Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess,
We have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity; and in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future in strength, courage, hope and love.
Sir Francis Drake (1540 – 1596)
It should not surprise us when the preaching of the glorious gospel of Christ stirs up hatred and persecution, and that from those in ‘high places’. In our own day, the killing of Christians in certain parts of the world is almost an everyday occurrence and is either promoted or overlooked by those in government. Though the accusations against Paul were unfounded, there was a collaboration between religious leaders and governing authorities who were determined to rid themselves of this man who was passionate about the gospel. Yet Paul is unafraid and bold in using every opportunity to defend his life and ministry.
As you reflect on chapter 24, remember Jesus’ prophetic words about Paul in Acts 9:15-16.
Acts 24:1-21. A few of Paul’s main points in his defense were:
Getting to the core of the gospel message is vital in any culture. Those in their own culture are most effective at communicating this message. Paul knew this and used his Roman citizenship as a means to open doors of opportunity. This is why it is so important to evangelize through indigenous disciples who know their language and culture.
Our studies in Acts and Easter Week, point to a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Such a hope that is “living” cannot be touched by death because it is built on “the resurrection of Jesus Christ” and is the characteristic of a person whose faith is in the person who was raised from the dead by the power of God (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15; 4:10; 10:40; 13:30, 33-34, 37; 17:31).
There is no other person in all human history that this can be said of. In the light of this truth, we have a message that brings eternal life to those yet “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Therefore, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).
Stop relying on your own ability to evangelize and let the Holy Spirit’s power fill you with “all joy and peace in believing, so that… you may abound in hope”!
There will be times in our call to witness of the resurrection power of Jesus, when opposition seems greater. After all, the message proclaims that He “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25). But Paul was on trial “with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 23:6) which he unashamedly proclaimed to the Jews in Jerusalem. In such circumstances “The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome”” (Acts 23:11). WOW, what encouragement directly from the Lord!
As we continue through this study of Acts, look for the key principles that help maintain our vision and focus on our calling in spite of the prevailing winds of persecution. This is needed more and more as the days become darker and more difficult.
Acts 23:12-22. A _____ against Paul to kill him is uncovered, but God uses the authority He gave to government to ensure Paul’s safety and take the next step toward “testifying also in Rome”.
Acts 23:23-35. Paul is taken to Caesarea where Paul will have another opportunity to testify of the hope he has in Christ and the resurrection.
We never know exactly what opportunities God has already planned in the future. The attitude of Paul is summarized in his statements to Timothy, “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” and “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 2:3; 4:2). What is your attitude toward your calling from God?
Death cannot keep his prey,
Jesus my Savior!
He tore the bars away,
Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign,
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Robert Lowry, Christ Arose.
All the human victories that have ever been won, all put together, would never come minutely close to the victory that Jesus has won in defeating Satan through death and resurrection! As the church was born at Pentecost, Peter proclaimed to those who asked, “What does this mean?”, “God raised him (Jesus) up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:24). One of Paul’s passions was “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” (Philippians 3:10). To live in this power is to know the life of Christ living in us every day (Galatians 2:20).
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).
The Jewish leaders and the Roman government had collaborated in false accusations, a mock trial and conviction of Jesus so that He was crucified in the most inhumane manner. They thought it was over for a man who had done nothing but good and revealed God in human flesh. What they did not realize was that Jesus voluntarily laid down His life in death so He could take it again in resurrection (John 10:17-18). Jesus received authority from His Father to do this.
No human alive at the time could have seen what was taking place between Jesus and His Father. The greatest transaction in all human history was being completed at the cross and in the tomb. John helps us understand this transaction by saying that “Jesus Christ the righteous…He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2). “Propitiation” means that Jesus’ death for us is the “means of forgiveness” because He has fully satisfied the holy requirements of a righteous God.
The tomb symbolizes the removal of our sins from the sight of God as well as our death with Christ (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12). It was absolutely necessary that Jesus lie in death in the tomb. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). This act of divine love had to be done “alone”. No one but God’s Son could lay down His life, accomplish God’s eternal satisfaction, and then rise again!
