This chapter contains Paul’s speech to a Jewish crowd and his claim to Roman officials that he was a Roman citizen. To the Jews, Paul carefully rehearsed his previous career as a Jew who received the best rabbinical training available. He had studied under Gamaliel, the premier scholar and teacher of rabbinical students. Paul explained that he had persecuted the church unmercifully, and that many witnesses could attest to this fact.
Then, Paul told of his trip to Damascus and his encounter with Jesus. The words spoken to Paul on the Damascus Road were a private conversation between Jesus and Paul (Acts 22:9). The Lord instructed Paul to proceed to Damascus to learn what Jesus required of him, and the plans he had for him. Paul was an outstanding specimen of Jewish faith, and a man of good conscience. Should the Lord win him to Christianity, Paul would be the best sort of evangelist, the best representative possible. Blinded physically, Paul was led to the city.
In Damascus, Paul’s sight was restored when Ananias came to him. Paul was already convinced that Jesus is Lord, so Ananias commanded Paul to be baptized. “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name” (22:16). Baptism is the point in gospel obedience when our sins are forgiven. The classic dodge from those who discount baptism is that “baptism is the outward sign of an inward work of grace.” We know that the act of baptism itself does not save us. It must be connected with faith, repentance, and confession that Jesus is God’s Son. Baptism is not a mere symbol or outward sign. Unless we submit to the Lord in this act of obedience, we have no promise of forgiveness. Baptism is in the Great Commission (Mark 16:15-16). Baptism was required on Pentecost (Acts 2:38). Baptism was required when the Gentiles were ushered into the kingdom (Acts 10:47-48). The Ethiopian treasurer asked to be baptized after Philip preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:35-36). The jailer and his family were baptized after midnight (Acts 16:25, 33). The world can be very glad that Paul chose both to be baptized and to accept Jesus’ charge to evangelize.
When Paul mentioned the Gentiles in his defense to the Jewish crowd, they were incensed. The angry crowd cried out that Paul should die. How quickly people can turn.
The Roman commander who had rescued/detained Paul commanded that Paul be flogged to get him to say why the Jews were so angry at him. Paul asked if it was legal for them to flog him since he was a Roman citizen, and not convicted of a crime. Paul’s claim to Roman citizenship was the key to his safety for the next few years. Some obtained citizenship form Rome as thanks for service; some purchased citizenship, as did the commander. But Paul was born a Roman citizen, and that ensured his safety. Due process protected him, and eventually paved his way to Rome, as he appealed to Caesar. The Pax Romana (Roman peace) that prevailed in the first century is surely part of the fullness of time, or right time for Jesus’ coming (Gal. 4:4). Paul was released from chains, but still detained. The commander ordered Jewish leaders to assemble and for Paul to appear before them. The next chapter is intense. Stay with us.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.