Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Acts, Chapter 22

On the surface chapter 22 of acts looks like a rehash of previous events. We now have Paul before the authorities of the temple, being asked to defend himself against the charges he was faces. We again hear the story of his conversion, and then he is lead away to be flogged. This sets in motion his visit to Rome, which is where he longed to go all along. It is difficult to see what can be taken out of such a straightforward lesson like this, but there is an important underlying message in both events.

In the case of Paul's conversion there is the message that God can even use our mistakes to accomplish wonderful things. As one of the leading persecutors of the early church Paul gained quite a reputation among the Jews that were set against the church. His conversion was more than one person changing sides, it was a betrayal they held deeply and naturally became very angry about. They certainly did not want to let Paul go easily to the other side because they knew his zealous nature would reap huge dividends for the group they viewed as an enemy.

17"When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance 18and saw the Lord speaking. 'Quick!' he said to me. 'Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.' 19" 'Lord,' I replied, 'these men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.' 21"Then the Lord said to me, 'Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.' " – Acts 22:17-21

Paul had dug himself quite a hole because of the work he did for these men. They now wanted him dead and Paul felt lost because he could not spread the good news to them in their own short-sightedness. What does God do? He sent Paul to the Gentiles. Not only does he do that, but he makes Paul, who was once the church's greatest enemy as we see in this chapter, the greatest envoy to the Gentiles in history. One could say that Paul is the main reason the church grew by leaps and bounds in the middle of the first century, and it is his work that is the foundation of our own faith today. Not only that, he did play a small part (in reality, more than half) in writing most of the New Testament.

23As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24the commander ordered Paul to be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and questioned in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. 25As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, "Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?" 26When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. "What are you going to do?" he asked. "This man is a Roman citizen." – Acts 22:23-26

Here again God uses what the people of the day viewed as bad, for good. Rome was not held in high regard by the Jews of the day. They were viewed more as an oppressive regime than anything. Since Paul was a Roman citizen though, he was afforded certain benefits that, in this case, saved him from a flogging. Another side benefit came in that his citizenship set in motion his journey to Rome. Paul wanted to go to Rome anyway to preach the gospel because it was the center of civilization. He knew that his message would have its greatest effect not only then, but through history if he could speak in Rome. As a results-oriented person I sympathize with his view that even as a prisoner he was achieving his goal. This is further proof that God works to accomplish His goals even when it looks like they will fail by our terms.


  1. How can God use your previous negative attitudes towards Him for a positive effect?
  2. Why would the centurion believe Paul was a citizen and not just lying to get out of a beating?
  3. How has God used a bad situation and turned it into good in your life?

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