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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 22

 

 

Verses 1-30

The crowd having been quietened, Paul speaks with fullest respect for those he addresses, and doing so in the Hebrew language, he attracts more serious attention. He has been practically convicted by the crowd without being heard, so that he asks them to hear his defense. Jewish, and born in Tarsus, yet he had spent his earlier years under the instruction of Gamaliel, a renowned teacher of the law, which he calls, the law of our fathers, in which he was well grounded and taught, being zealous toward God, as he credits them with being also.

His zeal was well proven in his persecuting the followers of Jesus "unto death," taking both men and women prisoner, to be tried and punished at Jerusalem. He reminds them that the high priest and all the elders could bear witness to this. They had given him letters to Damascus authorizing him to arrest Christians and bring them to Jerusalem. Nearing Damascus on his journey, he tells them, he fell to the ground when a great light from heaven encircled him, followed by a voice, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" How could he possibly ignore this voice? He asked, "Who art Thou, Lord?" and received the astounding answer, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." His companions saw the light and heard someone speaking to him (Acts 9:7), but evidently did not understand what was said, which may be the explanation of the words, "they heard not the voice."

How perfectly normal then that he should ask the Lord what he should do. But the Lord did not give him instructions independently of His own followers. He is told to go into Damascus and there he would be told what he was appointed to do. Blinded by the light for the time, he needed the help of others to find his way. He does not mention here that he was three days in this state, but speaks of the visit of Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews. By God's clear direction he came to Saul and at his word Saul received his sight back again.

The message he brought was most striking too: "The God of our fathers hath chosen thee." How could he escape the reality of this call of God? This was no mere visionary impression Saul had received. Rather, God had intervened so decidedly in his history that this was impossible to be ignored. This choice of God involved three vital matters to affect the soul of Saul himself: first, the knowledge of God's will; secondly, that he should actually see "that Just One," the Lord Jesus; and thirdly, that he should hear the voice of His mouth. God had special work for him to do, for which no-one else was chosen: therefore he would be specially prepared. He was to be a particular witness of God to all men of what he had seen and heard. The reality of this had wonderful effect in enabling him to continue steadfastly through every kind of adversity, declaring the truth he knew.

Ananias further instructed him to be baptized to wash away his sins. This has nothing to do with God's cleansing of sins by the blood of Christ, which is a vital, eternal matter for all who receive Christ as Savior. But it is rather a public washing away of those sins of which Saul had been guilty in publicly opposing the blessed name of the Lord Jesus. That is, in the eyes of men he would wash away his sins by baptism, not in the eyes of God, for this is only by the blood of Christ. In baptism he was taking a public stand contrary to his former course.

Verse 17 of course took place a good deal later. Jews would understand God's intervening by a trance to speak to a man: they even sought such signs (1 Corinthians 1:22). The message of the Lord Jesus to Paul however was most decisive, as he tells them: he was told immediately to leave Jerusalem, for the Jews would not listen to him. However, he was using this to seek to persuade them that though he had been told to leave, his own earnest desire was for the pure blessing of Israel; therefore he records his entreating the Lord, reminding Him of his previous enmity against Christians and of his prominence in the martyrdom of Stephen. Could Paul possibly think that, though his arguments would not change the Lord's mind, yet by reporting them he might change Israel's mind? This does show his love for his nation, but not a full subjection to his Lord. As he says, the Lord's answer was a summary command, "Depart, for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles."

Just as the Lord had stopped Paul's arguments, so Israel abruptly stops him in his testimony. He finds that the Lord's words were absolutely true: the Jews would not receive his testimony. Having rejected his Lord, they reject him too, crying out for his death, demonstrating in vicious hostility. The chief captain then has him brought inside the castle. He could not understand by all Paul's words why the Jews were so inflamed, and thought they must have a more intelligent reason. He expected therefore that this might be forced from Paul by scourging him. Of course this was thorough injustice, but it has been practiced by many since that time.

With foreigners the Romans were not so careful about being just, but Paul knew that it was not lawful for them to scourge a Roman citizen before he was found guilty: he appealed to the centurion on this ground, and the centurion reported this to the chief captain, who was surprised to hear that Paul was a Roman. He himself had had to pay dearly for his citizenship, he says. Paul answered that his own citizenship was acquired by birth. Thus the scourging, which would have accomplished nothing anyway, was avoided. The chief captain too was apprehensive about the fact of his having bound Paul without evidence of wrong-doing. However, at least Paul's safety was secured in this way.

The next day, in order to find out what clear accusation the Jews had against Paul, the chief captain ordered the chief priests and the Jewish council to appear before him, and brought Paul in to face them.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Acts 22:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/acts-22.html. 1897-1910.

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Sunday, December 15th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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