ACTS OF THE APOSTLES CHAPTER 22
The trouble that Paul was warned against finally took place. He was caught in the Temple in Jerusalem and was almost beaten to death by the angry mob instigated by the Jews from Asia screaming that Paul had brought a Gentile into the Temple. The Roman authorities descended quickly and rescued him. While Paul was being brought into the castle, he was given permission by the Roman chief captain to speak to the Jews. He motioned the angry crowd below and was ready to testify to them.
Acts 22:1: Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.
Acts 22:2: (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,)
It was definitely not easy for Paul to speak to those who had just wanted to kill him. Normally, one would run for his life after being assaulted but not Paul. He already had many battle scars on him prior to this encounter. Nothing would really terrify him now. Having being rescued during a critical moment where he might meet his Maker, Paul still thought about giving his version of the story to those who wanted him dead. When those Jews from Asia stirred up the crowd, he was not given a chance to speak. They just went mad and started to beat him up and kill him. Given time and space after his rescue, he chose to speak to these people who were out for his blood. So when he finally opened his mouth and spoke to them in the Hebrew tongue, the crowd quieten down to listen to him and see what he had to tell them.
Acts 22:3: 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.
Acts 22:4: And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
Acts 22:5: 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.
Paul began with his life story giving his lineage detailing who his teacher was and indeed he came from a more privileged background. His credentials were known to those who brought him up as well as those who were persecuted by him before his conversion to the Messiah of Israel. His zeal included persecuting believers of the Lord and putting them to death. Men and women including would not escape his dragnet during his blind zeal without knowledge for the God of Israel when he persecuted the disciples of the Lord. Only God knew how many men and women fell victim during those time when Paul was responsible for their fierce persecution where poor children could have become orphans because of his relentless effort in stamping out these Jesus heretics.
Not only Paul was doing his best to eradicate those believers of Jesus whom he considered heretics, he even volunteered to persecute these people at Damascus. Of course the high priest also authorized him to carry out this persecution. The priests and the elders of Israel could bear witness to this fact on Paul’s testimony. The crowd remained silent as they listened intensely to Paul who told them who he was and what he did in the past. There were no quarrels with what Paul had told them thus far. These folks were in agreement with Paul for what he had done in the past. They obviously hoped he would continue his way of life to continue to stand firm against those believers of the Lord they viewed as heretics and troublemakers.
Acts 22:6: 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.
Acts 22:7: And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
Acts 22:8: And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.
Acts 22:9: 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.
Acts 22:10: 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.
Acts 22:11: 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.
Having introduced himself to these Jews, Paul continued to testify concerning his trip to Damascus to prosecute those Jews who had converted to be believers of Jesus of Nazareth. Before reaching the city, he was stopped by a great light from heaven. This light was no ordinary light that lighted up the surrounding. It was a very specific beam of light from heaven to stop Paul and his officers on the way to Damascus. They could not proceed further as they were overcome by this light that brought Paul to the ground. This was no doubt a light of great power from heaven where no men could approach unto and venture any further.
It was a different encounter that their former prophet Elijah experienced while running away from Israel who heard God’s still small voice after the howling wind and thunderous earthquake. This incident did not cause upheaval to the surrounding environment but spotlighted those who were on the way to persecute the Lord’s believers at Damascus. After the light from heaven was turned on to focus on these persecutors, a voice from heaven followed. This voiced addressed only one particular person in the group, the leader Paul. This voice came as a question instead of a rebuke. Paul was questioned why he was persecuting the person behind this voice. It must have come as a shock to Paul. He was on his way to persecute those Jews on earth in Damascus. Why would a voice from heaven question his purpose and intent? He was not persecuting people beyond this earthly realm but now he was confronted by someone beyond this world questioning him why he was persecuting Him.
Paul recognized this encounter to be something extraordinary. He did not deny he was persecuting anyone on earth. He was not blaming anyone for his action on earth. He was not giving excuses for what he had been doing on earth. He was not quarrelling with this voice from above to stay away from him. He was not furious with this voice from above for preventing him from carrying out his urgent business at Damascus. He simply fell on his face and acknowledged this voice from above and addressed this person as his Lord. He asked who this Lord was who had stopped him on the way to Damascus during this extraordinary encounter.
The Lord replied and made known to Paul that He was Jesus whom he was persecuting. Herein lies this theological fact that anyone who persecutes a Christian is actually persecuting the Lord Himself. Paul who acted so zealously all this while persecuting those believers in Jesus, putting them to death and throwing them into jails now had this rude awakening dawned upon him. He was thinking that he was only doing what was right to uphold the honour of the God of Israel and he regarded those followers of Jesus as heretics and treasonous citizens of Israel. Now he came face to face with the Person behind all his persecution from heaven to reveal to him the error of his ways. How wrong could he be and how foolish could he get in being so zealous to go all out to eradicate the believers of the Lord in strange cities and he was about to reach Damascus to carry out this purpose of exterminating the Lord’s believers.
