Devotional Reading: Acts 26: 1-18
Lesson Scripture: Acts 26: 19-32
Lesson Aims: To recognize the importance of sharing the Gospel; to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to stand for Jesus; and to deepen our faith as we journey back to Him.
Background: For November, our study will focus on Paul’s faith journey. Once the zealous persecutor of Christians, he was transformed into a new creature beginning on the Road to Damascus (9:1-19). Captured by the Love of Jesus, Paul became deeply committed to carry the Gospel everywhere. Trained by Rabbi Gamaliel, he knew the Law and the prophecies. Recognizing that obedience to the Law didn’t save, the apostle accepted faith in Jesus as the only salvation. His knowledge, experiences and the Holy Spirit shaped who he became to fulfill God’s call on his life.
For the remainder of this history book, Paul’s new life was covered. There were high points as well as low ones, but his commitment never faltered. By the time we get to this lesson, all three missionary journeys were completed (13:-14:28; 15:39-18:22; and 18:23-21:17). God had taken this convert many places. Imprisoned, ignored, often beaten, and at times, left for dead, Paul stood anyway! Returning to Jerusalem in time for Passover, he and four converts went to the Temple for cleansing.
Some Jews there accused him of defiling the Temple (bringing in Gentiles) so they seized him. Roman soldiers rescued Paul. He got their permission to speak to the crowd. The riot exploded again and the soldiers began to beat him. The apostle declared his Roman citizenship. Things changed a little. The commander brought him before the Sanhedrin. His testimony there incited another riot; once again, the soldiers came to the rescue and returned him to prison. The commander was informed that a plot to kill Paul was in the making. He immediately sent 470 men to protect Paul while he was transferred safely to Governor Felix in Caesarea.
Lesson: Five days after arriving in the city, Paul’s trial begins. As a favor to the Jewish leaders, Felix keeps Paul imprisoned for two years. Festus replaces Felix then the chief priests bring up the charges against Paul again. Given the option, the apostle chooses to be tried in Rome because of his citizenship. Festus consults King Agrippa II (courtesy title) because he is unsure about Paul’s statements. Agrippa is well versed in the Law and Jewish customs.
The trial begins. The apostle states his case. Starting with his credentials, Paul informs them that he lived the life of a Pharisee until the Damascus Road experience. God called him to preach the Gospel to both Jew and Gentile, that they may come out of the “darkness into the light.” Paul goes on to say that it is his preaching about this new life that has angered the Jews. Festus calls him crazy. Paul denies the accusation, proclaiming that Jesus is the prophesied One and that Agrippa is aware of the prophecies! The king declares that he is almost persuaded. The apostle’s innocence is apparent (like Jesus’). Agrippa, Festus and Bernice discuss the matter in another room and then render their decision to send him to Rome where Caesar can decide Paul’s fate.
Application: Let’s be real, there is a cost associated with faithfulness! Are you willing to pay that price? Our lesson and its background show us the journey of a faithful man. Our stories will attest to our journeys and the people we will encounter or have encountered. It becomes eye-opening and mind-boggling to see the many that we’ve come in contact with. While physical abuse is not the case in America; the rejection, character assassination and the closing doors can get to us.
Like Paul, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to empower us to stand for what is right! What are you willing to put on the line for the sake of the Gospel? When God calls; He prepares and protects for the mission to be accomplished. Each of us have a calling; will you answer and pay the price? It doesn’t have to be in the headlines because God knows everything. Standing for Him has its rewards also. Like Paul, there is no room for arrogance. We are, only because of His grace and mercy! AMEN!