Skip Heitzig - Acts 21:14-22:30
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I was thinking today what it would be like, what it could have been like to be on Paul the Apostle's missionary team. And though it sounds at first exciting, I think it would have been tough to be around Paul. It would seem looking into the workings of his ministry and organization that he was a driven individual.
Now, I don't think he was. I think he was called, but it looked like he was driven. But he kept saying I'm going to Jerusalem. I don't know what's going to happen. All I know is that everywhere I go I get these messages from God that say it's going to be hard. You're going to get arrested.
But I don't care because I'm ready to die for Jesus. Well, that's great, Paul, but we're on your team. So what could happen to you could also happen to us. That's why I say it wouldn't be really fun necessarily to be on Paul the Apostle's missionary team because he was ready to risk it all. But if you're traveling with him, it would look like he's risking it all for you as well.
So we have seen so far that on his way toward that city after leaving Melitus, meeting with the Ephesian elders that he was approached by three different groups of people Christians entire on the seacoast up in Lebanon saying, don't go to Jerusalem for seven straight days. Christians entire clergymen in Caesarea, a guy by the name of Agabus, that prophet who bound himself in Paul's belt and said whoever owns this belt is going to get bound in Jerusalem.
So Christians entire clergymen in Judea and also companions in travel his own team members, Luke included, who wrote this book, because it changes from they warned, that they said to we kept saying Paul, don't go, don't go. Till finally he said, what do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart?
I'm willing not only to be bound, I'm willing to die for the Lord Jesus. It was Vance Havner, a Christian from many years ago who said a leader is somebody with a compass in his mind and a magnet in his heart. A compass is what you navigate by. You're able to tell what direction you're going in. The idea is that you think through, you navigate through with your mind, with your thought processes, your values and where you think God is calling you.
In your heart, a magnet attracts people to your calling, your ministry, your vision. And Paul had both. He had a compass. I'm going to Jerusalem. I feel this is the will of God. But he had a magnet in his heart. Wherever he went he was able to attract different people to his cause, to his calling, to his ministry, and to the Lord more importantly.
So finally, it says in verse 14, "so when he would not be persuaded, we just stopped, we ceased, and we said the will of the Lord be done." Now, we just touched on this last week. I want to underscore this. Paul believed these messages were from the Lord. Wherever he would go he would get these messages. That the Lord keeps warning him if you go there this is going to happen.
He didn't see those messages, those predictions as prohibitions. He saw those predictions as preparation. He knew that God was infallible, the Holy Spirit was infallible. This was the word of knowledge or a prophecy, whatever it might be. But he doubted the infallibility of the messengers who interpreted those messages as meaning God doesn't want you to go.
He said all you're letting me know is the information that it's going to be bad when I get there. I'm ready for it. So God was infallible, the Holy Spirit is infallible in giving the message. But the way you guys are interpreting that, I disagree with.
Now, the Bible does say in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Remember that proverb? In the multitude of counselors there is safety. And I believe when I am unsure about something to weigh that with trusted men and women. I often go to my wife first because she does have a keen insight, both into the Lord and into me.
And there's safety in that. There's wisdom in that. Now, in hearing that you might say, yeah, but Paul disregarded the counsel given to him by the multitude. No, he didn't disregard it. He weighed it heavily. And the calling that he knew was in his heart outweighed all of the things they were saying.
I don't think he disregarded it. I think he prayed over it. He weighed it out. But still, it didn't convince him. And so he goes for it. He goes now to Jerusalem. Here's what I've learned about Paul in my few years of studying his life. Paul didn't measure his life by physical comfort, he didn't measure the will of God by physical comfort, he measured it by spiritual calling.
And he was certain that God wanted him to go up to that city of Jerusalem to give a monetary gift collected by Gentile churches, which we looked at that he had taken this offering. He's giving it to them, but perhaps, also, a final opportunity to share with his people who he loved and his heart broke over in Romans chapter 9, 10, and 11. He knew God had a plan for them. He knew the Old Testament scriptures. He himself had been a fairasee, very dedicated and zealous in the Jewish law.
So we concluded, OK, he's not listening to any of us. Let's go. So he just said the Lord's will be done. Of course, the question still comes up and I've read it in so many different treatments of this chapter. When they said the will of the Lord be done, really, was it the Lord's will? I mean, shouldn't Paul have listened to them and taken that message? Because look what happens. He goes to Jerusalem and he gets arrested and he basically stays a prisoner now the rest of his life.
He's confined, he spends 12 days in Jerusalem, is arrested, spends two years in Caesarea, has several trials, appeals to Caesar, is taken on a prison ship to Rome, spends two more years under house arrest in Rome, gets briefly released, gets rearrested, and then beheaded. And so some of us struggle with that and we wonder, couldn't Paul have had a better way, a longer ministry, a longer run if he would have just listened to his friends?
We touched on that last week, so I'm not going to go over that again, but Paul was convinced this was the will of the Lord. So when people give you counsel weigh it out. Ultimately you have to make the decision. You can't have them make the decision for you.
I had a gal come to me, a woman come to me some years ago. She came in my office and she said I'm in love with this man and I want to marry him, but all my Christian friends are telling me he's bad news. Don't marry him. This isn't God's will. As far as we know our council is don't go through with it.
So I'm listening to her and then she pulled this out. She said, so I told the Lord that I would come and see you and that whatever you tell me to do is the Lord's will. No pressure. Now, she has given me the power of ex-cathedra I am now like her pope. I speak from the chair, I speak with authority, my pronouncement.
And I use it as a teaching opportunity. I don't know if she received it, but I said, look. I'm not going to tell you if you should marry this guy or not. He might be a creep and he might be the best thing for you. Will it be easy? No. No relationship is. But I can help you discern the will of God for you and then you weigh that and weigh what your friends and bring in the scripture.
But ultimately at the end of the day, you are making the choice, and you, not me, not them, you're responsible before God. Paul knew that and he was ready for it. He was ready to be responsible. But again, that's good for you, Paul, but I'm Luke. I'm on your team, man.
If you get arrested and killed I might be next. So they're all kind of hesitant as they go up to Jerusalem. Verse 15, "and after those days we packed and we went up to Jerusalem." Again, just notice this. They went up to Jerusalem. If you were looking at a map they went down to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is 65 miles south as the crow flies, 85 miles on today's roads in Israel it is south east. So if you were looking geographically at a map you would say correctly, we're going down to Jerusalem. But whenever Jerusalem is mentioned in the scripture you're always going up no matter what direction you come from because they didn't look at it geographically. They looked at it topographically.
You would walk up in elevation. In altitude, you would be going upward, up the hill. Also, they always believed spiritually it's a step up when you go to Jerusalem no matter where you're from. You could be from Rome, you're going to Jerusalem, man, you're going up because that's the place where God chose to put his name.
So they went up to Jerusalem and also some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and brought with them a certain nason of Cyprus, an early disciple with whom we were to lodge. He was from Cyprus. He now lived in Jerusalem. He was an early disciple, which probably means he received the gospel and gave his life to Christ, I'm guessing on the day of Pentecost when it first started in Jerusalem.
And when we had come to Jerusalem the brethren received us gladly. Now, get this. Paul made it. He's in Jerusalem, but this is the last time he'll ever see this city the rest of his life. And what is about to unfold shows the final and formal rejection of the Jewish people in that city toward the gospel, just like what happened with Jesus, so likewise with Paul who keeps going back and keep sharing with them.
It's a final and formal rejection, but phase one of Paul's plan is now complete. What am I referring to? Two chapters back. This is Acts chapter 19, verse 21. "When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the spirit when he had passed through Macedonia and Acaya to go to Jerusalem."
Mission accomplished. He's made it to that city. Now, phase two is about to be unfolded. The rest of verse 21 in chapter 19 says, "after I have been there I must also see Rome." And he will, just not exactly like he thought. He thought he's going to get on a boat on his own volition, have to pay his own way and maybe see some churches and some scenery along the way, and then go to Rome and have a great impact there. He'll have a great impact, but the federal government is going to pay the bill. I like God's economy.
So maybe, really, this was the will of God. Let's get him to Rome and have Rome pay the bill. He'll be a prisoner for two years in Caesarea, so they have to feed him and keep him. They'll send him to Rome at their expense, put him in a prison, but that won't stop the gospel because he will be under house arrest. People will be able to visit him. He'll still be able to speak and preach, which he did, and write letters, which he did, like Philippians, like Colossians, et cetera.
So he makes it. Verse 18, "on the following day Paul went in with us to", notice the name James. Peter is not mentioned. "And all the elders were present. When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry." Now, we believe that this is James, the half brother of Jesus.
You can't be James, the brother of John. Why? Because in Chapter 12 he was beheaded. What's interesting, as we mentioned back in chapter 15, you're seeing it again, it seems that the spokesperson, the head of the first church was not Peter, like I had been taught growing up that Peter was the first guy. The primacy of Peter was the doctrine in my church, but Peter is not even mentioned.
In chapter 15 James is in charge, James makes the decision. So the first leader of the church was not Peter but James. And to make it even more interesting, the half brother, so a relative of Jesus. In today's culture he'd be accused of nepotism. But this is James, the half brother of Jesus. Herrod Agrippa the First has already beheaded the first James. This is James, we believe the half brother of Jesus.
Verse 20, "when we heard it they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, you see, brother." James is talking now. He says to Paul, "you see brother. How many myriads of Jews there are who have believed and they are all zealous for the law." But there's a mouthful there. First of all, we are seeing what has been happening in Jerusalem while Paul's been out on his journeys.
He just made a third journey around the known world, a 2,700 mile trip. He goes back to Jerusalem, and it's not just a few Jewish people who have believed. There are thousands of people, myriads of believers. But they're believers in Jesus, they're messianic Jews, they're very, very sensitive toward the law and Judaism.
In fact, they didn't have Galatians or the Book of Hebrews or the Book of Romans to sort of unfold all that tradition and unpack that and peel away some of those things that hung on to so many of them. They're messianic Jews, but they're bent on Judaism. They're zealous, it says, for the law.
But James continues, says to Paul, "but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses. Saying that they ought not to circumcise their children or walk according to customs. What then, or what do we do now?" What you've done in your ministry is exciting. We're glorifying God, praise God for that, Paul, but your reputation among Jewish people is at an all time low.
"What then? The assembly must certainly meet for they will hear that you have come, therefore, do what we tell you. We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them and be purified with them and pay their expenses so they may shave their heads that all may know that those things, which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law. But concerning the Gentiles who believe we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols from blood, from things strangled and from sexual immorality."
You remember the verdict back in chapter 15. "Then Paul took the men, and the next day having been purified with them entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification at which time an offering should be made for each one of them." James tells Paul that he had to do this. Paul could have said, forget it. Not going to do it.
In fact, it bothers some people that he didn't do that. He went along with it. This is the guy who said you don't need to make sacrifice anymore. You don't have to keep the law to be saved or to be sanctified. So he says, OK, I'll do it. So he submits himself to James.
Why does he do it? I think it's simply he's going the second mile. He knows he doesn't have to do it, he knows these things don't merit salvation, but he's doing it to quell the disturbance that is going on about him. This will do it. Now the mouths are going to be shut.
People are going to go, Paul really is OK. He's going through this little ritual. He's OK with us doing that. I think what we are discovering here isn't a guy going against the will of God here. He was out of the will of God going to Jerusalem, now he's pulling this thing. I think what he is doing is going through with part of his own philosophical statement.
I'm going to read his philosophical statement to you in 1st Corinthians 9. He writes this, "for although I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all that I might win the more to the Jew. I became a Jew that I might win Jews, to those who were under the law as under the law that I might win those who were under the law, to those who are without the law as without the law." But then he says in parentheses, "not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ that I might win those who are without the law.
In other words, I'm not living a lawless life, a life without moral principles. I don't go into a bar and get drunk just so I can say, you know what? We're brothers and I'm on your level. "He doesn't participate in sinful deeds. He continues to the weak. I became his weak that I might win the weak." Here's a statement, "I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some. Now, this I do for the gospel sake that I might be a partaker of it with you."
Now, what bow were they taking, and what vow does Paul participate in? Most believe it is the Nazarite vow. You ever heard of a Nazarite vow? There are five verses that speak about the Nazarite vow, in Numbers chapter 6. Nazarite comes from the Hebrew word nazir, which means to dedicate.
It was a voluntary free will endeavor to give God things to say I'm dedicated. This is just something I feel I want to do. So four guys have taken that vow. It was a vow that lasted 30 days. So Paul himself hadn't been taking that vow, but four had in Jerusalem. So he's going to sponsor, then pay for it and go through the ending ritual with them.
Well, first of all, for 30 days you would abstain from grapes, from grape products like wine, you would abstain from eating meat, you would let your hair grow. At the end of 30 days you would cut it all off, take it into the temple, offer sacrifices. You would offer up a lamb for a sin offering, a ram for a peace offering, some little cakes of flour with oil in them, and a drink offering. And the hair, you would shave it and it would be burned with the offer.
So Paul does that. It's the end of their vow. He pays for it, maybe participates with the shaving of his hair. He's done that before at Cenchrea if you remember in chapter 18. So he's already done a Nazarite bow. But see, some will find fault with it, and they'll say, why why would Paul go through a ritual that includes animal sacrifice if Jesus is the ultimate and final sacrifice?
I am sure that Paul looked at those sacrifices as simply memorials, not as efficacious to remove sin or stain, but as a memorial, all the sacrifices that he was seeing in the temple would look back to the finished work of Jesus on the cross. After all, as I told you before, during the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth the Millennium there will be sacrifices. During that time none of them will be efficacious.
All of them will be a memorial looking backwards, just like we take communion. The bread and the wine speak of a past event at the cross. Those sacrifices will be not a prediction like they were in the Old Testament, but a memorial. So he goes through with it. "I become all things to all men."
Here's what I like about Paul. He was able to discern between what is essential and what is non-essential. He knew the sacrifice of this ritual, this Nazarite. That wasn't essential for growing in Christ. It wasn't essential for salvation, but he was flexible. Blessed are the flexible. They shall not be broken.
