Exegetical Notes: Acts 22:3-8; 15-22

1“Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

“hear the defense that I now make before you” – Paul’s entrance into the temple resulted in a quick uproar (Acts 21:26-36). In short, Paul was falsely accused by some Jews from Asia, who claimed he taught against the temple and brought Gentiles into the temple. The news of the riot soon reached a local Roman commander and he seized Paul in order to squelch the disturbance.

2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:

“And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet” – Apparently Paul’s ability to speak Aramaic and Greek gained him a hearing from the crowd. Paul’s unique cultural background can be seen in the fact that his home of Tarsus was a Greek speaking city, yet because of his Jewish heritage, they no doubt, spoke Aramaic in his home and local synagogue.

3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.

What can we learn from Paul’s testimony in these verses? What do we learn about the gospel? What do we learn about sharing the gospel?

“brought up in this city” – meaning Jerusalem. the word “brought up” may also refer to his education.

“Gamaliel” – a well-known Jewish teacher of the law who was “held in honor by all the people” (Acts 5:34).

4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished. 6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me.

Verses 3-5 are designed to show that Paul was so ingrained in his ways, that a supernatural interruption could be the only reason for the drastic change in the direction of his life.

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 of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’

15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 

After a brief account of his salvation on the Road to Damascus, Paul continued. In the immediate context, Paul’s defense is that he could only be found guilty of seeking to obey God’s commission to him. As we look deeper, we see the theme of this verse to be spread throughout Paul’s writings (i.e.1 Cor. 9). If we stop with Paul, we fail to realize that each of us bears this same commission (Matt. 28:18-20).

16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

Two questions revolve about this verse. First, when was Paul saved—on the Damascus Road or at Judas’ house? Several factors suggest he was saved on the Damascus Road: (1) The gospel was presented to him directly by Christ (Gal. 1:11–12), not later by Ananias. (2) Already (Acts 22:10) Paul said he had submitted in faith to Christ. (3) Paul was filled with the Spirit before his baptism with water (9:17–18). (4) The Greek aorist participle, epikalesamenos, translated calling on His name refers either to action which is simultaneous with or before that of the main verb. Here Paul’s calling on Christ’s name (for salvation) preceded his water baptism. The participle may be translated, “having called on His name.” 
Second, what then do the words wash your sins away mean? Do they teach that salvation comes by water baptism? Because Paul was already cleansed spiritually (see comments in preceding par.), these words must refer to the symbolism of baptism. Baptism is a picture of God’s inner work of washing away sin (cf. 1 Cor. 6:11; 1 Peter 3:21).

Stanley D. Toussaint, “Acts,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 418.

“why do you wait” – How many have waited until it was too late? Does man control the Spirit of God which brings conviction (John 16:8-10)?

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Ro 2:4).

In theological circles, certain individuals of the Calvinist persuasion, after considering the doctrines of grace, no longer embrace the necessity of evangelism. This is a grave error. Paul (the same apostle who penned Rom. 9) shows by example the primacy of inviting people to respond to the gospel by “calling on his name.”

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and 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 know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’

21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”

“Gentiles” – When Paul mentioned his commission to preach to the Gentiles, the mob was moved to instant rage and violence. Preaching to Gentiles could not have caused such a response because the religious authorities of Israel had preached to Gentiles (cf. Matt. 23:15). Paul’s message that infuriated the mob was that Jews and Gentiles were equal without the Law of Moses (cf. Eph. 2:11–22; 3:2–6; Gal. 3:28).

Stanley D. Toussaint, “Acts,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 418.

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.”