While this conversation was going on, those with Paul could not make out what was going on. They were not privy to this conversation. They only saw the light and were afraid. They could not hear the voice because they were not given the privilege to listen in on this private conversation between heaven and earth. The focus was only on Paul for it was Paul who was in charged of this whole operation to get rid of the believers of Jesus. These men with Paul could only wait for this encounter of a very special kind to run its course while Paul was having his audience with the Lord Jesus Christ. How many sons of Adam could have such a privilege to speak to the Lord of heaven especially for this murderous man who had brought so much trouble and misery to the Lord’s people? However, Paul was a vessel of special grace and mercy, a man who fiercely persecuted the Lord’s people albeit with no ulterior motives other than to please the God of Israel.
Paul knew he was wrong. He was so wrong in persecuting the Lord’s people all this while but there was nothing he could do to revert the situation. Those whom he had put to death had died and those whom he had thrown into prisons were very likely still in jail. What could he do? He had done so much harm to Jesus and His people and having been shown he was wrong, he needed to know he should do from then on. He could not turn back the clock but he could do something for the future. He could not reverse the damage he had caused but he could still bring forth fruits meet for repentance. There was no point in blame shifting. There was no point in giving excuses. There was no point wallowing in self-pity. So he asked the Lord what he could do.
The answer he got was so simple but he had to act upon it by faith. He was not given an elaborate scheme of things he had to accomplish in order to make restitution. He was not told to do penance and punished himself for the harm he had caused to the Church of the Lord. He was not told to bring an animal sacrifice before the priest for he was facing the Great High Priest from heaven (Hebrews 3:1). He was simply told to get up and move on as revelation from above would come thereafter. This is indeed the experience of every born again child of God upon conversion when he meets his Saviour from heaven. He is only given enough information to move on one step at a time. So Paul did not question the Lord why he was given so little information what he should do from henceforth. He got up and moved on. There was only one destination, Damascus, the city in which he was supposed to persecute believers of Jesus but now a place of revelation as to what he had to do as a believer of Jesus.
However, this encounter with the light from heaven had blinded Paul. He could not see and had to be led by those with him to lead him into the city. Those officers with Paul would have many questions on their minds and the fear they experienced during this encounter was no less severe. They saw their chief struck to the ground. They saw their chief lost his sight in this episode. They would be wondering what they had to do for they were supposed to assist their chief to accomplish a mission in the city. Now they saw how frail and weak their chief had become. Hidden away from the curious minds of those around Paul, the glory of that light from heaven had shone into the inner most recess of the heart of Paul that day. Paul was never the same again after this confrontation from above.
Once again, the NIV and the NASB are giving false testimony. Paul said that those with him did not hear the voice that spoke to him in verse 9. These two modern versions reported that those companions of Paul could not understand the voice speaking to Paul. The fact is that this conversation was a private affair between the Lord and Paul and no third party was allowed the privilege to know what was transpired during the conversation. Moreover, the conversation between Paul and the Lord was in Hebrew and if those men heard a voice and could not understand what was spoken, then the conversation must have been in a foreign language which was not the case. Why would the God of Israel speak to a Jew in a foreign language?
The modern NIV also trying to sound brilliant could not accept the simple word “glory” that described the brightness of the light from heaven that blinded Paul in verse 11. The translators changed it to brilliance of the light that blinded Paul. This is very brilliant indeed of the NIV translators trying to make the archaic King James Bible easier to read for the poor English readers. Such clumsy effort to describe the brightness of a light using the word “brilliance” commonly used to indicate the level of intelligence shows the NIV translators to be either high-minded and arrogant or simply lack of intelligence in handling the words of the living God. Maybe they thought a light with high intelligence had blinded Paul instead of the intensity of the brightness of that light.
Acts 22:12: And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there,
Acts 22:13: Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him.
Acts 22:14: 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.
Acts 22:15: For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.
Acts 22:16: And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
Paul’s story telling had so far been captivating. The crowd remained quiet as he related to them what had happened to him on the road to Damascus to persecute believers of Jesus. Perhaps at this point, they were approving Paul for all that he did for the God of Israel and their nation even though they had beaten him and almost killed earlier. So Paul continued his testimony. While at Damascus, a devout man according to the law and having a good reputation among the Jews came to him. It was important that this man Ananias was someone highly esteemed among the Jews who came to Paul. Anyone of questionable characters like some vagabond Jews approaching Paul would throw Paul’s testimony into disrepute. Paul was giving the name of this man and all this information was verifiable should anyone wish to probe further.
