free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!
PAUL’S DEFENCE FROM THE CASTLE STAIRS OF ANTONIA: FIRST APOLOGY
1. A Retrospective Survey of his Past Career; or, what he Was and Did, prior to Conversion (Acts 22:1-5).
2. The Story of his Conversion to Christianity; or, before and in Damascus (Acts 22:6-16).
3. The Adoption of his Gentile Mission; or, his Interview with Christ in the Temple at Jerusalem (Acts 22:17-21).
§ 4 The Effect of his Oration on the Audience; or, Paul’s Narrow Escape from Scourging (Acts 22:22-30).
Acts 22:1. Men, brethren and fathers.—Or, brethren and fathers, the use of “men” in English being unnecessary. Compare the commencement of Stephen’s address to the Sanhedrim (Acts 7:2). Conybeare and Howson (2:276) “account for this peculiar mode of address” by supposing “that mixed with the crowd were men of venerable age and dignity, perhaps members of the Sanhedrim, ancient scribes and doctors of the law, who were stirring up the people against the heretic.” More likely this was the usual way of addressing an assembly which included scribes and elders of the people (Spence). Hear my defence.—The construction is not a double genitive of the thing and the person—hear me and hear my defence, but a genitive of the thing; “my” being dependent, not on “hear,” but on “defence.” The defence consists of three parts.
Acts 22:2. In the Hebrew tongue or language.—See on Acts 21:40.
Acts 22:3, which begins the first part (Acts 22:1-5), takes up the acknowledgment as to his own person which has just been made to Lysias (Acts 21:39). The best texts omit verily. Brought up at the feet of Gamaliel.—On Gamaliel. See Acts 5:34. “The scholars sat upon the ground or upon benches, the teachers upon stools (Matthew 23:2)” (Holtzmann). According to this punctuation, which is commonly adopted (Calvin, Meyer, Alford, Wendt, Zöckler, Holtzmann, Westcott and Hort), Paul must have removed from Tarsus to Jerusalem when a youth (compare Acts 26:4); according to a different punctuation followed by other exegetes (Griesbach, Lachmann. De Wette, Bethge, Hackett, Conybeare and Howson), the words should be rendered, at the feet of Gamaliel taught—ἀνατεθραμμένος, having regard (it is said) more to physical growth, while πεπαιδευμένος refers rather to mental culture or professional training. But the way in which the sentences are built, the participle preceding its qualifying clause, appears to speak for the former translation as the more probable. Hausrath considers the story of Paul’s studying under Gamaliel in Jerusalem as apocryphal (Der Apostel Paulus, pp. 34, 35). The perfect should be the strict manner of the law of the fathers.—The word ἀκρίβεια, which occurs only here (compare Acts 26:5), was the customary catchword for Pharisaic legalism (see Wis. 12:1; Jos., Ant., IX. x. 2; Wars, II. viii. 14; Life, 38). For Paul’s legal strictness see his statements elsewhere (Galatians 1:14; Philippians 3:5). Zealous towards God. Better, for God: like zealous for the Law (Acts 21:20). As ye all are this day.—“A conciliatory comparison” (Alford). “Must not that have constrained the Jews to the admission: ‘This man understands us, but we understand him not’ ” (Besser).
Acts 22:4. This way.—See on Acts 9:2 : “He would willingly have struck down the believers in Messiah with a stroke” (Holtzmann). Unto death.—Or, as far as death. Not the aim merely (Meyer), but the actual result (Hackett), of his persecution (compare Acts 22:20; Acts 16:10).
Acts 22:5. The high priest of the time (Acts 9:1), Caiaphas, seems to have been still alive when Paul spoke. He, along with the elders, composed the Sanhedrim (Luke 22:66). Unto the brethren.—Not against the Christians (Bornemann), but to the Jews in Damascus (Holtzmann, Zöckler, and others); specially to the Jewish rulers in the synagogues (Acts 9:2). Them which were there (ἐκεῖσε) meant those Jewish believers who, having fled thither (to Damascus) in consequence of the persecution (Acts 8:1), had settled there. To be punished.—For apostatising from the law of their fathers.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 22:1-5
Paul’s Survey of His Past Career; or, What He Was and Did before Conversion
I. His birth.—
1. As to race. He was not an Egyptian (Acts 21:38), as the commander of the castle supposed, neither a Greek nor a Roman, but a Jew, a true son of Abraham (Romans 11:4), “of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5). Whatever other nations thought of the Jews, the Jews had exalted opinions of themselves, as the very salt of the earth, the flower and cream of humanity. To them pertained “the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the covenants of God and the promises” (Romans 9:4). If race is not everything in a man’s make-up, still less is it nothing. Heredity goes back beyond immediate parentage to the family stock, and has its roots in the original race. The Jewish race was physically pure, intellectually high, and religiously strong.
2. As to place. A native of Tarsus, in Cilicia (see on Acts 9:30), and therefore a citizen of no mean city (Acts 21:39). This circumstance explained his knowledge of Greek (Acts 21:37), his acquaintance with Greek literature (Acts 17:28), and his strong sympathy with the Gentiles, and fitted him in an eminent degree for his life vocation as a missionary of the cross to the Gentiles. The place in which a man is born, no less than other factors in his terrestial environment, contributes important influences, which go to shape his career and mould his character. Most men owe more to their birthplaces than they suppose. The spot in which a man first awakes to consciousness has the earliest and therefore the best chance of making an impression—favourable or unfavourable—upon his susceptible nature.
II. His education.—
1. His university. Jerusalem. Though doubtless his training commenced at home in Tarsus, he appears to have at an early period removed to the metropolis of Judæa, where (this, of course, is pure conjecture) his sister (Acts 23:16) may have preceded him along with her husband. To this his parents may have assented, both because of the hallowed interest which to every pious Jew gathered round the Holy City, and because of some promise of brilliant talent which may have been detected in his opening youth.
2. His teacher. Gamaliel (see on Acts 23:34), who belonged to the school of Hillel, and had apparently great influence in the Sanhedrim (23:40). The Hillelites, who had been trained by their master to be both tolerant and broad, sometimes verging towards laxity, were supposed to be more favourably disposed towards Christianity than the Shammaites.
3. His learning. In the Law, which he was taught to regard with
(1) religious respect as the Law of God, and therefore charged with absolute authority;
(2) profound veneration, as the Law of the fathers—i.e., given to the fathers of Israel (not to the sons, as modern criticism teaches!); and
(3) dutiful submission as the law of righteousness, which called for the strictest obedience to its every jot and tittle as the only means of attaining to salvation and eternal life.
III. His zeal.—
1. Its nature. It was zeal for the Law, for its outward observance, for the external performances it required, “the meats and drinks, and divers washings,” “the sacrifices and offerings,” “the ordinances and statutes,” “the rites and ceremonies,” it prescribed. In regard to all these he was a Pharisee by descent (Acts 23:6), by training (Acts 26:5), and by conviction (Philippians 3:6).
2. Its object. To secure the Divine favour. He was zealous for God—i.e., his zeal for the Law rested on the conviction
(1) that the Law was of Divine origin and therefore binding on the consciences of men, and especially of Jews, and
(2) that obedience to its prescriptions was the only way of attaining to Divine favour.
