Acts 26 – Defense to Agrippa

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This is not the first time that we have heard Paul use his story as a defense against the accusations brought against him.  However, this particular moment records something very interesting that perhaps we tend to overlook.  As Paul began to follow Christ he didn’t turn his back on the teaching of the Old Testament.  In fact, at this point, 25 years into his ministry, he was not guilty of breaking the law and traditions of the Jewish people, at least not the ones that they religious leaders are accusing him of.

Paul’s understanding of Jesus comes from a deep knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, the only “Bible” that they had at that time.  He understands that, as he is a witness to Jesus Christ and the Gospel of the resurrection, the best witness to that among the Jews is to hold well the Old Testament Scriptures that point to Jesus as the Messiah.

Sometimes I think we too readily throw the Old Testament aside.  We think that because Jesus came, and because He represents a New Covenant, the old stuff doesn’t matter any longer.

While it is true that Jesus fulfilled the Law and through Him we have freedom from it, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to cast aside the Old Testament teachings.  All of Scripture points to Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  The sacrificial system that was in place helps us to make sense of the need for Jesus’ sacrifice.  The Passover has a direct correlation and brings deep meaning to the sacrifice of Jesus.  The Law shows us our need for a savior.

Do you want to know Jesus better?  Read the Old Testament and see how it foreshadows the coming Messiah and the salvation, reconciliation, redemption, light, and renewed relationship to the world.



Acts 25 – Trial #2: Festus

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When governor Felix is succeeded by governor Festus, the Jews waste no time in coming to him and bringing the charges they have against Paul.  No doubt they have been working hard make these charges sound much worse than they actually are.  Sadly, though, it seems that in two years, they still are unable to convince the governor that Paul has done anything seriously wrong; certainly nothing that warrants death by any means.

However, here we see politics come into play.  Governor Felix had “won” the hearts of the Jewish people through years of extended peace in which they had a good deal of freedom to live and practice their religion within the Roman Empire.  Festus had no such advantage and so, seeking to gain one, he is willing to go against Roman law to gain some Jewish brownie points.

Paul, though, will have none of it.  He has been held without conviction for the past two years and it’s pretty clear that he isn’t planning on going back to Jerusalem and so he does the one thing that he knows will get him on the way to Rome: he appeals to Caesar.

For Paul, heavenly standing with God is always more important than earthly citizenship.  He knew his identity was in Christ and that is what always came first for him.  Yet there are times when our worldly titles and positions can be an advantage to us as well.  Here, Paul once again takes advantage of his Roman citizenship, something the Jewish leaders cannot do.  This was a privilege reserved only for Roman citizens.

It is important to remember the order of identity here.  Paul has been appealing as a follower of Christ; this always comes first.  Sometimes I wonder if American Christians today get that backward.



Acts 24 – The Two Year Trial

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Paul’s first official Roman trial begins with a man named Felix, a governor over the region in which Jerusalem was a part.  When the Jewish religious leaders arrive, they present “charges” against Paul that coincide with his missionary journies throughout the Roman Empire.  Interestingly, though, if we were to read back over Paul’s journeys, we would see very quickly that it was actually the fault of the Jews in each of the cities where Paul was that riots broke out.

One thing that is missing from this chapter is the history of the Jews and the Roman Empire, and why the question of riots was so important.  The Jews were not a willing people when it came to Roman subjugation.  Throughout the rule of both the Greeks and the Romans, the Jews rioted and revolted constantly resulting in a Roman garrison being set up in Jerusalem.  Many soldiers were stationed there in an effort to keep this peace.  Being accused as a “troublemaker” and someone who “stirs up riots” was a big deal; the Romans had no patience for it.

But Paul’s defense leaves little doubt that these charges are, at best, incomplete, and lack the proper witnesses for the accusations that are being brought.

I have to wonder what Paul was thinking as the days, weeks, and months in Caesarea wore on.  He stayed with Governor Felix for two whole years, all the while being questioned in hopes that Paul would slip up.  He never did.

So for two years Paul waited to move on to the next step of the journey that would lead him to Rome.  It must have seemed like an eternity to him.  Yet during this time, God was setting the stage, preparing both Paul and those he would encounter along the way.



Day 325: Acts 24-28; Paul's Defense of the Gospel

We come today to the final chapters of the book of Acts.  If there ever was an into “all the world” as Jesus charged the disciples with back in Acts 1, Rome would be that place.  For all intents and purposes, Rome was the center of the world.  This was, however, where God was calling Paul to go and it was where Paul demands to go too!  Before he can get there though, he stands trial before a whole host of Roman rulers, all of which say the same thing: “this man has done nothing to deserve death.”  Crazily they all decide at different times that Paul has really committed no crime and, if it weren’t for the appeal that he made to Caesar, he would have gone free.  Something tells me that the Lord knew this and the Holy Spirit prompted Paul to say that even when it might otherwise not had been necessary.

I don’t really have a great deal to say about all that happens in today’s reading.  Paul delivers three very well thought out, well articulated defenses in our reading today, laying out the reasons why he is not guilty of anything while also delivering the Gospel message to many of the ruling class of the Roman empire.  These were people that would probably have not heard the Gospel before now, being that for the most part those that were interacting with the Apostles and other believers were likely common folk, much like the fishermen from which Jesus chose His disciples.

There are some pretty miraculous things that take place on Paul’s journey to Rome.  He gets shipwrecked on an Island and miraculously everyone on the boat survives, just as Paul said they would.  The natives on the Island are all very welcoming to Paul and the Roman men, something that was likely hit or miss back then.  Paul survives a snake bit from a cobra, something that clearly other people had died from judging by the reaction of the natives that were with them.

Most interesting, and what I think we’ll end this journey through Acts with, is the narrative of what happens just before the ship runs aground.  He tells them that they need to eat because they haven’t in a long while and they need to recover their strength.  So, in the midst of a storm, when it looks like all hope is lost, Paul takes bread, gives thanks, and breaks it before them and eats.  What a beautiful picture of the Lord’s Supper we see here presented before us.  In the midst of the tumult of life, God beckons us to His table, to sit down and rest, to recover our strength and find hope once again in Him.  I don’t know that this was the intent of the author as He was writing these last chapters, or if this was the purpose and lesson that God or Paul was trying to teach in this action.  What I do know is that this is something that holds true for us today, tomorrow, and always.  God has a plan for our lives and the Holy Spirit is active in guiding us on the way.  And at any time, amid the craziness of our hectic lives, Jesus says, “Come all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  We too can find encouragement in God who is with us each and every day and is working all things together for us who love Him and are called according to His purpose.