This man Ananias came and called on Paul and restored his sight. He told Paul God had chosen him to know God’s will and to know God in a personal way. Paul was chosen to be a witness to testify of all that he had seen and heard. Ananias also instructed Paul to be baptized to wash away his sins and called upon the name of the Lord. Water baptism during those times was an outward profession of faith and washing away sins as a continuation of the message from John the Baptist, the Lord as well as Peter’s sermon on Pentecost offering repentant hearers to be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Nonetheless, the spiritual eyes of Paul were already opened a few days back during that heavenly confrontation on the road to Damascus. He needed a few days of spiritual reflection and come to terms with what he had done and what he had to do in the future. With his fleshly eyes opened and spiritual eyes tuned, he was ready for all the assignments waiting for him. So water baptism was simply his first step of obedience to the Lord.
Acts 22:17: 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;
Acts 22:18: And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.
Acts 22:19: And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee:
Acts 22:20: 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.
Acts 22:21: And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.
After telling this crowd his encounter on the road to Damascus and what happened to him in that city, Paul brought their attention back to Jerusalem. Paul was at the Temple praying and went into a trance. He was told to leave the city immediately because the people would not accept his testimony concerning the Lord. Paul was extremely courageous in the first place. He went back to Jerusalem after his amazing confrontation with the Lord on the way to Damascus. The people knew very well all his deeds in the past. The disciples of the Lord would be wary of him and the unbelieving Jews would be against him as well.
So he told the Lord the disciples knew he was responsible for the imprisonment of the believers in the Lord in every synagogue. Even when Stephen was stoned, he was there giving consent to his death. He was personally involved in all the evils against the Lord’s people and there was nothing he could do now even after his conversion to assuage their anger and remove their suspicion about him. His dilemma was understandable. He found himself caught between two camps and neither would accept him. This must be hard on him even as he tried to testify for the Lord. His credibility was questionable before the disciples of the Lord. His treachery was noted by the unbelieving Jews for turning his back on them. He was in deep trouble. He was doing the unthinkable for being in Jerusalem. This city was definitely not a safe place for him. His heart however was still with his people and his own nation.
Hence the Lord told him to make haste and depart for he was in great danger with the unbelieving Jews plotting against him and the disciples of the Lord not accepting him. The Lord then told Paul he would be sent far unto the Gentiles. This was of course the only logical step to take where he could start afresh and be useful to the Lord in testifying of the Lord’s mercy and saving grace.
Acts 22:22: And 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.
Acts 22:23: And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air,
Acts 22:24: The 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.
Unfortunately, upon the mention of the word “Gentiles” all hell broke loose on the ground. The Jews were very sensitive to the Gentiles. The very mention of the word “Gentiles” evoked an emotive response beyond human comprehension. The very reason why they went about to kill him was because they thought Paul had brought a Gentile into their Temple to defile their Temple. Now that Paul mentioned about the Gentiles, their quiet attention was turned into a raucous uproar immediately. Fallen man does have prejudice. For the Jews who regarded themselves as God’s chosen people on earth, they viewed the Gentiles through jaundiced lens as unclean people. So when Paul told them that the Lord would send him to the Gentiles they broke into riotous mode again. They not only screamed for Paul to be taken away and that he was not fit to live, they turned into a rage and took off their clothes and waving in protest casting dust in the air. Their violence was so sudden and the air was once again pregnant with explosive rage.
This sudden change of mood on the ground caught the chief captain by surprise. All the while when Paul was addressing them, they were listening quietly. Suddenly there was this outrageous outburst, especially when Paul was addressing them in Hebrew and the chief captain would not know what was transpiring. So he quickly ordered his soldiers to bring Paul into the castle. Initially he thought Paul was handling the situation pretty well until the crowd turned mad and violent again. He had no choice but to use his own means to determine what was happening. So he commanded his soldiers to scourge Paul to find out why these people were so outraged at what he told them. In his mind, Paul must be a dangerous man and perhaps even a murderous criminal. Otherwise, why would these Jews be so angry with him!
The Holy Bible showed very clearly why this crowd suddenly turned violent upon hearing Paul mentioned the word “Gentiles”. The NIV removed the word “Gentiles” while the NASB changed the word to this “statement” destroying the reason why those Jews went into a rage. Why would the crowd suddenly turned into a frenzied outrage? One cannot learn simple Bible truths from these modern versions masquerading as holy bibles! Sometimes common sense is simply uncommon to these translators. The lack of brilliance of these modern versions translators is indeed past finding out. No amount of brilliance from these translators can compensate for their lack of spiritual discernment when they messed with God’s Holy words.
Acts 22:25: And 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?
Acts 22:26: When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.
