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Before Kings

King Agrippa, the latest in a long line of Herods that have opposed and killed God’s people, and his scandalous Kardashian of a sister Bernice, have come to schmooze with the new governor Festus, and Festus takes the opportunity to try to get some perspective on Paul. Festus has gathered that some dead guy named Jesus features largely in the whole thing, and Paul seems to think that he’s alive, but other Jews deny this and don’t think that Paul should be alive, and so Paul wants Roman protection until Caesar sorts it all out. King Agrippa is sort of Jewish, yet he received a Roman-style education, and so he knows both worlds, which makes him the right man for the job.

Festus arranges a special hearing of great pomp and circumstance, inviting all the tribunes and important citizens of Caesarea in order to honor Agrippa, to put Roman justice on display, and to figure out how to make the Paul situation go away. At least, that’s what he thinks he’s doing. From God’s perspective, the Roman empire is sending invitations and footing the bill for an evangelistic crusade taking place before Gentiles and kings.

This is exactly what Jesus had chosen Paul for back in Acts 9, in fulfillment of what He had prophesied for His apostles in Luke 21:10-19. Jesus had said, “Before I finish turning the world upside down, you will be persecuted, go to prison, and be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This is not your punishment; this is your opportunity to bear witness.”

This idea of standing before kings wasn’t invented by Jesus in the first century, however. God had been preparing His people for these opportunities from the beginning. Proverbs 22:29 says, “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” In Psalm 119:41-48, the Psalmist contemplates a similar opportunity, but he is not worried, since he has spent his life loving God and meditating on His commandments.

Paul’s witness before kings is relevant to us because in our day, the generic Christianity of America is collapsing, and the only Christianity that remains will be a Christianity that is serious about Jesus. An increasingly Christless culture and an increasingly Christ-centered church are on a collision course. Opportunities to bear public witness for the name of Jesus through persecution are multiplying. How should we get ready?

1. Do your work well now and expect to stand before kings. Skillful, faithful men and women, going about their normal daily business, living out their Christian convictions in acts of everyday faithfulness, will be the ones that God uses. Rabbis, yes, but fishermen, too. Walk in a manner worthy of the gospel now, so that when your moment comes, you will be ready.

2. Love God’s commandments and meditate on His Word. If you do this, you will not be ashamed when you stand before kings. This is not the fruit of a sharp mind or a quick tongue. It is what happens when you put so much Spirit-filled Word in your ears that Spirit-filled Word comes out of your mouth.

Earlier this past week, faithful saints at Mother Emanuel in Charleston were meditating on God’s Word when an evil racist man came and murdered some of them. In the aftermath, their family members had the opportunity to bear witness. To the glory of Jesus Christ, they stood before the world and offered forgiveness to the man who killed their loved ones, urging him to turn to Jesus Christ in repentance and be saved. Below the video of this encounter, you can read the comments of those who do not yet believe, but are stunned by words of Spirit-filled love that no one is able to withstand.

So what kind of witness will you be? My prayer for each one of you is that you will live now in such a way, and that you will love God’s Word in such a way, that when you stand to bear witness for Jesus, you will not be put to shame. Jesus tells you not to worry now over what you will say then, but simply to walk before him in faithfulness, and to treasure his Word with the Psalmist’s delight. Then, as you stand before kings, Jesus will be glorified in your witness.

Posted on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 by CJ Bowen