When Paul is brought before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem to provide his defense, Paul chooses to defend Christ rather than himself. He makes no mention of the Jewish charges being brought against him. He does not try to justify his ministry. He chooses to defend Christ by recounting the narrative of his conversion to demonstrate that it was the risen Savior – Jesus Christ – who was at work in Paul, and not the will of mere human reasoning.
As Paul is sharing the story of when he met Jesus, he recalls two important questions that he asked Jesus:
Acts 22:8 (CSB) — 8 “I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, the one you are persecuting.’
The first question that he asked Jesus is, “who are you?”
The Risen Savior cannot be recognized unless he is first revealed. After Jesus rose from the grave and appeared to his disciples, they did not recognize him until he revealed himself to them. Likewise, Paul did not recognize the very one that he was persecuting, showing that he did not understand who he was persecuting. In this question we hear Jesus’ own words upon the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!”
Here we also find one of the most comforting truths of the gospel: Jesus told Paul that it was him whom Paul persecuted. Paul – known at that time as Saul – set out on the Damascus road with letters to kill Christians, and he thought that was his mission. But Paul was really persecuting Christ, the one whose Holy Spirit personally dwells in us. Whenever Paul killed even the least of Christ’s disciples who kept his word and remained in his love, Paul was directly persecuting Jesus Christ of Nazareth – a man who Paul did not understand or know.
Knowing Jesus changes everything.
However, there are many who profess to know Jesus, but they do not:
Titus 1:15–16 (CSB) — 15 To the pure, everything is pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; in fact, both their mind and conscience are defiled. 16 They claim to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good work.
Philippians 3:18–21 (CSB) — 18 For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things, 20 but our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject everything to himself.
Those who are defiled in their mind and in their conscience – who live as enemies of the cross by their self-indulgent lifestyles – do not know Jesus Christ! They have exchanged the sacrifice of the cross for the pleasures of this world; they pursue luxury, comfort, and carnal pleasures rather than the joys that are to be found in the presence of Jesus Christ!
Herein is one of the flaws of our time: Jesus cannot be known unless you walk with Jesus, but many walk contrary to the way of Christ and think that they can still know him! But there can be no fellowship between the Light and darkness.
Paul – having Christ revealed to him – now asks a second question:
Acts 22:10 (CSB) — 10 “I said, ‘What should I do, Lord?’ “The Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything that you have been assigned to do.’
The second question that he asks Jesus is “what should I do?” Once someone understands who Jesus is – Jesus being the King of kings and Lord of lords – they will understand that he comes with a purpose. Paul asked this question because he knew that his new Lord required something of him – his life – and he wanted to know what he was supposed to do now.
All too often we confess Jesus as our Lord and then live like nothing has changed. We don’t expect our Lord to make any demands of our life. But Paul knew that everything had changed for him. Now, to Paul, for him to go on living was to live for Christ and to die was gain. No longer did Paul live to please himself – that is, his fleshly desires – but he lived to please his Lord because in the presence of the Lord are the joys of the Holy Spirit!
Now is the time for you to ask, “what should I do, Lord?”
Acts 3:26 (CSB) — 26 God raised up his servant and sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”
Galatians 3:27 (CSB) — 27 For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.
Galatians 5:16 (CSB) — 16 I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh.
In the forgiveness of Christ’s blood and sacrifice, you must confess your sins and turn away from your previous way of life to live with Christ in the newness of his life. Cut off those things that are opposed to God, and grow in those things that come from him!
Be baptized into Christ so that you may be clothed by God with Christ! Then you will be dressed in his righteousness and arrayed in the splendor of holiness so that you may enter into the presence of God forever!
And live by the promise of the Holy Spirit. Walk in him by faith, being fully assured of Christ’s promise, and grow in the new life that you have through the Holy Spirit.
Have you asked, “who are you, Lord?”
Have you asked, “what should I do, Lord?”