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Paul is on trial, giving his defense to another Roman official: King Agrippa. He has already done this with the governor, Felix, and his replacement, Festus. Yesterday, we started to consider why Paul treats them with respect and honors their position as he speaks. Today, we are going to think about the kind of defense Paul gives.
"God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen--that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God's light to Jews and Gentiles alike." (Acts 26:22-23 NLT)
Paul's defense isn't as much of a defense as it is a sermon. It's a message. It is the Gospel. Paul talks about his conversion experience to let everyone in the room know why he believes that God offers to reconcile with all people through the work of Jesus. He lets them know where he was before coming home to God. He tells them what it took for God to get his attention. Then he tells them why he humbled himself before God, asked God for forgiveness, and began walking together with God.
Suddenly, Festus shouted, "Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!" But Paul replied, "I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. What I am saying is the sober truth. And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner! King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do--" (Acts 26:24-27 NLT)
We have already seen that Paul knows his calling. He is an apostle (sent one) to the Gentiles (non-Jews). Paul clearly is more interested in his audience here than he is in getting out of jail. King Agrippa, Governor Festus, and Governor Felix before him, are all Gentiles. They are people to whom God has sent Paul. His God-given mission is to share the Good News of the Gospel with all nations - especially the Gentiles. In the courtroom, he has many non-believing Gentiles, including their local leaders, as a captive audience. Paul sees this as an opportunity to live out his mission, rather than try to get out of custody.
Agrippa interrupted him. "Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?" Paul replied, "Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains." (Acts 26:28-29 NLT)
Government, as we saw yesterday, is established by God. Government is given the responsibilility, and the needed authority, to administer justice. Government, as we saw earlier this week, is made up of people. Some of those people acknowledge Jesus as their Lord. (Jesus is in charge of their lives.) Other people in government do not. Paul is doing his part of God's Plan. He is presenting the Good News of the Gospel to Gentiles. In this case, he is presenting it to Gentiles who are in authority of government. If they make Jesus the Lord of their lives, they then see their government reponsibilities differently. They will recognize that they are accountable to God for their decisions. More than that, however, Paul clearly wants them to become his brothers and sisters in Christ.
Then the king, the governor, Bernice, and all the others stood and left. As they went out, they talked it over and agreed, "This man hasn't done anything to deserve death or imprisonment." And Agrippa said to Festus, "He could have been set free if he hadn't appealed to Caesar." (Acts 26:30-32 NLT)
How about you? Do you stay focused on our God-given Mission with every person you encounter?