Acts 22:17
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;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) When I was come again to Jerusalem.—This probably refers to the visit of Acts 9:26, and Galatians 1:17-18. The objection that the mission “far hence to the Gentiles” must refer to the subsequent visit of Acts 11:30, has little or no force. When the Apostle went to Tarsus and preached the gospel to the Greeks at Antioch (Acts 11:26), there was a sufficient fulfilment of the promise, “I will send thee . . .” What was indicated in the vision was that he was to have another field of work than Jerusalem and the Church of the Circumcision. It may be noted as one of the “visions or revelations of the Lord” referred to in 2Corinthians 12:1.

Even while I prayed in the temple.—Better, and as I was praying. The fact is brought forward as showing that then, as now, he had been not a blasphemer of the Temple, but a devout worshipper in it, and so formed an important part of the Apostle’s apologia to the charge that had been brought against him.

I was in a trance.—On the word and the state of consciousness it implies, see Note on Acts 10:10.

Acts

ROME PROTECTS PAUL

Acts 22:17 - Acts 22:30
.

The threatened storm soon burst on Paul in Jerusalem. On the third day after his arrival he began the ceremonial recommended by the elders to prove his adherence to the law. Before the seven days during which it lasted were over the riot broke out, and he was saved from death only by the military tribune hurrying down to the Temple and dragging him from the mob.

The tribune’s only care was to stamp out a riot, and whether the victim was ‘that Egyptian’ or not, to prevent his being murdered. He knew nothing, and cared as little, about the grounds of the tumult, but he was not going to let a crowd of turbulent Jews take the law into their own hands, and flout the majesty of Roman justice. So he lets the nearly murdered man say his say and keeps the mob off him. It was a strange scene-below, the howling zealots; above, on the stairs, the Christian apologists guarded from his countrymen by a detachment of legionaries; and the assembly presided over by a Roman tribune.

It is very characteristic of Paul that he thought that his own conversion was the best argument that he could use with his fellow-Israelites. So he tells his story, and this section strikes into his speech at the point where he is coming to very thin ice indeed, and is about to vindicate his work among the Gentiles by declaring that it was done in obedience to a command from heaven. We need not discuss the date of the trance, whether it was in his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion or, as Ramsay strongly argues, is to be put at the visit mentioned in Acts 11:30 and Acts 12:25.

We note the delicate, conciliatory skill with which he brings out that his conversion had not made him less a devout worshipper in the Temple, by specifying it as the scene of the trance, and prayer as his occupation then. The mention of the Temple also invested the vision with sanctity.

Very noticeable too is the avoidance of the name of Jesus, which would have stirred passion in the crowd. We may also observe that the first words of our Lord, as given by Paul, did not tell him whither he was to go, but simply bade him leave Jerusalem. The full announcement of the mission to the Gentiles was delayed both by Jesus to Paul and by Paul to his brethren. He was to ‘get quickly out of Jerusalem’; that was tragic enough. He was to give up working for his own people, whom he loved so well. And the reason was their rooted incredulity and their hatred of him. Other preachers might do something with them, but Paul could not. ‘They will not receive testimony of thee.’

But the Apostle’s heart clung to his nation, and not even his Lord’s command was accepted without remonstrance. His patriotism led him to the verge of disobedience, and encouraged him to put in his ‘But, Lord,’ with boldness that was all but presumption. He ventures to suggest a reason why the Jews would, as he thinks, receive his testimony. They knew what he had been, and they must bethink themselves that there must be something real and mighty in the power which had turned his whole way of thinking and living right round, and made him love all that he had hated, and count all that he had prized ‘but dung.’ The remonstrance is like Moses’, like Jeremiah’s, like that of many a Christian set to work that goes against the grain, and called to relinquish what he would fain do, and do what he would rather leave undone.

But Jesus does not take His servants’ remonstrances amiss, if only they will make them frankly to Him, and not keep muttering them under their breath to themselves. Let us say all that is in our hearts. He will listen, and clear away hesitations, and show us our path, and make us willing to walk in it. Jesus did not discuss the matter with Paul, but reiterated the command, and made it more pointed and clear; and then Paul stopped objecting and yielded his will, as we should do. ‘When he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.’ The Apostle had kept from the obnoxious word as long as he could, but it had to come, and he tells the enraged listeners at last, without circumlocution, that he is the Apostle of the Gentiles, that Jesus has made him so against his will, and that therefore he must do the work appointed him, though his heart-strings crack with seeming to be cold to Israel.

The burst of fury, expressed in gestures which anybody who has ever seen two Easterns quarrelling can understand, looks fitter for a madhouse than an audience of men in their senses. They yelled and tore their garments {and their beards, no doubt}, and clutched handfuls of dust and tossed it in the air, like Shimei cursing David. What a picture of frenzied hate! And what was it all for? Because Gentiles were to be allowed to share in Israel’s privileges. And what were the privileges which they thus jealously monopolised? The favour and protection of the God who, as their own prophets had taught them, was the God of the whole earth, and revealed Him to Israel that Israel might reveal Him to the world.

