The Book of Acts: Chapter 22 (pt 1 of 4)

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“Paul said to the crowd, “Brothers and fathers, please let me defend myself against these charges.

When they hear him speaking in Aramaic, a hush came over the crowd.

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia. I was raised here in Jerusalem and was tutored in the great school of Gamaliel. My education traine me in the strict interpretation of the Law of our ancestors, and I grew zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I encountered a movement known as the “Way,” and I considered it a threat to our religion, so I persecuted it violently. I put both men and women in chains, had them imprisoned, and would have killed them—as the high priest and the entire council of elders will tell you. I received documentation from them to go to Damascus and work with the brothers there to arrest followers of the “Way” and bring them back to Jerusalem in chains so they could be properly punished.

I was on my way to Damascus. It was about noon. Suddenly, a powerful light shone around me, and I fell to the ground. A voice spoke to me, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?”

I answered, “Who are you, Lord?”

The voice replied, I am Jesus of Nazareth, the One you persecute.”

My companions saw the light, but they did not hear the voice. I asked, “What do you want me to do, Lord?”

The Lord replied, “Get up and go to Damascus, yu will be given your instructions there.” Since the intense light had blinded me, my companions led me by the hand into Damascus. I was visited there by a devout man named Ananias, a law-keeping jew who was well spoken of by all the Jews living in Damascus. He said, “Brother Saul, regain your sight!” I could immediately see again, beginning with Annanias standing before me. Then he said, “You have been chosen by the God of our ancestors to know His will, to see the Righeous One, and to hear the voice of God. You will tell the story of what you have seen and heard to the whole world. So now, don’t delay. Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, as you call on His name in prayer.”

I returned to Jerusalem, and I was praying here in the temple on day. I slipped into a trance and had a vision in which Jesus said to me, “Hurry! Get out of Jerusalem fast! The people here will not receive your testimony about Me.”

I said, “But Lord, they all know tjat O wemt from synagogue to synagogue imprisoning and beating everyone who believed in You. They know what I was like and how I stood in approval of the execution of Stephen. Your witness, when he was stoned. I even held the coast of those who actually stoned him.”

Jesus replied, “Go, for I am going to send you to distant lands to teach the gentiles.” —Acts 22:2b-21

It is interesting to compare Paul’s speech, addressed to this mob, with that of Stephen earlier in Acts. One similarity is that in both instances it was Hellenistic Jews who made the accusations. Another similarity is in the charges that were leveled against the two:

Regarding Stephen they said,

“We have heard this man speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God . . . this man does not stop saying things against this holy place and the law. For we have heard him saying that Jesus the Nazarene will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us” —Acts 6:8-14

Regarding Paul they said,

“This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this sanctuary!” —Acts 21:27-28

Aah, but did you notice the differences between the two incidents? Stephen indicts (or prosecutes) his audience, while Paul gives a defense. Stephen identifies himself with the Old Testament prophets and his opponents with their stiff-necked forefathers. Paul identifies himself with Judaism and with his opponents. He wasn’t any different from them in that he was also a devout Jew, looking for the hope of Israel. Stephen goes back in time to survey Old Testament history, showing that his opponents were rebellious, just like their forefathers. Paul goes back in time, reviewing his own history, and specifically how he came from unbelief to faith. Stephen is put to death by an angry mob; Paul is delivered from the angry mob.

Also, something you might have missed is that Luke’s account of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9 is (predictably) in the third person. Luke was present with Paul’s telling of his story, whereas he was not present in Stephen’s experience. Also, Paul’s account of his conversion in Acts 19 is in the first person. Here, in chapter 22, Paul is giving his testimony in his own words.

If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts


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