To Rome by Storm, Acts 27:1-20

Main Point: The Lord will accomplish all his will (Is 46:10).

In Acts 27 Luke, Aristarchus, and the Apostle Paul finally board a ship for Rome but end up caught in a hopeless storm at sea. Before we get into the details of Acts 27, I want to remind you of two other sea stories that help us think through the difficulties of our lives.

Think first of Jonah. Jonah gets caught in a terrible storm at sea to the extent that the sailors throw the cargo overboard thinking they are going to die. Now, what caused this storm? Jonah’s storm was caused by Jonah’s sin. God told Jonah to go preach repentance to Nineveh, but Jonah refused God and ran the opposite direction. Jonah’s storm was caused by Jonah’s sin.

The next sea story I want you to have in mind is Jesus sleeping in the boat. Matthew tells us, “And when Jesus got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marvelled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?” (Mt 8:23-27).

Now, what caused this storm? There was no sin to blame here. We live in a broken world where wind and rain, so necessary for crops to grow, are bent and broken and turn into destructive storms. The point of Jesus’ sea story is to live a life of faith. Maybe you’ve heard it said that the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will. Jesus knew this. He knew his time had not yet come to die; he was safe so he could sleep in the storm. The disciples needed to learn to live lives of faith knowing and trusting God. When Jesus woke up, stood up, and calmed the sea they grew in their knowledge of God.

Okay, those are two sea stories, one from Jonah and one from Jesus. Now let’s hear Paul’s sea story (read Acts 27:1-20).

I. The first part of the trip was not so bad

Jesus has promised Paul that just as Paul was a witness to Christ in Jerusalem, so he will also be a witness to Christ in Rome (23:11). The trial has devolved through the changing of governors and several assassination plots. To preserve his life and witness, Paul has appealed for a trial before Caesar. Caesar is in Rome so to Rome Paul will go. To chapter 27

  • The fellowship of the Rome is formed (1-2)

Forgive the cheesy reference to the Fellowship of the Ring; I couldn’t resist!

Look at the details of verses 1 and 2. The “they” of verse one is governor Festus and king Agrippa. They decide that Paul should sail for Italy and ultimately Rome. Who is the “we” that is sailing for Italy? It is Paul, Aristarchus, and Luke. Aristarchus is a Macedonian from Thessalonica; Paul and Aristarchus have been making disciples and planting churches together since before Ephesus and the riot with the silversmiths. Luke is a physician who we haven’t heard from since chapter 21. It is assumed that Luke was gathering witnesses for his gospel during this 2 ½ years and later joins Paul who is in prison in Caesarea. Acts 27:1 and 2 adds some prisoners and a soldier, a commander of 100, to the fellowship.

The trip to Rome will take them all the way across the Mediterranean Sea. If you have a map in the back of your Bible covering the missionary journeys of Paul, this would be a good time to look at it. The plan is to sail up the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea then catch a grain ship coming from Alexandria heading for Italy.

Lord willing, we will spend more time later in Acts on the role of hospitality and friendships, today there is only a quick reference, but I don’t want to miss it. In the storms of life,

  • Do not overlook the kindness of friends (2-3)

Aristarchus is anything but a fair-weather friend. A fair-weather friend is with you as long as you are winning but deserts you once you start losing. Aristarchus was with Paul through the trials and years in prison. He will go with Paul to Rome and deliver the letters from Paul in Rome to the Colossians and to Philemon. Aristarchus was a friend who stuck with Paul and this was a great kindness. It would be worth our time to figure out what makes a good friend. After we finish Acts, we will go to Proverbs and get some help there.

Look also at Acts 27:3, “The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for.” Who are Paul’s friends in Sidon? They are Christians who cared for Paul. They took him in for a while and provided what he needed for the trip to Rome. There is much to be said for faithful friends when we are going through storms. We need friends who care for us.

