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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Acts 22

 

 

Verses 1-30

IN ALL THAT happened to Paul in Jerusalem it is not difficult to discern the hand of God controlling behind the scenes. Though the city was in an uproar no one struck a fatal blow until sufficient time had elapsed for the chief captain to intervene. Then the fact of Paul addressing him in Greek created the favourable impression which led to the permission to address the riotous crowds from the stairs of the castle. Then Paul’s choice of Hebrew for his speech led to a complete silence and attention for what he had to say.

It is rather remarkable that we have two full accounts of the conversion of Cornelius in the Acts. In Acts 10:1-48, Luke records it as an historian; then in Acts 11:1-30, he records how Peter related it. In Acts 15:1-41, we have a very short third account of how Peter referred to it in the council of Jerusalem. Again we have three accounts of Paul’s conversion. In Acts 9:1-43, Luke records it as an historian; in Acts 22:1-30, he records how Paul himself related it to his own people, and in Acts 26:1-32, how he related it to Gentile potentates. Both conversions were epoch-making and of the greatest significance. In the one case it was the definite and formal calling of Gentiles by the Gospel to the same blessings as Jews and on the same terms; in the other it was the calling of the arch-persecutor to be the chief instrument for the carrying of the Gospel to the Gentile world.

As we read the account in Acts 22:1-30, we cannot but see the Divinely-given skill with which Paul spoke. He began by stating what he had been in his early days, when his manner of life was altogether in accordance with their thoughts. He was perfect as to his pedigree, his education, his zeal, and his hatred of the Christians. Then came an intervention from heaven which was clearly an act of God. Now every true conversion is the result of an act of God, yet it usually comes to pass through some human instrument and the Divine act is only recognized by faith. In Paul’s case there was no human instrument, but rather something quite supernatural, which appealed to both eye and ear—a great light and a voice of power— so as to cast him prostrate to the ground. He tells the story in such a way as to impress his hearers with the fact that the change in him, which so offended them, had been wrought by God.

The voice that arrested him was the voice of Jesus, and here it is that we discover that the full sentence uttered from heaven was, “I am Jesus OF NAZARETH, whom thou persecutest.” The two words are not inserted in Acts 9:1-43, nor do they appear when he speaks to Gentiles in chapter 26, but here speaking to Jews, they were full of tremendous significance. They had tacked those words on to His name as a slur and a reproach; and now Jesus of Nazareth is in heaven!

From this let us accept the warning not to divide up the names and titles of our Lord in any hard and fast way, though it is very helpful to discern the significance of each. We might have expected Him to say, “I am the One who was Jesus of Nazareth in the days of My flesh;” thus relegating that name to His sojourn on earth exclusively. But He did not say, “I was”, He said, “I am.” He does not shed His names, for He is one and indivisible.

Though Paul presents his conversion as being a pure act of God, he relates how Ananias was used of God for the restoration of his sight, and to convey to him the call to be a witness, and to be baptized: also he emphasizes the fact that the said Ananias was a devout and well respected member of the Jewish community in Damascus. Notice that Paul was both to see the glorified Saviour and to hear His voice; and of what he saw and heard he was to bear witness. Hence his speaking of the Gospel he preached as “the Gospel of the glory of the Christ.”

Notice too how baptism and the washing away of sins are connected here, just as they are in Acts 2:38, and as they were in John’s baptism. Ananias added, “calling on the name of the Lord,” which shows that he pointed to Christian baptism and not John’s. Baptism is specially significant in the case of the Jew, which accounts for the prominent place it had on the day of Pentecost and in the case of Paul. These rejectors of Christ must bow their proud heads, and go down symbolically into death as acknowledging His Name. It was the token of their submission to the One whom they had refused, and only thus could their sins be washed away.

Paul then passed on to relate what happened on his first brief visit to Jerusalem, which is mentioned in Acts 9:26. No mention is made of this vision in Acts 9:1-43, nor in Galatians 1:1-24 : we only read of it here. It is remarkable that both the Apostles Peter and Paul should have passed into a trance and seen a vision as to their service in regard to Gentiles—Peter in order that he might break through Jewish custom and open the kingdom to

Gentiles; Paul, in order that he should accept the evangelization of Gentiles as his life-work. In this way it was doubly emphasized that the bringing in of the Gentiles was the deliberate will and purpose of God.

Owing to his past, Paul felt that he was pre-eminently fitted to evangelize his own nation, and ventured to tell the Lord this, only to be told that the Jews would not accept testimony from his lips, and that he was to be sent far hence unto the Gentiles. All this he told to the people, and as one reads the record one feels the convincing power of his words. Did he feel that at least some of his people must be convinced? Yet there stood that word of the Lord, spoken twenty or more years before, “They will not receive thy testimony concerning Me;” and this had been supported by the special message from the Holy Spirit that he should not go to Jerusalem. At that moment the Lord’s words were verified. His mention of the Gentiles becoming objects of the Divine mercy stirred his hearers to frenzy. They would not receive his words. They demanded his death with almost uncontrollable violence. When Paul pursued his God-given mission to the Gentiles he was granted the joy of being used to reach the “remnant according to the election of grace” from his own people; when he turned aside, concentrating his attention upon his own people, his words bore no fruit in blessing.

The unreasoning fury of the people coupled with the use of the Hebrew language evidently baffled the chief captain, and examination under the lash was the recognized way of extorting evidence in those days. The mention by Paul of his Roman citizenship checked this, and under God’s hand it became the occasion of Paul’s further testimony before the leading men of his nation. The Sanhedrin was convoked the next day by the chief captain’s orders.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Acts 22:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/acts-22.html. 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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