"Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now." And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent.
Then he said: "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished. "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.' 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 into Damascus."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 said to me, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight.' And at that same hour I looked up at him.Then he said, 'The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'
"Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance and saw Him saying to me, 'Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.' 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.' Then He said to me, 'Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.'"
Paul's Roman Citizenship
And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!" Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into 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 him. And 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, for this man is a Roman." Then the commander came and said to him, "Tell me, are you a Roman?" He said, "Yes." The commander answered, "With a large sum I obtained this citizenship." And Paul said, "But I was born a citizen."
Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.
The Sanhedrin Divided
The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them. (NKJV)
Paul on Trial in Jerusalem: His Public Defense Before the Jewish Mob Council and Roman Magistrates
Paul is now in Jerusalem and having gone before James the Less and the other elders of the Jerusalem church. Paul is now made aware of the vicious rumor that was made against him concerning the Jews, the Mosaic Law and the message he allegedly preach and taught. Paul was also made aware that many of the Jews who became followers of Jesus Christ also had continued to follow and live according to the Mosaic Law also in their belief that it took more than the sacrificial blood of Jesus to bring about salvation; that it also took continuing to keep the Law and the rituals, customs and feast contained within it. The elders came up with a viable idea in attempt to dispel the rumor by suggesting to Paul to take a purification vow with 4 other Jewish men, shave his head and pay for their expenses as a show to these haters that Paul had not abandoned the Law, nor taught against it.
In the latter part of Acts Chapter 21 (Chapter 21:26-27) Paul took the advice of the Elders and along with the 4 men who had taken a vow to purify themselves did the same with them and paid an offering in all of their behalf.
As it neared the end of the 7th day of the vow, a vicious group of Jews who were totally against the preaching of Paul stirred up the people in Jerusalem. In verses 28 and 29, they yelled out the accusation: “This is the man that teach all men everywhere against the people, (Jews) the Law and against the temple and further brought Greeks (Gentiles) into the temple and has polluted this holy place.
The “stirred up” crowd responded by rushing at Paul and throwing him out of the temple, shutting the doors behind them and beating him up. They would have killed him, but word got to the Roman commander (the chief captain leader of 1,000 soldiers) that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. He immediately took hundreds of soldiers to the mob scene and stopped Paul’s attackers.
Paul now bound with 2 chains, the chief commander demanded to know who he was and what he had done. The mob cried out different things. Some cried one thing and others cried another. Once it became obvious the commander could get a concrete answer from the crowd, the command went out to carry Paul to the Castle using the soldiers to protect him from the violent intentions of the angry mob who tried to kill him.
At this point, Paul demands the right to address the angry crowd. When asked if he could speak Greek and if he was “that Egyptian who was said to have been a prophet that caused an uproar against Jerusalem once before with approximately 30.000 men, but didn’t succeed because the Roman governor sent a large Roman army against him, killing 400 people, imprisoning another 200 and fled with a few faithful followers, labeled as murderers. Paul responded to the captain as he prepared to address the Mob by telling him he was simply a Jew from Tarsus and wished to speak to the people.
Paul’s defense Before the Mob: “His personal History and Background”
After Paul answers the chief captain by saying: “I am a man, a Jew of Tarsus in the city of Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city”, he now stands on the stairs and used his hands to get the people’s attention. When the crowd quieted down, Paul then spoke in Hebrew to the crowd and made his appeal: ‘Allow me to address the charges brought up against me by you:
1. That I taught Jews to abandon the Mosaic Law and all its teachings, rituals, feast days and ceremonies.
2. That I taught the Jews to abandon circumcision.
3. That I tried to prejudice people (through the Gentiles and this new teaching-:salvation through Jesus Christ) everywhere against the Jews, the Law, the customs and the temple
My History: Who I am and what I used to do: (verses 3-5)
Paul: I am truly a man, Jewish born in Tarsus, a city located in Cilicia and enjoyed the full benefits of a Jewish education: I sat at the feet of Gamaliel and was taught according to the Law of Moses and the traditional teachings of our forefathers, the same laws and traditions they were taught and handed down to us. I was zealous toward God just like you are today. So much so, I persecuted any who opposed it. In fact, I persecuted “The Way”, intended to put them all to death both men and women. The High priest and the elders on the Sanhedrin bears witness to this because they gave me written permission to go to Damascus to inform the brethren there to allow me to arrest all of those who are in “The Way” bound and bring them back to Jerusalem to be punished.
II. Paul’s Conversion Testimony (Acts 9:3-9)(Acts 26:13) (verses 6-11)
Paul recaps his conversion experience as it is occurred in Acts 9:3-9: What Happened: As I came near to Damascus about noon, a “Great light” shone from heaven suddenly. I fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying: “Saul, Saul, why persecute “Me”? I answered: Who are you Lord? The voice (HE) said: “I am Jesus of Nazereth whom you persecute. The people with me saw the light and were afraid, but they didn’t hear the voice of the Him (Jesus) who spoke to me. I asked “What shall I do Lord? And the Lord said: Arise and go into Damascus and it’s there you will be told all things that’s appointed for you to do. And when I could not see for the glory of that light, I came to Damascus led by the hand of them that were with me.
Paul Blind in Damascus: Ananias’ Mission Concerning Paul (verses 12-16)
Paul now explains what happened after he was led into Damascus to a house at the end of Straight Street in Acts 9:10-19.
"Ananias", a devout man according to the law, having a good report with the Jews came to me and said: Brother Saul, receive your sight. I was able to look and see him within the same hour and this is what he told me:
a. “The God of our fathers has chosen you: that you should know his will (that is, the plan of salvation, and the plan God has for your future life – call to Apostleship) ,
b. And see that “Just One” (Jesus, the “Messiah”), and should hear the voice of His mouth (that is hear His instructions and obey every word said).
c. To be a witness to all men of those things you have both seen and heard.
Note: Paul was called to be an apostle. To be recognized as an Apostle, one of the requirements of an apostle in order to bear witness to the person and deeds of the Lord Jesus was they had to have seen the Lord and have been with Him that thus he might be a competent witness of his resurrection.
Paul met Jesus outside Damascus as a “Great light” shining brighter than the noon day sun. Remember the words written by the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 9:2: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined”.
Point of Power: Whenever Christians are persecuted by other men, Christ is also being persecuted by those same men.
Paul’s Temple vision: Leave Jerusalem quickly! (verses 17-21)
Paul came back to Jerusalem 3 years later after his conversion and had this vision while praying in the temple.
A. Jesus spoke to him: Hurry up and get out of Jerusalem. The people will not accept your testimony about ME (Jesus).
C. Paul responded: "Lord they know about how I treated everybody that believed on you from every temple (synagogue). They even remember when Stephen was stoned that I stood there in agreement with what they did and kept the garments of the one who stoned him".
D. The Lord’s response: "Leave! I will send you far away from here to the Gentiles" (Asia Minor) There were 2 reasons why God sent Paul away from Jerusalem.
Note: The Jewish Christians in Jerusalem accepted that Jesus was the Messiah, but they still held on the keeping of the Mosaic Law and the traditional teachings, ceremonies, and rituals of their forefathers Jesus told then Saul beforehand. They and the Great council (Sanhedrin) had levied 3 serious accusations against Paul, none of which were really true:
Jesus told Paul beforehand, the people will not accept his testimony about HIM. In addition to this, they refused to see any equality between them and Gentiles. God instructed them as they prepared to go into the promise land of Canaan to avoid the lifestyle and religious practices of every nation. They were told not to intermingle or intermarry with them, yet we know from history some disobeyed God and did so anyway. They had an utter disdain for them which explained to a large degree why they literally hated many of them, in particular their current oppressors, the Romans. Because they rejected Jesus and what He taught, they continued to hold on to their traditions and old ways, not realizing that through Jesus, God has truly began to do a “new thing”.
Paul, an integral part of God's “new thing” was assigned to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Over the course of his ministry, Paul recognized how eager the Gentiles were to know that they also could be saved and they through Jesus and the “new birth”, were no longer “heathens” in the eye of God but now, because of their “new” relationship in Christ were heirs and joint heirs with Him.
At a certain point on Paul missionary journey, he finally separated the new converts in Christ in Acts 19 from those Jew in the synagogue who rejected him because they continued to show fierce opposition against any teachings Paul shared concerning Jesus. Subsequently, it could be said God used Paul as the master builder of the church, teaching that Jesus Christ is the foundation (Chief Cornerstone) on which the church is built and the only foundation of salvation. be saved and become a part of the church, one must believe in the ‘foundation” Jesus Christ” as Messiah and the only way man can be reconciled back into the good graces of God (Jehovah)
Rejected by the Mob: “Away With Him” (verses 22-23)
“And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!" Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air”
According to Deuteronomy 13:15, anyone who attempted to seduce the people to any strange worship was to be stoned. The Jews in their rejection of Paul’s defense insinuated that the “Way” was a new and strange form of worship who worshipped a dead “savior”, a man that was crucified and cursed because he hung on a despised Roman “symbol” of capital punishment. They contended what Paul taught in the synagogues and to the Gentiles amounted to him being guilty of this crime. Therefore as far as they were concerned, he should be stoned, and put to death.
