August 29, 2021
Text: Acts 22:17-29
Golden Text: “And He said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto
the Gentiles.” Acts 22:21
There are many phobias or fears experienced by the human race. Some fear heights, flying and public speaking, just to name a few. When speaking publicly we fear how we will be accepted and how the audience will be affected by what we say. However, we very seldom fear that what we say will start a riot unless that is the intent of the speech. In our lesson today the Apostle Paul started a riot by just using a single word.
I. Paul’s Appeal to His Countrymen – Acts 22: 17-21
In Acts 21:15 we are told the Paul returned to Jerusalem even though
He was warned about the dangers he would face. He felt the need to go to Jerusalem and complete the work the Lord had given him. For the first few days things went smoothly until he was seen in the temple and accused of bringing Gentiles into the inner court where they were forbidden. He was not killed then because the Roman troops took him in protective custody.
When the soldiers were trying to take him out of danger, Paul asked the commander for permission to speak to the crowd. Permission was granted and Paul reminded the crowd that he was a passionate follower of Gamaliel, an expert on religious law and the most respected rabbi of the first century. Paul reminded the crowd of his change on the Damascus Road. He had been a persecutor of Christians until his encounter with Christ. He saw a light from heaven, became blind and was baptized, in that order. When Paul first visited Jerusalem as a Christian he went to the temple to pray and fell into a trance. Jesus appeared and told him to leave Jerusalem immediately because his testimony would not be accepted. At that time Paul’s name was still Saul and he was assisted in leaving after fellow Christians heard about a plot to kill him.
Paul tried to argue against the directive to leave by reminding Christ that the people in Jerusalem knew how he had imprisoned believers and beat them violently wherever he found them. In addition Paul related how he had stood with the men who stoned Stephen to death. Christ did not bother to argue Paul’s point. He simply restated His command and told Paul to leave. Christ sent Paul into distant regions where he was to minister to the Gentiles. That command was the same Christ had given to the original disciples when they were told to make disciples of all nations. That included the Gentiles.
II. Paul’s Appeal to the Authorities – Acts:22:22-29
That one word, “Gentiles,” caused the crowd to become violent. They thought Paul was unfit to live. The crowd was so upset and the commander became so anxious that he had Paul brought inside, not for security, but so he could find out what Paul did to cause such an uproar. The commander ordered that Paul be examined by very painful lashing (beating). While they were tying Paul down for the lashing, Paul asked them if it was lawful to beat a Roman citizen who had not been tried and found guilty of a crime. That question was really a challenge that the commander realized could cause trouble for the soldiers.
As a Roman citizen Paul had privileges and protections such as the right to appeal verdicts.
The commander told Paul he was also a Roman citizen but it had cost him a great deal of money to get it. He wondered about Paul’s citizenship because it was rare for Jews to be Roman citizens. Paul stated he was a born citizen. The writer of this lesson stated that Paul could have been born into citizen status based on two theories:
1. The first theory was that being born in Tarsus, a free city in what is now Turkey, gave citizenship to all who were born there.
2. The second theory of Paul’s citizenship was based on the thought that Paul’s father or grandfather was granted citizenship because of some services to the empire. Citizenship was then passed on to Paul.
Paul’s citizenship gave him the official protection he needed to take the gospel to places otherwise unavailable to him. Paul was able to take the gospel to the heart of Rome. The fact that Paul was a Roman citizen changed his relationship to his captors. They backed away from the lashing and the commander started the legal process of quickly resolving Paul’s case. The truth is the case would be resolved because Paul was under God’s direction to advance His (God’s) work.
This lesson is encouragement for all believers who face persecution, hatred and hostility for being a Christian. That is not a new thing as history gives many accounts of Christians enduring abuse. We must remember that the same God who protected and empowered Paul will be our defender and protector. God will not desert or neglect those who serve Him. Keep trusting Him. One song writer wrote the words, “Never Alone.” “He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.” Just keep believing in our God who never lost a battle or failed to keep His promises. I am a personal witness to that.
Valinda Livingston – Shiloh Baptist Church, Lexington, Kentucky