TODAY’S READING: ACTS 22-25
Paul’s testimony before riotous Jews (chapter 22); Paul’s testimony before the Jewish Council (chapter 23); Paul’s testimony before Felix, the governor of Judea (chapter 24); Paul’s testimony before Festus (chapter 25).
HIGHLIGHTS & INSIGHTS:
Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem marked the beginning of his end. In Acts 21, the Jews of Jerusalem had stirred up a riot crying out, “Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place” (21:28). The Roman chief captain of Jerusalem not wanting this riot to reach Caesar’s ears for his job’s sake, immediately halted the riot, rescuing Paul from certain death (21:31,32). Chapter 22 is Paul’s testimony before the riotous Jewish crowd, but as soon as he mentions preaching to Gentiles (22:21, 22), the crowd returns to a nearly unmanageable uproar. The chief captain was about to scourge Paul until he discovered that Paul was a Roman citizen. With that revelation, Paul inserted himself into the flow of the Roman legal system, thereby guaranteeing him an audience with leading political figures in the Roman government, even Caesar hi!
mself. The following chapters record Paul’s testimony before a few of these figures. In chapter 23, Paul stands before the Jewish council once again in Jerusalem. In chapter 24, Paul is transferred to Caeserea, the Roman provincial seat of Judea, where he stands before governor Felix. Felix is replaced by Festus (24:27), and in chapter 25, Paul gives testimony before Festus and the Jewish council.
Though there are many truths and applications we could pull out of today’s reading, let’s focus primarily on a few truths related to Paul’s suffering.
1)Suffering was a natural part of Paul’s commission as it is a natural part of our commission. When God commissioned Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles, he described his ministry in this way: “he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake” (Acts 9:15,16). God promised that Paul would have the incredible privilege of preaching the gospel to Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel, so what Paul was experiencing in Acts 21-25 was God’s faithfulness in keeping His promises. But God’s faithfulness also included the promise of suffering. In the depth of the night, God compassionately reassured Paul of His promise: “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome” (Acts 23:11). Paul accepted suffering as the natural result of following Christ and reckoned that “the sufferings of thi!
s present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Paul placed all of his hope in eternity because that is what he had invested in. God promised those of us who would desire to live like Paul: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12). If we witness and seek to live holy lives, we will suffer for it, but if we have invested in eternity, a greater hope is yet before us.
2)Suffering brings us into a deeper intimacy with Christ, because we experience a taste of His sufferings. It would be natural for Paul to be angry with God; it’s not hard to imagine Paul saying something like, “God, here I am witnessing for you, seeking to live a holy life, and this is what I get?”! It’s the complaint we often hear from the lost: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” In reality, however, this is a very self-righteous and self-centered question. Self-righteous because we are calling ourselves “good” when Romans 3:12 states, “there is none that doeth good, no, not one”. Self-centered because we think life is all about us when Revelation 4:11 declares, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created”. The real question should be, “Why do good things happen to such bad people?” And this is Paul’s perspective. Paul is so thankful for the price that Jes!
us Christ paid for him that he considers these sufferings a blessing. In fact, suffering like Christ was one of his goals in life: “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Phil. 3:8-10). Through suffering, we become more intimately acquainted with Christ.