Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Acts 25-26

June 27th, 2010 by Vic

“You are out of your mind”

June 27, 2010

Do people think you are not the sharpest tool in the shed?  Do they see you as a little off plum or with only one oar in the water?  Paul is accused of being mad because he believes in the resurrection of the dead.  He believes there is life after death.  That belief seemed strange to the Romans.

The Romans did not know how to deal with Paul’s beliefs so they interviewed him several times and kept him in prison to please the zealous Jews.  Then in the next chapter they escort him to Rome to avoid making an unpopular decision.

The Lord had come to Paul in the Jerusalem prison (23:11) and told him he would be giving his testimony in Rome.  Paul had done a lot of traveling.  He knew how to plan a trip to Rome.  He was probably not planning a Roman escort.  However, last week we read in 24:1ff that the Jews were very angry with Paul even though he was in prison.  Now in chapter 25 Paul has been in the Caesarean prison 2 years and the Jews are still plotting to kill him.  God was keeping Paul in prison so he could write some letters under the security of Rome.  Often God is directing our lives while we are in a prison and we don’t see it until later.

The Romans could not identify any laws that Paul had broken.  Claudius Lysias concluded it was a theological issue.  Felix expected a bribe so he kept Paul in prison and his wife did not like Paul either.  Festus did not understand Jewish beliefs so he asks Agrippa to help him understand why Paul was left in prison by the previous ruler, Agrippa’s brother-in-law.

25:1-12

Festus began his rule in Judea in 60.  He recognized the volatile situation that he had been appointed to and after settling into his new job for just 3 days he went up to Jerusalem to meet with the chief priests and Jewish leaders.  He was trying to do the right thing, but he did not understand the Jewish culture.  He was trying collect all the information he could.  The charges against Paul had apparently been committed in Jerusalem so that might be a convenient place to investigate the allegation.  Festus could not reconcile the Jewish charges and Paul’s denials.  But like Felix, he wanted to do the Jews a favor.

Paul refused to be tried by Jews.  He was a Roman citizen so he invoked his right of appeal before Caesar.  At this time Nero still had a fair reputation and Paul could expect justice.  As a citizen, if he did not feel he was getting justice in a provincial court, he could have his case heard by the Emperor himself.  This right of appeal was one of the most ancient rights of Roman citizens.

25:13-21

Agrippa was king of the Palestine area.  He and his sister, Bernice, came to Caesarea to welcome Festus as the new governor of Judea.  Bernice’s husband had died 10 years earlier and she has lived with her brother since then.  The tabloids had a lot of interest in this relationship.  Bernice was the oldest sister of Drusilla, the teenage wife of Felix.  Agrippa was the great grandson of Herod the Great.  He was 1 year older than his sister, Bernice.  He was considered an expert of Jewish affairs by the Romans.

Festus tells Agrippa about one of the prisoners that Felix had left him.  He had to be careful how he said it because Felix was Agrippa’s brother-in-law.

25:22-27

The Greek word for ‘pomp’ is ‘fantasia’.  They were living a fantasy.  The Romans knew how to do processions.  The situation was contrived to assert the importance of the Roman officials and the inferiority of the man on trial.  It was a big elaborate head of state reception.

This event probably took place in the public arena that overlooks the sea.  It seated several thousand people.  This is the longest of Paul’s defenses, maybe because Luke was in the audience.  Remember Paul was not a handsome, buff kind of diplomat.  God chooses the weak and foolish to confound the world’s reasonable and wise.

Festus claims to be reasonable (27), but that is a face-saving way of noting that is was improper to keep a citizen in jail without stating the charges against him.  And he would lose his job if he sent a prisoner to Rome without stating the charges.

26:1-18

Paul was stuck in bureaucratic red tape.  He knew the Jews wanted to kill him.  He had been misunderstood, falsely accused, run out of several towns, been stoned, but he knew the Lord was with him and he is full of joy.  The word “fortunate’ in verse 2 is the Greek word ‘makarios’ which is the word translated blessed or happy in the Beatitudes.