So far so good, but things begin to change in verse 4. To quote Gilligan’s Island

  • The weather started getting rough (4-5)

The group is likely in a small coasting vessel not big enough for the deep rough water but able to move along the coast for trade. Verse 4 tells us they put out from Sidon and sailed around Cyprus because the winds were against us. Finally, they arrive in Myra in Lycia. Are you tracking on the map? They have traveled north from Caesarea, gone around Cyprus, and arrived in Myra; travel was tough but not too bad. That’s the end of the first part and it was not so bad.

II. The second part of the trip was terrible

For you history and geography people, it is interesting to note how

  • The solider is following a trade route (6)

Egypt was the granary for Rome and merchants were given special protection as they shipped grain from Egypt to Italy. So, a ship would leave Alexandria, Egypt, head north to Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and then go west to Italy. Julius is banking on finding a ship following this course. Verse 6 tells us that Julius found what he was looking for and the fellowship of missionaries, soldiers, and prisoners boards the ship for Rome. Now,

  • The weather started getting dangerous (7-9)

Luke writes this in verse 7, “We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone.” That makes no sense unless you look at a map. The fellowship is getting pushed off course. It is hard going.

Verse 8, “Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea. Verse 9 goes on to note how slowly they had traveled and how dangerous it was to continue. “The Fast” is a reference to the Day of Atonement. In AD 59 the day of Atonement fell on October 5. Commentators note that the wisdom of the day said sailing was dangerous after mid-September and should not be attempted from November to February.

It is believed the ship is travelling at a crawling pace of 2 miles an hour. Under favorable conditions the journey so far should take around 10 days and Darrell Bock predicts they have spent 45 days on this journey (Acts, 733). So,

  • Paul offered his wisdom (10)

Verse 10, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” There is some debate here whether Paul is prophesying or making a general prediction based on wisdom. I believe it is a prediction based on wisdom for two reasons. First, Paul is wrong; no one dies. Second, the prophecy comes in a dream later (see 27:23-26).

Where did Paul get this wisdom? Listen to 2 Corinthians 11:25. Before this journey to Rome, Paul recounts, “Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and day I was adrift at sea.” Paul has been in this predicament three times already. He knows this will likely not turn out well. What happens?

  • The soldier decides to seek a better harbor (11-12)

Fair Havens is not a harbor where the ship will be protected from the winter wind and waves. There is another harbor not far away in Phoenix. So, the captain, owner, and centurion decide to take the risk and press on to Phoenix.

Now, let’s not be too hard on Julius. If you are making decisions about when to sail and when not to sail who are you going to listen to? Are you going to listen to the imprisoned missionary or the captain and boat’s owner? They press on to Phoenix and

  • The ship gets caught in a typhoon (13-20)

Look at verse 13 with me, “Now when the south wind blew gentle, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore.” Here is more of that good old fashioned open-door decision making. The option to do something is interpreted as the need to do something. But look how that open door gets kicked closed in their faces. Verse 14, “But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land.” This is worst case scenario for the ship and its passengers. Verse 18 tells us they were violently storm-tossed. This is a typhoon.

They fight against the wind because they do not want to be blown out into open water. They certainly do not want to be blown further south into the shallows and sandbars of the Syrtis. Many have gone in there and few have come out.

Back to verse 15, they give in to the wind and are pushed alone. They hug the small island of Clauda and get enough relief to pull the lifeboat on board; the ship’s boat is normally towed behind the ship, but the large waves would fill the lifeboat and sink it.

Verse 17, out of fear that the ship will break apart, the sailors run cables or ropes around the ship to add support. Out of fear of running aground, they lower the gear. The best explanation here is they lowered the anchor so that when the swell went down the anchor would drag the bottom and slow the ship. When the swell rose again, they ship would speed forward to the Syrtis. The wind and waves are pounding the ship now, so the crew starts throwing things overboard to help offset the water pouring into the ship. They get the go ahead from the owner and start throwing the cargo overboard. After three days of this, they throw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. The picture here is desperate.

Look at verse 20, “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.”

