Acts 22

  • 17 October 2021
  • Stuart Robinson

Acts 22

October 17th, 2021

I was speaking to a colleague recently – he’s the chaplain at maximum security gaol and he was telling me how a man he’d led to faith in Christ – an inmate, upon his release from gaol, was now having a fruitful ministry to former prisoners.

This fellow was connecting with other men, parolees on the ‘outside’, and because he understood their culture, and their language, and the post-prison challenges they were all facing, he was well placed to speak into their situation, and share Christ with them.

Some were hostile, some were responsive.

Either way, the Lord was opening doors and this fellow was bravely stepping through them.

It seems to me that this is what is taking place in Acts 22.

The Lord is opening doors, and the Apostle Paul is bravely stepping through them.

And in so doing, we see how Paul models what he instructs his young protégé Timothy (and us) to do – to “proclaim the word of God, in season and out of season…with great patience and care”. II Timothy 4:22.

Now here’s the ‘back-story’, some of which was covered in the reading from Acts today.

Paul is in Jerusalem and when he meets with the leaders of the church there, they observe that many thousands of people have become Christians (Acts 21:20) – though, unsurprisingly, Paul is now considered by leaders of the Jewish community in that city to be a heretic, a corrupter of truth and tradition.

So, when Paul sets foot in the temple in Jerusalem, a riot ensues.

Quite literally.

The worshippers seize him, they forcibly drag him out through the temple doors, and they endeavour to kill him…that is until the Roman authorities arrive (as rioting was punishable by death) and they place Paul in chains (21:33).

Luke writes, “the violence of the mob was so great that Paul then had to be carried by the soldiers”. Acts 21:25.

Now here’s a question: If a frenzied mob was baying for your blood, and if you’d been taken into protective custody (and by this time the arresting officers have formed the view that Paul was in fact a fugitive Egyptian terrorist!! [21:30] -he was not having a good day ☹) – would you then ask the patrol commander for an opportunity to reason with those who wanted nothing other than to tear you to pieces?

Well, that is exactly what Paul does – as he said he would, in his farewell to the Christians in Caesarea, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus”. Acts 21:13.

So that’s the back story.

Here’s what happens next.

Though bloodied, beaten, dishevelled, and humiliated, Paul nevertheless turns to face the outraged throng, and he addresses them in their ‘heart language’ – Aramaic.

And in hearing their mother-tongue, calm and quite ensues (22:2).

Having connected with these his ‘brothers and fathers’ – Paul’s deliberate use of familial language, rather then presenting a theological argument as his defence, Paul tells them a story.

His tells them his own story.

He presents them with a ‘before’ and ‘after’ scenario.

He speaks of his birthplace, Tarsus in Cilicia (on the northern part of the Mediterranean Sea in eastern Turkey – about 1,000 k’s from Jerusalem) and how, as a zealous young Jewish leader, he was tutored by the legendary Gamaliel (in Jerusalem) – and just like all who are listening to his address, he despised Christians.

So much so, that he hunted them down – women and men; no exceptions.

Indeed, he confesses “I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death’ (22:4).

He reports that he was given the assignment of bringing prisoners from Damascus to Jerusalem – to be punished for becoming disciples of Christ when he himself was confronted by the risen Jesus!

At this point the crowd is riveted.

There is no movement.

No one takes their eyes of Paul, and so he continues…with the ‘after’ part of his story.

The brilliance of the light emanating from Jesus – who up until that encounter Paul had scorned and rejected, had so blinded him, that he had to be led by the hand into Damascus where a devout and godly Jew, Ananias, prayed for the return of Paul’s sight, and then he commissioned Paul to be “a witness of all you have seen and heard”.

And as a symbol of his new start, the now seeing Paul was baptised and sent out in Jesus’ name (22:10-16).

Still, no-one moves, so Paul continues.

He explains that when he arrived back in Jerusalem he entered the temple – the very temple from which he has just been dragged and assaulted, and he had a vision of Jesus telling him that his ministry and message would be rejected in that city; even though he was ‘one of them’ – a former persecutor, and instigator of violence against Christians.

The crowd is taking all this in and then Paul tells them that because of their unbelief and hardness of heart, the Lord Jesus was sending him to the Gentiles.

At this, the calm is overturned.

The mob erupts.


But not before Paul has explained, in full, the salient details of his conversion – not the least of which was his encounter with the Lord, the risen Jesus.

In Ephesians 5:16 Paul encouraged that church to, “make the most of every opportunity”.

He reiterated that instruction in Colossians 4:5, “Be wise in the way you act towards non-believers, make the most of every opportunity”.

And Paul models just that for us in Acts 22.

He makes the most of every opportunity, wouldn’t you say?

Like that former prisoner I referenced when I began, Paul knows the language, the culture, the needs, and the challenges of those he is seeking to reach.

And he speaks into their world quite brilliantly.

They move from hostile to hushed, as he shares his own story.

Now then, all of that applies to us at South Head Anglican Parish for we, like St. Paul, like the chaplain in the gaol, like that recently released prisoner, are Jesus’ ambassadors; through whom ‘God makes his appeal’ (writes Paul in II Corinthians 5:20).

St. Peter reminds us of our vocation: to ‘declare the praises of him who called us out darkness into his wonderful light’. I Peter 2:9.

That means, in part at least, to tell our story.

He goes on to say – and I quote I Peter 3:15, ‘in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord – always be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have – and do this with gentleness and respect’.

Yes – you know the language, the culture, the needs, and the misgivings of the people with whom you work; the people in your bridge, golf or sailing club; your next-door neighbour; your siblings, your children, and your friends – some of whom you’ve known since childhood.

Let me therefore suggest two points of application for this homily:

The first is to pray. Paul asked his friends in Colossae to pray for ‘open doors’ for the gospel (Colossians 4:3). Would you be willing to think of those contexts where you know the ‘language’, and culture (the golf club, the men’s shed, your walking group) and, in prayer, ask God to open a door for you to speak?

The second is to speak. That is to share your story; how God has brought you from darkness to light, to borrow from I Peter 2:9.

And to assist you in your vocation, we start a Zoom Christianity Explored course on October 25th, to either help you clarify what you believe and your own journey to faith, or as a safe place for you to bring the person for whom you’ve been praying, such that they might hear and decide for themselves. And as St. Peter urges, it is all done with gentleness and respect (I Peter 3:15)

May we pray?

Lord – may we recognise and step through the doors you are opening. Give us courage to carefully and with much grace share something of our journey to and with our Lord Jesus.


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