22 Paul: Brothers and fathers, please let me defend myself against these charges.
2 When they heard him speaking Aramaic, a hush came over the crowd.
Paul: 3 I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia. I was raised here in Jerusalem and was tutored in the great school of Gamaliel. My education trained me in the strict interpretation of the law of our ancestors, and I grew zealous for God, just as all of you are today. 4 I encountered a movement known as the Way, and I considered it a threat to our religion, so I persecuted it violently. I put both men and women in chains, had them imprisoned, and would have killed them— 5 as the high priest and the entire council of elders will tell you. I received documentation from them to go to Damascus and work with the brothers there to arrest followers of the Way and bring them back to Jerusalem in chains so they could be properly punished. 6 I was on my way to Damascus. It was about noon. Suddenly a powerful light shone around me, 7 and I fell to the ground. A voice spoke: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” 8 I answered, “Who are You, Lord?” The voice replied, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, the One you persecute.”
9 My companions saw the light, but they didn’t hear the voice. 10 I asked, “What do You want me to do, Lord?” The Lord replied, “Get up and go to Damascus; you will be given your instructions there.” 11 Since the intense light had blinded me, my companions led me by the hand into Damascus. 12 I was visited there by a devout man named Ananias, a law-keeping Jew who was well spoken of by all the Jews living in Damascus. 13 He said, “Brother Saul, regain your sight!” I could immediately see again, beginning with Ananias standing before me. 14 Then he said, “You have been chosen by the God of our ancestors to know His will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the voice of God. 15 You will tell the story of what you have seen and heard to the whole world. 16 So now, don’t delay. Get up, be ceremonially cleansed through baptism,[a] and have your sins washed away, as you call on His name in prayer.”
17 I returned to Jerusalem, and I was praying here in the temple one day. I slipped into a trance 18 and had a vision in which Jesus said to me, “Hurry! Get out of Jerusalem fast! The people here will not receive your testimony about Me.” 19 I replied, “But Lord, they all know that I went from synagogue to synagogue imprisoning and beating everyone who believed in You. 20 They know what I was like and how I stood in approval of the execution of Stephen, Your witness, when he was stoned. I even held the coats of those who actually stoned him.” 21 Jesus replied, “Go, for I am going to send you to distant lands to teach the outsiders.”
These Jewish leaders are prepared to squabble with Paul about the law. But in his wisdom, Paul disarms them with his story. He is one of them; and on his journey to defend Judaism against these Christian heretics, he encountered the living God. How can anyone dispute his experience? He was trained by trustworthy Jews and lived his life according to their strict interpretation of the law. When Paul invites his audience into his experience with the supernatural, it makes debating the finer points of the law seem ridiculous. It would be like antagonizing Moses while he reiterated God’s message heard through the burning bush. But prejudice is apparently stronger than any divine message. Paul has them hanging on to every word from his mouth, until he speaks of the outsiders. The crowd immediately rises from their silence into a furious rage. The message is clear—if your revelation extends beyond our people, we will hear nothing of it. How could all of these students of the Hebrew Scriptures have been so ignorant about God’s intentions to rescue all people? The prophets declared God’s plan to offer grace to Jews and non-Jews, but no one in this crowd considered that good news.
22 They were listening quietly up until he mentioned the outsiders.
Crowd (shouting): Away with him! Such a man can’t be allowed to remain here. Kill him! He must die!
23 Chaos broke out again. People were shouting, slamming their coats down on the ground, and throwing fistfuls of dust up in the air. 24 The commandant ordered the soldiers to bring Paul to the barracks and flog him until he confessed to whatever he had done to stir up this outrage.
25 Back at the barracks, as they tied him up with leather thongs, Paul spoke to a nearby officer.
Paul: Is this legal—for you to flog a Roman citizen without a trial?
26 The officer went and spoke to the commandant.
Officer: What can you do about this? Did you know this fellow is a Roman citizen?
Commandant (rushing to Paul’s side): 27 What’s this? Are you really a Roman citizen?
Commandant: 28 I paid a small fortune for my citizenship.
Paul: I was born a citizen.
29 Hearing this, those who were about to start the flogging pulled back, and the commandant was concerned because he had arrested and bound a citizen without cause. 30 He still needed to conduct an investigation to uncover the Jews’ accusations against Paul. So the next day, he removed the ties on Paul and called a meeting with the chief priests and council of elders. He brought Paul in and had him stand before the group.
- 22:16 Literally, immersed, in a rite of initiation and purification