Acts 22:3 I am ...a Jew...brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel
Among Romans, Paul could boast of his Roman citizenship, but with the Jews, he could establish his social stature as a disciple of Gamaliel. The latter was undoubtedly one of the greatest rabbinical figures of his time. He was more properly called Rabban, a title which exceeded "Rabbi" in distinction and reputation. Gamaliel was also a member of the Sanhedrin which decided, at length to beat Peter and John, instead of kill them (Acts 5:29-40). The Jews must have been impressed by Paul's association with the Rabban Gamaliel. But they were not impressed enough to hearken to his message.
"Paul leaves no doubt about his orthodox training: 'Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee' (Philip. 3:5)...The Mishnah outlines the education of the orthodox boy, who began studying scripture at five and advanced Rabbinical interpretation at fifteen...And in Jerusalem Paul studied with a rabbi [Gamaliel] whose character shows a combination of devotedness and breadth. Grandson of Hillel...he towers in the early Mishnah tradition: 'When Rabban Gamaliel the Elder died, the glory of the Law ceased, and purity and abstinence died.' And when the Sanhedrin was close to sentencing the apostles to death, 'a Pharisee named Gamaliel' arose, 'a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all people' (Acts 5:34)
"....Paul was born about the beginning of the Christian era, since Acts calls him a 'young man' when Stephen was stoned about A.D. 33 (Acts 7:58). His formal study under Gamaliel would fall before A.D. 20, long before Jesus' public ministry began." (Understanding Paul, 23-24)
Neal A. Maxwell
"Not only are there intriguing truths only partially disclosed in holy scriptures, in terms of their implications, but there are also some individuals about whom we would especially desire to know more and about whom one day we shall. Gamaliel the Pharisee was such an individual; he was a much-respected doctor of the law (see Acts 5:34). Paul had been one of his pupils (see Acts 22:3). Gamaliel used his influence on one occasion in the Sanhedrin to give appropriate counsel which benefited the work of the Lord.
And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.' (Acts 5:34-40.)
"Did Gamaliel have any spiritual promptings which caused him to call for fair play for the Apostles? Did he later affiliate with the Church of Jesus Christ? We do not now know. But the wisdom of Gamaliel was surely significant." (Sermons Not Spoken, 75.)
Acts 22:3 I...was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day
The aphorism states, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." Zeal toward God seems like a noble trait, and we don't doubt the sincerity of the Jews spoken of, but sincerity doesn't go very far at the final judgment. The Savior warned an earlier generation of zealous Jews, 'Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me' (John 5:45-46).
How painful for a Law-of-Moses-zealot to be condemned by Moses at the last day! We can only compare it to the lot of many "believers," who will plead, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?' only to hear the reply, 'I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity' (Matt 7:22-23).
Acts 22:6-16 The Conversion of Saul
Wouldn't it be great if every enemy of the Church was visited by the Lord and commanded to repent? Many of the rebellious have required a sign of the Lord. They argue that they will not believe unless an angel appears unto them to tell them what to do. Yet, the persecutors have been rebuked by an angel in only two instances, that of Alma and Saul of Tarsus. The similarities are striking but there are also differences. Alma and his brethren should have known better. They were in a state of rebellion against parents, church, and God. On the other hand, Paul thought he was doing the Lord's work. Always a zealot, he was trying to purge Judaism of the new threat brought on by the followers of Jesus. Yet, in both instances, the visitation causes a great change in the hearts of the persecutors. In a miraculous way, they became great missionaries for the Lord.
What does this tell us about such divine interventions? The Lord doesn't send an angel to rebuke every rebellious soul because many of these would still not repent even if they saw an angel. The witness of the Holy Ghost is more powerful than the visitation of an angel. Heber J. Grant taught, "Many men say: 'If I could only see an angel, if I could only hear an angel proclaim something, that would cause me to be faithful all the days of my life!' It had no effect upon these men that were not serving the Lord, and it would have no effect today." (Conference Reports, Apr. 1924, p. 159) An example of this is seen in the life of Lyman Johnson.
