Acts: Chapter 22
Let’s begin by reading (Acts 22:1-11).
(Verses 1-2)(NASB) “”Brothers and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you.” (2) And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet; and he said,”
This is the first of 6 defenses that Paul makes in the book of Acts. Here is a list of who Paul made his defense to, and where it can be found.
#1. Before the Jews: (Acts 21:40 – 22:29)
#2. Before the Sanhedrin (council) / High Priest (Ananias) / Sadducees / Pharisees: (Acts 22:30 – 23:10)
#3. Before Governor Felix: (Acts 24:10-21)
#4. Before Governor Porcius Festus: (Acts 25:1-12)
#5. Before King Agrippa / Festus: (Acts 26:1-32)
#6. Before the leaders of the Jews in Rome: (Acts 28:17-20)
Paul was making this defense from the top of the stairs that led into the place where the Roman soldiers were stationed, called Ft. Antonia (Acts 21:34-40). The “Liberty Bible Commentary” says, “It is interesting to note that Paul made his defense on the same Roman stairway where Pilate had condemned Christ to death some twenty-six years earlier. The attitude of the Jewish mob also reflects a similar treatment of the Lord’s servant who had returned, in one last desperate appeal for the Jews to come to Christ.”
“addressing them in the Hebrew dialect” – As we mentioned at the end of the last chapter, most scholars believe that Paul spoke Aramaic (a Hebrew dialect) here. The Roman “commander” had been surprised that Paul spoke Greek (Acts 21:37), but the Jewish “mob” is equally surprised that Paul could speak Hebrew. This led to them becoming “more quiet,” so they could hear what he had to say.
NOTE: As we have explained the upcoming verses, from 3 to 21, in previous studies, we will not describe them “in detail” here. I will list where in Acts the events that Paul is describing are located, and I urge you to go back to the previous studies if you want more details.
***Note: Each of Paul’s “defenses” is in essence Paul sharing his “testimony” with unbelievers. And, what a “testimony: it is!” In short, a “testimony” is simply sharing with unbelievers (or with believers who need encouragement) what your life was like before Christ, and then how you came to place your faith in Jesus Christ, and were “saved.” Then, it should include how your life has changed since you were “saved.” I explain in more detail what a “testimony” is here: https://jesusalive.cc/christian-testimony-definition.
Each of you who is a Christian has a “testimony.” A Christian testimony is one of the most powerful tools that a Christian has in helping others to understand the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I urge you to write yours out sometime, and share it with others. If interested, you can read “my testimony” here: https://jesusalive.cc/my-testimony.
(1 Pet 3:15) “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is within you, with meekness and fear.”
(Verses 3-5)(NKJV) “”I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. (4) I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, (5) as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.”
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia” – Repeating the words he had just told the “commander” in (Acts 21:39). This is the third of 3 times in Acts that Tarsus is mentioned as the birthplace of Saul / Paul. Paul clearly wants to make the point that he is “Jewish.”
“brought up in this city” – While born in Tarsus, Paul must have moved away from Tarsus to Jerusalem at a fairly early age, perhaps to be taught “at the feet of Gamaliel.”
“at the feet of Gamaliel” – As we saw in (Acts 5:33-39), Gamaliel was a Pharisee, who had been a member of the Sanhedrin. Historical writings tell us several (not totally provable) things about him. He was the son of Simeon ben Hillel (possibly the Simeon mentioned in Lk 2:25-35), and his grandfather, Hillel Gamaliel, was the foremost Jewish scholar of his time. Like his grandfather, Gamaliel was also considered by most accounts the foremost Jewish scholar of his time (first century A.D.). (He was given the title of “Rabban,” meaning “our teacher.” Few were given this honorable title.). His most famous student was Paul. Several writings place his death in 52 A.D. (18 years before the Temple was destroyed).
“and was zealous toward God as you all are today” – (From the “Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible”) – “Paul explained to the crowd that he understood why they were beating him and wanted him dead. They were zealous for God. Paul was not blaming them for what they had done to him. He pointed out that in his former zeal he would have done the same thing. Paul showed compassion even to his attackers.”
“I persecuted the Way” – The term “the Way” is used in several places in Acts as a description of Christians (Acts 9:2)(Acts 19:9,23)(here)(Acts 24:14,22). It almost certainly came from the words Jesus used to describe Himself in (Jn 14:6) “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
“binding and delivering into prisons both men and women” – We see Paul doing this after the persecution of Stephen in (Acts 8:1-3), and also in (Acts 9:1-2).
