"Showing the way, Teaching the truth,
Experiencing the life in Christ"
Bad Advice from Good People
(Acts 21:4b…12, NIV)
"Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem…
When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul
not to go up to Jerusalem.”
When we concluded our previous lesson from the Book of Acts, we left Paul and the missionary team at Miletus where they had just concluded a meeting with the elders of Ephesus who had made the 18 mile journey from Ephesus to confer with him. Luke wrote, “From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them…[At that point he taught them a lesson full of practical principles for effective leadership]…When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him…Then they accompanied him to the ship” (Acts 20:17-18a…36-37…38a, NIV).
During Paul’s conference with the elders of Ephesus, he clearly indicated that the Holy Spirit had instructed him to go to Jerusalem. He said, “Compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me” (Acts 20:22b-23, NIV). What an incredible example Paul is. Regardless of the potential of personal danger, he chooses to pursue the will of God as it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit!
Part of the revelation Paul had received from the Holy Spirit was a confirmation of his life mission. He said, “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24, NIV). Evidently God wanted him to testify about “the good news of God’s grace,” and He wanted Paul to do it one more time at Jerusalem. So he resumed his journey to Jerusalem.
II. On to Jerusalem
Luke charted the course for us. First he wrote, “After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos” (Acts 21:1a, NIV). The journey by sea from Miletus to the small island of Kos was about 25 miles. They put in at some undisclosed harbor on that island, spent the night aboard ship, and sailed the next morning to the island of Rhodes, made a brief stop there, and then, with enough daylight remaining in the day, sailed on to Patara. Luke wrote, “The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara” (Acts 21:1b, NIV). The team made remarkable time on that particular day, sailing 25 miles southwest from Kos to Rhodes and then another 35 miles northeast from Rhodes to the coastal city of Patara—sailing a total of 60 miles in one day.
At Patara the missionary team disembarked from the smaller ship which could safely sail along the coast and boarded a larger ship that could safely sail in the open sea to make the 420 mile journey crossing the Mediterranean Sea, on a route running south of the island of Cyprus, and landing at the coastal city of Tyre. Luke wrote, “We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo” (Acts 21:2-3, NIV).
The journey to Jerusalem was delayed by a seven day stop-over at Tyre, probably due to the ship being unloaded and then reloaded with cargo. Luke wrote, “We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray.
After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home” (Acts 21:4-6, NIV).
There are two significant items to notice about Paul’s seven day stay at Tyre. First, since the team was there seven days, they would have of necessity been on a Sunday. So notice what they did. Luke wrote, “We sought out the disciples there” (Acts 20:4a, NIV). When there was a church in any city where the team was on a Sunday, they would seek out those disciples, inquire about the place and time of their worship services, and join them for worship on Sunday.
Church attendance was obviously very important to Paul and his companions, and it should be equally important to us! The author of Hebrews wrote, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV).
Next, at Tyre well-intentioned, good people gave Paul bad advice! Luke wrote, “Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:4b, NIV). Evidently the Holy Spirit was revealing to these disciples at Tyre the same things He had already revealed to Paul—“In every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me” (Acts 20:23b, NIV). The believers at Tyre evidently assumed that since “prison and hardships” were ahead for Paul at Jerusalem, he shouldn’t go there.
It is so easy to misapply what the Spirit actually reveals! The Holy Spirit did say that “prison and hardships” waited for Paul in Jerusalem, but He didn’t say that Paul shouldn’t go there. That was simply faulty application on the part of the believers at Tyre of what the Spirit had revealed. Therefore, “They urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:4b, NIV). However, Paul testified that the Holy Spirit wanted him to go to Jerusalem. He said to the elders of Ephesus, “Compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:22b, NIV). We must carefully guard against misapplying what the Holy Spirit actually says. Otherwise we may be some of those well-intentioned, good people who give bad advice!
When the ship was ready to sail again the missionary team continued their journey with a 15 mile voyage south to Ptolemais where they spent one day with a group of disciples in that city. Luke wrote, “We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day” (Acts 21:7, NIV).
The next day they sailed 28 miles south along the coast to Caesarea where they stayed in the home of a disciple named Philip for an undisclosed number of days. Luke wrote, “Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied” (Acts 21:8-9, NIV). I don’t have time to go into this subject now, but I want you to notice that Philip “had four unmarried daughters who prophesied [preached],” and Luke doesn’t criticize the practice. We’ll talk more about women who preach in another lesson. It’s all about whether women can preach and at the same time remain under the spiritual authority of men.
