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Summary: Paul’s speech before the temple crowd was primarily aimed at establishing his complete commitment to Judaism. What he evidently could not accomplish through his participation in the Nazarite vow he now sought to establish by this speech.

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February 26, 2016

Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

Lesson: Paul's Defense (22:1-21)

ACTS 22:1-21 (KJV)

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,)

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.

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.

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.

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.

Introduction

Paul’s speech before the temple crowd was primarily aimed at establishing his complete commitment to Judaism. What he evidently could not accomplish through his participation in the Nazarite vow he now sought to establish by this speech. Basically, the speech was his own first-person narrative of the events Luke related in chapter 9: his former zeal for Judaism (vv. 1-5), his encounter with the risen Christ on the Damascus road (vv. 6-11), and the visit of Ananias (vv. 12-16) The final portion of his speech is new to the Acts narrative but evidently occurred on Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion, the visit covered by 9:26-30. It relates a vision Paul had in the temple, where the risen Lord commissioned him for his mission to the Gentiles (vv. 17-21). Up to this point the crowd had listened attentively to Paul’s words. But with his reference to the Gentile witness, Paul was in trouble with them again (v. 22).

COMMENTARY

1 Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.

Paul was in serious trouble, for he had been arrested by the Roman authority for the purpose of making him safe from his enemies, who had agitated the crowd against the apostle, and then beat him in the courtyard. But he would soon be given permission to speak to the hostile crowd from the steps of the tower called Antonia. Paul’s aim was to make peace with this unfriendly and aggressive crowd, which is immediately evident in his salutation, “men, brethren, and fathers.” Stephen had used the same form of address to the council (7:2), and it may have been that some members of the council were now present to see what was going on—hence the “fathers” (but in 23:1 Paul addressed the Sanhedrin simply as “brethren”). Paul felt that he was in a sense on trial, so he spoke in his own “defense.” In Acts the word means more than simply answering charges; it includes the thought of witnessing for the Lord. “Defense” becomes, so to speak, attack, for in his speech the gospel is preached to Paul’s accusers. His speech did not, however, address the charge that started the riot—the accusation that he had desecrated the temple by bringing a Gentile into it. It did address the larger issue—Paul’s faithfulness to Judaism. His main line of defense is that Christianity is not a new and dangerous religion, but a legitimate outgrowth of Judaism (18:12-17).

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