Paul Arrested in the Temple
 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him,  crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”  For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple.  Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut.  And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion.  He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.  Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done.  Some in the crowd were shouting one thing, some another. And as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks.  And when he came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd,  for the mob of the people followed, crying out, “Away with him!”
Paul Speaks to the People
 As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek?  Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?”  Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.”  And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying: (ESV)
 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”
 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:
 “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.  I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women,  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.
 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me.  And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’  And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’  Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me.  And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’  And 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.
 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,  came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him.  And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth;  for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.  And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance  and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’  And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you.  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.’  And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
Paul and the Roman Tribune
 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.”  And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air,  the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this.  But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?”  When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.”  So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.”  The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.”  So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him. (ESV)
- Blinding bias and assumptions
Once again, Paul was in trouble with his Jewish brothers. Not for what he had done, but, rather, for what they claimed he had done (Acts 21:28). Gentiles were not allowed into the temple beyond the court of the Gentiles, and Paul was thought to have violated this law. Paul, however, was innocent. Bias and assumptions can lead us to “see” what we want to see. They can blind us to the truth because it is at odds with what we want to be true. This mistake nearly cost Paul his life.
- Speaking their language
When Paul was allowed to address the mob, he spoke to them in their language, which, of course, was Hebrew. This was more than mere pragmatism. Paul knew that he was falsely seen as being opposed to the Law of Moses. As Paul shares his elite Jewish pedigree as a student of the prestigious and well-respected Gamaliel, he speaks in their language. This was clearly an attempt on Paul’s part to build a bridge with his Jewish brothers so they might understand that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was not against their Jewish heritage, but the very fulfillment of it.
- Fight for your right
Once again, we see Paul appealing to his legal rights as a citizen. While this makes some Christians uncomfortable, Paul had no problem doing it. As a Roman citizen, he was protected from being beaten without a trial (Acts 22:25-29). Submission to the authorities did not mean having to accept or obey whatever the Roman tribune had ordered. No, the centurion himself was under the law. In appealing to his rights as a Roman citizen, Paul asked the centurion to act in conformity with the law. Christians should not hesitate to follow Paul’s example.
- Have you ever been dealt with unfairly because of false assumptions someone had about you? How have you acted unfairly against others because of your own biases or assumptions? How can you avoid this in the future?
- Communicating with others often requires both content and connection. What are some ways that you can “speak their language” as you try to share the Gospel with others?
- Sometimes Christians misunderstand the biblical command to submit to authorities as submitting no matter what (Romans 13:1). How do Paul’s actions help us understand what submission to the authorities looks like? In what sense can resistance to the authorities be an act of loving obedience?
Call to Worship
The Reign of the LORD’s Anointed
 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.” (ESV)
Prayer of Confession
Oh God, we are ashamed to lift our faces to you, for our iniquities have risen higher than our head, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. To us belongs open shame, because we have sinned against you. But you are a God ready to forgive. Let us be justified by your grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. Let us have the blessedness of those whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; of that man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Heavenly Father, in a world that is darkened by sin, you have sent your people out to be a light to display the glories of Christ. As we enter this new week, remind us that you go before us to lead our way. We ask that you give us opportunities to speak the truth about the mighty work that Jesus has done. Give us opportunities to testify and simply tell the great news of Jesus’ death and resurrection to bring salvation to sinners. May we not fear to speak the truth and entrust ourselves to you. Even right now Lord, certain people come to our mind that we have been praying for. Give us the opportunity to interact this week and for us to tell the truth about Jesus as Lord and Savior. We ask that you might use this to draw men, women, and children unto yourself for salvation. We eagerly await for you to reveal your glory and majesty in our lives this week. For Jesus’ glory and in his name we pray. Amen.
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