Acts 25-26

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 1, 1998

Introduction

Paul had been warned by the Holy Spirit about his arrest in Jerusalem, and sure enough, after only having been there a week, the Jews from Ephesus spotted Paul in the temple, caused a riot, and Paul was arrested. He was prepared, and had a chance to witness to both the crowd as well as the Sanhedrin. When it was discovered that 40 men were involved in a plot to kill Paul, he was whisked off to Caesarea by the Romans. But Paul was prepared for Caesarea too, and he was allowed to present his case before the governor, Felix. When Paul refused to give Felix a bribe, he was left in jail. Now, after having been in jail for two years, there is a change in Roman governors, and Paul will once again have a chance to defend himself, now before Porcius Festus. Paul is prepared.

Abraham Lincoln said: "I will prepare myself, and when the time comes, I will be ready."

25:1-12 Paul before Festus

:1 after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem.

After Festus becomes governor, he only takes three days before going to visit Jerusalem. He knows that this is where the power base for the Jews is.

:2 the high priest Ö

There is a new high priest by this time. His name is Ishmael.

:8 nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.

offended Ė hamartano Ė to be without a share in; to miss the mark; to sin

Caesar Ė the emperor in Rome has changed as well. A man named Nero is now sitting on the throne. It was Nero who appointed Festus to replace Felix. At this time, Nero is still known as a good ruler. History tells us that he didnít go crazy until some time after Paulís witness to him.

:10 I stand at Caesarís judgment seat

As a Roman citizen, he has the right to a trial before a Roman judge, not a Jewish one.

:11 I appeal unto Caesar.

This was the legal right of every Roman citizen, unless the person was a well-known robber or pirate.

Lesson

Be prepared to defend yourself.

Paul doesnít just stretch out his neck and say, "Okay, chop it off!" He defends himself. Itís okay to defend yourself.

Sometimes Iíve gotten the idea from some people that if Iím trusting in the Lord that I wonít do anything to protect myself. There is a time to turn the other cheek, but there is also a time to say "I appeal Ö".

The balance is that we shouldnít go to court against another believer (1Cor.6), and we shouldnít try to take advantage of another person in court. But itís okay to take advantage of the laws of the land to protect yourself.

:12 when he had conferred with the council

the council Ė sumboulion Ė not the "Sanhedrin", these are Festusí Roman counselors.

25:13-27 Festus and Agrippa

:13 king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus.

Agrippa Ė This is actually Herod Agrippa II. His father, Herod Agrippa I, was the guy who had James the brother of John killed (Acts 12:1). His great grandfather was the one who tried to kill the baby Jesus. He is not the king of Judea, but Emperor Claudius made him king of Chalcis (AD 50) to the north of Judea, as well as gave him control over the temple and the appointing of the high priests. Heís young, about 30 years old.

Bernice Ė This is Herod Agrippa IIís sister. Drusilla (the wife of Felix, the last governor) is also their sister. Bernice was jealous of Drusillaís beauty and was known to treat her harshly. She had been married to her uncle, the previous king of Chalcis, but was married now to Polemon, the king of Cilicia, though separated from him. It is believed that Agrippa and Bernice at this time were living in an incestuous relationship. She would later become mistress to Titus, the Roman who would conquer Jerusalem.

Festus is the new Roman ruler on the block. Agrippa and Bernice have come to welcome him to town, cozy up to him, etc.

:19 certain questions against him of their own superstition

superstition Ė NAS, NIV "religion". This wasnít what Festus had expected.

:19 whom Paul affirmed to be alive.

At least Festus has this correct. Heís got Paulís main point down.

:20 I doubted of such manner of questions

I doubted Ė aporeo Ė to be without resources, not to know how to decide or what to do. Festus didnít have a clue how to handle this situation.

:27 not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.

This was the bind that Festus was in. What would he tell Caesar?

26:1-23 Paul before Agrippa

:1 Paul stretched forth the hand

Paul likely has a chain on his hand, one which was attached to a Roman soldier.

:2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa

To His disciples, Jesus had told his disciples that they would be brought before rulers and kings for my sake (Mark 13:9)

To Paul specifically, Jesus had said,

Acts 9:15 Ö he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

:2 because I shall answer for myself

answer Ė apologeomai ("apology", "apologetics") Ė to defend one's self, make one's defence; to give a full account of

The Greek idea of "apology" isnít saying "Iím sorry". Itís giving a defense, a reason for your actions.

