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Bible Commentaries

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible
Acts 22

 

 

Introduction

THE BOOK OF ACTS | CHAPTER 22

OUTLINE AND COMMENTARY - MARK DUNAGAN

I. OUTLINE OF CHAPTER 22:


Verse 1

"Brethren and fathers" Stephen began his defense with the same words (Acts 7:2).


Verse 2

"Addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet" "One who spoke Hebrew was not likely to blaspheme the temple or the Law; and so extending him a temporary good will, they became more silent than they had been when he gestured for silence so he could speak" (Reese p. 808). "Paul"s opening words were intended to build a rapport with the audience. He identifies with them as far as he can" (p. 808).


Verse 3

"God is going to strike you": Compare with Acts 13:10. "You whitewashed wall!": "The metaphor suggests a tottering wall whose precarious condition has been disguised by a generous coat of whitewash" (Bruce p. 451). Compare with Matthew 23:27. And, in a sense, God did bring this evil man to ruin. "Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?": Various writers have accused Paul of losing his cool at this point and being involved in sinful anger, but McGarvey notes, "This remark was not an outburst of improper passion. It was rather an angry expression of a righteous judgment as to how God would deal with a man so unjust and hypocritical. It was an incident like that in the experience of our Lord, when He looked around with anger on a similar set of men (Mark 3:5)" (p. 223). "Herein was the man"s hypocrisy: he pretended to be doing one thing (judging according to the Law), but was actually doing another (violating the Law). The rights of defendants were carefully safeguarded in the Jewish law (Leviticus 19:35). Such efforts at intimidation of the defendant were not part of a fair trial. These were fine judges, who applied the law to others, but not to themselves" (Reese p. 817).


Verse 4

"And I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons" See Acts 9:1 ff; Acts 26:9 ff. His opposition to Christianity had been as great as theirs. "He recounted how he, too, once had been a fanatical opponent of Christianity, just as they were that day" (Reese p. 808).


Verse 5

"As also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify" The Sanhedrin could testify to all this seeing it was "they who had issued him with the extradition order which he took with him to Damascus" (Stott p. 347). "When Paul calls the high priest as a witness of his truthfulness, there is an implication that Caiaphas, who gave Paul his commission to go to Damascus, is still living. He was no longer in office; instead Ananias, son of Nebedaesus (Acts 23:2) was serving as high priest" (Reese p. 808).

HIS CONVERSION

After relating his past and finding common ground with his audience, people that he dearly wanted to see saved (Romans 9:1-3); Paul now shared the circumstances of his conversion, and the reason why he was now preaching the gospel.


Verse 6

"And it came to pass that as I was on my way" That is, on his way to persecute and arrest Christians in Damascus. As Paul was filled with rage and zeal for the law - just as they were at the moment. This account of Paul"s conversion is also given in Acts 9:1-43; Acts 26:1-32. "A very bright light" Which was obviously something supernatural, seeing that such a light overpowered even the light of the sun at noon in the desert.


Verse 7

Paul makes it very clear that his zeal for God and the law had become misdirected, and instead of arresting evildoers he was guilty of arresting God"s people.


Verse 9

The men with Paul saw the light and heard the sound, but they did not understand what was spoken to Paul by the Lord. Compare with Acts 9:7.


Verse 10

Paul"s zeal for God is manifested by his readiness to immediately obey when the Lord speaks, even if the Lord contradicts Paul"s previous ideas. Notice that while Jesus appeared to Paul there is still something that Paul must do to be saved. He still has a very active role to play in his own salvation.


Verse 12

"And a certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there" Paul deliberately referred to Ananias as being devout according to the standard of the Law, and being one who had a good reputation among godly Jews. Thus the man who baptized Paul was not some sort of Jewish heretic, but a well-respected member of the community. Ananias was a Christian (Acts 9:10), and the Law of Moses would view faithful Christians as being "devout by the standard of the Law", because faithful Christians had obeyed the Law of Moses by believing in the One who Moses predicted (Deuteronomy 18:15 ff).