Sometime after the missionary team arrived at Caesarea, another episode occurred when well-intentioned, good people gave bad advice. Luke wrote, “After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said: The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’ When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:10-12, NIV). In spite of the fact that, as Paul put it, “Compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem” (Acts 20:22a, NIV), the missionary team along with the believers at Caesarea “pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem.”
This was simply another case of well-intentioned, good people misapplying what the Holy Spirit had actually said. Through Agabus the prophet the Holy Spirit had said, “The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles” (Acts 21:11b, NIV). Based on the Spirit’s words through the prophet, Paul’s friends concluded that he should not go to Jerusalem. However, what the Spirit said was that Paul would go to Jerusalem and while he was there he would be arrested by the Jewish leaders and turned over to the Roman authorities. When we read the rest of the story, we will see that is exactly what happened! It is so easy to misapply what the Holy Spirit actually says.
Paul’s response to his friends shows a depth of loyalty to Jesus that is uncommon among His followers. He said, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13, NIV). That kind of loyalty to Jesus protects God’s people from acting on bad advice given by good people!
That kind of loyalty to Jesus on the part of God’s man also has the potential of positively affecting other who are close to him. Notice what happened to Paul’s friends: “When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done’” (Acts 21:14, NIV). God used Paul to get his friends in the spiritual condition He wanted them to be in—the condition where God’s will for Paul was more important than their will for Paul! I love their confession, “We gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done’” (Acts 21:14b, NIV).
After God used Paul to positively impact his friends at Caesarea, he resumed his journey to Jerusalem. Luke wrote, “After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:15, NIV).
Paul Arrived at Jerusalem
(Acts 21:17, NIV)
“When we arrived at Jerusalem,
the brothers and sisters received us warmly.”
At the conclusion of our previous lesson from the Book of Acts we left Paul and the missionary team in the city of Caesarea preparing to continue the journey to Jerusalem. Luke wrote, “After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:15, NIV).
Evidently some disciples from Caesarea accompanied the missionary team to Jerusalem where arrangements had been made for them to lodge in the home of a long-time disciple named Mnason. Luke wrote, “Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples” (Acts 21:16, NIV).
The fact that Mnason invited the entire missionary team and other believers from Caesarea to stay at his house clearly indicates that he had learned the art of hospitality—a virtue that should characterize all Christians. Peter wrote, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (I Peter 4:9, NIV).
News that Paul and his traveling companions were approaching Jerusalem spread quickly and an undisclosed number Christians gathered at Mnason’s house to welcome them. Luke wrote, “When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly” (Acts 21:17, NIV). The Christian “Welcome Wagon” was on hand to welcome the missionary and his team to town!
II. A Meeting with the Elders of Jerusalem
After a good night’s sleep, Paul and his team attended a meeting with the elders of Jerusalem. Luke wrote, “The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present” (Acts 21:18, NIV).
“James” was evidently the leader among the “elders” of the Jerusalem Church. We might call him the pastor. He is also identified as “the Lord’s brother.” Paul described him as such when writing a brief history of his own early Christian experiences for the churches in Galatia. He wrote, “After three years [three years after is conversion], I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas [Peter] and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:18-19, NIV). This James was evidently the Lord’s half-brother. He is also the author of the Book of James. In his introduction to that book he wrote, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings” (James 1:1, NIV).
Notice that the word “elders” is plural—more than one: “The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present” (Acts 21:18, NIV). There was always a team of elders providing leadership for the churches of the New Testament. It was never a “one-horse-show!” Not only did the Jerusalem Church have a team of elders, but the other churches did as well. Notice these examples:
When the meeting with James and the elders of Jerusalem began, “Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry” (Acts 21:19, NIV). Notice, Paul’s detailed report to James and the elders wasn’t about what he had done for God. It was about “what God had done…through his ministry!” When anything eternal happens, it isn’t because of what men have done. It is because of what God has done through His men! Therefore, we must never take any credit for anything that happens that is eternal. God must be given all the glory.
The response of James and the elders of Jerusalem to Paul’s ministry report is significant. Luke wrote, “When they heard this, they praised God” (Acts 21:20a, NIV). James and the other elders were life-long Jews, conditioned by their religious heritage to harbor a deeply held prejudice against anybody who was not Jewish. They fact that “they praised God” when they heard about non-Jews responding positively to the ministry of a fellow-Jew and receiving eternal life is nothing short of amazing.
Their response demonstrates that their hearts had been transformed by the grace of God! God’s grace had evidently taught them that there is no place for ungodly attitudes like bigotry and racism among God’s people. Paul described the power of God’s grace to teach His people to deny such ungodliness when he wrote, “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12, NIV).
