June 20, 2016: Day 22 – Acts 22June 20, 2016
Pretty much the rest of Acts and the letters that are coming up cover the life of Paul and his writings. We pick up where we left off from chapter 21 of Acts with Paul about to speak to the Jews on the steps of the temple. It is an angry crowd because they were told that Paul had allowed the unclean gentiles to enter the temple and worship God. This was not true, but it was believable because Paul did spend a lot of time with the gentiles. They were now his primary targets to convert to Christianity, but bringing them into the temple was blasphemy. So they took him, beat him, and would have killed him if the Roman guards had not intervened. He then beseeches the tribune, the head of the Roman guards that were taking him away from the temple, to allow him to address the crowd. This is where we pick up in chapter 22.
Paul begins his defense by giving the crowd his credentials. The most convincing was his studying under Gamaliel. It would be as if you had graduated from an Ivy League and studied under the master of whatever discipline you can imagine. He was credentialed by the best of the best. But not only that, he was also right where they were. He went after these people who belonged to the Way. He went after them to the extent that he was directly responsible for many of their deaths. He was, in many ways, more Jewish than they were. He knew the temple inside and out. He received the best Jewish education possible. He zealously went after those who would threaten the Jewish state and its beliefs. But then a miracle happened.
Something happened on the road to Damascus. Jesus came and spoke to him and blinded him. Something happened that changed his life forever. Jesus became more than a name, he became a relationship that affected him daily and made him a follower of the Way himself. He couldn’t explain it, he could only recount it. He has them captivate, until he makes a tactical mistake. Okay, I can understand that Jesus became your Lord, I would like that as well. He then mentions that God has opened the door to salvation to the Gentiles as well. This was too much. Paul, you said too much too fast. You could have brought them along more gradually. They start to try to stone him when the Roman soldiers had to intervene again.
Well the tribune had had enough and orders him to be questioned under a severe beating. Paul then pulls the Roman card. Since he was born in Tarsus which is a province of Cilicia and it fall squarely under Roman rule and is considered a free state then all those who come from there are considered Roman citizens. You can be a Roman citizen if you are born in a free state, like Paul, or you can buy your citizenship, just as this tribune had done. You could also become a Roman citizen by dedicating your life to its military. Paul saves himself from a beating by declaring that it was not constitutional to beat a Roman citizen, or even tie him up. The tribune is worried. We will see that while at this point his Roman citizenship helps him, later on it will cost him his life.