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Acts 21:27-22:29: Paul Testifies in Jerusalem Print E-mail

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Every Christian has a testimony.  Every follower of Christ has a story to tell about how they came to know Jesus as their Savior.  The simplest way to tell this story is to break it into three sections: who we were before Christ, how we came to know Christ, and who we are since Christ.  Perhaps at some point, you have been asked to write down your testimony following these three guidelines.  Perhaps you have used that in sharing the gospel with others.

The Apostle Paul had a testimony.  Luke has told us his story in the book of Acts.  Paul recounts his story in different places and in different ways in his letters (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Galatians 1:11-24, and Philippians 3:1-11).  At the end of the book of Acts, Paul shares his testimony on two separate occasions (22:1-21 and 26:2-23).  On both of these occasions Paul speaks of who he was before Christ, how he came to know Christ, and who he has been since Christ.  In our passage this morning, he shares this with an angry mob that is ready to kill him.  Letís consider at how he shares his testimony in Jerusalem.

The Situation (v. 27-40)

Paul has finally finished his three missionary journeys and made it to the city of Jerusalem.  As we saw last week, there were Jewish Christians in the city who were troubled by what they thought Paul was teaching those who came to faith in Christ.  Paul seeks peace with these brothers by submitting to the elders of the Church and being purified at the Temple.  Unfortunately there are other Jews in town who are not pleased with Paul being at the Temple.  Look at what happens in verses 27-30. 

Luke describes these men as being Jews from Asia.  They were probably some who had traveled from the city of Ephesus and knew of Paul.  They also knew Trophimus and the fact that he was not Jewish.  Thus, when they saw them together and then saw Paul at the Temple, it did not take them long to conclude that Paul was guilty of encouraging a Gentile to enter a place where they were forbidden.  History teaches us that there were strict rules regarding where the Gentiles could go in the Temple and that if these rules were broken then the punishment was death.  Thus, the charge against Paul is serious.  Of course, they had no proof that Paul had actually brought Trophimus to the Temple, but they did not seem to be overly concerned with proof.  They wanted to get the crowd of Jews stirred up against Paul and they succeeded in doing just that.  Just as the Jews rejected Jesus in Jerusalem thirty years earlier, they were now rejected His servant, Paul.

But as Luke has shown us before, help comes from an unexpected place.  Look at verses 31-36.  The tribune was in charge of keeping the peace in Jerusalem and when he saw what was going on at the Temple, he intervened and took with him soldiers.  When he tried to figure out what was going on, he received various answers from the crowd that did not agree.  So he decided to have Paul formally arrested and to place him in the barracks so that he could discern what was happening.  Although these Romans were arresting Paul, we see from how Luke tells the story that they were in fact protecting him from the mob.

As Paul is being brought to the barracks, he asks to speak with the tribune.  Look at verses 37-40.  The tribune thinks that Paul is a man who had recently caused a huge stir in the city.  But Paul convinces him that he is not that individual and then asks him if he can address the crowd.  The tribune decides to let Paul speak and he begins addressing the crowd in Aramaic, which seemingly gives them pause to at least listen to him for a bit.

The Speech (v. 1-21)

What would you expect Paul to say in such a situation?  He notes in verse 1 that he is going to give his defense, so what kind of defense do you expect him to give?  Of course, Luke does not tell us everything that Paul said on the occasion, but it is worth noting that what he does tell us deals primarily with Paulís own testimony.  In one sense, Paul is offering a defense of why he has been doing what he has been doing, but in another, he is simply telling this large crowd of unbelievers his testimony.  He is taking this opportunity to tell them about Jesus.  So, what does he tell them?

He begins by telling them about his life before Christ.  Look at verses 1-5.  As we have seen him do before, Paul makes a connection with these Jews.  He tells them that he was raised and educated to be zealous for the law, just like they are.  He wanted to know God and please God just like they wanted to do.  And this led him to persecuting Christians to the death.  Paul makes it plain that he was the last Jew in Jerusalem that anybody expected to become a follower of Jesus.  He did all that he could to destroy the Church, as even people in the city could attest.

