Acts 25&26: Short Time or Long
Paul would stay imprisoned under Felix for two more years until Felix was recalled to Rome. Felixs response to the problem with Paul was to do nothing. His successor will be Festus, who proves himself to be not only a just man, but a man of action.
In Acts 25, Festus arrives as the new governor and immediately travels from Caesarea to Jerusalem to meet with the chief priests and Jewish leaders. Festus would have been fully advised of the importance of this group as well as the problems in dealing with them.
Even though it has been two years since the high priests and council had appeared before Felix accusing Paul of his crimes. There is still a group seeking to assassinate Paul. Dr. Luke tells us of the plot to have Festus transfer Paul from Caesarea to Jerusalem for trial and they would prepare an ambush to assassinate him. We can assume these are the same 40 who two years earlier devised a similar plot.
Festus says- I am returning to Caesarea in a few days- why not come to Caesarea and we will have a hearing concerning Paul there. This is what occurred and Luke gives us in a brief summary what happened. The Jews could not prove any of their charges and Paul once again denies any wrongdoing against the law of the Jews or the temple.
Festus attempts to placate the Jewish leaders and asks Paul would he be willing to go to Jerusalem to stand trial there before Festus? Paul replies: I am now standing before Caesars court, where I ought to be tried. . I appeal to Caesar. Festus meets with his council and the decision is made: You have appealed to Caesar and to Caesar you will go! Paul will be transferred to Rome where he will be held under house arrest until he can appear before Emperor Nero. This was all within his rights as a Roman citizen.
We must also remember, the Lord Jesus had told Paul in a vision: Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome. ( Acts 23:11)
As it so happens, a few days later Festus, the new governor, has an important visitor. King Herod Agrippa II comes with his sister, Bernice. The Herod family was an important family of leaders in Israel. Herod the Great, was not only the one responsible for the restoration of the temple during the time of Jesus, he is also the one who the wise men visited and told of the birth of the Messiah. At this news, Herod the Great had the male babies 2 years and under slaughtered in Bethlehem. This Herod Agrippa II was his great grandson. His father, Herod Agrippa I was the one who had James, the brother of John beheaded and imprisoned Peter and planned to behead him also, except an angel delivered Peter from prison. Herod Agrippa IIs uncle was Herod Antipas who beheaded John the Baptist.
King Agrippa II was known as a man who was very knowledgeable regarding Jewish customs, and affairs. He was considered one of the foremost experts on Jews and Jewish customs and religion at this time. It should also be noted, that Bernice was his sister and they were involved in an incestuous affair.
Festus as the new governor would have considered this visit a state affair and it would have lasted for days with meetings, feasts and much pomp and ceremony. Festus knew of Agrippas expertise- so he seeks his advice regarding this case of Paul, the Apostle and his Jewish accusers.
Festus provides Agrippa with the details of this interesting case in hopes of receiving some guidance or insight from Agrippa. It is interesting in their discussion of Pauls case- one of the points which Felix, as a Roman unbeliever and an intellect, could not understand or believe as the point of dispute regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul claimed this dead man, Jesus was alive and he had seen him and talked to him. To Festus, this was unbelievable.
So it is arranged that Paul will be brought before Festus and King Agrippa and Festus has made it clear to Agrippa he is unsure what to write as specific charges against Paul when sending him to Rome to appear before Nero.
Thus the stage is set for Paul to appear before King Agrippa in Acts 26.
Agrippa gives Paul permission to speak for himself. This is not a trial, but a case that interests Agrippa. Surely he knows the story of Paul, but would hear from Paul, himself a first hand account .
Once again we are reminded that King Agrippa is recognized even by Paul as one well acquainted with Jewish customs and the controversies surrounding Christianity.
Paul is always prepared to present the Gospel and defend his faith. He does it with reason and always shapes the message to fit the audience. Let us observe how Paul presents his case and in doing so see how is able to use the opportunity to witness to King Agrippa and all those present.
- Paul begins by telling of how he was before he was converted. He states he lived and was raised as a Pharisee. He would later write in Philippians he was a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church. ( Phil 3)
- He then makes the point he does not believe anything different now than he did then. Meaning he believed in the prophecies of Moses and the prophets. His hope was the same as other Jews in the coming of the Messiah as promised to their fathers and also as a Pharisee he believed in the hope of the resurrection. ( Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?)
