Paul’s Personal Testimony | Daily Office Devotional 2021/8/13

Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” The tribune replied, “Do you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?” Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city; I beg you, let me speak to the people.” When he had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people for silence; and when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:

”Brothers and fathers, listen to the defense that I now make before you.” When they heard him addressing them in Hebrew, they became even more quiet. Then he said:

”I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I went there in order to bind those who were there and to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. “While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then 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 hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. I asked, ‘What am I to do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told everything that has been assigned to you to do.’ Since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, those who were with me took my hand and led me to Damascus. “A certain Ananias, who was a devout man according to the law and well spoken of by all the Jews living there, came to me; and standing beside me, he said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight!’ In that very hour I regained my sight and saw him. Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice; for you will be his witness to all the world of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.

Acts 21:37-22:16

When the Apostle Paul came to Jerusalem, he quickly became the victim of fake news. Earlier on, misinformation had spread among the people there that he was teaching Jews in other parts of the Roman Empire to abandon the Law of Moses (21.21). So when they saw him associating with Greek persons in the city, they thought he had brought them into the Temple and profaned it (Gentiles were not allowed into the Temple because they were unclean). News of his impiety spread and the anger of the populace was stirred up. They went onto the streets and assaulted him. Were it not for the Roman tribune and his soldiers who intervened, he would have died by mob violence.

Yet, instead of retreating to safety, the battered apostle took the reprieve as an opportunity to deliver an apologia (a defense) of his Christian convictions to the crowd! One cannot help but marvel at Paul’s indefatigable zeal for the good news of Christ—he truly lived up to his calling as an apostle! Interestingly, his defense was in the form of what we would consider today a personal testimony of a conversion experience. The purpose of it was to lay out how it was the very God whom he served as a Pharisee who called him to be a witness to Christ. He was a Jew who grew up in Jerusalem under the tutelage of Gamaliel, a great teacher of the Law of Moses. In fact, he was such a good Jew that he even persecuted other Jews who embraced the Christian faith. So, how could a Jew as learned and as zealous as he become an apostle of Christ save for a life-changing divine encounter?

The Jewish mob was not convinced—they would rather believe in fake news than in the good news. Yet, from the way Paul gave his testimony, one can sense how great a conviction the divine encounter must have given him. He would eventually die for the sake of Christ. How have you encountered Christ in your life? How has your life been changed by the encounter/s? Certainly, Paul’s encounter was extraordinary and it was part of his unique calling as the apostle to the Gentiles. However, if you are a Christian, it means God has also chosen you to know his will, called you through his living Word, and placed you as his witness in the world. May our encounter/s with Christ spur our obedience to his will and our zeal for his good news.

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