Monday, December 10, 2007


Acts 25, 26 The Kook And The King!


On June 12, 1944, just six days after D-Day in World War II, a young lieutenant named Richard Winters led his men to the outskirts of Carentan. As the officer in charge of Easy Company, of the 101st Airborne, he was tasked to clear the large French town of its German defenders. It would be a small battle, but it played a significant role in the massive effort to rid the world of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

As Winters led his company up the road toward town, the company started taking machine gun fire from a German MG42. The men instinctively dived for cover into ditches on either side of the road, and stayed there — they froze. Not only was the success of the mission in jeopardy, but the men were easy targets for enemy machine gun and sniper fire.

What happened next proved to be the turning point in the battle for Carentan — it’s the stuff legends are made of. Lt. Winters went into the middle of the road and, with bullets hissing past him, started yelling at his troops to get up out of the ditches and engage the enemy. His words, coupled with his heroic action, motivated the men to get up, get in the fight, and gain a decisive victory over the Germans.

Winters’ disregard for personal safety in his effort to save his men from certain death didn’t just earn him a medal; his actions earned him the love, respect, and admiration of his men. They followed him faithfully from Carentan, through the nightmarish Battle of the Bulge, and on to triumph at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.

Soldiers willingly follow men like that, men who demonstrate acts of self-sacrifice in the most harrowing of circumstances. How much more should we, as Christians, follow the One who endured suffering and death to rescue us from the most terrifying fate of all, an eternity in hell?

That was the idea that entered Paul’s mind when, at the end of his own ministry, having been imprisoned by the emperor Nero, he wrote to encourage the young pastor Timothy. Timothy was facing severe conflict in his ministry at Ephesus, and the relentless opposition from heretics, apostates, and persecutors was weakening him. And just like any Christian who experiences difficulty because of following Christ, he needed to be reminded again of his task — to suffer hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:3-4, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” A good soldier is one who does not simply do minimum duty for his Lord, but rather is one who serves Him with everything he is and has. As a Christian, that’s what you are called to. Paul’s words to Timothy are your marching orders, too, as you strive to be a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

The first mark of a good soldier is the willingness to suffer hardship with the rest of the soldiers. “Suffer hardship” literally means to suffer evil or pain along with someone else. By adding “with me,” Paul assures Timothy that he hasn’t asked anything of him that he wasn’t willing to do. In fact, Paul was writing from a prison cell.

As a Christian in the Western world, I’d bet it is sometimes difficult for you to understand what serious spiritual warfare and suffering for Christ mean. Even though the secular environment in our society is increasingly hostile to Christianity, you are not faced with loss of job, imprisonment, or execution because of your faith. With few exceptions, being a Christian won’t keep you out of college or from getting a good job. But the more faithful you are as a Christian, the more Satan will put roadblocks, hardships, and rejection in the way, the more evident the spiritual warfare will become, and the more frequent and obvious the hardship will become.

You have been called to endure hardship, and every Christian who has gone before you has had his share. And although you haven’t yet shed blood for your faith (Hebrews 12:4), you will experience hardship as a Christian for your faithfulness–count on it. Jesus said, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). But be encouraged for He also said, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus is the perfect Commander who leads by example and will bring you to certain victory in the end.

Paul is an example of a man who faced the enemies onslaughts. He endured hardship.

One of the types of hardship that you face as a believer is the bearing the scorn of sarcasm.

Festus was a pagan Roman governor over Judea. He was the replacement for Governor Felix, who had replaced Roman Governor Pontius Pilate.

Festus as new to region was very unaware of Jewish religion, and the distinctions of Christianity.

Herod Agrippa is an interesting character. It was his father, Herod Agrippa I, who had the apostle James executed [Acts 12:1-2] and then cast the apostle Peter into prison [Acts 12:3]. He died a gruesome death in 44 A.D. It was his great-grandfather, Herod the Great, who spoke to the magi from the east when they came seeking the Christ-child, and it was also he who ordered the slaughter of all baby boys under the age of two. It was one of his uncles, Herod Antipas, who ordered the death of John the Baptist, and to whom Pontius Pilate sent Jesus just prior to His crucifixion.

Agrippa II's father (Herod Agrippa I) died in 44 A.D., leaving the Herodian throne vacant. Emperor Claudius, who happened to think quite highly of Agrippa II, wanted to appoint him king in his father's place, but was persuaded by several of his trusted advisors that the young Agrippa (who was only 17) was simply too young to effectively administer the territory. Therefore, Palestine became a Roman province and was administered by a provincial governor (Cuspius Fadus being appointed to be the first of several procurators of Palestine). In 50 A.D., at the age of only 23, Claudius appointed Agrippa II the king of Chalcis (a small kingdom to the NE of Judea) in the place of his recently deceased uncle. Three years later several other tetrarchies were given to Agrippa, thus expanding his rule. Nero became the emperor in 54 A.D. and shortly thereafter expanded the territory of Agrippa even further. As king over these Jewish territories, Agrippa had the responsibility as curator of the temple, "with power to depose and appoint the high priest and the responsibility of preserving the temple's treasury and priestly vestments" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 548]. During his reign he appointed seven high priests.

