Acts 21-23 Permit me to speak to the people

From Acts 21-23

44 twelve apostlesQ. Have you ever told someone how you came to believe in Jesus?

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

In yesterdays chapter readings Paul indicated the people in Ephesus will not see him again. He then headed towards Jerusalem. I wonder if the account is meant to be similar to Jesus’ last trek to Jerusalem. When Paul gets to Jerusalem he is eventually arrested because of  Jews who believed he was forbidding his own people from circumcising their children, encouraging them to give up practicing Jewish customs and observing the law of Moses. Paul did no such thing. He gave these instructions to Gentiles, not to the Jews.

During his arrest Paul asks to speak and he gives his testimony.

37 As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he [the tribune] said, “Do you know Greek? 38 Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” 39 Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.” (Acts 21.37-39)

Im not sure that the tribune had a good understanding of who Paul was or his ministry. But he seems to be mistaking Paul with someone else. Paul asks however to speak.

40 And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:

22 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:

3 “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. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 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 21.40-22.5)

Paul refers to ‘this Way’. This was the first name given to Christianity. Perhaps ‘the Way of Jesus’…

6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.  12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. (Acts 22.6-13)

This is the moment of change for Paul. The reason why he behaves as he did. His zeal for the law and protecting Judaism, turned into zeal for Jesus, sharing the gospel.

14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ (Acts 22.14-16)

Paul has been appointed to;

  1. Know God’s will,
  2. See the Righteous One (Jesus) and hear a voice from his mouth
  3. Be a witness for Jesus for what he has seen and heard

I suspect in addition to seeing Jesus personally, Jesus revealed to him the gospel. Visions of the story of Jesus. Paul is baptised. People who have been reading Acts will notice new believers are always baptised. Baptism is linked to the washing away of his sins. Now Paul calls on his name, which sounds like Rom 10.13.

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ” 22 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.” (Acts 22.17-22)

Paul touches upon a sensitive subject with the Jews. His association with the Gentiles. The Jews are very nationalistic.

About Mission

Paul gives his testimony here. It doesn’t end up so well. But not all testimonies have to end this way. Giving a testimony can be a powerful tool for evangelism. Sharing our own stories about how we came to know Jesus puts us in a position where we can share the gospel with them. Testimonies should be stories, stories about our lives and experiences. The can help people see how God can change peoples lives and what it would look like for them if they became a Christian as well.


Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights