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Suffering for Being a Christian (Acts 26:1-32)

September 23, 2015

Reflecting on the Passage:

Here at East Point Church, we have begun a new sermon series entitled “Acts: The Spirit and the Church in the World“. This week’s sermon testifies to the significance of understanding the Gospel. Pastor Carter walks us through why loving and living for Jesus Christ is worthwhile despite any false accusations, sufferings, and hardships. The focus of this sermon is on the how Paul, while suffering on trial for being a Christian, answers charges for the undeniably transformative, unmistakably transparent, and unavoidably confrontational life of the Christian.

20140311-184658.jpgBeing a Christian: The Undeniably Transformative Life

So Agrippa said to Paul, You have permission to speak for yourself. Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:

I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently. My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prisonI cast my vote against themI punished them often and tried to make them blasphemein raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign citiesIn this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with meTherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance (Acts 26:1-13, 19-20; ESV).

The first order of business for Paul in his defense was to give a faithful account to his life apart and in direct opposition to Jesus Christ. Paul wanted these men to rightly understand that he was very sincere, zealous, and religious before his devastating and dramatic encounter with the living Christ on the road to Damascus. Ironically, according to the world’s standards Saul seems to have everything the world so explicitly craves, such as education, money, reputation, and power, however, without a saving knowledge of Christ all these things were misappropriated and meaningless at best (cf. Matthew 16:25-28; Mark 8:36-38; Philippians 3).

Being a Christian: The Unmistakably Transparent Life

For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.

And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind. But Paul said, I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner (Acts 26:21-26; ESV).”

Next, Paul was able to speak boldly before these men because his life provided not only a proper defense to his case, but it also provided a powerful testimony to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Essentially, he tells them to evaluate his life presently against his former one, and then continue to evaluate his life as God continues to make him more like Jesus. Jesus taught in synagogues, healed and feed multitudes, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and raised from the dead openly (John 18:19-21).

Being a Christian: The Unavoidably Confrontational Life

King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe. And Agrippa said to Paul, In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian? And Paul said, Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I amexcept for these chains (Acts 26:27-29; ESV).”

Lastly, Paul leaves king Agrippa with only one of two options, either follow Christ or not. Pastor Carter emphatically declares that there is no almost in the Christian life, because an almost Christian is no Christian at all. Therefore, Paul confronts Fetus, those present, and especially king Agrippa with the Gospel that transforms, exposes and convicts sinners, considering this is the only means by which the dead could alive in Christ to live life pleasing unto God (cf. Romans 12:1-2, 14:18; Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 1:10).

What does your life look like?

Before Christ, Paul was religious, zealous and sincere, but he was wrong! Once Paul realized Jesus was indeed raised as the Scriptures promised, his life could not remain the same. He began to understand more clearly the error and futility of trying to live apart from the grace and mercy found only in Jesus Christ; and this informed the way he lived and spoke in light of the Truth (cf. Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8; John 1:17, 3:21, 4:23-24, 8:32, 14:6; Acts 4:12). Christ makes the difference!

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

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