Although the Jewish Talmud alludes to him having two wives, there is really no solid historical evidence that Agrippa ever married or fathered any children. This may well have been due to his continuous incestuous relationship with his sister Bernice. Josephus, in his Antiquities, and Juvenal, in his Satires, both spoke at length about this ongoing scandal. "Rumors of their incestuous relationship flourished in both Rome and Palestine" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 548]. "This incestuous relationship became the common chatter in Rome" [ISBE, vol. 2, p. 697]. Bernice was also no saint. Following the death of her husband (who was also her uncle), she moved in with her brother Agrippa. Over the years that followed she would bounce back and forth between Agrippa and Titus, the son of Emperor Vespasian. Bernice was the mistress of Titus (which Tacitus declared "a public scandal"), but she was cast aside in 79 A.D. when Titus finally became emperor of the Roman Empire. She and Agrippa then returned to their relationship and faded from history.

Upon being appointed procurator, or governor, of the province of Judea, Festus made a courtesy call upon the Jewish priests in Jerusalem. They quickly pressed their case against Paul, who had been put in bonds in Caeserea by Felix, the previous procurator.

"They urgently requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way."—Acts 25:3 NIV

Sensing the danger, Festus refused and told them to come up to Caeserea for the trial. The representatives of the Jewish Sanhedrin came promptly and Festus called it for the next day. After listening to the charges he saw that they were unsubstantiated and mainly concerned matters of Jewish religion.

Desiring to do the Jews a favor, he queried Paul on his willingness to travel to Jerusalem to stand trial there.

"Paul answered: `I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!’ After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: `You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!’"—Acts 25:10-12 NIV

Some time later King Herod Agrippa II, whose dominion included Galilee, and his sister Bernice came to pay their respects to Festus. Agrippa was the last of five Herods to sit on the throne, and his sister Drusilla was married to the former governor, Felix. (Acts 24:24) Bernice had just deserted her third husband, Polemo, king of Cilicia, and was living with her brother at the time in an incestuous relationship.

There is a certain man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and 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 any man before he has faced his accusers and has had an opportunity to defend himself against their charges. When they next 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. (Acts 25:14-20)
Did you get that? "A dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive." And the clincher: "I was at a loss how to investigate such matters." You see, Roman law didn't cover resurrections. Insurrections, yes. Resurrections, no.
To Festus, it's all incomprehensible. He's never heard anything like this before. He doesn't know what to say or even where to begin. Paul isn't guilty of anything. He's not a murderer or a thief. He's not a criminal. A little kooky maybe with this resurrection thing. But that's it.

Festus is quite happy to make Paul a spectacle in the entertainment of the two royals.

Agrippa understands the Jewish law and he also knows quite a bit about the story of Jesus. In fact, he was born about the time Jesus began his public ministry. So he says, "I would like to hear this man myself." And Festus says, "Tomorrow you will." (25:22)
Tomorrow comes and it turns out to be a great occasion. The Romans were always good at pomp and ceremony and they did it up right this time. The hearing was held in the splendid Hall of Audience in Caesarea. In come Agrippa and Bernice dressed in their royal purple robes. In comes Festus in the scarlet dress of the Roman governor. In come the Roman Legionnaires, in come the lictors, in come the civic officials, in come the interested onlookers. It is a vast and impressive sight. Finally, lastly, in comes the Apostle Paul, a slight, stooped, unimpressive man wearing a threadbare tunic. Chains dangle from his gnarled hands. But his look is magnetic, his eyes flash with power. From the moment he speaks, it is Paul who holds the stage. What follows is the greatest defense of the Christian message in the New Testament. It is in many ways the climax of the book of Acts. The record of what Paul said to Agrippa is found in Acts 26. It is the story of Paul, regarded as a kook, standing before a king.

When you are treated as a Kook, there are some things you should remember.

1. Remember that Faith in Christ Is Essential

Paul wanted it to be clear that to him faith in Christ is essential. Here, under pressure from mockers, a choice had to be made. Would he worship Jesus among the other gods, or would he give his heart commitment to Jesus.

For Paul, his faith in Christ was essential, of the essence, of what he was. He was a Christian. If you cut him, he bled Christian!