Verse 13-14

This sight was instantly restored; another proof that what had happened on the road was an actual encounter with God. 22:14 Paul now begins to explain why Jesus had appeared to him. "The God of our fathers" Who was behind Jesus appearing to Paul - the God that his audience worshipped! The God that they claimed to be serving, the God that they would have argued they were defending against Paul"s preaching. "Has appointed you to know His will" Which will include knowledge of the gospel message being given to Paul by direct revelation (Galatians 1:12). The inference here is clear, when Paul was persecuting Christians he was ignorant of God"s will and he was acting contrary to such a will. "To see the Righteous One, and to hear an utterance from His voice" This statement reveals that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah and that the God of their fathers said so.


Verse 15

"For you will be a witness" Witnesses just like the original 12 apostles were appointed to be witnesses (Acts 1:8; Acts 1:22). "For Him to all men of what you have seen and heard" Thus Paul becomes not only an apostle selected by Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:8), but also the last apostle chosen.


Verse 16

"And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name"

God considers it delaying to put off becoming a Christian three days after you have heard the truth.

The term arise infers that Paul had to get up to be baptized, that the water could not he simply brought to him (as in sprinkling or pouring), but rather that he had to go to the water. Thus, baptism is an immersion in water.

Neither is this Holy Spirit baptism, for one does not have to arise to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

The words wash away also confirms that this is water baptism.

Even though Paul was very devout and very sincere in his convictions, Paul still had sins. Being a devout Jew did not save Paul and did not remove any of his sins.

Even after seeing the Lord and believing in Him, Paul still has sins. Clearly, one is not forgiven until one is baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).

The expression calling on His name infers that until one is baptized one has not truly trusted or called upon God"s help and mercy for salvation. Being baptized is how a person completely trusts in God"s way of saving us. Compare with Acts 2:21; Acts 2:38.

Paul will now seek to explain how he ended up preaching the gospel message to Gentiles.


Verse 17

"And it came about when I returned to Jerusalem" Remember, Paul was converted in Damascus, and then some years later returned to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-30; Galatians 1:17-18). "And was praying in the temple" Please note that Paul specifically mentions that he was praying in the temple. Paul did not speak against the temple, he did not teach that the temple was a bad place, rather he knew that as a Christian he could pray anyplace, including in the temple area. He could still pray there, it was that now the temple was no longer the exclusive place of prayer (John 4:23-24). "That I fell into a trance" "Paul"s mention of a trance coming upon him (he didn"t seek it or attempt to artificially induce it), verse 17, would have signified to the hearers that this was a revelation from on high, and one therefore that should be heeded" (Reese p. 808).


Verses 18-21

Paul now reveals that the Lord had predicted two things. First, that the Jews would persecute him (just like they were doing on this day) and secondly that preaching to the Gentiles the message of salvation in Jesus was not his own opinion or some eccentric idea, but was a direct command from heaven. "Paul"s second point was that those features of his faith which had changed, especially his acknowledgment of Jesus and his Gentile mission, were not his own eccentric ideas. They had been directly revealed to him from heaven, the one truth in Damascus and the other in Jerusalem" (Stott p. 348). Paul had not fallen away, but rather it is clear that Paul still serves the same God of their fathers, which means that his hearers are not in line with God"s will at the present.

If given time Paul would probably have proceeded to explain that he had not brought a Gentile into the temple area that was reserved for Jewish men, but once Paul mentioned his commission of going to the Gentiles the mob cut his sermon short.


Verse 22

"They listened to him up to this statement, and then they raised their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth for he should not be allowed to live!""

Sadly, these Jews did not even listen to the Law that they claimed to be upholding. There were many passages in the Law that not only predicted a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34), but also of salvation being offered to the Gentiles (see Romans 15:9 ff). It looks like they were willing to listen to almost anything expect the truth that God wanted the Gentiles to be His people as well. "For he should not be allowed to live" The verb tense here gives the idea that in their minds Paul should have been put to death a long time ago. Their reaction to Paul"s sermon is similar in how other Jews reacted to Jesus and Stephen. Yet the Jewish audience fails to realize that this response is exactly what God had predicted (22:18-21).


