Acts 21:37-40 tells what happened next. As Paul was being taken into the Roman fortress for interrogation, he asked the commander for permission to address the people, who were still frantically clamoring for his death.
As he addressed the commander in the Greek language, the latter thought Paul might have been a certain Jew from Egypt who had some three years before initiated a revolt in Jerusalem against Roman occupation.
The revolt, however, was put down by the Roman forces; many of his followers were either killed or arrested, while the Egyptian escaped.
After saying that he was from Tarsus, not from Egypt, Paul was granted permission to speak. In his speech, he did not offer a detailed response to the accusations raised against him (Acts 21:28) but told them the story of his conversion, highlighting his devotion to Judaism, to the point of having persecuted believers in Jesus. When confronted with a number of revelations from the Lord, he had no choice but to follow them. This explained the complete turnaround in his life and his call to preach to the Gentiles. Rather than get into a theological discussion, Paul recounted to them his own experience and why he was doing what he did.
Read Acts 22:22-29. How did the mob react to Paul’s statement that he was an apostle to the Gentiles?
The decision to let Paul speak did not work out well. By referring to his commitment to the Gentiles, Paul seemed to be confirming the truth of the charges against him (Acts 21:28), and the crowd got riled up again.
The Roman commander may not have understood everything Paul said; so, he decided to have him examined by flogging. Yet, besides being a pure-blooded Jew (Phil. 3:5), Paul also had Roman citizenship, and when he mentioned this, the commander had to back down. As a Roman citizen, Paul could not be subject to that kind of torture.
Read Paul’s speech (Acts 22:1-21). What evidence do you see that besides defending himself Paul was also preaching to his fellow Jews? Why would he tell his conversion story? What is it about conversion stories that can have so much power?