- Paul then relates how he sincerely believed the Christians and their belief in this Jesus Christ as Messiah were wrong and zealously persecuted them. Something that his accusers, the high priest and Sanhedrin were well aware of.
- Paul then tells what happened when he met Jesus Christ, the Resurrected Messiah, on the road to Damascus. He tells the details of his blindness, his coming to faith in Jesus Christ as the Risen Savior and his subsequent 180 degree turn around in his life and beliefs. True conversion always results in repentance and deeds that support our faith.
So Paul in giving his testimony gives great credibility to his conversion by virtue of the way his life used to be and what it had become as a result of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. Paul is telling them of the wonderful change that has come into his life as a result of accepting Jesus as Lord.
Paul is then given his commission and ministry by the Lord Jesus. He will be sent to the Jews and Gentiles to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan to the power of God. ( Acts 26:17)
Paul says to King Agrippa, I have only been being obedient to the vision from heaven and following the commandments given to me. And for this reason, the Jews seized me and tried to kill me.
Even though our conversion may not be as dramatic as Pauls, the results are the same. Our eyes which were blinded to the truth are opened to see the truth of Gods word and turn from darkness to light and from the power of the devil to the power of God. We become new creatures, just like Paul did and old things pass away and are passing away and all things are becoming new. We are born again. And like Paul- true conversion will result in a change of direction and works in keeping with repentance. We are also to be ambassadors and witnesses to the grace of God for it is by grace through faith we are all saved. We have been commissioned by the Lord Jesus as Paul was to take the gospel to the lost, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, making disciples and teaching them to obey everything.
We also encounter the same problems that Paul and the early church did when we take the Gospel, the good news to the world around us. The problem in Pauls day is the same problem today. Look again at what Jesus said he was sending Paul to do, and realize this is our mission also: I am sending you to them( Jews and Gentiles) to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to the power of God, so they may receive forgiveness of their sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.
The world around us today, for the most part, is in darkness, blinded to the truth and under the power of Satan. As Paul is finishing his testimony, Festus interrupts Paul and says- you are out of your mind, Paul. Which is exactly the world believes more and more about the Christian faith . We are out of our minds to believe that someone can rise from the dead, walk on water, be born of a virgin, heal the blind, raise the dead and make the lame to walk. They believe we are out of our minds to believe a literal God created the world and everything in it in six literal days. To believe the Bible is the literal, inerrant, infallible word of God and a source of absolute truth. Impossible they shout. You are out of your minds!
The reason for mankinds blindness is they are under the control of power of Satan. A veil is over their minds and they cannot see or understand spiritual truths. Professing themselves to be wise, they become as fools. For the cross is foolishness to them. They suppress the truth in wickedness. This is what is behind the darkness and the darkness continues to increase for I fear as Christians who are called to be light- we have put our lights under a bushel, a cover. Or else our lamps are so coated with sin- our light is ineffective, our salt has lost its saltiness because we have been conformed by the world which lies under the power of the evil one.
Today we are confronted by those who profess to be wise and learned who tell us we cannot believe the Bible is absolute truth. It is a book written by men, not God and contains some truth and wisdom in it, just as the works of Buddah and the Koran do also.
It comes down to a simple argument. As a Christian, a born-again believer will you accept the Word of God as true and inerrant or will you accept the word of man? When the two do not agree- whose side will you be on? Like Joshua said- choose you his day whom you will serve?
Consider what scientists tell us regarding evolution. If evolution, as they present it is true, then Gods word is false. The creation account stands in contradiction to the theory of evolution. In fact if the creation account is not true- then Jesus is not Lord. Whoa! How did you jump to that conclusion, you might ask? Well, very simply, in Matthew 19:4, in a discussion with the Pharisees regarding divorce, Jesus makes this statement: Havent you read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. Jesus is quoting from Genesis 2:24 as to how he believed God created man and woman in the beginning. If Jesus believes the account in Genesis is true- and it is not true then he cannot be Lord. The Lord Jesus believed that what Moses wrote was true. Listen to what Jesus said in John 5: 46-47: If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he(Moses) wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe me?
You understand Jesus believed the creation account as recorded by Moses to be true, because Jesus was in fact present in the beginning and played a role in creation. John tells us in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. ( John 1:1-3) Then John leaves no doubt as to who he is describing as he tells us- the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. ( John 1:14) Furthermore, Hebrews 11:3 tells us- By faith we understand that the universe was formed at Gods command, so that what is seen was not made out what was visible. Now you may be one of those people who says, I cant believe something I cannot see or understand. Oh really? Do you send emails? Surf the net? Watch television? Use electricity? For I admit I do not understand how any of those work- but I use them by faith. And without faith it is impossible to please God and those who come to Him , must believe that He is and is a Rewarder of those who seek Him. ( Hebrews 11:6)
It starts with a simple concept- I believe God exists. The existence of creation-the world, the universe, space, the sun, moon, stars, rivers, oceans, mountains and the human being and animal and plant life tell there is a creator.
There it is- if you do not believe what Moses wrote- you will not believe Jesus. If you do not believe the creation account where sin occurred and death entered and the way to overcome sin was clearly portrayed in the shedding of blood, the blood of the Lamb who would come then you have placed your faith is something that seemingly has holes in it according to the non-believing intellectual. Not wanting to appear foolish or be told we are out of our minds we try to make the Word of God fit the word of man. That is what it has always been about since the Garden of Eden when the devil, the father of lies asked—did God really say?
The question is still the same as it was in the day of Elijah the Prophet, when he stood on Mount Carmel and asked the people: How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; if Baal is god follow him. Whats it going to be? You cant have it both ways.
Listen to Pauls reply to Festus accusation that Paul is out of his mind. Paul says I am not insane. What I am saying is true and reasonable. ( After all is it not reasonable to believe when you come upon a cabin built in the midst of the forest to believe there was a builder? For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Hebrews 3:4)
Paul then addresses King Agrippa: The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of his escaped his notice, for it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do. ( Acts 26:25-27)
Paul is saying this gospel is based on actual events that took place in Jerusalem probably about 30+ years ago.It was not done in a corner- with few to testify to the happenings. There was much talk and many eyewitnesses to what Jesus had said and done. And of course the Sanhedrin and its leaders had concocted a story that Jesus body was stolen and the resurrection was a hoax, yet there were over 500 eye witnesses who had seen the resurrected Lord ascend into heaven. Reliable witnesses, many of whom were still alive at that time .
King Agrippa, like a skillful politician, avoids answering Pauls question do you believe the prophets? For if he admitted he did, then Paul could show how Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies about himself.
What is clear is this- one cannot be saved except through Jesus, there is no other name by which men can be saved. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life- no man comes to the Father except by Him.
So we cast the seed, the word of God and leave the work of the Holy Spirit to do what only the Holy Spirit can do- convict men of sin and righteousness and judgment. Only the Spirit can open their eyes to turn them from darkness to light; only the Spirit can turn them from the power of Satan to the power of God so they may receive the forgiveness of sins and a place among the sanctified by FAITH IN ME ( LORD JESUS.) For by grace are you saved through faith
Agrippa says in jest, did you think in such a short time you could persuade me to be a Christian?
I love Pauls answer: SHORT TIME OR LONG- I PRAY GOD THAT NOT ONLY YOU BUT EVERYONE LISTENING TO ME TODAY MAY BECOME WHAT I AM ( SAVED) EXCEPT FOR THESE CHAINS.
To Paul, everyone was a potential candidate for salvation and whether he had a long time with them or a short time his desire was to see them saved. For God is not willing that any should perish but all would come to repentance.
Paul knew if he could be saved- anyone could. If God in His Grace, could forgive him, God could forgive anyone.
So Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel for it was the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. ( Romans 1)
Paul was not ashamed of the gospel- morally, socially or intellectually. And neither should we be.
Our prayer should be as Pauls prayer regarding the conversion of unbelievers- short time or long- we pray that unbelievers may come into the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
OUR YEARS ON EARTH ARE A SHORT TIME, LIKE A MORNING MIST THAT DISAPPEARS IN THE SUN- HOWEVER ETERNITY IS A LONG, LONG TIME. LET US MAKE USE OF THE SHORT TIME TO PREPARE FOR THE LONG TIME!