Paul doesnít have to defend himself before Agrippa because he has already appealed to Rome. But heís glad to have the opportunity to witness to a king.

Lesson

Be prepared to give an answer

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and [be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

Abraham Lincoln once said, "If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six hours sharpening my ax."

You never know who has a question that needs answered.

Illustration

In Christian Parenting Today, Douglas R. Sword told this story: "As I was giving my 4-year-old son a bath, I was trying to hurry because Monday Night Football would be on soon. He began telling me that Christmas was coming and that we needed to have a birthday party for Jesus. We talked a little more, and then he asked, "What does it mean to have Jesus in your heart?" On the outside I was calm, but inwardly my heart was doing flips. I explained that sometimes we do bad things and that God sent his son Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for when we disobey. We need to ask God to forgive us and for Jesus to come into our heart to help us to obey God. He said, "Can I pray and ask Jesus to come into my heart?" It was the greatest pleasure a father can have. I do not remember who won the football game that night, but I will never forget leading my son to Christ. -- Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1.

:3 expert in all customs and questions

Agrippa was the king in charge of regulating the temple and appointing the high priests. Heís not ignorant of Judaism.

:10 put to death, I gave my voice against them.

I gave my voice against Ė literally, to vote by putting a pebble into an urn.

:11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue

This is a horrible picture of a man gone berserk, a maniac on the loose looking for Christians, forcing them to blaspheme the name of Jesus or die.

Lesson

Jesus can save the worst sinner.

This was one horrible, crazy guy.

From time to time there is a person who thinks that somehow they are such a wicked sinner that God could never accept them or love them.

Iím not going to talk them out of feeling like a horrible sinner. I donít think itís even a good idea to find someone "worse" than they are and say that if God could love them, than He can love you.

The issue is never whether or not you are at a level that God can accept. The truth is that no one is at such a level on their own merits.

The truth is that Godís love is great enough, and Jesusí blood is strong enough, that no sin is too great, no sinner too foul, no person too far away for God to love.

O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing Ė Charles Wesley

O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemerís praise,

The glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace!

My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim,

To spread through all the earth abroad the honors of Thy name.

Jesus! The name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease,

ĎTis music in the sinnerís ears, ĎTis life and health and peace.

He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free;

His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me.

:14 it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

A "prick" was a "goad", a sharp stick used for urging oxen or horses to move along. If the animal kicked against the goad, it would only hurt itself.

Apparently Paulís conscience had begun bothering him. Somewhere inside he knew he was doing the wrong thing in persecuting these Christians.

Lesson

Fighting Godís leading is hard on you.

There are some of you who have had God tugging on your heart, but youíre ignoring Him as hard as you can. Youíre only hurting yourself.

:15 I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

I still imagine that this was the most incredibly difficult, awkward thing a person could ever face.

Here is Paul facing some kind of awesome, powerful being. One who knows him by name and one who he has offended. And then to find out that itís the very Jesus whose followers heís been persecuting. Wow!

:18 To open their eyes Ö

We have a job description of sorts for Paul, but one which also serves to give us a brief description of what it means to become a Christian.

Lesson

A snapshot of Christianity.

1) Opened eyes - Before we came to know Jesus, there was a spiritual blindness on us. There is a sense in which an unbeliever doesnít have a CLUE about real, spiritual things.

2) Light instead of darkness - Following Jesus is a life of walking in purity and a life of walking away from the darkness of sin.

3) Under Godís power instead of Satanís - Before following Jesus, a person is a slave to Satan. Whatís worse is that many donít even have a clue about it.

4) Forgiven - The heart of understanding Christianity is to understand that God offers to freely forgive us of all our sin if we choose to accept Jesusí death on the cross as payment for our sins.

5) Inheritance - God doesnít just forgive us, He adopts us. We become born into His family. We become heirs of God, inheriting the riches of heaven.

6) Sanctified - This speaks of a life that is constantly being transformed day by day, more and more into the image of Jesus.

7) All through trusting in Jesus - This is where it all starts. Being willing to put your life in His hands.

:20 But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem

showed Ė apaggello Ė to bring tidings to proclaim, to make known openly

Paul obeyed by beginning to tell people about Jesus.

:20 turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

meet Ė worthy of

Lesson

Be prepared to change.

Though we receive forgiveness and salvation by simply trusting in God, there is an outward result that will happen if itís real.

There must be a change in your life.

If there is no desire to live your life in a way that pleases God, if there is no desire to turn away from your sin, then I have to question whether or not you really trusted in Jesus.

