10/26/17 – Facing Your Roman Emperors: Staying Obedient To God’s Calling – Pr. Chuck Adams
“Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. They 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. Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.” After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them.” “Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.” Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?” 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 25:1-12 NIV)
1.“Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense:
12.On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13. About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
24.At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.” 25. “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” 28. Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” 29. Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” 30. The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31. After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.” 32. Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”” (Acts 26:1, 12-14, 24-32 NIV)
In was just a few Chapters ago in Acts 8, the apostle Paul, known then as Saul, played a huge role in the provocation, stoning, and death of Stephen as well as so many other innocent Christian Jews. Then in Acts 9, while on the road to Damascus, he is confronted by Jesus’ spirit and literally is brought to his knees. Long story short, he becomes a believer himself in Jesus Christ and a strong preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what brings us to these later chapters in Acts, when Saul, now Paul, is facing criminal accusations and prosecution for desecrating the temple when he was in the temple worshiping God. This act brings him to face King Agrippa. Paul, when given the opportunity to speak, declares his innocence but also declares that “his father was a Roman and therefore he is a Roman and he did not want to be judged by Jews.” Instead, he wanted to face the Romans and he demanded making his appeal to Caesar, at which time King Agrippa and the Jews had no choice but to honor his request as a Roman right. The unfortunate thing is that this request would cause him to be locked up in prison for two years, sent to Rome where he would eventually be found guilty, and executed when had he been judged by the Jews. As King Agrippa said in Acts 26:32, Paul would have been released being that he was innocent of all the false accusations.
For some men, facing the Jewish King and leaders would have been plenty to turn and run the other way without the demands of facing the Roman leadership, the lions and certain death if found guilty. But for the Apostle Paul, like how we as ministers and Christians should pursue spreading the gospel of our Lord, it was one more opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with yet another audience, a choice and decision that sealed his fate. Now Paul had already faced prosecution and possible execution earlier and a plot to kill him which is was brought him down to this beautiful oceanfront back drop of Caesarea. But that didn’t stop him from taking even one more chance to spread the gospel, even if it meant his life. Spreading the gospel was now his sole reason for being on the planet even if it cost him his life. This was Paul’s ministry and spreading the gospel, to Paul, was worth taking the chance of facing the Jewish or Roman Kings with his life.
Reading through today’s devotional scriptures here in the Book of Acts, Chapter 24-26… today especially… I found myself in such a surreal state… in awe. As I read through the scriptures on the back seat of our tour bus, I thought back to this same exact story of Paul and his fateful decision to face his Roman brethren versus the Jewish leaders. This story was told to us just minutes before by our tour guide “Ronnie”, here in Israel, as we walked the sandstone and marble sidewalk walkways of the ruins of this exact ancient city of Caesarea, mentioned so many times in the Book of Acts. The same Caesarea that Paul sails from to Tarsus in Acts 9:30. The same Caesarea that at the direction of God’s Angels, the Roman Centurion Cornelius sends for the Apostle Peter and where the home of Cornelius is located that the Apostle Peter goes to to share the word with, baptizing Cornelius’ household in Acts 10 along with so many other significant mentions in the Book of Acts.
The Apostle Paul had found himself on the opposite side of the “courtroom” so many times, persecuting and killing Christians and on this day, he found himself the one being judged and yet his thought was… just one more. Just one more person to share the gospel with. Perhaps King Agrippa…maybe Caesar in Rome. But while facing the possibility of being executed, Paul looked at facing his accusers, his judges, his executioners as just one more opportunity to complete his ministry.
When was the last time you felt the Holy Spirit nudging you to go share the word and you just could not build up enough courage to do “this assignment” being given to you from God? Or you decided not to sign up to help out with a Sunday ministry because, well, Sundays are for football?
We as Christians are called upon by God everyday. If you haven’t heard the call, then you probably weren’t listening. Or, you have ignored so many of God’s callings that they are coming in super soft or not at all already. We all know better and especially recognize God’s voice in our lives. We just need to answer the call and have that courage to answer and do the task. Be obedient to God’s call. Being obedient to God’s calling is not going to always be easy but it will be a blessing and it is definitely a requirement to have true faith in God. Obedience to God and His calling proves our love to Him (1 John 5:2), it demonstrates our faithfulness to Him (1 John 2:3), it glorifies Him in the world (1 Peter 2), and it opens up avenues for blessings upon us and our lives (John 13:17). Always be willing to face the “Roman Emperors” in our lives who are just waiting to put a stop to our assignment from God. Have the courage that Paul had to complete your ministry regardless of the obstacles or possible outcome
Heavenly Father, thank you for your everlasting patience in me when I am not so perfect and when I am especially not as obedient as I should be when you ask me to do something. Give me the courage to take up the tasks that are not always easy and the strength to follow through. I pray that you trust me and use me for bigger tasks and always that the work I do pleases and glorifies you. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen