Acts Chapter Twenty-Two

Read Acts 22:1-21

v.1-2Men, 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,)”


            Paul now has been given the opportunity by the chief captain of the Roman band to speak to the multitude.  This is the first of five defenses that Paul will present during the balance of our study of the book of Acts.  The multitude doesn’t even know why it has been gathered, as we were told “SOME CRIED ONE THING, SOME ANOTHER” (Acts 21:34) but when Paul is given permission to speak they listened.  He spoke in Hebrew as an educated Jew showing that he knew not only their language but also their law and called them brethren.


v.3I 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.


            He begins with his background, which these people did not know.  Even though he was foreign born, Paul was a Jew in the strictest sense.  Commentators tell us that he probably lived in Tarsus until he was twelve and then was sent to Jerusalem to attend the school taught by Gamaliel.  This would be in keeping with Jewish custom for those being taught the law and is probably the origin of the Bar Mitzvah, or rite of passage to manhood for a Jewish boy today.

            Gamaliel was one of the most prominent and most respected teachers of Jewish history.  In his school Paul had been “TAUGHT ACCORDING TO THE PERFECT MANNER OF THE LAW OF THE FATHERS,”.  Paul would tell Agrippa later:


Acts 26:4-5My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.


He also wrote in his defense to the Philippian brethren that he was “OF THE STOCK OF ISRAEL, of THE TRIBE OF BENJAMIN, AN HEBREW OF HEBREWS”, Philippians 3:5


v.4  And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.”


            Paul continues his defense by reminding these Jews that it was he that persecuted “THIS WAY”, a term that Luke uses in several places to indicate the Way of Christ, the church.  Paul, again as he faces Agrippa later on (Acts 26:9-10); uses his persecution and his conversion from that activity to help them understand the motivation behind his current teaching.


v.5As 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.”


            The high priest who authorized Paul to go to Damascus is probably no longer in office but the records of that office would bear witness to the things that Paul is saying.  The “ESTATE OF THE ELDERS” in the older language simply means the assembly or council of the elders and probably refers to the Sanhedrin.  These can all testify of the zeal and effort that Paul put forth to destroy those who followed Christ and has been presented to emphasize the power of the force that caused the changes that Paul has made in his life.


v.6-7And 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. 7And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”


            Paul now tells them of his journey to Damascus with the letters of authority from the high priest and Sanhedrin.  This is the second of three accounts that we find of Paul’s conversion, the first was in Acts 9 and the third is in Acts 26.

            Paul was confronted by Jesus Christ, the Son of God himself personally.  It was “ABOUT NOON” or “MIDDAY” and a great light shone around them, far greater than the midday sun.  Paul is struck down and hears the voice of the Son of God.


v.8. “And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.”


            Paul, of course, wants to know just who this heavenly visitor is that is talking to him.  He knows that this is a message from God, he calls the speaker, ”LORD” and Jesus doesn’t leave him in doubt.


v.9And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.”


            Not only did Paul see this great light but all those that were with him did as well but here Paul says that they didn’t hear.  Luke records in Acts 9:7 that:


And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.


Is there a conflict between these two accounts?  No, after living with hearing aids for several years I can fully understand how that we can hear but still not hear.  We can hear the noise when someone speaks but still not hear enough to be able to comprehend what is being said.  This is not something peculiar to wearing hearing devices but a situation common to all men.  Some commentators will go into discussions here about what language Jesus might have been speaking when he spoke to Paul.  But I see no reason to think that the language used would be anything other than that which was common to Jesus, Paul and most everyone else that was there on that road.


v.10And 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.”


            Paul then asks the question that we would all hope we would have the presence of mind to ask; What do I do now Lord?  Jesus tells him to go into Damascus and he would to be told all those things that God has appointed for him to do.  Did Paul get his complete instruction, everything that he needed to know for the balance of his lifetime from Ananias?  No, but he was told what he needed to know in order to get started.


v.11And 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.”


            This light was brighter than the midday sun.  Paul was not just blinded by the great light, but was physically blinded in that when the light returned to normal he could not see.  Some commentators would speculate that Paul’s eyes were affected permanently by weakness or damage caused by this great light.


Galatians 4:1515Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.”


While I must admit that this scripture would give us some reason to speculate that there was a connection between the problems Paul has with his eyes in later years and the blinding light on the road, Acts 9:18 says that Paul “RECEIVED SIGHT FORTHWITH”, his blindness from his encounter with Jesus was healed.


v.12And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there,”


            Luke describes Ananias in Acts 9:10 as a “CERTAIN DISCIPLE”, a phrase that we understand to mean that he was a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Here Paul describes him as “A DEVOUT MAN ACCORDING TO THE LAW”.  Is there a conflict here, could Ananias be devout according to the law given through Moses and also a faithful disciple of Jesus?  Of course he could.  The law was given in order to provide a schoolmaster, a tutor, a covenant with a chosen people to guide them until the Messiah came.  When the Messiah came God would provide a transition from a covenant with one nation to a covenant with all mankind through his Son.  They are not in conflict but rather the natural progression that God wishes to occur.  And this is the point that Paul is making.


v.13Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him.”


            This Ananias came to Paul in Damascus and healed his blindness, but that wasn’t all that he healed.  He also passes on to Paul God’s direction concerning his purpose.


v.14-15And 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. 15For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.”


            Paul here quotes part of what Ananias told him and puts before his accusers and all who would listen the fact that his mission was divinely directed.  First he has been chosen by the “GOD OF OUR FATHERS”, the God that all of his hearers recognize.  Secondly; he was also chosen to “SEE THAT JUST ONE”, a phrase used to describe the Messiah who was to come.  Thirdly, he was to be a witness, just as all of the apostles were to be witnesses; but Paul adds something that these people don’t necessarily want to hear.  His witnessing is to be to all men, not just the Jews.  The remnants of the Israelite nation are no longer the only people of God, all mankind have now been included at the direction of the Son of God and the Holy Spirit.


v.16And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”


            When Ananias finished telling Paul about his mission, he then turns to the necessity for Paul to make his preparation to carry out this mission, a preparation that must start with his relationship with God.  This verse also gives us the foundation scripture, one that we should all memorize, for the necessity of baptism for remission of sins.  This is a doctrine, or teaching, that most denominations have never taught and many of our apostate brethren no longer teach or believe.

            Paul is told baptism is “TO WASH AWAY THY SINS”.  The Greek “apolousai” literally means to “get washed off”.  As an example, the people converted that became members of the Corinthian church had all manner of sins that had to be “WASHED AWAY”:


I Corinthians 6:9-11Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”


v.17-18And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; 18And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.”


            After having been converted in Damascus, baptized and after having taught there and in Arabia for a period of about three years (Galatians 1:18), Paul wanted to return to Jerusalem to teach his Jewish brethren about Jesus the Christ.  Jesus appeared to Paul while he was in the temple praying, while he was in a trance, much the same as Peter on the rooftop (Acts 10:10) and warns him to leave Jerusalem because the Jews would not accept his testimony, or his teaching.


v.19-20  And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: 20And 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.”


            Paul here tells us how he argued with the Christ.  He does have a powerful story in the eyes of men; he’s the one who persecuted the Christians.  He’s the one who consented and assisted in the stoning of Stephen.  Now he’s converted to the cause that he once tried to destroy and this is indeed a powerful endorsement of Jesus and his disciples.  But first of all it is not God’s purpose for Paul to stay in Jerusalem, he is to be sent to the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:8).  Secondly, his remaining in Jerusalem would only make him a target, first of all for those who view him as a traitor, a turncoat who now supports and teaches what they want to destroy and for those of the same mind as those Jews who opposed him in Asia Minor and in Macedonia.


v.21And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.”


            Jesus gives him direct, straightforward and undeniable instructions; ”DEPART”, quit arguing and go.  He has work for Paul to do among the Gentiles, work that is necessary and work that won’t wait.


Read Acts 22:22-24


v.22And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.


            This multitude has listened to Paul up until this point, but now he says the words that shuts their ears and sets them off again.  He not only has claimed that this Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Christ that they have expected for hundreds of years but also that he has been specifically and directly instructed by God to preach the Messiah to the Gentile peoples.  This is a concept so far beyond these Jews to comprehend or accept that they return to their screaming for his blood.  This is probably the same reaction that we would get if we tried to preach Jesus to many Moslems today.  We would literally be taking our life in our hands.


v.23-24And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air, 24The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him.”


            These Jews go into an absolute frenzy.  They are in such a rage that they tear off their clothes and throw dust into the air, literally pawing at the ground like mad bulls.  The chief captain has heard and seen enough; he probably doesn’t understand Hebrew so he doesn’t understand what Paul said.  He does understand the reaction of the crowd, however.  So he commands his soldiers to bring Paul into the castle, the fortress where his troops are housed.  The mob is completely and thoroughly convinced that Paul should die.  The chief captain can’t get anything out of the Jews about Paul’s crimes so he’s going to take Paul and beat or scourge the truth out of him.


Read Acts 22:25-30


v.25And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?”


            So the soldiers take Paul, bind his hands with leather thongs and get him ready for the questioning.  Paul asks the centurion of the soldiers who has this responsibility a question that he already knows the answer to.  We remember from our study of the time that he was in Philippi:


Acts 16:37But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.”


            As a Roman citizen he doesn’t have to endure this punishment.


v.26-27When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. 27Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea.”


            The centurion, responsible military officer that he is; when he learns that Paul is a Roman citizen, must be handled according to Roman law and provided the privileges found in that law makes sure that his chief captain knows the situation.  This gentleman comes to check and make sure.  He doesn’t want to violate Roman law and neither does he want a troublesome Jew to use Roman law unjustly to prevent his questioning.  After all, these Jerusalem Jews literally want this man’ s blood and he doesn’t understand why.


v.28  And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.”


            Paul’s response to his question is yes, I’m a Roman citizen and the chief captain can’t quite understand that.  He had to literally buy his citizenship.  In those days Roman citizenship carried with it many privileges not provided the citizens of their vassal countries and provinces.  However, if you had the right price it could be bought and that is how this chief captain had acquired his.  Paul tells him that he was born free; he obtained his citizenship through birth, just as we do in this country today.


v.29Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.”


            Just like the magistrates in Philippi, this Roman commander knew the consequences of mistreating a citizen of Rome.  He canceled the scourging immediately, sent the soldiers assigned to this task away and is concerned about the fact that he had bound Paul with leather thongs because even that was forbidden.


v.30  On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.”


            This chief captain still has to get to the bottom of his problem.  He can’t just turn Paul loose.  He as a responsibility to protect him since he is a Roman as well as a Jew and turning him loose would probably generate another riot and get Paul killed.  He can’t get at the truth by scourging Paul, that is no longer an option, so he chooses the best alternative that is available to him.  He orders the chief priests and their council, the Sanhedrin, to present themselves along with Paul for his investigation.