3. Its degree. He was as intense in his devotion to the Law and to God as they themselves were who then gnashed their teeth against him and cried, “Away with him!” Indeed, as touching the righteousness of the Law, he claimed to be, like themselves, blameless (Philippians 3:6)—a fine touch of conciliating speech!
IV. His persecution.—
1. Its object. Directed against the Christians, the people of “this way,” both men and women. He then did what they were doing now.
2. Its character. Ferocious, bloodthirsty, murderous. Not satisfied with scattering the disciples of the Crucified from the Holy City, he caused them to be arrested and thrown into prison, without respect to age or sex; and as if that were not enough, he pursued them even unto death. Verily he had then been “a ravening wolf of the tribe of Benjamin.”
3. Its notoriety. This thing had not been done in a corner. The high priest of the day (probably alive when Paul spoke) and “all the estate of the elders,” or “the whole presbytery”—i.e., the entire body of the eldership, including the Sanhedrim and Senate—were cognisant of his activity and eminence in this respect. He had then been “a burning and a shining light,” a renowned champion of the faith, a kind of Hebrew Sir Galahad, who could have boasted—
“My good blade carves the casques of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure;
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.”
4. Its extent. Not content with cleansing Jerusalem, or even the Holy Land, of the apostates, as he believed them to be, he had swooped down upon them in distant Damascus, bearing with him missives, mandates, warrants, from the high priest and the Sanhedrim, empowering him to arrest them in the synagogues of that city, and fetch them, bound, to Jerusalem to be punished.
1. The accuracy of Paul’s life-story as narrated by Luke 2:0. The vividness of Paul’s recollection of his early years.
3. The courage of the apostle in making known to his countrymen the fact of his renunciation of their ancient faith.
4. The skill of the apostle in speaking so as to disarm the suspicions of his enemies.
5. The mistaken and disastrous course to which one may be led who is impelled by a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (compare Acts 26:9; Romans 10:2
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 22:1-2. The Qualities Requisite for a Christian Orator.
I. A spirit of courage.—Not of defiance or arrogance, but of calm fortitude which fears not man—neither his flatteries nor his frowns, neither his threatenings nor his bribes—but rests on God as its support in the wildest hurricanes of human passion and in the most alarming dangers. Such fortitude Paul possessed when he faced the mob from the castle stairs.
II. A spirit of meekness.—Not of cringing servility or of fawning adulation—neither of mock humility nor of affected self-depreciation, but of genuine self-forgetfulness, which overlooks all the faults and failings of its hearers, and makes nothing of their want of consideration for or even injustice towards itself. Such meekness Paul exhibited when, “though he had none but persecutors and murderers before him, he yet regarded and addressed them as brethren and fathers, on account of the covenant and promises of God.”
III. A spirit of love.—Not of gushing sentimentality or of sugared verbiage, but of true, manly, and religious affection, which sees in those it addresses persons who are men and brethren, of the same flesh and blood, of the same moral and religious value in the eyes of heaven, susceptible of becoming partakers of the same high blessings of salvation and eternal life as itself.
IV. A spirit of simplicity.—Not of triviality or frivolity, but of holy intelligibility, which seeks not for language that will dazzle by its brilliance, but for speech that will charm by its lucidity and easiness of comprehension.
Acts 22:3-4. True Religion. What it is not and what it is.
I. What it is not.—
1. Not descert from religious ancestry. Paul, though the son of a Pharisee, was yet not possessed of true religion. Grace does not run in the blood.
2. Not education by pious teachers. Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the most learned and influential rabbis of his day; yet Paul did not acquire religion. Grace is not the product of culture and training.
3. Not acquaintance with the letter of the Scriptures. Paul, thoroughly instructed in the law of Moses, both moral and ceremonial, was yet not religious. Grace is something more than mental illumination.
4. Not zeal in the performance of religious duties. Paul was so devoted to the outward rites and ceremonies of religion, and so absorbed in the pursuit of what he believed to be “righteousness,” that he could without hesitation describe his conformity to the law as “blameless”; and yet he was destitute of religion, Grace is not a matter of mere external performance.
5. Not activity in promoting and defending the faith. Paul had both, and yet was without religion. Grace is not of works.
II. What it is.—The exact opposite of all these.
1. It is conditioned by a new or second birth—a birth from above (John 3:3). What Paul calls a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
2. It is promoted by being taught of the Spirit (John 14:26), or taught by Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:21).
3. It is nourished by a spiritual acquaintance with the Scriptures (John 6:63).
4. It consists in an inward conformity of the soul to the requirements of God’s law (Romans 7:22).
5. It shows itself in a sincere desire to extend the faith—not by force of arms, but by the power of the truth.
Acts 22:3-5. The Promising but Disappointing Youth of Paul.
I. The magniflcent advantages he enjoyed.—
1. In his parentage. Having been born of Jewish parents, members of the noblest and most religious race then on earth.
2. In his birthplace. In Tarsus, where he came in contact with the civilisation and culture of the most intellectual people of the Old World.
3. In his education. Brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, the most renowned teacher of the day.
4. In his religious instincts. Instructed according to the strict manner of the law of his fathers, he was inwardly fired with a zeal for God and religion which gave promise of splendid results in after years.
II. The miserable results he produced.—
1. In the blind legalism of his religion. One would almost have expected that a youth of culture and ability like Paul would have soared away far above and beyond the dead externalism of the Pharisaic circle in which he had been born and brought up.
2. In the feline cruelty of his disposition. One would have thought that so much education as Paul had received would have mollified rather than intensified, blunted rather than whetted, the natural savageism of his soul.
3. In the low conception of his life-mission. One might naturally have anticipated that a brilliant youth like that of Paul’s would have been devoted to the purifying and refining of his ancestral religion, and to the propagation of it by means of learned and eloquent expositions. Alas! it so degenerated as to place its splendid faculties at the service of the Sanhedrim, to be employed in the work of a common persecutor and assassin. To what base uses noblest souls may come!
Acts 22:4-5. Paul the Persecutor; or, the Spirit of Intolerance in Religion.
I. Whence it springs.—
1. From a wrong conception of religion, which cannot be manufactured by force, and does not consist in mere external conformity to law or ritual, but must ever arise as a free product of the soul, and consist of true inward submission of the heart and life to the will of God.
2. From a mistaken idea of human nature, which cannot be coerced into such submission, but must be sweetly persuaded and lovingly wooed to yield, to the will of God.
3. From a false estimate of the rights of man. While every man has a God-given right to think for himself in religion, and to persuade his neighbour, if he can, to think along with him, no man is entitled to dictate to his brother in the sphere of conscience or punish his brother because he exercises that liberty of which he has been put in possession by God.
4. From a defective calculation of the value of persecution, which never yet made a true convert, though it has multiplied hypocrites as well as created martyrs.
II. To what it leads.—
1. Suppression of all the nobler instincts of humanity. On the part of the persecutor, and not infrequently also on the part of the persecuted. It lets loose all the bad passions of the human heart, both in those who resort to violence and in those who resist it. It puts the persecutor down to the same level as the conspirator and brigand, murderer and assassin. It rouses within the persecuted feelings which are the opposite of meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering.
2. Perpetration of indiscriminate cruelty. It commonly shows itself, as in Paul’s case, to be absolutely devoid of one grain of mercy, to be destitute of pity, to be fierce and bloodthirsty, sparing neither sex nor age, but involving all against whom it rages in common and undistinguished slaughter. In short, it is the minister of hell, rather than the messenger of heaven.