Over in verse 33, Paul says they have been fourteen days without food. Fourteen days of wave upon wave. Without food and with incredible seasickness, these men were done. They are thinking to themselves, maybe saying to one another, “This is it. We’re all going to die.” Verse 20 is rough, “all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.” They stopped hoping they would be saved. They gave up on rescue and relief. All hope was gone.

Let’s stop there and make some application

III. What do you do when all hope is lost?

Think back to our three sea stories with Jonah, Jesus, and Paul. Looking back at Jonah,

  • Ask if sin is the cause of your suffering

We see this truth play out in Jonah’s life and we see it as we are read through the book of Jeremiah in our daily Bible reading. Jeremiah 40:3, death and destruction is coming upon Jerusalem. Here is why, “The Lord has brought it about and has done as he said. Because you sinned against the Lord and did not obey his voice, this thing has come upon you.” Now, we have to be careful and not say all difficulty is caused by sin. We wouldn’t say this about Jesus in the storm and we shouldn’t say this about every storm. However, it is wise to ask if sin is the cause of your suffering.

If I get drunk, take a drive, kill someone, and end up in prison I don’t have any right to be angry at God. My sin is the cause of my suffering. That is an obvious example. What about the less obvious difficulties we face at work? Maybe like the apostle Paul, you offered the wisdom of your experience, your boss rejected it, and the business is facing bankruptcy. What about the difficulties we all face in relationships at home and in the church? Here we need wisdom and humility.

The biblical way is to own your part of the problem, no matter the size. If through humility and in a discipleship relationship, you see that you are responsible for 5% of the problem then you must repent of that sin. If you are responsible for 25% or 55%, then you must repent. Hebrews 12:3-17 talks about the loving discipline of our heavenly Father. God disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. Sin leads to suffering and death while holiness leads to joy and life.

So, don’t make every difficulty the product of sin. Jesus’ life was full of difficulty, but he was completely free from sin. But also, don’t ignore the reality that your suffering may be caused by your sin. Consider the difficulty may be God turning you from sin and death to obedience and life.

When all hope is lost ask if sin is causing the suffering and

  • Grow in your knowledge of the Father

I get this from Jesus’ sea story. Why was Jesus asleep in the boat? He was asleep because he was tired. Yes, but why was Jesus not fearful in the boat when his disciples had lost their heads? Jesus knew the loving care of his Father. This is Psalm 121. Our Father does not slumber nor sleep but he watches over us all the time. The word “keep” is repeated six times in six verses in Psalm 121.

Think about it this way, if God sleeps then you better be afraid. If God doesn’t see you then you better be afraid. If God loves you, but he can’t do anything then you better be afraid. A sovereign God who doesn’t love cannot be trusted to care for us. A loving God who is not in control of all things cannot care for us. Only those reconciled to God through Christ can lay down and sleep knowing the sovereign God is watching over us in love.

In the storm, grow in your knowledge of God. Before the storm, grow in your knowledge of God. Start keeping a journal so that during your daily Bible reading you can make a list of God’s qualities and attributes. Store them up, memorize them, and repeat them often. Read A.W. Tozer’s The Attributes of God.

Do you want some incentive to do the work of reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on God? Isaiah 26:3, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (See also Isaiah 30:15).

What do you do when all hope is lost? Consider if your sin is causing your difficulty, grow in your knowledge of God, and

  • Seek out friends

Do you have an Aristarchus? Are you an Aristarchus type of friend? Read Romans 16 and notice the women there whom Paul is grateful for because they cared for him. Think of the care Lydia showed to the Christians in Acts 16. Paul was no Lone Ranger. Paul wasn’t Jason Bourne or Rambo out there wrecking shop for Jesus by himself. Aristarchus and Luke stick with him to help him.

