Today’s Reading: Acts 23:12 – 26:32
Yesterday, we looked at two very difficult days that Paul experienced. He had arrived back in Jerusalem from his third missionary journey, bringing gifts from the new Gentile believers to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. As was the custom in those days, Paul headed to the Temple for the purification ritual. When the seven day ritual was almost complete, Paul was confronted by some Jews from the province of Asia. They started a riot and drug him out of the Temple. The crowd became so violent that the Roman soldiers stepped in and rescued Paul, lifting him high above their shoulders to protect him (Acts 21:26-35).
With the Roman commander’s permission, the crowd was hushed and Paul stood on the steps to speak to the people. He had every right to be hurt and angry, but instead he used this opportunity to SHARE HIS TESTIMONY, to TELL HIS STORY. They listened quietly until he told them how the Lord had called him to minister to the Gentiles. This made them angry and they starting yelling, throwing off their coats and tossing handfuls of dust into the air (Acts 21:37-22:23).
The commander brought Paul inside and ordered him lashed with whips to make him confess to whatever crime he had committed, for surely he had done something to cause this kind of anger against him. When the commander realized Paul was a Roman citizen, he changed his approach and the next day took Paul to defend himself before the Jewish high council, which did not go well. When the commander learned of a plot to kill Paul, he put together an army of 470 soldiers to safely transport Paul to Caesarea where he could explain his situation to the governor (Acts 22:24-23:35).
Paul sat in prison for five more days, waiting for his accusers to arrive. Finally Paul stood before Felix and listened to the lawyer Tertullus present a false case against him. Now it was time for Paul to speak for himself, so he stood before the courtroom and SHARED HIS TESTIMONY, he TOLD HIS STORY. Not ready to declare Paul guilty of anything, the governor dismissed the courtroom and sent Paul back into custody. But God gave Paul favor with Felix, and Paul’s friends were allowed to visit him and take care of his needs while he was in custody (Acts 24:1-23).
A few days later, Felix sent for Paul to come and SHARE HIS TESTIMONY, to TELL HIS STORY, to Felix’s wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Felix was frightened by all Paul had to say about righteousness and self-control and the coming Day of Judgment. He sent for Paul often so that they could continue their talks. Two years of this confinement went by as Felix kept Paul in prison in order to appease the Jewish leaders, and MAYBE because he liked having Paul to talk to (Acts 24:24-27).
Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus and Paul soon stood before the new governor. With his accusers from Jerusalem making serious accusations against him, Paul stood strong in his faith and SHARED HIS TESTIMONY, he TOLD HIS STORY. It was obvious that the new governor wanted to please the Jews for political reasons, so Paul appealed to Caesar so that Festus could not send him back to Jerusalem to stand trial. Before going to Rome, Paul was given one more opportunity to SHARE HIS TESTIMONY, to TELL HIS STORY, before King Agrippa and the king’s sister, Bernice, as well as Governor Porcius Festus.
“…I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. In fact, that is why the 12 tribes of Israel zealously worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, Your Majesty, they accuse me for having this hope! Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?
“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.
“One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’
“Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.
“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. You are to tell the world what you have seen and what I will show you in the future. And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’” – Acts 26:6-18
Paul spoke BOLDLY before the King. Agrippa interrupted him, “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”
Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.” – Acts 26:26,28-29
Lord, give me a heart like Paul’s that would still be thinking of the salvation of others, even after spending more than two difficult years in prison. Give me a mouth that would speak boldly for you. Give me the courage to SHARE MY TESTIMONY, to look for opportunities to TELL MY STORY.
Heavenly Father, protect your people from false accusations and unfair treatment. Provide a way out for us when difficulties and hardships come our way. Give us favor with government officials and preserve our religious freedom and rights of conscience, but prepare us for the moments in which our faith is on trial. We love you so much, Father God. Amen.