Sunday, November 11, 2007

"So persuade Me..." From Acts 26:28

TODAY is Pray for the PERSECUTED CHURCH Sunday! Please remember our Brothers and Sisters around the world who are being hurt or killed because they follow Jesus. The Persecuted Church is our Church. When they hurt, so should we. In fact, when they hurt, it is to be realized that 'they' also hurt our Lord! His response was to extend love and forgiveness toward them. Pray for the Church AND those who attack the church.

What do you remember of the history of the Spanish Armada attacking the British during the rule of Queen Elisabeth? Or do you know who it was that caused the French Army to be defeated in the Battle of Waterloo? What was the man’s name that stood in front of the Red Army’s tank in Beijing in 1989? Even further in the past, what was the man’s name that invented the wheel? The clock? The straw? How to bind a book? How to cook ふぐ (fugu-a Japanese fish)?

The defining moment for all of human history is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In today’s passage, prisoner Paul boldly proclaims this resurrection before Festus, Agrippa and Bernice in the final missionary preaching in Acts. To get a hold on this proclamation is to understand that the purposes of letters of Luke and Acts is to be fulfilled in our life time life.

(Luke 1:1-4 The Message: 1-4 So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story's beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught.).

Who was this King Agrippa? He was the great-grandson of Herod the Great who tried very hard to kill the Baby Jesus years before. Being the favorite of Rome, he was given the RIGHT to appoint the high priest and was the custodian of the Temple’s treasure and the high priest’s vestments—which was worth a lot of money. In being so positioned in that area, he had supreme power over Jewish life. This did not endear him to the people but the religious leaders all wanted to befriend him with gifts and the like…all of which he took without much care. He did just about what he wanted to do.

Along with him, he had his sister, Bernice-one year younger, who was a very immoral woman. Her only dominance was centered on her sexual power over her brother and others.

Festus spoke of Paul’s case with the king with four descriptions:


Jesus said: 12 "But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of My Name.”

Paul said: Acts 20:23 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.
And in every way, not to unlike that of Jesus’ situation: Luke 23:42 42 "Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done."


Festus’ main or basic principle of Roman justice was to protect Paul. In many Western movies, they quote a Bible verse that is taken out of context, as did the Jewish leaders. Let’s look at Deuteronomy 19:15-21.

15 One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
16 If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse a man of a crime, 17 the two men involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the LORD before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. 18 The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against his brother, 19 then do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge the evil from among you. 20 The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. 21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. The Law was upheld by Festus.


Again, Festus was concerned for his Roman citizen’s rights. The Jewish leaders brought a religious charge against him—not against Caesar. The main point of their anger was a dispute concerning a dead man named Jesus, whom Paul claimed was still alive. (WHERE is the crime?)

Being lead by the Spirit of this ‘dead man’, who is, in truth very much alive, Paul starts with his defense that the historical FACT of the resurrection holds true! This is the central message and teaching of the Christian Faith.

Look at the Apostle’s Creed.

It is the main point for the Faith we have! Jesus is alive. That fact points strongly to the reality of the Message that He can take away our sins as He had complete power over Death.


Paul's comment took Festus by surprise. He was not ready to deal with the supernatural. He somehow knew that this was well out of his hands. His authority did not travel in this arena. This court was not to be dealing with God’s Sphere but Caesar’s.

Festus learned something there that day that few leaders have learned. The State cannot put its control on the Church! The wisdom that the State has could never come near competing in the areas of theology. Its power is never a valid enforcer of church/temple decisions. (But they try. And a royal mess is the result.)

Meanwhile, King Agrippa is more than interested in this Paul. Like his father and Grandfather, such people both are intrigued and fear men like Paul. And like his family line, fell short of understanding the TRUTH that stood before them. All three generations rejected the Truth. But, in this case, both Agrippa and Festus unwittingly appear to model two necessary fundamentals for receiving the Gospel Message:

1. a teachable spirit and
2. a desire or longing to hear and understand the Message. Contrite: genuinely and deeply sorry or remorse. Ps 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

Romans 12:1-2 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Consider your own life. When you first heard the Gospel Message, were you moved? Did you doubt all that was said? Did the Message sound too good to be real? It was the Power of God for Salvation.

Festus KNEW Paul was innocent. His concern for how the leaders looked at him and his position within Rome’s control determined his conduct. He went against his own conscience. He went against his own Roman rules as well. He should have set him free with a warning to the leaders that they would not interfere with Paul’s life. But, NO!

How is any hostiality brought against a person or people group? All persecution in the final scrutiny is birthed in religious, ideological or ethnic pride or fear. This comes to the surface as blind, irrational hostility against the Truth, in this case, of the Gospel. This seeks to disturb the purposes of God but in the end—only finds itself “kicking against the goads” Acts 26:14 or “Why do you insist on going against the grain?”-[to keep offering vain and perilous resistance].

PERSUADE ME THEN. How?: by the Truth of the Gospel. Not covered with cultural ‘stuff’. Not enclosed with denominational jargon, terminology. But as Paul did: with the personal element. "This is true for me. This is how God touched me. This is how I understand the Great Gift He has given me through the Person of His Son who died for me. My life is an open book for you to investigate. My walk is public. My Faith is real. Test it. Taste it! Realize it to be true for you as well. I believe in the Power of the Word of God in my life."

As with Paul that day in the court of Festus and Agrippa; 29 Paul replied, "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." 30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31 They left the room, and while talking with one another,

And what did they not talk about? The very thing that separated them from an eternity with the God of Heaven. They spoke of Paul’s innocents. Of course, Paul was not guilty of any crime. He was guilty of being a Follower of The Way. Would there be enough evidence to convict you of that claim?


Something to look at this week with your small group:...
What Now?
Read Acts 26 again. Look for evidence that Paul used to ‘prove’ his case. Have you found that such a case helpful for your Walk of Faith?
Ask each other how they came to their understanding of the Gospel? Over how many weeks, months or years did the change take place? Understand that it is a process more than an event. Thank God for His working in the lives of your Small Group and for those who come to ICCS.

How can you become more of a witness for Christ in the general society? Very few of us will be on trial for being a Christian. Spend some time in pray for those in the world who are in such a situation. Pray for Hiroko Yamashita, one of our missionaries, as she ministers in a very dark part of Asia. Pray for unity among the Believers. Pray for a deepening intimacy with God.
“Lord, keep ____ close to You. Cause them to love You with all their heart, soul, and mind. Draw them into Your Word each day, and fill them with thankfulness.” (Matthew 22:37; Colossians 3:16) (This pray can be used for your family as well.)

Look for someone to persuade toward the Gospel.