JohnSWilson3 Blog

“But I have had God’s help to this very day…”
February 6, 2010, 4:22 pm
Filed under: E Acts

Paul’s defense before Festus and King Agrippa must be one of the greatest testimonies written in the Bible! Luke goes to some length to describe what Paul says. Perhaps Luke and his companions are in the “audience room” it is unsure. Perhaps there were some, no doubt, in the audience room who witnessed hearing the incredible story of Jesus saving Paul that some believed and later provided Luke some details of what was said.

Festus is very much the intelligent Roman governor and is one to play favorites for any who are of nobility, who have prestige and power. It just so happened that “King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Casarea to pay their respects to Festus.” Seems God was setting up the very scene which Paul would testify about Jesus Christ and secure his trip to Rome.

Festus explains to Agrippa about the man, Paul, “whom Felix left as a prisoner.” he describes how “the chief priests and elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned.” Festus then described to Agrippa the results of the court but was “at a loss” about what it all meant as it only involved “some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.” Of course Festus does not mention how “wishing to do the Jews a favor” he wanted Paul to go to Jerusalem “and stand trial before me there on these charges.” Of course “Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision.” So Festus has been waiting to “send him to Caesar.” Perhaps because of what happened to Paull with Felix, being left in prison for two years, it was a good thing for Agrippa to show up, or Paul would be in prison for a couple more years! Agrippa is intrigued by what Festus has shared about Paul and says “I would like to hear this man myself.”

“The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high ranking officers and the leading men of the city.” Festus makes a loud introduction presenting Paul to the audience. Sounds almost too good to be true! The risen Lord Jesus will be presented to the highest ranking people of the area and of the country. It sounds very similar to the story of Jesus being presented to the audience by Pilate, before His crucifixion. Then after Festus describes every reason why he shouldn’t even be holding Paul at all as a prisoner, Agrippa asks Paul that he has “permission to speak for yourself.”

Paul very eloquently shows appreciation to King Agrippa for allowing him to “make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews.” He is also appreciative of the fact that Paul knows that Agrippa is “well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies.” Paul describes the facts of how “the Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child” and “have known me for a long time and can testify” how Paul lived before he came to know the Lord Jesus. But Paul describes that what he is on trial for is really what the Jews were “promised” by God Himself. Paul describes it as his “hope in what God has promised our fathers…the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled…it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me.” Paul’s hope has its basis in what was promised in Scripture by God Himself, the fulfillment of those very Scriptures, by the One God raised from the dead!

Paul even points out how he too thought the way the Jews thought and “earnestly” served “God day and night” by opposing “the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Paul “put many of the saints in prison,” “cast my vote against them” “when they were put to death,” “punished” them, and “tried to force them to blaspheme.” Paul was obsessed, a religious fanatic if you will, trying to rid the world of a people who believed that the Messiah had come.

But at the height of his religious persecution against Christians God, in His mercy, came to Paul. Paul describes what happened when he “was going to Damascus.” He and his companions saw the light of God and all were thrown “to the ground” and Paul heard the voice of the Lord. God revealed Himself to Paul as the Lord “Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Paul tells the audience that Jesus told him “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Wow! Jesus desires that all men might be saved! This wonderful salvation is a revealing of the Jesus Christ as Lord and God, to invite them into an eternal relationship with God Himself who will freely forgive the sins all who have faith in Jesus and to no longer be at odds with God because of the power of Satan. What a wonderful message! You and I free from the bondage of sin and Satan, as Paul told the Roman Christians earlier, by “confessing Jesus is Lord and believing that God raised him from the dead”! Have you placed your faith in the Lord Jesus? Oh how He desires to give you salvation which is His life, life that is eternal, life that is free from condemnation!

Paul placed his faith in the risen Lord Jesus, the Messiah not of the Jews only but also of the Gentiles, anyone who would place their trust in Him! God was restoring His creation before Satan had caused Adam to fall and the rest of mankind with him. Paul was so confident in what the Lord Jesus had told him, he said he “was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.” Paul proclaimed to any who would hear him “that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” When Jesus becomes our life, His life begins to be lived through us to one another. Love becomes the mark of His people. In contrast “the Jews seized (Paul) in the temple courts and tried to kill” him. Paul makes an incredible statement at this point: “But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here to testify to small and great alike.” Jesus has been true to His word to Paul, he has rescued Paul “from your own people and from the Gentiles.” God has miraculously protected Paul for this very moment. God has a moment for His people, for you and me. How is Christ being formed in you? Christ wants to be our all in all, He desires first place in everything. Only in the context of allowing Him to live through us in love will He trust us to give us moments, moments that move heaven and earth and enable the Lord Jesus to be given the glory and His life expressed and multiplied to others. Awesome!

Paul concludes with the final statement: “Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.” We, as His followers, are alive with His resurrection life! But that life cannot come about accept through Christ’s suffering, by denying ourselves, taking up our crosses daily, and following Him. People will see Jesus, His hope and eternal life, is salvation, when they see Christians for who they truly are when in the midst of crisis and suffering they see His life and love.

Festus was beyond himself and couldn’t take it any longer! He interrupts Paul, seemingly at the top of his lungs: “You are out of your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane.” Here Jesus life comes through Paul again as Paul patiently, and without being defensive says: “I am not insane, most excellent Festus. What am saying is true and reasonable.” Festus could not accept this truth and was not willing to accept it as reasonable. His mind was focused not on wanting to trust in Jesus but on his position, prestige, and power. He wanted to get rid of Paul, but wanted to so only for the material and political benefits he could get out of it. It seems it had backfired!

Paul then goes straight for Agrippa and for the rest of the audience. Paul goes and says “the king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” But Agrippa, himself a king, is not willing to humble himself to someone else as King and Lord and tells Paul “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Agrippa totally ignores the truth and reasonableness of the message that Paul gave. Amazing how people can deny the truth when it is in front of them.

Paul concludes his defense with this statement: “Short time or long – I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” How many times are we willing to listen to the message and deny it’s truth? How many times as believers are willing to listen to the message of being the body of Christ but deny the truth by our individualism? It is only when Christ is Head of the body, in the context of dieing to one another and loving one another from the heart that it is the only means to truly live the life of Jesus?

Agrippa told Festus that “this man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” Paul’s chains reflect bondage. While he was in bondage, his time was not his own, he found comfort in the fact that he was no longer in bondage to sin and to Satan, he was in bondage to the Lord Jesus Christ, His slave. In His life Paul found himself free in the midst of the prison experience. Can we realize that while our time may not be our own, we can bask in the freedom of knowing Jesus Christ, so that the glory of Jesus would be expressed to others? Do not complain dear brothers and sisters, complaining shows how immature our faith is in Jesus and gives Satan the opportunity to wreck us spiritually and emotionally. Let Jesus be Master of you life today and as we have opportunity, to meet continually with the brothers and sisters to encourage one another and reveal Jesus, His glorious life, to one another!

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