Verse 23

"The crowd was not content with shouting and screaming (22); they started waving their cloaks about and flinging dust into the air. These gestures may have expressed not so much excitement, anger and hostility as horror in reaction to what they considered to be blasphemy" (Stott p. 349). Yet notice that no one has a logical or Scriptural argument against what Paul said. No one offered to meet him in debate or reason with him with the Scriptures. Sometimes the only "argument" that unbelievers have is yelling and screaming.


Verse 24

The Roman commander at this point realizes that he is getting nowhere with the crowd, so he brings Paul inside the fortress. "Stating that he would be examined by scourging" Simply put, they were planning on torturing Paul until he told them what they considered to be the truth. "This ghastly ordeal was the standard way of extracting information from prisoners. The scourge was a fearful instrument of torture, consisting of leather thongs, weighted with rough pieces of metal or bone, and attached to a stout wooden handle. If a man did not actually die under the scourge (which frequently happened), he would certainly be crippled for life" (Stott p. 349). The Roman historian Tacitus wrote that typically seven our of ten men scourged died in the process (Tacitus, History, IV. 27). "Find out the reason why they were shouting against him that way" From this verse it would appear that the Roman commander did not speak Hebrew and thus did not understand what Paul had been saying to the crowd. All the commander knows is that at a certain point in the speech the crowd goes wild with rage and anger.


Verse 25

"And when they stretched him out with thongs" "The person to be scourged was stripped to the waist, and then tied with leather thongs, either in a stooping position over a short post or suspended by the hands above the ground" (Reese p. 810). Paul had been already beaten with rods several times by both the Romans and the Jews (2 Corinthians 11:24 ff), but neither of these had "the murderous quality of the scourging" (p. 810). "It is lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?" Being a Roman citizen protected one from torture without trial. Compare with Acts 16:37.


Verse 26

The centurion who had been preparing Paul for the scourging quickly reports this information to the commander.


Verse 27-28

"I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money" "Citizenship tended to be either by right (for those of high status or office) or by reward (for those who had served the Empire well). It was passed on from father to son (which was the case with Paul); it could also be bought, not with a fee but with a bribe to some corrupt official in the imperial secretariat or the provincial administration; which was the case with Claudius Lysias. Indeed, such corruption was rife during the reign of the Emperor Claudius, which may explain why the commander had added the nomen Claudius, in honor of the Emperor, to his cognomen Lysias" (Stott p. 350). "The commander was finding it difficult to believe that Paul could be a Roman citizen. He appears to be thinking, "It cost men a huge sum of money to purchase citizenship; how would such a sorry-looking figure as you ever be able to become a citizen?"" (Reese p. 812). Each Roman city had an official list of citizens so it would not be difficult to verify Paul"s claim of citizenship. "I was actually born a citizen" Being born in Tarsus did not make Paul an automatic citizen, for the Roman commander already knew the place of Paul"s birth (21:39). Rather, one of Paul"s ancestors had received Roman citizenship as a result of performing some great service for the Empire, and this citizenship was then passed down from father to son. Hence, at present Paul stood in a more honor position in the eyes of the Empire than did the Roman commander, for citizenship by birth was far more honorable than citizenship that had been bought.


Verse 29

Paul is immediately untied and the commander was afraid because he had come so close to committing a very serious crime. "Because he had put him in chains" This does not refer to the chains necessary to arrest someone (21:33), but rather to the chains that were put upon him in preparation for torture. Even this had gone to far in the eyes of Roman law.


Verse 30

Yet, the commander still knows very little about Paul and specifically why the Jewish mob was seeking to kill him. In addition, he cannot simply release Paul, because that might have actually endangered his life in Jerusalem, but he is also afraid of releasing someone who just might turn out to be a terrorist or evildoer. So he cannot release Paul without knowing the accusation against him but neither can he hold Paul indefinitely without any charge against him. Thus he determines to have Paul face the Jewish Sanhedrin. Up to this point every attempt to get at an explanation that he understands has been blocked. "Chief priests" This would include the high priest and past high priests. "Brought Paul down" Brought him down from the fortress of Antonia.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Acts 22:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/acts-22.html. 1999-2014.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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