"Lyman Johnson...reportedly apostatized after having seen an angel...'I remember hearing President Snow say on more than one occasion,' recalled Mathias Cowley, 'how determined Lyman E. Johnson was to see an angel from the Lord. He plead [sic] with and teased the Lord to send an angel to him until he saw an angel; but President Snow said the trouble with him was that he saw an angel one day and saw the devil the next day, and finally the devil got away with him.'" (FARMS, vol. 2, no. 2-Fall 1993, p. 171)
"Brigham Young said, 'Pray that you never see an angel.' He was talking historically. Almost everybody who saw an angel left the Church. They came back, but they had these terrible problems. It gave them inflated egos, etc. They thought they were somebody special. They were, but they couldn't take it. It would be very dangerous if we were exposed to the other world to any degree. Only people that are very humble can do that. Not us, we can't do that. We are not that humble." (The Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Lecture 41, p.193)
Howard W. Hunter
"What is there in all of this that causes us to respect Paul as a man of vigorous practical judgment? Does his conversion differ from the conversion of other men? Let me point out to you that there were two factors in the awakening of the spirit of Paul. The first was revelation from on High, and the second was the vision which he witnessed. This brings me to the statement which I challenge to your consideration: Spiritual truths, those great truths that encompass man's relation to deity, come to the soul by a two-way process-revelation on the part of God, and vision on the part of man.
"Religion has often been attacked on the ground that the truths it embraces are not demonstrable as are some of the truths of the sciences. This does not mean, however, that the truths in the field of religion are irrational. Spiritual truths are apprehended by spiritual reasoning which is a different faculty from logical understanding. My reasoning tells me that the whole is equal to the sum of all its parts-this seems to be intuitive. My spiritual reasoning tells me that because God is an exalted being, holy and good, that man's supreme goal is to be like him.
"Sometimes prejudices half close our eyes to spiritual truths and obscure them from our view. As we live the purer life, through faith and prayer, our eyes are opened wider. The Apostle defined faith as "seeing things not seen," that is, we see by the spirit those things not visible through natural light. We are told repeatedly in scripture that the Lord shall be unto each of us an everlasting light. Christ said:
"I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12)
"This is the light that causes us to see. This is the light that caused Paul to see.
"Logical demonstration is not necessary for the spirit to understand spiritual truth. A scientific truth can be communicated by demonstration and a fact is communicated by testimony, but a spiritual truth is received to man through the light of vision to his soul by faith. For example, there are formulas in physics and in chemistry which men accept as scientific fact-as scientific truths. This is not so of spiritual truths, for here every man must see for himself. One man may doubt the existence of God and another the validity of prayer. Even though you may exert logical arguments for the efficacy of prayer and add cumulative evidence of the experiences of others, he still does not pray. But the time may come in the hour of some great distress or of great joy, perhaps as he paces back and forth in his room at midnight while in the hushed chamber above a struggle is impending between life and death for one he loves above all other things in life, or, perhaps in the moment of overwhelming joy as the crisis safely passes, his soul reaches out to God-behold, he prays! His faith has broken through the barrier which has held him prisoner in pride and unbelief.
"How grateful one should be who has been shown the way, whose eyes have been opened to the spiritual truths, who has caught the vision. Scripture is replete with instances which recall the visions which have come to men as God has revealed his will to them. Some men have held fast to the faith while others have waivered and fallen by the wayside of life." (Elder Howard W. Hunter, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1960, pp. 5-6.)
Acts 22:9 they that were with me saw indeed the light...but they heard not the voice
As you read verse 9, did you remember that Paul's earlier account says the opposite? Did you remember that Acts 9:7 says that Paul's associates heard a voice but didn't see the light? "Here is one of the few outright contradictions in the scripture. Did Paul's companions see or hear the phenomena that accompanied his conversion? The Bible says they did, and the Bible says they did not." (Dr. Sterling B. Talmage, Improvement Era, Vol. Xxxvii. No. 10, Oct., 1934)
Do you think that the Prophet Joseph Smith remembered that these two verses are contradictory when he translated the New Testament? Not likely, but the Spirit inspired the Prophet to change Acts 9:7 to conform with Paul's personal testimony in Acts 22:9. In the Joseph Smith Translation, 'the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man' was changed to 'they who were journeying with him saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him who spake to him.' (JST Acts 9:7) The correction of this seemingly insignificant contradiction is just one more bit of evidence testifying to the inspired nature of the Joseph Smith Translation.
