Paul's Defense Part 1 of 4

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

February 26, 2016

Acts of the Apostles
By: Tom Lowe


Lesson: IV.E.3: Paul's Defense (22:1-21)


ACTS 22:1-21 (KJV)

1 Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.
2 (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,)
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.
4 And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
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.
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.
7 And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
8 And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.
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.
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.
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.
12 And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there,
13 Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him.
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.
15 For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.
16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
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;
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.
19 And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee:
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.
21 And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.



Introduction

Paul’s speech before the temple crowd was primarily aimed at establishing his complete commitment to Judaism. What he evidently could not accomplish through his participation in the Nazarite vow he now sought to establish by this speech. Basically, the speech was his own first-person narrative of the events Luke related in chapter 9: his former zeal for Judaism (vv. 1-5), his encounter with the risen Christ on the Damascus road (vv. 6-11), and the visit of Ananias (vv. 12-16) The final portion of his speech is new to the Acts narrative but evidently occurred on Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion, the visit covered by 9:26-30. It relates a vision Paul had in the temple, where the risen Lord commissioned him for his mission to the Gentiles (vv. 17-21). Up to this point, the crowd had listened attentively to Paul’s words. But with his reference to the Gentile witness, Paul was in trouble with them again (v. 22).



COMMENTARY

1 Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.

Paul was in serious trouble, for he had been arrested by the Roman authority for the purpose of making him safe from his enemies, who had agitated the crowd against the apostle, and then beat him in the courtyard. But he would soon be given permission to speak to the hostile crowd from the steps of the tower called Antonia. Paul’s aim was to make peace with this unfriendly and aggressive crowd, which is immediately evident in his salutation, “men, brethren, and fathers.” Stephen had used the same form of address to the council (7:2), and it may have been that some members of the council were now present to see what was going on—hence the “fathers” (but in 23:1 Paul addressed the Sanhedrin simply as “brethren”). Paul felt that he was in a sense on trial, so he spoke in his own “defense.”

In Acts the word means more than simply answering charges; it includes the thought of witnessing for the Lord. “Defense” becomes, so to speak, attack, for in his speech the gospel is preached to Paul’s accusers. His speech did not, however, address the charge that started the riot—the accusation that he had desecrated the temple by bringing a Gentile into it. It did address the larger issue—Paul’s faithfulness to Judaism. His main line of defense is that Christianity is not a new and dangerous religion, but a legitimate outgrowth of Judaism (18:12-17).

He knew better than to begin with some strong or provocative statement. He did not go on a tirade or scold them. He spoke to the multitude calmly, as man to man, knowing well the wise words of Solomon, “A soft answer turneth away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). He began with a respectful appeal to their reason, to their sense of fair play, and he identified himself with them, and requested that he might be permitted to speak in his own defense, to tell them his side of the story.

2 (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,)

He opened his speech in Aramaic{1] which produced at least one of the results he was aiming at: he gained their attention. In Paul’s day westerners spoke Greek, and easterners spoke Aramaic, a kindred language of “Hebrew.” Paul wanted to capture the crowd, and he could be surer of securing their attention if he spoke to them in their common language. Anyone who has traveled much to foreign countries knows that to have someone speak to him in the flawless language of his own mother tongue touches his heart as well as his mind. Few Jews of the Diaspora{2] could speak the language of Palestine, and one who could deserve to be heard. So they grew very quiet. He may have begun to win some hearts as well.

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.

“I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia” (3a). The speech is in three parts. First, he talks about his early conduct, that is, his life prior to the Damascus road experience. He told them of his past life in much the same way as in Galatians 1:13-17, Philippians 3:4-11, and 1 Timothy 1:12-16 (see also Acts 26:4.). He tells the story as though he was seeing himself through the eyes of two different groups. To the Jews he appeared to be devoted to the law. He identified himself as a Jew, especially a Jew of the Dispersion, a Hellenistic Jew. Perhaps he hoped to secure the goodwill of the Jews in the audience. The Hebraists in the crowd would understand, too, that Paul by being born in a Gentile city would have a familiarity with and empathy for the Gentile world not to be found among Palestinian Jews. They would automatically classify him as a more liberal Jew than those born in Jerusalem and Judea and would make a measure of allowance for his inferiority.

Though born in Tarsus, he had been brought up in Jerusalem. His family must have moved to Jerusalem when he was still quite young{3]. This point needs to be mentioned in view of the general assumption that Paul had become acquainted with Greek language and thought in his early years in Cilicia.


{1] Aramaic. A Semitic language that was the language in Palestine in the time of Christ and in which a few sections of the Old Testament are written.
{2] Diaspora. The scattering of the Jews to countries outside of Palestine after the Babylonian captivity.
{3] The common view has been that Paul was reared in Tarsus and only came to Jerusalem at age 12 or 13 for his study under Gamaliel.
{4] “This Way.” The Old Testament establishes the symbolism of this word. “Way” is a term that indicates a well-traveled path. Metaphorically it refers to the actions of human beings who keep or reject the “way of the Lord” (Genesis 18:19; Psalm 27:11). Christ had established “the Way”; to persecute the Way was to persecute Christ himself (9:5; 22:8). In the New Testament, the sense of “way” is clear. Often it simply means “manner.” But often too the Old Testament metaphor for a way of life is retained. When the word refers to following the Lord Jesus Christ, it is often capitalized (e.g., Acts 9:2: “If he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.”).
{5] Gamaliel. In the Christian tradition, Gamaliel is celebrated as a Pharisee doctor of Jewish Law, who was the teacher of Paul the Apostle. He was the president of the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, grandson and disciple of the famous scholar Hillel, and he advocated leniency toward Christians. The author of the Book of Acts portrays Gamaliel with great respect. He was also known as “Gamaliel I,” and “Gamaliel the Elder.”

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