Have you ever had a burden to share the gospel with someone? Maybe it’s your spouse? Maybe it’s your mom or dad or brother or sister? Maybe it’s a close friend, best friend? Maybe it’s a coworker or neighbor or even someone you just run in too during the day? Maybe it’s someone at the bus stop or you’re sitting next to on the subway to work? Maybe you’re in a carpool or walking together. You have this burden to share, but you just don’t know how? The Lord has prompted you, the Spirit has orchestrated an opportunity, and there you are, what are you going to do? I would suggest you share your personal testimony. You may have to share a version of it dependent on your circumstances, but your testimony is the most powerful tool to share the gospel that you have. Let me explain.

Paul had been eager to share the gospel with his brethren the Jews. This was his fervent desire and hope. Now the time is here. Paul was now going to have the opportunity to share the gospel with his countrymen, something he had always wanted and had a burden to do (Romans 9:1f.; 10:1f). He was always ready to give a defense for the hope that was in him (22:1; 1 Peter 3:15-17). How did he go about giving his defense? Does Paul share a doctrinal treatise? Does he philosophize? Does he give a statistical analysis? Does he put on a light show, drama, or some spectacular event? The answer to all those questions is “No.” What Paul does is share his personal testimony.

There’s a lesson to be learned in that. Here are the people Paul most wants to win to Christ, and the instrument to share the gospel with them is his personal testimony. A personal testimony, (if done in the Spirit like Paul is doing here), is one of the most powerful outreach tools in our evangelistic arsenal.

The power of your personal testimony. I encourage you to get alone with the Lord and prayerfully write out your personal testimony about how you came to Christ. Start with a review of your life before coming to Christ and then lay out how God got your attention to show you that you needed to come to Christ. You should share enough of your BC (i.e. Before Christ) life to show your need of Jesus and His gospel salvation. Then recount how you actually came to Christ; the scriptures God used to convict you of your sin and draw you to Himself; how the gospel was presented to you; what you were thinking and feeling when you finally trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord. Then share the difference Jesus has made in your life from conversion to present. Your personal testimony and how God altered your life is irrefutable proof of the power of the gospel. It’s one of the most powerful means of sharing the gospel. Pray about it. Write it out. Practice it. Practice versions of it such as a minute or five-minute version, a fifteen-minute version and even a thirty-minute version to be used in various situations. You are the evidence and example of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Share your testimony with others. This is witnessing.

Let’s look now at Paul’s personal testimony in Acts 22.

Acts 22:1-21 – “Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now.”2 And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent.

Paul literally begins by speaking their language. That’s important. We should always speak in a way that is suited to being understood by the one we are talking to. This was the example set by Paul. Speak to be understood.

Then he said:3 “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.

Right away Paul is being all things to all men in that he is making a relatable connection with his listeners that in effect communicates, I was where you are; I was just like you once.

4 “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women,5 “as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.

Paul continues to relate to even the most fervently opposed to Jesus, the gospel, and Christians. He shares how, “I persecuted this Way to the death.” He points out how he was adamantly opposed to The Way. He points out how he had the approval and backing of the high priest, council of elders, and received letters of endorsement from them. He is laying out how BC he was diametrically and fervently opposed to the Way, just like many of them are that he is speaking to.

6 “Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me.7 “And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’

He was on his way to persecute Christians when he experienced a supernatural intervention that knocked him from his horse to the ground. He heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

8 “So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’

Paul wastes no time in identifying this supernatural voice as “Jesus of Nazareth.” It’s important to follow Paul’s example when giving a testimony by introducing and focusing on Jesus. A personal testimony is our testimony, and we give details of our life, but more accurately, it is Jesus’ testimony what He did in our life. The focus of a testimony should always be on Jesus.

To address someone as “Lord” in the way Paul does here is evidence of his conversion. Later to the Corinthians Paul would be inspired to write, “… no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).

9 “And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me.

