An apology is often understood as an admission of guilt and regret for having done something wrong. But in its origins, the word apology referred to a formal argument offered in defense of something. As we will see, these next three days will reveal Paul’s repeated apology for the Christian faith and his call as an apostle.
While in Jerusalem, Paul had to face another mob stirred up against him. Their accusations were leveled in the broadest terms, often with unverified assumptions: “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” (21:28). Not only were their accusations ill-founded, they didn’t allow Paul to defend himself. Instead, they quickly dragged Paul from the temple intending to kill him.
Fortunately for Paul, the Roman tribune heard of the commotion and intervened, dragging Paul from the crowd toward the barracks. At this point, most people would simply be glad to escape the crowd. Not Paul! He convinced the tribune to give him permission to speak to the crowd publicly, to give his Christian apology.
With the crowd silenced, Paul launched into a defense of his message and calling, not by some erudite philosophical argument, but by a simple appeal to his own journey. Rehearsing his fine Jewish pedigree (born in Tarsus, trained by Gamaliel, and zealous for God), Paul explained that his life’s direction changed abruptly when he came face to face with the risen Christ on the Damascus road. That was the central piece of Paul’s apology— recounting his personal encounter with Jesus. Everything else about his message and mission stemmed directly from that encounter. Such is the lifechanging presence of Christ.