Chapter 21 ended with Paul about to speak.
Verse 1 – “Men and brethren, and fathers, hear my defense before you now.”
Verse 2 – And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. Then he said:
Verse 3 – “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our father’s law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.
Verse 4 – “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prison both men and women,
Verse 5 – “as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.
Verse 6 – “Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me.
Verse 7 – “And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
Verse 8 – “So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’
You know the easiest way to get someone to listen about the Lord is to start with similarities, and then tell them about your experience of how Jesus gripped your heart and saved you. The person just might be thinking, “If God could do that for them, then God just might think I’m worth saving too!” Your story may not be as dynamic as Paul’s, but it’s just as important.
Verse 9 – Now those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me.
Verse 10 – “So I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?” And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.’
Verse 11 – “And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus.
Here is what’s ironic about this: Paul was blinded from this extremely bright light of the Lord, but the men that were with him had not been blinded. You know that someone can be standing next to a person and not see what they see? It’s a matter of the heart. God showed Paul who He was that day, but yet the Scripture doesn’t mention the other men with him seeing anything but a bright light, but it did no harm to their eyes. Paul had been zealous for God concerning the law, even to the point of putting Christians to death. How much more would he be zealous in preaching Jesus Christ?
Verse 12 – “Then one, Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all Jews who dwelt there,
Verse 13 – “came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him.
Verse 14 – “Then he said, “The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth.
Verse 15 – “For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.
Verse 16 – ‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
“To wash away the sins” denotes the purifying of the soul from polluted influence. It is scriptural to be baptized as soon as possible after someone is saved.
Verse 17 – “Then it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance
Verse 18 – “and saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.’
Verse 19 – “So I said, “Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in You.
Verse 20 – ‘And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’
Verse 21 – “Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’
Did you notice when Paul was reminding the Lord of the things he had done in the past, that the Lord made no reference to it? Yes, we can and should tell the Lord, and admit when we have done wrong, but don’t keep bringing it up. Forgiven by God, is forgotten (Hebrews 8:12).
Verse 22 – And they listened to him unto this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!”
Verse 23 – Then as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust in the air,
Verse 24 – the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him.
The commander wants to know why the crowd want to kill Paul, so he’s going to whip Paul while asking him questions. Sounds to me that the commander just wanted to beat somebody. If he wanted to know why the crowd was so angry, why not ask them?
Verse 25 – And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?”
And there it is! It was unlawful to punish a Roman citizen before being found guilty of a crime. Paul was a Roman citizen by birth, unlike the commander which had bought his citizenship.
Verse 26 – When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, “Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.”
Verse 27 – Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” He said, “Yes.”
Verse 28 – And the commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.” And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.”
Verse 29 – Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.
Stiff penalties could be handed down for mistreating a Roman citizen.
Verse 30 – The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them.
Paul used his times of persecution to witness. Even his enemies were creating a platform for him to address the Sanhedrin (Jewish Council). When we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading, we will see opportunities to share our faith, even in the face of opposition.