3. Ignominious defeat of its own aims. The more a cause is persecuted the more it multiplies and grows. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” The religion that requires a sword for its propagation is not from above, but from beneath. Its final failure is foredoomed. “All they that take the sword shall perish by the sword” is true of the institutions for which, as well as of the persons by whom, the sword is wielded.
Acts 22:5. Mistaken Missions.
I. To persecute the cause and the people of God.
II. To propagate true religion by means of force.
III. To disseminate error, whether by lawful or unlawful means.
IV. To run on any errand without a certainty of having Heaven’s permission.
Acts 22:6 begins the second part of the defence (Acts 22:6-16). Was come nigh should be was drawing near. The narration is the same as in Acts 9:3-17 and Acts 26:13-18, with a few points of difference. One of these is the note of time—about noon—“through which the miracle is more realistically expressed, and the matter of fact placed beyond suspicion of being an evening delusion” (Holtzmann). Another is the adjective great (ἱκανόν) appended to the noun light φῶς, which equally excluded the idea of deception.
Acts 22:7. The use of the word ground (ἔδαφος) (occurring only here), meaning the “base” or “bottom” of a thing, for “the earth” (γῆν) (Acts 9:4) may suggest the idea that he was travelling in a caravan or riding on horseback.
Acts 22:8. Of Nazareth, or, the Nazarene, is an addition to Luke’s account (Acts 9:5).
Acts 22:9. And were afraid (see Acts 9:2) is omitted by the best MSS.
Acts 22:10. What shall I do, Lord?—Does not occur in Luke’s narration, according to best texts (Acts 9:5), or in Paul’s speech before Agrippa (Acts 26:16). Yet this need occasion no difficulty.
Acts 22:11. The cause of his blindness, not stated in the earlier report, is here set down as the glory of that light, which was “above the brightness of the sun” (Acts 26:13), a point likely to be noted by Paul rather than by Luke.
Acts 22:12. Ananias a devout man.—The proper reading is εὐλαβής (Lachmann, Westcott and Hort), rather than εὐσεβής (Griesbach, Hackett), the former signifying “cautious,” “prudent,” “circumspect,” “according to the Law,” the latter “full of holy fear and reverence.” The former occurs only in Luke’s writings and in the Hebrews; the latter is used of Cornelius (Acts 10:2; Acts 10:7). (See Cremer’s Lexicon of New Testament Greek, pp. 394, 548). Luke calls Ananias a disciple (Acts 9:10).
Acts 22:13. I looked up upon him.—The verb signifies not merely to look up (Meyer, Wendt), but, as in Acts 9:12; Acts 9:17, to recover sight (Holtzmann). The clause might be translated, I received sight and looked up on or unto him,
Acts 22:14. The God of our fathers.—Another conciliatory touch! That just, or, the righteous, One.—Compare Acts 3:14, Acts 7:52; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 2:1.
Acts 22:15 declares the reason why God had revealed Himself to Paul. Compare Acts 9:15, and see Galatians 1:16. All men takes the place of “the Gentiles and kings” in Luke’s account (Acts 9:15)—probably dictated by caution. A touch which a late writer, composing an imaginary speech, would most likely have failed to insert.
Acts 22:16. For the name of the Lord the oldest authorities read His name.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 22:6-16
The Story of Paul’s Conversion; or before and in Damascus
I. Before Damascus; or, the interview with Jesus of Nazareth.—
1. The circumstantiality of the narration. Different from that of Luke (Acts 9:1-9), the account given by Paul himself bears the stamp of having proceeded from an eyewitness.
(1) Points of resemblance between Paul’s account and Luke’s may be noted, such as these: the fact that Jesus of Nazareth appeared to the apostle, who recognised Him by His voice (Acts 22:8; Acts 9:4), and by His form (Acts 22:14; Acts 9:7); the locality in which this interview took place—viz., nigh unto Damascus (Acts 22:6; Acts 9:3); the manner in which this manifestation of the risen Christ occurred—suddenly, by the flashing forth of a light from heaven, which struck the apostle to the ground and filled his companions with terror (Acts 22:7; Acts 22:9; Acts 9:4; Acts 9:7); the words addressed by Christ to Paul, with those of Paul to Christ—“Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” “Who art Thou, Lord?” “I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.… Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do” (Acts 22:7-8; Acts 22:10; Acts 9:4-6); the effect of the interview upon Paul, rendering him blind and requiring him to be led by the hands of his companions into Damascus (Acts 22:11; Acts 9:8).
(2) Points of difference between the two accounts are observable, such as the note of time—“about noon” (Acts 22:6); the splendour of the light—“great” (Acts 22:6); the characterisation of Jesus as “of Nazareth” (Acts 22:8); the statements that while the companions of Paul saw the light they heard not the voice (Acts 22:9), and that what blinded Paul was “the glory of that light” (Acts 22:11); with the omission of Luke’s addendum that Paul was three days without sight, and did neither eat nor drink (Acts 9:9). The differences—all of which are immaterial—are obviously such—both in details added and those omitted—as might naturally arise between two reports of which one was given by an eyewitness and the other by a historian.
2. The credibility of the narration.
(1) The only conceivable grounds on which this can be challenged are: the supernatural character of the incident related; the excitable character of the apostle, which caused him, it may be contended, to impose upon himself, and to say he had beheld as external objects what were only illusions of the mind; the varying accounts of the incidents contained in the Acts; and the fact (if it is a fact) that Paul never mentions this incident in his epistles. But the first of these reasons is irrelevant, as it begs the question in debate. The second is only true to this extent, that Paul, by his own confession, had visions and revelations: that Paul was subject to illusions or delusions is not borne out by anything in his character or history. The third may he conceded without admitting that these variations invalidate the substance in which all the three accounts agree. The fourth can hardly be maintained in the face of 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8; Galatians 1:16; Galatians 1:24; 1 Timothy 1:13; but even should Paul have preserved absolute silence in his epistles as to the interview with Christ before Damascus, that silence would not justify an inference that no such interview had occurred.
(2) The arguments which serve to uphold the credibility of the narrative are such as these: the certainty that Paul was converted from Pharisaism to a belief in Jesus Christ, as was attested by the ferocity with which the Jews persecuted him to the end of his career—which conversion must have been brought about by some adequate cause; the constancy with which Paul asserted that his conversion was due to having seen the Lord Jesus Christ—which constancy is inexplicable on the hypothesis that Paul was the victim of a diseased imagination; the belief which was entertained by Paul’s Christian contemporaries that Christ had appeared to him (Acts 22:14); and the difficulty of discovering any motive for Paul’s preaching that Christ had risen if it was not a fact that Christ had appeared to him—the more so as his conversion to Christianity involved him in unparalleled labours and sufferings.
II. In Damascus; or, the interview with Ananias.—Here also Paul’s account differs from that of Luke in subordinate details, while agreeing with that of Luke in substance.
1. The omissions from the previous narrative.
(1) The residence of Paul in Damascus—with one Judas in the street called Straight (Acts 9:13).
(2) The occupation of Paul while in Judas’s house—praying, with the vision granted him of Ananias coming to him and placing hands upon his closed eyes (Acts 9:11-12).
