Devotional # 70. 1/20/14. Paul’s recounts his conversion before Agrippa.
This week’s Reading: Acts 26:12-32.
Introduction. Last week Paul started his defense in front of Agrippa. Remember this wasn’t an official trial but since Agrippa was familiar with Jewish culture he was helping Festus figure out what the formal charges would be when Paul went to Rome. This week we’ll hear Paul give his testimony. In sharing his story he shares Jesus’ story: the gospel!
vv. 12-18. Paul recounts his conversion which we talked about in Acts 9 (Devotional 50). He describes how God told him what he should do and what would happen to him. Notice in verse 17 that God said He would free Paul from the Jews and the Gentiles. This did happen many times but imagine how the Greek (“Gentile”) listeners especially Agrippa and Festus took this statement. Possibly like Paul was saying God would break him out of prison.
vv. 19-23. Now Paul explains how he was faithful in what God told him to do. Interestingly he put authority in perspective. He doesn’t disrespect them but he basically said what Peter and the other apostles said in Acts 5:29, if it comes down to obeying God or men, they will always choose God.
So Paul plainly explains what a Christian’s life looks like. A person must: 1. repent, 2. turn to God and 3. act accordingly (v. 20). None of these can be done alone or in any other order than how Paul explains it. 1. You must recognize the bad stuff (sin) you have done and feel bad about it. You want to stop doing those bad things but you realize you can’t do it alone. That is repentance. 2. Then you turn to God. When you recognize that you can’t do it alone you accept what God has done for you. John 3;16 says, “‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’” If you accept that then you have turned to God. 3. Lastly, you lead a transformed life, doing “works befitting repentance.” We know that “works,” like working to please God by doing good things, doesn’t get a person into heaven. The Bible is clear, like in 2 Tim 1:9 which states that salvation is “not according to works”* So these works must be the “fruit” that is talked about multiple times in the Bible. This is the “fruit” that God helps us bear by His working through us. A great description of the “Fruit of the Spirit” is in Galatians 5:22-23. I would also encourage you to read Matthew 13 which has several parables about how Christians bear fruit.
*Other verses that say you can’t get into heaven by doing good “works”: Ps.49:7-8; 127:1-2; Ecc. 1:14, Isa 13:14; 57:12; 64:6; Eze 7:19; 33:12-19; Dan. 9:18; Mt. 5:20;Lk 17:7-10; 18:9-14; Ac. 13:39; Ro 3:20-21, 27, 28; 4:1-25 (specifically v. 2,4,6); 8:3; 9:16, 30-33; 11:6; 1 Co.13:13; Gal. 2:16, 21;3:10-12, 21;4:9-11; 5:2, 4, 6, 18; 6:15; Eph 2:8-9; Php. 3:3-9; Col. 2:20-23, 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit 3:4-5, 7; Heb. 4:3-10; 6:1-2; 9:1-14; Jas. 2:10-11
vv. 24-29. Festus’ loud response towards Paul is unbelief. He can’t believe that Paul was blinded by a light and given instructions that would guide him the rest of his life. Instead of a blinding light, Festus thinks Paul is blind to reality. Although Paul respectfully answers Festus, Paul turns his attention towards Agrippa. Paul asks questions that elicit Agrippa’s famous response, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” How close Agrippa came to turning his life over to Jesus and seeing Truth!
vv. 30-32. Agrippa and Festus discuss Paul’s charges and they agree that Paul is innocent. But the law said that if a prisoner appealed to Caesar then it was their right, they must go to Caesar.
Conclusion: Paul is a great evangelist because at the same time as he’s 1. giving a defense, he’s also 2. witnessing to the lost, and 3. Explaining what true Christianity is, while 4. Living out the example right before their eyes! God never stops using simple things to confuse the wise. He uses a man in chains to talk about eternal freedom to the men who are truly bound in sin and confusion.