Acts 25-26 - Skip Heitzig
Welcome to Expound, a verse by verse study of God's word. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God by explaining the word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Father, thank you for your word. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who has not just the word of God to break to us corporately, but You're able to take a promise, a warning, an anthem, and You're able to take that and just deliver that directly to our hearts, and make it as tailor made an individual as we are. And we trust You will do that.
Even though there is this tremendous unity that goes on when we fellowship over the text of scripture, there's also this individuality where You take that same thing that we all hear, but You make it special to us. Because only You can do that, we trust that You do it again.
Lord, thank you for those who hunger for truth, love to be saturated in the word of God. They can't put it down. And Lord, I've discovered, the longer I live, that I forget so many parts of this book. And to be reminded of them, and to have reread them, to be reacquainted with them, is so precious, and it brings such balance to all of our lives. So we look to You. Our faith is in You. We anticipate great things because we seek You and Your kingdom. In Jesus' name, Amen.
So when you were growing up, you remember all those plans you made for your life? You thought, when I grow up, I'm going to be, and you fill in the blank. And you, from a young age, script what your life is going to look like. What it might be like when you marry somebody, and where you're going to live, and what you're going to do. I'm going to be a policeman, a fireman, whatever it might be.
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a number of those things. That I wanted to be a photographer. Then I thought I'm going to be a musician. And then I'm going to be a doctor. And during part of that phase, when I was planning to complete medical training, a friend of mine-- my roommate who was a doctor, a physician-- I thought he'd get all excited and say, yeah, awesome, this'll be great, I'll help you.
He sat me down one day, and he goes, I need to tell you something. I said, sure Dennis, what is it? He goes, you should not go on this medical road and be a doctor. I said, that's funny, you a doctor telling me I shouldn't be what you are. Why is that?
He goes, because you have a different call in your life. And I think it's a higher call, and it's what God wants you to do, and you need to discover that, and I just don't think this is it. And then he was trying to give me the pitch of the high cost of insurance of malpractice and those kind of things.
But I walked away from that, and I discovered, after a period of soul searching, that I think he's right. And I was so glad he was honest with me to tell me, obey God, don't just follow your whims, your desires, your plans. The Jews had a great saying, a little proverb, that says, mankind, we make plans, and God, he breaks them. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. I know you've all heard that. But that plan may not be your plan.
So picture Paul the Apostle. When he was Saul of Tarsus, he probably sat in Tarsus saying, when I grow up, I'm going to be a rabbi in Jerusalem. I'm going to get a good education. In fact, I might even become a member of the ruling council, the Sanhedrin. And many believe that he fulfilled his dream. We know that he studied under Gamaliel, one of the notable figures of Judaism, and he became a Pharisee.
He advanced in Judaism, but before all of his contemporaries, he said to the Galatians. He became a member of the Sanhedrin. But then God changed his plans. And a few chapters before this, in chapter 9, when he was getting saved, he had just called upon the Lord on the Damascus road.
And he's in Damascus, a guy named Ananias of Damascus approaches Saul of Tarsus. And in verse 15, I'm reading from chapter 9, "the Lord said to him go." God's saying that to Ananias, the resident of Damascus. "For he", that is Saul, "he is a chosen vessel of mine to bear my name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel." Look at the next verse. "For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake."
Those were not Paul's plans growing up. He didn't say, when I grow up, I'm going to be a rabbi who converts to the messiah Jesus, and I'm going to get beat up. That's what I'm going to do when I grow up. He made plans, and God changed them.
Now he ends up traveling 13,400 miles, that's what we estimate. If you put all of his journeys together, his three missionary journeys, he traveled 13,400 airline miles. Not that he flew, but as the crow flies from point A to point B directly, if you add all the circuitous routing that it would have taken, many, many more miles than that he traveled.
And he spoke to a number of different people from synagogues to rulers, rulers of Gentiles, philosophers of Athens at the areopagus. He will eventually stand before Nero, the emperor in Rome, the King in Rome. So what the Lord tells him will be fulfilled. He'll stand before Jews, Gentiles, rulers, kings, the children of Israel. And he will suffer.
In this chapter, he stands before-- or in the chapters we saw in Caesarea last week and this week-- two governors of Judea, two procurators and one King. The first procurator is Antonius Felix. We looked at that last week. The second one is Porcius Festus. We look at him this week. And then a King, King Herod the second, who will be mentioned also in this chapter.
