About Jesus    Steve Sweetman


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Chapters 21:37 to 22:29

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ch. 21:37 - 22:21    ch. 22:22-29

Paul Speaks To The Crowd  (ch. 21:37 Ė 22:21)

In verse 27 and following we see that as the soldier took Paul into the barracks he asked the commander if he could speak to him. The commander was evidently surprised by Paul speaking Greek.  All along he had assumed that Paul was some Egyptian terrorist leader who had caused problems before.

In verse 39 Paul therefore clarifies who he is.  He says, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus , in Cilicia , a citizen from no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.

We note here that Paul is saying that he is not this Egyptian that the captain thought he was.  In fact he was a Jew, not an Egyptian.  Beyond that, he was a Roman Jew, born in Tarsus , the capital city of the Roman province of Cilicia.  Paul was both Jew and Roman by birth.

Note that Paul says that Tarsus is an important city, and that it was.  It was the third most educated city in the Roman Empire at the time.  Paul grew up in a culture of well educated people.  This might well account for his ability to know, to understand, and, to proclaim the truths of Scripture.  Paul was both a good speaker and a good debater.  He knew Jewish, Roman, and Greek culture to the point that he could successfully use these cultures in the defense of the gospel.  

The captain therefore let Paul speak to the mob.

Paul had just spoken to the captain in Greek, surprising the captain, now he speaks to the Jewish mob in Aramaic, surprising them.  Paul was a well educated man, and if he had not become a Christian most likely would have been a very influential man in Judaism and also in society.    For those Christians today who put down education, they should take a serious look at Paul.     

Note that the NIV says that Paul spoke in Aramaic.  I'm not quite sure why it uses the word "Aramaic" because the Greek text says "Hebrew".   

In chapter 22, verse 1 to 5, Paul tells the crowd that he is a Jew from Tarsus , but was raised in Jerusalem as a young man, and learned in great detail the Law from Gamaliel.  Gamaliel was a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling Jewish council.  He was a Pharisee, and a very well respected and important Jewish teacher of the Law.  Paul was taught by this very influential man, and he wants the mob to know this.  He not only was thoroughly instructed in Jewish Law, but he himself was just as zealous as these Jews, to the extent that he persecuted members of the Way, imprisoning not only men, but women as well.  You could not find a better Jew than Paul.

I've said that Gamaliel was a Pharisee.  He was the grandson of a liberal Pharisee named Hillel.  A whole theological school and liberal way of thinking was started by Hillel. For example, one liberal teaching was the Jewish men could divorce their wives for any and every reason.  We should understand that Gamaliel was probably a liberal as well, although the text doesn't specifically say that.  That being the case, in many respects, Paul was probably a liberal and zealous Jew prior to his conversion.  This tells us that Paul had a major conversion from being a liberal of liberals to a concervative of conservatives. 

Verse 4 tells us that Paul persecuted Christians to their death.  Paul might well have killed people with his own hands.  We know that he stood by and watched Stephen being killed.  We know that he had the authority to arrest Christians to have them executed.  I suggest that this verse might well suggest that Paul himself killed men and women in the name of his zealous Judaism.

Paul tells these people that if you donít believe me, you can ask the high priest.  They most likely still remembered giving Paul letters of authority to do these things. .

In verse 6 Paul continues by reporting to the crowd how he met Jesus on the road to Damascus as he was getting ready to arrest Christians in that city.  He tells the people that he was smitten to the ground by the bright light and a voice calls out to him. "Saul Saul, why do you persecute me"?

It's important to know that when someone persecutes a Christian Jesus takes that very personally.  It's like persecuting Him.  I am reminded of the martyred saints in Revelation 6 who cry out to God that their death be avenged by Him.  God didn't say that He would not avenge their death.  He only told them to wait a while longer.  God will avenge those who persecute Christians. 

In response to Jesus Paul says, ďWho are you, LordĒ?  See my notes in chapter nine concerning these words.  Paul was basically asking, "Who are you?  Are you the Lord God of Israel"? 

The voice then replied, "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting".  This should remind you of the words that Jesus said, "when you do this to the least of these, you do it to me".  This means that whatever one does to a Christian, whether good or bad, you are in fact doing that to Jesus Himself.

You might note that Paul says the voice who spoke to him was the voice of Jesus of Nazareth.  If you read Acts 9, Jesus didn't say He was Jesus of Nazareth.  He only said that He was Jesus.  I'm not sure what to make of this at this moment, if we should make anything at all.

In verse 9 Paul continues by saying that his companions saw the light but did not understand the voice. The debate over this verse is easy to solve.  Paul's companions saw the light.  They heard the voice, but they just didn't understand the word the voice spoke. 

If you read the book of Revelation you soon discover that any utterance that is heard in heaven is very loud.  It's sometimes described as thunder.  This might well be why Paul's companions heard the sound but didn't understand the words.  Jesus voice was probably very loud and thunderous.  Jesus allowed His words to be heard by Paul but not by those with him.    

In verse 10 Paul recalls how the Lord told him to go into Damascus where he would come in contact with a man named Ananias.  It is interesting to note that Jesus did not explain all that He was calling Paul to do.  He sent Ananias to do that.  As Christians, we are very important in the service of the Lord. 

Note the word "assigned" in verse 10.  Jesus had specific things He wanted Paul to do and He was about to us Ananias to pass on this assignment.  I'm sure Paul had free will.  He could have turned this assignment down, but in his thinking, mine too, once meeting the Lord of all there is, he had no logical choice to embrace this assignment.  That's why he said he was compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem in Acts 20:22.    

In verse 12 we see something about Ananias that we did not see in chapter 9.  Paul says that he "was a devout observer of the Law".  This is interesting; the one who prayed for Paul to receive his sight and the Holy Spirit was a good Jew, albeit a good Christian Jew.  I believe that Paul mentioned this in order to tell the elders that very one who initially prayed for and with him was a good observer of the Law.  This was meant to ease the tension a bit.

In verse 13 we see how Paul was healed.  Ananias simply said the word, "Saul, receive your sight".  I've always said that the Bible does not teach one way, or, a formula, for healing.  In this case, Ananias had the Holy Spirit power and authority to speak on behalf of Jesus.  His words healed Paul.      

In verse 14 through 16 Paul speaks of the word of prophecy Ananias gave him.  The prophecy stated, "The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One, and to hear words from His mouth.  You will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.  And now what are you waiting for?  Get up be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name.

Here we see Paulís commission from Jesus, or at least part of it.  We see that the God who spoke to him was the God of his forefathers, the God of the Jews.  Paul made sure he told these Jewish orientated Jews that it was their God; it was Yahweh Himself who called him to his ministry.  For more information on this you can read Galatians 1.  Paul goes to great length to say that his ministry was not given to him by men but by the God of Israel.  

Because of the voice Paul would know God's will and the Righteous One, who is Jesus.  Right from the very beginning Paul understood that His calling was to do the will of God.  We see that over and over in his life.  We saw it back in Acts 21:13.  Paul would do God's will even if it meant him losing his life in the process. 

Paul did see the Righteous One.  He obviously saw Jesus on the road to Damascus, but that's not what he is talking about here.  The event that Paul is speaking of with Ananias took place after Paul meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Paul met Jesus again in his many visions.  Just how many visions and meetings Paul had with Jesus, we don't know, but we do know he had many.  

Paul had received many words, and many visions directly from Jesus Himself.  This is why I have always said, that Paul is the Moses of the New Testament.  What Moses meant to the Jews of the Old Testament, Paul means to us Christians in the New Testament.  Another thing I've always said is that if Paul got it wrong, Christians and the church are in one huge mess because more than anyone else, Paul has defined New Testament thinking for us.

Paul was to give witness both by word and action to what he has seen and heard from Jesus, but before he could do that, he had to be water baptized and have his sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord, and so he was immediately baptized in water.

Paul did get up and was water baptized.  A quick reading of the NIV seems to suggest that water baptism washes away our sins, but is this really the case?  I don't think so. I believe the cross of Christ has washed away our sins.  I think the words "calling on the name of the Lord" in this verse is important.  It's not merely water baptism that washes our sins away.  It is the Lord on whom we are calling that has washed our sins away.  

In verses 17 and 18 we see something that we donít see anywhere else in Paulís writing.  While in Jerusalem, soon after his conversion he saw a vision from Jesus.  Jesus told him to leave Jerusalem immediately because the Jews will not accept his testimony about Him.  This was in fulfillment of the prophetic word spoken to Paul by Ananias in Acts 9.

In verses 19 and 20 Paul replied to what the Lord told him by suggesting that the Jews wouldn't be the problem that Jesus suggested they would be.  Paul was a smart man but he sounds a bit naive at this point, and, suggesting to the Lord that He was wrong is a bit naÔve as well. 

Paul told the Lord that the Jews knew well that he went from house to house arresting all the Christians he could find.  Furthermore, he was with the people who killed Stephen and approved of it.  Paul was basically telling the Lord that everything should be fine because they knew him and knew his zeal for the Law.  If he had changed in such dramatic fashion, then they'd surely follow him.

This would not be the case.  Paulís reasoning was faulty so the Lord responded by saying, "Go, I will send you far away to the Gentiles".  Here we see from the very beginning days of Paulís new life as a Christian that his ministry would extend to the Gentile world, far away from the Jews and Jerusalem.


Paul The Roman Citizen (ch. 22:22 - 29)

In verse 22 Luke says that the crowd listened to Paul until he said that Jesus told him to go to the Gentiles.  This infuriated the Jewish crowd.  They had little to no respect for Gentiles, especially since they were under their political rule. They yelled out, "rid the earth of him (Paul), He is not fit to live"!  Paul was clearly wrong when it came to the Jews response to him. 

As the custom was when Jewish people were being insulted, in verse 23 we see the crowd taking off their coats and flinging dust in the air with them.  This was a long lasting tradition that dates way back through Old Testament days.

In verse 24 Paul is taken into the barracks to be flogged and questioned.  When they were about to beat Paul, in verse 25, Paul asked, "is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasnít been found guilty".

When the soldier who was ready to flog Paul heard these words from Paul he immediately went to the commander to see what should be done.  Paul knew the answer to his question.  It was certainly illegal for a Roman citizen, which Paul was, to be beaten without a legal trial.   

It appears from the text that Paul didn't mention his Roman citizenship until right before he was to be flogged.  I'm sure it took some time to prepare for his flogging, so you might wonder why Paul waited until the last minute to say that he was a Roman citizen.  I suggest that he waited on purpose.  It would have made the whole situation more dramatic.  There would have been no uncertainty that he was going to be flogged at that point.  I view this as just another way in which Paul could be cunning and even crafty when needed.

In verse 27 the commander of the soldiers then went to Paul and personally asked if he was indeed a Roman citizen.  Paul said that he was.  The commander then said that he had to buy his citizenship.  Paul replied by saying that he was born a Roman. Luke records in verse 29 that once the commander found out that Paul was a Roman by birth, he was alarmed.

We need to note here that simply arresting and detaining Paul was against Roman law since he was a Roman citizen.  Flogging him would be a worse crime.  There were always two floggers, one on each side of the prisoner.  The strap consisted of many heavy threaded strips.  At the end of each heavy thread was a piece of metal or stone.  When the strap hit the one being flogged it would rip the flesh resulting in much bleeding.

The intent of such flogging was to break down the will of the person so he would respond with the truth to the person questioning him.  Thus after Paul was to be flogged; he would have been questioned by the commander.

When a prisoner was scourged, his feet and hands were tied to a ring on the floor.  His stomach rested on a heavy pillar that was placed horizontally to the floor.  This would expose the bare back of the person being flogged.  This was one way that the Romans beat a person.

You might think that anyone could claim to be a Roman just to get out of trouble with the Law.  If someone claimed to be a Roman and was found that he wasnít, he would be put to death.  So, people did take their claims of citizenship seriously.

Paul was born a Roman.  The captain of the guards bought his Roman citizenship.  This meant that Paulís citizenship was more respected than the captain of the guard's citizenship.

One thing to note here is that Paul used his civil rights to defend himself.  Some suggest that Christians should not use any of their civil rights to help them in any negative situation they find themselves in.  Paul was a humble man, but he was not to be a door mat.  He had rights, and he used these rights when he felt that he should.  In this situation Paul used his citizenship rights to defend himself.  In most cases, those of us who live in the western world still have civil rights.  I see no problem standing up for our rights, even in a court of law.  This might not always be the case in the days ahead.  More and more we are losing our civil rights as Christians because our western society is fast losing the influence that Biblical thinking once had on society.  

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