ACTS CHAPTER 22.
Paul's Speech to the Jews. Acts 21, 40-22, 21.
Concerning Paul's early life and persecution of the Church: V.40. And when he had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying, v.1. Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defense which I make now unto you. V.2. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence; and he saith,) v.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. V.4, And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, v.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. The commander of the garrison granted the request of Paul to speak to the people all the more readily, since he hoped to learn from the speech the real charges laid against him. The soldiers therefore having set Paul down and loosened at least one of his chains, he stood at the head of the stairway and beckoned to the people with his characteristic gesture to indicate that he was about to address them. ďWhat nobler spectacle than that of Paul at this moment! There he stands bound with two chains, ready to make his defense to the people. The Roman commander sits by to enforce order by his presence. An enraged populace looks up to him from below. Yet in the midst of so many dangers, how self possessed is he, how tranquil!Ē (Chrysostomus) When then there was much silence, when comparative quiet had been restored, the very fact that the man whom they had just made ready to murder was seeking to impart something to them, making some impression upon them, Paul spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect, that is, in the Aramaic language as it was then spoken generally by the Jews. He addressed them as brethren and fathers. Though they had almost succeeded in taking his life and had by no means relinquished the idea, yet Paul, neither in his tone nor in his words, showed any anger or resentment. With death staring him in the face, his thought was only for the spiritual welfare of his brethren according to the flesh, whether by any means he would still be able to save some of them. He asks them to hear from his lips the defense which he proposes to make to them now. And the fact that he employed the Aramaic dialect proved a further factor in quieting the multitude; they observed all the greater silence. Many members of the mob, hearing only half the charge and not understanding it correctly, had undoubtedly supposed that the man before them was himself a Gentile and not versed in either the Jewish language or the Jewish customs. And now Paul, in the honest attempt to gain his audience for at least an attentive listening to his apology, sets forth before them a few facts from his life. He was a Jewish man, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but educated in this very city of Jerusalem, and at the feet of Gamaliel, the celebrated teacher, at that, instructed according to the full strictness of the paternal Law. The Pharisees, to whom Gamalie1 belonged, prided themselves upon the exactness of their interpretation of the Law and upon the literalness which they demanded in its observation. All this Paul had learned, in it he had been drilled. And therefore he had been ardent, zealous of God and for His honor, just as his hearers had proved themselves to be on that very day, Rom. 10, 2. Paulís words contain no accusation of malicious obstinacy, but are merely the statement of a fact which may well be made of use to them. Of his own zeal he says that he had persecuted this way, the persons that accepted the way of salvation through faith in the redemption of Jesus, unto death, this being his aim and interest in the matter. And in order to realize this purpose, he had bound and delivered into prison both men and women. And for the truth of this assertion the high priest of that year himself could bear witness and the entire Syncdrion, for it was from them that he had received letters, credentials, to the brethren, whereupon he had traveled to Damascus, his object being to bind and to bring to Jerusalem also the disciples of that city, to lead them back in fetters, in order that adequate punishment might be meted out to them. Paul makes an open confession, withholding nothing from his hearers, and offering no excuse for his action. His narrative is a description of the state of the unconverted mind. In his unregenerate condition a person will either serve the fleshly lusts and trample upon the Law of God, or he will be zealous for an outward righteousness of the Law and despise the power and the beauty of the Gospel.
The vision on the way: V.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. V.7. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? V.8. And I answered, Who art Thou, Lord? And He said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. V.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. V.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. V.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. The first part of Paulís address was intended not only to awaken sympathy for himself, but also curiosity as to the reason for his having changed so entirely in his views. The explanation is given in this part, with much vividness and attention to detail. It happened to him, as he had made the journey for which he had obtained credentials from the Jewish authorities, and had come near to the city of Damascus, that about noon, at midday, with the sun in full splendor, there suddenly, without warning, flashed about him a light out of the sky, whose brightness far surpassed that of the sun. He had fallen down to the solid ground, the pavement, of the road, and had heard and understood a voice speaking to him: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? Upon his awe-stricken question as to the identity of the voice, which he himself had ascribed to the Lord, to Jesus, who had appeared to him in the light, he had received this information, that it was Jesus of Nazareth Himself, the One whom he was persecuting in His disciples, that had here appeared to him. His companions had seen the supernatural light, without, however, seeing Jesus, and while they had heard the sound of a voice, they had not understood the words that had been spoken. Cp. chap. 9, 3-7. Upon his further timid question as to what he should do now, the Lord had given him directions to arise and go into the city of Damascus, where he would be told concerning everything which had been appointed for him to do. The Lord had arranged all in advance; his entire life and all the vicissitudes of his life had been mapped out by Jesus; his work for the remainder of his life was fully ordered and planned. And the vision, together with the voice, had not been a figment of his own imagination, for the heavenly glory of the light that had enveloped him had made him blind; he could not use his eyes, they refused their service. He had to be led by the hand, his blindness being absolute, by those that were with him, and thus came into the city. Thus the conversion of Paul was effected, and thus the conversion of every person takes place. There is no special inclination, disposition, or propensity in any human being for the faith in Jesus the Savior, but regeneration is entirely a work of the power and mercy of God. God changes the mind of man, who by his own reason and strength cannot believe in Jesus Christ, his Lord, and thus works faith in the Redeemer.