Next on the agenda during the elders’ meeting was a discussion of the concern of the elders regarding how Paul’s presence in Jerusalem might adversely affect the Jewish Christians in the Church. Luke wrote, “They said to Paul: ‘You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come’” (Acts 21:20b-22, NIV). They were concerned that the Jewish Christians would not listen to Paul’s message because of what they had been told about him.
The elders did what good elders do. They acted as “trouble-shooters.” When they sensed a potential problem approaching, they didn’t wait until it became a full-blown problem. They were pro-active. They took steps to prevent the problem before it became a problem. They devised a plan to defuse these false reports about Paul. Notice how Luke described the situation: “So do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law” (Acts 21:23-24, NIV).
The “four men” in the Jerusalem Church were Jewish Christians who had made a Nazarite Vow, at the conclusion of which they were required to go through ritual purification, offer an animal sacrifice, and then have their heads shaved so the hair could be burned on the altar at the Temple. The elders urged Paul to accommodate the misguided religious beliefs of the Jewish believers in order to secure the opportunity to minister to them.
He could do so by participating in the ritual purification with them and purchasing the animals for their sacrifices to assist them in completing their vows. By doing so he could dispel the false rumors that had been circulated about him. Then the Jewish believers in Jerusalem would be willing to listen to his message and be blessed by his ministry. In addition, a potential division in the church at Jerusalem could be avoided. So Paul followed the advice of the elders. Luke wrote, “The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them” (Acts 21:26, NIV).
There are three important spiritual lessons we should learn from this section of the Book of Acts:
Paul Arrested at the Temple
(Acts 21:27b-28a, NIV)
“Some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple.
They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him,shouting,
‘Fellow Israelites, help us!
This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere
against our people and our law and this place.”
When we left Paul at the conclusion of our previous lesson from the Book of Acts he was in the process of undergoing a ritual purification along with four Jewish Christians who had entered into a Nazarite vow. Luke wrote, “Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end” (Acts 21:26a, NIV).
Paul did so at the suggestion of the elders in order to dispel false rumors that had been circulated about him and thereby secure the opportunity to minister to a larger portion of the Jewish population of Jerusalem. Luke quoted the advice given to Paul by the elders of Jerusalem when he wrote, “There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites, and pay their expenses…Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you” (Acts 21:24a…24c, NIV).
The false rumors that the elders thought needed dispelled was that Paul didn’t personally obey the Law of Moses and that he was encouraging others to disobey it as well. The elders said, “Then everyone will know…that you yourself are living in obedience to the law” (Acts 21:24c…24d, NIV). Paul was willing to accommodate the misguided religious beliefs of others in order to gain the opportunity to minister to them.
II. Freedom Lost
As incredible as it may seem, while Paul was in the center of God’s will, doing exactly what God wanted him to do, he lost his civil freedom and—with the exception of a brief season of freedom between the imprisonment he is about to experience and his final imprisonment at Rome—he never regained it. Yet, he never complained about being in prison!
Rather than complain, Paul asked his friends to pray that he would use his imprisonment as an opportunity to preach Jesus to people who might otherwise not hear about Him. From a prison in Rome he wrote to the believers at Ephesus, “Pray…for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:19-20, NIV).
We might ask, “How could Paul view imprisonment from that perspective?” The answer is that he viewed every situation in his life as if it was engineered by Jesus to give him the opportunity to make Him known. So if he found himself in prison. He didn’t view himself as a prisoner of the Jews or a prisoner of Rome. He viewed himself as “the prisoner of Jesus Christ,” on assignment to preach the “Good News” to the inmates in that particular prison. That’s how he described himself in his letter to the believers at Ephesus. He wrote, “I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles” (Ephesians 3:1b, NIV).
Paul viewed every situation he found himself in as God-authored. As a result, in his mind imprisonment simply represented a new ministry opportunity custom designed by God. It didn’t mean the end of anything. It meant the beginning of some new phase of ministry. From that perspective he could write, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV).
III. Paul’s Arrest
Before Paul’s actual arrest, there was an accusation and an attack. So let’s look at the accusation, the attack, and then the arrest.
The Accusation. It was some Jews from the province of Asia who made the initial accusation against Paul, and their accusation was very broad and unsubstantiated. Let’s read Luke’s account of it: “Some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, ‘Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place’” (Acts 21:27b-28a, NIV).
The first charge was, “This is the man who teaches…against our people” (Acts 21:28a, NIV). So he was anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli. Now that would be a little hard to prove since he was himself a Semite—an Israeli!
The second charge was, “This is the man who teaches…against our law” (Acts 21:18a, NIV). So he was anti-Moses or anti-Scripture. That would be hard to prove considering this is the guy who wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16, NKJV).
