17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ” (Acts 22:17–21)
The Apostle Paul concluded his address to the Jerusalem Jews, and the Roman soldiers stationed in the city, by recalling an event that does not previously appear in Luke’s account of Paul’s conversion to Christianity. It was an event which occurred in Jerusalem, most likely when Paul first returned there from life changing journey to Damascus (Acts 9:26-30).
Paul recounted how when he returned to Jerusalem, following his conversion, he was praying in the temple. This was something every devout Jew would naturally do. This continues to be done in our present day when devout Jews, along with others, pray at the area known as the Western Wall, otherwise known as the Wailing Wall. Paul wanted his audience to know that he respected the temple and would not desecrate it in any way.
It was when Paul was praying in the temple that he fell into a trance, which can either mean a moment of utter amazement or an ecstatic vision (see Acts 10:9-10 and Revelation 1:10). Paul attributed the source of this trance being the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord said to Paul, “‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.” Jesus warned Paul that in spite of his sincere conversion, unbelieving Jews would be as antagonistic about Paul’s message of the Gospel as he had been prior to his spiritual transformation. The Jews would not only reject the Gospel, but they would also seek to kill Paul for preaching the Gospel.
However, Paul remembered not being easily persuaded by the Lord. Amazingly, he argued with the Lord and said, “Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.” Paul wanted to remain in Jerusalem and preach to his fellow Jews, even if it meant forfeiting his own life, like Stephen (Acts 7; Romans 10:1-4).
However, the sovereign Lord Jesus had other plans for Paul. “And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.” The Lord’s command to Paul was clear: it was to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Even though Paul loved his fellow Jews, he loved the Lord more and would consequently obey Him by becoming a missionary to the Gentiles.
Paul encountered a moment in his Christian life which every believer in Christ experiences. That moment concerns the will of God for your life and discerning between that which is good verses that which is best. It was good for Paul to want to preach to his fellow Jews. However, God’s best was for him to preach to the Jews living in Gentile countries.
We may discover at times that God’s will for us is biblically clear. At other times, it may be unclear regarding a specific situation. Until clarity comes, obey God’s Word and pray for divine guidance.
Soli deo Gloria!