Paul and Ananias: V.12. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the Law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, v.13. came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. V.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. V.15. For thou shalt be His witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. V.16. And now, why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. Paul here from his personal experience, from the events which had been impressed upon his mind with indelible characters, gives a fuller account of the words of Ananias than that which had been reported in chapter 9. This Ananias was by no means a Gentile, nor a Jew without reputation and standing, but, as Paul emphasizes, a devout man, pious in accordance with Jewish law, according to their own standard, vouched for by all the Jews that lived in Damascus. Through him Paul received the commission to preach the Gospel of Christ, especially to the Gentiles, as he here is careful to bring out. For this Ananias came to him and stood by or over him as he lay or sat there, prostrate with sorrow, addressed him as a brother, and by a simple word of command performed the miracle of restoring his sight. In the same hour, that is, in the same instant, his sight was returned to him. And then Ananias had explained to him in just what way the Lordís plans had been carried out and were to be carried out. The God of their fathers, the true God, as the Jews worshiped Him, had appointed in advance that Paul was to know His will, to find out for what important duty he had been selected. His seeing the Just One and hearing the voice from His mouth in the vision near the city had also been arranged beforehand by God. This is an additional proof that Paul actually did see Jesus Christ. And this same voice of the Lord which had spoken to him before the city was now again addressing him with the commission that he should be a witness to the Lord to all men concerning what he had seen and heard. Why should there then be any cause for hesitation? Ananias had asked him. He had told him to arise, to be baptized, and thereby to have his sins washed away, and at the same time to call upon the name of the Lord. Note: Baptism is not a mere external form or symbol to signify the receipt of the forgiveness of sins before or after, but by the washing of the water in Baptism the sins are taken away, the filth of the soul is washed off; it is a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, Titus 3, 5. Through the name of Jesus and by faith in the Redeemer, which trusts the Word of God in Baptism, the great blessings are conferred and sealed.
The Lordís direct command to Paul: V.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; v.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. V.19. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagog them that believed on Thee; v.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. V.21. And He said unto me, Depart; for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. Paul had intended his last words to win a favorable consideration of his cause, by showing tile Jews that he, who had been a persecutor like themselves, had been changed to a believer and advocate of Jesus of Nazareth by miraculous evidence from heaven. He now wanted to present evidence that his mission among the Gentiles had been determined in the same way, by a direct revelation from heaven, which he, as they well knew, would not have dared to disobey. It had been when he returned to Jerusalem, on his first visit after his conversion, while he was offering prayer in the Temple, that he fell into a trance, was seized with supernatural ecstasy, in which he saw the Lord bidding him hurry and go out of Jerusalem with all speed, since the Jews would not accept his witness concerning the Savior. This account supplements that of chap. 9, 29. 30, since in that passage the actual personal danger is mentioned, which is here represented as being the Lordís motive for sending him forth. ďMay not St. Luke be describing the occurrence in relation to the Jews and the Church, and St. Paul in relation to his own private personal history, St. Luke giving us the outward impulse, St. Paul the inner motive, so that the two causes, the one natural, the other supernatural, are mentioned side by side?Ē 86) Paul, as he relates, had at that time contradicted the Lord, giving as his reason that the Jews would surely receive the testimony from him of whom they knew that he had made it a practice to throw into prison and to beat the believers in Him in every synagog; also, that they were familiar with the fact of his having been present and gladly assenting, and even assuming the position of guardian of the witnessesí clothes, when they shed the blood of Stephen, His witness. But that argument had availed him nothing over against the will of the Lord, for the latter had merely insisted with greater emphasis: Go, will send thee afar to the Gentiles. Before a different audience, and at a different time, this vindication of Paul might have proved acceptable, for they could not gainsay one single argument. But the statement that Paul was sent away from them because they were obstinate and hard-hearted, and that, in his case at least, the Gentiles were preferred to the Jews, that his mission was primarily to the despised heathen, was too much for this audience. It has ever been thus that the full, uncompromising truth of the Word of God, even if additional evidence from history was offered, has been received partly with skepticism, partly with open enmity. The heart of natural man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.
