Acts 21:37-22:2: Paul the master-communicator.
“37 As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, ‘May I say something to you?’ ‘Do you speak Greek?’ he replied. 38 ‘Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago?’ 39 Paul answered, ‘I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.’ 40 After receiving the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic: 22 1 ‘Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defence.’ 2 When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said:”
It’s good to learn from others. As a preacher, I want to glean as much as I can from other speakers. I need to be a life-long learner. Here I feel I am sitting at the feet of a master-communicator, and I learn at least four lessons from him:
- Dispel myths (38, 39). People can easily believe all kinds of rubbish about Christians and the Christian faith. We need to try to sweep these silly ideas out of the way as much as we can – if it is possible. Even if you’ve tried to live an exemplary life, the devil, who is a ‘slanderer’, may succeed in throwing some mud at you that sticks. Your reputation may have become unjustly tarnished. So deal with those misconceptions if you can. It doesn’t guarantee you a successful hearing, but don’t let unnecessary clutter remain in the way, if you can do something about it. ‘…the mob lives on ‘’suppose’’ and not fact.’ Warren Wiersbe: ‘With the Word,’p.723
- Show courtesy to all (37, 39b,40a). I hear nothing but respect in Paul’s tone as he addresses ‘’the commander.’’ In fact, it is thought that a secondary reason for the writing of ‘Acts’ may have been to show that there was nothing subversive or seditious about the Christian faith. Paul was a good citizen of the Roman Empire. (Incidentally, don’t you hear that same respect in his address to fellow-Jews in (22:1). Wiersbe points out that ‘…it takes tact to have contact’;
- Be brave. Had I been Paul, I think I would have been quite happy to be whisked off into the safety of the barracks; but the apostle saw an opportunity to testify, and he seized it. May God fill us with such courage;
- Know your audience (21:40-42). As we have observed before, it’s important to start where people are and to speak in terms they can understand. Paul clearly established a rapport. Building that bridge never guarantees you a favourable response, but it is so important to try to construct it.