I came across a letter that Spurgeon had written to his son who also followed him in the ministry.  I quote from that letter, writing to his boy he says: 

I shouldn’t like you if meant by God to be a missionary to die a millionaire.  I should not like it if you were to be a missionary if you dribble down to be a king.  What are kings and nobles and diadems compared with the dignity of winning souls to Christ? 

I believe that in an angel were to wing his way from earth up to Heaven, and were to say that there was one poor, ragged boy, without father or mother, with no one to care for him and teach him the way of life; and if God were to ask who among them were willing to come down to this earth and live here for fifty years and lead that one to Jesus Christ, every angel in Heaven would volunteer to go. Even Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, would say, “Let me leave my high and lofty position, and let me have the luxury of leading one soul to Jesus Christ.”  There is no greater honor than to be the instrument in God’s hands of leading one person out of the kingdom of Satan into the glorious light of Heaven. -D. L. Moody

Our greatest calling and highest commitment is that we be true emissaries of the blessed Lord God from heaven. 

John R. Mott, one of the tremendously gifted missionary statesmen and missionaries from America was invited by President Calvin Coolidge to be American ambassador to Japan.  And John R. Mott replied, “I have accepted the call of being an ambassador from the courts of heaven and giving my life to that ambassadorship, my ears are closed and deaf to any other call.”  And that’s the way all of us ought to be in our lives.  Our first calling is to serve Christ.

For Paul, he was essentially a Christian, and it didn’t matter how people knocked and mocked, that’s who he was.

How about you? Are you a Christian through and through, or when the guys mock and knock, do you condescend to their estimates?

No matter what the pressure, Paul’s first commitment was to be a Christian!

Do you remember John Bunyan’s hymn?

Who would true valour see, Let him come hither;
One here will constant be, Come wind, come weather
There’s no discouragement Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent To be a pilgrim.

Whoso beset him round With dismal stories
Do but themselves confound; His strength the more is.
No lion can him fright, He’ll with a giant fight,
He will have a right To be a pilgrim.

Hobgoblin nor foul fiend Can daunt his spirit,
He knows he at the end Shall life inherit.
Then fancies fly away, He’ll fear not what men say,
He’ll labor night and day To be a pilgrim.

Beat, placed in jail in Philippi, he was still true to the Lord.  Exposed to wild beasts in Ephesus, he was still true to the Lord.  Ridiculed, scoffed at, laughed at, in the university city of Athens, he still was true to the Lord.    Finally, languishing for two years in prison in Ceasarea, awaiting his trial in Rome, still true to the Lord.  Then facing execution on the Appian Way down the Tiber River, still true to the Lord. 

I’ll show him how great things he must suffer for my namesake.

2. Remember that Faith In Christ Is Factual

How Do you handle sarcastic abuse? Paul presented his testimony. He told these critics how the Lord touched and changed his life.

He begins with a confession. 26:9-11

He brings in his conversion. 26: 12-15.

He speaks about his Commission which has brought him before Agrippa and Bernice, not as a prisoner, but as an ambassador. Acts 26:16-18 But get up and stand on your feet. For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of things you have seen, and of things in which I will appear to you. 17 I will rescue you from the people and from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you,

Paul is an Ambassador bringing:

Revelation Unbelievers are blinded to spiritual truth by Satan. “to open their eyes”

2 Corinthians 4:4, “whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”

Unbelievers are in need of being turned from darkness to light. The Bible often uses light to picture salvation. “I Have Saw the Light”. Jesus is the “Light of the World” Only Christ can open eyes and give light.

Repentance that they may turn from darkness to light

Redemption Unbelievers are in need of Christ’s freedom.

The unbeliever is likened unto a blind prisoner in a dark dungeon and only Christ can set you free “from the power of Satan to God”

Remission that they may receive forgiveness of sins Unbelievers are in need of God’s forgiveness. Psalms 103:“Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, 11-13 “For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west,So far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.”

Riches and a share among those who are sanctified

Jesus Christ takes him into His own family as His own child and shares His inheritance with him.

“and an inheritance among those…”

Reliance by faith in Me.’

What must the unbeliever do? “By faith in Me” - TRUST Jesus Christ

Paul had to lose his religion to gain salvation. Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.”

He speaks of his consecration 19,20 “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. 20 Instead, I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance.

That is what his life ahs been about!

O make but trial of His love, Experience will decide

How blest are they and only they Who in His truth confide.

3. Remember That Faith in Christ Is Reasonable

7: "Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?" That is the question of the ages. Is it incredible to think that God would raise the dead?
Then he adds these words in verse 22: "But I have had God's help to this very day, and 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 Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles."

