Acts 21:39 – 22:21 (NKJV)
39 But Paul said, “I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.”Acts 21:39-22:2
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.
Paul asked the commander of the garrison for permission to speak the the crowds after establishing that he was a Jew, not an Egyptian assassin. The commander consented. When the Jews who had attacked him heard him speak in their language, they stopped to listen.
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. 4 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 22:3-11
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. 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.
Paul began to speak about his background, including his zeal for persecuting Christians, followed by his experience on the Road to Damascus. he shared the great word of God given to him, and his impending blindness, and being led away after his encounter with God Himself.
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.’Acts 22:12-21
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.’ ”
Paul then shared his call by God to be the apostle to the Gentiles, spreading the gospel to Jews and non-Jews alike. Paul was in what could be considered hostile territory, and was proclaiming his calling to the Gentiles among a mostly-Jewish audience. It was as if he was picking a fight, after trying to play nice. But was that his true motivation? I think not, but rather that His newfound liberty in Christ, his powerful experience of the revival among the masses through the good news of Jesus Christ, his victories in Asia Minor, Greece, and the outer reaches of his travel, had opened his eyes so widely that he hoped to open the eyes of the myopic Jewish brotherhood of which he was still a part. This took fortitude and courage, and would eventually pit him face-to-face with all non-Christian Judaism. They would hate him, oppose him, even try to assassinate him, yet he did this anyway. What would that determination and courage do for us as we witness the gospel today? What if we all said, “May I speak?”