Paul’s presence in the Jerusalem Temple caused no small uproar in the capital city. The Jews drew him out of the temple, forthwith shut the doors and went about to kill him (Acts 21:30-31).
The “chief captain,” a Roman officer in command of a thousand soldiers, took charge of Paul. Because of the violence of the Jews, Paul was “borne of the soldiers” into the castle. As they approached the stairway of the castle, Paul obtained license from the chief captain to speak unto the multitude (Acts 21:33-40).
Paul’s Message of Defence Before the Multitude
“Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith) I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom I also received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound into Jerusalem, for to be punished. And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And He said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked upon him. And he said, The God of our fathers hash chosen thee, that thou shouldest know His will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of His mouth. For thou shalt be His witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; and saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning Me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on Thee: and when the blood of Thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And He said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 22:1-21).
One Word Which Brought Fire from the Enemy
The Jewish multitude gave Paul audience “unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. And they cried out, and cast off their clothes,and threw dust into the air” (Acts 22:22-23). The one word referred to in this quotation which brought fire from the enemy is the word, “Gentiles.” Paul declared that the risen Christ spoke unto him saying, “I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21).
Satan, the archenemy of our souls, did not want the gospel of God’s grace to reach out unto the Gentiles. He immediately expressed his bitter hatred against the message of grace, which includes the “whosoever” (John 3:16). This expression came through the lifted voices of the multitude — “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live” (Acts 22:22). As they cried out against Paul, they “cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air” (Acts 22:23). We notice that Paul experienced the same opposition that His Saviour had met. The Saviour suffered the abuse from the people, including death on the cross, that He might be our Saviour. Paul suffered the abuse of the people, including the offering up of his own life, that in him, Paul, “first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting” (I Timothy 1:16). This reminds us of the exhortation directed to the saved people of this age, as recorded in II Cor. 5:17-20, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
As we go forth, endeavoring to be scriptural ambassadors for Christ, we may expect to find ourselves “troubled on every side, yet not distressed;” we may expect to often be “perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (II Corinthians 4:8-11).
This does not necessarily mean that the faithful servant of God is always called upon to suffer bodily injuries for the sake of Christ. It does mean that the inward man which is carnal by nature, must die daily. This goes along with the obedience of Romans 12:1-2, which says, “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. 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.”
Paul undoubtedly had these things in mind when he gave unto Timothy the commission recorded in II Timothy 2:1-7—”Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who hash chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. The husbandman that laboreth must be first partaker of the fruits. Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.” This commission given to Paul supercedes the, so-called, great commission of Matthew 28:19-20and Mark 16:15-20. Since Paul is our example (I Timothy 1:16), this commission which he gave to Timothy must be our marching orders also.
Paul Pleads His Rights as a Roman Citizen
Following the outburst of anger and wrath on the part of the multitude (Acts 22:22-23), the chief captain commanded Paul “to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest; for this man is a Roman” (Acts 22:24-26). When Paul made known the fact that he was a Roman citizen by birth, the chief captain refrained from having him scourged, and “loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them” (Acts 22:27-30).
We have no record that Paul ever shrunk from torture when it was directly connected with the name of Jesus Christ; but on this occasion he was about to be tortured because of the ignorance of those in authority, therefore, he spoke out for his just rights. In the providence of God, he was a Jew (Acts 22:3), and a Roman (Acts 22:25). As a Roman citizen, he rightfully contended for a lawful trial before receiving the punishment of scourging. This also made it possible for Paul to give his testimony before the “chief priests and all their council.” This testimony is recorded in the following chapter.