Blinded By The Light
Acts 21:37 – Acts 22:21
INTRO: Today we will go back to our look at the book of Acts, and we will be examining Acts 21:37 thru 22:21.
Last time we left the apostle Paul in a situation where everyone around him wanted to kill him because a small group of Jews that had come from Asia and accused him of four things.
They accused him of (1)teaching against the Jews; (2)teaching against the law; (3)teaching against the temple; and (4)bringing Greeks into the temple, thereby defiling it.
The chief captain of the Roman garrison who was guarding Jerusalem rushed in with several hundred men to rescue Paul from the mob.
We catch up with Luke’s report of Paul’s actions in Acts 21:37-40 – “37. And as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, "May I speak to you?'' He replied, "Can you speak Greek? 38. "Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago raised an insurrection and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?'' 39. But Paul said, "I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia (si•li•shuh), a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.'' 40. So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language...”[NKJV]
There is an old story of a man who had a reputation for being wise and for giving sound advice.
A young person went to him one day and asked, "Uncle Jimmy, how come you have such good judgment?"
"Well, I have good judgment because I have had a lot of experience," he replied.
The boy said, "Yes, but how did you get all that experience?"
"Well," the man laughed, "I got it by making a lot of bad judgments."
I. You would think that Paul asking the commander, if he could speak would be a bad judgment by Paul. Especially after having his life threatened by the very people he is going to speak to. I’m pretty sure if that was me, I would be longing just to get out of there and away from the mob.
A. Paul doesn’t turn away. He asks to speak to them and when the commander heard Paul speak to him fluently in Greek, he was surprised. The reason he was surprised seemed to be because he had assumed that Paul was a criminal. From the text we see that the commander apparently thought that Paul was an Egyptian who had led a band of some 4,000 men in a rebellion.
1. Paul explained to the captain that he was a Jew from Tarsus. Some time ago there were many coins excavated from Tarsus which had the following inscription engraved on them, 'Metropolis Autonomous.'
2. The reason I shared that information with you is because this tells us that Tarsus at some point in time, must have been granted a degree of autonomy by the Romans. The excavations also tell us that Tarsus was an important metropolis noted for its educational facilities, as well as for trade, shipbuilding, and commerce.
3. Paul asked the commander for permission to speak to the very multitude that only moments before had sought to kill him. When permission was granted, Paul gestured with his hand to gain the attention of the audience and a hush fell over the crowd.
B. Paul then began to speak to them in their language.
II. Paul begins his defense, and he says in Acts 22:1-5 – “1. "Men, brethren, and fathers, hear my defense before you now.'' 2. And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. Then he said: 3. "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia (si•li•shuh), but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. 4. "I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, 5. "as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.”
A. We note that most of Paul’s audience was primarily Jewish which is why he addresses them as "Brethren and fathers."
1. We also need to recall what we said at the beginning of this lesson, according to Acts 21:28, Paul's accusers had said he taught against the Jews, the Law of Moses, the temple and brought Greeks into the temple, defiling the holy place.
2. Paul’s response to their first accusation was that Paul himself was a Jew. He was born in Tarsus, but he was reared in the city of Jerusalem as a pupil of the highly respected Jewish teacher, Gamaliel. He had been taught the law, which was handed down from the Jewish fathers, in a most precise way. In fact, he had become a zealot for God, just as had his accusers.
3. His zeal had reached the point where he persecuted those following Christ's way by binding, imprisoning and ultimately assisting in their deaths. What Paul does next is what any good lawyer would do in a courtroom situation and that is call in the witnesses.
4. As witnesses to his zeal, Paul mentioned the high priest and council of the elders. He tells the angry mob that he had personally received letters from the high priest and elders to give him authority to go to Damascus to bring Christians from that city in chains to Jerusalem to be punished.
B. It’s much easier to talk to people when you have been in their shoes so to speak. We can sympathize with people about things they have gone through or are going through, but we do not always fully understand what they are going through unless we have been there.
1. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but unless you’ve been addicted to alcohol you cannot fully understand an alcoholic. Unless you’ve been addicted to drugs you cannot fully understand what a drug addict is going through.
2. Unless your husband or wife has walked out on you, you cannot fully understand the situation of the person who is left, or what their children are going through.
3. Unless you have fallen away from the Lord you cannot fully understand just how difficult it is to come back.
4. Unless you have lost someone close to you in death, you can’t fully understand what it’s like to lose someone that way.
5. Paul understood these people because he was just as zealous about their beliefs as they were. He had walked in their shoes and fully understood where they were coming from.
