“Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.” (Acts 22:1, ESV)
In witnessing, I often share the story of my own conversion. In short, I was searching for answers following my wife’s decision to be baptized in a local church. To find the answers, I began reading a Gideon Bible every evening in a hotel room in Minneapolis while I was supervising a printing machine installation. This went on for many weeks. One Wednesday evening I read a verse of Scripture that touched my heart. The verse revealed the depth of my own sinful condition and the need for Christ as my Savior. That night the Lord gloriously saved me from my sin and transformed my life.
Since then, I have been able to share my story with many. It is always received well. Some have not trusted in Jesus as a result and others have. However, no one has ever said to me that this really did not happen. It is because this is my personal story and no one can refute it.
In this passage, Paul presents his irrefutable argument regarding Christ. It is his personal experience with the risen Lord. It seems that more than just making a defense for himself, here he shared his personal experience with Christ to convince the crowd regarding the truth of what he taught.
Sharing our personal experience with Christ is very powerful when proclaiming the gospel. There are several reasons for this. First, sharing one’s experience personalizes the gospel. By personalizing the gospel, the presentation gains warmth. Instead of the gospel being some intellectual experience, the personal testimony establishes it as a personal life-changing experience with the living Lord.
Second, the personal testimony is irrefutable. While people may want to refute the truth of the theology of salvation in Christ, they cannot refute something that we have personally experienced.
Third, sharing a personal story of our experience with Christ will hold an audience. Paul shared his story and the crowd listened. In this case, the Jews quietly listened until Paul said that the Messiah had sent him to the Gentiles (v21). It is normal for people to share personal experiences and we can expect that people will be interested in hearing about ours. Of course, this is no guarantee that they will listen and respond to the gospel by faith.
There are some things important to note about Paul’s testimony. First, it is straightforward, covering Paul’s life before Christ (unregenerate life), his experience with Christ (conversion) and his life after Christ (transformed life). He focuses on his experience with Christ during and after conversion as the main point.
Second, we should also note the brevity of Paul’s story. I timed this record. Paul’s testimony took about three minutes. We need to realize that brevity equals conciseness. People remember a concise presentation over a rambling babble. If you want to influence others with your story, work on keeping it concise.
Third, Paul connected with the audience at points that were relevant to their life. Paul’s background as a Jew and a Pharisee, educated under Gamaliel in Jerusalem was relevant to the audience who were Jews. This would not have been relevant to the gentile community. Our identification with those to whom we share our story is important. Identification makes our experience relevant to their lives also.