Words of Faith 8-11-16
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2016
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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The final defense of Paul before Agrippa and Bernice is recorded in Acts 26. It is the most extensive defense that Luke reports to us. It is so impressive that it should not be divided even for devotional reasons.
Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You have permission to speak for yourself."
So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense:  "King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews,  and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.
 "The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem.  They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee.  And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today.  This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me.  Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?
 "I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth.  And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.  Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.
 "On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests.  About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions.  We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'
 "Then I asked, 'Who are you, Lord?'
" 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied.  '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.'
 "So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.  First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.  That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me.  But I have had God's help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen--  that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles."
 At this point Festus interrupted Paul's defense. "You are out of your mind, Paul!" he shouted. "Your great learning is driving you insane."
 "I am not insane, most excellent Festus," Paul replied. "What I am saying is true and reasonable.  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."
 Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?"
 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."
 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them.  They left the room, and while talking with one another, they said, "This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment."
 Agrippa said to Festus, "This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar."
This defense of Paul was quite compelling. In the end, Agrippa and Bernice both were convinced that Paul was guilty of nothing and should be set free! Apart from the fact that he had already set the appeal before Rome in motion he might have gone free. But clearly it was God's will to get Paul to Rome.
Several things stand out in this defense.
One is the remarkable power of personal testimony. Arguments about theology gain little ground for the kingdom, but nothing is quite as captivating as the personal account of a life-changing encounter with the Lord. We must never underestimate the power of personal testimony to reach even the hardest heart.
Another observation is that some will always judge a witness for Christ as "insane" or "out of his mind". The world simply does not comprehend resurrection life and power. We should not be surprised when some, even in our own families, may judge us to be a little nuts because we believe the Bible and the truth that is found there.
But most compelling of all is the passion with which Paul battles for the souls of those who will listen. He fights in earnest like a heavyweight contender who simply must win. Paul may have believed in the calling and election of believers by God but he fought as if it all depended upon him!
Of course, salvation does not depend upon the effort of an evangelist, but Paul argued with winsome passion in the hope that those listening might somehow hear the Word and come to faith. His earnest verbal battle was simply in the hope that in short time or long-- all listening might become like him, except for the chains.
The heart-cry of Paul was always freedom! He longed for everyone to experience the freedom he knew and experienced in Christ.
What is your passion? What is your heart-cry? What are you willing to fight for? What drives you to battle? For Paul it was the souls of the lost. If this study in Acts has given us anything, perhaps this is it, a heart for the lost and a passion for souls.
We might not travel the world as Paul did. We may never be called to testify before the royalty of this world. We may not address the centers of power but our witness is just as important as we reach out to those who are lost and hurting.
Lord, give me a passion for the lost like Paul had. Bring me before those who need to hear Your good news. Give me the passion to contend for those who are lost. In Jesus' name.
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© Jeffrey D. Hoy 2001, 2016
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy - Faith Fellowship Church (EFCA)
2820 Business Center Blvd.
Melbourne, Florida 32940 (321)-259-7200
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