The commander agreed, so Paul stood on the stairs and motioned to the people to be quiet. Soon a deep silence enveloped the crowd, and he addressed them in their own language, Aramaic.Acts 21:40
Paul Addresses the Crowd
“Brothers and esteemed fathers,” Paul said, “Listen to me as I offer my defence.”
When they heard him speaking in their own language, the silence was even greater.
Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As his student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honour God in everything I did, just like all of you today. And I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison. The high priest and the whole council of elders can testify that this is so. For I received letters from them to our Jewish brothers in Damascus, authorising me to bring the followers of the Way from there to Jerusalem, in chains, to be punished.Acts 22:1-5
“As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shone down around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
“‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked. “And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the one you are persecuting.’
The people with me saw the light but didn’t understand the voice speaking to me.
“I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’ “And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything you are to do.’
I was blinded by the intense light and had to be led by the hand to Damascus by my companions. A man named Ananias lived there. He was a godly man, deeply devoted to the law, and well regarded by all the Jews of Damascus. He came and stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And that very moment I could see him!
Then he told me, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and hear him speak. For you are to be his witness, telling everyone what you have seen and heard. What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord.’
After I returned to Jerusalem, I was praying in the Temple and fell into a trance. I saw a vision of Jesus saying to me, ‘Hurry! Leave Jerusalem, for the people here won’t accept your testimony about me.’ ‘But Lord,’ I argued, ‘they certainly know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And I was in complete agreement when your witness Stephen was killed. I stood by and kept the coats they took off when they stoned him.’
“But the Lord said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles!’”Acts 22:6-21
Before we look at Paul’s speech in detail let’s get clear in our minds the FALSE claims he was defending.
“Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere to turn against our people, the Law, and this place. More than that, he has even brought Greeks into the Temple and desecrated this Holy Place.” For they had earlier seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him and assumed that Paul had taken him into the Temple.Acts 21:28-29
The tribune asked, “Oh, do you speak Greek? You’re not the Egyptian who started a revolt some time ago and led 4,000 assassins into the desert, are you?”Acts 21:37-38
The above are the statements made or the question asked which motivates Paul to give the defense he did. Keep those clear in your mind as we work our way through his speech.
Are Luke’s words paraphrased or are they the actual words used by Paul at the time? I think it is the latter. I don’t see how Luke could pass by the opportunity to give us a full account of what happened and what was said. It’s a part of who Luke was as a person – thorough, meticulous and detail seeking. How did he get the actual words because it is without doubt he could not have recorded them all at the time. Well think about it. Luke spent all his time with Paul over this phase of their journey. It would be a simply matter to get Paul himself to fill in the detail of what he had said as Luke compiles the story. You can bet that Paul would remember what he said. I would if you asked me what I had said or preached.
Regarding the matters of recording the words of Jesus to Paul: again I believe there would have been no problem. Given the circumstances and the content of what Jesus told Paul, it would have been indelibly etched on Paul’s mind. What Jesus has spoken to me over the years remains as clearly in my mind as if it was yesterday. I am sure the same thing would have been true of Paul. Especially so, given the position he found himself in and what it was that the LORD had said to him. Once you begin telling your testimony over and over it forms into a set block of discourse in your mind, from which the pieces readily come to mind as you share the story of what happened. Especially given the fact that Paul shared his testimony so often. There are times when I tell something that God did a long time ago after a long period of time when I haven’t shared the story. Yet the details spring readily to mind again despite the fact I haven’t told the story for so long. It is much like what I wrote in the latest Nugget concerning oral tradition. The accuracy is still present a long time after the event.
Let’s list the factual elements Paul makes in his opening remarks.
- He was a Jew
- Born in Tarsus, a university city in Cilicia
- Brought up and educated in Jerusalem
- Under the tutelage of Gamaliel
- Carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs (notice the mark of identification with his accusers with the pronoun used)
- Very zealous to honour God in everything I did (just like all of you, my accusers before me)
- I persecuted the followers of The Way
- Hounding some to death,
- Arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison.
- Bringing them in chains to be punished
- The high priest and the whole council of elders can testify that this is so.
- I received letters from them to our Jewish brothers in Damascus, authorizing me to bring the followers of the Way from there to Jerusalem
Does that sound like the kind of man you are describing in your accusations?
It would help you dear reader, to see if you can analyse Paul’s speech for its interconnectedness to the accusations and how Paul develops the parts of his speech and arranges them to give his defence. In the next Gem I will layout Paul’s speech in propositions for you.
Those without God assume that the material universe is large and God is small. They think that being able to do things with matter, while being blind to God, is brilliant. But the reality is the material universe is “an infinitely small part of universal existence”.John Piper
If God wore a coat with pockets, he would carry the universe in one of them like a peanut. To ponder the meaning of that peanut, without reference to God’s majesty, is the work of a fool.John Piper
He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.Muhammad Ali
How we come to believe depends on two things:
- 1. Knowing the person who made the promises or spoke the words;
- 2. Our actions in response to those promises and words upon hearing them.