Paul returned to Jerusalem knowing that he would be persecuted. He did so willing to sacrifice his own life in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Paul felt strongly that he should return to Jerusalem and would not turn away because he would suffer personal harm or death. We should be careful not to overlook this consistent commitment from Paul. He faced many real and tangible threats for his safety throughout his missionary journeys. He nevertheless remained on message sharing the truth with even those who refused to accept it. Because of his boldness and courage and faithfulness, many were led to Christ. Paul did not wait for opportunities to share the gospel of Christ… he created opportunity.
10As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” 12When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, “The will of the Lord be done!”
Sure enough, as prophecy foretold, Paul was seized and bound in Jerusalem. Paul knew this would happen because of the prophecy he received. He went anyway. Take special note of how Paul reacts to the crowd once given the opportunity… keep in mind they were beating him with intent to kill him. He does not attempt to flee. He does not try to tell the people how wrong they were for beating him. He takes the opportunity to share his personal testimony of his prior misplaced efforts to kill followers of Christ as a bridge to relate to those who were trying to kill him. Paul is always looking for a way to bridge back to the message of the gospel by finding a way to connect with those to whom he is speaking. He never seems to miss an opportunity to share the truth of Jesus Christ.
Paul Seized in the Temple
27When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him, 28crying out, “Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people and the Law and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 29For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. 30Then all the city was provoked, and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. 31While they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the commander of the Roman cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. 32At once he took along some soldiers and centurions and ran down to them; and when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33Then the commander came up and took hold of him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; and he began asking who he was and what he had done. 34But among the crowd some were shouting one thing and some another, and when he could not find out the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. 35When he got to the stairs, he was carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob; 36for the multitude of the people kept following them, shouting, “Away with him!”
37As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the commander, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek? 38“Then you are not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” 39But Paul said, “I am a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city; and I beg you, allow me to speak to the people.” 40When he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the stairs, motioned to the people with his hand; and when there was a great hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect, saying,
Paul’s Defense before the Jews
1“Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you.”
2And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet; and he said,
3“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today. 4“I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, 5as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished.
6“But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, 7and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ 8“And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’ 9“And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. 10“And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.’ 11“But 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.
12“A certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13came to me, and standing near said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very time I looked up at him. 14“And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. 15‘For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16‘Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’
17“It happened when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I fell into a trance, 18and I saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’ 19“And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You. 20‘And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the coats of those who were slaying him.’ 21“And He said to me, ‘Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
22They listened to him up to this statement, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!” 23And as they were crying out and throwing off their cloaks and tossing dust into the air, 24the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, stating that he should be examined by scourging so that he might find out the reason why they were shouting against him that way. 25But when they stretched him out with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?” 26When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and told him, saying, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman.” 27The commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” And he said, “Yes.” 28The commander answered, “I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money.” And Paul said, “But I was actually born a citizen.” 29Therefore those who were about to examine him immediately let go of him; and the commander also was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had put him in chains.
30But on the next day, wishing to know for certain why he had been accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Council to assemble, and brought Paul down and set him before them.
I admire Paul’s courage and faith and his relentless commitment to share the truth of the gospel of Christ. Reflecting personally, I have allowed minor obstacles such as my perception of people’s opinions or resistance to the message or situational settings to discourage me from sharing the message of Christ. I see in Paul a courage and passion I want to have and I am praying for it as well as making conscious choices to overcome any excuses for resisting sharing the message. This is not an excuse for just being openly confrontational in sharing the gospel, but rather a reminder to look for opportunity to bridge with everyone, anyone in any given circumstance in a way to place the focus on Christ. Ask for God to help in prayer and then look for creative ways to engage people in sharing the gospel of Christ. You will not reach everyone, but you will reach some… and that is worth it.
Think of it… how many go fishing even when they may not always catch fish… or hunting even when they may not always succeed? How many play golf though they may never reach par or go shopping though they may not always find what they are looking for? Why should we not apply at least as much effort, passion and creativity toward reaching others to tell them about the love and joy and peace we find in Jesus Christ?
Your challenge… should you choose to accept it… create at least one opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus with someone where you would normally not feel bold enough to engage. For the week, create at least three opportunities. I started the challenge today… and God even gave me the blessing of a really encouraging response that I was not at all expecting. God is good.
Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.