Let’s state the obvious, the older we get the harder it is to build strong friendships. Why is that? Why are we not like a bunch of kindergartens on the playground of life? One reason is we don’t have time to play. We don’t have time to play because we’re doing important things like working a lot so we can buy stuff to impress our not-friends. We also do things by ourselves because it is easier and quicker. Angela and I talk about the differences between valuing stuff and valuing people. If you value stuff, you will eventually end up alone. If you value people, you probably won’t have great stuff, but you will have a few great people.

Build friendships. How do you do that? Come consistently to Sunday School and then take the risk of sharing something you enjoy with someone. Do you like to cook? Don’t just cook for someone, invite people over to cook with you and share your joy. Do you like to hunt or fish? Take someone with you. Build things, play disc golf, workout, listen to music, knit, go for walks, on and on. Sure, they will slow you down for a time but in the difficult days those friends will keep you together. Take the risk to build friendships. In difficult days, seek out friends and 

  • Keep doing what you can a.k.a. wait on the Lord

What were Luke, Paul, and Aristarchus doing during the storm? They were certainly not writing letters! In Acts 26:16, Luke writes, “we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat.” Here is Doctor Luke with blisters on his hands pulling in the lifeboat. Do what you can.

Waiting on the Lord is a common theme in the Bible, but it doesn’t mean sit there and do nothing. Wait on the Lord means continue in faithfulness while you wait on the Lord to act on your behalf. Keep doing the next right thing trusting the Lord sees you and is working all things for good. Are you struggling physically and praying for healing? Keep doing your breathing exercises while you wait on the Lord. Are things hard in your relationships? Keep doing what you can; be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you. Keep caring for others. Keep loving your wife, keep respecting your husband, keep teaching your children, keep going to work, keep preaching the gospel. Keep doing what you can while you wait on the Lord to act.

We are going to try something new today. There is a question on the bottom of the notes and on the screen. Here is the question, “How should I respond to God’s Word?” You have heard the word of the Lord, what is he calling you to believe or do? Don’t fidget or fiddle with your bags. Take a moment and consider how you should respond to God’s word.

Discuss Acts 27:1-20

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. How are you handling the storms of your life? Are you like Jesus, able to sleep well because you know your Father cares for you? Are you like Jonah, running from God and making things worse? Are you like Paul doing the best you can and striving for faithfulness?
  3. How have friends helped you through the storms in your life? What friend of yours needs a good and faithful friend in this season? What does caring for that friend look like?
  4. Describe a time when you lost all hope, or came near to losing all hope. What got you through? What have you learned about trusting your Father in difficulty?
  5. Prayerfully consider the difficulty you are facing at home, at work, or in the church. Where is your sin in this? What does turning from your sin to God through faith in Christ look like?
  6. What have you learned about God that sustains you in seasons of suffering? How can you grow in your knowledge of God? Some suggestions are journal and review what you learn about God in your daily Bible reading and read A.W. Tozer’s book The Attributes of God.
  7. Do you have a couple of good friends? Are you a good friend? What makes a good friend?
  8. What does it look like for you to wait on the Lord in this season of life?
  9. How should you respond to God’s Word?

Go Make Christians; Acts 26:19-32

Go Make Christians

Text: Acts 26:19-32

Main Point: We must be faithful witnesses.

            When it comes to being a parent, one regular question I find myself asking my kids is “What are you doing?” Sometimes it is an inquisitive “What are you doing?” like when I see them in the kitchen and hope they are baking cookies. Sometimes it is an angry “What are you doing?” like when they do something that could hurt someone. Sometimes it is a disappointed “What are you doing?” like when they do something that could hurt themselves. Sometimes it is a proud “What are you doing?” when I see them loving and working like Jesus.

            If Jesus walked into this season of your life and asked, “What are you doing?” what kind of question would he be asking you? Would Jesus be angry, disappointed, or proud? Do you know what Jesus expects of you in your situation? What are you supposed to be doing? Do you have an accurate understanding of your self and your gifts, so you know how much is expected from you (Mt 25:15)?

