Everything seemed to be going well. Paul finally had a chance to speak publicly to the Jews in Jerusalem
about what happened to him on the road to Damascus. He was sharing his testimony and the people
seemed quiet and attentive. And then it happened. He mentioned the one word that the people did
not want to hear: Gentiles! (Acts 22:21)
Paul was explaining to them how God Himself called Paul to the Gentiles but they didn’t want to hear it.
For them, Paul going to the Gentiles was blasphemous and a desecration. He had already been accused
of bringing Gentiles into the Temple; they already thought he disdained God’s law (Mosaic), and now
this. It was too much.
Acts 22:22, “Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, ‘Away with
such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.”
That is an intense response to Paul’s call to the Gentiles, but it makes (some) sense for a people who felt
so oppressed by the Romans. It also makes sense because they heard that God sent Paul away from
Jerusalem to the Gentiles. Their God cared for their oppressors. They didn’t realize their own sinfulness
so they couldn’t understand God’s grace.
As I read these words this morning, a few questions came to mind:
- Do I ever hear a “key word” that triggers a response rather than listening carefully to the whole
position? I’m sure I do. I wonder if it is because of the same kind of hatred that filled those in
Jerusalem at the time.
- Would I be willing, like Paul, to be honest about what the Lord is doing in my life, even if I know
others will either not understand it or hate it? Paul knew that was their issue but he couldn’t
keep silent (much like he brought up resurrection in Acts 17!).
- Later in the same chapter, Paul finally asserts his Roman citizenship so that he would not be
beaten and get another hearing (Acts 22:26). He hadn’t done so up to this point. Why did he
wait? Seems that he had some Gospel reason—if he had done so before the Jews, it would add
to his “Gentile” love. But before the Roman guard, he would use it to get yet another
opportunity to share Jesus.
Reading about all that took place during the earliest days of the church has been exciting but
challenging. I wonder how I would have behaved under such pressure and difficulty. May the Lord give
us strength and focus whenever trials come, that we might seek to make Him known above all.