Becoming a Messenger of Mercy

Acts 21:37-22:21

Jerry A Collins




  1. How can we prepare to share the gospel?
  2. What is to be our message to unbelievers?
  3. How long can we continue to give the gospel to someone?



As we attempt to give the gospel to our unsaved friends we can be tempted to dump on them. Pull out the ďSĒ word right away and do some Bible thumping. Tell them about hell and try to scare them out of it. Now the truth is, they are sinners and there is a hell and they are going there if they are not delivered by Christ. And it is equally true that people have had genuine conversions because this tactic was used. However, in our passage, there is also another approach. It is becoming a messenger of mercy. It is explaining the mercy and grace of God to deliver sinners from the consequences of their sin without deserving to be so. Itís an appeal to respond to the grace and mercy of God for your salvation. Here we are given some direction to this approach by the apostle Paulís own defense and testimony to his own rebellious people. Even the rebellious ones, those who have continually refused the gospelís advances, should still be given this message. You would think the opposite with people who have refused again and again to receive the gospel. Yet, given one more opportunity, he does not bible dump on them, but uses his lifeís message as a context for explaining the grace and mercy of God.


Just as Paul has been whisked away into Gentile hands, so has he been since his ministry began.

(1) 37-39 designed to show that jumping to false conclusions about Paul baseless. First, he spoke Greek, meaning he was probably not Second, the Egyptian who led an uprising nor Third part of an assassination team. Paul was far from that. Instead, just to clear up the confusion, he is a Jew of good standing wanting to passionately see his countrymen come to faith in Christ. He must try once more to reach the Jerusalem population.

(2) 40-22:5 he begins his speech and it begins as Stephenís did in chp 7. They complement one another. Stephen emphasizes their guilt; Paul the grace of God that overcomes this guilt. He himself is living proof of that. And proper that Paulís speech last of the two. The darker backdrop of manís sin the more brilliant the glow of Godís mercy.

(1) 40-22:2 he attempts to identify with those he desires to reach. He begins this effort by speaking to them in their own language. Here is a vigorous effort to find rapport with his hearers and express his compassion to them.

(2) 22-3-5 is the first of three sub-divisions of this address. This one is his pre-conversion experience. First addressing his background and training vs 3, he is as fully Jewish as they. He was brot up right here with the best teachers available. Member of the strictest sect. He can empathize with their fiery zeal for God even tho misguided. We should not ignore whatever commendable motivations may be present in those no matter how misdirected they are as we are wanting to hear and receive the gospel. Second, addressing his original hostility to the gospel vs 4-5. They are driven to persecute Paul as he was driven to persecute this ĎWayĒ. He committed the same error they were now committing. He once stood where they now stand! Some of the details can be verified by the high priest himself and the entire leadership. We once stood where those sinners now stand. Our message is not ĎI am better than you areí but I use to be where you are. I can identify with your unbelief. I was once there.


The gospel message is a message of deliverance. In this section, we see this truth unfold by means of Paulís conversion experience. First, describing his encounter with the Lord vs 6-11. this encounter included a very bright light. Itís appearance in brightest part of the day. Then he notes how Jesus describes himself as the Nazarene vs 8. The contrast between the heavenly splendor, vs 6 and the earthly identification of his Lord is a way to appeal to his audience, these Jews, and that they too must discover how wrong they were about Christ. The two questions, Who are you, Lord? and What shall I do Lord? Are the 2 basic questions in any personís relationship to JC. They are also in the right order. First, His identity must be known and believed. Second, his instructions must be known and obeyed. The 1st Ď?í is crucial to experience of salvation and the 2nd Ď?í is crucial to the experience of discipleship.

Second, his conversion experience included his contact with Ananias in Vs 12-16. This testimony would confirm that both the light and the message could be authenticated. The law stipulated 2 or 3 witnesses to verify testimony (Dt 19:15) and Paulís own claims were strengthened by Ananias testimony. First, his character is affirmed vs 12. So the audience could verify this and having done so realize that God has put this all together. Next, recounts the return of his eyesite thru Godís work in Ananias 13. further authentication of Ananias testimony about to be repeated 14-16. This message has 2 concerns. (1) The sovereign intentions of God 14-15. These included the experiences Saul just had vs 14 and those he was yet to have vs 15. By sovereign appointment he had been privileged to Ďknowí to Ďseeí to Ďhearí. This is what made him the witness he was. (2) The responsibility of Paul vs 16. Paulsí message and books are a gospel of grace thru faith. Throughout Acts people have believed and then been baptized (Acts 10). Baptism follows salvation and does not cause it. A public rejection of God by the Jews meant requiring them to confess their repentance thru the public rite of baptism. This is the kind of baptism Jews had been called to all along under John the Baptistís ministry and message. There is only cleansing for those who call upon the name of the lord Jesus Christ and repent of calling upon any other name!


This third and last section to his message revolves around his Post conversion experience. (1) The rejection of the gospel by the Jews 17-18 meant that Paul had to leave Jerusalem to have this ministry. The nation was not ready to receive divine testimony so no reason to take the risks. There was a mission to perform. (2) This rejection was illogical 19-21. It is illogical because of Paulís past hostility and Godís mercy toward Him. The reference to Stephen is the climax of this testimony. He had been guilty of the ultimate hostility vs 20. Stephenís death hastened the Gospel outward from Jerusalem. Fitting that mention of that name should renew the Lordís insistence that Paul now leave Jerusalem. From Godís viewpoint, the death of Stephen sealed the fate of the city. The Gospel would not go out to the Gentile world where Paul became itís ambassador! However, Godís mercy extended to them one more time.

(1) Major on the grace and mercy of God toward sinners.

(2) Focus on giving the gospel not expecting a positive response.

(3) Identifying with your unbelieving past will motivate you to present gospel humbly.