Paul said, "Friends, fellow Jews, listen to my defense to you."
When the Jews heard him speaking the Jewish language, they became very quiet. Paul said,
"I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in the country of Cilicia, but I grew up in this city. I was a student of Gamaliel, who carefully taught me everything about the law of our ancestors. I was very serious about serving God, just as are all of you here today.
I persecuted the people who followed the Way of Jesus, and some of them were even killed. I arrested men and women and put them in jail.
The high priest and the whole council of older Jewish leaders can tell you this is true. They gave me letters to the Jewish brothers in Damascus. So I was going there to arrest these people and bring them back to Jerusalem to be punished.
"About noon when I came near Damascus, a bright light from heaven suddenly flashed all around me.
I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'
I asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' The voice said, 'I am Jesus from Nazareth whom you are persecuting.'
Those who were with me did not hear the voice, but they saw the light.
I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' The Lord answered, 'Get up and go to Damascus. There you will be told about all the things I have planned for you to do.'
I could not see, because the bright light had made me blind. So my companions led me into Damascus.
"There a man named Ananias came to me. He was a religious man; he obeyed the law of Moses, and all the Jews who lived there respected him.
He stood by me and said, 'Brother Saul, see again!' Immediately I was able to see him.
He said, 'The God of our ancestors chose you long ago to know his plan, to see the Righteous One, and to hear words from him.
You will be his witness to all people, telling them about what you have seen and heard.
Now, why wait any longer? Get up, be baptized, and wash your sins away, trusting in him to save you.'
"Later, when I returned to Jerusalem, I was praying in the Temple, and I saw a vision.
I saw the Lord saying to me, 'Hurry! Leave Jerusalem now! The people here will not accept the truth about me.'
But I said, 'Lord, they know that in every synagogue I put the believers in jail and beat them.
They also know I was there when Stephen, your witness, was killed. I stood there agreeing and holding the coats of those who were killing him!'
But the Lord said to me, 'Leave now. I will send you far away to the non-Jewish people.'"
The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they began shouting, "Kill him! Get him out of the world! He should not be allowed to live!"
They shouted, threw off their coats, and threw dust into the air.
Then the commander ordered the soldiers to take Paul into the army building and beat him. He wanted to make Paul tell why the people were shouting against him like this.
But as the soldiers were tying him up, preparing to beat him, Paul said to an officer nearby, "Do you have the right to beat a Roman citizenn who has not been proven guilty?"
When the officer heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. The officer said, "Do you know what you are doing? This man is a Roman citizen."
The commander came to Paul and said, "Tell me, are you really a Roman citizen?" He answered, "Yes."
The commander said, "I paid a lot of money to become a Roman citizen." But Paul said, "I was born a citizen."
The men who were preparing to question Paul moved away from him immediately. The commander was frightened because he had already tied Paul, and Paul was a Roman citizen.
The next day the commander decided to learn why the Jews were accusing Paul. So he ordered the leading priests and the Jewish council to meet. The commander took Paul's chains off. Then he brought Paul out and stood him before their meeting.