So all that is laid out before us in chapter 25. Now look at verse 1. Well actually, look at verse 27 of chapter 24 before verse 1. "But after two years, Porcius Festus"-- that's the first governor he stood before of Judea-- "succeeded Felix. And Felix wanted to do the Jews a favor. He left Paul bound." So Felix was the first governor he stood in front of, and he leaves Paul there to do the Jews a favor.
Now another guy is mentioned, and that is Porcius Festus. Now Porcius Festus, we don't know a lot about. His name is mentioned here. He is mentioned by Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian. He calls him an improvement from the previous guy. The previous guy, Felix, was a tyrant. We discussed that last time. So this guy was an improvement. All I can say about him is that he was just a by the books governor.
He obviously loved Roman law. He loved doing things above board. He was much kinder than Felix. He was better than his predecessor. And according to Josephus, better than his successor, a guy by the name of Albinus, who will come after him.
But he is a secularist. He does not tolerate the metaphysical, let's put it that way. He doesn't tolerate religious stuff very well, and he'll quickly understand, like his predecessor, that Paul was being charged for something none other than just a religious controversy. He was not an insurrectionists. He was not bringing any kind of revolt against the Roman government.
And that's important, because everyone so far has tried to come up with charges that can be sustained and evidence, so they can bring those before trial. But they can never come up with something concrete. Remember Claudius Lysias in Jerusalem tried to figure out a charge, but he couldn't do it, so he passes it off to the governor Felix. And he says, look, they're squabbling about their law, maybe you can figure this out. He couldn't figure it out, but he just leaves Paul in prison.
So now his successor comes on the throne. And it says, "now when Festus had come to the province after three days, he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem." Remember, Caesarea, at the coast, is where the governors, the procurators, lived. They lived overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. They only went to Jerusalem on official business, because the Jewish temple was there and they had a castle built onto the temple complex called the Antonia Fortress from which he could preside over legal matters.
"Then the high priest and the chief men of the Jews informed him against Paul, and they petitioned him, asking a favor against him that he would summon him to Jerusalem while they lay in ambush along the road to kill him. But Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself was going there shortly."
Now, first of all, notice that two years elapse between chapter 24 and 25. Two years ago, the Jews were hostile to Paul because they saw him in the temple. Two years ago, Paul gave his defense at the Antonia Fortress. Two years ago, he was confined in that prison under the protection of Claudius Lysias. And two years ago, he had a trial in Caesarea. It was essentially thrown out of court. There was no evidence whatsoever.
Two years go by, and they're still trying to get Paul. Now I just want that to sink in, because that says something to us about hate in the human heart, that it can go so deep that you don't think clearly anymore. You just want your agenda. You don't care what it takes.
You hate somebody, it goes so deep that two years later they just can't let this go. They're after him. They want him dead. They want him ambushed. They'll do anything they can to kill Paul the Apostle. They have no charges. It's been tried already twice. It's going to be tried a third time and then a fourth time in the chapter, we're looking at.
"And so Festus answered", verse 4, "that Paul should be kept at Caesarea." So he's not going to go along with their plan. Maybe he figured out something was up. "And that he himself was going there shortly." Caesar in Rome, at this time, is Caesar Nero. I want you to keep that in mind. You'll get more acquainted with him before we close this book. He was a madman. He was a maniac. He was crazy. I'll tell you stories about him before the book of Acts ends.
But it was Caesar Nero that appointed as Festus to be the Judean governor. He did that in AD 60. Festus will only be the governor for the next two years. In AD 62 he dies. I don't know why. History doesn't provide the details. So he's only the governor for two years, and then he dies on the job. Appointed by Caesar Nero, goes up to Jerusalem to ingratiate himself with the Jewish population to get acquainted with what he is governing, what he is up against.
"Therefore," verse 5, "he said, let those who have authority among you go down with me and accuse this man to see if there is any fault in him." This is a replay. This is a rerun. They've been through that. Felix did that when he went to Caesarea. Paul was brought to him, the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem went to accuse Paul there. So this is like another trial of the same kind, different governor.
"And when he had remained among them more than 10 days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day, sitting on the judgment seat, he commanded Paul to be brought. And when he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove." Now I'm picturing Paul standing in the corner rolling his eyes, because he's heard this stuff before.