(3) The designation of Ananias as a certain disciple (Acts 9:10).
(4) The appearance of the Lord to Ananias in a vision (Acts 9:10).
(5) The commission given to Ananias by the risen Lord (Acts 22:11), with the answer returned by Ananias (Acts 9:13-14), and the Lord’s response to him (Acts 9:15-16).
(6) The statement that Ananias put his hands on Saul’s eyes (Acts 9:17).
(7) The mention of scales as having fallen from Paul’s eyes when his sight was restored (Acts 9:18). Not one of these points was of special interest to the audience Paul addressed from the castle stairs, or of any use for the purpose for which Paul addressed them.
2. The additions to the previous narrative.
(1) The character of Ananias, as a devout man according to the Law, and well reported of by all the Jews who dwelt in Damascus (Acts 22:12). This was signally calculated to conciliate Paul’s hearers.
(2) The invitation to Paul to arise and be baptised (Acts 22:16). The fact that this invitation proceeded from Ananias was also fitted to disarm the hostility of Paul’s enraged countrymen.
3. The variations in the two narratives. These appear chiefly in the address of Ananias to Paul (Acts 22:13-14; Acts 9:17). In particular, the substitution of “the God of our fathers “as the real author of his conversion, instead of “the Lord, even Jesus,” was a highly politic stroke in the circumstances in which Paul then stood. So also was the supplanting of the term “Gentiles” by that of “all men.” Otherwise the two addresses substantially agree. In none of these omissions, additions, or variations, lie sufficient ground for impeaching the veracity of Paul’s account.
1. That two reports of the same event may differ in details, and yet be both correct.
2. That Paul’s conversion indirectly confirms the truth of Christ’s resurrection.
3. That Paul regarded his Gentile mission as a vocation specially assigned to him from the first.
4. That “the instruments which are to be specially useful in the Church must be ordained in heaven.”
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 22:6. Great Lights which Shone around Paul.
I. Light upon the person of Jesus.—Henceforth Paul knew him to be the Lord of Glory.
II. Light upon the character of the disciples.—Henceforth Paul recognised them as intimately bound with and under the protection of Jesus.
III. Light upon the wickedness of his own past career.—Henceforth Paul saw that in persecuting the adherents of that way he had been persecuting the risen Redeemer.
IV. Light upon his future work in the world.—Henceforth Paul understood he was to witness for Christ unto all men.
Acts 22:7. Christ’s Question to Saul.—“Saul, Saul! why persecutest thou Me?”
I. What it implied.—
1. The continued existence of Jesus Christ.
2. The cognisance by Christ of what was taking place upon the earth.
3. The right of Jesus Christ to interfere with men’s actions and bring men themselves to His bar.
II. What it suggested.—
1. That Christ was one with His followers upon earth, so that what affected them, in the same manner affected Him.
2. That the infliction of pains and penalties on men for their religious opinions was persecution.
3. That such persecution, as directed against Christ’s followers, was without justification or excuse.
Acts 22:9. Fighting Against God.
I. The fighting described.—How?
1. By resisting His will and persisting in sin contrary to better knowledge and inner conviction (Exodus 5:2).
2. By rejecting His word, and relying upon good works or some other human contrivance for peace of mind and rest of soul (Acts 4:2).
3. By refusing His way, and by murmuring against the dispensations of His providence (Romans 8:28). Let us nevermore strive against God in this way (Isaiah 55:8).
4. By renouncing His work; or, backsliding from His service (Jeremiah 8:5).
5. By reviling His Spirit, or sinning against the Holy Ghost. Not only resisting His pleadings (Acts 7:51), but actually reviling His works or strivings within (Matthew 12:31-32).
II. The folly denounced—Why? Why is it folly, or why should we “not fight against God”?
1. Because of God’s relation to man. Man were “nothing at all” if God were not his “all and in all.” Therefore:
(1) As his Creator. Can it be wise for man to strive against his Master and Maker?
(2) As his Benfactor. Shall the force of an army be spent against the base of its supplies? (James 1:17).
(3) As his Redeemer. How can a redeemed soul rebel against its Redeemer?
2. Because of man’s relation to God.
(1) As a sinner. It is rash presumption, for it raises still higher the wall of separation from God.
(2) As a son. It is rank ingratitute, for the heavenly Father is the best friend to the children of men.
(3) As a servant. It is infatuation; as well might the clay expect to prevail against the potter, the moth against the mountain, or the lamp against the sun.
(4) As a subject. It is ripe destruction (Job 9:4; Isaiah 45:9; Isaiah 27:4).—J. G. Boughter.
Acts 22:10. What shall I do, Lord?—A question for all.
I. For the sinner.—What shall I do, Lord, when thou risest up to judgment and callest me to account for my transgressions? Answer: “Only acknowledge thine iniquity and return unto Me.”
II. For the anxious.—What shall I do, Lord, when my soul is rent and torn by a consciousness of guilt and sin? Answer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”
III. For the pardoned.—What shall I do, Lord, seeing Thou in Thy mercy hast redeemed and forgiven me? Answer: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” Thou shalt “glorify God in thy body and thy spirit, which are His.” Thou shalt “go and work to-day in My vineyard.”
IV. For the afflicted—What shall I do, Lord, when tossed about and tempted? Answer: Thou shalt “flee unto Me to hide thee.”
V. For the dying.—What shall I do, Lord, when my strength faileth; when my “earthly house of this tabernacle” is being dissolved; when I am summoned to appear before Thy judgment-seat? Answer: “Thou shalt put thy trust in Me.”
Acts 22:11. The Blinding Glory.
I. The light.—It is not common light, nor does it operate in a common way.
1. It is light. A light; the light.
2. It is a great light. It was beyond the brightness of the sun. Noon was to it as midnight.
3. It was a sudden light. It did not slowly dawn. It blazed suddenly, but it remained till God’s purpose was served.
4. It was a spacious light. Not like a star or sun, but a body or globe of light compassing them round about, as on the transfiguration hill (Acts 9:3; Acts 22:6; Acts 26:13).
5. It was a light from heaven. It was from above, not from beneath. The history of that light is the Christology of Scripture. No doubt this visible, physical light is connected with a higher and more spiritual light. The light which patriarchs saw, and Paul saw, was but a symbol of something more glorious—the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
II. Its effects.—The narrative presents several different results in the case of Saul.
1. It blinds. Paul is struck blind. Blinded by light! The light of heaven!
2. It illuminates. It does not blind in order to destroy the vision. It blinds in order to give clearer eyesight.
3. It prostrates. Saul is stricken to the ground. The vision is overwhelming. Man cannot stand before it.
4. It bewilders. It was here in the case of Saul worse than darkness, in the bewilderment produced. He needs now a guide.
5. It guides. We do not see this here, but in Saul’s after-history. This is his lamp. From this outward operation on men we learn the inward. For, doubtless, there were both these co-operating in the case of Paul. The first effect of the light of the gospel is often to blind and to strike down. The second is to enlighten, and to lift up, and to heal. It is with Divine light that our dark souls must come into contact. Till this takes place we are still unrenewed; still Sauls, not Pauls. The “Lamb” is the light thereof.—H. Bonar, D.D.
The Glory of That Light.
