We must remember that the spiritual seduction which commenced in the Garden with the fall of man at the dawn of human civilization found its stratospheric launch in Babylon with its infamous Tower. In the pre-Christian era the seduction of mysticism and false religion originated in the East as the prophet Isaiah warned (Is. 2:6). In this sense we might say the first major type of the Antichrist was Nimrod… Nimrod died, but his legacy will endure until Christ destroys the Antichrist. – Jacob Prasch, Shadows of the Beast
Today, it’s the second installment of my three part blog on Paul’s Damascus road experience…
“Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you.” 2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet; and he said, 3 “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. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, 5 as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished (Acts 22:1-5 NASB).
It is very possible that Paul was speaking in the ancient Biblical Hebrew, which was read every week in the Synagogues. He certainly had the attention of the audience, as they realized that the man who stood before them was an expert in the Torah and Hebrew culture. Paul was well equipped, in every manner, for the task which the LORD put before him.
Even though Paul’s persecution of the Way was some twenty-five years past, there were certainly Jewish leaders in the audience who were present back then and could affirm that what Paul said about his past was true. He had shown no mercy to those who followed Jesus Messiah, and he had been on his way to round up more of them in Damascus when the LORD appeared to him.
“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, 7 and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.’ 11 But since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus (Acts 22:6-11 NASB).
Paul had hated Jesus of Nazareth. He had been certain this Man was not the Messiah, but an imposter. However, that all changed when the LORD appeared to him with a Light brighter than the noonday sun. And Paul tells them that there were witnesses to this encounter who confirmed it, though they did not hear the Voice.
“A certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing near said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very time I looked up at him. 14 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. 15 For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name’ (Acts 22:12-16 NASB).
Ananias was one of the early Messianic Jews, devoted to the Word of God. He would have been one of those targeted by Paul before he met the LORD on the road to Damascus. He showed great faith and obedience by going to Paul and laying hands on him that he might regain his sight.
“It happened when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I fell into a trance, 18 and I saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You. 20 And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the coats of those who were slaying him.’ 21 And He said to me, ‘Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles’” (Acts 22:17-21 NASB).
Paul continues his testimony with his time in Jerusalem. He continued to worship in the Temple. He continued to practice Judaism, according to Mosaic Law. He had not attempted to pollute the Temple as some would accuse.
While in prayer in the Temple, Paul saw the LORD again, and the LORD told him to leave Jerusalem because they would not accept his testimony. In fact, they would kill Paul if they had the opportunity.
Paul’s response is poignant. He recalls the scene with Stephen years before… the part he had played in Stephen’s martyrdom. The event had a lasting effort on Paul, as he had been party to the death of his man.
But the LORD isn’t interested in rehashing that. His order to Paul is to leave town quickly. The calling for Paul’s life was to the Gentiles. This had been told to him in the very beginning by Ananias.
They listened to him up to this statement, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!” 23 And as they were crying out and throwing off their cloaks and tossing dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, stating that he should be examined by scourging so that he might find out the reason why they were shouting against him that way (Acts 22:22-24 NASB).
When Paul spoke of the directive of Jesus Christ Himself to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles all hell broke loose. Up until that point, they were willing to listen to what Paul had to say. But when he started talking about a Divine Commission to proclaim Messianic Salvation to the Gentiles, thus opening up the Kingdom of Jehovah God to those who were not Jewish, they cried, “Blasphemy!”
But when they stretched him out with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and told him, saying, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman.” 27 The commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” And he said, “Yes.” 28 The commander answered, “I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money.” And Paul said, “But I was actually born a citizen.” 29 Therefore those who were about to examine him immediately let go of him; and the commander also was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had put him in chains (Acts 22:25-29 NASB).
The Romans really had no idea what was going on. Paul had spoken in Hebrew—a language which they did not know. Nor did they know the Torah or the Gospel of Jesus Messiah. All they were concerned with was keeping the situation under control.
To avoid an ignorant, unlawful torture, Paul announced that he was born a Roman citizen. The rights of Roman citizens were guarded as something sacred by the Romans. In fact, the Chief Captain had broken the Roman law by even binding Paul.
Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit. Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem. Then, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other. And now may God, who gives us his peace, be with you all. Amen (Rom 15:30-33 NLT).