They can't provide actual witnesses who accused him on that first day when he was in the temple and they thought that Paul had brought Trophimus the Ephesian into the inner courts of the temple, that Gentile. Because those were Jews from Asia that brought that complaint. They're back in Asia. So there are no eyewitnesses. There were no eyewitnesses at the trial two years before. Now two years later, Paul is hearing this, rolling his eyes, going here we go again.
"While he answered for himself," verse 8, "neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all." Because there were baseless accusations with no evidence, all Paul had to do is stand up and say, not true, not true, not true at all. "But Festus," now watch this, "but Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor." Festus is it a lot like Felix. Felix left Paul in prison because he wanted to do the Jews a favor. The next guy wants to do the Jews a favor.
So if Felix was the procrastinator-- we talked about that last week when we were outside in our service-- if he was the procrastinator, then Festus is the placator. He just wants everybody happy. He's the new governor. He wants to sort of throw them a bone so they don't get upset, so he wants to do them a favor. "Answering Paul and said, are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things?"
Now Paul had been in Jerusalem. He stood trial before Claudius Lysias. He stood trial on the stairs of the Antonia Fortress before that, and stood trial before Felix after that. So he's already gone through this. But he wants to do the Jews a favor so he says, OK let's have the trial in Jerusalem.
But Paul, you don't have to stand before them to be tried. You can stand before me. I'll be the judge in this trial. Not the Sanhedrin, not the high priest, I will be the judge. But let's have it in Jerusalem where all these people who don't like you are.
"So Paul said, I stand at Caesar's judgment seat." Now watch what he says. He says it very carefully, and it strikes a blow to the accusers. "Where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know."
Now he's saying this to Festus, the governor. Doesn't know him very well, but he's getting in his face. You know this to be true Festus. You're aware of this. You know what they're up to. So he says, "I stand before Judge Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged.
"To the Jews, I have done nothing wrong, as you very well know. For if I am an offender or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying. But if there is nothing in these things of which these men accused me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar. Then Festus, when he conferred with the counsel, answered, you have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you will go."
Now what I want you to notice is something in verse 11. He says, look, I've been through this before, and they're telling me that I'm not fit to live. They're telling me that I have done things worthy of death.
And I want you to know something, I'm not afraid to die. In fact if I have committed crimes that deserve the death penalty, then kill me. That's interesting, in light of the fact that some people say the death penalty cannot be substantiated by scripture. Here's Paul the Apostle submitting himself to the law of the land, even to Roman law, even while Caesar Nero-- probably the worst of the Caesars-- is residing as emperor in Rome.
And he says, if I have committed anything worthy of death, kill me. Execute me. Let the death penalty be lowered on me. Take my life. You see, Paul was not afraid to die.
He wanted justice to be done. It's not like he had a death wish. I mean, Paul did try to preserve his life on many occasions. He got let over the wall in a basket. He ran from threats that were made to him. He used Roman citizenship when they tried to beat him. So he's very careful in not trying to overplay his hand at the same time.
It's not an issue of being afraid to die. He wasn't afraid to die. If he was afraid to die, he wouldn't have gone up to Jerusalem, because he was getting warned by all of these different prophets and all these different places, don't go to Jerusalem. And he says, what do you mean by breaking my heart? I'm not only willing to be arrested and be beaten, I'm willing to die for the Lord.
And he said to the Ephesians elders, the Holy Spirit testifies in every city that chains and tribulation await me, but none of these things move me. Neither do I count my life dear to myself that I might finish my course with joy. He wasn't afraid to die. So it's not the death penalty issue that he's struggling against.
He's not there to overturn that. He's saying, if I'm guilty, kill me. But to him, it's an issue of justice. So he rolled his eyes. He knows he's not going to get a fair trial with the Jews. He knows that it's just going to be a circus. So he goes, I don't trust Jewish law, and I don't trust this monkey circus courtroom called the Sanhedrin. I take it to the Roman courts.
And so he said something that every Roman citizen had the right to say. And he says it here, "I appeal to Caesar." Ad caesarum provocatio would be the Latin. When you say that in antiquity, when you say that phrase, you are saying, I am appealing my case, my provocation. I'm appealing to the highest in the land, in the world, Caesar.
Every Roman citizen had that right to have a Supreme Court hearing before the Supreme Court, in this case being the emperor himself. And he could say this before he was found guilty or after he was found guilty in a lower court. And so the governor confers and says, well you appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go. He had that right. He took that right.
Now this fascinates me. Because as soon as he said, I appeal to Caesar, he knew that he was going where, Rome. Soon as he said that, it's like all the lights went off. All the planets aligned, some would say.
It's like, the Lord told me that I gave a good testimony in Jerusalem. The Lord spoke to me that night in prison and said, you've given testimony. Here, now you're going to be able to give testimony in Rome. And when he said, I appeal to Caesar, it's like that's how the Lord's getting me to Rome. I'm going to Rome. I just bought my ticket to Rome. Actually, I just got given a ticket by the Roman government to Rome. They're paying for my trip. I appeal to Caesar.
But what's interesting is the Caesar that he appealed to-- and that was Caesar Nero-- it would not be easy to stand before Caesar Nero. Caesar Nero was not only a tyrant, he was a crazed tyrant. He burned Rome. He killed so many people.
So for Paul to say, I appeal to Caesar, I know I'm going to be able to stand before Caesar Nero. He knew he was nuts, but again, Paul's not afraid to die. And he thought, I'll be able to witness to Nero, a crazy old creature. I'm going to be able to give my gospel testimony before him.
Now eventually, it will be Nero who will take his life. This will be his death. It will be his undoing. Not immediately. He's going to go to Rome, spend two years there. He'll be on trial. He'll be under house arrest. He'll be let go. He'll be brought after a re-arrest, and then beheaded by Caesar Nero, the one he appealed to. But Paul sees all this and the providence and sovereignty of God. So he says, I appeal to Caesar.
"And after some days," verse 13, "after some days, King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to greet Festus. When they had been there many days, Festus laid Paul's case before the King saying, there is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix about whom the chief priests and the elders of the Jews inform me when I was in Jerusalem asking for a judgment against him. To them I answered, it is not the custom of the Romans to deliver any man to destruction before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charge against him.
"Therefore, when they had come together without any delay, the next day I sat on the judgment seat and commanded the man to be brought in. When the accusers stood up, they brought no accusation against him of such things as I supposed, but had some questions against him about their own religion, and about a certain Jesus who had died whom Paul affirmed to be alive. And because I was uncertain of such questions,"-- I don't know these Jewish things, I'm a Roman-- "I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there be judge concerning these matters."
This Herod that is mentioned here, Herod Agrippa, is Herod Agrippa the second. Now he's noteworthy. Because when he's gone, all the Herods are gone. You're not going to read of another Herod. Effectively, the Herodian Dynasty ends with this guy. But this guy is Herod Agrippa the second who happened to be the son of Herod Agrippa the first. Funny how that works.
So his dad was Herod Agrippa the first. Just want you to know who he's dealing with. His dad was Herod Agrippa the first paragraph. Herod Agrippa the first was the guy who had James the apostle beheaded, and was going to kill Peter because he saw that the Jews liked that. That's his dad.
His granddad is Herod Antipas to who gets John the Baptist beheaded, and puts his head on a charger, on a platter. His great granddad is a guy named Herod the Great, who kills all the babies in Bethlehem three years or two years and under when the wise men, the Magi from the east, visited Bethlehem and did not come back to report to Herod the Great.
This is the dynasty Paul is standing front of. This is King Herod Agrippa the second. Now his father, Herod Agrippa the first, remember how he died? If you know your Bible, you know how he died. Acts chapter 12 tells you how he died. He was eaten by worms.
He stood in Caesarea, probably in that great theater Caesarea that many of us have been on a tour. He stood up there in a gold robe that shone in the sun, and people just poured flattery on him. It's the voice of a God and not a man, and he just loved it and soaked it in. And because he didn't give praise to God, God struck him dead on the spot. That's him.
So this is the son. So his son is from that dynasty, has a Jewish edomite background. So he is versed, he knows about Jesus of Nazareth. The governor doesn't, he does. He knows because of his own history.
Now when his dad died, Herod Agrippa the first, he was only 17. Herod Agrippa the second was only 17 when his dad died. Everybody figured he was way too young to govern Judea, so they did not let him govern Judea. He was not the King of Judea in the dynasty of the Herods.
So what Rome did, because now you've got the 17-year-old kid who's now the heir apparent of Judea, don't let him be the King, they said. Rule the district with governors, procurators so Pontius Pilate as a procurator. You know of him. We've mentioned him. You know of Felix, and now you know of Festus. We know of three. There were 14 altogether. But they started ruling until he could come of age.
So what they did with this kid, Herod Agrippa the second, is give him a territory way up north out of the way, just a small little territory in the area that is today Lebanon. But not Lebanon, just a part of Lebanon. That's where he reigned. He was the King of that little portion way up north in modern day Lebanon. Later on, because he was doing a good job, they gave him another portion of land in Galilee. Not all of it, but a portion of it.
So this King goes to make relations to start everything off with this new procurator. Pays a courtesy call to him, a visit. But he knows the history of Jesus of Nazareth, and he knows of the spread of Christianity. So he comes and he visits. But notice who is with him. It says, "and Bernice." Now get a load of this. Bernice, who's with him, is his sister. Bernice is the daughter of Herod Agrippa the first, like Herod Agrippa the second. It's his sister.
She had been married to somebody else. He died. And ever since he died, she moved in with her brother. Rumors were rife that the relationship was an incestuous relationship, that brother and sister were having sexual relations together. That was the rumor, and that rumor happened to be substantiated by no less than Flavius Josephus the historian, who writes quite plainly that it was incest and everybody knew it.
So this is Herod Agrippa the second, not unlike some of the previous crazy Herods that we've read about in the past. We've gone through and explored them in depth in the gospels, and so far on Acts. This is the last of them. But what's interesting in our text is that wherever you see his name, she's there. In fact, if you want to know who he is, just look at these verses of scripture.
So it says, verse 13, "after some days King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to greet Festus." Verse 23, "so the next day when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp into the theater." Now look at Chapter 26, go to verse 30. "When he said these things, the King stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice and those who sat with him."
If you want to know who Herod Agrippa the second was, just take that phrase and Bernice, because wherever he was she was. They became so joined at the hip in this weird relationship that the only thing he became really known for, famous for, infamous for, was this incestuous crazy relationship with his sister. It's this Herod and Bernice, unbelievers, Jewish background, allied with Rome, ruling in the north.
Oh something else, eventually Bernice is going to move back to Rome. She has been involved with several people in Rome already, but always went back to her brother. But she will move to Rome and become the mistress of another emperor and his son. The emperor is Vespasian.
Does that ring a bell? He's the guy that ordered Rome to be destroyed in 70 AD. And his son Titus is the guy that attacked Jerusalem and leveled it to fulfill the prophecy of Jesus in Matthew 24. So she's going to go hang out and be the mistress of both father and son, Vespasian and Titus, in Rome. Just a little intrigue to spice it up a little bit.
So that's who Paul is standing in front of. "Therefore, when they came together," verse 17-- no I already read that. Verse 21, "when Paul appealed to be reserved for the decision of Augustus the emperor, I commanded him to be kept until I could send him to Caesar.
"Then Agrippa said Festus, I also would like to hear the man myself. Tomorrow, he said, you shall hear him. So the next day, when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp and entered the auditorium with the commanders and the prominent men of the city at Festus' command, Paul was brought in."
Look at the word pomp. It's a very interesting word in the Greek language. The king comes in with great pomp-- fantasia. Fantasy, we get the word fantasy from this Greek word. And it means a display, an open show of fantasy.
So it's a word that was used to describe kids who dress up in character. It's their fantasy. They play act. So this guy really wasn't much of a King, but he dresses up probably in his purple robe and the gold little ringlet crown on his head. And he probably told Festus to dress up as well, so he came in his purple robe, the typical robe for the affairs of state. He had all of the ceremonial guards with him. It was just a great fantasy dress up with all the officials there.
And then it says, "Paul was brought in." Now this scene to me, I'm just imagining the pomp of the King and the prisoner Paul. A pompous King and a prisoner named Paul face to face, eyeball to eyeball. You couldn't have two more different people. One in royal robes, one in peasant garb. One absolutely free to make any choice he wants, one who is at the subject of that choice, it would seem, in handcuffs.
As King Agrippa stood upright with his goofy looking little crown, pompous robe, everybody oo-ing and ah-ing, there stood Paul. And now Paul, we only have one physical description of Paul, one source that tells us what Paul the Apostle looked like. It may or may not be true, but this is the only one we have so we'll go with it. It says Paul was a man of very short stature, a little bent over, bald, hooked nose, what would be translated beetle brows like a unibrow, thick brows that joined in the middle.
So if you picture a little bald guy, kind of bent over-- and also the description was he was bowlegged, so a bowlegged bald guy with a unibrow, crook nose, and he squinted because he had bad eyesight. And this pompous King looks down to that guy and goes all of this palaver over this thing. But in that courtroom, the most significant person was not King Herod Agrippa the second, it was that little bald headed, beetle eyed, bow legged preacher.
And he is not at all intimidated by this King, or this governor. "And Festus said, King Agrippa and all the men who are present with us"-- remember this is great pomp-- "you see this man about whom the whole assembly of the Jews petitioned me both at Jerusalem and here crying out that he was not fit to live any longer. But when I found that he had done nothing deserving of death, and that he appealed to Caesar, I decided to send him.
"I have nothing certain to write to my Lord concerning him." I don't really have any evidence. "Therefore, I have brought him out before you, and especially before you King Agrippa, so that after an examination has taken place I may have something to write. Or it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him."
It's great humor here. So I've got to take this guy to Caesar. Only makes sense that we've got to have something to charge him with. Now there were plenty of charges against him, there's just no evidence for those charges, none. This is the fourth trial Paul is on since he was in Jerusalem, and there is nothing that sticks to him in terms of evidence. So he's hoping something is going to come out of this.
"Then Agrippa said to Paul, you're permitted to speak for yourself. So Paul stretched out his hand." Picture that bald headed, bow legged, short, unibrowed, hook nosed preacher sticks his hand out. Yeah, see, you're laughing. That's what everybody was doing in the theater in Caesarea. "And he said, I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things which I am accused of by the Jews."
Paul sounds ready, doesn't he. Paul didn't sound like he has a loss for words. He's not like, like now? You want me to say something now? Because I'm ready. You know what Peter said in his epistle, always be ready to give a defense, an answer to anybody who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. Paul was ready.
So this is the greatness of the story. Paul is on trial. He turns the trial into a testimony. He turns the opposition into an opportunity. He uses it for the glory of God. I'm happy. I'm ready to speak for myself.
Jesus was like this, always ready to turn a trial into a testimony, an opposition into an opportunity. Always look for opportunities. So he's at the well in Sumeria and he's speaking to a woman who came there to draw water, and he used that as an opportunity to speak to her about living water. Drink of this water, you'll thirst again. Drink of the water that I give you, you'll never thirst. Using the moment as a testimony for a witness.
He did that when the crowd came to him and heard him give his speeches in Galilee. They were hungry. Jesus miraculously fed them, but then use that as an opportunity to teach them about the breath of life, John chapter 6 and 7.
I am encouraging you to always be ready, you always be ready, you always be ready to give an answer, to give a witness, to never be caught off guard, to be ready to give a defense. Here's why I believe. This is why I live the way I do. And not only you, but also train your children to do that.
Because what happens too often is children who grow up in church and are sheltered and only live with a Sunday school education get out into the world unequipped. Their parents never taught them how to defend the faith, never how to present any kind of an apologetic whatsoever. They get to college and they drop off the face of the spiritual map. And then they scramble. What do I do, my child doesn't believe. Get them ready for that.
I remember telling my son the reason I'm sending you to a secular school in your primary education is because I want you to hear what people believe about God, and I want you to be able to give an answer to them. Later on, he was involved in Christian education, but I didn't want that at first. I wanted the opportunity for him to hear where the world is at, and stand up for what he believed in a secular environment.
One author put it this way. "Let's say your son has been raised in a Christian home, has gone to a Christian school, and runs with Christian friends, and has spent all of his formative years in that rather sheltered environment. To make matters more complicated, you have said very little about the real world and done nothing to equip him for what he is sure to face.
When he goes off to college, he is thrust into a school that is not Christian. He is surrounded by young adults who, for the most part, are not Christians. Almost overnight, he is introduced to an environment that he hardly knew existed. This is where the rubber meets the road. That is when all the theory either works, or goes down the tube."
Paul was ready. He had heard it all before. And people who were with Paul, he got them ready. So get your kids ready. You get ready. Always be ready to give an answer, to give a defense.
So what Paul does here is he pulls out of his apologetic toolbox his first and, I would say, the first line of offense or defense, depending on how you want to look at it, depending on your conversation, and that is his testimony. Your personal testimony, how you got saved, learn to say it in a few sentences, and say it in a few different forms so that you can quickly tell people how you came to Christ. Why is this important? Because you're telling them, essentially, I have a vantage point you don't have.
You are an unsaved person. I am a saved person who used to be an unsaved person. I've been on both sides of the fence. You're only on one side of the fence. This is what happened to me. Here is my story, and how I got from that side of the fence to this side of the fence. That's your story.
Now you can't stop with your story. You then want to buttress that and you want to fortify it, and you want to strengthen it with not just your story, your subjective story, but then you show them objective evidence that shows why your subjective story can stand scrutiny and is reasonable.
And it'll pay off. I have watched it payoff. I've watched it with atheists, with agnostics, with scientists. I worked in a world for years that was filled with the scientific community of doctors and medical professionals that had no thought of spirituality at all. And I was thrust into that, and effectively was able to give testimony and see many of them come to Christ.
So Paul was ready, and he speaks. "And he says, I think myself happy King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews. Therefore, I beg you to hear and be patient."
Now, Paul was not just flattering him. He wasn't buttering him up. He was saying a true statement. You're from the Herodian Dynasty. You have a Jewish background. You're inculcated into their traditions and customs. You have a history of dealing with the Jewish people, you and your forebears. And so you know this stuff. Comparative to the governor here, you're an expert in this stuff.
And he starts, "my manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. They knew me from the first. If they are willing to testify that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee." What's he saying? He's saying, all the people who are accusing me, they know my background. They're familiar with me.
In Galatians, Paul said, "I advanced in Judaism beyond my contemporaries." In Philippines, he said, "I was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. I was a Pharisee. Concerning righteousness which comes by the law, I was blameless, and they know me."
When he was 13, we believe, Paul was shipped from Tarsus to Jerusalem. And he studied, I mentioned, under Gamaliel, Acts 22 is mentioned Gamaliel. Gamaliel one of the most notable teachers of Judaism. He was so notable, so revered, that when he died, the Talmud writes, when rabban or rabbi Gamaliel people died, the glory of the law ceased. He was such a revered teacher of the law of Moses, that when he died, it was felt. Paul studied under him. He's appealing to that knowledge.
And now verse 6, "I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers." What promise? Deuteronomy 18 where God says to Moses, I will raise up a prophet like unto you for my brethren. Him you shall listen and obey.
"To this promise, our 12 tribes earnestly serving God day and night hope to attain. For this hope sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
"This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the Saints, I shut up in prison having received authority from the chief priests. And when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme. And being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities."
Paul is talking about his conversion here. He's going to go, blow by blow, what happened at Damascus. Paul's conversion was huge. It was the pivotal point that drove all of those contemporaries of his in Jerusalem to hate him. This is why they want to kill him. This is why, after two years, they're still wanting to set ambush and eliminate him. Because he was one of them, and now he believes Jesus of Nazareth is the Jewish messiah sent to be the savior of the world. This bothers them.
If you know any people that you think are impossible cases please let this testimony give you great courage and encouragement. Everybody thought Saul of Tarsus, ain't no way that boy's going to get saved. If he comes around, lock the doors. He just wants to kill us.
He ends up coming to Christ. He was an impossible case. God has the knack of taking the worst and making the best out of them. Saul was the worst. He was the chief antagonist. He became the chief protagonist in the first years of Christian experience and expansion.
Well, verse 12, "when thus occupied, I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priest, at midday, oh king. Along the road, I saw a light from heaven brighter than the sun shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying to me in the Hebrew language, Saul, Saul." Of course, he would have heard Saul because it's Hebrew language, Saul. "Why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads."
Have you ever walked outside of a theater after a matinee on a bright summer day, and you go, oh man, the sun's bright. Well, you haven't gotten acclimated yet. That's what the experience for Paul was like. He was in broad daylight, acclimated, but he was not acclimated to that Heavenly light that pinged him in the eyeballs, knocked him to the ground. He's telling that testimony.
The question Saul saw, why are you persecuting me, it's hard for you to kick against the goads. Remember what a goad was? We covered that in chapter 9. It's a long stick with a sharpened end or a nail at the end. It was used to incentivize animals.
If an animal was stubborn and wouldn't move, easy, to take a goad out, poke it. Poke it a little harder and they will move. If they don't, they're not smart. And sometimes you'll have animals that are recalcitrant, stubborn, and they'll kick against the goads. Now when they kick against that goad, it doesn't hurt the goad, but it does hurt them.
What was the reference to? What were the goads? What was happening inside Paul that he was kicking against, that he was fighting against? He was kicking, I believe, against two goads. The spread of the gospel seemed to be getting out of control. He was trying to stop it, and it was just growing like wildfire.
And number two, the testimony of Stephen. He was there he accepted, the clothes of those who killed him with stones, stoned Stephen to death. He was crying out, I see heaven open and the Lord Jesus seated at the right hand of God. And he said, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
Saul of Tarsus saw him die, and saw him die with grace. And that goaded him, that bothered him, that pricked his conscience. And he wrestled with that, and was not able to get rid of that. And so he's saying, King, this is what happened to me. I was suffering, I was struggling, and the Lord Jesus appeared to me. I saw this light, and he asked me, it's hard for you to kick against the goads.
"So I said, who are you, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness, both of these things which you have seen and the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people as well as from the Gentiles to whom I now send you to open their eyes in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me.
"Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea and then to the Gentiles that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance." He's laying it on. "For these reasons, the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.
"Therefore, having obtained help from God to this day, I stand witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come, that the Christ would suffer and that he would be first to rise from the dead and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles." There's the gospel-- death, burial, Resurrection.
"Now when he had made his defense, Festus"-- the governor's hearing this. There's Paul, squinty eyed, short, bald, bow legged talking to King Agrippa. Talks about the death of Jesus and the Resurrection Festus is like in the background listening. Now he interrupts.
He interrupts his testimony. He says, "as Paul made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice" Paul, you're nuts. That's what the biblical language beside yourself means. You are a nut job. You are crazy. You are detached. You are one burrito short of a combo plate. Lights are on, nobody's home, boy. You are crazy.
Notice this, "much learning has made you mad. But he said," not backing down, "I am not mad most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. For the King before whom I also speak freely knows these things, for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention since this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets. I know that you do believe.
"Then Agrippa said to Paul, you almost persuade me to become a Christian. Then Paul said, I would to God that not only you, but also those who hear me today might become almost and all together such as I am except for these chains. And when he said these things, the King stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice." And when he stands before the judgment seat, the great White Throne judgment, he'll stand there and they'll be and Bernice.
"And those who sat with them. And when they had gone aside and talked among themselves saying, this man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains. Then Agrippa said to Festus, this man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar." There's is a lot there but we're out of time so we're going to pick up Paul's rebuttal to Festus as we cover next week on into his journey in chapter 27.
Father, thank you for this man of great courage. His courage was not some intangible thing. It was based upon his confidence in God, and his confidence in God was based clearly on his faith in the promises of God in scripture. He knew the word. He knew it to be true. He believed the promises and the predictions made about Messiah. He was a man of great personal conviction. He never skirted around them. He never compromised.
Lord, I love what I see this man. I long to be this kind of man. Lord, I pray that you would turn our trials into testimonies. I pray that You will convert opposition into opportunity. Open our eyes to see the harvest around us, and then open our mouths to speak into the lives of people why we believe, that we believe, and why it's reasonable to do so.
Lord, we do pray for freedom celebration. I pray, Lord, that You will bring even more people next week to our prayer meeting than we have for concerts or that we have for great events or that we have for Bible study. Lord, as we pray, as we do battle, spiritual battle for the souls of men and women in this city-- some of our relatives, some of the people we work with our colleagues, our neighbors-- we pray You'd pour out Your spirit on those events.
We pray for good weather. We pray You would prepare the hearts for people to hear the gospel of a crucified and risen Savior who took sin away from them and placed it on Him, took the death penalty, rose from the dead showing Himself to be victorious. Thereby His promise of everlasting life is one that can be substantiated. I pray that transformation would occur, and this city would be different because of the gospel. In Jesus' name we pray, and everyone said amen. Let's stand up. Let's give glory to God in song.
For more resources from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig, visit calgaryabq.org.