Acts 22: I Was One of You

Have a blessed Ash Wednesday!

Christians are called to live in this world, yet not become a part of the world.  That is a hard balancing act.

Twice in today’s reading, we see Paul tell people he is, or at least once was, just like them (22:3-5, 19-20, 25).

Paul disputing with Jews and Greeks (mid-12th century)

A murderous mob of Jews has descended on Paul at the Temple in Jerusalem.  Some have heard he has defiled their sacred space with a unclean Gentile.  Others just hate this traitor and want to see him gone.  Either way they are ready to rip him limb from limb.  Had it not been for the intervention of the low-level Roman tribune, they would have had their way.  Paul uses the opportunity to address his accusers.  The gist of his remarks are that he once was just like them.  A Jew.  A well-trained one.  A law-respecting one.  He too once persecuted Christians.  He gets where they are coming from.  He once was just like them.

As the chapter continues, the tribune himself orders that Paul be flogged so as to expedite his interrogations.  Paul is quick to assert is rights.  He is a Roman citizen from birth.  He is entitled to a trial.  Again, though, we see Paul saying essentially, “I am just like you.”

And yet now Paul is different.  He has discovered there is something more important to God than law.  He has learned that the Messiah has come in the form of Jesus.  He is a Roman, but his ultimate allegiance is to a different Lord than Caesar.

I once was just like you.  Now you can become one like me.

Some will like that message because it brings hope and purpose.  For other it will only be scandalous and the heat will be turned up.

What struck you anew in this chapter?  

Categories: Acts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Acts 22: I Was One of You

  1. Trent Williamson

    I love the emphasis on the fact that he spoke to them in Aramaic. He spoke in the language that was easiest for them to understand. A simple but powerful reminder. Sometimes I fear that we (as Christians) only speak in the language that WE understand – leaving those on the outside wondering what in the world we are talking about. Paul connects with his audience on the most basic level – he speaks their language!

  2. Melanie

    The Jews listened attentively to Paul’s story up to the point where he said Jesus was sending him to preach to the Gentiles. I would have thought the Jews would have become angry earlier in the story–maybe when Paul mentioned Stephen, for example. Am I correct that the near-riot was caused not by Paul’s proclaiming Jesus as Messiah so much as by his saying that the Gentiles had been included in God’s plan?

    • I think you are right. Inclusion of Gentiles was much more scandalous to many first century Jews than Jesus’ Messiahship. The latter was just a thought in your head one who disagreed could easily dismiss as ludicrious; the former meant their very way of life and worldview was going to have to change.

      There is this theory that one of the biggest points Luke was trying to make in Acts was that Gentiles can be included as is to the Way of Christ without becoming Jews. The theory goes that Luke is Lucius of Cyrene from 13:1, one of the leaders in Antioch, a church that very much pushed an inclusivist agenda. Interesting idea!

  3. Eddy

    The captain was impressed. “I paid a huge sum for my citizenship. How much did it cost you?” “Nothing,” said Paul. “It cost me nothing. I was free from the day of my birth.” (‭Acts‬ ‭22‬:‭28‬ MSG)

    From out birth at baptism we too have free citizenship bought for us with Christ’s blood. I had never made this specific connection before now.

  4. I was struck this time around by what Melanie mentioned above: The crowd turns on Paul only when he mentions the inclusion of Gentiles. How interesting and sad! Our bigotries and suspicions seem to be more powerful than our ideas and spiritualities.

  5. That Paul uses his Roman citizenship to get a fair trial and avoid immediate danger is what stands out to me. I don’t know exactly what to make of this. It is not patriotism, for sure. It is opportunistic. It is shrewd. Paul was not as political disengaged as Jesus comes across in the Gospels but it is interesting to me that Paul wasn’t afraid to use his status to his advantage. I wonder what the equivalent would be today.

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