Green – shared word for word
Yellow – approximate or stylistic
Blue – uniquely
The observant ones among you will notice that I have added Acts 22:22-23 today. Simply because we are moving on from Paul’s speech to the crowd and the leaders. Now let’s put it all in context. This will be the last time that I give you the three different accounts coloured and in parallel like this. After this Gem we will move back to looking solely at Acts 22. A quick look at the speech Paul made to the crowd and the leaders in Jerusalem shows you clearly what he has focused on. Look at all the blue sections. Just read the blue (unique to this occasion) sections and you will understand clearly. They have accused him:-
“Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who preaches against our people everywhere and tells everybody to disobey the Jewish laws. He speaks against the Temple—and even defiles this holy place by bringing in Gentiles.”Acts 21:28
So Paul has fashioned his speech to address this accusation. In the whole speech he identifies himself with being a Jew and being part of the culture. Not only that he makes it very clear that he was in an alliance with the leaders, the same ones he is addressing now with the crowd, to oppose this new faith – what they call The Way. The letter from the leaders was for the Jewish brothers in Damascus. Assumedly the brothers who went with him on the road to Damascus would have been Jewish brothers. Ananias who met him in Damascus at the Lord’s instruction was a Jewish brother, a follower of Judaism, highly respected and a strict Jew. All witnesses surrounding Paul were Jewish.
Then he includes in his speech five statements from Jesus, the Messiah. Oh granted he doesn’t use that term, but it is unmistakable just Who the One Who met him on the road in blinding light was. The LORD, The God of our ancestors, the Righteous One, Jesus, The Lord. Paul has quoted Jesus five times. He has made it clear the One he met was none other than Jesus of Nazareth as they call Him. But notice also what is missing. They don’t call him Jesus Christ of Nazareth but rather Jesus the Nazarene. In other words Jesus from Nazareth. It is not a reference to one who has fulfilled the vows of the Nazarite. Rather it is a reference to where he comes from. But they dare not include the term Christ or Messiah.
Note what Jesus himself says:
Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?
I am Jesus the Nazarene, the one you are persecuting.
Go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything you are to do.
‘Hurry! Leave Jerusalem, for the people here won’t accept your testimony about me.’
Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles!’
Notice every one of these statements would have been inflammatory to a strict Jew. Let alone the leaders of Judaism. This is Jesus the one whom they have rejected as being Messiah and their King. Notice the quotes of what Jesus said are all aligned to challenge the leaders and the people. I suspect one of the reasons Paul didn’t make any comment about anything more Jesus told him was that he was deliberately selecting from what Jesus said that he (Paul) could use to challenge both the temple leaders and the people. It is all very provocative.
What fascinates me is that everything is fine up until the fifth statement of what Jesus said to Paul. We the readers know this wasn’t the one and only time that Jesus talked about the Gentiles nor the only time He told Paul He was sending him to the Gentiles. If the Jewish leaders looked at their Torah carefully, let alone the Prophets and the Writings, they would realise the nations were always in focus. God was always bent on saving all mankind.
Let’s step back again and take in the panorama from Acts 15. That is the recorded moment of the Council in Jerusalem. Where? Jerusalem! We have come back full circle to Jerusalem. Notice what always set the Jewish opposition off. Mention of the Gentiles. We thought it was all sorted back in Acts 15. But no there was still a lingering grumbling about the inclusion of the Gentiles. Remember the Gentiles are unclean to a Jew. All of their ways are unclean to a Jew. Do you see now how derogatory this term “The Way” is when used by the Jewish opposition. It is clearly still bugging even some of the leaders who follow Christ when Paul returns. Read Acts 21:21-25 again to see that it is still an issue. Yet the leaders of the Church in Jerusalem suggest Paul go to the Purification Ceremony, not to fulfil vows for himself but to appease the opposition and the things they are saying about him. [Be careful of doing that. It never works out. Stay true to yourself.]
All mention about Jesus and the suggestions of what He has said about Paul (therefore the leaders in Jerusalem are included) persecuting Jesus (Messiah) they seem to cope with ok. That is huge in itself. That is not what riles them. What riles the crowd and the leaders is the return to the issue of the inclusion of the Gentiles. It is not that Paul is still a Jew but with a different focus. It is the offense that Paul has gone to the Gentiles. Never mind the fact all through the speech that God and Messiah have made that clear. The way Paul has woven his testimony is masterful in the way that you can’t escape the fact that God was the One Who orchestrated all of this. Paul was to go into Damascus and there he would be told all that he was to do. People we have notbeen told all that he was told to do. What we have been told is the proof that it was God behind it all. That much is abundantly clear. That is the main point.
Notice now how the mention of the Gentiles is such an inflammatory statement. You need to realise what has just happen. Paul has said as clearly as he could: “But the Lord said to me, ‘‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles!’ That statement is not new. See how many times in this testimony and other statements in Acts that the Gentiles are mentioned. Luke has mentioned it over and over. The words above make it clear and I have made it clearer with the highlighting that it is God / Messiah Himself Who is saying this. That is what is most shocking.
Next Gem we will move on to look at the reaction and what follows from that.
Do you see now how important it is to analyse the speeches in Acts carefully to see what is actually being said?
A bad attitude is like a flat tyre. You can’t go anywhere until you change it.Nicky Gumbel
Don’t fear failure. Fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today!Rick Godwin
That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.Aldous Huxley
Make sure that what you think is the horizon is not just the edge of the rut you are in.Ian Vail
Be careful to stay true to what God has told you and not compromise it in order to fit in with the majority.Ian Vail
It is not the number of voices saying something that count. It is ultimately the Source they got it from.Ian Vail
As for me and my house we will serve (follow) the Lord.Joshua 24:15