Acts Chapter 21 & Chapter 22: Paul’s Journey to Jerusalem, His Capture, Account of His Conversion

Nov 24th, 2009 | By | Category: Acts, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Acts Chapter 21 & Chapter 22: Paul’s Journey to Jerusalem, His Capture, Account of His Conversion

Acts 21:1 And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara:

Acts 21:2 And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we went aboard, and set forth.

Acts 21:3 Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden.

What does the clause “After we were gotten from them” mean? Paul was saying, “After we had torn ourselves away from the elders of Ephesus following the tearful farewell, we went by boat from Miletus down around the underbelly of Asia Minor.” Coos and Rhodes were islands in the south Aegean Sea. Wind and tide favored a “straight” (unhindered) course. Phoenicia was southern Lebanon. At that time, Syria included much of northern Lebanon.

Verses 1-3 are like a diary, telling where they sailed without incident.

Acts 21:4 And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.

Paul and those with him stayed in Tyre for seven days. The brethren there were given a message of the Holy Spirit that persecution awaited Paul in Jerusalem. Some of the disciples then mixed in their own reasoning and tried to dissuade Paul from going to Jerusalem because of the persecution. Providence is often hard to interpret because it can be considered two different ways. Prayer and acute observation are necessary—and in some cases, even fasting to the intent that God would overrule in helping to discern the providence the right way.

Sometimes providence is merely a test, for God “proves” us to know whether we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength by allowing those of the wrong spirit to speak as though it is the right spirit (Deut. 8:2; Judg. 3:4).

Acts 21:5 And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.

Acts 21:6 And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again.

The whole congregation (disciples, wives, and children) accompanied Paul to the outskirts of the city and back to the boat. All kneeled down on the shore and prayed.

Acts 21:7 And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.

Acts 21:8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.

Paul journeyed southward from Tyre to Ptolemais (near Haifa) for one day. Then he went on to Caesarea to the home of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven deacons appointed back in Jerusalem (Acts 6:2,3).

Acts 21:9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.

Acts 21:10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.

Philip the evangelist had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. Paul tarried at his house for many days, perhaps for rest and fellowship.

Acts 21:11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.

The Old Testament prophets frequently enacted little dramas when they prophesied. For example, Jeremiah used a yoke, Isaiah prophesied with bare buttocks, and Ezekiel lay on one side for 390 days and then on the other side for 40 days (Jer. 27:2; Isa. 20:1-4; Ezek. 4:1-8). The Jews were given to signs, and the Lord catered to that predilection on some occasions. In a similar enactment, Agabus bound his own hands and feet to dramatize a prophecy of Paul’s apprehension in Jerusalem, but Paul had courage and faith to go willingly into that persecution.

Acts 21:12 And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.

“We” refers to Luke and those accompanying Paul. “They” applies to the local brethren. Paul went to Jerusalem despite their urgings to the contrary. Incidentally, this was the second attempt by brethren to dissuade Paul from going to Jerusalem (Acts 21:4). Also, we are reminded of Peter’s telling Jesus not to go to Jerusalem: “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” (Matt. 16:22).

Acts 21:13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

The brethren wept, but Paul replied, “I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” He said to Timothy a little later, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).

Acts 21:14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

Acts 21:15 And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem.

Their “carriages” were their suitcases and baggage. Apparently, quite a company went with Paul to Jerusalem, and they took food and provisions for their stay during the Feast of Pentecost, as food and lodging were not always available because of the millions who came for the feast. Many slept on the ground. For example, Jesus and the apostles seemed to frequent the Garden of Gethsemane, which was a choice spot.

Acts 21:16 There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.

Acts 21:17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.

Acts 21:18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.

Paul and his companions lodged in Jerusalem with Mnason of Cyprus, an older brother who had been a disciple for many years. “James” was James Alphaeus, for James Zebedee was dead. The brethren at Jerusalem were happy to see Paul the next day. All elders were present, for news had spread rapidly of Paul’s arrival.

Acts 21:19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.

Acts 21:20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:

Acts 21:21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.

Acts 21:22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.

Acts 21:23 Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;

Acts 21:24 Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.

Acts 21:25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.

Acts 21:26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

“Many thousands of Jews … which believe … are all zealous of the law”; that is, although many thousands of Jews became Christians, they continued to follow the Law faithfully. It was difficult for some to discard their old beliefs. For this reason, some of the brethren advised Paul to minimize any confrontations with the Jews by shaving his head under the Nazarite vow and going to the Temple with four others who had also taken Nazarite vows and shaved their heads.

