Year 2 Day 138
Read - Acts 25v13-26v32
Message - Scott Woodburn
Paul had appealed directly to the Roman Emperor Nero in order to finally be judged guilty or innocent of the charges brought against him, but first he would receive an opportunity to speak to a slightly less important historical figure.
King Agrippa and his wife Bernice come to Caesarea and meet with Festus (v13). Agrippa was the grandson of Herod the Great and ruled over the northern part of Judea. They stayed in Caesarea for many days (v14) and so Festus takes the opportunity to tell the King all about his captive Paul (v14-21). Agrippa is intrigued and states that he would like to hear from Paul personally (v22) which no doubt pleased Festus. Festus was duty bound to send Paul to Rome (v25) but as he admits, he doesn’t know what to write to the Emperor (v26-27). Perhaps Agrippa can offer advice?
The next day Paul received a wonderful opportunity to share Christ. Paul stood before Agrippa and told him the whole story. Paul was born and reared as a Jew and lived as a Pharisee (26v4-8). He grew to despise the Christian church and did his best to fight against it (26v9-12). Yet his life was to change one lunchtime on the road to Damascus. Jesus appeared to Paul and would send him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (26v13-18). All Paul had done since that day was preach Christ and Him crucified to anyone who would listen. All he was guilty of was saying exactly what the prophets and Moses had promised - “that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” (26v23)
It was at that point Festus decided that he’d heard enough. With a loud voice he declared “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” (26v24) Yet Paul continued. He wasn’t out of his mind, he was speaking truthfully and rationally (26v25) but also boldly (26v26). Paul understood that Agrippa was no fool. He knew the accuracy of what Paul had said (26v26) and he was a man who believed the prophets (26v27).
Agrippa’s response isn’t to accuse Paul of madness, instead he asks “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” (26v28). Of course! Paul wanted nothing more for Agrippa and Festus and Bernice and everyone listening to trust Christ. “Whether short or long” he said “I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” (26v29)
Brothers and sisters behold the providence of God! Paul’s liberty has been taken from him because of trumped up charges. Felix found no fault in him. Festus found no fault in him. Agrippa found no fault in him (26v31). Indeed without Paul’s appeal to Nero he could even have been set free (26v32). But he wasn’t yet free. Instead he was receiving multiple opportunities to preach the Gospel to the very top of Jewish and Gentile society. His ministry had brought Agrippa to a place of asking “would you persuade me to be a Christian?”
Much about how the Lord governs and guides is a mystery to us. We don’t understand the purpose in our dark days. We can’t fathom why our lives take the turns they do. But this we do know…there is nothing about life that is accidental or random. God has not retreated to His castle and left us to it. He governs every inch of our lives and there is a good purpose in it all. I must be honest here and say that I’ve stood in plenty of graveyards and struggled to see the good purpose and I’ve sat in hospital rooms and couldn’t find the positives. But I believe the Lord is good. I believe His Word. I believe that He is for us and I believe that He will dry ever tear.
In Paul's case there were still many dark days ahead, yet even his captivity would be providentially used by God to spread the news of Christ. I don’t know the impact of Paul’s speech to Agrippa but that isn’t any of my business. God knows and His Word never fails. Did Felix eventually believe? Did Festus? Agrippa? Bernice? Again, God knows and His Word never fails. May we trust Him as the storms break over our heads and may we long for the day that our faith becomes sight and we will get to see Jesus.
Q27 Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist? Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.