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The Defence Rests

22/08/2021

Paul’s Defence Concluded

Text: Acts 22:12-22

Paul is still on the steps leading up into the Roman fort, at the corner of the Temple Court and has related his testimony. Now Paul introduces a credible witness, and he speaks of his prayer-time in Jerusalem, and we get the reaction of the mob.

1. The Expert Testimony of Ananias.

Paul’s conversion from murderous persecutor to Christian apostle is amazing.  Paul will need a good witness to back it up, and thankfully he knows just the man; Ananias of Damascus.  In bringing Ananias before the Jewish hate mob he must first:-

  • Establish his credentials. Now, obviously Ananias is not standing before the mob that day, so Paul presents his witness as a kind of ‘affidavit’ – Ananias must have been known in Jerusalem, his piety as a Jew, his appreciation and love for the Law of God – after all, Paul is being accused of crimes against the Law – so Paul brings forward his name as an eyewitness to his character.  Ananias knew Paul’s reputation among the Jews and his reason for visiting Damascus.  He stated it when he was divinely instructed to minister to Saul. Acts 9:13-14   He knew who Saul of Tarsus was all right!  So that makes what Paul is about to say completely credible.
  • Hear his eyewitness account.  V13-16.  Look at WHAT Ananias saw and heard and witnessed with his own eyes:
    • His recognition of Saul of Tarsus.  v13   His mode of address to Saul is significant, especially to these Jews.  Ananias is reported as having addressed Saul as his BROTHER, – but in what sense? His Christian brother surely – yet in V14, he speaks of ‘The God of our Fathers.”  His reference is to Saul as a brother Jew – Messianic believer. 
    • Paul’s recruitment to the cause of Christ.  v14  The God of the Jews, says the eyewitness account, has appointed Saul.  He has given him a task,- and a role on his kingdom.  One commentator here equates this with common goals of the steady regular Christian life.  God has appointed us all to:-
      • To know his will.  
      • To communicate with God.  Paul had met the risen Saviour, the Messiah on the road to Damascus and he had seen that blinding light from God and heard the voice of the Lord speaking to him.  That was unique.  At his martyrdom, Stephen had looked up and saw Jesus, sitting at the right hand of God, but he didn’t hear him speak.  For Paul, Jesus was there right with him on that common road, and he spoke and conversed with him and answered his questions!  
      • To be his witness.  Nothing to alarm the mob there either, really.  Israel was a witness, historically – even a witness to the Gentiles.  Luke 2:29-31,  So Saul was called to be a witness for God, – witnessing to everyone of what he had seen and heard.  But what had he seen and heard?  The Risen Jesus!
  • Listen to his conclusion. Ananias.  The testimony of Ananias concludes: v16   Now these are two distinct instructions.
    • The call to be baptised. Now what is the purpose of baptism?   Here’s the words of the 1689 Baptist Confession,  Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptised, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.  There’s absolutely NOTHING in there about what I have done, about making my decision, or ‘getting’ saved, or asking Jesus into my heart, or even my obedience to God.  Baptism has nothing to do with what I have done, – it has everything to do with what Christ has done FOR ME. What has he done?  Brought ME out of darkness, into fellowship with him, died on the cross and rose from the dead, for ME, engrafted ME into him given ME new life in Christ, surrender to, and resting in Him.  And who is baptism for?  Is it my testimony to the world, to the people watching in the church? Baptism is ordained to point the person being baptised to Christ! I’ve no doubt that when Ananias instructed Saul to be baptised, it was to point him to Jesus, and to firmly establish…
    • The call to repent.  Baptism points us to Jesus, but baptism does not save us.  How are we saved?  Here’s Paul’s own words in Romans 10:13 

So the third element of Paul’s defence, has been put before the mob.  Now he will advance his fourth and final section of defence, his account of his unprecedented prayer-time in the Temple.

2. The Temple Trance. V17-21.

The Temple was the most sacred place in the whole world for a Jew – the place where a Jewish man would be closest to the throne of God himself.  So it was there, while Paul was in prayer that God spoke to him. 22:17-18 Let’s see a little about that conversation:-

The ecstatic prayer. Paul is praying in the Temple and he falls into some sort of an ecstasy, becomes utterly rapt with the presence of God.  It’s an experience like what he describes in 2 Corinthians 12:2-3  It was while he was in this ‘trance’ that he SAW God speak to him.  It’s like a practical application, in Paul’s life, of the words of Ananias in verse 14.

A stern warning ’Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’  Paul is warned in advance about the rejection of the Jews.  

Paul’s cultural naivety.  Paul seems incredibly naive about the reception he would have among the Jews. V19-20   He really seems to think that they will be happy about his conversion! They’ll remember what his life was like before conversion, and see him now, and be pleased at the new creation that he has become.  They won’t!  They rarely are.  It’s not uncommon for sinners who come to Christ to find that a lot of people are upset!  

The call to go.  The Risen Saviour has a different plan for Paul, and it doesn’t involve Jerusalem.  v21 Perhaps Paul would really really like to stay in Jerusalem and witness to his own beloved people but his task was to get out of Jerusalem and to go into the further away parts, and preach the Gospel to sinner among the gentile nations, to people like us.  

Up to now Paul’s plan has worked quite well.  The Jews have been quiet enough, listening to him speaking about his Jewish roots, his conversion to Christ, his affidavit from Ananias and his prayer-time in the temple. But the last sentence is the last straw. v22  They demand his death, because of his insistence that God’s plan of salvation included people who are not Jews. It’s too much, and they resort to their riotous behaviour, and demand Paul’s death.  In our next study, we’ll ask why Christ rejectors are often so antagonistic to the Gospel that they wish Christians were dead! 

© Bob McEvoy September 2021

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