I. Its supernatural origin. A light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun.
II. Its essential character.—The dwelling place of Jehovah, the material symbol of His presence.
III. Its mysterious effects.—
1. Eclipsing all natural lights.
2. Blinding all ordinary vision.
3. Imparting inward illumination.
IV. Its permanent duration.—Disappearing from the sky, but never withdrawing from the soul—shining in and on unto eternal day.
Acts 22:13. The Miracle in the House of Judas.—Or, the restoration of Paul’s sight, a type of the spiritual miracle of soul-illumination which takes place in the hour of conversion.
I. It proceeded upon one who was antecedently blind.—This goes without saying. So does the inward miracle of soul-illumination. Men’s souls are naturally darkened.
II. It was wrought by the forth putting of Divine energy.—The command of Ananias was really the command of Christ. Only a Divine power can illuminate the darkened souls of men.
III. It came upon him as a free gift from Jesus Christ.—“Brother Saul! receive thy sight.” So is inward soul-illumination all of grace.
IV. It was followed by instantaneous results.—In that hour Paul received his sight and looked up. So when God speaks the soul sees—not until.
Acts 22:12-13. Soul-Ministry—
I. Should be entrusted only to good men. Like Ananias.
II. Can only rightly be performed by sympathetic hearts, who address their patients as “brothers.”
III. Should always aim at the translation of such a one in darkness into God’s marvellous light. So Ananias spoke to Saul: “Receive thy sight.”
IV. Will not fail if undertaken in humble reliance on Christ’s grace. Paul received his sight and looked up.
Acts 22:14. The Qualifications and Work of the Christian Minister.
I. His qualifications.—
1. A knowledge of God’s will.—In particular so far as it relates to the salvation of sinful men.
2. A sight of the Righteous One. I.e., a personal acquaintance with Jesus Christ, in His character and saving offices.
3. The hearing of a voice from Christ’s mouth; i.e., the consciousness of an inward call from Christ as well as a distinct message put into his mouth by Him.
II. His work.—
1. Its nature—to be a witness for Christ.
2. Its limitation. “Of what thou hast seen and heard.”
3. Its sphere. “Unto all men.”
The Righteous One.
I. Descriptive of the character of Christ.—See Acts 3:14; Acts 7:52; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 2:1.
II. Suggestive of the work of Christ.—Which was twofold.
1. To bring in an everlasting righteousness (Daniel 9:24; Romans 3:22; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
2. To make men inwardly righteous (Romans 8:4; Ephesians 5:9; Philippians 1:11).
III. Prophetic of the people of Christ.—Who shall eventually be all righteous (Isaiah 60:21; 1 Peter 3:12; 1 John 3:7; Revelation 22:11).
Voices From the Mouth of Christ.
I. A voice for the unbelieving world.—“Why persecutest thou Me?” (Acts 22:7) All unbelief is a virtual persecution of Christ.
II. A voice for the awakened sinner.—“Come unto Me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
III. A voice for the rejoicing believer.—“Ye shall be a witness for Me” (Acts 1:8).
Acts 22:16. The Washing Away of Sin.
I. Effected by faith.—By arising and believing.
II. Grounded on the work of Christ.—Calling on His name.
III. Symbolised in baptism.—“Be baptised, and wash away thy sins.”
Calling on the Name of the Lord.
I. The significance of the name of the Lord.—Points to—
1. The personal existence of Jesus Christ.
2. The character of Jesus Christ as revealed in the gospel.
3. The work of Jesus Christ as expressed in His names—Lord, Jesus, Christ.
II. The import of calling on that name.—Implies—
1. Belief in the personal existence of Jesus Christ.
2. Trust in His character as a Divinely exalted Saviour.
3. Reliance on His redeeming work as an all-sufficient ground of acceptance.
III. The result of calling on the Lord’s name.—Salvation.
Acts 22:17. Begins the third portion of the defence. When I was come again to Jerusalem.—This visit to the Metropolis, which occurred at least three years after his conversion (Acts 9:26), and lasted fifteen days (Galatians 1:18), is connected with the story of his conversion (overleaping all that happened in the interval), to show why he turned to the Gentiles with his gospel, rather than to the Jews. The trance into which he fell, while praying in the temple, resembles Peter’s in the house of the Joppa tanner (Acts 10:10).
Acts 22:18. In the trance he saw him—i.e., Christ, the righteous One (Acts 22:14). This vision not the same as that referred to in 2 Corinthians 12:2. Quickly.—Perhaps accounts for the fifteen days of Galatians 1:18. That this vision is not mentioned in the epistle need not militate against its credibility. Thy testimony.—Better, testimony of or from thee concerning me.
Acts 22:19. The reply of Paul cannot be explained after the analogy of Exodus 3:11, but must be understood as stating either why it was natural that the Jews should not listen to him (Ewald), or why he should remain in Jerusalem—because the knowledge his countrymen had of his previous notorious character would convince them of the sincerity of his conversion (Lechler, Wendt, Bethge), and cause his words to carry greater weight (Hackett, Alford, Plumptre), or because he wished to undo the mischief he had formerly wrought (Alford). Another view sees in the reference to Paul’s earlier career a reason why his mission should be carried on at a distance from the theatre of his former deeds (Holtzmann). Thy martyr should be thy witness.
Acts 22:21. I will send thee far hence to the Gentiles.—The school of Baur and Holtzmann finds in this supernatural authorisation of Paul’s Gentile mission an artificial (but why artificial?) parallel to that of Peter in Acts 11:5-17. That both were divinely authorised presents no difficulty to those who accept the historic verity of the narrative.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 22:17-21
Paul’s Adoption of a Gentile Mission; or, His Interview with Christ in Jerusalem
I. The circumstances connected with Christ’s appearing to the apostle.
1. The place where this occurred.
(1) Not in Damascus, which lay outside the Holy Land, but in Jerusalem, its metropolis and centre.
(2) Not in some obscure supper room while associating with the disciples, but in the temple itself, out of which they, his hearers and he, had just come, and on which they both looked with reverence.
(3) Not in the court of the Gentiles while engaged in denouncing the temple worship, in which they supposed he was now constantly occupie!, but in the court of the women, while praying like themselves in accordance with its accustomed ritual. All circumstances calculated to gain the favour of his hearers, or at least disarm their hostility.
2. The time when this occurrence. After his return to Jerusalem, which took place three years subsequent to the day of his leaving it for Damascus (Acts 9:26). This visit is that referred to in Galatians 1:18 as having continued only fifteen days. The present narrative supplies the reason of its speedy termination. Thus both history and epistle indirectly confirm each other.
3. The manner in which this occurred. Paul having fallen into a trance or ecstasy, as Peter in similar circumstances had done in Joppa (Acts 10:10), while thus withdrawn from the contemplation of “things seen and temporal,” with his soul’s eye open to the “unseen” and the “eternal,” he beheld again the same glorified form which he had seen before Damascus’ gate, and recognised it as that of his exalted Lord.
II. The instruction given to the apostle by Christ, whom he beheld.
1. The tenor of it. To depart from Jerusalem with all speed. The order, which was clear, short, and peremptory, must withal have been surprising and painful to Paul, who intensely loved his countrymen and desired their salvation (Romans 9:1-3; Romans 10:1), and who doubtless had heard that Christ Himself once commanded His disciples to begin at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).