The third charge was, “This is the man who teaches…against this place” (Acts 21:18a, NIV). This would be somewhat difficult to prove considering just days earlier Paul had been in the Temple doing what any good Jew would do. He participated in a ritual purification process that was initiated at the Temple. Luke wrote, “Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end” (Acts 21:26a, NIV).
Since those accusations were vague and could not be substantiated, these Jews from the province of Asia came up with another more concrete charge—he defiled the Temple by bringing Gentiles into the inner court! Luke wrote, “He has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place” (Acts 21:18b, NIV). If a Gentile entered the inner court of the Temple he did so at the risk of execution. It was considered a capital offense.
The only problem with this accusation was that they had no real evidence to support it. They hadn’t actually seen Paul with a Gentile in the Temple. They had simply assumed that he had taken one in there. Luke wrote, “They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple” (Acts 21:29a, NIV). Even if Paul had actually taken Trophimus in there, it wouldn’t have been Paul that was executed. It would’ve been Trophimus. Paul couldn’t be legally executed for going in there, because he was a Jew—not a Gentile.
The Attack. On the basis of four unsubstantiated accusations, the Jews of Jerusalem launched a violent attack against Paul. Luke wrote, “The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul” (Acts 21:30-32, NIV). Notice how vicious the attack was. They were “trying to kill him,” and they were “beating Paul.” Non-believing religious people often become vicious when they perceive that their religion is being threatened!
The Arrest. Luke described the Paul’s actual arrest when he wrote, “The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks” (Acts 21:33-34, NIV).
It’s amazing that these events occurred exactly as the “prophet named Agabus” said they would back in Caesarea. Luke wrote, “After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles’” (Acts 21:10-11, NIV).
Religion is consistent. It consistently behaves the same way under a similar set of circumstances. This religious crowd, because it viewed an innocent man as a threat to its religion, was screaming at a troop of Roman soldiers what a religious crowd had screamed 25 years before to another troop of Roman soldiers when it viewed another innocent man as a threat to its religion.
This crowd screamed, “Get rid of him!” (Acts 21:36b, NIV). Twenty-five years earlier the crowd had screamed, “Crucify Him!” (Mark 15:13b, NIV). Some things never change.
Paul’s Personal Testimony
(Acts 21:39b, NIV)
“Please let me speak to the people.”
When we concluded our previous lesson from the Book of Acts we left Paul in the hands of Roman soldiers who had rescued from a blood-thirsty mob of Jewish religionists. Luke described the pandemonium when he wrote, “News reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Get rid of him!” (Acts 21:31b-36, NIV). Paul was God’s man doing God’s will, but he wasn’t having the best day of his life! This story definitely contradicts much of today’s popular preaching that says that if you are an obedient Christian, just following Jesus, your life will be filled with health, wealth, and prosperity! We live in enemy territory, and when we take steps to advance the kingdom of God, the devil and his demons launch a counter attack.
The soldiers were in the process of taking Paul into custody when he asked permission to speak to the crowd. Let’s read Luke’s version of the story: “As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, ‘May I say something to you?’ ‘Do you speak Greek?’ he replied. ‘Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago?’ Paul answered, ‘I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people’” (Acts 21:37-39, NIV).
After a brief conversation clarifying his identity Paul made a startling request, “Please let me speak to the people” (Acts 21:39b, NIV). In spite of the fact that this very crowd had just tried to kill him, he viewed them with compassion—as men and women who needed to hear what he had to say about Jesus! He didn’t see them through judgmental eyes of hatred and vengeance; he saw them through eyes of love and compassion. What a lesson to learn! Paul had something to say to the crowd. The question is, “Do we?”
II. Paul’s Flare for the Dramatic
What Paul had to say was the story of his own personal, life-changing encounter with Jesus. Luke described how Paul set the stage for the telling of his story when he wrote, “After receiving the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic: ‘Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.’ When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet” (Acts 21:40—22:2, NIV).
Notice Paul’s flare for the dramatic. Luke wrote, “Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd” (Acts 21:40b, NIV). We don’t know exactly how he “motioned to the crowd,” but whatever it was, it was enough to get their attention and silence them.
There was still some moving around going on, but the majority of the verbal noise stopped. Then Paul began to speak. In spite of the fact that he could have spoken classical Greek, or the Hebrew of the highly educated, he chose instead to speak “in Aramaic,” which was the language of the common Jewish people of his day—a mixture of Hebrew, Chaldean, and Syrian. It was the language of the street people of first century Israel. He chose to identify as much as possible with his audience. Luke wrote, “When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic: ‘Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense’” (Acts 21:40c—22:1, NIV).