Acts 22:11 I could not see for the glory of that light
There are prophets who see glorious visions but are not afflicted with physical ailments thereafter. Enoch conversed with the Lord, as did Moses, the brother of Jared and a host of other prophets. Yet in the cases of Paul and his New World counterpart, Alma, the conversion experience leaves a mark. Paul was blind after seeing the glorious light; Alma was both dumb and weak after his theophany. There seems to be poetic symbolism in each affliction for Alma's energies and dissenting voice were silenced by God's power. Similarly, Paul was smitten with blindness because of his spiritual blindness in persecuting the followers of Jesus (See commentary for Acts 9:8-9).
Spencer W. Kimball
Neither can any natural man abide the presence of God, neither after the carnal mind.' (DC 67:11-12)
"It must be obvious, then, that to endure the glory of the Father or of the glorified Christ, a mortal being must be translated or otherwise fortified.
"Grease on the swimmer's body or a heavy rubber skin-diver's suit may protect one from cold and wet; an asbestos suit might protect a firefighter from flames; a bullet-proof vest may save one from assassin's bullets; one's heated home may protect from winter's chilling blasts; deep shade or smoked glass can modify the withering heat and burning rays of the midday sun. There is a protective force that God brings into play when he exposes his human servants to the glories of his person and his works.
"Moses, a prophet of God, held the protecting holy priesthood:
'. . . and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence.'(Moses 1:2.)
"In heavenly glorious vision, Moses 'beheld the world . . . and all the children of men. . . .' (Moses 1:8.) He was protected then, but when the protection from such transcendent glory was relaxed, Moses was left near-helpless.
'And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And . . . he fell unto the earth.' (Moses 1:9.)
"Many hours elapsed before he could regain his natural strength. He exclaimed:
'. . . mine own eyes have beheld God . . . my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.' (Moses 1:11.)
"...Saul of Tarsus saw Jehovah, the glorified Christ, and heard his voice and conversed with him. Even partially protected as he was from the brilliance of light from heaven greater than the noonday sun, Paul collapsed to the earth trembling, shocked. The voice said: 'I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. . . .' (Acts 9:5.) So intense was the light that even with protection he was blinded. He said: 'And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.' (Acts 22:11.) A priesthood miracle restored sight to Paul after three days of total darkness.
"The glory of the Lord! How great and magnificent!....The pattern was established, the chart made, the blueprint drawn. Under special need, at special times, under proper circumstances, God reveals himself to men who are prepared for such manifestations. And since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, the heavens cannot be closed except as men lock them against themselves with disbelief." (Faith Precedes the Miracle, 86-92.)
Acts 22:14 The God of our fathers hath chosen thee
"It is given to but few to wield a more powerful influence over Christian history than to Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor who became a prophet, the Pharisee who became the apostle to the Gentiles. The life and teachings of the Apostle Paul stand as bright reminders of the power of Christ to transform the souls of men and women, to remake the human heart, and to refocus one's misdirected zeal into the way of the Master. When the risen Lord appeared in vision to Ananias of Damascus and instructed him to send for the stricken and blinded Saul, Ananias answered: 'Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.' The response that followed bespeaks the Redeemer's insight into the wonders that would be done at Paul's hand: 'Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel' (Acts 9:11-15; emphasis added)....[Paul] taught with a power, a persuasion, and a holy zeal known only to those who, like Alma and the sons of Mosiah, have gone from darkness to light and whose whole soul yearns to lead others to that same light." (Selected Writings of Robert L. Millet: Gospel Scholars Series, p. 69.)