Paul gives details of his salvation experience. Earlier in Acts 9:7 it states, “And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.” Is this a contradiction? No. In Acts 9:7 the word “hearing” (Greek akouo) simple means to perceive the sense of what is said, to hear a sound as opposed to being deaf. In Acts 22:9 the idea is they heard a sound but did not understand what was being verbalized (Greek phone). In Acts 9 the original account the men heard what sounded like a voice, but in Acts 22 we learn though they heard what sounded like a voice, they did not understand the exact words that were uttered.

10 “So I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’

Paul’s immediate submission and obedience to the Lord is a strong indicator of his conversion.

And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.’11 “And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus.

Paul shares the personal details of the affect this encounter with Jesus had on him. Initially, it blinded him. It blinded him to humble him so that he would no longer march on his own but had to reach out and depend on others to lead him. Paul who had proudly pursued Christians to persecute them, was humbled and knocked down off his high horse. No one who genuinely and savingly comes to Jesus comes proudly. God oppose the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5-6).

12 “Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there,

Paul shares how he was helped by Ananias who had a good testimony himself. Ananias was “a devout man according to the law.” He had “a good testimony with all the jews who dwelt there.” In other words, Paul’s account can be backed up by a credible witness in Ananias.

13 “came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him.

When Ananias told Paul to “receive your sight,” Paul immediately “looked up at him” (Greek anablepo) which means to receive or recover lost sight. It was a miraculous experience for Paul to have his sight taken from him on the road to Damascus. It was a miraculous experience to receive his sight back again at the word of Ananias. Paul shares honestly the supernatural aspects of his conversion.

14 “Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth.15 ‘For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.16 ‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

Paul recounts the words of Ananias that God had “chosen” Paul “to know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth.” The meaning of “chosen” (Greek procheirizomaii) meaning chosen for a purpose. That purpose was to know God’s will. This will included that Paul would “see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth,” which are words that have strong messianic overtones. Not only that, but Paul would “be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.” Paul’s testimony here is confirmation of this calling on his life.

The baptism of Paul here symbolized the washing away of his sins based on “calling on the name of the Lord.” These words are closely linked to the way the baptism with the Holy Spirit is described at the Gentile Pentecost where is spoke of “purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9). What follows from this point in the life of Paul is evidence of the empowering of the Holy Spiri tin his life.

Verse 16 raises two questions we have already considered in part in Acts but will review again here. First, when was Paul saved—on the Damascus Road or at Judas’ house? Paul was likely saved on the Damascus Road due to the following evidence:

  • The gospel was presented to him directly by Christ (Gal. 1:11-12), not later by Ananias.
  • Ananias addressed Paul as “Brother Saul” after Ananias had spoken to Jesus about Saul who would become Paul (22:13; and 9:17).
  • Already (Acts 22:10) Paul said he had submitted in faith to Christ.
  • Paul was filled with the Spirit before his baptism with water (9:17-18).
  • The Greek aorist participle, epikalesamenos, translated “calling on His name” refers either to action which is simultaneous with or before that of the main verb. Here Paul’s calling on Christ’s name (for salvation) preceded his water baptism. The participle may be translated, “having called on His name.” [1] Baptism is an outward expression or illustration of an inward reality. Paul would not, could not be baptized before he was saved. He was saved from his sins and therefore was suited to be baptized.

Second, what then do the words “wash your sins away” mean? Is salvation by water baptism taught here? No, these words are only symbolic of a work that had already taken place in Paul (1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Peter 3:21).[2] A person needs to be saved before they are baptized.

17 “Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance18 “and saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.’19 “So I said, ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You.20 ‘And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’21 “Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ ”

Paul was brutally honest. He returned to the temple in Jerusalem and as he prayed he “saw” (Greek horao) or perceived, to look intently and discern Jesus saying to him to get out of Jerusalem because “they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.” Even the best of testimonies is rejected at times. The important part, our part, is to simply be faithful in sharing our testimony. What happens after that is between the Lord and the listeners.

