This entire chapter is Paul recounting his encounter with Jesus. He is bravely sharing his testimony before a mob of accusers. The crowd goes quiet because he speaks their language. Paul is positioned in a perfect place, a Roman citizen and a Pharisee. This locks him in a few areas of influence. He had the attention of the Jewish crowd until he said that God called him to the Gentiles. Gasp!
Can we just break this down a bit-The Jewish people could not fathom their faith being made available to the Gentiles? The argument of who deserves to be included in the Kingdom is still a dispute today. When the verse tells us, ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, pretty sure that means all. You see, religion requires a few hoops jumped. Relationship woos you to come. Religion will make you tidy up and present yourself. Relationship will call the messiest of humans beings and make them a spokesperson of faith.
Paul is keenly aware of his underserved grace, but he most certainly does not refuse it or waste it. The Jewish leaders cannot comprehend such a thing. They have boxes to check, to-do lists to cross out, i’s to dot, and t’s to cross. How can this man who openly shares his utter failure as a religious leader be worthy? “And I was in complete agreement when your witness Stephen was killed. I stood by and kept the coats they took off when they stoned him.’”Acts of the Apostles 22:20 NLT This act is equivalent to being a getaway driver in a murder. You’re just as guilty as pulling the trigger. Paul is boldly confessing his mess before those who agreed more with him being a murder than being a minister.
This chapter is church and state colliding. Religion and politics. Jewish leaders and Roman commanders. And Paul truly has his feet in both worlds. He knows how to speak to both, and he knows his position and what he stands for, and he knows his rights in each world. The climate of the time needed a man like Paul who could boldly speak both languages. Not all of us are called to walk these knife edges, but those who do, shake things up a bit. They make religious people angry and lawmakers nervous. “The soldiers who were about to interrogate Paul quickly withdrew when they heard he was a Roman citizen, and the commander was frightened because he had ordered him bound and whipped.” Acts of the Apostles 22:29 NLT
If we can take one thing away from this chapter, let it be this; our testimony remains the same even when our audience changes. We can’t shrink back because one crowd tolerates, the other hates and another celebrates. We must remain steadfast in our faith regardless of who’s ears the message falls on. We never know who is being influenced in each circle because of our courageous declaration of faith. I am confident where I stand with both worlds, but I am no Paul, who is wise in his communication and articulate in speech. However, I know where I am called to influence and who I am called to encourage. I will own this territory all day long. When we understand our authority, that’s when we can present the message written on our lives to those who are longing to hear it and those who want you to sit down and shut up.
I want to be like Paul and bravely stand before those I am commissioned to share the Gospel; unflinching and resolved. When celebrated or persecuted, may it be said of me, “She never wavered in her faith.”