“the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders” – The persecution Paul is describing here happened about 20 years earlier. The High Priest at that time (who gave Paul the “letters”) was Caiaphas. He is now dead, and the new High Priest is Ananias (Acts 23:2). However, the events Paul is describing almost certainly would have been been recorded, and known by Ananias, and the “council of elders” (the “Sanhedrin”).
“I also received letters…. and went to Damascus” – We see Paul receiving these “letters,” and heading to Damascus in (Acts 9:1-2).
(Verses 6-8) “And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. (7) And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? (8) And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.”
As Paul approached Damascus with the “letters” to arrest Christians, and “bring them to Jerusalem in chains,” Jesus appeared to Him on the road as a “great light.” The events that Paul discusses in (verses 6-11) occur in (Acts 9:3-9). Only here are we told that these events occurred “about noon.” In later recounting this event, Paul says this light was “above the brightness of the sun” (Acts 26:13); likely why he mentions that it was at “noon,” when the sun would have been at its brightest.
“Saul, Saul” – (***Small Rabbit Trail***)
In the Bible, when a word was used back to back, it signified that what was being said was VERY important. For example, (Jn 3:3) says, “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus did this same thing with people’s names several times when He had something important to say to them: i.e. (Martha, Martha – Lk 10:41-42), (Simon, Simon – Lk 22:31-32), (My God, My God – Mt 27:46, prophesied in Ps 22:1), (Saul, Saul – Acts 9:4), (or the city of Jerusalem, Jerusalem – Mt 23:37). Isn’t it interesting that the God of the Old Testament also did this: i.e. (Abraham, Abraham – Gen 22:11), (Jacob, Jacob – Gen 46:2), (Moses, Moses – Ex 3:4), (Samuel, Samuel – 1 Sam 3:10)? Could the God of the Old Testament who spoke to these OT saints have been Jesus?
***Note: The Jews (primarily the Jewish leaders) had worked hard to make sure Jesus was crucified and killed. Now that they had accomplished this task, all that remained was to eliminate all of His followers, and then this newfound “religion” would be dead and gone. In the process of this attempted elimination, the man who was supposed to be dead, suddenly appears to Paul alive! Imagine what a shock this was to Paul!
(Verses 9-11) “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. (10) And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. (11) And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.”
“saw indeed the light, and were afraid” – This detail, that those with Paul were “afraid,” is not mentioned in (Acts 9:3-9). In later recounting this event again in (Acts 26:13-14), Paul adds another detail, that those with Paul “fell to the ground,” just as he did.
“they saw the light, but heard not the voice of him that spake to me” – In (Acts 9:7), it says that the men with Paul were “hearing a voice but seeing no one.” Here is says that the men “heard not the voice of him that spake to me.” How do we reconcile these two verses?
The best explanation would be to say that the men with Paul heard some type of sound when Jesus was speaking, but they had no idea that it was a voice. (Perhaps they thought it was thunder i.e. Jn 12:28-29.) (See: Dan 10:7 for a parallel)
“What shall I do, Lord?” – (From the “Believer’s Bible Commentary”) – “Having had this private audience with the Lord of Life and Glory, Paul made a complete commitment of his spirit, soul, and body to the Savior, indicated by his question, “What shall I do, Lord?””
“I could not see for the glory of that light” – The result of Paul’s seeing the “great light” was that he was totally blind. Those traveling with him had to lead him the rest of the way into Damascus “by hand.”
***Note: This is the first of several places in the New Testament involving problems with Paul’s “eyesight” (also see: Gal 4:13-15, Gal 6:11, Acts 23:1-5, Acts 28:1-3). I believe near blindness was Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor 12:7). I explain this in more detail here: https://jesusalive.cc/pauls-thorn-in-flesh.
Next, let’s read (Acts 22:12-21).
(Verses 12-15) “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, (13) Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. (14) And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. (15) For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.”
“Ananias” (“Jehovah has been gracious”) – Remembering back to (Acts 9:10-18), we were told that because of Paul’s prior persecution of “the saints in Jerusalem,” Ananias was concerned when God asked him to go see Paul. Ananias was almost certainly a leader in the church at Damascus, and therefore would have been a prime target of Paul’s persecution. However, he obeyed God, and went to Paul. We are told here the added detail here that Ananias was “a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there.” “Unger’s New Bible Dictionary” says this of Ananias, “Tradition makes Ananias to have been afterward bishop of Damascus and to have suffered martyrdom.”
