(Read in the Bulletin today)
6 “About noon as I cam near Damascus, suddenlly a bright light from heaven flashed around me.
10 “What shall I do, Lord?” I asked.
“Get up, “ the Lord said, and go into Damascusu. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.”
14 “Then he said: “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth.
18 and saw the Lord speaking to me. “Quick!” he said. “Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept you testimony about me.”
22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”
26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.”
30 The commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews. So the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the members of the Sandedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them.
Last time, Paul had been accused of bringing a Gentile into the Inner Courts of the temple, this would have been punishable by death (for Paul).
Historically, in 1871, Greek warnings were found by a man. IN 1935, other fragments were found, “No foreigner is to enter into the area around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his own death.”
That’s how serious an offense it was.
Paul had been accused of bringing a Gentile into the temple courts. They had seen him in town with him and assumed that he’d brought him into the temple. So, the Jews began beating Paul. And at this time, from the fortress of Antonia (in the northeast area) the commander came down to put an end to that. (They were there to keep an eye on things and put down riots, etc).
Seeing that Paul was the center of the problem, he was bound with two chains with a soldier on each side. So, this fulfilled the prophecy of another Christian about Paul’s journey to Jerusalem earlier in Acts.
Earlier in Jerusalem, an Egyptian had led a revolution in Jerusalem from the desert – the revolution had been put down, but the leader had escaped. So, the commander thought that Paul must be the guy.
He said basically, “No, I’m an educated Jew.”
The crowd was so crazy, so mad that the soldiers had to pick him up and carry him to the temple steps to address the crowd.
So, the crowd quieted (wow), and he addressed them in the local language (after he’d spoken to the commander in Greek) – Hebrew Aramaic.
“Brothers, and fathers,….”
He’s putting himself on their side (he’s one of them). He recalled his birth, his upbringing, his training. This helps us understand the NT writings more completely – he also gives some of his background in the epistles he wrote.
He was a Jew – a highly educated Jew. He knew Greek, the Greek OT – he’d been educated in Tarsus, outside of Judea.
In Acts 23, Paul’s sister and nephew lived in Jerusalem – he was brought up there, and he’d studied under Gamaliel? A high ranking Pharisee.
Long before, the apostles were arrested, jailed, then rescued by an angel (and earthquake), then they’d gone back into the temple to preach, arrested again, and sent to the Sanhedrin to testify. Gamaliel then said basically, “If this is of men, it will pass. If this is of God, nothing we do can stop them and you will be found to be fighting against God.” So they beat the apostles, but let them go. They carried on preaching and teaching.
Paul had studied the Torah under him.
Paul was an A+ student – he was the “top of his class.” The best of the best, thoroughly trained in the law. He told the listeners on the temple steps – “I was just as zealous as you.” But after his conversion, he didn’t put any weight in this emotional zeal. What’s more important is grace, the gospel, the good news – not self-righteous holier-than-thou-isms.
Paul realized then the truth of that verse. He no longer put confidence in observing the traditions of his Jewish community. But, he still could practice them as part of his cultural heritage.
1 Corinthians 9 “I became a Jew, that I might win Jews. I put myself under the Law (though I’m not under the Law), to win those under the Law (and Christ is the end of the Law).”
Paul wanted to:
- Affirm his Jewishness
- Prove his zealousness
- He was speaking their language
- He studied under their famous teacher
The crowd would have been able to check with the Council about his former jobs – finding letters from the Council about how he once persecuted and imprisoned the Gentiles Christians.
He’s doing everything he can here to show that HE IS ONE OF THEM.
But now he has to explain WHY he changed so dramatically.
He went into his conversion story – along the road to Damascus.
We can see from Paul’s story how Jesus related himself to the church – “when you persecute the church, you persecute me.”
This is the second account of Paul’s conversion experience (three total – that he adjusts depending on his audience).
He describes that Ananias, a well-respected, law-abiding citizen had healed him. Then Ananias gave Paul his commission. “God has chosen you to (1) know his will, (2) see the Righteous One, (3) hear words from his mouth.”
Moses had asked God, “If I go to your people and say that you sent me, what shall I say to them?”
God says, “Tell them, I AM what I am.” Paul is similar.
Paul explains how Ananias urged him to get up and get baptized, repent, turn to Christ, change his life – he did.
Afterward, he returned to Jerusalem. The apostles were wary of him, worried about this guy – Barnabas helped convince them to take him in. Paul later met some very zealous Jews who were plotting to kill him. Then, God said, “Go to the Gentiles.”
After that word “Gentiles” the Jews started to riot again. They didn’t want the gospel to be so “easy” for them – by faith? Ha! No way. Faith alone is too easy.
The riot erupts, the commander was listening – not understanding Aramaic, took Paul into the temple to scourge him (like Jesus – Passion of the Christ). Many people who were whipped by them were crippled for life or killed just from the whipping.
Then, Paul asked “Huh? I’m a Roman yo!”
Commander, “What? Ooops. Now how’s about that? I paid a ton of money for my citizenship.”
You could pay for it, do a government service, or…be born into it (like Paul). Paul’s father was a Roman – this was a highly prized commodity in those days. He’s almost flogged him, he’s put him in chains – that’s serious business for this commander.
He realizes that the Jews are complaining about something in their religion.
And so, the saga continues.
Paul claims his civil rights (he might not have survived a Roman flogging).
Ananias had asked Paul earlier, “What are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized, have your sins forgiven.”
Maybe the Holy Spirit is asking you the same, “What are you waiting for? Call on my name.”