The less they entered into the true possession of their heritage, the more savagely they resented sharing it with the nations. The more their prerogative became a mere outward thing, the more they snarled at any one who proposed to participate in it. To seek to keep religious blessings to one’s self is a conclusive proof that they are not really possessed. If we have them we shall long to impart them. Formal religionists always dislike missionary enterprise.

The tribune no doubt had been standing silently watching, in his strong, contemptuous Roman way, the paroxysm of rage sweeping over his troublesome charge. Of course he did not understand a word that the culprit had been saying, and could not make out what had produced the outburst. He felt that there was something here that he had not fathomed, and that he must get to the bottom of. It was useless to lay hold of any of these shrieking maniacs and try to get a reasonable word out of them. So he determined to see what he could make of the orator, who had already astonished him by traces of superior education, and was evidently no mere vulgar firebrand or sedition-monger. He might have tried gentler means of extracting the truth than scourging, but that process of ‘examination,’ as it is flatteringly called, was common, and has not been antiquated for so many centuries that we need wonder at this Roman officer using it.

Paul submitted, and was already tied up to some whipping-post, in an attitude which would expose his back to the lash, when he quietly dropped, to the inferior officer detailed to superintend the flogging, the question which fell like a bombshell. Possibly the Apostle had not known what the soldiers were ordered to do with him till he was tied up. We cannot tell why he did not plead his citizenship sooner. But we may remember that at Philippi he did not plead it at all till after the scourging. Why he delayed so long in the present instance, and why he at last spoke the magic words, ‘I am a Roman citizen,’ we cannot say. But we may gather the two lessons that Christ’s servants are often wise in submitting silently to wrongs, and that they are within their rights in availing themselves of legal defences against illegal treatment. Whether silence or protest is the more expedient must be determined in each case by conscience, guided by the sought-for guidance of the enlightening Spirit. The determining consideration should be, Which course will best glorify my Master?

The information brought the tribune in haste to the place where the Apostle was still tied up. The tables were turned indeed. His brief answer, ‘Yea,’ was accepted at once, for to claim the sacred name of Roman falsely would have been too dangerous, and no doubt Paul’s bearing impressed the tribune with a conviction of his truthfulness. A hint of contempt and doubt lies in his remark that he had paid dearly for the franchise, which remark implies, ‘Where did a poor man like you get the money then?’ A shameful trade in selling citizens’ rights was carried on in the degraded days of the Empire by underlings at court, and no doubt the tribune had procured his citizenship in that way. Paul’s answer explains that he was born free, and so was above his questioner.

That discovery put an end to all thought of scourging. Paul was at once liberated, and the tribune, terrified that he might be reported, seeks to repair his error and changes his tactics, retaining Paul for safety in the castle, and summoning the Sanhedrim, to try to find out more of this strange affair through them. The great council of the nation had sunk low indeed when it had to obey the call of a Roman soldier.

Thus once more, as so continually in the Acts, Rome is friendly to the Christian teachers and saves them from Jewish fury. To point out that early protection and benevolent sufferance is one purpose of the whole book. The days of Roman persecution had not yet come. The Empire was favourable to Christianity, not only because its officials were too proud to take interest in petty squabbles between two sects of Jews about their absurd superstitions, but reasons of political wisdom combined with supercilious indifference to bring about this attitude.