“Just” (Gr. “dikaios“) is a title applied to Jesus a number of times in the New Testament: (Mt 27:19,24)(Acts 3:14)(Acts 7:52)(here)(1 Pet 3:18).
“witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard” – In context, this is certainly speaking of what Paul had “seen and heard” regarding his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul had seen the “resurrected Christ,” and therefore knew that Jesus was ALIVE! He was to share this knowledge with “all men,” pointing to his “witness” to both Jews and Gentiles.
Based upon seeing the “risen Christ” on the road to Damascus, Paul considered himself an “apostle” (1 Cor 9:1)(1 Cor 15:7-9)(Gal 1:1). Going forward, Paul made the Resurrection of Jesus a cornerstone of his teachings (Acts 13:29-39)(Acts 17:3,18,30-32)(Acts 25:19)(Acts 26:12-18,23)(Rom 6:5)(1 Cor Ch. 15)(Phil 3:10)(Col 2:12)(Col 3:1).
Let’s take a moment here, and let me ask you, “Why is the “Resurrection of Jesus SO important?”
(Verses 16-18)(NKJV) “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’ (17) “Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance (18) and saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.'”
“be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on his name” – (From the Believer’s Bible Commentary”) – “Verse 16 has been misused to teach baptismal regeneration…. Unlike the KJV, which punctuates as if there are four items in a row on the same level, the NKJV, following the original, pairs the first two items and the second two items. In the Greek there is a finite verb modified by a participle in each half of the verse. A literal rendering would be: “Having arisen be baptized, and have your sins washed off (by) calling on the name of the Lord.” This last clause is supported by general biblical teaching (cf. Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Rom 10:13).”
People are saved after they “mentally and verbally” understand and accept the Gospel: (trusting – Eph 1:12-13), (believing – Jn 1:12-13, Jn 3:16), (having faith – Eph 2:8-9), (confessing – Rom 2:9-10), (repenting – Acts 3:19, Lk 13:3,5), (calling – Rom 10:13). Adding baptism to the salvation process is adding a “physical act” to salvation. This can be equated with saying we need to do a “work” to be saved, and of course we know that the Bible says one cannot be saved by any “work” that we do (Eph 2:8-9)(Rom 4:5)(Rom 11:6)(Gal 2:16).
For a more in-depth study on why baptism is not necessary for salvation, you can go here: https://jesusalive.cc/baptism-for-salvation.
“when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple” – Going back to Acts Ch. 9, after Paul’s conversion, we see him remaining in Damascus for a brief period of time (Acts 9:19-22), and preaching “Christ… that He is the Son of God.” “After many days were past,” the Jews plotted to kill Paul, so some of the disciples helped him escape (Acts 9:23-25). After this escape, it appears that Paul went to Arabia for 3 years (Gal 1:17-18). After the 3 years, Paul went to Jerusalem. His time in Jerusalem is recorded in (Acts 9:26-30). During this time, Paul “spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him.”
Here, in (Verses 17-18), we are given an important detail that is not given in (Acts 9:26-30). During this time in Jerusalem, Paul “was praying in the temple,” and went into a “trance.” Jesus said to him, “Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me” (Acts 9:29).
(Verses 19-21)(NKJV) “So I said, ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You. (20) And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ (21) Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’”
These 3 verses also contain information that we are not told in (Acts 9:26-30). Paul responds to God’s warning for him to leave with what is said in (verses 19-20). Then, in (verse 21), God repeats his warning to leave.
After Jesus gives His warning for Paul to leave, why would Paul respond with what he says in (verses 19-20)??
Adding this new information in (verses 17-21), to (Acts 9:26-30), we have the following. Paul went to Jerusalem, “preached boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus,” and the Hellenists wanted to kill him. Paul would have stayed in spite of this threat, but while praying in the Temple, he went into a trance, and God warned him to leave. Since Jesus told him to leave, Paul consented when “the brethren found out” that the Hellenists were trying to kill him, and “brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus” (Acts 9:30).
***Note: This vision described in (verses 17-21) is the 4th of 5 visions given to Paul: #1. (Acts 9:11-12) #2. (Acts 16:9-10) #3. (Acts 18:9-10) #4. (here) #5. (2 Cor 12:1-4).
Finally, let’s read (Acts 22:22-30).
