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Jesus Creed

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Paul’s in trouble in the heart of the heart of God’s place: in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem believers (in Jesus) question, or at least wonder about, Paul’s Torah observance and his commitment to the sanctity of the Temple. In fact, mob rule takes over and Paul is beaten until a Roman soldier appears. He wonders who Paul is, and Paul responds in what can only be seen as a missional speech. Why say this? Because to be missional is to “testify” or “witness to” your own story of God’s redemptive grace in Christ.

21:37 As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the commanding officer, “May I say something to you?” The officer replied, “Do you know Greek? 21:38 Then you’re not that Egyptian who started a rebellion and led the four thousand men of the ‘Assassins’ into the wilderness some time ago?” 

21:39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city. Please allow me to speak to the people.” 21:40 When the commanding officer had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and gestured to the people with his hand. When they had become silent, he addressed them in Aramaic,

We have to quote the whole sermon because it takes the whole sermon to see what Paul is doing, and I observe these features:
1. Paul knows his stuff because Paul, too, is a Jew. Paul had a very well-known education according to the Pharisee tradition of Gamaliel. It was a Torah education; it made him “zealous for God.”
2. Paul’s own zeal led him to persecute Jesus followers.
3. In that context of persecution, Paul experienced and saw the risen Jesus Christ, the Lord.
4. Paul was ushered into the Church of Jesus followers by a devout, Torah-observant Jew named Ananias. Through him Paul hears of his call: to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Through him Paul gets baptized — and as the text says — have your sins washed away, and this expression is surrounded by baptism and the act of petition of calling on the name of the Lord.
5. Paul then returned to Jerusalem from Damascus and was told supernaturally that the locals would not accept his witness. And he was sent to the Gentiles by the Lord.
6. This testimony is enough to provoke the ire of the non-messianists in Jerusalem. There is nothing here to suggest anything other than Torah observance, but there is evidence here to suggest that his mission to Gentiles is not acceptable.
7. At this time they take Paul back into custody to get the full story out of him; he informs them he is a Roman citizen. That sets up another scene.
22:1 “Brothers and fathers, listen to my defense that I now make to you.” 22:2 (When they heard that he was addressing them in Aramaic, they became even quieter.) Then Paul said, 22:3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated with strictness under Gamaliel according to the law of our ancestors, and was zealous for God just as all of you are today. 22:4 I persecuted this Way even to the point of death, tying up both men and women and putting them in prison, 22:5 as both the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I was on my way to make arrests there and bring the prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished. 22:6 As I was en route and near Damascus, about noon a very bright light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. 22:7 Then I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 22:8 I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’ 22:9 Those who were with me saw the light, but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 22:10 So I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told about everything that you have been designated to do.’ 22:11 Since I could not see because of the brilliance of that light, I came to Damascus led by the hand of those who were with me. 22:12 A man named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who live there, 22:13 came to me and stood beside me and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight!’ And at that very moment I looked up and saw him. 22:14 Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has already chosen you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear a command from his mouth, 22:15 because you will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 22:16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.’ 22:17 When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 22:18 and saw the Lord saying to me, ‘Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 22:19 I replied, ‘Lord, they themselves know that I imprisoned and beat those in the various synagogues who believed in you. 22:20 And when the blood of your witness Stephen was shed, I myself was standing nearby, approving, and guarding the cloaks of those who were killing him.’ 22:21 Then he said to me, ‘Go, because I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'”

22:22 The crowd was listening to him until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Away with this man from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live!” 22:23 While they were screaming and throwing off their cloaks and tossing dust in the air, 22:24 the commanding officer ordered Paul to be brought back into the barracks. He told them to interrogate Paul by beating him with a lash so that he could find out the reason the crowd was shouting at Paul in this way. 22:25 When they had stretched him out for the lash, Paul said to the centurion standing nearby, “Is it legal for you to lash a man who is a Roman citizen without a proper trial?” 22:26When the centurion heard this, he went to the commanding officer and reported it, saying, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” 22:27 So the commanding officer came and asked Paul, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” He replied, “Yes.” 22:28 The commanding officer answered, “I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money.” “But I was even born a citizen,” Paul replied. 22:29 Then those who were about to interrogate him stayed away from him, and the commanding officer was frightened when he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had had him tied up.
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