Summary: Exposition of Paul’s testimony that he gave the crowds in the temple mount that had rioted trying to kill him
Text: Acts 21:27-22:30, Title: Can I Get a Witness? Date/Place: NRBC, 3/15/09, AM
A. Opening illustration: the little bird who decided not to fly south for the winter…
B. Background to passage: remember that for the sake of the church Paul has been going through a purification ritual in line with Mosaic tradition to demonstrate to the “zealous for the law” Jewish believers that he does not teach the complete jettison of the Jewish traditions. In this process he must go to the temple on the 3rd day and the 7th day, and while there is spotted by Jews from Ephesus, who were mad enough to riot there, and they seize him with the intention of killing him, only to be stopped by the Romans. Remember that this is a fulfillment of prophecy given Paul on his journey back to Jerusalem. And in a moment where most of us would have kept our mouths shut, thanking God to still be alive, Paul asks to speak to the crowds. JM quote from his commentary about Paul being driven by loves
C. Main thought: in the text we will how the Apostle Paul gave his testimony
A. His life before Christ (v. 1-5)
1. Speaking in Aramaic, Paul used this point of the story to draw commonalities with his passionately Jewish audience. He openly declared his ethnic and religious background, speaking of Tarsus (a Hellenistic city that held a large Diaspora Jewish population.) Then he spoke of his religious training at the feet of Gamaliel, which would have been a huge plus. This would have meant a strict religious instruction under probably the greatest rabbi at the time, and also indicative of his pharisaical training. So the charge that he speaks against the temple was ludicrous. And if he wasn’t clear he declares that his zeal for the law was like theirs. So he attributed this situation to a righteous cause on their behalf. We have no reason to think this is mere flattery. Then he demonstrates his zeal by relaying how he was a persecutor of The Way; even calling on the witnesses of the high priest and elders. Again all of this pointed to the fact that he used to be just as they are now. His use of The Way without explanation probably indicates that the basic facts of the gospel were understood within that phrase--that is the death and resurrection of Jesus.
4. Storying the gospel is a very effective means in our day. People, especially young people want to know your story. We should look for connection points with those that we share our testimony with. Look for ways that you can let them know that you understand where they are or have been where they’ve been. People want to be understood. You may underscore certain parts of your background that are similar to the person that you are sharing with; not for the purpose of manipulation, but for understanding. Always be careful not to intentionally offend with unnecessary opinions. But be honest, real, and authentic. Cover clearly false religious beliefs and where you were truly at before Christ. Note what was left out of the story: despondency, pain, loneliness, conviction, fear. Some lost people are perfectly content to be lost. And some are very religious in being lost. Some are not. Some are really “bad” people, and some are really “good” people.
B. How he met Christ (v. 6-16)
1. Next, he recounts the Damascus Road experience that forever changed his life orientation with relation to Christ. It was a point at which things were going in one direction and they are now going in another. Retell Paul’s experience. This is what he uses to help begin to explain his behavior/life change. He met the resurrected Jesus on the road, and he knew that he must follow Him. He submits to what Jesus says on the road, and then again with Ananias in Damascus. He points out others that were there that day-witnesses. He also indicates that this was all orchestrated by God, a point which he makes more clear in his epistles.
2. John 3:4-8,
3. Illustration: it’s always a little bothersome to me, when someone shares that they don’t remember a time when they weren’t a Christian, that song about “I can tell you now the time, I can take you to the place,” about me not knowing the day and hour,
4. Jesus likens salvation to a birth. If you are going to heaven their must be a starting point. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as Paul’s, but it needs to be a start. We can draw a few principles: you must come to a realization that YOU are in need of a Savior; you must repent from sin, calling on Jesus to save based on the cross; and you must be obedient to Him. You don’t have to understand it all. For children it needs to be an embracing of faith and taking ownership personally after conviction of sin. And it will be a little different for everybody. But there must be a transformation in you. And it happened when you stopped following your own way, and began following His by faith in the cross. Always be clear that it is God who initiates and carries out salvation. God opened Paul’s eyes and heart. Have you truly met Christ? What is your salvation experience? Has God ever come into your life? Have you ever truly repented? What’s the hold up? Are you not convinced? Do you think that you are good enough? Do you think that people will think weird thoughts about you? Repent and believe right now! You don’t have to wait! Tell about Wesley getting saved at a corporate study of Luther’s commentary on Romans, tell about the youth guy giving the invitation then telling everyone to wait till I get done preaching!