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Paul Appears Before Festus and Agrippa II


Series: Acts

Passage: Acts 25:1-26:32

Speaker: Jeff Thompson

As Felix, the governor of Judea, is recalled to Rome, a new governor, Festus, arrives. He examines Paul's case and puts on a special audience with Paul for King Agrippa II, allowing Paul to state his case by sharing his incredible testimony.

Transcription (automatically-generated):

Good to see you all this evening. And tonight, I'm going to do something I've never done before. So we got to get moving because I'm going to teach through two chapters of the Bible in one message, which can only mean one thing. The Lord is coming for his church in the next 45 minutes.

So it's going to be a great night. A great night. Acts, chapter 25 opens with Paul under how house arrest in the governor's mansion at Caesarea Maritima. He has been there for two years. The emperor Felix has been keeping Paul's case in limbo, refusing to render a verdict because he faces an unsolvable dilemma.

On the one hand, he cannot find Paul guilty because as a Roman citizen, he's entitled to due process, and his accusers have presented no evidence and no witnesses. On the other hand, he cannot find Paul innocent and release him because that would outrage the influential Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, creating the risk of further riots and unrest in the province, which would be frowned upon by Rome and threaten Felix's position as governor. Ultimately, despite his best efforts, other events would cause Felix to lose his governorship after these two years and be recalled to Rome. His replacement was one Porcius Festus, who inherited Paul's case. Now, we know little about Festus as he died two years after assuming the governorship.

Unlike Felix, he came from Roman nobility and was described by the first-century historian Josephus as being better at his job than his predecessor. Let's jump in. Acts, chapter 25, verse one. It says, three days after Festus arrived in the province to take up the position of governor, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. One of the first things any competent new governor would want to do is meet with the most influential people in his province and in Judea.

Those men could be found in the Sanhedrin, the Hebrew senate in Jerusalem. Festus would surely have been warned that staying in their good graces was key to keeping the peace in this combustible province. The chief priests and the leaders of the Jews presented their case against Paul to him, and they appealed, asking for a favor against Paul, that Festus summoned him to Jerusalem. They were, in fact, preparing an ambush along the road to kill him. Time had not made the Sanhedrin's hearts grow fonder toward Paul.

They still hated him and wanted him dead. So they try to take advantage of their initial meeting with Festus, aware that he'd like to begin their relationship favorably. And they ask him to hand Paul over to them and allow them to judge him under Hebrew law, likely saying something like this is a Jewish matter. In reality, they had no intention of even putting on a sham trial. They planned to have Paul assassinated before he ever reached them.

What a sad example this is of the power and grip of bitterness. These men hadn't even seen Paul for two years. He'd been under house arrest, and yet their hatred for him had not lessened one iota. Jesus warned us in John 834, saying, truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. And Paul would later write to the Romans, asking rhetorically, don't you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one that you obey either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness?

When we embrace bitterness, we invite it to enslave us. We invite it to become our master. And when we obey the emotional promptings of bitterness, we are serving bitterness as a slave serves its master, and that's what we see exhibited in the lives of the Sanhedrin, men who were enslaved by their baseless bitterness toward Paul. So would you write this down? Bitterness enslaves the one who embraces it.

Bitterness enslaves the one who embraces it. Jesus had predicted the behavior of the Sanhedrin prophesying to his disciples in John chapter 15. It's on your outlines. If the would he you understand that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own.

However, because you are not of the world, but I've chosen you out of it. The world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you. A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.

If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they don't know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now they have no excuse for their sin. The one who hates me also hates my father.

If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not be guilty of sin. Now they have seen and hated both me and my father. But this happened so that the statement written in their law might be fulfilled. They hated me for no reason. Verse four.

Festus, however, answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea and that he himself was about to go there shortly. Therefore he said, let those of you who have authority to go down with me and accuse him if he's done anything wrong. Now to his credit, Festus could either sense that something was up and or he wanted to get a feel for Paul's case in the calm of the governor's palace rather than the cultural tinder box that was Jerusalem. So Festus invites the Sanhedrin to send representatives to his palace in Caesarea, Maritima to represent their accusations before him. When he had spent not more than eight or ten days among them, he went down to Caesarea.

So the Sanhedrin took Festus up on his offer, and they send an accusatory legal party, just as they had to Felix two years earlier. The next day, seated at the tribunal, he that's Festus, commanded Paul to be brought in. When he arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him and brought many serious charges that they were not able to prove. So they physically surround Paul and begin blasting all kinds of serious charges at him, expressing outrage, but with zero evidence, it seems Paul held his tongue and let them do their song and dance until they were done. A wise strategy.

Gas is likely painted Paul as a calm, sophisticated man, while painting the Jews as overemotional and unreasonable. Then Paul made his defense: Neither against Jewish law nor against the temple, nor against Caesar. Have I sinned in any way? But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, replied to Paul, interrupting him, are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and be tried before me there on these charges? Remember, Festus is in the same position as his predecessor, Felix, in that he needs to maintain peace in the province and to do that, he needs to placate the Sanhedrin as much as possible.

So he tries to strike a balance between giving them what they want and respecting Paul's rights as a Roman citizen by asking Paul, will you agree to be put on trial in Jerusalem if I oversee the trial? Implying that he would protect Paul. But Festus is naive to the machinations of the Jews who hate Paul. Paul is not. He knows that he's going to be murdered one way or another if he agrees to travel to Jerusalem.

Therefore, Paul replied, I am standing at Caesar's tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I'm where I ought to be right now, in the correct Roman courtroom. And he includes a not-so-subtle reminder to Festus that Caesar is the head of the Roman justice system, and any violation of his civil rights would, in fact be offenses against Caesar. I've done no wrong to the Jews, as even you yourself know very well. Paul makes another not-so-subtle dig, revealing that he knows Festus has already discerned that he's innocent.

It would he taken Festus long to figure out that the charges against Paul were baseless, and he had likely read the report Claudius Lucius had written two years prior. But it seems Festus was starting to grasp the dilemma Paul had presented to Felix and was now likewise seeking a way out of it. Paul continues, if then I did anything wrong and am deserving of death, I'm not trying to escape death. But if there is nothing to what these men accuse me of, no one can give me up to them. I'm not trying to avoid justice.

I'm asking for it to be served. If these men are presenting charges with no evidence, I must be found innocent. I cannot be handed over to them as a political favor. Sensing the growing danger and possibility that Festus may corruptly agree to the Sanhedrin's requests, Paul goes over Festus's head by invoking a right afforded to every Roman citizen, declaring, I appeal to Caesar. Now, every Roman citizen who found themselves on trial had the right to appeal to Caesar, meaning they would be transported to Rome and Caesar himself would serve as their ultimate judge.

This was a protection of last resort for any citizen who felt they could not get a fair trial where they had been arrested. Kind of awesome, actually. So Paul invokes this right to get far away from the Sanhedrin who want to kill him, and a governor who had political motivations to possibly pervert the course of justice and hand Paul over to these men who want to murder him. And this maneuver would allow Paul also to get to Rome, which is where he had wanted to go all along after visiting Jerusalem, for what you may recall, was intended to be a short time. Now, a side note.

The emperor at this time was Caesar Nero. And if you know anything about ancient history, you might wonder why Paul would think that appealing to Nero was a good idea. But the truth is that the early years of Nero's reign were not marked by the demonic cruelty and insanity that marked his later years. And this was still in those early years of Nero's reign. Verse twelve.

Then, after Festus conferred with his counsel, he replied, you have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go. And Festus was likely delighted to have this out offered to him by Paul, as it meant that he would soon no longer be his problem. The Holy Spirit unquestionably prompted the idea to appeal to Caesar at this moment. It provided Paul a means of escape from his Jewish would-be murderers and a pathway to Rome.

And when Festus approved Paul's appeal, Paul must have felt exhilarated. For just as the lord had said, he would at last be going to Rome. Our lord always keeps his promises. Several days later, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea and paid a courtesy call on Festus. This king was Agrippa II.

