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Paul addresses the Assembly, and relates the Particulars of his Conversion. He is interrupted by the Clamour of the Jews. He is again rescued by the Chief Captain, and conveyed into the Castle.
Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defense which I make now unto you. (2) (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,)
I detain the Reader at the opening of Paul's address, to remark, with what composure the Apostle delivered his discourse, with what dignity of manners! and yet more worthy our notice, that he should speak unto them in the sacred language, in which, from the first, the Lord hath spoken unto his people. How exceedingly to be desired, would it be, had our minds a suitable reverence for the original tongue, to approach as near that standard of purity the Hebrew as possible, in all our solemn seasons. And especially when we call to mind, how graciously the Lord watched over his Church of old, to keep his people from the Ashdod language of the heathen. Behold! how the very tongue of Abraham the Hebrew, and his children, commanded the reverence and attention of Paul's enemies, while he spake to them in it, Nehemiah 13:23-25 .
I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. (4) And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. (5) As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. (6) And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. (7) And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? (8) And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. (9) And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. (10) And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. (11) And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. (12) And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, (13) Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. (14) And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. (15) For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. (16) And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (17) And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; (18) And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. (19) And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: (20) And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. (21) And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.
I would beg to call the Reader's attention to the grace of God the Holy Ghost, in his love to the Church, in causing the account of Paul's conversion to be thrice recorded, for their improvement. And I would beg the Reader to pause, and ask himself, whether there must not have been some very pressing reason for it, wherefore the Lord should so have done. Had it been intended only as the history of a matter of fact, once would, in this case, have answered every purpose. But, when we behold it brought forward again, and again, as it is here, and Acts 26:0 . Reader! let us bless God the Holy Ghost for his grace in this particular. And, let us seek grace from the Lord, that the sweet record, so often brought before the Church, may have all the intended effect of it, upon our hearts.
I do not think it necessary to detain the Reader with any further observations on the subject of Paul's conversion, in this place; having somewhat largely dwelt upon it at the ninth Chapter, where it is first recorded: to which I refer. But, I would take occasion, from what the Apostle hath here added, which was not in that history, being remote from the time that this must have been, to observe, Paul had a second vision of the Lord, and which was not in the road to Demascus, but at Jerusalem. And, I would ask, (but not determine,) was not this the appearing of the Lord Jesus to Paul, which he speaks of? 1 Corinthians 9:1 and 1 Corinthians 15:8 . And, I would also say, (though not speaking decidedly,) might not this be the time, which Paul speaks of elsewhere, when the Lord taught him about the Ordinance of the Holy Supper, and which, from Christ's Person, and authority, he received, and delivered to the Church of Corinth, 1 Corinthians 11:23 .
And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. (23) And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air, (24) The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. (25) And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? (26) When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. (27) Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. (28) And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born. (29) Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. (30) On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.
It is worthy remarking, that the Jews did not attempt to interrupt Paul, as long as he continued to relate the circumstances of his conversion: but, when he came to speak of the Lord's commissioning him to the Gentiles; their anger could not be any longer restrained. And, Reader! you may remark it, as one universal principle, which pervades the whole human race, by the fall. God's sovereignty in the call of his Church, as distinguished from the Adam-nature fall, is the subject of hatred in every man's breast, before that the Lord hath made him acquainted with the plague of his own heart, and the grace of God, in bringing him out of it. The Lord Jesus taught his disciples to expect this. He showed them, that in preaching these truths, they must look for the malice of the world; and not marvel at their hatred, John 15:18-21 . And, agreeably to this standard of our Lord's, it is this doctrine, which calls forth the particular displeasure of the ungodly. Let the Reader remark it, as he passeth on in life, for it is worth his closest observation. Preachers of the word, yea, what in the present hour, are called Gospel preachers, if they throw into the back ground, the Lord's distinguishing love to his people; and never speak of the Lord's sovereignty, in the eternal choice of his Church, before all worlds; they may, and will, pass by, for the most part, without calling forth, as Paul here did, the outcry, and interruption of the world. But God's sovereignty, and Christ's special love, with the Holy Ghost's distinguishing grace; if these are insisted on before the people, depend upon it, these will rouse the resentment, and call forth the indignation, of all, who know nothing of these precious truths in their own souls. Yea, not only the ungodly world, but yet more pointedly professors of the Gospel, whose knowledge consists in head-apprehension, not heart-influence; these will be more bitter than even the openly profane. And nothing upon earth, can more decidedly shew, the blindness, ignorance, and prejudice of the human mind, untaught of God!
I cannot suffer the Reader to proceed, without calling upon him again in this place, as in the former Chapter, to remark, how the Lord, by his overruling providence, checked the Centurion's thongs, as he had done before the violence of the Jews, by the sight of the Roman Captain, from pulling his servant in pieces. It is very blessed to behold, what slender means the Lord at times makes use of to stop the enemy's hand. The want of sleep in king Ahasuerus, laid the foundation for the deliverance of the whole Jewish nation from destruction, Esther 6:1 , etc. The dream of another Eastern monarch gave birth to the introduction of Daniel, and his companions, to the highest places, in the empire, Daniel 2:0 throughout. And here, the presence of this Roman Captain before the Jews, saved Paul from immediate death; and afterwards, the mere privilege of a Roman Citizen, from all the unfeeling cruelties of the Roman punishment. Reader! what a blessed thing it is, to eye Christ, as the Prophet saw him, behind the vast machine, of wheel within wheel, in the government of the Universe? Ezekiel 1:27-28 . What a yet sweeter view in this contemplation is it, to behold the Church, and all its concerns, with every individual of it in the Lord's hands? Ephesians 1:22 . And, what a still higher source of comfort, holy joy, and confidence, than all, is it, when by faith, full, firm, ardent, unceasing faith, we can live upon Christ, in the assurance, that in this government, and this concern of the Lord Jesus, he is unceasingly engaged for his people, and extending to the least, as well as the greatest, all that we are interested in, for life, and death; and time, and eternity!
It should seem, that Paul's freedom, arising from birth, could not have been as was usual with the children of the Romans, in the city of Rome, for Paul was born, as he had just before said, at Tarsus, and was a Jew. But Tarsus was made a free city by Mark Anthony, so reported by Pliny; and hence his birthright. Be this however as it might be, it was a very happy circumstance in this critical moment, and the Apostle, though prepared for bonds or death, had an undoubted right to avail himself of his citizenship, that he might escape unjust oppression.
My soul! behold the great Apostle, rescued from Jew, and Gentile, and with a mind awakened, animated, and strengthened by the Lord, boldly addressing both, and declaring the glory of God, in the wonderful work of his conversion! And do not fail to remark, with what candour, and openness, he confesseth his former state of unregeneracy; when persecuting unto the death, the precious followers of the Loco Jesus! He seems to be at once regardless, what shame, and confusion of face he takes to himself; so that he may but thereby give the greater glory to his Lord. Is it so with thee, my soul? While Christ's name is so precious: art thou laying lower in the dust before God, in token of thine unworthiness? Is Paul's language thine, when he saith: And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus! Oh then, tell it abroad as he did, and in every direction, proclaim the blessed truth: This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief!
Reader do not fail to remark, the stedfastness of Paul, amidst all the rage and malice of his enemies, He was indeed free born, when by his new birth in regeneration, the Lord had made him free. This was a freedom, unpurchasable with money. And, as it made Paul a true citizen of no mean city; so it secured him all the everlasting and eternal privileges of a kingdom, which cannot be moved, whose Builder, and Maker, is God.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Acts 22". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30