God’s Word for You
Acts 22:14-21 Sent to the Gentiles by Jesus
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, January 14, 2021
Paul has been recounting his conversion in Damascus to a mob outside the temple in Jerusalem. He just told about the man Ananias, who healed his blindness, and who now spoke to Paul:
14 “And then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will, and to see the Righteous One and hear his voice from his own mouth.
When Ananias talked about “the Righteous One,” he meant the promised Savior, the Messiah Jesus Christ. The terms Righteous One and Holy One are used throughout the Scriptures, especially in the Old Testament, to refer to the Christ. David says, “You will not abandon my soul to hell, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” (Psalm 16:10). David was confessing his faith: God would not send David away to hell, abandoning him there forever, because David trusted in God’s forgiveness. And that forgiveness would come through the Holy One, who would not even see decay in the tomb but be raised from the dead. The faith of all believers is that we, too, will be raised from the dead, as God promised Daniel: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:12). This is the same thing Jesus promised: “A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29, see also Job 19:23-27; Matthew 22:31-32). This is where we return to David’s confession, that the Righteous One would not and did not see decay. Jesus was immune to corruption. His resurrection and his grace bless his people with this same immunity, so that after we are raised, we, too, will never know corruption. We will be righteous and holy by his merits, and his immortality will be our immortality.
15 For you will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now, why are you waiting? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’”
Paul doesn’t need to explain baptism to this mob. Many or most of them knew about it. Some of them might even have been baptized by John thirty or so years before. While we have the verse before us, we might notice that grammatically, the words “be baptized,” and “wash away your sins” are imperatives (command words). But in Acts 9:18, Luke shows that Paul did not baptize himself. This kind of an imperative or command word is a “gospel imperative,” the kind of language you use when you say, “Trust me,” or even “Marry me!” You are offering something that no one else is offering, for that person’s good. They can reject it, of course. But the offer is for their good. It is especially clear when we think of a drowning man who is offered a hand from above: “Take my hand! Trust me!” Those are commands, but they are offers of rescue. That is what “Be baptized” is. Offered to “all nations” and not just to a certain few (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:39), to be baptized is usually expressed as a passive verb. Here, Ananias uses the Greek middle voice, which carries the added sense of being in one’s self-interest or advantage. What could be more advantageous to a drowning man than grabbing the hand or rope offered to him? Or to be baptized in order to receive God’s forgiveness and grace?
17 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, in a vision 18 I saw him saying to me, ‘Hurry! Get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 I said, ‘Lord, they know that I myself went synagogue by synagogue to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there approving of his death, and I was guarding the clothes of the men who were killing him.’ 21 Then he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you to the Gentiles, far away from here.’”
Notice that in verses 17-18, Paul doesn’t say who the speaker is. He only says that the one in the vision (NIV “trance”) was “him.” The urgency about the command to get out of the city is the same urgency used to command Lot to flee from Sodom (Genesis 19:15). In the parallel account of this scene in Acts 9:29-30, we see that there was also an attempt on Paul’s life there in Jerusalem after his conversion, and that some Christians hurried him away to the coast to board a ship back to tarsus. But here Paul shows that Jesus also commanded him to flee and to travel “far away” to the Gentiles. This tells us that Paul himself was willing to remain in the city. His reasoning was that since he was responsible for Stephen’s martyrdom, he should be the one to stay and set the record straight. But his plans were not the Lord’s plans. The men of Jerusalem would only kill him, and God had more in mind for Paul than a quick martyr’s death at this time. Decades of labor lay ahead for Paul. That was twenty-five years ago, and Paul still had some years left. There would be hardship, shipwreck, trials and chains, but there would be doorways, opportunities, conversions and blessings as well. We pray, “Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul” (Psalm 143:8). We don’t always know why we are ushered onto a new path in life, but the Lord will use us for the good of his kingdom and to his glory wherever we are.
Pastor Timothy Smith