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Bible Commentaries

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible
Acts 22

 

 

Verses 1-30

Chapter 22

THE DEFENCE OF EXPERIENCE (Acts 22:1-10)

22:1-10 "Men, brethren and fathers, listen to the defence which I now make to you." When they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they gave him still more quietness. So he said, "I am a Jew; I was born in Tarsus; I was brought up in this city; I was thoroughly trained at the feet of Gamaliel in the Law of our fathers; I was zealous for God, just as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to death, fettering both men and women and delivering them to prison, as the high priest and the body of the elders bear me witness. I received letters from them and I went to the brethren at Damascus. to bring those who were there in chains to Jerusalem that they might be punished. As I was on my way, when I was coming near Damascus, about midday, suddenly it happened to me that a great light from heaven shone around me. I fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?' I answered, 'Who are you, sir?' And the voice said to me, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.' Those who were with me saw the light but they did not hear the voice of the person who was speaking to me. I said, 'What am I to do, Lord?' The Lord said to me, 'Stand up and go to Damascus, and there you will be told about all the things that have been assigned to you to do."'

Paul's defence to the mob who are out for his blood is not to argue but to relate a personal experience; and a personal experience is the most unanswerable argument on earth. This defence is in essence a paradox. It stresses two things.

(i) It stresses Paul's identity with the people to whom he is speaking. He was a Jew and that he never forgot (compare 2 Corinthians 11:22; Philippians 3:4-5). He was a man of Tarsus and Tarsus was no mean city. It was one of the great ports of the Mediterranean, standing at the mouth of the River Cydnus and being the terminus of a road which came all across Asia Minor from the far-off Euphrates. It was one of the greatest university cities of the ancient world. He was a rabbi, trained at the feet of Gamaliel who had been "the glory of the Law," and who had died only about five years before. He had been a persecutor in his zeal for the ancestral ways. On all these points Paul was entirely at one with the audience to which he was speaking.

(ii) It stresses the difference between Paul and his audience. The root difference was that he saw Christ as the Saviour of all men and God as the lover of all men. His audience saw God as the lover only of the Jews. They sought to hug the privileges of God to themselves and regarded the man who would spread them abroad as a blasphemer. The difference was that Paul had met Christ face to face.

In one sense Paul was identified with the men to whom he spoke; in another he was separated from them. It is like that with the Christian. He lives in the world but God has separated him and consecrated him to a special task.

PAUL CONTINUES HIS LIFE STORY (Acts 22:11-21)

22:11-21 "Because I was not able to see because of the glory of that light, I came into Damascus led by the hand by those who were with me. And Ananias, a pious man as regards the Law, a man to whose character all the Jews who live there bear witness, came to me and stood beside me and said, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight again'; and I, in that same hour. recovered my sight, and looked up at him. He said, 'The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will. to see the Just One and to hear the voice of his mouth, because you will be a witness for him to all men of the things you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise; be baptized; and wash away your sins, calling upon his name.' When I had returned to Jerusalem, and when I was praying in the Temple, it so happened that I was in a trance and I heard him saying to me, 'Hurry; depart speedily from Jerusalem because they will not receive your testimony about me.' And I said, 'Lord, they know that it was I who, throughout the synagogues, used to throw into prison and scourge those who believe in you; and when the blood of Stephen, your witness, was shed, I too was standing by and I was agreeing to it all; and I was guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.' And he said to me, 'Get on your way for I will send you far off to the Gentiles.'"

Once again Paul is stressing, to begin with, his identity with his audience. When he reached Damascus, the man who instructed him was Ananias, a devotee of the Law whom the Jews knew to be a good man. Paul is stressing the fact that he had not come to destroy the ancestral faith but to fulfil it. Here we have one of Luke's telescoped narratives. When we read along with this Acts 9:1-43 and Galatians 1:1-24 , we find that it was really three years afterwards that Paul went up to Jerusalem, after his visit to Arabia and his witnessing in Damascus.

In Acts 9:1-43 we were told that he left Jerusalem because he was in danger of his life from the enraged Jews; here we are told he left because of a vision. There is no real contradiction; it is the same story told from different points of view. The point Paul makes is that he did not want to leave the Jews. When God told him to do so, Paul argued. He said that his previous record would be bound to make his change all the more impressive to the Jews; but God said that the Jews would never listen to him and to the Gentiles he must go.

There is a certain wistfulness here. As with his Master, Paul's own would not receive him (John 1:11). He is literally saying, "I had a priceless gift for you but you would not take it; so it was offered to the Gentiles."

Acts 22:14 is a summary not only of the life of Paul but also of the Christian life. There are three items in it. (i) To know the will of God. It is the first aim of the Christian to know God's will and to obey it. (ii) To see the Just One. It is the aim of the Christian daily to walk in the presence of the Risen Lord. (iii) To hear God's voice. It was said of a great preacher that in his preaching he paused ever and again as if listening for a voice. The Christian is ever listening for the voice of God above the voices of the world to tell him where to go and what to do.

THE EMBITTERED OPPOSITION (Acts 22:22-30)

22:22-30 Up to this statement they listened to him, and then they cried, "Destroy such a fellow from the earth, for it is not proper for him to live." While they were shouting and waving their garments and throwing dust into the air, the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks. He ordered him to be examined by scourging to find out why they shouted like this against him. And when they had tied him up with the thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, "Is it right for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?" When the centurion heard this he went to the commander and reported it. He said, "What are you going to do? This man is a Roman citizen." The commander came to him and said, "Are you a Roman citizen?" He said, "Yes." The commander answered "I obtained this citizenship at a great price." But Paul said, "I was born a citizen," So at once the men who had been about to examine him stood away from him; and the commander was afraid when he realized that he was a Roman citizen and that he had fettered him. On the next day, wishing to know the truth about the accusation made by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin to assemble; and he brought Paul down and set him before them.

It was the mention of Gentiles which set the mob ablaze again. It was not that the Jews objected to the preaching to the Gentiles; what they objected to was that the Gentiles were being offered privileges before they first accepted circumcision and the Law. If Paul had preached the yoke of Judaism to the Gentiles all would have been well; it was because he preached the grace of Christianity to them that the Jews were enraged. They took the common way of showing their disapproval; they shouted and waved their garments and threw dust in the air, in the fashion of the east.

The commander did not understand Aramaic and did not know what Paul had said; but one thing he did understand--he must not allow a riot and must deal at once with any man likely to cause a riot. So he determined to examine Paul under scourging. This was not a punishment; it was simply the most effective way of extracting either the truth or a confession. The scourge was a leather whip studded at intervals with sharp pieces of bone and lead. Few men survived it in their right senses and many died under it.

Then Paul spoke. Cicero had said, "It is a misdeed for a Roman citizen to be bound; it is a crime for him to be beaten; it is almost as bad as to murder a father to kill him." So Paul stated that he was a citizen. The commander was terrified. Not only was Paul a citizen; he was born free, whereas the commander had had to purchase his freedom. The commander knew that he had been on the verge of doing something which would have involved certainly his dismissal and not improbably his execution. So he loosed Paul and determined to confront him with the Sanhedrin in order to get to the bottom of this trouble.

There were times when Paul was ready to stand on his dignity; but it was never for his own sake. He knew his task was not yet done; gladly he would one day die for Christ but he was too wise a man to throw his life away just yet.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

 


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Bibliography Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Acts 22:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/acts-22.html. 1956-1959.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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