2. The reason of it. Because his countrymen would not receive from him testimony concerning Christ. This, too, must have sounded sad in Paul’s ears—that his countrymen would not accept testimony concerning Christ from any one, and certainly not from him. It seemed like an intimation beforehand that Israel’s heart was hardened and Israel’s doom sealed. Yet his experience in Jerusalem (Acts 9:29) must have begun to prepare him for some such announcement. Only love is slow to convince that its holy purpose to bless others will prove ineffectual.
III. The objection offered by Paul to Christ’s instruction. The exact thought which lay in the apostle’s mind is difficult to determine (see “Critical Remarks”); but, accepting what appears the more probable interpretation, we may understand Paul as attempting to show cause why he should be allowed to remain in Jerusalem.
1. The knowledge which the inhabitants of the Holy City possessed of his previous character as a persecutor would (he believed) dispose them to credit the sincerity of his conversion, and lead them to hear what he had to state in justification of his tergiversation, which would secure him the opportunity of testifying concerning the transcendent fact of Christ’s resurrection.
2. The part he had previously taken in persecuting the disciples—as witness his conduct in connection with the murder of Stephen—seemed (in his eyes) to establish a claim for Jerusalem that he should remain within its precincts and endeavour at least to undo the mischief he had done.
IV. The dismissal intimated by Christ to the apostle.
1. Peremptory. Depart! Talk no more of remaining. My counsel is fixed. Outside Jerusalem is henceforth to be the sphere of thy labour. Whether My grace shall ever reach Jerusalem or not, thou art not to be the channel through which it is to flow.
2. Deliberate. Christ had other work prepared for His servant. “I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” What a reminiscence this must have called up in Paul’s soul (Acts 22:15; Acts 9:15)! And what a vista it must have opened up before his spirit!—of wanderings, and labours, and sufferings!
1. That heaven is never far from praying souls. Prayer a sort of window through which the soul looks into the unseen, and the unseen shines in upon the soul.
2. That Christ knows who will and who will not receive God’s testimony concerning Him.
3. That Christ’s ministers are not so good judges of the spheres of labour best suited for them as Christ is.
4. That the evil wrought by Christ’s people before conversion can never be entirely undone.
5. That men in God’s sight are chargeable with the evil they consent to, no less than with that they commit.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 22:1-21. Paul’s Sketch of His own Life.—Or how a servant of God looks back upon the course of his own life.
I. With grateful remembrance of human benefactors (Acts 22:3).
II. With penitent confession of his own erroneous ways (Acts 22:4-5).
III. With humble praise of the Divine gracious dealings (Acts 22:6-16).
IV. With clear consciousness of the life-call allotted to him (Acts 22:18-21.)—Gerok.
Paul’s First Apology; or, his speech to his countrymen from the castle stairs.
I. What Paul says about himself.—
1. Rehearses the character of his early years.
(1) Claims to have been a good Jew, by birth, education, personal belief, and outward devotion (Acts 22:30; compare Philippians 3:5).
(2) Confesses to have been a zealous persecutor. Reminds them of his commission and mission to Damascus (Acts 22:4-5; compare Philippians 3:6).
2. Tells the story of his conversion.
(1) Narrating where it happened, near Damascus; when it happened, “at midday;” how it happened—by the appearance of Jesus Christ (Acts 22:6; Acts 22:8).
(2) Citing, as proof that it happened, the experience of his fellow-travellers (Acts 22:9) and the action of Ananias (Acts 22:12); and
(3) mentioning, as the result of its happening, his call to be an apostle, and his submission to baptism (Acts 22:15-16).
3. Explains the origin of his Gentile mission.
(1) Stating when, where, and from whom, that mission had been received (Acts 22:17-18);
(2) declaring his original reluctance to enter upon it (Acts 22:19-20); and
(3) intimating that it had been practically thrust upon him by the hand of Heaven (Acts 22:21). A noble confession: that his whole pre-Christian life, though learned, religious, and active, had been wrong; that it had been changed by a higher power rather than by any effort of his own; and that his Christian life had begun and was being directed by Jesus Christ. A difficult confession: for any man, but especially for an intellectually and religiously proud Pharisee, such as Paul was. A courageous confession: to be made in face of a hostile multitude and by a man who was at the moment under arrest for a supposed crime. A good confession; such as must have brought comfort to Paul’s own heart and secured for him the approbation and support of his Master.
II. What Paul testifies about Christ.—
1. His heavenly glory and power. Paul’s hearers imagined that Jesus of Nazareth was dead: Paul told them He was alive. They fancied Jesus had been overwhelmed with shame; he assured them Jesus was crowned with celestial glory. They conceived Jesus had been rendered for ever powerless; he reminded them that Jesus was invested with resistless power. They supposed Jesus had been only a man; he announced to them that Jesus was God.
2. His fellowship with His persecuted disciples upon the earth. How contemptuously Paul’s hearers looked upon the followers of that way. Paul had formerly done the same. Now he understood and intimated to his hearers that Christ and His disciples stood in closest intimacy with one another—so much so that what was done to them He regarded as done to Himself.
3. His grace to poor sinners of the human race. Even to the worst; to himself, for example. Christ showed this in the days of His flesh by pardoning such transgressors as the woman of the city and the dying robber; after His resurrection, by commanding the eleven to begin at Jerusalem; subsequent to His ascension by converting Paul and employing him as an apostle.
4. His world-wide plan of salvation. Christ had no idea of restricting His gospel to Palestine or the Jews. Nor is it His mind to-day that the good news of Heaven’s mercy should be published alone in Britain or in Christendom. His desire is that the gospel should be preached among all nations and to every creature under heaven.
Acts 22:17. Paul in the Temple at Jerusalem.
I. What he did.—Prayed. The temple a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:1; Luke 19:46).
II. What he saw.—Christ. Who is
(1) always present in His own house (Psalms 132:13-14; Matthew 18:20), and
(2) ever near to the praying soul (Matthew 28:20).
III. What he heard.—Voices from the risen Christ
(1) warning him of danger (Acts 22:18);
(2) instructing him as to the reasons of his peril (Acts 22:18); and
(3) pointing out to him the path of duty.
Acts 22:19-20. Great Crimes Remembered.
I. For their forgiveness.
II. For self-humiliation.
III. For a stimulus to holy living.
IV. For attempts at their undoing.
Acts 22:20. Stephen thy Martyr or Witness.—Christian martyrs are—
I. Christ’s servants, who go upon His errands to the world.
II. Christ’s witnesses, who proclaim His gospel to mankind.
III. Christ’s friends, in whom He takes a special interest.
IV. Christ’s property, whom therefore He cannot afford to lose. Note: “It is hardly likely that the sense in which we understand the word ‘martyr’—viz., ‘one who dies for his religion,’ belonged as yet to the Greek term μάρτυς or μάρτυρ. It would therefore be more strictly accurate to render here ‘the blood of thy witness Stephen.’ But there is little doubt that, very early indeed in the Christian story, the to us well-known sense of the beautiful word martyr became attached to it. Possibly the transition from the general sense of witness to the specific meaning of ‘martyr’ is traceable to its use in such passages as this and Revelation 2:13; Revelation 11:3; Revelation 17:6.”—Spence.