But something, or better Someone, changed him.  He tells them now of how he came to meet Christ.  Look at verses 6-11.  Paul tells of being on the road to Damascus to find some more Christians to put in jail, when he was stopped by a great, heavenly light.  Then he heard a voice that spoke directly to him and asked him: ĎWhy are you persecuting me?í  Jesus identifies so much with His Church that the question is not why are you persecuting my Church, but why are you persecuting me?  Paul asks who is speaking and Jesus identifies Himself again as the One that Paul is persecuting.  I imagine that Jesusí words would later be a great balm for Paul.  He never took an insult alone.  He never spent a night in prison alone.  He never endured a beating alone.  Jesus was always with Him because Jesus is always with His people.  When they are persecuted, He is persecuted.  When they hurt, He hurts.  They are never alone.  Be comforted this morning not by the promise that bad things will never happen but by the rock solid truth that you will never face anything without the presence of your Savior. 

Jesus tells Paul to go to Damascus and find Ananias.  Paul tells us what happened with him next.  Look at verses 12-16.  First, Ananias heals Paul from his physical blindness.  Then he tells him the good news of Jesus, the Righteous One, for whom Paul will now be a witness.  Jesus came and died on the cross and was raised by God, whom Ananias calls The God of our fathers, a title that would have been significant to Paulís Jewish audience.  Because of what Jesus did, Paul could turn from his sins and be forgiven in His name.  Paul responded to the gospel by repenting and believing and being baptized.

So what about Paulís life since he met Christ?  He tells us in verses 17-21.  Look at those with me.  Paul assumed that because of his past, he would be a perfect missionary to the Jews in Jerusalem.  They knew his reputation.  Many were there when Stephen was martyred and Paul approved.  They knew his history and so they would not dismiss him as a crazy Christian.  Yet, the Lord had a different plan for Paulís life.  The Lord knew that the Jews in Jerusalem would not listen to Paul, so He sent him to the Gentiles.  This is how Paul became a missionary to them.

In short, Paul defends himself by simply testifying to what Jesus has done in his life.  He was not an enemy to the God of the Jews, but a servant.  He was not rejecting his people, but they had rejected his Savior.  The God of the Jews sent him to the Gentiles to bring the good news of Jesusí death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins to them, for they too would be a part of Godís people.  Paul uses this opportunity to point them to the gospel.

The Response (v. 22-29)

So how did the Jews respond to Paulís testimony?  Look at verse 22.  When Paul mentions God calling him to share the good news among the Gentiles in light of Jewish rejection, they cannot listen any longer.  They are filled with rage and cry out for his blood.  They want him dead and they are ready to carry out the execution.

But again, the Romans intervene.  Look at verses 23-24.  The tribune decides again to keep the Jews from killing Paul.  Yet, this time, he also decides to find out the truth by having Paul flogged.  Such punishment involved a leather whip with pieces of metal and bone on the ends to inflict terrible pain on the victim.  As they are tying Paul up, he speaks to them.  Look at verses 25-29.  Paul tells them that he is a Roman citizen because he knows that it is unlawful for them to flog a Roman.  When they hear this, they immediately stop the flogging out of fear of the punishment that they would face for mistreating a citizen.  Again, we see the contrast between the Jewish demand for persecution and the Roman intervention for justice.  Luke wants his readers to see this contrast so that they can better understand the relationship between Christianity and the state, in particular the Roman Empire.

Over the next few weeks, we will be continually looking at Paulís trials in Jerusalem.  On this first occasion, we see him sharing his testimony with the unbelieving Jews.  One of my commentatorís writes: ďLuke is concerned to present Paul not only as a missionary and church planter but also as a witness on trial for the gospel.  Paul faces the accusation of the Jews and stands on trial before the Romans, and in this situation he acts as a witness to Jesus Christ.Ē 1  Paul takes every opportunity he is given to tell others about Jesus.

So what about you?  What situation are you facing right now?  Why do you think God has put you in that situation?  Perhaps, like Paul, we need to see every situation, be it good or bad, as an opportunity to witness to Christ.  Perhaps we should take every chance we are given to share our testimony of all that Jesus has done for us.  He may not have appeared to us on the road to Damascus, but just like Paul, if you have turned from your sins and trusted in Jesus as your Savior, then He has brought you from darkness to light, from blindness to sight.  And so no matter what situation you find yourself in, you can tell people about who you were before Christ, how you met Christ, and how your life has changed since then.  You can share your testimony and point others to the glorious grace of God in Jesus Christ.  May we take advantage of every opportunity that we are given to point others to Christ.  Amen.   

1 I. Howard Marshall, Acts TNTC (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1980), p. 350. 

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Sunday, 09 November 2014 )

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