Acts 22:16 be baptized, and wash away thy sins
"Water baptism satisfies the first half of the Savior's commission to be born of water and of the Spirit. (John 3:5.) Though the Latter-day Saints speak often of having their sins 'washed away' in the waters of baptism (compare Acts 22:16; D&C 39:10), in fact the actual cleansing of sins does not take place until they are confirmed members of the Church and receive the Holy Spirit (see Book of Mormon, 2 Ne. 31:17; Moro. 6:4)." (Robert L. Millet, The Mormon Faith: Understanding Restored Christianity, 83.)
"The scriptures seldom speak of having our sins 'washed away' in the waters of baptism (see Acts 22:16; D&C 39:10), though the Saints frequently use this expression to teach the purpose of baptism. Perhaps the more useful analogy is that which attests to the Holy Ghost as the agent, the medium by which sins and dross are burned out of the human soul as though by fire, thus giving rise to the phrase 'baptism by fire.' Sins are remitted not in the waters of baptism, as we say casually but rather as we receive the cleansing and sanctifying influence of the Spirit in our lives." (Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 3:53.)
Acts 22:18 they will not receive thy testimony concerning me
"How did Paul learn that it was necessary for him to depart quickly out of Jerusalem, and go to other nations? He learned it by a vision in the temple. He says, '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; and saw Him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem; for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.' (Acts 17:17, 18.) And when Paul reasoned with the Lord upon the subject, as if he thought that from their acquaintance with his former course of life, they would receive his testimony, the Lord again commanded him, saying, 'Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.' Thus we see how impossible it is for a minister of the gospel to learn what to do, or where to go, or what to say, unless he is taught by new revelation. Without this heavenly principle, his own judgment would constantly lead him astray." (Orson Pratt's Works [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1945], 152.)
Acts 22:22 Away with such a fellow...for it is not fit that he should live
"...the multitude 'were cut to the heart' when Stephen accused them of rejecting what had been brought 'by the disposition of angels' (Acts 7:53-54). But the last straw was when he had the effrontery to say, 'Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him' (Acts 7:56-58). If Stephen had spent his life, as innumerable philosophers have, denouncing the vices and follies of the age, he might have died peacefully in bed. But those fatal words, 'I see,' were his death warrant. And what did Paul say to make the Jews cry out in utter horror: 'Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live,' as 'they . . . cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air?' (Acts 22:22-23.) What indeed? These were the unforgivable words that made him unfit to live: 'Suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest' (Acts 22:6-8). Paul could have won his audience over by speaking as a scholar, but when he bore witness to what he had seen and heard, he was asking for trouble." (The World and the Prophets, 3rd ed., 14 - 15.)
Acts 22:25 Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?
"How Paul's family acquired citizenship interests biographers, but there are no firm answers to this secondary issue. Likely someone had given Rome needed support in influence or money, which focuses on what citizenship tells about Paul and what it did for him. Like education, citizenship was a social distinction reaching down to the upper middle class in the first century. Citizenship protected Paul in his ministry, as we have just seen when Paul successfully demanded a fair hearing before punishment. Earlier in northern Greece he was beaten under protest but successfully demanded an official apology (Acts 16:37-39). Such confrontations suggest that Paul's effectiveness in any city stemmed partly from his confidence in fair protection of the law. Another feature of Roman citizenship is known to a generation that has seen the U.S. Supreme Court overturn local courts to uphold civil and criminal rights. Provincial governors could be brought to account for unfairness, and thus Paul was allowed an appeal to Rome after his Jerusalem arrest." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul, 20 - 21.)
Acts 22:28 the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born
David O. McKay
"I fancy that Paul straightened up when he said: 'But I was free born!' (See Acts 22:25-28.)
"I wonder if we freeborn Americans appreciate what it is to have the right to vote, to express by our vote our choice of those who are to rule over us. No, thank heaven, not to rule over us-to serve us in the service of the government. For you, the electorate, are the rulers in this great Republic.
"Those who have taken out their citizenship I think appreciate it even more than some of us who have it by birth.
"We have an election in November, in which you have the right to state who will fill the offices that are now to be filled in the nation, in the state, and in our local affairs. We ask, we plead that every member of the Church go to the polls in November and cast your vote for the men and women whom you wish to occupy the offices named. Now you choose, and choose wisely and prayerfully, but cast your vote." (Conference Report, October 1956, Afternoon Meeting 124.)