Self defense

Paul’s attempt to fit in with the Jews in Jerusalem resulted in him being arrested in the temple where he was trying to fulfill a purification vow. It says in Acts 21:27-28, “And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.” The false accusations that were made against Paul were probably meant to deter him from speaking publicly in Jerusalem. Instead, Paul was given the opportunity to defend himself and capitalized on the opportunity to share his testimony in front of a large crowd of people.

Paul began his defense by stating, “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous towards God, as ye all are this day” (Acts 22:3). Paul identified himself with the Jews and let them know that he had always been a faithful supporter of the Mosaic Law. He went on to say, “And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women” (Acts 22:4). The way Paul was talking about was Christianity and his mention of his role in persecuting the early church was probably intended to gain the confidence of the Jews who thought he was involved in Jesus’ ministry from the beginning. Paul’s reputation as a persecutor of Christians had most likely been forgotten since he had been involved in preaching the gospel for almost 20 years.

Paul’s detailed account of his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus was the centerpiece of his self-defense. Paul wanted the Jews in Jerusalem to understand that he had been appointed to preach the gospel by Jesus of Nazareth, a man that he had been fervently persecuting up to that point. Paul told them:

“Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. And I fell to the ground and 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. 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.’” (Acts 22:6-10, NKJV)

Paul argued that he had been ordained by God to do a specific work and he could not avoid his responsibilities. Paul added that he had even tried to relinquish his commission because of his previous involvement in persecuting Christians (Acts 22:19-20), but the Lord told him, “Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21, NKJV). In spite of his fervent explanation of how he had been involuntary recruited into Jesus’ ministry, Paul’s audience was enraged by his admission that Jesus expected him to preach to the Gentiles and so they condemned him to death (Acts 22:22).

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