Summary: haring your salvation story builds a relationship bridge of understanding that Jesus can walk across into the heart of a lost person.
To know Jesus is to have a story of how you came to know Jesus. This story is often referred to as your “testimony.” In fact, if you are saved you have a testimony or a story. Your personal story matters; the personal details of how you came to Christ matter. The change Christ makes in your life matters. Again, your personal story matters. As the summer kicks off, I want us to focus on telling our personal story in order to tell His story. Over the next few weeks, I want everyone to be able to tell their story with greater confidence. Again, your testimony is your story of how you became a Christian.
Luke, the author of Acts, describes three long missionary trips for Paul and then he describes five trials for Paul beginning in Acts 22. But the first of these is our story today where he is before a Jewish rioting crowd at the north-west corner of the temple area. These five trials include speeches from Paul. In all, these stories occupy around 200 verses or six chapters in your Bibles. Watch how Paul shares his story. Notice how he is able to use his story to tell the story of Jesus. My prayer is that you and I will use our story to tell His story.
Background to Today’s Story
This incident begins way back in the middle of chapter 21. Paul has come back to Jerusalem, and he’s well-known for teaching that the Mosaic law, the ceremonial laws, the dietary laws, and the sacrifices in the temple, doesn’t really make you clean before God. It was also well known that he was saying Gentiles could come in and believe in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and not have to adopt any of those things. Of course, word about that had gotten back to Jerusalem. So when Paul comes to the temple some people recognized him, and there was a riot.
“‘Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.’ And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said: ‘I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished’” (Acts 22:1–5)
“Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.’ And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this. But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, ‘Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?’ When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.’ So the tribune came and said to him, ‘Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ The tribune answered, ‘I bought this citizenship for a large sum.’ Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.’ So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him’” (Acts 22:22-29).
I want you’re to see Paul’s Story, My (Your) Story, and Jesus’ Story. Watch how Paul models using his personal story to tell Jesus’ story.
1. Paul’s Story
The violence reaches a peak when a Roman commander, who was in charge of the order of the city, found out about it, he and his soldiers rushed into the middle of the crowd. They grabbed Paul for his safety; it was a violent and dangerous situation. In fact, when you arrive at Acts 21:35, it says, “And when he came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, for the mob of the people followed, crying out, ‘Away with him’” (Acts 21:35–36)! In an attempt to calm down the unruly mob, Paul tells his story, his testimony. All through this section of Acts, Paul is confronting one hostile audience after another. You can see this from his opening words, “hear the defense” in verse 1. He endures one life-threatening situation after another. All through this section, the personal details of Paul’s story begin to emerge.