In essentials Paul was firm, in non-essentials Paul was flexible. And I think that's just where we ought to live our lives. There are certain things we don't compromise and say, yeah. No. If it's an essential, historic Christian doctrine we're firm on it. If it's a secondary issue we're flexible on it.
So Paul went through it. Now, verse 27, excuse me. "Now, in the seven days were almost ended." OK. So the last seven days were the days that you announce my Nazarite vows coming to an end on this certain date in which point you make an appointment, so to speak, with the priest in the temple. So that's the seven days we're talking about.
Now, Paul's vow, Paul being part of this, could have been what some scholars believe was a vow or an offering, a worship service of coming in from a foreign land. And so this was a ritual of purification. The Jews had this if they were in a distant foreign Gentile land. You know how they shake the dust off their shoes? When they would go from Gentile territory to Jewish turkey they'd shake the dust off their feet so not to carry defiled earth, Gentile dust into Jewish territory.
So there was a ritual of purification if you spent time in non-Jewish territories. And so perhaps as they were going through the Nazarite, thou Paul was going through this. Could be. Perhaps, perhaps not. "When the seven days were almost ended the Jews from Asia", that's Asia Minor, Asia Minor like Ephesus, and I'm kind of tipping you off. That's where they're from. "Seeing him in the temple stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out men of Israel, help. This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place. Furthermore, he also brought Greeks into the temple and he has defiled this holy place."
Boy. When Paul gets to Jerusalem, he finds that people have been bad mouthing him. They're saying Paul is forbidding us to circumcise our children, Jewish people to circumcise their children. True or false? By the way, is that true or false? It's false.
Paul would say to a Gentile you don't need to be circumcised. He would say to non-Jewish people, even the Jewish people, circumcision Christ is the end of the law to everyone who believes. But he never forbade Jewish people to go through those rituals. He said if you want to go through it, fine, but you don't have to. They've been fulfilled in Christ.
He never forbade them, but he's a victim of misunderstanding. Ralph Waldo Emerson said to be known publicly is to be misunderstood. So he's misunderstood by Jewish Christians. Now, he's in the temple and somebody sees Paul and supposes that he has brought a Gentile. And why would they think that?
Verse 29, "for they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple. And all the city was disturbed and the people ran together and seized Paul together. They dragged him out of the temple and immediately the doors were shut."
Now, if we were on the Mount of Olives, we could do this easier. I could just point to this area. But from the Mount of Olives you look out and you see where the temple used to stand, the Temple Mount, it's essentially 35 acres. A flat, paved area, 35 acres. It's enormous.
Today two Muslim shrines are on it, but the courtyard platform is essentially unchanged. You can even see next to it the Antonia Fortress, the stones of the original Antonia Fortress built by Herod the Great. So there were courts on that 35 acre complex. There was the temple, the main place itself. Immediately surrounding that was the Court of the Priests, also called the Court of Israel. Jewish men could surround that.
Out from that was another court called the Treasury, or the Court of the Women. Jewish women could go into that, but not into the Court of the Priests, the Court of Israel. And then outside the biggest court of all was a court for Gentiles. Anybody, including Trophimus could hang out there. You and I, we could hang out there if we were there.
However, we couldn't go closer because the closer you got toward that temple, toward the Treasury or the Court of the Women, you would see a little fence about three or four feet tall. And on the fence all the way around the perimeter was an inscription.
Josephus tells us that reads this. "No man of another nation is to enter within this fence and enclosure around the temple. And whoever is caught will have himself to blame for the penalty of death that follows. You're a Gentile, hang out in the Court of the Gentiles. We'll give you the biggest court.
You go past that line, you're a dead man. You will get killed. Now, they took this seriously. In fact, the Romans took it so seriously it was the one exception when they took away the right of capital punishment, the one exception is that they allowed temple police to immediately adjudicate a trespasser into their holy place, and they could kill him.
So Paul is beyond the barricade. And they had seen Trophimus the Ephesian because they're from Asia, they're from Ephesus. They recognized Trophimus, a non-Jew. They'd seen Paul in the city. He was one of Paul's traveling companions to Jerusalem.
They go, he must have brought him into the holy place, that rascal. Well, they didn't call him or ask, or they probably called him all sorts of other bad things. But they grabbed him and they wanted to execute him. And so it's a mob scene that is happening.
I just got to say that the Jews did have a bizarre reverence fascination for their temple. You remember back when they were in Ephesus and for two hours they were crying, greatest Diana the Ephesian. They're about to rip Paul apart because he ruined the temple of Diana. The Jews were like that with their temple. And I've noticed a lot of people with their holy places are like that even to this day.
If you go to Rome, for example, Martin Luther went to Rome and there's some areas that commemorate his coming to Rome. But wherever there is a statue of Martin Luther or a depiction of Martin Luther it is defaced because it's a Catholic city, it's Catholic central. So Martin Luther isn't celebrated in Rome. They think he defiled Rome.
If you go to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, actually you can't go to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Nobody can. You have to be proven to be a Muslim. And so they would be as fanatical if Jews and Christians showed up at the abah to hang out and take pictures as they were of Paul being in the temple that day.
So they seized and dragged him out of the temple immediately. The doors were shut. Why would the doors shut? Probably to keep possibly any other Gentiles coming in, but more than that to keep the holy place from being defiled because they were about to stone somebody and that blood shouldn't be in there. It should be out here in the Court of the Gentiles.
Now, as they were seeking to kill him, see, news came to the commander of the Garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Now, we know his name. His name is Claudius Lysias. How do we know that? Because in a couple of chapters he's going to write a letter to Felix the new procurator after Pontius Pilate and he's going to sign it Claudius Lysias.
So that's his name. Claudius Lysias is the commander over 1,000 men at the Antonia Fortress. The Antonia Fortress, the remains of it still to this day was built by Herod, adjoined to the Temple Mount itself, overlooking the Temple Mount. There were two stairways and you could get to the Temple Mount and you could look over the temple complex.
It was built by Herod dhows, the 10th legion of Rome. The 10th legion of Rome would be occupying the Antonia Fortress during all of the major Jewish festivals, including this one, Pentecost in the summer, to make sure that a riot didn't break out. Yes, the Jews had temple police, but Rome had to make sure that a riot would not break out.
Rome didn't take very well to riots. In fact, they executed Roman soldiers who allowed it to happen. So the Antonia Fortress was there to keep the peace. That's where Pontius Pilate was at when they came to him to bring Jesus to trial. They brought Jesus to the Antonia Fortress.
Paul's at the same place. It's like a repeat. "As they were seeking to kill him news came to the commander Claudius Lysius that he's the chiliarch." We'll get to that whenever we get to that. "And Jerusalem was in an uproar. He immediately took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the commander and the soldiers they stopped beating Paul. Then the commander came near and took him and commanded him to be bound with two chains."
Mark that. Paul is now bound with chains. He'll be bound with chains effectively the rest of his life. He'll have a brief reprise where he is released, rearrested later in Troas, and then taken to Rome and executed by Caesar Nero.
"He is in chains. This is now his lot in life. He is bound with chains and asks who it was and what he had done. And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another, so when he could not ascertain the truth because of the tumult he commanded him to be taken into the barracks. When he reached the stairs", remember, there's two sets of stairs going from the temple area up to this castle like fortress.
"When you reach the stairs he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob." What an exciting life Paul lived. "For the multitude of the people following after crying out, away with him. Now, does that sound familiar?
Jesus himself went to Jerusalem and was warned not to go to Jerusalem. His disciples, even Peter said, far be it from your Lord. You shall not go. He went, he was arrested, he was taken to the very same place and the crowd cried, crucify him, crucify him. Now, here's Paul the Apostle representing the same Jesus who was there. And they say basically the same thing, away with him.
"Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks he said to the commander, may I speak to you?" Isn't that nice? He's polite. Not hey, I've got something to say. He goes, may I speak to you?
He replied, "can you speak Greek? Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led 4,000 assassins out into the wilderness?" Now, Josephus, the Jewish historian tells us about a group of assassins called Sicarii. Sicarii means dagger men because they carried asika. Asika is a dagger, a knife.
And they would mingle in the crowds and act like they're just kind of one of them and then take out that dagger and they would assassinate people for political means. So they were terrorists. Three years before this there was an Egyptian who led a group of 4,000 assassins, though Josephus, who was prone to exaggeration on all of his numbers, places the number at like 30,000.
But there were 4,000 who were taken to the Mount of Olives. This Egyptian guy claimed he was a prophet of God and announced that the city would be destroyed. In fact, he said I'm a prophet of God and at my word all the walls of Jerusalem are going to collapse, like Jericho once did. So the Romans attacked them and killed a lot of them, most of them. Imprisoned some of them, but the leader escaped.
So here, Claudius Lysius says, Paul, aren't you that Egyptian guy? We've been looking for you for three years now. Verse 39, Paul said, "I am a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city." Mean not a small city, a notable city, a noble city called a free city by the Roman Empire known for its beauty, its education, its structure. "And I implore you permit me to speak to the people." I'm sure he started getting a little bit surprised. He thinks he's seeing an Egyptian and Paul speaks flawless Greek.
So many have given him permission. "Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people." Here's his chance. Remember he said, "I would let myself be a curse from Christ for my brethren sake, the Jews," Romans chapter 9. Here's his chance. He's motioning them to get their attention.
And when there was a great silence", now, mark that. Not a just quieted down. The silence was as profound as the noise just moments ago. Dead silence. He's going to say something. He's going to speak. "And he spoke to them in the Hebrew language."
Now, Paul, in the next chapter and we're going to read through it, is a story you already know because you've already read about it, so we're just going to read through this pretty quickly. He's giving his testimony. He's going to stand up and he's not going to say, now let me tell you the fulfillment of Daniel chapter 9 and 173,880 day prophecy. Let me prove to you that Abraham spoke of Christ.
He's just going to say something that is really irrefutable. And that is what Jesus did for him, a personal testimony. Use your personal testimony. When you engage in philosophical discussions or theological discussions you'll have blow back, you'll have argument. What is an inarguable is your own story. It happened to you.
This is what happened to me. My life would change. I was safe. How do you know you were safe? Well, I was there when it happened. You weren't, I was. Let me tell you what happened in my life, especially if your life truly is changed. If it's different, if people knew you before Christ and they see you now, they go, tell us why you're so different.
OK. And you tell your testimony. And that's important because in verse 1, look at a word. Brethren and father. Again, a respectful tone brethren and fathers. Hear my defense before you. That word defense is the Greek word apologia. Apologia is where we get a word, apologetics.
You've heard of apologetics. It doesn't mean that you apologize for believing in Jesus, but that you defend why you believe in Jesus. It's not like I apologize, I'm sorry I am a Christian. That's not an apologetics. It's a clear, logical presentation for the gospel. So he says, here's my defense, my apologia.
It's the word Peter used in First Peter, Peter chapter 3 verse 15 that we should always be ready to give every man, every one an apologia, a defense, a reason for the hope that lies in us with meekness and fear. And so in giving his apologetic message, he's beginning with his testimony and he begins with his conduct before Christ, moves to his conversion experience with Christ, and follows it with his commission by Christ.
He's just telling his story. Now, your testimony is powerful. Learn to use it, learn do abridge it and say it quickly, learn a medium version and even a longer version if people want to discuss it. But learn it. I know you know it because it happened to you, but learn to present it. Revelation chapter 12, "and they overcame." Part of what they overcame with was the word of their testimony, the word of their testimony.
So he gives a defense. "And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language they all kept more silent." And he said, "I am indeed a Jew born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel." Now, that was a notable teacher, the grandson of Hillel, the famous luminary of Judaism. Gamaliel, we've read about him already and we've heard from him already. But not only did Paul know Gamaliel, Gamaliel knew Paul.
And we have writings where Gamaliel said, I only have one problem with Paul, with Saul of Tarsus. I only had one problem with him. I couldn't provide enough books for him to read. Isn't that an interesting problem to have?
This guy was just reading everything and learning everything, and I didn't have enough to provide for this Paul to read. I know a lot of you parents have the same problem with your kids. They don't want to look at the phone. They just want to read those books. That was Paul's problem. He just couldn't give him enough books to read. He was just this avid scholar.
And by the way, his last letter he says, bring the books and parchments with you when you come. He wanted more stuff to read. He said, "raised 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. I persecuted this way", the Christians, that's that saying. That's the designation.
"I persecuted this way unto death binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest bears me witness and all the counsel of the elders from whom I also received letters, from whom I also receive letters to the brethren and went to Damascus to bring in chains, even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished." All of the events that we read about in chapter 9.
"That would happen as I journeyed and I came near Damascus. At about noon suddenly a great light from heaven shown around me and I fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul Saul, why are you persecuting me?' So I answered, 'who are you, Lord? And he said to me, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.' And 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."
Some see a contradiction in this because in the actual account that Luke tells us in chapter 9, it says the people who journeyed with him heard the voice and saw the light. Here it says they saw the light, but they didn't hear the voice. The apparent contradiction is easily resolved when you understand that in the Greek language two words are used.
So in chapter 9 they heard the sound of a voice. Hear the word indicates they didn't understand the articulations. They just heard like [MUMBLING]. And just they knew a voice was speaking, but they didn't pick up any of the articulate sounds, the differentiations and the meaning of the words. So there's no contradiction at all. Actually fills in quite nicely what happened.
And so I said, verse 10, "what shall I do Lord? And the Lord said to me, 'arise. Go into Damascus and there you will be told all things, which are appointed for you to do.' " Now, there is a mark of genuine conversion when the first thing out of the converts mouth is Lord, what do you want me to do?
Lord, I'm yours. My life is not my own anymore I've given my life to Jesus. I acknowledge you gave your life for me on the cross, so I'm yours. I'm your slave. I'm your servant. My life is lived to find out what you want me to do.
