“Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you.”
Brethren and fathers. Although the Jews hounded Paul from city to city, he did not view them as criminals but kin. He thought his countrymen were misguided for scorning grace, but rather than condemn them he wanted to trade places with them so that they might be saved (Rom. 9:2–4).
When the Romans marched on Jerusalem in AD70, Josephus infamously abandoned his tribe and joined the enemy. In contrast, Paul wished he could be accursed so the Jews could be saved. Josephus had a racist theology that viewed the Jews as uniquely deserving of divine punishment, while Paul had a grace-based theology that saw the Jews in desperate need of salvation. Josephus said the Jews had it coming, but Paul said the Jews were never beyond hope (see Rom. 11:1, 11). Paul understood that God’s heart is always for reconciliation, not judgment.
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today.
The law of our fathers is the Law of Moses, the commandments, ordinances, punishments, and ceremonial observances given to the nation of Israel through Moses (Jos. 8:31, John 1:17, 7:19). This law is sometimes referred to as the law of commandments (Eph. 2:15) or the law of the Jews (Acts 25:8). See entry for The Law.
“I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons,
(a) To the death. Saul arrested Christians in the expectation that they would be put to death as Stephen had been.
(b) Men and women; see entry for Acts 8:3.
(c) Prisons; see entry for Acts 8:3.
“But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me,
(a) Damascus. The Damascus Road conversion of Saul is one of the most dramatic scenes in the Bible, and the story is told no less than three times (Acts 9:3-6, 22:6-11, 26:13-18).
(b) A very bright light. This light was brighter than the sun. See entry for Acts 26:13.
and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’
A voice. The Lord spoke to Saul in his native language, that is Hebrew (Acts 26:14).
“And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’
Jesus the Nazarene. A Nazarene was someone from Nazareth, a Galilean town of little consequence. In Judea, Jesus was known as a Nazarene in fulfilment of prophecy (see entry for Matt. 2:23).
“And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth.
The Righteous One. Jesus Christ is the Righteous One and the Righteous Branch spoken of by the prophets (Is. 24:16, 53:11, Jer. 23:5, 33:15). Just as Jesus is the Word made flesh, the living Truth, and the personification of the Father’s grace (John 1:14, 14:6), he is the embodiment of God’s righteousness.
‘Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’
(a) Be baptized. Many new believers were water baptized in the New Testament (Acts 2:41, 10:47), and many new Christians continue to be water baptized today. They do it because Jesus did it and because water baptism is a public demonstration of faith in God.
(b) Wash away your sins. Paul is quoting Ananias (Acts 22:12) who seems to be quoting John the Baptist (Mark 1:4). However, our sins are not washed away through water baptism. Paul never preached this and he made a point of baptizing few people (1 Cor. 1:17). We are cleansed from all sin and unrighteousness by the blood of the Lamb (1 John 1:9).
Water baptism acknowledges the baptism into the body of Christ that is done by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12–13, Gal. 3:27). Through water baptism we identify with Christ’s sacrificial death. We are saying, “Thank you Jesus for dealing with my sin once and for all at the cross.” See entry for Baptism.
(c) Calling on His name. We receive forgiveness and salvation by calling on the name of the Lord in faith (Rom. 10:13).
But on the next day, wishing to know for certain why he had been accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Council to assemble, and brought Paul down and set him before them.
Accused by the Jews. Accusations against you will typically come from three sources: (1) the Accuser, a.k.a. Satan (see entry for Rev. 12:10), (2) law-lovers who are opposed to grace (see entry for Matt. 12:10), and (3) a conscience that is mindful of the law (Rom. 2:15). What these three things have in common is an affinity for using the law as a weapon of condemnation.
The Grace Commentary is a work in progress with new content added regularly. Sign up for occasional updates below. Got something to say? Please use the Feedback page. To report typos or broken links on this page, please use the comment form below.