Paul Speaks to the Crowd
37When Paul was about to be taken into the fortress, he asked the commander, “Can I say something to you?”
“How do you know Greek?” the commander asked. 38“Aren't you that Egyptian who started a riot not long ago and led 4,000 terrorists into the desert?”
39“No!” Paul replied. “I am a Jew from Tarsus, an important city in Cilicia. Please let me speak to the crowd.”
40The commander told him he could speak, so Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people. When they were quiet, he spoke to them in Aramaic:
1“My friends and leaders of our nation, listen as I explain what happened!” 2When the crowd heard Paul speak to them in Aramaic, they became even quieter. Then Paul said:
3 I am a Jew, born in the city of Tarsus in Cilicia. But I grew up here in Jerusalem where I was a student of Gamaliel and was taught to follow every single law of our ancestors. In fact, I was just as eager to obey God as any of you are today.
4 I made trouble for everyone who followed the Lord's Way, and I even had some of them killed. I had others arrested and put in jail. I didn't care if they were men or women. 5The high priest and all the council members can tell you this is true. They even gave me letters to the Jewish leaders in Damascus, so that I could arrest people there and bring them to Jerusalem to be punished.
The crowd is seething with anger and wants Paul dead! . . . . but there he is, safe and sound, thanks to the rescue of the Roman occupying forces. Can you imagine the hostility of the crowd when Paul asks his arresting officer for permission to speak to these people with closed ears?
How would it be possible for him to get their attention? And how will we communicate the gospel to those who refuse to listen to us?
Rather than launching into a theological discussion, Paul simply identifies with his audience. He speaks to them in their own language which surprises them. You could hear the proverbial pin drop! Instead of preaching a sermon, Paul wisely chooses to give them his personal testimony.
Paul addresses them as his fathers and brothers (v 1, NIV), identifying with them as fellow Jews and members of the same family, and does not blame them for their hostility against him, since he too had once persecuted Jews who had become Christians. He had once been in their situation, but a radical transformation had taken place in his life when he chose to share in the work of Jesus Christ.
Giving his personal testimony, the way Paul did, proved to be an effective strategy, because it is difficult to argue with a transformed life. Listening to the “before and after” testimony of someone who has been radically transformed by Christ has a huge impact on the listener.
It is the Holy Spirit who convicts and convinces people’s hearts. He is the one who calls us to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ.
Lord God, thank you for what you have done in my life. My prayer is that when I testify to others, you will direct my words to where they will touch them most profoundly. May your Holy Spirit draw them gently to Jesus Christ. In his name, Amen!