Motioning with his hand was a respectful greeting and gesture.  He expresses appreciation for the opportunity of speaking, complimenting the King, and asking for patience in hearing him out.  This was going to be a thorough defense.

Paul says, “The Jewish elders have known me since I was a child (4-5).  I was trained in their school.  I graduated as a Pharisee, the top of my class.  Because of my Jewish heritage I have the same hope that all the Jews have hoped for since the beginning.”  The hope of the Messiah is based on the promises of God in Moses, the Prophets and the writings.  All Scripture says the Messiah would be killed and resurrected.

Paul identifies with the Pharisaic belief in the resurrection.  Sadducees say a resurrection is impossible.  Nothing is impossible with God (8).  Resurrection is no harder for God than healing a cut finger or stilling a storm.  Pharisees believe that God will raise the dead at the last day, but is it impossible for him to raise Jesus from the dead before the last day?  God validated the promise of our resurrection by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paul identifies with the zealous Jew’s life style (9-11).  He understood the mindset of his accusers.

Paul testifies to a vision that changed the focus of his way of life (12-18).  The goads (14) or pricks were pointed sticks on the front of the wagons or behind the harness that would make it painful for the horse to kick back.  It was a common idiom for expressing opposition to deity.

In his vision, the Lord commissioned Paul to 1) open eyes 2) turn lifestyles 3) turn allegiances 4) offer forgiveness of sins and a pure inheritance (18).  The only condition is faith in Jesus.

In Luke 4, Jesus quotes Isaiah 61 as His commission from God: to preach good news to poor, proclaim freedom to prisoners, offer sight to the blind, release the oppressed, and proclaim justice for all.

Paul says he was commissioned to offer healing for spiritually blind, turn people from the oppression of darkness to the freedom of light, from satan to God, from guilt of sin to forgiveness of family, from hopelessness to an eternal inheritance.

26:19-23

This is a summary of Paul’s situation.  Paul tells the King that he did what he was told to do in his vision.  He preached that all men should repent, turn to God, and live like they are a child of God.  The Jews beat him up and tried to kill him and he was just being a good Jew ritually purifying himself in the Temple.

Paul goes on to say (22), but God has been with me in all of this.  As a good Jew I say nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen.  Just like they said, Jesus suffered, died and was the first to rise from the dead to never die again.  This hope is to be proclaimed to all people.  The suffering Messiah had not been seen by the Jews in the OT writings.  They only saw the conquering Messiah.  Their Messiah would never die.  Spiritual blindness promotes selective reading.

26:24-32

Festus interrupted.  He had probably seen all the books Paul was reading.  He had heard of all the people who visited Paul and cared for him.  He knew Paul was no dummy.  But a resurrection contradicts common sense.  Paul’s words were foreign to Festus.  All of us are prone to assume that all reality is visible.  We forget that what we see was created out of what we cannot see.  The seen is derived from the unseen.  The unseen is the original, the real.

Agrippa did not say, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” as the KJV interprets the Greek.  He was a little embarrassed by Paul’s question and he had his reputation to maintain.  He was not about to make any public commitment to what others thought was insane.  He replied, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

Then Paul addressing the king with extreme politeness 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.”  Then in a lighter vein he raises his hands and added, “except for these chains.”

His light touch broke up the meeting.  In the last verse Agrippa is admitting that Paul was in fact not insane and that what Paul was advocating might be reasonable and logical, but he had appealed to Caesar and they could not ignore his right of appeal.  It appears that King Agrippa had a desire to believe, but did not choose to believe.

The gospel message that we are commissioned to testify to is simple.  Sin blinds us to reality.  Repentance and forgiveness give spiritual sight.  God is beautiful and faithful.  It is reasonable and wise to trust Him and obey.  He gives eternal life now and after our resurrection.

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