Click this link to hear an audio version of the below text narrated by SOTH member Jerry Rhinehart:
Acts 21:37-22:29 (NIV)
Paul Speaks to the Crowd
37 As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, “May I say something to you?” “Do you speak Greek?” he replied. 38 “Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago?” 39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.” 40 After receiving the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic: 22 1 “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.” 2 When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said: 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished. 6 “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ 8 “‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. “ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. 10 “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked. “ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me. 12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment, I was able to see him. 14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ 17 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ 21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”
Paul the Roman Citizen
22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” 23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. 25 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.” 27 The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I am,” he answered. 28 Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.” “But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied. 29 Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.
Why does Paul speaking about the Gentiles upset the crowd (verse 21-22) when they didn’t react to him speaking about Jesus?
Holy God, the words that we say can make a difference. Paul knew that when he spoke in the language that was only understood by the highest jews it not only put him in the select category but kept he perpetrators and guards, who were outside the elite, from knowing what Paul was saying. Paul also proved that he was one of the elect Jews through his Jewish background and upstanding education. He assured the top Jews that he was one of them and like them, he too was zealous for the traditional Jewish customs and against the Way. His words reassured them that he was one of them and they were listening. Paul could have left it at that and may have been off the hook, but he didn’t. When Paul brought up the vision of where God sent him to the Gentiles and it challenged everything that made the nation of Israel important and special. Paul raised the unclean Gentiles to a level equal to Jews, where their God cared about Gentiles too. Paul was teaching Gentiles about the risen Messiah without making them become a Jew first. That was unspeakable! Paul would have known that would create a stir with this group of elite Jews, but to Him, it was God’s direction for him, his mission, and the truth. Paul was faithful to You and to Your Word knowing it went against the crowd. He didn’t avoid saying these things to prevent them from being upset. or to save himself a lot of trouble. Lord, there are things that I can avoid saying so it doesn’t upset people. I can avoid talking about You because it might offend people and let them think I am one of them to prevent the hassle. Or I can be bold and faithful to Your Word. Help me not conform to this world and hide my beliefs to protect myself from the crowd. I don’t want to be part of the crowd. I want to stand out for You even if it puts me in harm’s way. Let the words I say make a difference for Your Kingdom. Help me to speak the truth of the gospel no matter what society thinks. Lord give me the conviction in my faith like Paul and the courage to stand up for what I believe. In the Almighty Name of Jesus. Amen.