His grandfather was Herod the Great, who ordered the slaughter of the innocents, the death of all the baby boys under the age of two in Bethlehem, in an attempt to assassinate the king, the magi told him had been born there. You may recall that from the Christmas story. It was Herod the Great who had built many great architectural wonders, including the Second Temple that was the current temple at that time in Jerusalem, and the governor's palace in Caesarea. Maritima Agrippa II's father was Agrippa I, whose persecution of the church we studied back in Acts 12, when he executed James and ordered Peter arrested, intending to execute him as well. If you'll recall, Agrippa I refused to give God glory and was therefore given an untimely death by an angel being eaten from the inside out by worms.

Tasty Agrippa II's great uncle was Herod Antipas, who executed John the Baptist, sought to kill Jesus, and later oversaw Jesus' trial. Agrippa II, the man in our story today, was the brother of Drusilla, the wife of the previous governor, Felix. His other sister was the one with him. Here, Bernice and the consensus of historians overwhelmingly is that they were involved in a scandalous, incestuous affair. The Herodian political dynasty was Idumean, meaning they were Edomites, the descendants of Esau, the twin brother of the father of the Jewish people, Jacob.

The Edomites were rivals of the Jews and many times throughout history, their enemies. But in the Roman mind, the Edomites were just another subgroup of the Hebrews. They were the same ethnicity. The power of the Herods had decreased over the generations as the Roman Empire's presence and hold over the region grew stronger. And by the time we reached this Herod Agrippa II, he was little more than an ethnic figurehead, intending to make the Jews feel like they had some representation among the political elite class.

In reality, he was only in charge of a tiny region in northern Israel around Galilee. He was in charge of the temple treasury and he had the authority to appoint the high priest. Understanding the situation, Agrippa II would have been eager to ingratiate himself with the new governor by making a welcome visit. And Festus would have been eager to make use of Agrippa's vast and intimate knowledge of Hebrew culture. So we read in verses 14, since they were staying there several days, Festus presented Paul's case to the king, saying, there's a man who was left as a prisoner by Felix.

When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews presented their case and asked that he be condemned. I answered them that it is not the Roman custom to give someone up before the accused faces the accusers and has an opportunity for a defense against the charges. So when they had assembled here, I did not delay. The next day I took my seat at the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought in. The accusers stood up but brought no charge against him of the evils I was expecting.

Instead, they had some disagreements with him about their own religion and about underlying a certain Jesus, a dead man. Paul claimed to be alive. I love that phrase. The resurrection is the foundation, the linchpin of the Christian faith. And Festus' recounting here of Paul's testimony tells us Paul referred to the resurrection of Jesus in his comments to Festus, the resurrection remains the most important apologetic of Christianity.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then he is not God, and nothing he did can save us or grant us forgiveness for our sins. But if he did rise from the dead, then he is exactly who he claimed to be, God in the flesh, and he can do exactly what he said. He would forgive our sins. If you have not surrendered your life to Christ, I urge you to examine the historical evidence for the resurrection. It is overwhelming.

You'll be astounded if you get into it. Festus continues in verse 20. Since I was at a loss in a dispute over such things, I know nothing about the intricacies of Judaism and Christianity. I asked him if he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding these matters. But when Paul appealed to be held for trial by the emperor I ordered him to be kept in custody until I could send him to Caesar.

The situation surely intrigued Agrippa, and he sensed an opportunity to display his expertise in Hebrew culture by assisting Festus. Therefore, Agrippa said to Festus, I'd like to hear the man myself tomorrow. You will hear him, he replied. So the next day, Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the auditorium with the military commanders and prominent men of the city. This was to be a form of highbrow entertainment, a legal and philosophical curiosity to amuse the elite in Caesarea Maritima while assisting Festus with a problem he'd run into that we'll learn about in just a moment, when Festus gave the command, Paul was brought in.