(Verses 22-23) “And they gave him audience (listened to him) unto (until) this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. (23) And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air,”
The Jewish audience listened to Paul up to this point, but once he told them that “Jesus” told him to go “to the Gentiles,” that was too much for them! The Jews believed that Gentiles could be a part of God’s chosen people, but ONLY if they converted to the Jewish faith (becoming proselytes), and obeyed the Law of Moses.
“it is not fit that he should live” – In the eyes of the Jewish mob, what Paul was saying was blasphemy, and the punishment for blasphemy was stoning (Lev 24:10-16,23). As with Stephen in (Acts 7:58)(Verse 20), the men of the mob likely “cast off their clothes” in preparation for carrying out this act.
“threw dust into the air” – Doing this was a way to display rage or indignation.
(Verses 24-25)(NASB) “the commander ordered that he be brought into the barracks, saying that he was to be interrogated by flogging so that he would find out the reason why they were shouting against him that way. (25) But when they stretched him out with straps, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?””
As we mentioned at the end of Chapter 21, it seems odd that the commander (“Claudius Lysias” – Acts 23:26) gave Paul an opportunity to address the mob after his arrest. However, in doing so, perhaps the commander hoped to find out “why they (the mob) were shouting against Paul.” Seeing that he learned nothing by allowing Paul to speak, the commander decides to take Paul “into the barracks” and torture him (by flogging) to get to the bottom of this issue.
“flogging” – This was a HORRIFIC ordeal! The whip used (often called a cat-o-nine tails) consisted of a handle (about 18″ long) with 9 leather straps about 6 or 7 feet long, and at the end of each strap was small lead balls mixed with pieces of animal bone or metal. These would tear into the body more and more with each successive lashing, with the lead balls ripping into the skin and the jagged pieces of bone or metal tearing it out. As the flogging progressed, muscles, vital organs, and even the spine could often be seen openly. Huge strips of skin would be hanging from the body. In some cases, the victim died from this torture. (Jesus was “flogged” in this way: Mt 27:26, Mk 15:15, Jn 19:1.)
“when they stretched him out” – “Stretching” out a person before flogging made the skin tighter, and therefore, would inflict more damage. (From the “Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible) – “The victim endured this torture either stretched out on the floor, tied to a pillar, or tied to a hook suspended from the ceiling.”
“the centurion” – As we mentioned in the previous chapter, “centurion” comes from the Greek word “hekatontarches,” meaning “the captain of 100 men.”
“Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman and uncondemned” – Continuing from the “Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible” – “The Roman law was that no Roman citizen could be chained, scourged, or killed without a proper trial. Failure to obey this law resulted in severe punishment for the one who commanded the illegal punishment. Paul had been chained and was about to be scourged without any formal charges having been made.” A similar incidence occurred in (Acts 16:19-40).
***Note: The two Roman laws which gave Roman citizens protection were the Lex Valeria (508 B.C.), and the Lex Porcia (300 B.C.). It should also be noted that those who claimed Roman citizenship were rarely doubted, because falsely claiming Roman citizenship was punishable by death.
(Verses 26-28) “When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain (the “commander”), saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. (27) Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. (28) And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born (“born a citizen”).”
“the centurion… went to the commander… this man is a Roman” – As the “commander,” Lysias would likely receive the most “severe punishment” for illegally binding and scourging Paul.
(From the “Zondervan NIV Study Bible”) – There were three ways to obtain Roman citizenship: (1) receive it as a reward for some outstanding service to Rome; (2) buy it at a considerable price; (3) be born into a family of Roman citizens. How Paul’s father, or an earlier ancestor had gained citizenship, no one knows. By 171 B.C. a large number of Jews were citizens of Tarsus, and in the time of Pompey (106 – 48) some of these could have received Roman citizenship as well.”
The “commander” was #2, Paul was #3. Being “born” a Roman citizen was considered to be the most valuable Roman citizenship.
(Verses 29-30)(NKJV) “Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. (30) The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them.”
Finding out that Paul was a Roman citizen, the “commander” “releases Paul from his bonds” (the next day). However, he still wants to know why the Jews were SO upset with Paul. Therefore, he “commands the chief priests and the council to appear, and sets Paul before them.” The “commander” would use this meeting to determine if Paul needed to be brought to “trial.” The “council” here is the “Sanhedrin.”
***Note: (From the “Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary”) – “Note here the power to order a Sanhedrim to try this case, assumed by the Roman officers and acquiesced in on their part.”
(Verse 30) begins the 2nd of Paul’s 6 defenses (see verses 1-2).