Paul and the Chief Captain. Acts 22, 22-30.
Paul asserts his citizenship: V.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. V.23. And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air, v.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. V.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? V.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. V.27. Then the chief captain came and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. V.28. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. and Paul said, But I was free-born. Paulís simple declaration of fact that he was called by the Lord by a direct revelation to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles threw the fanatical Jews into a perfect frenzy of fury. Up to this point in his speech they listened to him, but now they acted like men bereft of their senses. They lifted up their voices in angry shrieks, saying that such a man should promptly be destroyed from the face of the earth, since it was no longer proper to let him live, that he was not fit to live. This yelling they kept up, incidentally tossing their garments, their mantles, about in a fit of uncontrollable rage, and throwing dust up into the air. In their actions baffled fury and extreme contempt are combined to produce such an exhibition as only a mob deprived of its victim is able to present. The tribune now commanded Paul to be taken into the barracks, directing at the same time that the question should be put to him, that a hearing of his side of the matter should be made with torture, while the scourge was applied to him. This terrible method was resorted to by the Romans in the case of prisoners, especially of the lower class, in order to force a confession from their lips, if suitable evidence was not at hand. Thus the tribune wanted to find out why it was that the people shouted at him in that way. But as they had stretched him forward by bending his back over the whipping-post and were getting ready to fasten him with straps, Paul asked the centurion that was standing by and superintending the ghastly work whether it was permitted to scourge a Roman citizen without a proper trial. The question, as humbly as it was put, was not without its irony and reproach for the proceeding adopted in his case. In great consternation the centurion made a report to his superior officer, the commander of the garrison: What are you going to do? This man is a Roman citizen. This information brought the chiliarch in a great hurry. He asked Paul directly whether he were a Roman citizen, and Paul answered in the affirmative. With some doubt in his voice, the tribune then told Paul that he had acquired his Roman citizenship by the outlay of a considerable sum of money, thus confessing to an act of bribery. For citizenship in Rome was properly obtained either by being conferred by the Roman senate for meritorious conduct, or it was inherited from a father who was a Roman citizen, or it was the birthright of him that was born in a free city. And therefore Paul, in this case, could state with justifiable pride that he had been born a Roman citizen. It is altogether right and to be approved if Christians under circumstances make use of their rights as citizens.
Arrangements for a decent hearing: V.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. V.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. The declaration of Paul that he was a free-born Roman citizen had its immediate effect. Those that were to put the question to him with torture stepped back immediately, with alacrity, for the torture was illegal in the case of a Roman citizen, although it might be employed in the case of slaves and foreigners. Even the chiliarch felt rather uncomfortable with fear, since he had now found out that Paul was a Roman citizen, and because he had bound him. If Paul had been of a vindictive nature, he might have caused the tribune some difficulty, but revenge did not enter his thoughts, since his object had been gained. But the commander now acted more carefully. It was still his firm resolve to find out the real reason why Paul was being accused by the Jews, what the trouble really was about. So he had Paul freed from his bonds, and commanded that the high priests and the entire Synedrion come together, the hearing probably taking place in their own council-chamber or at some place in the city outside of the Tower of Antonia, most likely in the Court of the Gentiles, where the Romans were permitted to appear, since he led Paul down from the hill and placed him in front of them. Thus the prophecy of Agabus had been fulfilled, and Paul was in the hands of the Gentiles, delivered there by the hands of his own countrymen.
Summary. Paulís speech to the Jews, first listened to in interested silence, is interrupted by shouts of anger, after which Paul saves himself from a scourging at the hands of the soldiers by declaring his Roman citizenship.