Acts 22:1-30

Sunday Morning Bible Study

October 11, 1998


Paul had been warned by the Holy Spirit that when he went to Jerusalem, he’d be arrested and turned over to the Gentiles. When he arrived in Jerusalem, he was informed by the leadership of the church that the many believing Jews had been stirred up by rumors that Paul was somehow telling Jews not to follow Moses any more. Paul tried to display his respect for Judaism, but while in the Temple, non-believing Jews from Ephesus spotted him and stirred up the people into a riot. Paul was seized, beaten, and about to be killed when two hundred Roman soldiers showed up to stop the riot, saving Paul’s life. At first the Roman commander assumes that Paul was a renegade Egyptian trouble maker. But when he hears Paul speaking Greek, he allows Paul to address the crowd.

:1 Men, brethren, and fathers

Paul speaks respectfully using words of courtesy and dignity.

As I was studying for this message, some strange ideas began to hit me about applying some of the things in this passage. They had to do with handling communication in a hostile relationship.

Here’s Paul in front of a crowd of people who seem to hate him. How will he respond? I think there’s some interesting things to learn from Paul.

We don’t always respond too well when we’re in a hostile situation.


An attorney tells the story of a man who died, and the attorney said to his wife, "He did not leave a will. So we need to know the last words he ever said to you." She said, "I don't want to tell you." He said, "Look, he did not leave a will. We need to know the last words he ever said to you." She said, "I don't want to tell you. It was something between the two of us." He said, "May I beg you one more time?" She said, "Okay, I'll tell you. The last thing he ever said to me was, 'You don't scare me. You couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with that old gun.' " She was caught. -- R. Larry Moyer, "Right Smack in the Middle of Sin," Preaching Today, Tape No. 148.


Handling hostility - Respect.

(1 Pet 3:9 NASB) not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

Paul has been beaten and slandered. Yet he has the presence of mind to use terms of respect. He doesn’t call them "you bunch of bums!".

:2 he spake in the Hebrew tongue

Hebrew – specifically Aramaic. While Greek was the common language that most of the world spoke and understood, while the Romans spoke Latin, the common person in Israel grew up speaking Aramaic.


Handling Hostility - Speak in a language they understand.

Sometimes by the way we communicate, you’d almost think we were talking in a different language to each other.


I worked for a while at what used to be called McDonnell Douglas. When started working there, I discovered that they spoke another language. Everything was in acronyms or abbreviations. It took me a couple of weeks before I began to realize that these guys actually spoke English.

Sometimes it takes work to learn how another person communicates. There are some people who have been raised in families where everybody talks loudly and it sounds like they’re arguing all the time. But once you begin to pick up on their language, you realize that they really aren’t mad at you.

For some of us, we think yelling at each is the only language that the other person will understand. That’s the wrong language.

(Eph 4:29-32 NLT) Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. {30} And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. {31} Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. {32} Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

:3 I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus

It’s possible that some of the crowd don’t know who Paul is either. If the Roman officer thought he was an Egyptian trouble maker, some of the crowd may be thinking the same thing. Even though the Jews in Ephesus knew who he was, there’s probably still plenty of people in the crowd who really don’t know what’s going on.


Handling Hostility: Clarify

Could it be there’s been a misunderstanding? Just in case these people also are thinking he’s someone else, Paul’s going to clarify just who he is.

(Prov 18:13 KJV) He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

Just because the other person may have jumped the gun and misunderstood what you’ve said doesn’t mean that you have to continue the argument. Perhaps you could try to explain yourself a little better.

:3 brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel

Gamaliel – One of the greatest Rabbis in Judaism. It was this same man some twenty years earlier, though not a believer, had warned the council to be careful in persecuting the Christians lest they be found fighting against God (Acts 5:39).

:3 and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.

Rather than yelling at them and calling them a bunch of jerks, he shows them that he identifies with them.


Handling Hostility - Identify

It helps if you take the time to understand why they’re upset. Try to understand where the person is coming from. Have you ever been there too?

(1 Pet 3:7a NASB) You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way …

Sometimes we have more in common with the other person than we realize.


A concerned husband went to a doctor to talk about his wife. He says to the doctor, "Doctor, I think my wife is deaf because she never hears me the first time and always asks me to repeat things." "Well," the doctor replied, "go home and tonight stand about 15 feet from her and say something to her. If she doesn't reply move about 5 feet close and say it again. Keep doing this so that we'll get an idea about the severity of her deafness".

Sure enough, the husband goes home and does exactly as instructed. He starts off about 15 feet from his wife in the kitchen as she is chopping some vegetables and says, "Honey, what's for dinner?" He hears no response. He moves about 5 feet closer and asks again. No reply. He moves 5 feet closer. Still no reply. He gets fed up and moves right behind her, about an inch away, and asks again, "Honey, what's for dinner?" She replies, "For the fourth time, vegetable stew!"

:4 And I persecuted this way unto the death

this way – Christianity

Paul was a heavy duty persecutor of Christians. He was responsible for people being put to death.

:5 all the estate of the elders

estate of the elderspresbuterion – body of elders, probably the Sanhedrin.

:6 there shone from heaven a great light round about me.


Handling Hostility – Turn it to Jesus.

Paul moves from talking about how similar he is to these people, to how he came to find Jesus. He doesn’t get real theological, he just shares how he came to follow Jesus.

Sooner or later, the conversation ought to be turned to Jesus.

:8 I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.

When people come against you, they’re really coming against Jesus.

:9 they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.

They heard a noise, but couldn’t make out what was being said. (Acts 9:7)

:10 And I said, What shall I do, Lord?

Notice what Paul calls Jesus. He’s not just going to tell about his encounter with Jesus, Paul’s careful to show that Jesus is LORD!

:12 a devout man according to the law

Paul’s first human contact in Christianity wasn’t by some law-breaker, but one respected by the Jews.

:15 his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard


Be a witness.

We too are called to be witnesses for Jesus.

But don’t make it more complicated than it is. A witness is simply one who gives testimony to what they’ve seen and heard.

What has Jesus done in your life?

:16 be baptized, and wash away thy sins

The ritual of baptism doesn’t wash away our sins, but it is a picture of what has already happened. Peter wrote,

(1 Pet 3:21 NASB) And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

It’s the heart calling out to God that brings a cleansing from God.

:18 they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.

In fact, they wanted to kill Paul (Acts 9:29).

:20 the blood of thy martyr Stephen

martyrmartus – a witness

:20 consenting unto his death

consentingsuneudokeo – to be pleased together with; consent, to applaud

deathanairesis – a destroying, killing, murder

:21 I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.

sendexapostello (to "apostle" away) – to send forth; to send away

The Jews loathed the Gentiles. They cannot imagine that God would ever do such a horrible thing as send any Jewish person to the Gentiles. It’s the mention of "Gentiles" that sends the Jewish crowd over the edge.

They could handle Jesus giving Paul a generic call to all men:

(Acts 22:15 KJV) For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.

But when it specifically is spelled out as going to the Gentiles, the crowd loses it. It was the rumor that he had brought a Gentile into the temple that had caused the crowd to seize him and beat him in the first place.

:22 for it is not fit that he should live


Sometimes the best communication doesn’t work.

Sadly, it’s true. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try though.

:24 into the castle … examined by scourging

castle – Antonia Fortress

examined by scourging = lit, "examined with a whip"

The idea behind these kinds of examinations was to get the person to talk at any cost. If they refused to talk, the whipping would get worse. A good examiner could get a person to confess to anything.

:24 that he might know wherefore they cried so against him.

Claudius didn’t speak Hebrew. He didn’t know what Paul had been telling them. All he knew was that Paul had just caused another riot.

