TODAY’S READING: ACTS 26-28
Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa (chapter 26); Paul’s journey to and arrival in Rome (chapters 27 and 28).
HIGHLIGHTS & INSIGHTS:
As we move into chapter 26 today, we find Paul giving his testimony before king Agrippa, the great grandson of Herod the Great who sought to kill Jesus at his birth (Matthew 2:1-16). At this point, let’s pause and consider the SINCERE CONCERN of Paul’s message, and the SIMPLE CONTENT of Paul’s message.
First, the SINCERE CONCERN of Paul’s message. It would have been easy for Paul to despise the corrupt and wicked rulers before whom he had been on trial. Clearly, none of them were willing to take a stand for the truth and declare Paul innocent (23:27-29; 24:12, 13; 26:31). The Jews falsely accused Paul and wanted to kill him (21:28, 29; 23:12-15). Felix kept Paul in prison in hopes of a bribe (24:26), and to please the wicked Jews (24:27) and likewise, Festus kept Paul bound to keep the Jews happy (25:9). It seems that “justice” went to the highest bidder or the best liar. Despite all of this injustice and corruption, Paul, rather than becoming incensed, declares the gospel of Jesus Christ, sincerely longing for the salvation of these wicked men. Even when king Agrippa, one of the most perverted and corrupt men imaginable, sarcastically commented to Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (26:28), Paul sincerely responded, “I would to God, that not only th!
ou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds” (26:29). Paul could see through the wickedness of these men to the cross where Christ died even for their sins. With all the love in his heart, Paul longed to see the salvation of his persecutors. How successful are you at obeying Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you”?
Second, the SIMPLE CONTENT of Paul’s message. It is important for us to pay attention to the content of Paul’s message each time he stood before a government official. If it were me, I would be up all night, wracking my brain, trying to fashion the most moving and powerful sermon ever. But not Paul; each time he stands before a world ruler, he simply gives his testimony and a simple gospel presentation. Nothing fancy; simply, “I once was lost, but now I’m found.” In fact, God told Paul that he would “be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard” (Acts 22:15). Paul was only responsible for preaching what he had seen and heard. As believers in Christ, we don’t have to be intellectual elitists, eloquent preachers, or Bible experts; we simply need to declare boldly what we have seen and heard! The great evangelist H.A. Ironside was once interrupted by an atheist shouting, “There is no God! Jesus is a myth!” and finally, “I challenge you to a debate!” Iro!
nside responded, “I accept your challenge, sir! But on one condition: when you come, bring with you ten men and women whose lives have been changed for the better by the message of atheism. Bring former prostitutes and criminals whose lives have been changed, who are now moral and responsible individuals. Bring outcasts who had no hope and have them tell us how becoming atheists has lifted them out of the pit! And sir,” he concluded, “if you can find ten such men and women, I will be happy to debate you. And when I come, I will gladly bring with me two hundred men and women from this very city whose lives have been transformed in just those ways by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” You can’t argue with a changed life. Ask God to open a door today for you to tell someone what you’ve seen and heard.
After a difficult journey, Paul finally landed at Rome (28:16) around 60 A.D., and was allowed to live in a rented house where he preached to both Jews and Gentiles and received guests. For the next two years Paul continued “Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (28:31). It is believed that Paul also wrote his epistles to Philemon, Timothy, Titus, the Ephesians, the Colossians and the Philippians at this time. According to tradition, Paul was beheaded sometime after 64 A.D. during Nero’s severe persecution of Christians. During this same persecution, Peter was crucified upside-down because he didn’t consider himself worthy to be crucified in the same fashion as his Lord and Savior.
Before we end, let’s consider what may be the most important lesson of the Book of Acts: God takes full responsibility for accomplishing His own mission. Acts is rather comical when you consider how confused these “great men of God” were for the first 27 years of their ministry. The believers in Acts 1-7 had no idea whether or not Christ would immediately restore the kingdom to Israel so they sold their houses and all of their possessions and camped out in Jerusalem so they didn’t miss the Second Coming of Christ (Acts 1:6,7; 2:44-47; 4:34,35; Zechariah 14:1-9); the Apostles were dazed and confused when the Samaritans and Gentiles started getting saved (Acts 11:1-3,18); the Jewish believers had an extremely difficult time letting go of circumcision and the law of Moses and trusting solely in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 15:1,2); the Apostles were most certainly shocked when God postponed His dealings with Israel in order to begin working with a !
new institution, the Church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 11:25; Eph. 3:1-13). From a human standpoint, living in the time of the early church would have been frustrating and confusing IF you were trying to analyze and formulize God. But if you “walked by faith, not by sight,” then every day would have been an adventure. At exactly the right time and in exactly the right place, exactly the right people were saved, connected and moved on. Consider God’s ancient arrangement of the Jewish holy feasts so that the Jews would at the right time and in the right place, witness the crucifixion of their Messiah at Passover, and fifty days later at Pentecost, have a chance to repent of their fatal error (Acts 2). Remember how God intervened on behalf of Peter and John, freeing them from prison to continue preaching to the people (Acts 5:17-20)? Think of how the persecution that arose after the stoning of Stephen served God’s purposes in motivating the obstinate Jewish b!
elievers to get out of Jerusalem and carry out the rest of Go!
ion to Judea, Samaria and the uttermost (Acts 1:8; 8:1f). Remember how God supernaturally arranged Philip’s meeting with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-30)? Consider also, the perfectly timed salvation of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9) and Peter’s visit to Cornelius’ house (Acts 10). We could go on and on. The bottom line? God will accomplish His own mission despite our cluelessness. If we surrender ourselves to Him daily, we have the amazing honor of joining Him where He is working.
Have a great adventure with God today!