Ironically, they reiterated Gentiles can be saved without keeping the ceremonial and rituals of the Mosaic Law. They previously wrote a letter to the Gentiles outlining so, telling them that they did not have to be circumcised and adhere to the rituals and ceremonial and feast day traditions of the Jews, but they had real issues with the following 2 accusations:
a. They believed that Paul taught Gentiles might be saved without conforming to the Law of Moses.
b. His speech implied that the Jews were more hardened than the Gentiles, and that he had a greater prospect of success in bringing them to God than he had in regard to the Jews. This was true. The Gentiles received the Gospel with far less opposition to it than the Jews.
Concerning the practice of “tearing” of their clothes and throwing dust in the air:
The purpose behind the mob tearing off their clothes and throwing dust in the air was not only an open expression of their rejection of Paul and his testimony, but it was also an expression of their extraordinary rage and vindictive malice toward the Romans too who had him in custody. They couldn’t lay hands on him because Paul was being guarded by the Roman soldiers for his protection. The presence of the soldiers nullified the power of the mob. The throwing dust in the air not only showed their rage, but also their vexation and anger that they could not get the apostle into their hands to put him to death. So all they could do at the hearing was show hostility and defiance.
The Roman Captain’s Response: “Scourge Paul” (verses 24-27)
“The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman”.
The Roman captain didn’t understand or speak Hebrew. What he did understand and see was the elevated hostility the mob showed toward Paul after he finished speaking. He surmised Paul must be guilty of something that would raise the ire of the people, He determined the way to get to the heart of the matter and find out what Paul is guilty of and why was to have him brought inside the castle and scourged (tortured), that is whipped in hopes of getting some kind of confession out of him. Binding him with thongs and leading him to the castle Paul asked the centurion that stood by: Is it lawful to scourge (torture) a Roman and who is un-condemned?
Upon hearing this, the centurion quickly informed the Roman captain of Paul’s citizenship status. “Be careful what you do this man for he is a Roman”. To this, the captain responded:
And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom.
“I obtained this privilege (his roman citizenship) at a great price. Whence did you, Paul, thus poor and persecuted, obtain the means of becoming a Roman citizen?"
And Paul said, But I was free born.
I was born a Roman citizen, or I am such in virtue of my birth.
As a result of the revelation that Paul was a Roman citizen… (verses 29-30). “Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.
The Captain set a court date and released Paul from the thongs
Realizing if they had actually scourged Paul, the centurion and the roman captain would have been guilty of violating Roman Law and subjected themselves to be punished in the same manner, they released him from the thongs that bound him and sent word to the chief priest and all of their council (Sanhedrin)to come and appear before them and they would sit Paul before them and there would be a formal hearing on the matter.
The "Reasoning" behind the Captain's Decision
The reason the Roman captain summoned a meeting of the Sanhedrin, or Great Council of the nation in order to know what Paul had actually done by hearing a charge from the Jews (Sanhedrin) explaining the nature of the charge or charges against him. This hearing was necessary for the safety of Paul and for the ends of justice, as well as to finally bring peace in the province once again when this matter was disposed. This should have been done without any attempt to torture him in order to extort a confession.
Roman Law Concerning the ‘binding” of a Roman Citizen
The "act" of binding a Roman citizen with such an intent to torture him, untried and un-condemned, was unlawful.
Prisoners who were to be scourged were usually bound by the Romans to a pillar or post; and a Similar custom prevailed among the Jews. That it was unlawful to bind a man with this intent, who was un-condemned, appears from an express declaration in Cicero (against Verres): "It is a heinous sin to bind a Roman citizen; it is wickedness to beat him; it is next to parricide to kill him, and what shall I say to crucify him?"
Note: Paul was still a prisoner and was kept as such at the castle until the meeting the next day. Upon the discovery of his Roman citizenship, the order was made to release him from the chains, yet for his security keep him under heavy guard in the castle.The meeting usually took place at the house of the High priest. Paul was brought from the castle and set before the council..
Summation of Paul’s Ministry:
Paul was formally called as the apostle to the Gentiles. He preached also to the Jews, but to preach and to write the “revelation “of God to the Gentiles was his great work. To this end, this is why Paul’s 3 missionary journeys required him as directed by the Holy Spirit to travel to Judea, Samaria, Syria, Phoenicia, Arabia, Cilicia, Pisidia, Lycaonia, Pamphylia, Galatia, Phyrgia, Macedonia, Greece, Asia, the Isles of the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas, Italy, Spain, and other lands. No other apostles preached, traveled, and labored like Paul. The epistles though presenting Christ to all were mainly aimed at the Jews. Many of the revelations of God to the non-Jewish Christians are mentioned in a minor way. This shows that Paul had a deep passion for his one people and wanted them to believe that the Mosaic Law and the prophets of old all were pointed to the “lawgiver” Christ. Next to Jesus Christ Paul is the great founder of the Christian church in various lands. Jesus is the foundation — Paul the master builder (1 Corinthians 3:10).
Dr. William Edward Boddie