The Model Testimonial

The apostle Paul, when given the opportunity to share the gospel he had been praying and hoping for, relied on his personal testimony. A personal testimony is a powerful defense when faced with opposition like Paul experienced here before the Jerusalem mob. Whether or not a testimony is accepted or rejected does not determine its power. The power of a personal testimony is determined by the reliance on the Holy Spirit to give it. Let’s look at some of the characteristics of his testimony:

First, he was sensitive to the open door and opportunity to make a defense of the gospel (21:37-40; 22:1). Paul walked in the Spirit and was always ready to give a defense for the hope that was in him (2 Peter 3:15). We too ought to always be ready to share our faith. We need to cultivate a spiritual alertness to be ready to be used by the Spirit on a moment’s notice. Too often we are caught off guard by an opportunity to minister or miss such an opportunity, because we are caught up in the rush and rapids of the world. Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Walk and live in constant communion with the Lord and He will use you often.

Second, he spoke in a common language (22:2). Paul spoke to be understood. He spoke in a way that was suited to his listeners. He found common ground in the language he spoke to them. When you share, consider the person you are talking to. Ask the Spirit to lead you in a way that will find common ground with them and enable you to communicate the gospel and Gods’ word in a way they will understand. If you talk in platitudes, long intellectual or theological terms that only a Bible scholar would know, you will short-circuit your opportunity to minister.

Third, he shared his background in a way that established common ground with his listeners (22:3-5). One of the most powerful tools of evangelism and ministry is your own testimony of what the Spirit has done in your life. You are an epistle (2 Corinthians 3:3). People will read you like a book. There can be no refuting what has taken place in your life. When you share with others what God has done in you, you become living proof to them of the hope and power there is in Jesus.

Fourth, he shared how Jesus turned him around (22:6-10). Paul wasted no time in focusing on Jesus and the powerful impact he had on his life. He went from a persecutor of the followers of Jesus to one who surrendered to Jesus saying, “What shall I do Lord?” (2 Corinthians 5:17). He shared how Jesus got hold of his heart and life and changed him. In sharing in this way Paul was communicating the need to repent, and the reality of the life changing power of the gospel (Romans 1:16). Paul had thought he was doing the work of the Lord with religious fervor. But in fact he was fighting against the Lord. His testimony to this fact showed how the religious pursuit of God is a blind pursuit of God.

Fifth, he shared how his testimony was confirmed by other reputable people, i.e. Ananias (22:11-16). Paul referred to holy references and those who could verify his story. His testimony was not a fantasy but included actual living facts.

Sixth, he shared what his newfound relationship with Jesus was like; the experience of the presence of Christ in you (22:17-21). He shared how he had a prayerful communication with Jesus. The word, “Trance” in verse 17 is translated from the Greek term EKSTASIS (Strong’s # 1611 – ek´-stas-is) meaning, “a displacement of the mind, i.e. bewilderment, “ecstasy” . . . be amazed, amazement, astonishment, trance.” [3]  This word may refer to the spiritual condition of Paul where he was enabled by the Spirit to receive a word from the Lord. Paul shared the reality and living nature of his new relationship with Jesus. He had an ongoing relationship with the Lord through Jesus in the Spirit. That is something religion does not and cannot offer. To have an ongoing conversation with God where God warns and directs you in ministry, demonstrated the reality of the living presence of Jesus in Paul by the Holy Spirit. This is something any genuine seeker of God would hunger for and by Paul sharing about it, the Spirit was reaching out to those in the crowd before Paul.

The Spirit Protects Paul via the Use of Government

Even the best of testimonies can be rejected. A testimony merely shares the reality of what the testifier has experienced. But then it is up to the listener to accept or reject the testimonial truth for themselves.

Acts 22:22-30 – “And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!”

One can only imagine what these people were thinking as they came to their decision to reject Paul and his testimony about Jesus. it is the Holy Spirit who convicts the lost soul of their sinfulness and need of a Savior Jesus (John 16:8-11). To reject the gospel message of the Holy Spirit who calls all to repent and be saved through faith in Jesus, is the one unforgiveable sin. To reject the gospel is to reject eternity in the fellowship presence of God and instead set yourself up for eternity separate from God in the Lack of Fire. How about you, is the Holy Spirit tugging on your heart to repent of your sins and trust Jesus as Savior and Lord?

23 Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air,

As we have said previously, religion often involves zeal without knowledge and this leads to disorder, chaos, rioting and violence, things that aren’t from the Lord. To tear their clothes was a sign of intense religious disturbance. To through dust in the air was a sign of being intensely religiously appalled.

