Defense Testimony (Acts 21:37-22:30)
Opportunity to Speak: Favor (21:37-40)
As the soldiers prepared to take Paul to the barracks, the plan was interrupted by Paul himself asking to speak to the crowd, who were the very ones demanding his death. Paul is willing to speak to the hostile crowd because he knows that while in one sense he is on trial, ultimately it is Christianity and the church that are on trial—on trial for being anti-Jewish. Paul very wisely does not make a point by point defense of his actions, but rather uses the chance to testify about God’s work in his life, showing to them how God Himself had commanded him to do the very things he was being arrested for: preaching the gospel and obeying Christ.
Defense Testimony (22:1-21)
Paul first identifies with his hearers by calling attention to his own Jewishness (vv 1-5). He spoke in their language and focused on the common ground that they held as Jews. He established a respectable Jewish background and civil status and verified that he was not the type to cause a riot in the temple. His goal was to avoid any unnecessary offense, and he spoke warmly and respectfully to the crowd, calling them “brothers and fathers.” Paul took his cues from Christ, who said, “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17). Anyone can rail on others, but true evangelism is reaching on in love.
After sharing his own Jewish background, now that he had gained their attention, he aimed for their hearts by showing how God had arrested him, even in the midst of Paul’s attempts to arrest Christians (vv 6-16). Wisely, Paul points out that Ananias—the man that was sent to him to open his eyes and the man that confirmed to Paul that Jesus is the Messiah—was a devout Jew that was spoken highly of by all Jews. The further confirmation that this man really was speaking from God is that Paul received his sight back. Ananias told Paul that he would be a witness of Jesus Christ to all men. This is the reason for Paul’s trial. He isn’t being arrested because he had supposedly defiled the temple or attacked Judaism, but because he was a witness of Jesus of Nazareth.
God reveals to Paul that he should leave Jerusalem, his home town, because they will not accept the testimony about Jesus (vv 17-21). Instead, Paul was to go to the gentiles in order to offer the same salvation to them. The word “gentiles” was enough to enrage the crowd. While they might be able to tolerate the proselytizing of gentiles for the sake of making them Jews, the idea of evangelizing Gentiles so that they might become Christians was an abomination to them. Paul rightly understood that true Judaism culminates in Christ. Therefore, Jews and Gentiles are the same—sinners that must come to God through Jesus Christ! Paul’s ultimate defense is his own testimony, that as a pious Jew, his calling is to serve Christ.
After being taken away again by the soldiers, Paul is sent to be examined by scourging (vv 22-30). When Paul makes known that he is a Roman citizen, they let go of him out of fear. Paul was certainly no coward for avoiding suffering by mentioning the fact that he was a Roman citizen. Instead, he was wise for avoiding unnecessary suffering in this particular instance. Paul uses his privileges as a Roman citizen to get to the heart of the empire, extending his gospel ministry even to Emperor Nero himself.
- What privileges has God given you? What unique situations has he placed you in? How can those privileges and situations be used for the gospel?
- When difficulties arise or attacks are made, do you tend to take them personally and respond harshly? Or are you able to recognize that the offense is ultimately against Christ, and respond with love and humility?
- Are you more concerned to defend your own reputation, or the truth of the gospel?