C. Many times when we meet people and they share their problems with us, if we can relate to them, this will help us to share with them how we understand what they are going through. More importantly it will open a door for us to share with them how we got help with our problems.
D. We may think that Paul didn’t have any problems with sin. Paul had the same serious problem with sin that that everyone suffers from.
1. The story is told that a newspaper wrote to the famous writer, philosopher and theologian G. K. Chesterton, who by the way was the creator of the priest-detective Father Brown, and asked him the question, "What's wrong with the world?" G. K. Chesterton wrote back and said, "I am." What Chesterton was saying is that each one of us is in part responsible for what is wrong with the world.
2. People will never become Christians until they see themselves as sinners. As Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23 – “... all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
3. Paul saw himself as a sinner in need of salvation, and he could relate to his Jewish audience because he’s been where they are.
4. Paul goes on to share his testimony about his encounter with the risen Lord Jesus.
E. I will not go into great detail on the next few verses because we already dealt with most of this in Acts 9.
III. Paul goes on and says to them in Acts 22:6-11 – “6. And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. 7. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 8. And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. 9. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. 10. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. 11. And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.”[KJV]
A. Paul shares with them the unique conversation he had on the Damascus Road with the voice from heaven. Remember that Luke had already reported this to Theophilus in Acts 9, but here Paul adds the fact that the bright light was seen at noon, when it outshone the sun.
1. Paul fell to the ground, and the voice asked why he was persecuting Him. To accurately answer the question, Saul, as he was known at that time, had to know who was speaking.
2. Jesus then clearly identified Himself to Saul. The only sense in which Saul, or Paul, persecuted Jesus was in that he persecuted the church, or Jesus' body.
B. Paul continues and tells them that his travelling companions were afraid, and did not hear the voice of our Lord. Or as the American Standard translates, it they did not hear in the sense that they did not understand it. Saul fully understood and asked what the Lord would have him to do. Jesus tells him to go into the city to be told what was planned for him, both in reference to his own salvation and that of many others.
IV. Off they went, with Paul's companions leading him to Damascus because he was blind. When he arrives at Damascus Paul tells them in Acts 22:12-21 – “12. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, 13. Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. 14. And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. 15. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. 16. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. 17. And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; 18. And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. 19. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: 20. And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. 21. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.”[KJV]
A. In Damascus, a devout, God-fearing man named Ananias came to Paul. Paul’s sight was restored and Ananias told him that God had appointed him to know His will, see the Righteous One, and hear His voice. Ananias further said that God planned for him to be a witness to all men and told Paul to be baptized to have his sins washed away.
B. Paul then told the multitude that he returned to Jerusalem and was praying when the Lord told him to leave quickly because they would not receive his testimony. Paul argued with the Lord telling Him the Jews knew of his zeal. The Lord however, told Paul to depart and He would send him to the Gentiles. As I said we have already looked at the conversion of the apostle Paul in Acts 9.
V. I thought though, that it would be useful for us to spend just a few moments looking back at all the conversions recorded in this beautiful book.
A. We’re not going to read all the scripture references but what we are going to do is quickly highlight some important truths that you will discover if you take the time to read through them yourself.
1. If you take a moment when you get home to read Acts 2:38-41 you will find reference to the fact that on the Day of Pentecost, the people, heard the word of God, repented of their sins, and were baptized.
2. In Acts 8:5-13, where we find Philip in Samaria, you will read reference to the fact that the people heard the word of God, believed it, and were baptized.
3. In Acts 8:26-40 where we find the account of Philip and the Eunuch, if you take a moment to read through it you will find references to the fact that the Eunuch, heard the word of God, believed it, confessed Jesus as Lord, and was baptized.
4. It is in Acts 9:18 where we find the account of Saul’s conversion that you will find reference to Saul, hearing the word of God and being baptized.
5. In Acts 10:47-48 we find the first Gentile converts to Christianity. In reading through that account you will find reference to them, hearing the word of God and being baptized.
6. In Acts 16:15, where we find the first European Christians, we find Lydia and her household, heard the word of God, and were baptized.
7. In the next few verses Acts 16:16-33, we find the account of the Philippian jailor. We find reference to him and his household, hearing the word of God, believing it and being baptized.
8. In Acts 18:8 we find the account of Crispus and others in his home, hearing the word of God, believing it and being baptized.
9. In Acts 19:3-5 we find reference to other people, hearing the word of God, believing it and being baptized.
10. Finally, here in Acts 22:16 where we find Paul’s story again, we find him, hearing the word of God, believing it and being baptized.