So they bound him with thongs which must have been painful. When the soldiers were about to scourge him, Paul asked the centurion that stood by whether it was lawful for them to scourge him, a Roman, who was not a condemned criminal. The centurion was only carrying out orders and so when he heard that Paul was a Roman citizen, he did not carry out the scourging as commanded by the chief captain. He wisely reported this information to the chief captain and advised him to take heed in dealing with Paul, a Roman citizen. This was no small matter and treating a Roman citizen that way was out of question where trouble could come upon them if they were found to have abused the law against a Roman citizen.
Acts 22:27: Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea.
Acts 22:28: And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.
Acts 22:29: Then 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.
The chief captain thought he could delegate the questioning by scourging to his soldiers like he used to do all the while. Little did he realise that he was dealing with a Roman citizen and not a Jewish criminal. So he came to Paul and questioned him whether he was indeed a Roman citizen. Paul affirmed that he was. The chief captain told Paul that he secured this freedom with a great sum of money. Paul then replied that he was born a Roman citizen. While Paul was a Jew, he was born in Tarsus. His citizenship was not acquired by freeing himself from Roman slavery with a great price like this captain.
When the captain had verified that Paul was indeed a Roman citizen, he was afraid because he had ordered him to be bound and scourged. Those who were supposed to examine Paul also left. This was a serious offence and those involved in this episode in treating Paul without the proper decorum would have reasons to be worried for they could be held answerable should Paul complain against them for the treatment he received from them. Back in Acts 16 where Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into jail, they refused to leave the jail when ordered by the magistrate. Even the magistrate had to come personally to apologise and persuade them to leave peacefully. Paul could have made an issue out of the treatment he received unjustly as citizen of Rome and get those in authority into trouble but he did not.
The captain could be having sleepless night after this incident. He had not accorded the rights of a Roman citizen enjoyed by Paul when he treated him as a common criminal. In fact, he was abused and roughed up by these soldiers under the order of the chief captain. Actually, the captain should not be blamed as he did not know what was happening during the riot at Jerusalem and he was not aware that Paul was a Roman citizen either. Notwithstanding, he could get himself into trouble should Paul lodge a report against him.
Citizens have rights. Roman citizens enjoyed rights in the empire over and above those slaves they ruled over. A Roman soldier could compel a man to carry his burden and walk a mile for him. The Lord even told his disciples to walk two miles for the Lord’s sake: And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. (Matthew 5:41) This was the law of the ruling powers during those days.
A few months back, two American women were detained by the North Koreans who accused them for spying for the US. The former US President Bill Clinton went to North Korea to talk to their leaders and secured their release. An US Senator then flew to North Korea to bring these two women home. These two women were not even Caucasians but they were US citizens. Citizens have their privileges. Citizens of the former colonies ruled by the British have rights as members of the commonwealth countries as well unless the member state renounces this privilege. Such citizens could seek assistance from UK during times of emergency in a foreign land.
Christians are citizens not only in this earthly realm but citizens from a far away country beyond this world where the eyes of sinful men cannot see: Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; (Ephesians 2:19) Christians are simply pilgrims on earth waiting to enter that country beyond this world: For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:14&16) The rights accorded to citizens of heaven are far richer and more superior to citizens of this world where they have no hope to enjoy. One day the saints will rule over this world with the Lord Jesus Christ with power unimaginable and privileges infinite: And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)
Acts 22:30: 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.
So the night was passed without incident for Paul under the custody of the Romans. Paul was untouchable because of his citizenship with Rome. Initially he was bound with two chains and thongs causing pains and great discomfort but was set loose. Now in the morning he was loosed from his bands and brought before the council to face those accusers, the chief priests. The captain still did get to the bottom of the whole matter. The incident of the riot at Jerusalem the day before was still unresolved. This was the beginning of Paul’s legal entanglements that caused him several lost years of liberty where his mission ministry was greatly curtailed.
During his testimony before the crowd the day before, he revealed that he went back to Jerusalem for the purpose of testifying to the Jews what had happened to him but the Lord told him that they would not receive his testimony. As such the Lord sent him to the Gentiles to minister the gospel to them. However, Paul’s desire to testify to his own countrymen back in the capital city of Israel did not diminish over the years. Then after so many years when he finally got the chance to testify for the Lord to his people, his testimony was still rejected by them. This was however, not the way in which the Lord expected him to testify to the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem. There were so many warnings given to him along to way to stop him but he insisted on coming to Jerusalem to keep this feast that ended in losing his liberty. Hence, Paul found himself dealing with all the troublesome legal procedures in the midst of political intrigues and corruption of people in high places. Paul could not turn back the clock but to bite the bullet and move on with a ministry reaching the lost in a much smaller scale and effectiveness with his liberty greatly reduced during these years of custody. Nevertheless, Paul never ceased to witness to the lost small or great for the Lord Jesus Christ who called him to serve Him for His glory.
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