That's genuine. First question, what do you want me to do, Lord? Now, why didn't the Lord say, OK, Paul, here's the five year plan? First, you're going to go to Damascus, then you're going to go to Saudi Arabia, then you're going to Damascus, then after that to Jerusalem, then back to Tarsus of Cilicia. In fact, I'll give you your 10 year plan.
Why? He just says one thing to him. Just take one step. Go to Damascus, talk to a guy named Ananias. Well, what's he going to say? Just take the step. Now, that's how the Lord leads you. And some of us need to just take the next step, we say. Take the next step.
For some it's baptism, for others it's service. Take the next step. And some of us don't take the step of obedience because we're not sure where the Lord's going to lead us, if it's favorable or comforting or comfortable. Well, the Lord just revealed to me what you have in mind. Just go to Damascus.
With step one, you'll get step two when you get there. Some of us haven't gotten very far on our spiritual walk, or being used by God because we haven't taken the first step. Just keep moving. Take the next step and then the next step. All of us have a next step to take, which will bring growth. All of us.
Paul's was in his testimony, go to Damascus. And it'll be told what you're supposed to do. "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 to Damascus." Now, it was hard for Paul to take the next step because he couldn't see anything.
Just go to Damascus. Well, if you wouldn't have shined that bright light in my eyes it would have been a lot easier. I mean, I don't know if this is a good thing or not to follow you. But he went. Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there came to me and he stood and he said to me, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight.' And at that same hour I looked up at him and then he said, 'the God of our Father's has chosen you, that you should know His will and see the just one,' which he did on the Damascus road, 'and hear the voice of his mouth. For you will be his witnesses to all men of what you have seen and heard.' "
OK. There is a pattern in the book of Acts. I hope by now you are seeing this pattern. And the pattern is that God uses people to reach people. An Ethiopian eunuch needed to be reached with the gospel. The heavens didn't open for him. He didn't see a bright light God said, Philip, go down to Gaza, which is the desert.
Well, why? Just go. And the Lord sent him to the Ethiopian eunuch. So God used Philip to speak to the eunuch, God used Ananias to speak to Saul, God had used Stephen to speak to Saul. He was convicted. That was the first time the Lord really was dealing with his heart, at the killing of Stephen.
Cornelius. He's praying and an angel comes and says, OK, your prayers and omms have come up as a memorial before God. So an angel from heaven is talking to him. Couldn't the angel just have continued the conversation and said, so here's what you do, man. You pray and receive the Jewish Messiah. His name is Jesus.
He died for your sins, he rose again from the grave. You receive him you'll have life. He didn't do that. He just said go get Peter down in Joppa. In the meantime, God tells Peter, hey, there's men coming from Caesarea. Go downstairs, open the door, ask no questions and go with them. So Peter goes downstairs, opens the door, asks questions, but goes with them.
The Lord uses people to speak to people. I mean, if Jesus appears to Saul on the road, why not just tell him everything? He didn't. He uses Ananias, he used Stephen, he uses Peter for Cornelius. And, and and, He's going to use you. He's going to use you to speak his will, his word to somebody so their life will never be the same again.
That means tomorrow could be the most exciting day of your life. A Paul the Apostle could get saved tomorrow, a Cornelius could come to Christ tomorrow. Isn't that exciting just to think about that? Some of you live for that. You love to share the gospel with people.
That's what could happen. That's what it's all about. That's the pattern in the book of Acts. What verse did I leave off on? Which? 16. So I read 16. Verse 17, thank you. "Now it happened when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple that I was in a trance and I saw him saying to me, 'make haste or hurry up, get out of Jerusalem quickly for they will not receive your testimony concerning me.'"
So remember what happened. He was in Damascus. He then goes where after Damascus? Not Jerusalem. Saudi Arabia. In Galatians he said I went to Arabia for three years. So in Arabia, man, there were no phones, no iPads, no television. It was just probably him, some of his books, his scrolls and God, and he has to relearn sort of everything he had been taught and get square what he believed in about Jesus.
Three years in Arabia, goes back to Damascus, a riot breaks out. They let him over the wall in a basket then he comes to Jerusalem where he's in the temple in this trance. The Lord tells him, they're not going to like you here. You got to get out of town. So the church ships him back to Tarsus of Cilicia for about seven years.
So here's, again, just what we said chapters ago, I don't expect you to remember, it was 10 years before the Lord used Paul the Apostle from his conversion date. 10 years. He was in Damascus, went to Arabia. Jerusalem after Damascus again, seven years over in Tarsus of Cilicia before he goes to Antioch and strengthens the church there and goes on his journey.
So he's given his testimony. I'm filling in some of these things here. So I said, verse 19, since the Lord is speaking to me in the temple. So I said, "Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on you. 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.