B. There are a couple points to note here and the first one is this; you cannot become a Christian unless you first hear from the Bible how to do so.
1. Paul says in Romans 10:14-15 – “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!''”[NKJV]
2. Paul is saying no one can conclude that Jesus is Lord and wants to save people from their sins if they have never been told. Every single person in our conversion list heard the good news concerning Jesus before they became a Christian. Notice their responses, every single person was baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.
3. This simple look tells us that if a person wants to become a Christian they need to be told how to, because a person cannot die to self if they haven’t died to Christ first. Salvation doesn’t come before baptism, it comes during.
C. Now, let’s look at John 3:3-5 where we find Jesus speaking to Nicodemus and Jesus says to him; “... "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'' Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?'' Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
1. In Romans 6:3-6 Paul tells us; “... do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”
2. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:21 that; “There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”
3. I know that I’m preaching mostly to the converted here, but there are a whole host of people out there who believe that they are right with God, yet they have never been immersed into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Because according to Acts 2:36-41 your sins are forgiven and the gift of the Holy Spirit is given only at your baptism.
4. I do notice that in the Book of Acts we don’t find one single person saying, “Do I have to be baptized? Must I be baptized?”
D. Jesus said in Mark 16:16 – “"He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Every single conversion we read about in the Bible has people submitting to Christ in humble obedience in the waters of baptism.
1. There are those that argue, “Jesus doesn’t say if you are not baptized you will be condemned, He says, ‘if you do not believe you will be condemned’.” He does not say; “He that believeth NOT and is NOT baptized shall be condemned.” True enough, but that is exactly what it means. The quibble raised by such a question is unworthy of intelligence and faith alike, it being implicit in the nature of baptism that, unless one believed, they COULD NOT be baptized.
2. If we were to think about that question logically, we could also say that Jesus didn’t mention repentance either. Are we going to teach that a person may be saved without sorrow for sin and a corresponding improvement of life? Surely not. When Jesus affirmed that one who disbelieves will be condemned, it was entirely unnecessary to add further acts of rebellion to make the case. The unbeliever is condemned at that point so it wasn’t necessary for Jesus to add more acts of disobedience to a list.
3. Suppose we were to say, “He who eats and digests his food shall live, but he who eats not shall die.” Would it be sensible to say, “He who eats and digests his food shall live, but he who eats not, and does not digest, shall die”? Can a person digest something he hasn’t eaten? In other words, is it even necessary to discuss baptism with a person who is in a state of disbelief? Of course not, logic and common sense tells us that Jesus didn’t need to mention baptism the second time because anyone who doesn’t believe, won’t be baptized as a action of faith and obedience.
E. People need to know that salvation does not occur until the believer has been baptized. That’s an important point for us to remember, because when God opens a door for us to share our testimonies with unbelievers, we need to make it clear to them that at our baptism was the point where we received not only the forgiveness of our sins, not only the gift of the Holy Spirit, but also our baptism was the point in which we received our salvation.
Not only was Paul blinded by the light, but we have also been blinded by that same light. We are able to talk about our road to Damascus to unbelievers because we’ve been there. We were merrily walking along life’s road when suddenly, we heard someone speak about God. Then we were blinded by the bold truth that we are sinners and in need of rescuing from our sins.
We were blinded by the truth that we can’t make it to heaven on our own, we need Jesus to help us. Blinded by the truth that our lives were in a mess, and no one could help except God Himself. Blinded by the bold truth that no one could forgive us for the sins we had done except God.
We are reminded of the words John Newton wrote to that famous hymn, Amazing Grace.
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that sav’d a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”
Let me ask you before we finish, how is your eyesight this morning?
Can you still see God clearly?
Can you still see God’s purpose for your life clearly?
Is living in this sin filled world beginning to make your eyesight a little hazy? Maybe there is some sin or problem in your life which is beginning to cloud your vision.
We need to stop looking at the faults in our brother’s or sister’s eyes and remove the plank from our own.
Luke 6:41-42 – “41. "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? 42. "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother's eye.”
Whatever the problem or the sin is, God can heal it.
God helped us see that light clearly before, and He can do the same again.
Just like our physical bodies may sometimes need a doctor, our eyes may need some care and attention from the optometrist to maintain good eyesight.
God is always on hand as the great physician, our spiritual optometrist, to help restore our spiritual eyesight back to its full glory. So that we can clearly see the hope that lies ahead of us, the purpose for our lives, and glory of heaven which waits for every one of us.
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
# 624—Why Keep Jesus Waiting?
Taken from sermon by Mike Glover
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