Angry crowds bring out the worst in people. A riot is a crowd with a mob mentality and it is unpredictable. That is exactly what the Apostle Paul faced in Jerusalem after he had fulfilled his purification vow to show the Jews that he was not demanding that they stop all of their Jewish customs and traditions. While he was fulfilling his vow by ritually purifying himself in a Mikvah [ritual purification tank] someone from Ephesus recognized him and stirred up the whole crowd.
Since Paul was in a very public place and the Jews were adamant to protect their way of life and customs, it didn’t take much provoking to convince people that Paul opposed them even though he did not. The Gospel opponents used three triggers they knew would fire off the Jewish crowd - exaggerations, lies and sensationalism – as seen in Acts 21:27-30: “27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.) 30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut.”
“31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.”
The Roman soldiers chained Paul to themselves to take him away. As they were about to go into barracks Paul asked for and was given permission to speak. Continuing in Acts 22 Paul says,“1 “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.” 2 When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said: 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.”
Paul goes on to tell them his conversion story and they actually listen to the point when he tells them that God told him to go witness to the gentiles. This was another trigger for the rioters and they tried to get at him again, forcing the Romans to bring him into the barracks.
In this section of text, Paul shows us three ways to respond to gospel opponents. First, pray for wisdom. Second, be bold with the truth of the gospel. And, third, share your story.
You don’t have to be eloquent or super educated, just tell others what God has done in your life. Your faith story has three parts to it. Describe your life before Christ, your conversion experience, and your present hopes.
Sharing your faith will encourage you because it will drive you back to the heart of your relationship with Jesus. I think that is why even when Paul faced the angry crowd he could still speak to them with boldness and clarity, because he knew God had him there for a reason.
And, finally, trust God with the results. God never wastes pain and he never wastes a story. God will never waste your story because your story is important. You matter to God and what God has done for you he wants you to share with others.