So here's Paul, he's telling his testimony. I was going to Damascus and then this happened, and then I was blind, then I could see, then I came Jerusalem and the Lord spoke to me in a temple, and I said, Lord they got to know me here. But here's the clincher. Here's the pinnacle.
"Then he Jesus said to me, 'depart. Get out of here. Get out of Jerusalem. Get out of dodge. For I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.' " And they listened to him until this word. What word? Gentiles. That word. Oh, that word.
"And then they raise their voices and said, "oh way with such a fellow from the earth for he is not fit to live.' " Wow! Because he said one word, wasn't even a cuss word. Actually it was. Did you know that staunch Jews at the time, very devout religious Jews believe the only reason Gentiles were created by God was to make hell hotter?
It is in their writings. I'm quoting now, "Kindle the fires of hell." That's why God made him. So Paul is saying, God is just saying I'm going to send you directly to the Gentiles passing Judaism, just giving them the message of their Messiah, the Jewish Messiah not requiring them to be circumcised or keep the law of Moses, but just believe in the Jewish Messiah.
Now, later on Paul will say that God did this to make the Jewish people jealous of this special relationship God was working with non-Jewish people. Because after all, the message was about their Messiah, Jewish Messiah. Says God is just sending me directly to the Gentiles. Now, the reason they're so upset isn't just because of the word itself, because what Paul was essentially saying is God is sending me to the Gentiles, means they can be saved like anybody else who wants to believe in Jesus can be saved, but it plays Gentiles on equal footing with Jews.
That's what made them upset. You're saying that those scum who were put here by God to make hell hotter are equal to us, the chosen people? Well, that's what He told me, to go give them the message. "Then as they cried out and tore off their clothes", wow! It's getting bad out there. "And threw dust in the air, 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...
And remember the scourging? Jesus was scourged. It was a flagellum, a whip, short wooden handle stout, leather ropes, thongs attached to it. In the leather were bits of glass and metal and bone. And the idea is that when the prisoner was whipped it stuck into the flesh. It grabbed and then the soldier would pull the whip lacerating the cutaneous layers down to the subcutaneous layers down to the muscles shredding the victim.
Many victims did not even live through a flogging. They died or they were crippled or there was great blood loss and eventually they died. Jesus endured it. That's why he couldn't make it all the way to Golgotha carrying the cross. So they commanded him to be scourged to find out information about what's going on.
Now, 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? When the Centurion heard that he went and told the commander saying, 'take care what you do. This man's a Roman.' " And the commander came to him and he said, tell me, are you a Roman? Because if you say you're a Roman citizen, remember, he thought he was an Egyptian. If you claim to be a Roman citizen so as to stop the flogging and they find out you're not a Roman citizen, you know what the punishment now is? Death. Capital punishment. To claim to be a Roman citizen if you're not is capital punishment.
"Are you a Roman? He said yes. The commander answered with a large sum. I obtained this citizenship and Paul said 'I was free born. I was born a citizen.' And immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him and the commander was also afraid after he found out he was a Roman because he had bound him. The next day he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews. He released him from his bonds, commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear and brought Paul down and set him before them."
So now he is facing the Sanhedrin with the high priest, Annas. Now, the Sanhedrin, Jesus himself also was taken to the Antonia Fortress, also stood trial before the Sanhedrin. So it's very similar to the latter days of Jesus' life. Well, we're out of time, so I can't tell you a little bit about Paul some Roman citizenship, but we'll pick up in the next chapter and that'll be our introduction for chapter 23. But look. We're coming close. Soon we'll be done with the book of Acts. Let's pray.
Father, thank you for this extraordinary story that is preserved by your Holy Spirit, through the pen of Luke so that we today can see by reading what it was like, what the early believers were up against in any part of the known world of that time, and especially here for Paul in the city of Jerusalem, the city he loved, the people that he deeply was connected to. Here is a man, Lord, not driven, but called, called by your grace to extend your grace to Jew and Gentile. The one who said that there is neither male nor female in the kingdom, no Cidian or bond that is slave or free. There's none of those distinctions, social distinctions. We're all one in Christ as believers. Every one of us in this room are brothers and sisters. Jesus, our elder brother, our Savior, you, our Heavenly Father, and you care for us. You love us. You sacrificed it all for us. I mean, no wonder we celebrate. We have great reason to do so. Lord, I pray that you'd use us, you'd use our testimony, you'd use our lives as we speak to somebody tomorrow, somebody the next day. Who knows what might happen with that seed planted in those hearts. We pray, Father, for fruit that comes from our testimony, our apologetic as we reason it through with others would you bring them into a relationship with the Savior. Use us, Lord. Show us what our next step is in being committed to you and serving you and being a part of your fellowship. We like Paul say Lord, what do you want me to do? It might surprise us. In Jesus' name, Amen.