Paul is back in Jerusalem and offers a gesture demonstrating that he also, in Acts 21:24, was “observing the law”. But accusations came (read more) and Paul responds by defending himself. This is often our first reaction and many times we should quickly put a false accusation to rest, and Paul tries to remind them of their history. Then he tells them about the vision he had of “the Righteous One” as they all listen. Many in their history had visions, encounters with God, and Paul continues to tell them about being blind, and Ananias, and his sight being restored. Then, Paul tells them about his commission in Acts 22:21 “Go, because I will send you far away to the Gentiles!” and the crowd erupts against him. The roman military tribune hears, and sends centurions and soldiers to bring Paul into custody. He was to be beaten for the truth but invokes his rights as a roman citizen. The tribune calls the chief priests and elders and Sanhedrin together the next day for Paul to face them in a lawful assembly, but this crowd won’t hear him.
He Has Defiled This Holy Place
Paul was told in Acts 21:21 “they have been informed about you that you are teaching all the Jews … the abandonment of Moses”. Then he was asked to, in Acts 21:24 “purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses” as a gesture demonstrating that he also was “observing the law”. “It looks as though Paul was prepared to make a conciliatory gesture, although his own testimony remained that he no longer lived under the law of Moses but under the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21).1
So now in Acts 21:27 “when the seven days were about to be completed … the Jews from Asia … stirred up the whole crowd”. This is very much what happened in Ephesus so “in all likelihood those of Ephesus (since they recognized Trophimus apparently as a townsman, Ac 21:29), embittered by their discomfiture (Ac 19:9, &c.)”.2 These were now stirring up trouble for Paul here in Jerusalem.
They then, in Acts 21:29 since “they had previously seen Trophimus” they assumed Paul brought into the temple. This is an important lesson for us about human nature, our minds are made to fill in the blanks, (study mental perception) so we take an event, here they saw Trophimus, and then we build around it what is in our minds, here it was their assumption that Paul defiled the temple by bringing Trophimus into the temple. But that has not happened. But in their minds, it was real, and the couldn’t stand for Paul defiling the temple. How often do we add our mental model to the events happening around us?
Zechariah 8:16–17 (LEB) 16 These are the things that you must do: speak truth, each of you, with his neighbor; practice trustworthy judgment and peace in your gates. 17 Do not devise evil in your hearts against your neighbor, and do not love a false oath, because all these are things I hate,” declares Yahweh.
There were grounds for the people to set a boundary separating the uncircumcised foreigner in Ezekiel 44:9 if it had been true, but the answer would not have been a riot across the city. But here, in Acts 21:30-36 it says “the whole city was stirred up … they seized Paul and dragged him out” and were beating him until the Roman guard came and intervened.
Is It Permitted For Me To Say Something?
In Acts 21: 37, Paul is protected by Roman rule, by the civil law, as anyone would be. And we might expect this kind of protection from our police today. Then in Acts 21: 37-38, Paul made a request to the tribune in Greek and the tribune responded “Do you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who … raised a revolt and led … men of the Assassins?” Even this high ranking tribune assumed, based on the noise from the people, and his understanding of where trouble might come from, that Paul must be this one they had been watching for.
Paul, in Acts 21:39 invokes his citizenship and asks to be able to speak to the people. He is under protection of the tribune and his soldiers. and in Acts 21:40 he is now on the steps above the people, and the crowd has quieted so he motions and begins to speak in their language, “Aramaic”.
Men – Brothers – Fathers, Listen
Our reaction is always to defend ourselves when we are accused, and it is often better to answer immediately rather than let an accusation go unanswered. So, Paul begins in Acts 22:1-2 and they listen “when they heard he was addressing them in the Aramaic language”. Paul tells them his background in Acts 22:3-5 and there would have been some that remembered him, but this is about twenty years after Stephen was stoned in Acts 7:58 and Acts 8:3 where “Saul was attempting to destroy the church”.
Here is another lesson in human nature, we forget our own history and tend to rewrite it all based on what we see happening now. Sometimes, as Paul does here, we need to recount the facts as they actually occurred.
What Should I Do Lord?
In Acts 22:2-10, no one questions that Paul had an encounter with the Lord, a vision, because in their history, our Old Testament, there were many such encounters. They didn’t even react when Paul said the vision was “Jesus the Nazarene” who said to him in vs. 10, “Get up and proceed to Damascus, and there it will be told to you about all the things that have been appointed for you to do.”
