Context: The Acts of the Apostles is the only contemporary account of the early Christian Church and its beginnings which remains to us. Its author may or may not have been Luke the physician; in any case he evidently wrote both Luke and Acts, and it is probable that Luke supplied much of the material. Acts begins with the Resurrection and the commission Jesus laid upon His apostles, then tells the story of their missionary activities. It is an inspiring record of struggle and of moral courage, and of the growth of an institution. Chapters 15 through 28 cover the efforts of Paul. The story of his career as wandering evangelist is eloquent testimony of the difficulties these early missionaries had to face. His travels took him through Syria, Greece, and into Asia Minor. It was his custom to enter the synagogues in cities which had them, and there to argue scripture with the Jews. He preached publicly, labored when necessary to sustain life, and persevered with great singlemindedness in the face of hardship and widespread hostility. To be an evangelist in the time of the apostles was to accept persecution and strife, and to thrive on it if possible. In Thessalonica, Paul was the center of a riot when ruffians were persuaded, or hired, to break up the activities of the Christians; the agitators followed him to Berea. Much later, in Ephesus, he was again the focal point of a riot started by silversmiths who feared his success at winning converts would stop the sale of figurines representing Diana, and thus wreck their business. After he leaves Ephesus Paul insists, in spite of warnings, on going to Jerusalem. Here he is recognized and accused in the temple by persons who have seen him in Asia Minor; he is dragged from the temple by a mob and the centurions arrive to conduct him to prison. He gains permission to tell the people how he became a Christian; they are not appeased by his words; only the fact that he is a Roman citizen saves him from a scourging.
Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.
(And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,)
I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.
And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.
And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.
And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.
And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.