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Paul Speaks to the Crowd November 16, 2016

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Acts 21:37-22:21.

Summary: In this passage, the commander of the Roman troops in Jerusalem allowed Paul to address those who clamored for his death. Paul then asserted the following points:

  • before his conversion experience, he displayed unparalleled zeal for the Mosaic law by persecuting Christians
  • Jesus of Nazareth – through His disciple, Ananias – divinely commissioned him as His witness
  • in particular, Jesus divinely commissioned him as His witness to the Gentiles.

Thoughts: In verses 37 and 38 of chapter 21, we see that the commander of the Roman troops in Jerusalem initially regarded Paul as an Egyptian rebel. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

Paul offered to defend his cause, which all God’s servants must do. We must try to let people know our integrity, so that no discredit comes to the name of God because of us. But when the commander asked whether Paul was the Egyptian who had incited a rebellion, we see that however well Christ’s ministers behave, they cannot escape the slander of the world. We must note this so that we may accustom ourselves to reproaches and be prepared to be blamed.

One of the recurring themes in this book concerns the mistreatment of Paul by the governing authorities. In this case, perhaps the Roman commander assumed that since a large crowd clamored for Paul’s death, he had to be guilty of some crime. This spurred me to consider the following point: believers who were born and raised in First World countries – where one is innocent before proven guilty – may find it difficult to relate to Paul’s plight. This should also spur believers in First World countries to continue to pray that God would – in His timing – remove injustice from this world.

In verses 6-10 of chapter 22, Paul recounted his encounter with God the Son on the road to Damascus. This spurred me to consider the following points:

  • Christians have no doubts regarding the veracity of Paul’s conversion experience
  • Christians have many doubts regarding the veracity of Joseph Smith’s divine encounters – especially those instances where the angel Moroni allegedly appeared to him
  • it is possible that many Jews view Paul’s conversion experience in the same way that Christians view Joseph Smith’s divine encounters.

Perhaps we, as Christians, would do well to consider why we accept Paul’s account of his conversion experience while we reject Joseph Smith’s accounts of the angel Moroni. What is the body of evidence that supports each account? Are these accounts analogous? Delving into these questions will increase our confidence in our faith and enable us to be better witnesses to Mormons.

In verses 17-21 of chapter 22, God overcame Paul’s reluctance to serve as His witness to the Gentiles. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 17:

…for he began to deal with his ministry, showing that he did not leave the Jews of his own accord, as if he had deprived them of his services out of malice, but rather was drawn to the Gentiles against his expectation and intention. He had come to Jerusalem purposely to share with his own nation the grace that had been given to him. But the Lord cut off his hope of doing any good there and drove him away.

Perhaps Paul viewed the statement of Ananias in verse 15 of chapter 22 as a license from God to preach the Gospel message to the Jews (and the Gentiles). In any event, these verses hint at the depth of Paul’s love for his people and his earnest desire that they receive the free gift of salvation (which is described more fully in Romans 9-11). Paul must have agonized over the fact that his people consistently rejected his message of life and hope. It is probable that he offered frequent – and fervent – prayers to God that He would remove the stumbling blocks in their hearts. I wonder if the anguish in his heart concerning his people persisted even while God achieved great success through Him among the Gentiles.

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