The repentance that God is looking for is not a sorrow for being caught. It is a sorrow over having been displeasing to God. It results in a desire to make whatever changes that are needed to please Him.

:22 witnessing both to small and great

Paul was willing to witness to everyone. He didnít care whether it was a Jewish king or a Philippian jailor. Everybody deserved to hear the message.

Lesson

Everyone deserves your witness.

Sometimes we get certain ideas of just who is and who isnít worthwhile to witness to. Sometimes some of the Christian girls on campus get the idea that if the big hunk football player could just come to Christ, "think of all that he could do!" And so they take it upon themselves to "witness" to them.

But in reality, Jesus belongs to all. God isnít interested in being close to important, prideful people. Heís interested in humble hearts, needy hearts.

(Isaiah 57:15) For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

:22 than those which the prophets and Moses did say

Paulís message was simply one that was consistent with the Scriptures. He wasnít making up some new message.

26:24-32 Response to Paulís message

:24 thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.

beside thyself Ė mainomai Ė to rave; of one who so speaks that he seems not to be in his right mind. This is the same word that Paul had used to describe himself before he had become a Christian (Acts 26:11). mad Ė mania (same root word) Ė madness, frenzy

learning Ė gramma Ė a letter; any writing, a document or record. Note: Students, this is not a verse that lets you out of studying!

Actually, itís a verse that shows who is being convicted at this point. Throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one the yelps loudest is the one that was hit. If he really thought Paul crazy, would he be sending him to Caesar?

:25 but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.

speak forth Ė apophtheggomai Ė to speak out, not a word of everyday speech but one "belonging to dignified and elevated discourse". Not the ranting of a madman.

soberness Ė sophrosune Ė soundness of mind; self-control, sobriety

Lesson

Keep your head in witnessing.

Be careful not to let it degrade into arguing. Itís okay if the other person gets upset, but if youíre the one upset, back off and cool down.

The Bible is VERY clear that God is patient much more often than He is upset (Ex.34:6-7). When we give people the idea that Heís upset with them all the time, weíre more often than not giving them the wrong impression.

Illustration

Moses had this problem at Meribah (Num.20). There was a point while they were wandering in the wilderness where Moses simply got ticked off at the people and gave the people the impression that God was just as ticked off as He was. The people were complaining about the lack of water and God told Moses to speak to the Rock and water would come out. But instead, Moses angrily struck the rock and yelled at the people. Moses had misrepresented God. It kept him from entering into the Promised Land.

:26 for this thing was not done in a corner.

The things of Jesus and the message of His followers was not some secret ritual. Festus may not have been there, but Agrippa knows itís all been common knowledge.

:27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?

Paul has Agrippa cornered. After all, Agrippa is the Jew in charge of temple worship. He had better believe the prophets. If Agrippa answers "yes", then he is agreeing that Jesus fulfills the Jewish prophecies of the Messiah. If he answers "no", then heís in trouble with the Jews since heís the one in charge of the temple.

:23 Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

Almost Ė oligos Ė little, small, few; of time: short

"In a short time you are persuading me to become a Christian"

It could be that Agrippa is seriously considering the claims of Paul, but it also could be spoken a little sarcastically:

NIV - "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?"

:29 I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.

I would Ė euchomai Ė to pray to God; to wish, to pray, to pray for

He gently reminds them of the oddity of his imprisonment for his message.

:32 Ö if he had not appealed unto Caesar.

Was Paulís appeal a mistake?

There are people who would say that if Paul had just waited a few more days before appealing to Caesar, that he would have been freed by King Agrippa. But itís more likely that he would have been slain on his way to Jerusalem.

Lesson

Be prepared to decide

Sometimes we have the luxury of taking our time to decide. But sometimes opportunities are missed by over analyzing.

Illustration: President Ronald Reagan learned the need for decision making early in his life. A kindly aunt had taken him to a cobbler to have a pair of shoes custom-made for him. The shoemaker asked, "Do you want a round toe or a square toe?" Young Ronald hemmed and hawed, so the cobbler said, "Come back in a day or two and tell me what you want." A few days later the cobbler saw young Reagan on the street and asked what he had decided about the shoes. "I haven't made up my mind," Reagan answered. "Very well," said the cobbler. "Your shoes will be ready tomorrow." When Reagan got the shoes, one had a round toe and the other a square toe. Says Reagan, "Looking at those shoes every day taught me a lesson. If you don't make your own decisions, somebody else makes them for you."

Do you need to make a decision for Jesus?