Paul's account of his conversion. (1-11) Paul directed to preach to the Gentiles. (12-21) The rage of the Jews Paul pleads that he is a Roman citizen. (22-30)
Verses 1-11 The apostle addressed the enraged multitude, in the customary style of respect and good-will. Paul relates the history of his early life very particularly; he notices that his conversion was wholly the act of God. Condemned sinners are struck blind by the power of darkness, and it is a lasting blindness, like that of the unbelieving Jews. Convinced sinners are struck blind as Paul was, not by darkness, but by light. They are for a time brought to be at a loss within themselves, but it is in order to their being enlightened. A simple relation of the Lord's dealings with us, in bringing us, from opposing, to profess and promote his gospel, when delivered in a right spirit and manner, will sometimes make more impression that laboured speeches, even though it amounts not to the full proof of the truth, such as was shown in the change wrought in the apostle.
Verses 12-21 The apostle goes on to relate how he was confirmed in the change he had made. The Lord having chosen the sinner, that he should know his will, he is humbled, enlightened, and brought to the knowledge of Christ and his blessed gospel. Christ is here called that Just One; for he is Jesus Christ the righteous. Those whom God has chosen to know his will, must look to Jesus, for by him God has made known his good-will to us. The great gospel privilege, sealed to us by baptism, is the pardon of sins. Be baptized, and wash away thy sins; that is, receive the comfort of the pardon of thy sins in and through Jesus Christ, and lay hold on his righteousness for that purpose; and receive power against sin, for the mortifying of thy corruptions. Be baptized, and rest not in the sign, but make sure of the thing signified, the putting away of the filth of sin. The great gospel duty, to which by our baptism we are bound, is, to seek for the pardon of our sins in Christ's name, and in dependence on him and his righteousness. God appoints his labourers their day and their place, and it is fit they should follow his appointment, though it may cross their own will. Providence contrives better for us than we do for ourselves; we must refer ourselves to God's guidance. If Christ send any one, his Spirit shall go along with him, and give him to see the fruit of his labours. But nothing can reconcile man's heart to the gospel, except the special grace of God.
Verses 22-30 The Jews listened to Paul's account of his conversion, but the mention of his being sent to the Gentiles, was so contrary to all their national prejudices, that they would hear no more. Their frantic conduct astonished the Roman officer, who supposed that Paul must have committed some great crime. Paul pleaded his privilege as a Roman citizen, by which he was exempted from all trials and punishments which might force him to confess himself guilty. The manner of his speaking plainly shows what holy security and serenity of mind he enjoyed. As Paul was a Jew, in low circumstances, the Roman officer questioned how he obtained so valuable a distinction; but the apostle told him he was free born. Let us value that freedom to which all the children of God are born; which no sum of money, however large, can purchase for those who remain unregenerate. This at once put a stop to his trouble. Thus many are kept from evil practices by the fear of man, who would not be held back from them by the fear of God. The apostle asks, simply, Is it lawful? He knew that the God whom he served would support him under all sufferings for his name's sake. But if it were not lawful, the apostle's religion directed him, if possible, to avoid it. He never shrunk from a cross which his Divine Master laid upon his onward road; and he never stept aside out of that road to take one up.
Acts 22:1-30 . PAUL'S DEFENSE FROM THE STAIRS OF THE FORTRESS--THE RAGE OF THE AUDIENCE BURSTING FORTH, THE COMMANDANT HAS HIM BROUGHT INTO THE FORT TO BE EXAMINED BY SCOURGING, BUT LEARNING THAT HE IS A ROMAN, HE ORDERS HIS RELEASE AND COMMANDS THE SAMHEDRIM TO TRY HIM.
2. when they heard . . . the Hebrew
they kept the more silence--They could have understood him in Greek, and doubtless fully expected the renegade to address them in that language, but the sound of their holy mother tongue awed them into deeper silence.
3. a Jew of Tarsus, brought up in this city, at the a fact of great importance in the apostle's history, standing in the same relation to his future career as Moses' education in the Egyptian court to the work for which he was destined.
the perfect manner of the law of the fathers--the strictest form of traditional Judaism.
toward God as ye all are this day--his own former murderous zeal against the disciples of the Lord Jesus being merely reflected in their present treatment of himself.
4. I persecuted,
5. the high priest--still alive.
doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders--the whole Sanhedrim.
8. Jesus of Nazareth--the Nazarene.
9-11. they that were with
12. Ananias, a devout man, according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there--One would not know from this description of Ananias that he was a Christian at all, the apostles object being to hold him up as unexceptionable, even to the most rigid Jews.
13-15. The God of our fathers hath chosen thee--studiously linking the new economy upon the old, as but the sequel of it; both having one glorious Author.
14. that thou shouldest . . . see that--"the"
Just One--compare Acts 3:14 , 7:52 .
hear the voice of his mouth--in order to place him on a level with the other apostles, who had "seen the [risen] Lord."
16. be baptized and wash away thy sins--This way of speaking arises from baptism being the visible seal of remission.
calling on the name of the Lord--rather, "having called," that is, after having done so; referring to the confession of Christ which preceded baptism, as Acts 8:37 .
17-21. it came to pass, &c.--This thrilling dialogue between the glorified Redeemer and his chosen vessel is nowhere else related.
when I was come again to Jerusalem--on the occasion mentioned in Acts 9:26-29 .
while I prayed in the temple--He thus calls their attention to the fact that after his conversion he kept up his connection with the temple as before.
18. get . . . quickly out of Jerusalem--compare Acts 9:29 .
for they will not receive thy testimony . . . And I said, Lord, they know, &c.--"Can it be, Lord, that they will resist the testimony of one whom they knew so well as among the bitterest of all against Thy disciples, and whom nothing short of resistless evidence could have turned to Thee?"
21. depart for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles--that is, "Enough; thy testimony is not to be thrown away upon Jerusalem; the Gentiles, afar off, are thy peculiar sphere."
22, 23. gave him audience to this word . . . then . . . Away with such a fellow from the earth, &c.--Their national prejudices lashed into fury at the mention of a mission to the Gentiles, they would speedily have done to him as they did to Stephen, but for the presence and protection of the Roman officer.
24-26. examined by scourging--according to the Roman practice.
that he might know wherefore they cried so--Paul's speech being to him in an unknown tongue, he concluded from the horror which it kindled in the vast audience that he must have been guilty of some crime.
25. Paul said to the centurion that stood by--to superintend the torture and receive the confession expected to be wrung from him.
Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman,
27-29. art thou a Roman?--showing that this being of Tarsus, which he had told him before ( Acts 21:39 ) did not necessarily imply that he was a Roman citizen.
28. With a great sum obtained I this freedom--Roman citizenship was bought and sold in the reign of Claudius, we know, at a high price: at a subsequent date, for next to nothing. But to put in a false claim to this privilege was a capital crime.
I was free born--born to it, by purchase, or in reward of services, on the part of his father or some ancestor.
29. chief captain also was afraid,
30. commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear--that is, the Sanhedrim to be formally convened. Note here the power to order a Sanhedrim to try this case, assumed by the Roman officers and acquiesced in on their part.