What a striking contrast it must have been when high society finally laid eyes on the man at the center of all this controversy. And he turned out to be short, bald, and physically unimpressive, as MacArthur observes. But appearances can be deceiving. History has judged Paul to be one of the most noble and powerful men who ever lived, and the crowd to be a collection of pompous fools. Then Festus said, King Agrippa and all men present with us, you see this man?

The whole Jewish community has appealed to me concerning him, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he should not live any longer. The whole Jewish community. Festus is clearly exaggerating. But remember, what he's doing is part political exercise, part entertainment, and he's playing the role of ringmaster in this circus. I found that he has not done anything deserving of death, but when he himself appealed to the emperor, I decided to send him.

Now, here's the problem. He has. I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore, I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after this examination is over, I may have something to write for. It seems unreasonable to me to send a prisoner without indicating the charges against him.

Just two weeks into his governorship, Festus was unfamiliar with the nuances of Jewish and Christian theology. Therefore, he couldn't figure out how to describe it in the paperwork that he would have to send to Paul with Rome to the emperor. He didn't want to look incompetent or like he was wasting Nero's time. So he created this event around Paul, sharing his story with Agrippa, hoping some of those present could offer some insights he could include in his report to the emperor. Festus knew that everybody likes to be asked for their opinion, right?

Everybody likes to be treated as though they're an expert. And so he shrewdly crafted this event to help solve his dilemma. I'm sure the crowd's curiosity was heightened after such an introduction. Paul was likely not required to attend this gathering, as it was not a legal hearing. However, we know Paul, and we know his response was almost certainly, oh, that sounds like a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel.

Continuing into acts, chapter 26, Agrippa said to Paul, you have permission to speak for yourself. Then Paul stretched out his hand and began his defense, as was customary. And we saw last week, Paul begins with a brief captatio benevolentie, complimenting Agrippa. I consider myself fortunate that it is before you King Agrippa, I am about to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially since you are very knowledgeable about all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.

Paul wasn't being facetious. He knew. Agrippa knew enough about both Judaism and Christianity to understand Paul's situation. And because he worked with the Romans, Agrippa was not beholden to the Sanhedrin, meaning he was more likely to be objective. More importantly, Paul thought he might be a prime candidate to respond to the gospel.

And as we shall see, that was Paul's main goal in the testimony he's about to share the gospel. Paul's first concern was not his own life or safety or comfort, but the lost coming into the Kingdom of God. For this reason, Paul says to Agrippa, I beg you to listen to me patiently. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation that is in Christ. God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us.

Therefore, we are Christ's ambassadors. Since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God, no matter his situation. Paul always saw himself as we should, as an ambassador for Christ. Everywhere the disciples of Jesus go, they represent him every moment of every day, in every situation.

May the Lord help us to be mindful of this truth. Would you make a note of this on your outlines? Disciples of Jesus serve as his ambassadors at all times and are called to be foremost concerned with representing him. Disciples of Jesus serve as his ambassadors at all times and are called to be foremost concerned with representing him. To show just how dramatic the change in his life brought about by Jesus was, Paul begins by describing his life before his conversion.

All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own people, growing up in Tarsus, in Syria, and in Jerusalem when he was a young man. They've known me for a long time. If they are willing to testify that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee. The Pharisees were known for their zeal for the law of Moses. They were infamous for it, taking their interpretations to extremes and living legalistic lives.

By sharing that he lived as a Pharisee before his conversion, Paul is highlighting what an unlikely candidate he was for conversion. And now I stand on trial because of the hope in what God has promised to our ancestors, the promise our twelve tribes hope to reach as they earnestly serve him day and night. Paul's point is that he merely believes what the scriptures said would come to pass has actually come to pass. He believes in the very thing the Jews are praying for every day, the arrival of the promised Messiah, King Agrippa. I'm being accused by the Jews because of this hope.

It seems that at this point some scoff because they know that Paul is talking about the resurrection of Jesus and the hope of eternal life for those who place their faith in him. And this leads Paul to ask them all rhetorically, why do any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead? Paul's question is a logical philosophical challenge directed at both the Jews and the Gentiles present. If you recognize that an all-powerful God exists, why would it seem incredible that he can raise the dead? And why would it seem incredible that the Messiah would rise from the dead?

