion,
so now, at Paul's last visit to Jerusalem, they would not receive his testimony. They were deeply offended.
     'We are the chosen people, for whom you were once zealous. But now, your imaginations concerning this despised Jesus have caused you to be zealous for despised Gentiles?!'
     "Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live."
The chief captain was more confused than ever.
Perhaps, he may have thought, his understanding of the Hebrew language was not adequate to perceive the nuances of Paul's words. Perhaps he did not fully understand the traditions of this peculiar people. It was clear only that they hated him... and he must find out why. Therefore, he prepared to examine {ie., thoroughly test} Paul by scourging. 'I'll make him tell me what he has done.'
25 And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by,
Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?
26 When the centurion heard [that], he went and told the chief captain,
saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.
27 Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman?
He said, Yea.
28 And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom.
And Paul said, But I was [free] born.
29 Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him:
and the chief captain also was afraid,
after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.
30 On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews,
he loosed him from [his] bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear,
and brought Paul down, and set him before them.
Previously, the soldiers, acting at the command of the chief captain, had bound Paul with two chains (21:33). He had been linked to two soldiers, to make it impossible for him to flee. Now, in obedience to the chief captain's most recent command, the soldiers prepare for Paul's scourging.
"As they bound him with thongs..."
The chains are replaced with leather straps. A different word is used, here, for "bound," meaning "they stretched him out with thongs." Their purpose was not merely to prevent him from getting away, but to prevent him from turning away from the barbed whip, the scourge that would shred his back. "As they 'stretched him out' with thongs..." perhaps against a wall, or over some kind of a rack... Paul spoke...
"Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?"
Paul directed his question to the nearby centurion, who was overseeing his men, to ensure that the chief captain's order's were properly fulfilled. 'Is it lawful to punish a Roman citizen against whom there has been no judgment of wrong doing?'
     Paul was not just curious. He knew the answer was "No." He was politely appealing for the protections afforded to him under Roman law.
The chief captain came to investigate Paul's claim.
The price of citizenship was above the reach of the common people. For Paul to have been born as a citizen, his father must have had position and wealth.
     The soldiers, overhearing the conversation, needed no orders to break off the planned inquisition. They immediately drew back from Paul. They dared not jeopardize themselves by acting in conflict with the law.
     The chief captain "also was afraid," not only because he had almost broken the law by scourging Paul, but because he had already broken the law by commanding to have Paul bound in chains. Punishment by imprisonment was also forbidden without a judgment of guilt (cp. Acts 16:37).
     Did Paul's faith falter, that he appealed to Roman law, rather than simply trusting in God? Paul, where is your confidence that "Thy right hand upholdeth me"? Paul speaks to this in Romans 13:1-6. Since it is God who has ordained the civil law, God had already provided for Paul's protection. It would have been foolish and presumptuous to waist His provision.

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