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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Acts 22

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Paul's Jerusalem Sermon

A. The sermon to the mob in Jerusalem.

1. At the end of the previous chapter, Paul's audience for this sermon had just tried to kill him, thinking that he had profaned the temple by sneaking a Gentile in past the Court of the Gentiles.

a. However, once the crowd knew that Paul was in Roman protection, and once Paul began to address them in Hebrew (Aramaic), they became quiet and ready to listen (Acts 21:40).

2. (Act 22:1-5) Paul tells of his Jewish upbringing and background.

"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."

a. Brethren and fathers, hear: Paul began his great defense before the Jews the same way Stephen did: Men and brethren and fathers, listen. (Acts 7:2)

b. I am indeed a Jew: Paul is speaking as a Jew unto Jews; he is careful to lay the common ground between them.

c. Born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel: Paul notes that though he was born outside of the Promised Land, he was brought up in Jerusalem, and at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the most prestigious rabbis of the day (Acts 5:34).

i. Paul still served the God of his fathers; he had not rejected Judaism; Judaism had rejected God in Jesus Christ.

d. Zealous toward God as you all are today: Paul also reminds the crowd of his credentials as a persecutor of this Way (an early manner of referring to Christianity), energetic enough to carry on his campaign of persecution beyond Judea, into Syria and the city of Damascus.

i. The message is clear: "I understand why you have attacked me. I was once an attacker also. I understand where you are coming from." Paul had been a Christian for more than twenty years, but could still relate to those who were not Christians.

3. (Act 22:6-11) Paul describes his supernatural experience on the way to Damascus.

"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."

a. Suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me: Paul was a determined persecutor of Christians 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 dramatically changed."

b. 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.

c. 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.

4. (Act 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.'"

a. 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.

b. 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.

c. Acts 22:14 is a wonderful capsule of the duty of every one before God: To know His will, to see the Just One (Jesus), and to hear the voice of His mouth (His word).

5. (Act 22:17-21) Paul describes his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion.

"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.'"

a. I was in a trance and saw Him saying to me: Paul had an impressive vision of Jesus while in the temple; yet he never referred to this vision 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.

b. 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 (Acts 9:15), so the words from Jesus to him 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.

i. Paul made it clear that it wasn't his idea to preach to the Gentiles; this was God's plan, not his.

6. (Act 22:22-23) The crowd riots in response to Paul's message.

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.

a. And they listened to him until this word: The mob that had tried to kill Paul, and had then listened intently to his whole sermon, erupted into rage over the utterance of one word. That one word was "Gentiles." The Jewish mob was incensed that God's salvation could be given freely to believing Gentiles.

i. Think of it: "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!" over one word: Gentiles.

b. 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.

c. These 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.

d. 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.

i. In Acts 22, the Jewish mob expressed their hatred of others through violent rage; do 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!"

B. Paul in Roman custody.

1. (Act 22:24) The commander demands an explanation of 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.

a. The commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks: It must have been a strange sight for the Roman commander. He saw Paul passionately address this huge crowd in a language he didn't know. He saw the crowd in rapt attention, until suddenly, they erupted into a riot.

b. 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.

c. Examined under scourging: It is suggested that Paul be beaten with a scourge. This was quite different from being beaten with a rod or a normal whip (which Paul had experienced, 2 Corinthians 11:24-25). Men often died or were crippled for life after a scourging.

d. To be examined under scourging may seem brutal, but was customary in that time - but only upon people who were not Roman citizens.

2. (Act 22:25-29) Paul reveals his Roman citizenship.

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.

a. 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. He was ready for a brutal beating, one that would not stop until he had confessed to the crimes he was suspected of - but at that moment he announces his Roman citizenship (Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?).

b. Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman: When this became known, the reaction was immediate. It was a grievous wrong to even bind a Roman citizen without due process, and they had already violated Paul's rights by binding him in Acts 21:33. Therefore, the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.

c. With a large sum I obtained this citizenship: Because of all the commotion and the beating Paul had received, he probably wasn't a very impressive spectacle. "Something of this sort may have been in the tribune's mind as he said, It cost me a very large sum of money to obtain Roman citizenship - the implication being that the privilege must have become cheap of late if such a sorry-looking figure as Paul could claim it." (Bruce)

i. Roman citizenship could not be bought for a fee, only for a bribe. Normally, only right or reward only granted it.

ii. "The point was not that the tribune doubted Paul's claim, but rather he was implying that anybody could become a citizen these days!" (Marshall)

iii. "The verbal claim to Roman citizenship was accepted at face value; penalties for falsifying documents and making false claims of citizenship were exceedingly stiff - Epictetus speaks of death for such acts." (Longenecker)

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.

i. "How the citizenship was acquired by Paul's father or grandfather we have no means of knowing, but analogy would suggest that it was for valuable services rendered to a Roman general or administrator in the southeastern area of Asia Minor." (Bruce)

ii. Paul was an extremely rare individual. It was uncommon to find such an educated, intelligent, devout Jew who was also a Roman citizen. God would use this unique background to use Paul in a special way, even as he wants to use your unique background to use you in a special way.

3. (Act 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.

a. He wanted to know for certain why he was accused: All in all, this Roman 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.

b. 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 he believes is 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 (their council) the next day.

i. The Sanhedrin was the Jewish "congress"; Paul would have the opportunity to speak before this same group that he was once a member of! Acts 26:10 clearly says that Paul had a vote - usually, that would be used as a member of the Sanhedrin.

ii. So Paul now has the opportunity to speak before this distinguished group of men - and undoubtedly, he is assured in his heart that this is his opportunity of a lifetime, to preach to those he loves so much and knows so well - who knew how God might use it! Well, Paul didn't know!

iii. God had revealed a 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 (Acts 9:15-16). Paul knew the general plan; but just like us, he didn't know how it would all work out. He had to trust God, just like you and I have to do.

© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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