It's been well said that if you can wrap your mind around Genesis 1:1 - In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth - you'll have no problem with the rest of the book. If you can accept that God created everything from nothing, then you'll understand that the kinds of miracles we read about in the Bible would be child's play for God. How did God send a big fish to swallow Jonah, my brother in Christ, he's God. He could have sent a nuclear submarine through a time-traveling portal and had Jonah spend three days in that, inside of it if, He wanted to. He's God.

He could do whatever he wants. And by the way, God is the best explanation for the existence of the universe. Considering all the evidence. For Christians, the better question is perhaps, why would we consider it incredible that God keeps his promises? Why would we be surprised or act as though it's unexpected?

That God would be faithful, that he would meet our needs if we take him up on his offer to seek first his kingdom and righteousness, why would that surprise us? That he would keep his side of the deal? How do I know God loves me? How do I know that God is working good in my life? Because he loved me enough to send Jesus to die for me.

Therefore, I know I can trust him. And therefore I'm not surprised that he takes care of me when I place my life in his hands. As Paul now shares his testimony, we'll move through it pretty quickly as we went through it in detail back in Acts 9, he continues. In fact, I myself was convinced that it was necessary to do many things in opposition to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. I actually did this in Jerusalem, and I locked up many of the saints in prison, since I had received authority for that from the chief priests.

When they were put to death, I was in agreement against them. That last verse literally means that Paul cast his vote against them. And it's why most scholars believe that Paul was at one time a member of the Sanhedrin. And his testimony here implies that during that season of persecution, many believers other than Stephen and James were also put to death in all the synagogues. I often punished them and tried to make them blaspheme.

Since I was terribly enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities. Paul is revealing that he used to torture Christians to try to get them to recant their confession of faith in Jesus. And we know that despite experiencing forgiveness through Christ, Paul's actions haunted him for the rest of his life. I was traveling to Damascus under these circumstances with authority and a commission from the chief priests to persecute Christians. King Agrippa, while on the road at midday, I saw light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those traveling with me.

And then. Would you underline? We all fell to the ground. That's a little detail missing from some of Paul's other accounts of this event. The appearance of Jesus was so powerful that everyone in the traveling party was knocked face down to the ground, involuntarily shielding their eyes from the radiance of Christ's glory.

And I heard a voice speaking to me in Aramaic, the Hebrew dialect. Saul. Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads. A goad is a stick with a sharp point that is used by farmers to poke the back of the rear legs of oxen to get them to move.

So if an ox didn't like it and tried to kick against the goad, they'd just be kicking against a sharp point, hurting themselves. God's point was that in trying to fight him, Paul had picked a losing battle. It was as stupid as an ox kicking against a goat. I asked, who are you, Lord? And the Lord replied, I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.

Can you imagine? Can you imagine how the Lord's reply must have hit Paul, the one he hated and viewed as a blasphemer and a false teacher, the one whose followers he was traveling to persecute was exactly who he had claimed to be, the messiah, the son of God. 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 what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles.

I am sending you to them to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me. That's a wonderful summary of the gospel. This was Paul's commissioning to ministry by Jesus. It's intentionally similar to some of the Old Testament prophets like Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. The Lord sent Paul as a preacher and a pastor, but also as a prophet.

He's a triple threat. Verse 19 so then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. What Paul means by this modest statement is that he was wholeheartedly obedient to the heavenly vision he received from the Lord Jesus. 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 underlying repent, and turn to God and do works worthy of repentance underlying repentance. Paul's preaching lined up with the great commission given by Jesus to his disciples.

In that Paul called people to prove the sincerity of their repentance by obeying Christ with their lives. He echoed the words of John the Baptist, who exhorted the crowds to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And, of course, the words of our brother James, who would write in his epistle, faith without deeds is dead. Write this down. Sincere repentance produces the observable fruit of changed behavior.