Acts 22:22. Away with such a fellow from the earth.—As in Acts 21:36. It is not fit. Better, it was not fit that he should live.—Meaning that he had long ago forfeited his life.
Acts 22:23. Cast off their clothes.—Not in preparation for stoning him, as in Acts 7:58 (Meyer, Zöckler), which would have been futile, seeing he was now in the custody of the Romans (Alford), but for the same reason that they threw dust into the air—not as a prelude to stone-throwing, but as an expression of their rage, and as an indication of what they would willingly have done to him, had they been able (Lechler, Holtzmann).
Acts 22:24. That ye might know.—Presumably the military tribune had not understood the apostle’s speech, and, desirous of ascertaining the cause of such an ebullition of wrath against his prisoner, commanded him to be fetched into the castle and examined by scourging.
Acts 22:25. As they.—i.e., the soldiers entrusted with this duty. Bound.—Or, when they had tied him up (R.V.), with thongs (Luther, Alford, Wordsworth, Plumptre). A different translation gives, when they stretched him forth and so made him ready for the thongs (De Wette, Meyer, Lechler, Spence, Zöckler, Holtzmann), by binding him or tying him up to a post. Is it lawful?—Two wrongs were about to be committed.
(1) The apostle was about to be scourged, being a Roman—which Roman law (Lex Porcia; see Livy, Acts 10:9; Cicero, Verr., v. 63) disallowed; and
(2) to be punished before being condemned—which equally Roman statute forbade (see on Acts 16:37).
Acts 22:26. Take heed (omitted by best authorities) what thou doest.—Or, What are you about to do?
Acts 22:27. Tell me.—The military tribune wished to know whether the centurion’s report was correct.
Acts 22:28. With a great sum had Lysias obtained Roman citizenship. Hence he is supposed to have been a Greek. “Augustus was very sparing in conferring the freedom of the city; but the succeeding emperors were more liberal” (Adam’s Roman Antiquities, p. 38). “In the reign of Claudius Messalina used to sell the freedom of the city, and at various prices at different times” (Alford). How Paul came to be free (or a Roman) born can only be conjectured. As Tarsus was simply an urbs libera and neither a Colonia nor a Municipium, his father or some ancestor may have obtained his citizenship either as a reward for distinguished service or by purchase.
Acts 22:29. The military tribune was afraid both because Paul had been bound (for scourging) which he ought not to have been, being a Roman, and because he had been bound before being condemned. “Facinus est vinciri civem Romanum, scelus verberari, parricidum necari” (Cicero, Verr., v. 66).
Acts 22:30. The best authorities omit from his bands. These were the fetters originally placed upon him (Acts 21:33). Down means from the castle to the chamber where the Sanhedrim were assembled. This chamber, there is reason to believe, was not their accustomed place of meeting, the Hall Gazith, or the hall of hewn stone, an apartment in the inner temple, since Lysias’ soldiers would not have been allowed to enter so sacred a place, but a room in the city near the Tyropæan bridge to which tradition says they removed their sittings forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem, or about twenty-six before the events here recorded.
Note.—The preceding speech to the Jewish people has been by Baur (Paul, his Life and Works, i. 121, E. T.), and Zeller (Die Apostelgeschichte, pp. 280, 281) pronounced an invention of the author of Acts on the following grounds:
1. The unlikelihood of Lysias having granted liberty to so dangerous a character as he imagined Paul to be to address the fanatic mob that swarmed round the castle stairs.
2. The unlikelihood of the crowd having listened so long in silence to a man whom already they had adjudged to be worthy of death; and,
3. The unlikelihood of the speech having been interrupted, like that of Stephen, before the Sanhedrim, and like that of Paul before the Areopagus, at a certain point. But waiving the obvious answers that these objections are too subjective—are, in fact, not criticism, but mere arbitrary suppositions—it may be urged, with reference to the first, that even the worst of criminals are allowed to speak in their own defence; that Lysias did not know what sort of speech Paul intended to make, and may have imagined that Paul would only utter a few words; and that Paul having commenced his oration, Lysias may have been too deeply interested in what he heard to think of recalling his permission. As regards the second, the silence of the multitude is satisfactorily explained by the statement that Paul addressed them in Hebrew, and by the tenor of Paul’s speech, which throughout, until the mention of the Gentiles was reached, contained nothing to ruffle their tempers. For the third it should suffice to reply that, if the speech was to be interrupted at all it could not fail to be interrupted “at a certain point”; while a glance at the three speeches, of Stephen before the Sanhedrim, of Paul before the Sanhedrim, and of Paul again before the Jewish people, will show that the cause of interruption was different in each: in Stephen’s the accusation of the Sanhedrim as the murderers of Jesus (Acts 7:52); in Paul’s Areopagus oration, the mention of Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 17:32); in the present speech, the emphasising of his mission to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21-22). So far from suggesting systematic invention, these variations confirm the genuineness and historicity of all three speeches.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 22:22-29
The Effect of Paul’s Oration on his Audience; or his Narrow Escape from Scourging
I. The impotent rage of Paul’s hearers.—
1. Their sudden interruption. From the beginning of this speech they had kept on listening till he reached the point when he proceeded to talk of his mission to the Gentiles. Then their suppressed wrath could no longer be restrained; they stopped his defence by a simultaneous yell.
2. Their fanatical outcry. “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live.” What let loose their passion was not so much the mention of the word “Gentiles” as the idea that he should claim to have been sent by Divine authority on a mission to the Gentiles rather than to the Jews. “This, to the fanatic Jewish mind, was a startling statement, and, if true, would at once remove all reason for their jealousy of the foreigner. But could it be true that the long-expected Messiah—the peculiar glory of the chosen race—could, in their own proud house in Jerusalem, speak to this man from His glory throne in heaven, and command him to leave his own city and people and to devote himself solely to the uncircumcised Gentiles? Was not such an assertion of itself rank blasphemy? Could King Messiah send one—once belonging to their own strictest sect of the Pharisees—to these unconverted heathen to tell them that the Messiah, the Redeemer of Israel, was equally their Messiah and Redeemer? One who could say such things was surely “unworthy to live” (Spence).
3. Their passionate demonstration. Shouting with still more vehement cries, and stripping off their garments, they threw dust into the air—not as a preliminary to the work of stoning, since Paul now was in the hands of the Romans, but as a means of giving vent, in Oriental fashion, to their uncontrollable rage. They were simply beside themselves with indignation and fury.
II. The perilous mistake of the castle captain.—
1. In commanding Paul to be bound. The captain, of course, was not aware that Paul was entitled to all the privileges of a Roman citizen, otherwise he would have hesitated to put bonds on him, and far less to order him to be tied up for scourging. But bound the apostle had been at the beginning of the uproar (Acts 21:33), and now he was strapped to a post like a common criminal in preparation for the vilest indignity that can be put upon a man made in God’s image—for being whipped like a dog (Acts 22:25).
2. In treating Paul like a prisoner before he had been condemned. This also offended against the majesty of Roman law, which, however, regardless of the lives of slaves and evil-doers, was infinitely jealous of the liberties and honours of those who had attained the rank of citizens in the great commonwealth. No wonder the centurion grew alarmed when he learnt that his prisoner was a civis Romanus, and as little that this alarm communicated itself to the captain when he heard the exact state of affairs from his subordinate.
