Proclaiming Light

As Paul stretches out his hand to make his defense before Agrippa, we see three different components of his speech. Paul explains to Agrippa who he is in v.4-5, why he’s on trial in v. 6-8, and what it is that has brought him to this point in v. 9-23.

As for who he is, Paul makes it clear to this Jewish king that he is a faithful Jew himself. Paul had spent his whole life in the very heart of Judaism living as a Pharisee. The Jews believed that those who were part of God’s family would share in the resurrection and the restoration of God’s kingdom. Those people were marked out by circumcision and ceremonial laws, and maintained their place in God’s family through sacrifices and worship at the temple. This was the hope of faithful Jews, as King Agrippa knew, and this was Paul’s belief, too.

But if Paul was a faithful Jew believing Jewish things, why was he on trial? To the Jews, Paul had gotten the timing wrong by believing that resurrection had occurred before the last days, and that the restoration would be realized gradually, not immediately. They didn’t believe that a suffering criminal like Jesus could possibly be resurrected, or that the restoration he started could include Gentiles who didn’t worship like they did. So while Paul had some pretty typical Jewish beliefs, he got the timing all fouled up, and offered the kingdom to all the wrong people for the wrong reasons. It would take a miracle, or a vision from heaven, for a Jew to be able to believe those things.

Which is exactly what happened to Paul on the road to Damascus, an event that transformed him from a persecutor into a preacher. The risen Jesus rebuked his misguided zeal, and recommissioned him to preach to both Jews and Gentiles, so that they might receive forgiveness of sins and a place in God’s family by faith in Jesus. That’s what Paul was doing when the Jews seized him, and by God’s grace, that’s what Paul was doing right then and there in the presence of governors and kings.

In light of Paul’s defense, here are five lessons for us. First: the most important: Turn to God through Jesus Christ. Paul’s message went out to people who were worshiping God day and night and expecting a future resurrection, but their plans for being made right with God didn’t include Jesus. If this describes you, then Paul warns you that you are still in darkness, and that you need to repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ.

Second: Embrace God’s timetable: the resurrection is already here, but the fullness of the restoration is still to come. This means that if you don’t participate in resurrection life now, you won’t join in the resurrection itself at the last day. And while Jesus’ resurrection began the restoration of all things, that restoration won’t be completed until the last day. Live resurrection life now, but don’t expect the fullness of the kingdom in this life.

Third: Love the wrong people: the worst sinner who turns from Satan to God is your brother or sister, while the most moral person you know who is trying to get to God apart from Jesus Christ has no place among God’s family. Loving the wrong people got Jesus in trouble. I hope in gets you in trouble, too.

Fourth: Do good works in keeping with repentance: If your repentance doesn’t transform you, then you are still under the power of Satan. The power of God, through the resurrection of Jesus, enables you not just to recognize sin in your life and feel bad for it, but to overcome it, and to live a new life of service to others and witness for God.

Fifth: Proclaim light: The resurrection means that light has dawned on a dark world. When God raised Jesus from the dead, Jesus proclaimed light to both Jews and Gentiles. When God gave Paul new life in Christ, He asked Paul to do the same. When God gives you new life, He calls you to this, as well. God is sending you to your people and to strangers, to open their eyes, so that they too may turn from darkness to light. So go in the power of the resurrection and proclaim light to the world!

Posted on Wednesday, July 01, 2015 by CJ Bowen