The strong hand of Rome, too, if it crushed national independence, also suppressed violence, kept men from flying at each other’s throats, spread peace over wide lands, and made the journeyings of Paul and the planting of the early Christian Churches possible. It was a God-appointed, though an imperfect, and in some aspects, mischievous unity, and prepared the way for that higher form of unity realised in the Church which finally shattered the coarser Empire which had at first sheltered it. The Caesars were doing God’s work when they were following their own lust of empire. They were yoked to Christ’s chariot, though unwitting and unwilling. To them, as truly as to Cyrus, might the divine voice have said, ‘I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me.’Acts 22:17-21. When I was come again to Jerusalem — From Damascus; and prayed in the temple — By this he shows that he still paid the temple its due honour, as the house of prayer; I was in a trance — Or ecstasy. Perhaps he might continue standing all the while, with an intenseness of countenance which, if it were observed by any near him, might be imputed to the fixedness of his mind in his devotions; or, if he fell down, it might be looked upon as an epileptic fit. And saw him — Jesus; saying to me, Get thee quickly out of Jerusalem — Because of the snares that will be laid for thee, and in order to preach where people will hear: for they will not — In Jerusalem; receive thy testimony — But, on the contrary, will rather attempt thy destruction. And — Presuming to expostulate with Christ himself on this occasion; I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned, &c. — They know that I was once of their mind; that I was as bitter an enemy to thy disciples as any of them; that I excited the civil power against them; and imprisoned them — And also raised the spiritual power against them; and beat them in every synagogue — Particularly in Stephen’s case, they know that, when he was stoned, I was standing by — Was aiding and abetting; and consenting to his death and — In token thereof, kept the raiment of them that slew him — That is, Lord, my former zeal against those that believed in thee is so well known to them all, by so many remarkable instances shown among them, that sure they must be convinced it is upon some certain and irresistible grounds of persuasion that I am now become a preacher of that faith I formerly destroyed and persecuted with so great zeal. And he said — Overruling my plea by a renewal of his charge; Depart — Reason no further on this subject, but go thy way immediately, according to my direction; for I will send thee far hence — Into distant countries; unto the Gentiles — And thou shalt preach my gospel, and publish the glad tidings of salvation, with much greater encouragement and success among them. It is not easy for a servant of Christ, who is himself deeply impressed with divine truths, to imagine to what a degree men are capable of hardening their hearts against them. He is often ready to think, with Paul, it is impossible for any to resist such evidence. But experience makes him wiser, and shows that wilful unbelief is proof against all truth and reason.22:12-21 The apostle goes on to relate how he was confirmed in the change he had made. The Lord having chosen the sinner, that he should know his will, he is humbled, enlightened, and brought to the knowledge of Christ and his blessed gospel. Christ is here called that Just One; for he is Jesus Christ the righteous. Those whom God has chosen to know his will, must look to Jesus, for by him God has made known his good-will to us. The great gospel privilege, sealed to us by baptism, is the pardon of sins. Be baptized, and wash away thy sins; that is, receive the comfort of the pardon of thy sins in and through Jesus Christ, and lay hold on his righteousness for that purpose; and receive power against sin, for the mortifying of thy corruptions. Be baptized, and rest not in the sign, but make sure of the thing signified, the putting away of the filth of sin. The great gospel duty, to which by our baptism we are bound, is, to seek for the pardon of our sins in Christ's name, and in dependence on him and his righteousness. God appoints his labourers their day and their place, and it is fit they should follow his appointment, though it may cross their own will. Providence contrives better for us than we do for ourselves; we must refer ourselves to God's guidance. If Christ send any one, his Spirit shall go along with him, and give him to see the fruit of his labours. But nothing can reconcile man's heart to the gospel, except the special grace of God.When I was come again to Jerusalem - That is, three years after his conversion. See Galatians 1:17-18.

While I prayed in the temple - Paul, like other converts to Christianity from among the Jews, would naturally continue to offer his devotions in the temple. We meet with repeated instances of their continuing to comply with the customs of the Jewish people.

I was in a trance - Greek: ecstasy. See the notes on Acts 10:10. It is possible that he may here refer to what he elsewhere mentions 2 Corinthians 12:1-5 as "visions and revelations of the Lord." In that place he mentions his being "caught up to the third heaven" 2 Corinthians 12:2 and "into paradise," where he heard words which it was "not lawful (marg. possible) for a man to utter," 2 Corinthians 12:4. It is not certain, however, that he alludes in this place to that remarkable occurrence. The narrative would rather imply that the Lord Jesus appeared to him in the temple in a remarkable manner, in a vision, and gave him a special command to go to the Gentiles. Paul had now stated the evidence of his conversion, which appears to have been satisfactory to them - at least they made no objection to his statement; he had shown, by his being in the temple, his respect for their institutions; and he now proceeds to show that in his other conduct he had been directed by the same high authority by which he had been called into the ministry, and that the command had been given to him in their own temple and in their own city.

17-21. it came to pass, &c.—This thrilling dialogue between the glorified Redeemer and his chosen vessel is nowhere else related.

when I was come again to Jerusalem—on the occasion mentioned in Ac 9:26-29.

while I prayed in the temple—He thus calls their attention to the fact that after his conversion he kept up his connection with the temple as before.

This was probably about three years after his conversion, as Galatians 1:18, and was one of the visions and revelations he makes mention of, 2 Corinthians 12:1.

A trance; a rapture and ecstasy, as Acts 10:10. And it came to pass, that when I was come again to Jerusalem,.... Which was three years after his conversion; for he did not immediately return to Jerusalem, but went into Arabia; and when he returned to Damascus, which was three years after he came to Jerusalem; see Galatians 1:17

even while I prayed in the temple; the temple was an house of prayer; hither persons resorted for that purpose; and as the apostle had been used to it, he continued this custom, and during the time of prayer he fell into an ecstasy:

I was in a trance: and knew not whether he was in the body, or out of the body: whether this was the time he refers to in 2 Corinthians 12:2 is not certain, though probable.