Verse 27: King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?  The word of God, the holy scriptures?  I know that thou believest. 

Here are two reasons to have faith in Christ.

1. He truly was raised from the dead.

Sure its against anything that has ever happened before. That’s what makes it unique.

Sure its unusual. It was meant ot be unusual. God was pointing to the events surrounding Jesus as the MOST important events for humanity to ever experience.

Jesus was God in human flesh! He had to be resurrected. Could God stay dead?

Acts 2: 24 God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it. 25 For David says of Him: I saw the Lord ever before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced. Moreover my flesh will rest in hope, 27 because You will not leave my soul in Hades, or allow Your Holy One to see decay.

Jesus was dieing for mankind’s sin. He HAD to be resurrected as proof that this price paid was acceptable to God. Romans 4:25 He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Jesus is going to rule the world. He had to be resurrected as a proof of this.

Acts 17: 30 “Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because He has set a day on which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.”

And all of this was prophesied beforehand in the Scriptures. Acts 26:27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe.” 28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?”

4. Remember That faith in Christ Is Attainable

Paul exhorts Agrippa to do something about this Christ. Its going to involve 2 things: Repenting And Faith. 19,20 “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. 20 Instead, I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance.

Repentance Metanoia – involves a change of mind that results in a change of behavior.

Turn Describes unbelieving sinners turning to God 1 Thessalonians 1:9, “For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God”

Do Works Befitting Repentance Matthew 3:8, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance”

Genuine repentance is inseparably linked to a changed lifestyle.

Reliance by faith in Me.’

What must the unbeliever do? “By faith in Me” - TRUST Jesus Christ

Paul had to lose his religion to gain salvation. Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.”

Paul implicitly asks Agrippa “Will you repent and put your reliance in the Saviour?”

The man that dies of rabies dies in convulsion, in madness.  It is a horrible spectacle.  One dying in rabies.   There was a poignant, dramatic incident in the life of Louis Pasteur.  Pasteur was the professor of chemistry in the Sorbonne, the great university in Paris, France.   And he discovered immunization, inoculation, vaccination.  He discovered that by taking the dread disease itself and feeding the veins a little at a time that the body would build up antibodies against the disease and so be spared.  Pasteurization, the killing of bacteria came from him.  Pasteur. 

The dramatic incident I read in the life of Louis Pasteur was this.  From the Steppes in Russia, far, far away, there came through Europe and finally to Paris a strange looking group of Russians.  Their dress was strange.  Their speech was strange.  And their looks were strange.  They had been bitten by an animal, afflicted with rabies and facing a certain and awesome death.  Someone had told them that in Paris, France there is a man named Pasteur who can save you.  So that company, strange looking and strange speaking from the heart of the steppes of Russia, they made that trek across northern Europe and finally to Paris.  And they had one word on their lips: Pasteur, Pasteur, Pasteur. Hope and life and healing lay in finding that Pasteur, coming to Pasteur.  Can you imagine that group who had been bitten by a mad dog and were dying of rabies? 

Can you imagine on their way to Pasteur seeing someone fall by the wayside and they say because they fall by the wayside, I will not go.  It is unthinkable.  I am a dying man.  

And the judgment of death is written upon me.  Where is someone who can heal me and save me and deliver me? 

Jesus.  However there may be something wrong with us or however they may be fault in the church, I find no fault in him at all.  Our eyes upon Jesus.  Not upon this one, that one or the other one.  Where is he who can deliver me from this judgment of death?  Take me to Jesus. 

The final mark of a good soldier is a genuine desire to “please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” The men who followed Lt. Winters through terrible conditions and battles in Europe did so willingly–he had earned their respect and affections. In an even greater way, the Lord deserves your honor, your affection, and your obedience for all He has done for you. His own courage on the battlefield is unparalleled. He stayed the course and went before you to win your freedom and eternal life. And now He seeks your loyal service in His army.

The Christian’s greatest desire is to please Christ, and his fondest hope is to be rewarded for faithful service, to hear his Master say, “Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).

With that hope in the forefront of your mind, let your life be animated and driven forward by your love for Jesus Christ. And make it your ambition, “whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2 Corinthians 5:9)–He is your spiritual Commander-in-Chief.

   We live in desperate times.  These are days of decision.  They are destiny determining. 

This is the time for God’s people to rise.  And that is our appeal to your heart.  Answering God’s call, a commitment as long as life shall last.  First, foremost, primary, fundamental, I accept Jesus as my savior and Lord.  It begins in that commitment.  I believe him to be all that he said that he was.  Able to do all that he promised to do.  I accept him as my saviour and Lord.  I will be baptized in obedience to his great command, following his own holy and righteous example and I will be numbered with the people of God. 

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