Sincere repentance produces the observable fruit of changed behavior, Paul continues, and then underline these first three words. For this reason, the Jews seized me in the temple and were trying to kill me. The hard-hearted Jewish leaders and their followers hated Paul because he taught that God loved Gentiles, too and wanted them to be part of his kingdom. But in this verse, Paul explains that the primary reason they hated him, the primary reason they tried to kill him, was because he called them to repentance. We don't have to look very hard to see the same dynamic in play today in our world, do we?

Nothing enrages someone who loves their sin like being called to repent of their sin. The gospel is offensive because the starting point is that we are far from okay. Rather, we are wretched sinners who are slaves to sin. But wait, it gets even worse, we are slaves to sin because we want to be, because we love sin, because we love the darkness, and we're powerless to do anything about it. And that's why we need Jesus so desperately.

That's why he's our only hope. It's wonderful news if you desire to be forgiven and set free. It's wildly offensive news if you love your sin and have no desire to change. Verse 22. Paul says, to this very day, I have had help from God.

Underlying from God, not from Claudius, Lucius, or the Roman justice system. I have had help from God. For it is he who directs circumstances and the hearts of men according to his will. And I stand and testify to both small and great, saying nothing other than what the prophets and Moses said would take place, that the Messiah would suffer, and that as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light to our people and to the Gentiles. Underline that word, "light".

We'll come back to that. Paul again stresses that he's only teaching what the Jews have believed for centuries would happen, has happened to and through Jesus of Nazareth, who was and is the promised Messiah. Christianity was not heretical. It was the fulfillment of scripture. Now, Festus was clearly thinking, Paul's obviously a brilliant man.

How can he possibly believe that someone who was executed came back from the dead and appeared and spoke to him? And so we read as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus exclaimed in a loud voice, you're out of your mind, Paul. Too much study is driving you mad. Jesus's own family said, he's out of his mind. And when Jesus claimed, if anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death, the Jewish religious leaders accused him of being demon-possessed.

Indeed, the resurrection of Jesus is a shocking claim, as is the claim that all who believe in him will live forever with him. But as I said earlier, the evidence for it is overwhelming, and if you'd like to look into it further, I recommend reading "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel, or "Cold-Case Christianity" by J. Warner Wallace. Verse 25 - But Paul replied, I'm not out of my mind. Most excellent, Festus.

On the contrary, I'm speaking words of truth and good judgment, for the king knows about these matters, and I can speak boldly to him, for I am convinced that none of these things has escaped his notice. Since this was not done in a corner, Agrippa would have known all about the resurrection claims of Christianity. He would have known the body of Jesus had never been located or produced by either the Romans or the Sanhedrin. He would have known soldiers had guarded the tomb, making it impossible for the disciples to steal the body. And finally, Agrippa would have known that the Hebrew scriptures prophesied the death and resurrection of the Messiah, which is why Paul says, King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?

I know you believe. What a salesman Paul was indefatigable. Well, avoiding a question he did not want to answer and a decision he did not want to make, Agrippa said to Paul, are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily in such a short time? And I love Paul's reply. I wish before God, replied Paul, that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you, but all who listen to me today might become as I am except for these chains.

The contrast is again striking, as Paul, a physically unimposing man in chains, tells these wealthy and powerful elites that he wishes they had what he had. Christ. All of their treasure was wrapped up in their earthly lives, but Paul had an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. And with that, the show came to an end. The king, the governor, Bernice, and those sitting with them got up, and when they had left, they talked with each other and said, this man is not doing anything to deserve death or imprisonment like Jesus.

When Paul's character and conduct were examined, he was found to have done nothing wrong. And just as Jesus was declared innocent three times by Pontius Pilate with the agreement of a king, Herod, so too Paul is declared innocent three times by Claudius Lucius, Governor Felix, and Governor Festus, with the agreement of a king Herod, Agrippa said to Festus, this man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar. But this wasn't true for two reasons. Firstly, Festus was never going to release Paul and incur the wrath of the Sanhedrin. It would not have been politically expedient for him to do so.

