Bible Gemz 1819 - I Was Just Like You - So What Happened? (Acts 22:6-21)
Paul’s Testimony (Acts 22:6-21)
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?’
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.
‘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
‘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, they certainly know
that in every synagogue
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!’
There are three accounts of Paul’s testimony recorded in Acts.
Saul’s narrative of his conversion (Acts 9:3-18)
Paul’s testimony given on the steps of the Roman fort in Jerusalem (Acts 22:6-21)
Paul’s testimony before Festus and Agrippa in Caesarea (Acts 26:12-20)
I have given you Paul’s testimony laid out in propositions again as well as the challenge to compare the three accounts of Paul’s testimony. I am standing on the side line cheering you on.
There are a number of loose ends to pick up on. There always are when it comes to the Bible. Don’t miss the deliberate attempt by Luke to grab our attention with the contrast between the turmoil of the riot and the sudden silence. Firstly, when Paul was standing before the crowd gesturing and waving his arms to speak to them having been given permission by the Roman Garrison Commander. They naturally quieten down to hear what this “rabble rouser” has to say. But then they quiet down more when they hear him speaking their language. It is a Jewish protest (riot) and when they hear Paul speaking to them in Aramaic (the modern Hebrew of the time) you could have heard a pin drop. Why? It is the shock of contrast! A contrast which grows as Paul adds similarity to similarity with the Jewish leaders. I have laid those out for you before. But now I want to highlight another feature included here. Zealousness,
Paul tells them – members of the Council (Sanhedrin), High Priest and esteemed Fathers and rabble rousers who have stirred up the crowd as well as those who have been caught up in the maelstrom – that he was trained by Gamaliel (a well respected Rabbi with Smikkah) according to the strictest sect of the Pharisees. He was just like these zealots who were calling for his blood. This zealousness is coupled with Paul comment that he was being zealous for God just as they all were on the day. Hint: I am just like you.
But there’s more! I myself persecuted these followers of the Way. Paul has several times used the [ego] “I” in an emphatic way. I am a Jew, I was trained like you, I am zealous like you, I persecuted these Christian just like you – only more. Paul doesn't call the Christians by the term Christ followers, rather he uses the term the Jews call them - followers of the Way. It’s an ironic use. “The Way” is synonymous with the Way of Life. It relates to the Hebrew word for walking [halakhah] – rule of life / the way to live life. But here he infers he persecuted the Way of Life to death! “Not only that but I, Paul, chained and jailed both men and women (and likely their children too). I showed no mercy.”
Brothers [adelphos] – my fellow countrymen and fellow Jews, fellow zealots, I went as far as Damascus to round up those who had fled the persecution in Jerusalem, in order to bring these vermin back to face their punishment – captivity, death by fire, lion, gladiators or rotting in prison. All of this is leading his hearers to the moment where he tells them what happened. So what changed you? Why are our leaders so opposed to you? Notice how Paul keeps slipping in little elements that prove the leaders know him and know what he was doing for them and on their behalf.
“Zealous to honour God in everything I did, Just like all of you” (22:3)
“the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify to what I am saying” (22:5)
“letters from them . . . authorizing me.” (22:5)
I am sure you get the point. So what happened? Why are you now on the other side of the fence to our leaders if all this is true? Paul has now silenced the crowd and the authorities and has them waiting for his explanation as to why.
That is what follows in what Paul has to say next. Now we have arrived at the beginning of Paul’s personal testimony - the details of what happened to change him. You too have a personal testimony of how Christ changed you. How long since you have shared it?
“We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.” (Rev 12:11)
Now we are primed and ready to hear Paul’s testimony of what turned him from opposing the followers of the Way to becoming one of them.
Ok Paul carry on – you have our attention.
Be yourself, everyone else is taken. Oscar Wilde
Every Christian is a sent one. There is no such thing as an unsent Christian! Rick Godwin
There are only two ministries in missions: You’re either called to go down into the well or you're called to hold the rope for those who go down. Either way, there should be scars on your hands. Paul Washer
God wants to turn your test into a testimony; your mess into a life message. Rick Warren
Stop rehearsing your beginnings and write the rest of your story.
Never make a judgement about somebody until you have heard their side of the story.
God never wastes a hurt if we’ll let Him write His story with our lives. Steve Saint
God’s Way is a great life. He turns our ordinary story into an amazing adventure!