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;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 22:17-18. With this the history in Acts 9:26 is to be completed.

καὶ προσευχομένου μου] a transition to the genitive absolute, independent of the case of the substantive. See Bernhardy, p. 474; Kühner, § 681; Stallb. ad Plat. Rep. p. 518 A.

ἐκστάσει] see on Acts 10:10. The opposite: γίνεσθαι ἐν ἑαυτῷ, Acts 12:11. Regarding the non-identity of this ecstasy with 2 Corinthians 13:2 ff., see in loc.

οὐ παραδεξ. σ. τ. μαρτ. περὶ ἐμοῦ] περὶ ἐμοῦ is most naturally to be attached to τ. μαρτυρ., as μαρτυρεῖν περί is quite usual (very often in John). Winer, p. 130 [E. T. 172], connects it with παραδ. Observe the order: thy witness of me.Acts 22:17. ἐγέν. δέ μοι ὑποσ.: refers to the first visit of St. Paul to Jerusalem after his Conversion, Lightfoot, Galatians, pp. 84, 93, 125. Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 60, refers it to the second visit, (1) because the reason for Paul’s departure from Jerusalem is given differently here and in Acts 9:29. But may not St. Luke be describing the occurrence in relation to the Jews and the Church, and St. Paul in relation to his own private personal history, St. Luke giving us the outward impulse, St. Paul the inner motive (Hackett), so that two causes, the one natural, the other supernatural, are mentioned side by side? cf. Acts 13:2-4 (so Lightfoot, Felten, Lumby). (2) Ramsay’s second reason is that Paul does not go at once to the Gentiles, but spends many years of quiet work in Cilicia and Antioch, and so the command of the vision in Acts 22:20-21 is not suitable to the first visit. But the command to go to the Gentiles dates from the Apostle’s Conversion, quite apart from the vision in the Temple, cf. Acts 9:15, Acts 26:17, and the same commission is plainly implied in Acts 22:15; the words of the command may well express the ultimate and not the immediate issue of the Apostle’s labours. On ἐγέν. δέ, Luke seventeen times, Acts twenty-one, and ἐγέν. followed by infinitive, see Hawkins, Horæ Synopticæ, p. 30, and Plummer’s St. Luke, p. 45. For the reading in Acts 12:25, ὑπέστ. εἰς Ἱ., and its bearing on the present passage see Ramsay, St. Paul, pp. 63, 64, and also above, Acts 11:29, Acts 12:25.—προσευχτῷ ἱερῷ: there was a special reason for the mention of the fact before St. Paul’s present audience; it showed that the Temple was still for him the place of prayer and worship, and it should have shown the Jews that he who thus prayed in the Temple could not so have profaned it, Lewin, St. Paul, ii., p. 146.—ἐν ἐκστάσει, Acts 10:10. For the construction see Burton, p. 175, Simcox, Language of the N.T., p. 58, Blass, Gram., p. 247.17. when I was come again to Jerusalem] Rev. Ver. “had returned.” This refers to that visit of the Apostle recorded in Acts 9:26 seqq. We learn from Galatians 1:18 that three years had elapsed between the conversion of Saul and this visit to Jerusalem, which period is supposed to have been consumed in Arabia (cp. Galatians 1:17). The preaching of Saul at Jerusalem we are told in the Acts roused the anger of the Greek-speaking Jews, and that in consequence of their attempts against Saul the Christian congregation sent him away first to Cæsarea and then to Tarsus.

even while I prayed in the temple] It is worthy of note how often in this address St Paul incidentally expresses himself in such wise as to conciliate the crowd. His visit to the temple for the purpose of prayer was at once a proof that he was not likely to despise Jewish ordinances and religious observances.

I was in a trance] Better (with Rev. Ver.), “I fell into a trance.” This was the occasion of one of those “visions and revelations of the Lord” of which St Paul speaks to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 12:1) and with which, from his conversion onwards, he was many times instructed and comforted.Acts 22:17. Ὑποστρέψαντι, when I was returned or come again) The first return of Paul is mentioned in ch. Acts 9:26. The Genitive succeeds to this Dative, προσευχομένον μου, to which the Latin Ablative corresponds, orante me; for these words have more connection with the trance, than the μοι ὑποστρέψαντι have.—ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ, in the temple) He shows that he pays all lawful honour to the temple.Verse 17. - Had returned for was come again, A.V.; and for even, A.V.; fell into for was in, A.V. Into a trance (ἐν ἐκστάσει); see Acts 10:10, note. I was in a trance (γενέσθαι με ἐν ἐκστάσει)

Rev., more correctly, I fell into a trance; the verb meaning to become, rather than the simple to be. On trance, see note on astonishment, Mark 5:42; and compare note on Acts 10:10.

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