HE DID THIS FOR YOU!
“The next day he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Why is this term used of Jesus? God instructed Israel to take a “lamb…without blemish (perfect)” and on a certain night, this lamb would be killed and roasted with fire, and the blood of the lamb was put on “the two doorposts and the lintel of the house in which they eat it” (Exodus 12:1-13). The destroying angel was going through the land of Egypt to slay all the firstborn, except for those houses where the blood of the lamb was placed on the door posts and lintel. That blood was the deliverance from death.
This pointed to Jesus who became the Lamb of God, and sacrificed His own life (John 10:17), “who takes away [our] sin” so that we might be delivered from death which sin has brought on the human race. Paul helps us understand this pivotal event in 2 Corinthians 5:21; “For our sake he (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The removal of our sin by Jesus the Lamb, makes us right with God.
The cross of Christ was the highest price paid for sin, but in paying that price Jesus took away sin for God and for those who believe in Him. “But the free gift is not like the trespass [sin]. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.” (Romans 5:15). I trust that you have received this “free gift” by faith through repentance. No wonder this is called GOOD FRIDAY!
In John 17:13, Jesus wanted “His joy fulfilled in them (the disciples)”. Remember Heb. 12:2? “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” So great was the anticipation Christ had in establishing the church that He despised the shame of His sufferings that were necessary to build the church. His joy in birthing and building the church made His sufferings completely worthwhile. This joy was in Christ because of the eternal purpose that God planned for the church before the foundations of the world. The true experience of this joy would come to the disciples and us through the filling of the Holy Spirit.
While our human limitations prevent us from knowing Christ’s joy fully, it is “fulfilled” in us as the Spirit fills us with understanding of the purpose of Christ – to build His church. Our joy will never be “full” unless we pursue the same purpose for which Christ came. On the other hand, the more we fill our lives with this purpose as our pursuit, the more our lives will be filled with the joy of Christ.
In the most difficult circumstances and persistent opposition, Nehemiah said, “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (8:10). If you are feeling spiritually weak, it is highly possible that your purposes in life are not in alignment with God’s. Ask the Holy Spirit to clear your vision to see “what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19).
Remember how the Lord encouraged Paul in a vision one night by saying, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you” (Acts 18:9-10). You can be certain that Jesus was intentionally giving Paul confidence in the message of the gospel, the greatest message ever given to man, and there was power in it and in the Holy Spirit that would carry him through everything. This is what drove Paul to share his testimony even to those opposers who wanted him dead.
Our attitude should be no different. As you go through this chapter, ask yourself if this passion and confidence is driving you in the pursuit of spreading the gospel?
Acts 22:1-16. Paul boldly shares with the Jews, who wanted to kill him, how he persecuted the church and was stopped on the Damascus road by the Lord whom he persecuted. Through this, God changed Paul into a __________ to everyone of what he had seen and heard.
Acts 22:17-21. Paul received instruction from the Lord to leave “Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your ___________ about Me.” This was the means of directing Paul to the Gentiles.
Acts 22:22-30. The inference that Paul was turning to the Gentiles further infuriates the Jews making it necessary for him to use his Roman citizenship as a defense against the angry crowd.
There is no guarantee that our lives will be spared from harm if we are faithful to the gospel message and a commitment to fulfill the Great Commission. What will make the difference is knowing intimately that the Author of the message is standing with us as we deliver it.
“A massive change has occurred in redemptive history. Before the coming of Christ, a truth was not fully revealed (it remained a mystery) – namely, that the nations may enter with equal standing into the household of God (Ephesians 2:19). It is fitting then that the nations be gathered in only through the preaching of the message of Christ, whose cross is the peace that creates the worldwide church” (2:11-21).
Piper, John, Let the Nations be Glad, Bake Academic, 2007, page 127.
The time we live in contains opportunities that will impact eternity. The more we see the grandeur of our time and how God will be glorified through carrying the message to the unreached, the more our heart will be rewarded with the pleasure of being faithful.
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