The reaction of the Jews in rejecting the gospel is significant in that it validates the message of Acts that the gospel was preached first to the Jews, who when they rejected it, the gospel was then presented to the Gentiles. This rejection sealed the fate of the Jews. About 20 years after this Jerusalem would fall to the Romans (in 70 A.D.). Romans 11 tells us that God isn’t finished with Israel yet, but at present we are in the Church Age.

24 the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him.

As the crowds rose to riot and threatened the life of Paul, the Spirit utilized the military branch of the Roman government to protect Paul from his enemies. Secular government is God’s means to maintain the peace (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Here we see an example of governmental authorities being used by the Lord to protect Paul. We need to pray for our governmental authorities so that they fulfill God’s will and not merely seek to manipulate the masses to maintain power.

The scourging practiced by the Romans was a means of extracting information from those they felt were withholding it. Scourging is described in the following commentary:

This flogging is different from Paul’s beating with rods at Philippi and on two other occasions (2 Cor. 11:25; Acts 16:22-23). Nor was it the same as the Jewish 39 lashes administered with the long whips, a punishment Paul had received five times (2 Cor. 11:24). The Roman scourge was inflicted with shorter whips embedded with pieces of metal or bones and attached to a strong wooden handle. It could kill a man or leave him permanently crippled. This was the punishment Christ received (Matt. 27:26), leaving Him unable to carry His cross.[4]

25 And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?”26 When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, “Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.”27 Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” He said, “Yes.”28 The commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.” And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.”29 Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. 30 The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them.”

By law a Romans citizen not proven guilty in a court of law could not be flogged. Paul used his Roman citizenship to avoid the severe punishment of flogging. Paul was not a masochist, when given the opportunity he avoided such punishment, but if the pain was inevitable and furthered the cause of Christ, he was willing to suffer. There is a time and place to rely on civil law to protect yourself and prevent physical harm.

Being a Christian does not mean you roll over and act like a carpet for people to walk all over you. There is a time, as we see here, when a Christian should appeal to the legal rights they have under the laws of the government in the country in which they live. Sometimes the laws of government can be used to further the gospel. It is a blessing to live in a free nation such as the United States. Though many of those freedoms are being eroded. The clouds of persecution of Christians are forming in the distance as we see the media’s habit of putting a negative and derogatory spin on all references to those who believe in Christ as their Savior, His word in the Spirit. Even more reason to preach Christ freely and openly while it is still possible to do so.

Therefore, we need to be ready to be ready to give our personal testimony. We should look at Paul’s example to construct our testimony. Here are a few things to keep in mind when putting together your personal testimony.

A personal testimony that is powerful asks four areas to consider:

  1. What was my life like before I came to Christ?
  2. What attracted me to Jesus – how did Jesus draw me to Himself?
  3. How did I come to Jesus? The Gospel involves: conviction of sin, confession of sin to God, repentance, receiving God’s forgiveness for sins as a gift of His grace through faith/trust in Jesus and His redemptive work on the cross not relying on our works.
  4. What have been the benefits in my life of coming to Jesus Crist as Savior? How has Jesus changed my life?

These are the four areas a personal testimony should touch on. An effective testimony involves sharing personal examples of what God has done, did, and is doing in your life. Guard against glorifying sin or self. Instead glorify Jesus. You should mention any scriptures that were significant to your coming to Christ and which have helped you walk in the Spirit as a Christian. Lastly, you should invite hearers to accept Jesus as Savior as you did at the end of your testimony. Make sure to pray as you put your testimony together and then pray for the Spirit to lead you to people with whom you can share your testimony.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to use you to share the gospel and bring glory to Jesus. Pray for His power.

A testimony is a powerful tool of evangelism when empowered by the Holy Spirit. The testimony brings people to a point of decision. They will either accept or reject its message. Here they rejected the testimony of the Apostle Paul. The important thing is to trust in the leading and empowerment of the Holy Spirit and leave the outcome to Him. That is what Paul did. That is what we should do.

 

[1]Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[2]Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[3]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[4]Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

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