It seems that he got the desired result from his choice of language—the full, undivided attention of his audience. Luke wrote, “When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet” (Acts 22:2, NIV). At this point the crowd is not only silent verbally. They have also stopped moving around. Paul is commanding their full attention!
III. Paul’s Personal Testimony
Paul began his testimony by identifying himself. He said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city” (Acts 22:3a, NIV). Notice that he prefaced his remarks by a statement that clearly indicated that his decision to become a Christ-follower was not simply a change of religions. Before he met Jesus he was “a Jew”—one who participated in the religion of Judaism. After he met Jesus he was still “a Jew.” Being a Christian isn’t a matter of changing religions. It’s a matter of believing in and following Jesus! Paul also explained that his birth-place was Tarsus; yet he was reared in Jerusalem.
At this point, after identifying himself, Paul began his actual testimony which naturally falls into three distinct parts—what his life was like before he met Jesus; how he met Jesus; and what his life was like after he became a believer. Let’s look at it:
What Paul’s Life Was Like Before He Met Jesus. Paul described his pre-Jesus life when he said, “I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished” (Acts 22:3b-5, NIV). Educated as a Jewish rabbi at the prestigious school of “Gamaliel,” before he met Jesus Paul was just as religious as this blood-thirsty Jewish crowd to whom he was speaking.
As evidence of that fact, he confessed that he was a Christian killer. He said, “I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison” (Acts 22:4, NIV). He wasn’t satisfied with killing Christians in Jerusalem; he travelled as far as the foreign city of “Damascus” to persecute Christians there. His contempt for the followers of Jesus was obsessive. That’s what unrestrained religion can do to people!
How Paul Met Jesus. Next, Paul described how God orchestrated the events of his life to bring him to a face-to-face encounter with Jesus. He explained, “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’” (Acts 22:6-7, NIV).
Paul was actually persecuting the church. He was persecuting believers; but Jesus took that personally. When we harm God’s church—His people—in any way, Jesus views it as if we are personally persecuting Him! That’s why He asked Paul, “Why do you persecute me?” (Acts 22:7b, NIV).
At that point, Paul began to recognize that this Jesus, whose people he had been persecuting, was indeed who He said He was—the Messiah, the Lord! He hesitantly asked, “Who are you, Lord?” (Acts 22:8a, NIV).
In response, Jesus answered, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 22:8b, NIV). If you ever come to the place where you truly want to know who Jesus is, just ask. He will be happy to tell you. He wants you to know Him much more than you could ever want to know Him!
Obedience is the natural result of understanding who Jesus really is! When Paul realized that Jesus truly was the “Lord,” he immediately asked, “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10a, NIV). Jesus saves people to do something—not to do nothing! So He immediately answered Paul’s question: “‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do’” (Acts 22:10b, NIV).
Every believer is given a specific assignment from God. Jesus said to Paul, “You will be told all that you have been assigned to do” (Acts 22:10b, NIV).
In spite of his blindness, Paul obeyed the first command Jesus gave him. He wrote about this experience, “My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me” (Acts 22:11, NIV). He didn’t use his “disability” as an excuse for disobedience!
What Paul’s Life Was Like After He Became a Believer. Immediately after his conversion, God began to reveal Himself to Paul as a promise-keeping, miracle-working God who had a very definite plan—an assignment—for his life!
God had promised Paul, “You will be told all that you have been assigned to do” (Acts 22:10b, NIV), and He began to keep that promise by sending into Paul’s life a man named Ananias. Luke wrote, “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there…Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:12…14-15, NIV). Ananias explained Paul’s life-assignment like this: “You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:15, NIV).
God also used Ananias to demonstrate to Paul that He was a miracle-working God. Paul said, “He [Ananias] stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him” (Acts 22:13, NIV).
Later when Paul left Jerusalem, God continued to give him more details about his assignment. He said, “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’ ‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles’” (Acts 22:17-21, NIV).
At that point the crowd interrupted Paul and he didn’t get to finish his story. Luke wrote, “The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, ‘Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!’ As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks” (Acts 22:22-24a, NIV). The Devil doesn’t want you to tell your personal story about you life-giving, life-changing encounter with Jesus. He’ll do anything to stop you from telling your story. That fact in itself should motivate us to be more determined than ever to tell it!
Sunday Service Times
Morning Worship: 10:00 a.m.
M*PACT Kidz: 10:00 a.m.
Helping Hands: 6:00 p.m.
ONE WAY Youth: 6:00 p.m.