III. The escape of Paul from the indignity of scourging.—
1. The captain’s conversation with Paul. Astonished at the report brought by his subordinate, the commandant of the castle at once repaired to the apostle’s presence that by asking he might satisfy himself as to the truth of Paul’s claim to be a Roman citizen. Finding that Paul adhered to the assertion of his citizenship, the captain expressed surprise that one in apparently so destitute circumstances should be possessed of a privilege which he, the captain himself, had procured only at a great price. He was further astonished to learn that Paul had been free born, although nothing escaped Paul as to how this had come to pass. If some suppose the captain rather easily and quickly accepted the apostle’s word, it needs only to be remembered that Paul’s assertion contained nothing in itself improbable, and was besides of such a sort—incurring so severe penalties if found to be false—that no one would readily venture to make it unless if were true (see “Critical Remarks”).
2. The captain’s order to the centurion and his guards. Unstrap the apostle from the whipping post—which they did. “Straightway they departed from him.” The idea of examining him by torture they abandoned. That the fetters with which Paul had been first bound (Acts 21:33) were not removed is apparent from the statement that on the morrow he was loosed (Acts 22:30).
1. The fierce hostility with which men always and everywhere resent an invasion of their privileges. The Jews, in this respect, have not been without successors, even among Christians.
2. The fantastic tricks that are sometimes played by men “dressed in a little brief authority.” The captain was not the first man who overrode his commission, neither has he been the last.
3. The right of every man to protect himself, by all lawful means, against unnecessary and unjust suffering. Paul’s sheltering himself behind his Roman citizenship fell under this category.
4. The value of Christian citizenship, which can be purchased by no sum, but must be obtained free, and which can shield from dangers greater than those which menaced Paul.
5. The fear which all men inwardly have, or ought to have, when they do wrong.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 22:22. Some Thoughts about Preachers and their Hearers.
I. Preachers may get a silent hearing from their audiences without either gaining their assent or making on them any deep impression. Preachers, above all men, should guard against judging by appearances.
II. Preachers commonly obtain a respectful hearing from their audiences so long as they keep on prophesying smooth things. The moment they begin to touch the consciences, or challenge the privileges, of those who listen, they find the attitude of these change.
III. Preachers must be prepared for hearing themselves denounced by their hearers, and that in no measured terms. Their unpopularity may often be the measure of their fidelity.
IV. Preachers may warrantably infer they are doing excellent work, and speaking true words, when they encounter opposition from the unbelieving, worldly, or nominally religious among their hearers. Preachers should beware when all men speak well of them.
Acts 22:23. Opposition, to Foreign Missions.
I. As much a fact to-day as it was in the time of Paul.—Both men of the world (like the unbelieving Jews) and members of the Christian Church (like many Jewish Christians) are opposed to sending preachers of the gospel “far hence to the Gentiles.”
II. If not so demonstrative as in Paul’s day, perhaps as decided and difficult to overcome.—The cause of missions to the heathen kindles in hearts anger, and evokes from some lips words of hostile denunciation—exactly now as then.
III. As unreasonable in our day as it was in Paul’s.—The salvation of the gospel was intended for all nations, and not simply for those presently within the pale of Christendom, any more than it was exclusively for the Jews.
IV. As culpable in our day as it was in Paul’s, if not more so. Considering that if Paul, being a Jew, had acted on this principle Christianity had never reached the shores of Europe, and far less of Britain.; and considering the clearer light now possessed by the Church, as to the world-wide destiny of the gospel, and of its fitness to bless mankind.
Acts 22:25. “Is it lawful to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?”—A threefold reminder—
I. Of the inalienable rights of men.
II. Of the sacred honour of citizens.
III. Of the inviolable dignity of Christians.—Gerok.
Acts 22:27. Roman and Heavenly Citizenship.—A parallel and a contrast.
I. The parallel.—
1. Both might be acquired by aliens.
2. Both might be obtained by inheritance.
3. Both conferred great privileges.
4. Both ensured complete protection.
II. The contrast.—
1. Roman citizenship now a thing of the past; heavenly citizenship a thing of the present.
2. Roman citizenship, at the best, temporal and earthly; heavenly citizenship celestial and eternal.
3. Roman citizenship might be obtained for money; heavenly, citizenship can be purchased by no price.
4. Roman citizenship conferred social and political privileges; heavenly citizenship privileges that are spiritual and religious.
5. Roman citizenship protected the body; heavenly citizenship protects the soul.
Acts 22:28. This Citizenship; conjoined with Philippians 3:20, Our Citizenship; or, the superiority of the Christian citizenship.
I. Its dignity is greater.—No need to disparage or depreciate Roman citizenship. In Paul’s day Roman citizenship was undoubtedly a great thing, an object worthy of being aspired after by persons of highest rank. Foreigners counted it a signal honour. Just as to-day to be a citizen of Great Britain is reckoned a higher dignity than to be the subject of any other kingdom or empire on earth. Yet even this is nothing when compared with being a citizen of heaven whose sovereign is the King of kings, whose vicegerent is the Lord of glory, whose ministers are angels, whose laws are righteousness and truth, whose revenues are the resources of the universe, whose mission is to bless mankind, whose influence is always on the side of peace and love, whose subjects are in one sense all the nations of the earth, in another the whole family of the redeemed, and whose dominion shall be one day universal.
II. Its immunities are larger.—Writers on Roman antiquities report that the rights and privileges of Roman citizens were large and varied—including liberty, family, marriage, fatherhood, property, willing and inheriting, tutelage and wardship (see Adams’ Roman Antiquities, pp. 39 ff.). Yet the privileges of our citizenship surpass these.
1. Sonship. Not merely subjects or servants, but children of the Great King (see Galatians 3:26; Ephesians 2:19; 1 John 3:2).
2. Acceptance. Not regarded as enemies, but considered as friends (Ephesians 1:6; Romans 8:1).
3. Liberty. Free use of all our powers in the service of God (2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 5:1; James 1:25). A Roman citizen might be sold as a slave; not so a citizen of heaven.
4. Protection. Roman citizenship did not shield from ordinary ills; nor does Christian citizenship. Yet this defends the soul lest it should be hurt by these (Romans 8:28; 1 Peter 3:13).
5. Property. Romans distinguished between common and private property. So are certain things common to Christian citizens, as the common salvation and the common means of grace; and other things private possessions, as special gifts and graces.
6. Family. Roman citizens (originally) could not abandon the family to which they belonged, a restriction which has perpetuated itself in the modern idea of caste. Corresponding to this, Christians belong to God’s family, and are not at liberty to leave it, though others may pass into it.
7. Heirship. A Roman citizen could will and inherit. A citizen of heaven cannot will, but shall inherit (Romans 8:17; Revelation 21:7).
III. Its terms are easier.—Roman citizenship could be secured in two ways: by birth or by purchase. Christian citizenship so far resembles that of Rome, that it too may, and indeed, must, be obtained in both of these ways.
1. By birth. Only not physical, but spiritual. No man a child of God, a subject of grace, an heir of heaven, because his parents were these before him; heaven’s citizens must be born again (John 3:3).
2. By purchase. Only it must be without money and without price. Citizenship in heaven cannot be bought and sold in earth’s markets, but must be accepted by all who would make it theirs as a free gift.
Lesson.—Walk worthy of this citizenship.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Acts 22". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29