Then we learn something more about Ananias. He was not just a believer. In Acts 22:12 Paul says “Ananias, a devout man according to the (Jewish) law”. And, it was this man that, in Acts 22:13 “said to me, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight!’ And at that same time I looked up at him and saw him.” Still, they listen.
The God of Our Fathers Has Appointed You
Through Acts 22:14-16 Paul talks about being appointed by God, to “know his will, and see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth” and the y listen. Paul says he was told to “Get up, be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name!” Still they listen. Even as he talks about another vision in Acts 22:17-20 where Paul “saw him (the Righteous One) saying … they will not accept your testimony” and Paul’s confession of his great sin against the believers, even those he had killed. Now, Paul gets to his commission in Acts 22:21 “Go, because I will send you far away to the Gentiles!”
But I Indeed Was Born A Citizen
Acts 22:21, they could not hear. In Acts 22:22 “they were listening to him until this word”, they wouldn’t hear that God would offer salvation to the Gentiles. For them, the Jews, this meant the Romans could be saved, the pagans could be saved, the barbarians could be saved, all men could be saved. …
Many different belief systems were in front of them:
The Romans as conquerors
The Pagans worshiping their many gods
The “barbarians” as translated in the King James and other bibles whose beliefs we see in
Acts 28:3-6 And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. 5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. 6 Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
So whether it is karma, or fate, or the fickle will of the gods, or the Law of Moses, there is “the Righteous One” that offers salvation.
As my friend Frank Caporale said, “the root of cults, heresy, and false religion is when people don’t understand something about God and they make up an answer and people follow their image of god.
In Acts 22:24-29 the tribune “had stretched hm out for the lash” and he would have been beaten except for two things he said. First he said “Roman citizen”, but that was not enough because even a citizen can do wrong and deserve punishment. He also said “uncondemned”. Paul had not had a trial, which was his right as a citizen before any punishment could be administered. The civil law protected Paul, and can protect us as well. The civil law is there to protect the innocent (there is a deeper message here for another time because there are sometimes abusive leaders and corrupt governments). Use your civil citizenship where you can, and where you need to.
Our real citizenship is in heaven, God’s Kingdom. Learn and follow His instruction.
In Acts 22:30 the tribune released Paul and called together the chief priests and Sanhedrin as a lawful body with rules of order so Paul could stand before his accusers.
In All Good Conscience Before God
In Acts 23:1 Paul makes a statement that seem reasonable, but there is real anger as in Acts 23:2 the high priest orders Paul to be hit in the mouth. Paul shouts back in Acts 23:3. This is not a good start. Emotions are high, tempers are hot. Then Paul knows what to do, in Acts 23:6-10 Paul sides with the Pharisees and says this is all, in vs. 6 “concerning the hope and the resurrection of the dead!” That statement divides the whole assembly and in vs.9 “there was loud shouting”. So in Acts 23:10 “the military tribune, fearing lest Paul be torn apart … take him away”. Then comes:
Acts 23:11 (LEB) And the next night the Lord stood by him and said, “Have courage, for as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
I believe Paul had this idea soon after meeting Aquila and Priscilla in Acts 18:2 (see 7 February 2018), but now, it is a command from the Lord.
We Have Bound Ourselves Under A Curse
In Acts 23:12-15 “the Jews made a conspiracy and bound themselves under a curse … until they had killed Paul”. There were forty of them who colluded with the chief priests and the elders, and the Sanhedrin that they should “explain to the military tribune that he should bring him down to you, as if you were going to determine more accurately the things concerning him. And we are ready to do away with him before he comes near.”
“But even the most careful and cunning of human plans cannot succeed if God opposes them. No weapon forged against him will prevail”.3
Which is a quote from
Isaiah 54:17 (LEB) Every weapon formed against you shall not succeed, and you shall declare guilty every tongue that rises against you for judgment. This is the inheritance of the servants of Yahweh, and their legal right from me,” declares Yahweh.
This plot was overheard by “the son of Paul’s sister” in Acts 23:16 and the information gets to the military tribune in Acts 23:17-22 who says “tell no one”. As a military man, he knows what to do.
- Acts 22:1–5
- Acts 22:14–21
- Acts 23:1–11
- Acts 21:27-40
- Acts 22:1-30
- Acts 23:1-22
- 1. Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, pp. 365–366). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- 2. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 211). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- 3. Stott, J. R. W. (1994). The message of Acts: the Spirit, the church & the world (p. 355). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.