40 So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying,
1 "Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now." 2 And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent.
[There is some debate as to what exact language Paul was speaking as Aramaic was the common Language, and had many regional dialects including one derived from Hebrew. They are both Semitic languages, but extra-biblical sources suggest that Hebrew was not regularly spoken at this time. Some even say Paul greeted them in Hebrew to gain their full attention and then continued in Judean-Aramaic. Either way it had the intended effect, Paul had their attention. When he spoke Hebrew he was speaking to the heart of Jewish culture and tradition; proving his credentials, saying "I am one of you".]
Then he said: 3 "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.
[Saul born in Tarsus was raised in Jerusalem and received his religious education as a Pharisee from Gamaliel. Gamaliel you will remember from Acts 5, when Peter and the Apostles were taken before the council and they plotted to kill them, the council was restrained by the voice of reason:
Acts 5: 38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God."]
I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, 5 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.
[Acts 9: 1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
He was known as Saul the Destroyer, he bound all who followed the Way of Jesus, even consenting to the stoning death of Stephen, as Jon reminded us last week, when Paul stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the deacons who served with Stephen. What grace to forgive that completely.]
6 "Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' 8 So I answered, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said to me, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.'
9 "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.
[Acts 9: 7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.
On the Damascus road Jesus appeared in Glory, as Paul's companions were struck speechless with fear or even shock. Acts 9:7 says they heard a voice, where 22:9 said they did not hear the one who spoke to Paul, meaning Jesus. So what did they hear? Well they certainly heard Paul answering Jesus, and they saw the light, but as often is the case when the Lord speaks, not everyone hears, and not everyone who hears understands.]
10 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.' 11 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.
12 "Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there,
13 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. 14 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. 15
For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'
[I love the testimony of Ananias. A good reputation with all the Jews, obedient to God in reaching out to Saul. Telling Saul who had surrendered to Jesus on the road, that he would know God's will, see God's face, and hear God's voice. And finally the prediction that Saul would be a witness to all men. Even though he had that great spiritual experience on the road, he still received his faith just like us; repent, confess, believe, then he was baptized.]
17 "Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance 18 and saw Him saying to me, 'Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.' 19 So I said, 'Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You. 20 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.' 21 Then He said to me, 'Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.'"
[After Saul's conversion he preached at Damascus but the unbelieving Jews plotted to kill him. The disciples smuggled Paul out of Damascus and he came to Jerusalem. It was probably at this time Saul was praying at the temple and had this vision where God tells him to leave Jerusalem. Acts 9 also tells is at this time there was another plot to kill Saul in Jerusalem, so that made it a really good time to leave. It seems the unbelieving Jews were most troubled by Saul's conversion. Many of Jesus Jewish converts were of no particular reputation, but Saul was a political insider of the Jewish elders, so their resentment meant he was always in danger of death. But before he left the temple, Jesus told him by the vision, that he would be a witness to the Gentiles, this was to be the primary focus of his ministry.]
Paul's Roman Citizenship
22 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!" 23 Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air,
[How quickly the mood changes; Paul by speaking their native tongue, and relating their common heritage had calmed the crowd. The Roman commander had to be pleased that Paul's public address had stopped the mob violence, "until this word". What word? Gentile; remember this riot started when the accused Paul of bringing a gentile into the inner court of the temple, and now he said in prayer, at the temple, the Lord had told him to witness to gentiles. The crowd was again riled up, yelling, probably cursing, and throwing dirt. I saw that in a civil war movie, as the Union cavalry rode through a southern town, the southern women cursed, spat, and threw handfuls of dirt; must be a universal symbol of protest.]
24 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. 25 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?"
26 When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, "Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman."
27 Then the commander came and said to him, "Tell me, are you a Roman?"
He said, "Yes."
28 The commander answered, "With a large sum I obtained this citizenship."
And Paul said, "But I was born a citizen."
29 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.
[Fist Paul is saved from the mob by the Roman soldiers, now he is saved from examination-by-scourging because of his Roman citizenship. This was a brutal time; Paul could have been scourged just like Jesus, because the Roman officials felt you got to the truth faster, if you whipped people while you were questioning them. But again the commander feared punishment himself for not protecting the rights of a Roman.
Paul recalled some of his other beatings in 2 Corinthians 11: 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;]
The Sanhedrin Divided
30 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.
[Without the examination-by-scourging the commander decides to try a different plan. He will hold a hearing of Paul and the