I Stand, and I am Judged – 3-17-22

“And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers.” Acts 26:6 NKJV

Today we read about Paul standing in the judgment of King Agrippa. How many times has Paul been judged over this crime, or whatever the accusation is? I once heard a lesson on how the accusation and the defense changed over the years Paul was detained. To us, as busy and hurried modern readers – trying to take the time to understand, it is easy to start skimming the text as it seems to repeat Paul’s life story, over and over. And why are we reviewing his whole life – wasn’t the original accusation that Paul brought a gentile into the temple? Which he did not do and there were no witnesses of it happening. And where is God in all of this? Why hasn’t he saved Paul? And what of Paul’s relationship with God?

RELATIONSHIP:

Do you already have a relationship with a powerful God who cares about your every need because He loves you? Did you know my God can communicate with you and protect you – He has a plan for you to prosper if you just submit to His will and let His plan play out in your life!!! God wants a relationship with you and has already made a plan for your life. He loves you so much He sent His son to this world, to die as a sacrifice for your sins and rise from death with victory over sin and the ability to have a personal relationship with you.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me through a real personal relationship grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen

BIBLE READING:

Dear Heavenly Father – Please give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of who you are, who Jesus is, and who the Holy Spirit is. Open the eyes of our understanding, please, so we may know the hope of our calling and the vast sovereignty and power of the grace of the cross. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. Lord, I pray that your word prepares us and not scares us! We forbid the works and influences of fear over your word and our sound mind. And please keep us and bless us and shine your face upon us and pour out grace over us and give us peace! Thank you! – In Jesus name we pray, Amen

Today’s reading is the Book of Acts chapter 26 (embedded below for your convenience in the NKJV). 

Paul’s Early Life

26 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.”

So Paul stretched out his hand and answered for himself: “I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently.

“My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?

“Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things [a]contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

Paul Recounts His Conversion

12 “While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13 at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 17 I will [b]deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I [c]now send you, 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified[d] by faith in Me.’

Paul’s Post-Conversion Life

19 “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. 21 For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

Agrippa Parries Paul’s Challenge

24 Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!”

25 But he said, “I am not [e]mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. 26 For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.”

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”

29 And Paul said, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.”

30 When he had said these things, the king stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice and those who sat with them; 31 and when they had gone aside, they talked among themselves, saying, “This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains.”

32 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

Footnotes

  1. Acts 26:9 against
  2. Acts 26:17 rescue
  3. Acts 26:17 NU, M omit now
  4. Acts 26:18 set apart
  5. Acts 26:25 out of my mind

MEMORY VERSE CHALLENGE:

Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

STUDY/DEVOTIONAL:

I asked too many questions as I started today! Let me start by saying God is in this and it is evident. First because God promised Paul that he would arrive safety in Rome. Secondly, because the accusations and focus of the legal trials against Paul is shifting so far away from the accusations that stirred the mob originally. We must trust in the Lord even though His ways are not our ways.

So, Paul stands and was judged again – this time in front of King Agrippa. Here is the crazy part – Paul appealed to Caesar – so King Agrippa had NO authority to judge Paul. He was just curious and wanted to know what was going on. Paul knew this and we can see has Paul is more charismatic and even makes a joke. A more lighthearted side of Paul, then we are used to. We are used to the weight of Paul’s love and burden for the people.

So we read Paul’s defense, today, and it is ever so slightly changed from pervious one, again. This time it is laid out to win King Agrippa (and the audience) to the Lord. Or more clearly: he was explaining to them HIS relationship with God and making them aware of the fact that they too need a relationship with God – through Jesus, who was who He said He was. Yes, Paul slipped into sermon mode and almost – almost – convinced King Agrippa to have a relationship with God. At least seeds were planted. Sometimes we are judged, just to bear witness and testify on behalf of Christ!

“Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”
And Paul said, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.”
Verses 28-29

And there it is a lighthearted joke – yes, be a Christian like me – just like me – comical relief “except for these chains” the audience laughs. Paul had planted a seed well, Agrippa’s heart was soft and just about ready, and I hope someone else came along and helped harvest that fruit!

We also see in today’s reading that Festus’s heart was not soft and Festus was a little clueless.

“Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!”
But he said, “I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason.”
Verses 24-25

Sometimes we are judge so other people’s incompetence is exposed.

Today’s reading was short and most repetitive so it might make for a short study down here, except the ending must also be addressed in context of the big picture:

“When he had said these things, the king stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice and those who sat with them; and when they had gone aside, they talked among themselves, saying, “This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains.”
Then Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Verses 30-32

I might just snap at the next preacher I hear, speculate that Paul made a huge mistake by appealing to Caesar. I laid out the full reason why he had to yesterday (the two options Festus was offering lead to death – besides GOD told Paul he had to get to Rome, alive).
I do not believe Luke included it to confuse people. I think Luke assumes you can retain the promise written out a few chapters before. But Luke did not write this in chapters, did not know someone would break up his scroll like this, and Luke did definitely did not write with the mindset that people would break up the reading over such a long period of time that it would be easy to forget that God promised, Rome.

Besides breaking up the reading – we have many other issues as global people in general in our times. While running for election, the president of the United States promised that he would be completely transparent about his health – within months he broke that promise and he hadn’t even been elected yet. But in spite of this lie, he was elected (albeit, many think that he lied about winning the election as well). But this is the same man who lied about his education and was almost NOT elected to the senate, early in his career as a politician. Yet, people forgot that and believed all his other lies. This is the SAME man who said they needed to systematically deal with the [racial slur] population – and wrote, sponsored and got passed the Biden crime Law that added systemic racism to the legal system – and then told the world that if you didn’t vote for him you weren’t “black”. And so people chose to forget the lies and the bad and still voted for him and are still buying his lies. (And let’s not get into a republican vs democrat argument or liberal vs conservative or anything like that I am just merely using one man as an example because he is globally known, and this has a global readership. But we could easily replace this example with political leaders from all over our world or even ones from the recent past.)  There is a point. People forgive, overlook, forget and believe these people eagerly to get us out of the pandemic and keep us safe from war and many look to them to save them –

But they do not have that same amount of trust and belief in a perfect God who has never lied.

God said to Paul – I am sending you to Rome – HE WHO HAS PROMISED IS FAITHFUL.

God said to me the business I gave you is how I will provide for you. The World tells me to give up as the business struggles. Tells me to go seek employment elsewhere. But My God is faithful.

What is the promise God put before you – He will finish what he started. He is not slow, although Paul must have thought this was dragging on. Moses must have thought the same. David was told he’d be king then was literally hunted for years – yet God is faithful and not slow.

We as Christians shall be judged. A lot. When you hear people say “but doesn’t the Bible say you shall not judge?!” well that is more perversion than I am willing to jump into. Here by example – Paul was judged over and over and over – by individuals and by government. Live upright – so when we are judged, we are found blameless.

***

Thank you for reading in 2022 – a Year of Wisdom and Salvation
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!

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