"Showing the way, Teaching the truth,
Experiencing the life in Christ"
The Real Issue that Disturbed the Jews
(Acts 26:8, NIV)
“Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?”
When we concluded our last lesson from the Book of Acts Paul had been interrogated by Governor Festus who had attempted to persuade him, as a favor to the Jewish religious leaders, to have his case transferred from the Roman court at Caesarea to the Jewish court at Jerusalem. He had asked Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?” (Acts 25:9b, NIV).
Sensing that certain death awaited him at Jerusalem, Paul used his civil right as a Roman citizen to demand that his case be transferred to Caesar’s court in Rome. He said to Governor Festus, “I appeal to Caesar!” (Acts 25:11b, NIV).
By doing so, Paul effectively took his fate out of the hands of Governor Festus and took another step toward Rome where the Lord Jesus has said he would go. Jesus had appeared to him when he was in Jerusalem and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11b, NIV).
While Paul was waiting to be transported to Rome another political dignitary arrived at Caesarea. Luke wrote, “A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus” (Acts 25:13, NIV).
II. The Real Issue that Disturbed the Jews
During a discussion Governor Festus had with King Agrippa soon after he arrived at Caesarea, the Governor identified the real issue that disturbed the Jews and motivated them to continue their persecution against Paul. Luke wrote, “Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said: ‘There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned. I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges. When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. But when Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar” (Acts 25:14-21, NIV).
Whether he realized it or not, Governor Festus identified the singular element of the “Good News” that the dark side of the spiritual world hates and viciously attacks more than any other—“They had some points of dispute with him…about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive” (Acts 25:19, NIV).
Paul himself understood that his preaching about the resurrection of Jesus was the real issue that motivated the Jews to repeatedly attempt to assassinate him. Later during his trial before King Agrippa he stated, “It is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors 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. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead? ... I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:6-8…22b-23, NIV).
III. The Significance of the Resurrection of Jesus
The resurrection of Jesus is absolutely significant to the Christian faith. Without it the Christian message is worthless. In fact, an interesting aspect of early Christian history is that the resurrection, not the cross, was the central theme of Christian preaching. Certainly the cross is vital to our faith. His crucifixion was the means through which Jesus unleashed “the power of God” for the salvation of mankind. Paul wrote, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18, NIV).
But listen to what Paul wrote about the resurrection of Christ: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith . . . if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (I Corinthians 15:14…17, NIV). Without His resurrection, the message of His cross is worthless! In fact, Paul clearly indicated that in order to be saved one must believe in the resurrection of Jesus. He wrote, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NIV).
The first-century believer saw himself, first and foremost, as “a witness…of his resurrection.” Luke wrote, “In those days [after Judas Iscariot committed suicide] Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, ‘Brothers and sisters…it is necessary to choose [as Judas’ replacement] one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection” (Acts 1:15-1a…21-22, NIV).
No wonder Satan began his attack on the message of the resurrection of Jesus immediately after it occurred. Do you remember the story? Matthew wrote, “When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say: His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep. If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day” (Matthew 28:12-15, NIV).
Every human being has an eternal future—non-believers have an eternal future with the Devil in the Lake of Fire, but believers have an eternal future with Jesus in heaven! He said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3, NKJV). In order to fulfill His promise to return and give His people an eternal future with Himself, He had to rise from death!
The resurrection of Jesus is an invitation to receive what He has prepared for you. He said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2b, NKJV). But in order to receive what He has prepared for you, you must “believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead.” Paul wrote, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NIV).
Of all the words ever spoken, none have echoed through the ages and changed the course of history as much as the words spoken by an angel to a small group of women at an empty grave just outside the ancient city of Jerusalem: “He is not here. He has risen, just as he said” (Matthew 28:6a, NIV).
Paul Gives His Personal Testimony…Again
(Acts 26:1, NIV)
“Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You have permission to speak for yourself.’”
When we last left Paul he was about to stand trial before King Agrippa. While filling King Agrippa in on some background information about Paul, Governor Festus unknowingly identified the real issue regarding Paul that disturbed the Jews. The governor explained, “When his [Paul’s] accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive” (Acts 25:18-19, NIV). The Jewish religious leaders, motivated by the dark side of the spiritual world, hated and viciously attacked Paul because he preached that Jesus had been raised from death!
When Governor Festus thought he had given King Agrippa sufficient background information to prepare him to objectively advise him regarding Paul’s case, the King said, “I would like to hear this man myself” (Acts 25:22b, NIV). To which the Governor replied, “Tomorrow you will hear him” (Acts 25:22c, NIV).
The next day Governor Festus convened the Roman court so King Agrippa could interrogate Paul. Luke wrote, “The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in” (Acts 25:23, NIV).
After Governor Festus explained to the court the purpose of this hearing, King Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself” (Acts 26:1b, NIV). Unless you want to hear Paul tell his story about Jesus, it’s a bad idea to give him permission to speak before a crowd!
II. Paul’s Personal Testimony
After offering a few brief remarks expressing his respect for King Agrippa and requesting his patience as Paul makes his defense, the missionary jumps right into his personal testimony which consists of three distinct parts—what his life was like before he became a believer, the circumstances under which he became a believer, and what his life was like after he became a believer. So let’s briefly examine each part of Paul’s personal testimony.
What his life was like before Paul became a believer. Explaining what he was like before he became a believer, Paul said, “The Jewish people 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 I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee…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 Lord’s people 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. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities” (Acts 26:4-5…9-11, NIV). Before becoming a believer, Paul was an extremely religious Christian killer!
The circumstances under which Paul became a believer. Describing the circumstances under which he became a believer, Paul said, “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, King Agrippa, 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 and will see of me. 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’” (Acts 26:12-18, NIV). In order to effectively communicate to Paul the message of the “Good News,” Jesus made a personal appearance to him in his post-resurrection, glorified state, because He knew that was what it would take to convince Paul to believe.
It is important to remember that Jesus doesn’t communicate to everyone in the same way, but He does communicate to everyone. He said, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32, NIV).
What Paul’s life was like after he became a believer. Explaining what his life was like after he became a believer, Paul said, “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 then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. But God has helped me to this very day; 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 Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:19-23, NIV). In his story Paul gave God all the credit for transforming him from a Christian killer into a preacher of the “Good News!”
Don’t be surprised when the Devil does everything in his power to prevent you from telling your personal story of how Jesus transformed your life. That’s what he did to Paul when he was telling his story to King Agrippa. He used Governor Festus to interrupt the story. Luke wrote, “At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. ‘You are out of your mind, Paul!’ he shouted. ‘Your great learning is driving you insane’” (Acts 26:24, NIV).
But Paul responded by continuing to persuade the King to believe his story. Luke wrote, “‘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” (Acts 26:25-27, NIV).
We can detect that Paul was being very persuasive by the King’s response. Agrippa asked, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28, NIV). I show you this because some Christians are afraid to be persuasive for fear that someone might believe their story because of their persuasiveness rather than because of the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
Paul evidently didn’t allow that kind of fear to prevent him from persuading people to believe his story. He replied to King Agrippa, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am [a follower of Jesus], except for these chains” (Acts 26:29, NIV).
The best way to be persuasive when telling your story about Jesus is to include Scripture in the story. It is His Word that has the power to persuade men. The author of the Book of Hebrews wrote, “The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, NKJV).
Sunday Service Times
Morning Worship: 10:00 a.m.
M*PACT Kidz: 10:00 a.m.
Helping Hands: 6:00 p.m.
ONE WAY Youth: 6:00 p.m.