Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 25 2020 - Acts 21:37-22:16 – The body of Christ

Paul had been taken into Roman custody to put an end to the riot that had broken out in Jerusalem. The commander of the soldiers had tried to discover from the crowd who Paul was and what he had done, but their excited and confusing replies had left him none the wiser. So he commanded Paul to be taken to the barracks where he could be interrogated without the clamour of the crowd.

But as Paul was being taken away, he asked the commander if he could address the crowd. The request astonished the commander, not because of its content but because Paul addressed him in educated Greek. For some reason he had thought that Paul was an Egyptian revolutionary. The commander agreed to Paul’s request, perhaps hoping that this would pacify the crowd.

It seems that many in the crowd also had little idea of who Paul was, only that the cry had gone up that he was desecrating the temple. So, when Paul began to address them in Aramaic, realising that he was a Jew and not a foreigner, they fell silent and began to listen to what he had to say.

Standing on the steps into the barracks Paul began to give his testimony to the crowd. He told of his education under Gamaliel where he became thoroughly trained in Jewish law. He had been just as zealous for God as those he is addressing and had been intent on destroying those who claimed that Jesus is the Christ. But all that had changed through an encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. The voice from heaven had said to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul/Paul responded, “Who are you, Lord?” The voice replied, “I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.”

This single experience transformed Paul. Not only did he now know that Jesus is the Christ and that God had raised him from the dead and enthroned him in the heavens, he also learned that to oppose Christians was to oppose Christ. These remarkable words taught Paul a vital truth about the nature of the church: the church is the body of Christ and each follower of Christ is a part of his body. To harm a Christian is to do harm to Christ himself.

This truth was to shape Paul’s subsequent teaching and conduct. To what extent does it shape our own? When we minister to a fellow Christian we are serving Christ – it’s more than a figure of speech. When we show a lack of concern for another Christian we are failing to love Christ. When we treat another Christian with scorn or speak of them with contempt or in a dismissive or judgmental manner we scorn Christ and show ourselves ready to act as his judge rather than to submit to him. We need constantly to remind ourselves of the words of our Lord Jesus, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these … you did for me.”

Lord Jesus, may this truth shape our lives and conduct. You have loved us and given yourself for us and our hearts are drawn out in love for you. Help us then to love one another as you have loved us, and to do so not in a general way but in particular acts of encouragement and support for those in need. May we never despise any of your children or treat them with contempt. And may our love for one another spill over in love for those who do not yet know you – even those who despise and mistreat us – that they may see your character in our conduct and be drawn to you.

Peter Misselbrook