Summary of Acts 21:37-22:29:
After Paul’s arrest and beating by the out-of-control mob, he asks to speak to the mob in his defense.
Paul tells them his origins: he’s a Jew who used to persecute followers of Jesus until Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and God commissioned him to the Gentiles. This angered the crowd when Paul mentioned the Gentiles (for they believed the Gentiles were not equal with the Jews in God’s eyes), and the Roman commander ordered Paul be flogged and questioned about why the crowd was so incensed.
Here, Paul invokes his Roman citizen privileges (illegal to flog a citizen until found guilty in a court of law and illegal to chain a citizen), and the commander immediately changes course, appalled that he put a Roman citizen in chains.
BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 25, Day 3: Acts 21:37-22:29
6) Paul tells of his time when he persecuted those who followed the Way, how Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and blinded him. He tells of how Ananias tells him he was chosen by God and how God sends him to the Gentiles.
7) Personal Question. My answer: “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” Basically, the crowd wanted to kill Paul when he said God sent him to the Gentiles. The crowd is letting prejudice get in their way of justice. They are swept up by mob mentality and about to execute an innocent man. I learn to just be wary of decisions I make carelessly based on preconceived beliefs I may hold.
8 ) Personal Question. My answer: Unsure. I was raised a Christian, and it’s a pretty boring story no one wants to listen to. For me, I’d rather speak of my continued faith than how I came to Jesus.
BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 25, Day 3: Acts 21:37-22:29
I love how Paul uses his Roman citizenship when he needs to. It’s so amazing how God had Paul’s life planned so that he would be a Roman citizen in a time when being a Roman citizen saved your life.
End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 25, Day 3: Acts 21:37-22:29
The language was a surprise because both the language and phrasing showed that Paul was a man educated in the Greek world, not a rabble-rouser.
The Roman commander bound Paul with two chains (Acts 21:33) because he suspected Paul was a troublemaker. Yet, he gave Paul permission to speak to the crowd, probably because he hoped that Paul’s speech might quiet the mob. At first, it did quiet the people down.
We are called to follow Jesus so we shouldn’t be surprised when events in our lives are like events in Jesus’ life. There may be a time of temptation in the wilderness, a time when people come to us with needs only God can meet, a time when we seem at the mercy of a storm, a time when we must cry out to God as in the Garden of Gethsemane, a time when we must simply lay down our lives and trust God will gloriously raise us up. We, like Paul, are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
Note that Paul will choose to defend himself, while Jesus did not.
Paul began his great defense before the Jews the same way Stephen did: Men and brethren and fathers, listen. (Acts 7:2)
“Paul gave a magnificent defense. He actually used the word ‘defense’ (Acts 22:1). In Greek it is the word apologia, from which we get our word ‘apology.’ It refers to a formal defense of one’s past life or actions.” (Boice)
Paul’s Conversion Story
Paul began telling the story of his life before Jesus Christ and then his conversion.
Luke told the story of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9. After that, Paul told the story in some way at least four more times in the New Testament, each with its own intention.
- Acts 22: Telling the story to persuade the Jews.
- Acts 26: Telling the story to persuade the Gentiles.
- Philippians 3: Telling the story for theological understanding.
- 1 Timothy 1: Telling the story to give encouragement.
Paul noted that though he was born outside of the Promised Land, he was brought up in Jerusalem, and at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the most prestigious rabbis of the day (Acts 5:34).
“I understand why you have attacked me. I was once an attacker also. I understand where you are coming from.” Paul had been a Christian for more than twenty years, but could still relate to those who were not Christians.
Paul was misguided until he encountered Jesus. He was actually persecuting Jesus Himself.
In persecuting Jesus, Paul was spiritually blind, and then he was also physically blind – and had to be humbly led by the hand into the city of Damascus.
Acts 22:14 is a wonderful capsule of the duty of every one before God: To know His will, to see the Just One (Jesus), and to hear the voice of His mouth (His word).
Paul had an impressive vision of Jesus while in the temple; yet he never referred to this vision in his letters, and seems to only mention it now out of necessity. Paul’s Christian life was founded on God’s truth, not spiritual experiences, and he didn’t even like to talk a lot about his spiritual experiences.
When Paul was touched by God in Damascus, he was told then of his call to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15), so the words from Jesus to him in the temple at Jerusalem were not new. However, we can see that in his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion, it would have been easy for Paul to care so much for the conversion of Israel that he would want to concentrate on that – that’s why Jesus gave him the reminder in the temple.
God’s Plans for Paul
Paul made it clear that it wasn’t his idea to preach to the Gentiles; this was God’s plan, not his. He hoped it also explained to the crowd why he seemed so friendly to the Gentiles: Paul was simply obeying Jesus and His word to him.
The Jewish Christians could not stand the idea that God might save Jews and Gentiles alike and in the same way.
From now until the end of the Book of Acts, Paul will be in Roman custody. As far as this book is concerned, this was the end of his time as a free man, though not the end of his witness or his usefulness to God and God’s people.
It is suggested that Paul be beaten with a scourge. This was quite different from being beaten with a rod or a normal whip (which Paul had experienced, 2 Corinthians 11:24-25). Men often died or were crippled for life after a scourging.
“This was not the normal Jewish flogging, which was bad enough, but the dreaded Roman flagellum. It was a beating so severe that in some cases it resulted in the death of the victim.” (Boice)
The penalty for lying about one’s Roman citizenship was significant. It wasn’t the kind of thing people commonly lied about, so the commander could simply ask Paul directly.
“The point was not that the tribune doubted Paul’s claim, but rather he was implying that anybody could become a citizen these days!” (Marshall)
“How the citizenship was acquired by Paul’s father or grandfather we have no means of knowing, but analogy would suggest that it was for valuable services rendered to a Roman general or administrator in the southeastern area of Asia Minor.” (Bruce)
God’s Plans for You
Paul was an extremely rare individual. It was uncommon to find such an educated, intelligent, devout Jew who was also a Roman citizen. God would use this unique background to use Paul in a special way, even as he wants to use your unique background to use you in a special way.