Many Jewish Christians urged Christians to obey the Law as well as the precepts of Christ. With the Galatians, Paul had tried to show that the Jew was no longer obligated to follow the ceremonial features of the Law but that voluntary compliance was permissible under certain circumstances. Making the Law mandatory was the wrong principle. For example, Paul refused to have Titus circumcised but did have Timothy circumcised (Gal. 2:3-5; Acts 16:1-3). To the Jews, Paul was a Jew, and to the Gentiles, he was a Gentile in order to win converts (1 Cor. 9:20,21). In other words, to comply with a feature of the Law under peer pressure would be compromising principle, but to voluntarily, in advance, follow a custom of the Jews was a different matter. If a Jewish Christian wanted to take a Nazarite vow or to tear his clothes and put ashes on his head in connection with mourning, he could do so.

Here in Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost, the brethren thought Paul would be better received and heard by both Jews and Jewish Christians if he did not appear too radical. Contrary to comments from three Reprint articles in the Expanded Biblical Comments, Paul properly followed the advice of the brethren. Although his actions boomeranged, as we shall subsequently see, he was correct to take the Nazarite vow and go with the other four.

On multiple occasions, Paul had demonstrated his courage, so he was not peer-pressured into taking the vow. He was simply listening to advice from the brethren, and he had been solicitous of going to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost, evidently intending to take a vow anyway. When the brethren realized his intention, they suggested that he go to the Temple with four others. That way people would see him and conclude he was not that radical, for sometimes people exaggerate what they seem to think is a fault in others. From a sanctified common-sense standpoint, Paul’s following the advice of the brethren might have brought positive results, but as the Lord had foreseen, trouble would ensue and Paul had been told earlier what awaited him in Jerusalem. His reply was, “I am ready to be bound in Jerusalem and to die for Christ” (Acts 21:13 paraphrase).

And in regard to wisdom, Paul had more wisdom than any of the other brethren. Therefore, he acted within his rights. On another occasion, Paul said that he could eat meat offered to idols but that doing so might stumble others. Offering meat to an idol did not affect the meat, for the idol was like a nonexistent entity. However, he was very careful in regard to the consciences of others. While he felt free to do certain things, he refrained when doing so would offend a brother. Paul was considerate of the feelings of others, and now, in this situation in Jerusalem, he was considerate of the brethren who were giving him advice.

Comment: Paul was told that persecution awaited him, so he may have followed this advice for an even higher motive, which was to show the brethren that whatever Providence determined would happen and nothing man could do would change the situation. Then his actions in following the advice would be even more to his credit.

Comment: It was difficult for some to make the transition from the Law to liberty in Christ, and Paul was trying to help them.

Acts 21:27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,

Acts 21:28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.

Acts 21:29 (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)

Acts 21:30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.

These Asian Jews, who were hostile toward Paul, had been following him. The hostility had started up in Galatia, Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. Now they spotted Paul in the Temple and emotionally aroused the multitude against him with cries of “Men of Israel, HELP!” Imagine being one of the multitude and hearing this cry. The natural reaction was to assume the words were correct and to react emotionally without waiting to examine the matter dispassionately. Thus the multitude came to the assistance of the Asian Jews.

These Jews had seen Greeks in Paul’s presence the day or so before. Now, blinded with hatred and prejudice, they falsely assumed that the four bald-headed men going into the Temple with Paul were the same Greeks and that they were desecrating the holy place. The Asian Jews created a riot with their accusations, which were evil surmising, for Paul had done no such thing.

Comment: Only Paul was seized and not those with him.

Reply: Paul was seized as the ringleader and dragged out of the Temple. The animosity of the Asian Jews was concentrated on Paul.

Acts 21:31 And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.

Acts 21:32 Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul.

Acts 21:33 Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done.

In anger, the Jews dragged Paul out of the Temple and beat him—until the Roman soldiers arrived. It did not take long for crowd hysteria to develop, and “Jerusalem was in an uproar.” The Romans “rescued” Paul, bound him with two chains (probably hoping to pacify the crowd), and interrogated him to find out what he had done.

Comment: Jerusalem was providentially under the control of the Romans, for despite some hardships, their authority helped at times to preserve, or prolong, the lives of the apostles.

Paul kept a level head even under great, great pressure. Temperament was a factor. Whereas Peter, for example, was impulsive by nature, Paul had the same zeal and was emotional but had a different personality. Paul was very similar in temperament to Moses. Moses got angry—he was impulsive and emotional at times—but justifiably so with righteous indignation.

Acts 21:34 And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle.

Acts 21:35 And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people.

With the commotion of the crowd, the Romans could not discern the reason for the tumult.

