Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Acts 21:15 - 28:31

Acts 21:15- 40 – 23:1-35 – Testifying while in Trouble
Principle:  Jesus Christ provides His presence and promises to encourage and direct us in our troubles.

Paul arrived in Jerusalem and found James and other elders.  Many Jews were believers now, but still were zealous for the law.  They believed in circumcision.  They had heard that Paul taught to turn away from Moses’ Law and that Jewish Christians should not do circumcision, but this was not true.  Paul taught that it did not matter to God, if they were circumcised or not.  James and the other were going to go through seven days of purification rites by having their heads shaved and invited Paul to join them, which he did.  This showed loyalty for the Jewish vows and was supporting James and the others.  As we learned earlier in 1 Corinthians, Paul believed in becoming all things to all people.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.”1 Cor. 9:20

As a result of Paul being in the temple at Jerusalem word spread that he had brought a Gentile into the temple, which he had not.  This offended the legalistic Jews and they stirred up the crowd against him.  They seized and dragged him from the temple trying to kill him, but Roman troops stopped them and took him to prison.  Roman law didn’t allow people to be killed without a trial.  Paul was allowed to speak to the crowd.  He told them he was a Jew and was not against the Jewish religion.  In the past he had been very eager to obey God thinking it was ok to arrest and persecute Christians.  Then he told them of his conversion on the road to Damascus.  Paul told them that God wanted the Gentiles to know Him, too and they didn’t have to be a Jew.  This made the crowd very angry again and again they tried to kill him.  Paul told them he was a Roman citizen.  It was illegal to flog a Roman citizen so he was brought before the Sanhedrin for trial. 

Acts 23:1-6 shows the quality of Paul’s life with God.  He lived a godly life and obeyed God in all things.  He never made excuses for the truth.  It also shows Paul had a quick temper, but a keen sense of justice.  When the high priest Ananias ordered Paul to be struck in the mouth, Paul accused him of being a hypocrite and that he was violating the law himself.  Then it shows that Paul was submissive to man under God when he was told that Ananias was a high priest.  Paul backed down and submitted to his authority.  He quoted Ex. 22:28 “Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.”  They couldn’t find any reason to kill Paul, but still kept him in prison.  Paul was alone in chains, but a believer is never really alone.  God was with Paul and comforted him.  He spoke to him telling him to take courage and that he had more work to do by testifying for Him in Rome.

How are you being persecuted?
Can you admit you are sorry for something you’ve said?
How has God been a comfort to you?
Where do you need God’s comfort in your witness?
When trouble comes, where do you turn?
Will you testify in trouble?

Acts 24-26 – Testifying While in Waiting
Principle:  Crisis reveals our character.

Paul was brought before the governor, Felix.  Felix was the most depraved man of his time.  Paul defends himself again and presented Jesus as the Messiah and describing his conversion.  As most politicians Felix wanted to please everyone.  He made no decision and kept Paul in prison for two years hoping Paul would try to bribe him.  God arranged for Paul to speak the gospel to Felix for those two years.  Festus succeeded Felix, but kept Paul in prison.  Then Paul had another trial before Festus.  He spoke again.  Festus consulted King Agrippa as to what to do with Paul.  He was brought before the king and Paul was allowed again to plead his case again.  It was decided that he did not do anything that deserves death or imprisonment. 

In Paul’s message before the king he told his aim when he gave the gospel to the Gentiles.  He wanted 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.”Acts 26:16-18.

Acts 27-28 – Testifying in the Unexpected
Principle:  God’s will for spreading the Gospel cannot be thwarted.

Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius and they sailed for Rome.  His troubles never seem to stop.  A hurricane came about and they were in fear for their lives.  Paul began his trip as a prisoner and became a leader and an encourager.  They became shipwrecked and had to swim to an island shore.  Paul’s leadership continued from ship to land.  God had a plan for Paul.  For three months he healed and preached on the island.  Paul eventually made it to Rome where he was allowed to live and to preach.  He was chained and under house arrest for two years preaching without hindrance.  Nothing can stop God.  His hands were chained, but the gospel is never chained!  Paul never gave up and continued to be a witness for God.  He was committed to God and always obeyed Him.  In Rome he explained the kingdom of God and tried to convince them to believe.  He wanted the people to understand the truth about Jesus Christ.  He quoted Isaiah 6:9-10.  Some did not believe, but some did.  Paul never stopped sharing the gospel.

God protected Paul through all his troubles by bringing the plot against him to light, by not allowing the crowd to kill him, by keeping him in prison where he was safe, saving him when shipwrecked, and allowing him to preach in chains without hindrance.  Paul demonstrated Christ-like traits during all his trials.  He was calm and trusted God during the storm.  He never stopped obeying God and witnessing for Jesus through messages before the people, the governors and the king.  He showed great courage and perseverance.  The only way he was able to do that was through faith and trust in God.

What kind of faith do you have in a storm?
Are committed are you?
How much do you trust God?
Have you given up on God?
Is life too much for you to bear?

God will protect you as He did Paul.  So put your faith and trust in Him.  Sometimes it may not seem He is there during your crisis, but He is.  He keeps His promises.  God will use trouble, waiting and the unexpected to show who He is.  Do you realize that Paul’s effort and direction is why you and I know who Jesus is?  You and I are writing the next story of Acts.  Our lives are to be about one thing – glorifying God.  He is the main emphasis of our story.

No comments: