1“Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.” (Acts 22:1–5)
As he would do on several other occasions (Acts 24:10; 25:1-8; 26:1-2, 24), Paul made a defense for Christianity by giving his personal testimony of repentance, faith and conversion to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Paul gave us an example of I Peter 3:15: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
Paul sought to establish a calm rapport with his audience. First, he did so by using the Hebrew language. He did this because his audience were Jews. The result of this tactic was that it caused the crowd to become extremely quiet.
Second, he immediately identified himself as a Jew. He shared that he was not only born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but also he grew up there.
Third, Paul indicated that the respected rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 5:33-42) was his primary teacher. Paul related how Gamaliel taught him according to the strict manner of the Mosaic Law. This resulted in Paul being zealous for God, as he said were each one in the crowd.
It was this zealousness for the Mosaic Law (Philippians 3:1-6), that Paul then shared how he had persecuted the followers of Jesus Christ, which was known as the Way (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-2). He said, “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness.”
Paul continued by saying, “From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.”
You get the sense in this scene that Paul had the people’s attention. Where moments before there had been verbal confusion and chaos, now there was a quiet stillness by the people who were hearing an eloquent and Spirit led presentation of biblical truth.
Paul had told the people, thus far, what he had been prior to his conversion to Jesus Christ. As he proceeded, he would then relate how he became a fervent follower of the One who he had previously persecuted (Acts 9:3-5). Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road is about to be shared with the people of Jerusalem.
One commentator writes, “Paul strives to show that he once was like his hearers, hating the Way and persecuting its followers. This is an excellent example for us to reach out to skeptics. Seek to find common ground with them, to help them see that you once thought as they. By refusing to place ourselves on a pedestal, we eliminate a potential stumbling block.”
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!