Therefore, they carried Paul aloft, away from the crowd, to the castle for further interrogation.Of the two chains binding Paul, one chain was on his hands, and one was on his feet, as prophesied by Agabus (Acts 21:10,11).

Acts 21:36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him.

Acts 21:37 And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek?

The multitude was crying, “Away with him!” similar to the way Jesus was treated at the end of his ministry. Before Paul went into the castle, he asked to speak with the chief captain. (Under this circumstance, it would have done no good to speak to a subordinate.) The captain then asked Paul, “Can you speak Greek?” Evidently, Paul had made the request in Greek, and the captain was surprised and very impressed, recognizing that Paul was no ordinary person. The Romans knew both Greek and Latin. All civil suits were conducted in Latin, but the language of the better educated was Greek, which was considered the international language of that day.

Acts 21:38 Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?

The chief captain thought he recognized Paul, but it was a case of mistaken identity. The Egyptians were known for their special Greek accent, especially the Alexandrian Greeks. Thus we can appreciate Apollos, a learned Grecian Jew from Alexandria who exhorted with power and was eloquent (Acts 18:24).

Acts 21:39 But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.

Paul identified himself as a citizen of Tarsus and thus a Roman citizen. Because of Paul’s Roman citizenship, the chief captain let him speak. The citizens of certain cities in Asia Minor that either donated a large amount of money to the coffers of Rome for a particular purpose or were instrumental in helping the Romans defeat an enemy were sometimes given carte blanche Roman citizenship. Apparently, the chief captain knew that Tarsus was one of these free cities.

The normal procedure with someone who created a riot was to teach the individual a lesson. The process of scourging was almost automatic.

Acts 21:40 And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,

Paul beckoned to the crowd, and as silence came, he began to address the people in Hebrew.

Although Paul had used Greek to ask the chief captain for permission to speak, he now addressed the Jews in Hebrew (Acts 21:37).

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,)

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.

Paul began his address the same way Stephen did, to all males: “Men, brethren, and fathers” (Acts 7:2). The “fathers” were the religious leaders. The hearers “kept the more silence” when they heard Paul speak in Hebrew, for they may have surmised that he was a Grecian Jew, having his origin among the Gentiles. His reputation was that he was changing the Law, so when he spoke in educated Hebrew, they were surprised. Paul explained that although born in Tarsus, he was brought up in Jerusalem, where he received strict doctrines “at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers.” Until his conversion, Paul was a zealous Jew just like the Jews he was now addressing. He did not want any heretical doctrine to be introduced into the religion but desired the religion to remain “perfect” as taught by Moses and the Law. In other words, Paul credited those he was addressing as having that same type of zeal, which was a good quality, but it needed direction or adjustment.

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 said that his zeal had been similar to what his persecutors were now manifesting in accusing him of introducing foreign ideas into their religion. In zeal, Paul had persecuted Christians—until his eyes were opened. The fact that the high priest was a witness to Paul’s previous actions should have borne weight, for in religious matters, Paul previously had rapport at the highest level of government and was also quite conversant with the Sanhedrin.

Being brought up with strict doctrines, he was very knowledgeable. If fair-minded, the “elders” could attest to Paul’s previous behavior prior to conversion.

Moreover, Paul “received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.” When several Jewish Christians were apprehended and imprisoned in Damascus, the Jews of that city sent letters to the Jews in Jerusalem, asking what to do with the prisoners. Paul was commissioned to go to Damascus and bring the Jewish Christians back as prisoners. The “brethren” in this instance were Jewish brethren (remember how Paul had started his discourse: “Men, brethren, and fathers”). Paul was trying to identify himself as being a loyal Jew.

Comment: The “letters” were mentioned earlier: “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1,2).

Reply: The letters gave Paul not only permission to bring back those Jewish Christians who were already in prison but also the authority and the liberty to order the arrest of others and to bring them all back, bound, to Jerusalem. “Letters” (plural) indicates that the Jews in Damascus had written to others in addition to the high priest. No doubt Paul, with his high contacts and familiarity with the leadership, was apprised of the letters and thus knew about the dilemma. The problem was ticklish because the Jews, being under foreign control, were not at liberty to do just what they wanted. Learning of the problem, Paul zealously volunteered to undertake the service (Acts 26:10,11).

In his speech, Paul was trying to strike a chord of recognition among those whom he was addressing, saying that he formerly believed exactly as they did but even more so. He was trying to get their attention so that they would give more weight to what he was about to say. The Jews should have seen the reasonableness of Paul’s logic.

Comment: Following the proper principle, Paul publicly confessed his sins over and over.

Comment: Later Paul said, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tim. 1:12,13).

Reply: Paul received mercy, but he also received stripes. Sins of ignorance are still sins and sometimes receive stripes, but sins not of ignorance definitely receive stripes. Under the Law, sins of ignorance could be forgiven, but a price had to be paid. Sins not of ignorance had to receive stripes. No amount of sacrifices, donations, or crying would excuse willful sins. Paul said his sins were of ignorance. Had they been willful and against his conscience, to that extent he would have been culpable. Rather, he was so indoctrinated with the strictness of the law of the Pharisees that he was oblivious to his wrong course.

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.

In theatrical presentations, a spotlight sometimes shines on the individual who is about to speak. When the bright light shone down upon Paul, he would have been cognizant, in a fearful sense, that he was the center of attention. He would have wondered why the light was concentrated on him. And only he was blinded because of that concentration. A bright light shining with such density of concentration at noontime was a light above light. Incidentally, the “great light” is a proof that Jesus now had the divine nature (Acts 26:13).

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.

This demonstration was selective in different respects. The others with Paul were not blinded because they were outside the light. Paul, hearing Jesus’ voice but not being able to see his features, called out, “Who art thou, Lord [superior one]?” How startling—almost like electric shock treatment—for Paul to hear, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

The voice replied, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.” What a wonderful statement that was in many ways. This great superior being, who was hated by the leadership of Israel, was Jesus from disesteemed Nazareth. Now Paul began to understand. The response shows that the persecution of true Christians is counted as a persecution of Jesus. The others with Paul did not hear the “voice”; that is, they heard a sound but could not distinguish the words.

Dramatizations sometimes show that light is associated with a person’s being translated to another world or planet. Next, the individual is shown encased with a glass or transparent dome. With this bright light, the words spoken to Paul could not be distinguished outside the dome. He was encased in a cone of light that acted like a sound barrier. The sound heard outside was muffled or distorted beyond recognition, and thus was without meaning.

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.

Paul’s native humility was manifested in his next question, which was the perfect response: “What shall I do, Lord?” In spite of his education and determination, he was humble because he realized that he had done wrong. The Lord instructed him, “Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.” Jesus was saying, “It is not propitious to talk to you now. Go to Damascus, and there I will answer your question and tell you what to do.”

Comment: All the way back to Damascus, Paul’s conscience would have troubled him. He would be expecting punishment and not a great commission.

Reply: Yes, while being led blindly the rest of the way to Damascus, Paul would have felt guilty and would have expected punishment. He “could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand.” Prior to this experience, he was riding on a horse. Now he was off his “high horse” and walking and being led by the hand. These circumstances further humbled Paul. Similarly, many of us have to be brought to realize the baseness of our character. After seeing that inherently we are not worthy of mercy, we are amenable to proper instruction in

righteousness.

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.

The Lord had said, “It shall be told thee.” Therefore, Paul knew that the agent Jesus would select to perform that service would be worthy. The fact that Ananias, a Christian, then addressed him on an equal level as “brother” was comforting.

Not instantly but “the same hour” that Ananias said, “Brother Saul, receive thy sight,” Paul’s sight was restored, at least partially. One reason for the delay was that it took a while for the scales to fall off Paul’s burned eyes. Notice that Paul was kneeling, for he “looked up.” To have Paul’s sight come gradually was beneficial to Ananias too, for Ananias realized he was not the cause but merely the agent.

“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 [Jesus’] mouth.” How wonderful! In other words, “God has chosen you, Saul, to know His will and to see and hear Jesus.” The “Just One” (Jesus) is the antitypical propitiatory lid of the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant. On that slab, the blood of the bullock was struck in the form of a cross. God’s Justice was manifested to men through the crucified Christ. Stated another way, God’s Justice was satisfied when, according to His plan, His Son was given the privilege of suffering. Since redemption and mercy can come only through Jesus, it is through him that we receive justification.

Q: Did Paul literally hear Jesus’ “mouth”?

A: Yes, not only here but elsewhere too.

Paul was told that he was to be Jesus’ witness “unto all men” of what he had seen and heard on the way to Damascus. The gospel had to be identified with Jesus, not God, so that it would not be confused with the Law. Paul recounted his experience over and over not just because it was miraculous but because he was given a mandate to tell what had happened en route to Damascus. One of the leading arguments against the ministry of the Apostle Paul in the minds of his fellow Jews was, “When did he see Jesus? He was not called during Jesus’ earthly ministry.” Therefore, Paul had to repeatedly recount the experience of how Jesus called him and show that he was instructed of Jesus just as much as the others. Of course Paul’s having received the instruction of Gamaliel and being a Pharisee of the Pharisees was a great advantage when his zeal was redirected and the Holy Spirit opened up his understanding of the gospel.

When Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened to him, meaning that the knowledge of his preexistence flooded his mind. As a result, he went into the wilderness to fast and pray to know how to apply the knowledge. According to the Scriptures, he knew he was the Savior, but knowledge of his preexistence was another matter. Similarly, Paul was now in awe of the understanding he was given, and other Scriptures tell that he sought solitude in the wilderness to discern God’s will for him.

Paul was told to “be baptized, and wash away … [his] sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Baptism combines two elements: (1) forgiveness of sins with (2) immersion (full consecration) into Jesus’ death. Questions at the time we symbolize our consecration prove this connection. “Do you recognize you are a sinner? Do you accept Jesus as your personal Savior?” An affirmative response is verbal recognition of our need for cleansing through Jesus’ precious blood. Paul received Jesus’ baptism, not John’s.

Q: Was there a time lapse before Ananias said, “Why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized”?

Wouldn’t Paul have been overwhelmed and have needed time to think?

Comment: Paul was already dedicated to the Lord, so it was just a matter of recognizing that he had sinned and thus needed washing and cleansing to continue on with his full service to the Lord.

Reply: Yes, and he could sort this out too as time went on. For now, he took the most logical step. He was overwhelmed that the God of Israel’s fathers had called him and that he was being given personal instruction. Anyone who is serious and earnest would be very sober under such a situation and would listen intently to the Lord’s instructions.

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.

Paul’s initial itinerary was as follows. He went from Damascus into the wilderness, then he returned to Damascus and preached there, and next he went to Jerusalem. Thus there was a time gap between his baptism and his going to Jerusalem. The three years included Paul’s being in the wilderness and returning to Damascus to preach (Gal. 1:17,18). When the Jews wanted to murder him and were watching the gates, the brethren let him down in a basket over the wall, and then he traveled to Jerusalem. In other words, three years later Paul went to Jerusalem.

While in Jerusalem, Paul sought out the Lord’s brothers and also spoke with Peter, probably wanting information about Jesus’ early life and upbringing. As an apostle, Paul wanted to be prepared for any question that might arise henceforth in his ministry. After seeing the local brethren and preaching publicly, he went to the Temple, and while there, Jesus appeared to him in a vision and told him to get away from Jerusalem quickly, for his preaching had incurred great wrath and the Jews would not receive him.

Paul replied at the time (paraphrased), “Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue those who believed on you. And in addition to all that I have done—beating and persecuting and actually killing Christians—I assisted in Stephen’s death, even holding his raiment.” Paul’s words are very revealing, for they show that he had the proper attitude. Not only was he willing to die back there as retribution for his past actions, but he felt, correctly, that public sin should be publicly confessed. He was saying in effect, “I killed Christians here in this city, and now I have a responsibility to tell the people that I was wrong. My eyes have been opened.” However, God intended to use Paul and did not want him to be put to death at that time. Therefore, through providence, Paul was instructed to leave Jerusalem quickly. Of course the brethren were only too happy to help him leave. Another account tells that they escorted him up to Caesarea, etc., where the local prejudice was not so strong (Acts 9:30).

Paul was recounting how earlier he had been told to depart from Jerusalem and could not preach as intended, but now, years later, he was testifying to the people there. He felt the responsibility to testify and hence had requested permission to do so (Acts 21:39).

Comment: If Paul’s motives are not understood, it might seem that he was remonstrating with the Lord here.

Reply: Native humility was part of his character.

Acts 22:21 And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.

Jesus told Paul to depart, for he would send Paul “far hence unto the Gentiles.” Paul was getting the same lesson over and over. He had more visions, prophecies, tongues, and understanding than any of the other disciples. Truly Paul declared the whole gospel. He unburdened his heart and spoke the truth. Although he did not use unnecessary decorum, he was very respectful.

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.

What an unreasonable and emotional reaction by the Jews to a reasonable testimony! Being unaware of any guilt, the chief captain was puzzled by the Jews’ reaction and, therefore, ordered Paul to be “examined by scourging.” He assumed Paul had done some terrible thing and wanted to know what he was hiding for such an uproar to result.

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.

Acts 22:27 Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea.

It was not lawful to scourge an uncondemned Roman citizen.

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.

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.

If Paul had not declared his Roman citizenship, he would have been “examined,” that is, tortured (for the purpose of getting a confession). Paul’s father was free, so Paul was “free born.”

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