Secondly, if Paul had been released there and then in Caesarea, he almost certainly would have been murdered shortly thereafter. Remember, the Sanhedrin were willing to devote whatever resources were required to see Paul eliminated. So even if offered his freedom, Paul would have likely stated his preference to appeal to Caesar and in so doing, escape the murderous intentions of the Sanhedrin.

I'm going to call the worship team to come up. The heart of a mature disciple of Christ desires that Christ be glorified in every circumstance of life. Hear me on this. For Paul, the question was not, what can God do for me, but rather, how can I bring honor and glory to Jesus. In this situation, when we obey him, Christ is honored.

When we testify of his goodness and faithfulness and saving power, he is glorified. So let's pray in just a moment and ask the Lord to fill us with his spirit, that we might bring him greater glory and honor in every circumstance of life, because for the Christian that is winning, Christ was honored in my life today. It was a good day. It was a good day. The Bible describes sin as being like darkness.

It makes it impossible to see clearly. It clouds a person's judgment and makes them oblivious to their enslaved state because they cannot even see their chains. In contrast, the Bible describes the gospel and Jesus as light that brings freedom and clarity. And I want to end by reading just a few verses that use that imagery because it shows up all over the New Testament. Earlier in this message, Paul testified that his ministry consisted of saying nothing other than what the prophets and Jesus said would take place, that the Messiah would suffer, and that as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light to our people and to the Gentiles.

John described Jesus thusly. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it. Paul described the state of non-believers this way. If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.

In their case, the God of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel, of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. He told the Ephesians, you must no longer live as non-believers do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Jesus described the purpose of his incarnation like this. I have come as light into the world so that everyone who believes in me would not remain in darkness.

And he described the reason people reject him, saying, this is the judgment. The light has come into the world, and people love darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and avoids it so that his deeds may not be exposed. The invitation of Jesus to all men and women is this, I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.

And when he commissioned Paul, Jesus told him, I'm sending you to them to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith. In me, the word turn there refers to repentance, because that's what repentance is. It's turning from going in one direction and going in another. It's a change of mind from thinking this way to now, thinking that way. Turning to Christ is turning from darkness to light.

And from the power of Satan to the power of God. And to those who accept Jesus' invitation. Peter declares, you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people. You had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

If you've not given your life to Jesus, you are in darkness. You are in darkness, and you cannot even perceive that you are enslaved by your sin unless the grace of God comes to you and allows you to understand that for a moment. And so if the Lord is doing that in your heart tonight, repent, turn to him, come into the light, be forgiven, and be set free. And if you're already a believer, I want to remind us that sin still darkens our understanding when we embrace bitterness or allow any sin to get a hold of our life, rejecting the Holy Spirit's calls to repent our thinking, our understanding becomes darkened, our judgment becomes compromised, and we lose the ability to perceive and discern things with clarity. So if that's you, the invitation is the same.

Repent and let the light of Christ permeate that part of your life, bringing back freedom, bringing back wholeness, bringing back life into that part of your life. Let's pray. Would you bow your head and close your eyes? Lord, thank you so much for your word and for the gift of your word. And thank you for the incredible example of our brother Paul.

Lord, we ask that you would penetrate our hearts by the grace and power of your spirit right now and illuminate if there's any area where we have allowed sin to darken our understanding. Lord, we recognize that if we have, we can't even perceive that unless your spirit comes to us and convicts us and illuminates it. So please do that. Lord, we pray for anyone here who does not yet know you. We pray that you would illuminate the truth and the beauty and the hope of the Gospel, that they would see it clearly, and they would grab ahold of You with both hands while they can and turn to You and be forgiven and be set free.

So, Jesus, we love you. We offer up our lives to you, and it's our desire that you would be honored and glorified in every area of our life. And Lord, please forgive us for all the times and all the ways that we have defined winning differently than that, because that's all there is, is you being glorified and you being honored. And then everything else falls into place. So help us to seek first the kingdom of God and your righteousness, believing and understanding in faith that if we do that, everything else falls into place.

Be the center, be on the throne of our lives, and be glorified. We pray, Jesus, in your name. Amen. Men.

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