:28 With a great sum obtained I this freedom… I was free born

freedompoliteia – citizenship, the rights of a citizen

free born – lit., "born"

In these days, during the reign of Emperor Claudius, Roman citizenship could be purchased, but it took a lot of money.

Being born in Tarsus wouldn’t have made Paul a citizen. Though an important city, it could not make you a Roman citizen. It would have had to have been one of Paul’s ancestors (father or grandfather) who had either bought or been granted citizenship in Rome.

:29 the chief captain also was afraid …

Cicero had said, "To bind a Roman citizen is a crime, to scourge him a scandal, to slay him – death for your family"

:14 The God of our fathers hath chosen thee …

Paul was chosen for three things, which can apply to us as well.

Lesson #1:

Chosen to know God’s will

What is God’s will for me?

a. To believe in Jesus.

(John 6:28-29 KJV) Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? {29} Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

If you want to know what God wants for you, it all starts here. If you’ve never turned your life over to Jesus, you’ll have a hard time understanding anything else that God desires for you.

b. To be filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit.

(Eph 5:17-18 KJV) Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. {18} And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

It’s God’s desire that we be controlled and overflowing with His Holy Spirit. It’s God’s will that we be people who are "led by the Spirit" (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:16, 18)

c. To be conformed into His image.

(Rom 12:1-2 KJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. {2} And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

As we yield more and more of ourselves to the Lord, as we come to let Him shape us more and more into His image as described in the Bible, we will find our lives working out to be a proof to everyone that God’s will is awesome.

"But what about my specific situation?"

Start with these three things. I wouldn’t go any further in seeking God’s will until I knew that I had these three things resolved.

Lesson #2:

Chosen to see Jesus

I believe this is talking specifically about Paul having seen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul was privileged to have seen Jesus with his own eyes.

But we too, as believers, will one day see Him.

(1 John 3:2 KJV) Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

(1 Cor 13:9-12 NASB) For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; {10} but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. {11} When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. {12} For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.

There is a sense in which our vision of Jesus is a little cloudy now. There is a sense in which our operation of the gifts is not quite complete. But there will be a day when we’ll know everything. There will be a day when we see Jesus face to face.

Lesson #3:

Chosen to hear His voice.

Paul heard the voice of Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul would hear Jesus speak to him several times.

Can we hear His voice too?

Jesus seems to think so.

(Rev 3:20 KJV) Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

(John 10:27 KJV) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

The verb "hear" (in John 10:27) is a present tense, meaning continuously hearing His voice. And the whole point of hearing His voice is so we can follow Him, which is also continuously.

Familiarity and Voice recognition

There are a handful of people whose voice I instantly recognize on the phone. They are the people that are closest to me, and the ones with whom I spend the most time with on the phone. There are other people who call our house and assume I know who they are. I don’t.

But it’s funny that I can call someone’s house whom I’ve never called before, one of their kids will answer the phone, and shout, "It’s pastor Rich on the phone!". I wonder how they know me. It’s because you have to sit and listen to my voice for hours on end every week!

The more time you spend with the Lord, the more time you spend in His Word, the easier it will be to recognize His voice.

Some cautions:

a. It’s not always very loud.

For the prophet Elijah, it was a "still small voice" (1Ki. 19:12).

I believe that this is one of the reasons why God encourages us to "Be still and know that He is God" (Ps.46:10).

If you’re looking for God to sky write messages to you, think again. You’d be better off spending time in His Word, where He speaks very clearly.

b. Sometimes we deceive ourselves.

(Jer 17:9 KJV) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

That’s why it’s so important that we know God’s Word. God won’t contradict Himself. He won’t ask you to do something that is forbidden in His Word.

This is also why we need to stay in fellowship, to keep each other sharp and on track with Jesus.

(Heb 3:12-13 KJV) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. {13} But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

God has chosen you.

He wants you to know His will. He wants you to see Jesus. He wants you to hear His voice.