            Paul’s example in Acts 26 helps us come up with solid answers to the question, “What are you doing?” The simple answer is we should all be about the work of making Christians or making disciples. Our unity is Christ and our diversity is making disciples in many different ways. The point here is we will all work to make Christians and we will all work to make Christians in different ways. What Paul shows us in Acts 26 is how to be a faithful witness. So, if you are a homemaker or a homebuilder, you must be a faithful witness. Our desire is for our neighbors to become Christians like us.

            Read Acts 26:9-32

I. How to be a faithful witness

Last week, Pastor Mark preached verses 12-18 and there Jesus gives Paul his specific assignment. Jesus appeared to Paul, promises future appearances, and sends Paul out as a witness. Along with this commission comes the promise of deliverance from both Jews and Gentiles.

Paul must preach the gospel believing the gospel will open eyes to the darkness of sin, the reality of slavery to sin, and the all-surpassing glory of God seen in the face of Jesus Christ. Like Paul, we all go preaching the gospel, preaching Jesus, seeking the salvation of our neighbors. We want them to take their place among the people of God, forgiven of their sins, and growing in Christlikeness. You have been entrusted with the gospel which is the power of God. Because Jesus lives, because he rose from the grave, we go celebrating the gift of his victory.

Let’s look at how to do that, how to be a faithful witness.

  • Be obedient (19)

Look at what Paul says in verse 19, “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” Jesus told Paul to tell the Jews and Gentiles everything that Jesus showed Paul. So Paul preached Jesus. The gospel opened eyes and turned people from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Paul did what Jesus told him to do.

Can you say the same thing? Can you say, “I am not disobedient to what Jesus told me to do”? Are you making disciples through your work or school, in your home, and on your street? Reading your Bible and seeking Jesus, are you repenting of your sins and following Jesus? Are you inviting others to come with you on this path of life?

The first commitment of a faithful witness is to be obedient; tell people about Jesus where God has placed you and with what God has given you. Here’s the second commitment

  • Tell the whole truth (20)

Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth by the help of God. Look at verse 20, “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.”

Paul got saved and Paul got after it. Paul was saved on the way to Damascus, he was baptized in Damascus, and he started making disciples in Damascus and out from there. Jesus told him to preach, so he preached. We must obey like Paul, and we must tell the whole truth like Paul.

Look at the details of verse 20 with me. Telling the whole truth means declaring that people should repent, turn to God, and bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change in life. Specifically, repentance is a change of mind concerning what is good. In conversion, there is a growing awareness that what you once thought was good to do is actually darkness and must not be done. The starting point here is repenting of the sin of rejecting Jesus. Paul had to repent of his wrong ideas about Jesus. He thought Jesus should be crushed along with all his followers. Paul thought he was doing good when he was arresting Christians, but his deeds were darkness. When Paul saw the resurrected Jesus, he repented; he turned. Seeing the resurrected Jesus, Paul understood that what he was thinking and doing were actually great evils. He must repent; he must turn.

Paul also saw his slavery to Satan, and he hated it. He thought he was serving God, but he was really serving Satan, so Paul had to turn from Satan to God. Repentance and turning to God looked like no longer persecuting the church of Christ but following Christ, preaching Christ, and building the church of Christ. Paul repented and turned to God. As a disciple, Paul understood that making disciples means calling people to the same things; turn from sin to God through the help of Christ.

Repentance for you may look like a change of mind concerning Jesus. You thought Jesus was a Sunday school fairy tale used to manipulate, but now you see Jesus as he truly is, the glorious resurrected eternal Son of God who reigns over all things. Or repentance could look like a change of mind concerning money. You thought you were free to chase the almighty dollar but now you see that you have been living as a slave to money and you desperately want Jesus to set you free so you can worship and serve God alone. Where are your dark thoughts? Where are your dark deeds? Against the light of Christ, do you see the darkness? Are you ready to change? Repent and turn to God so you can have life.

What Paul did, I am trying to do, so you can go and do the same. Telling the whole truth includes calling our neighbors to turn away from sin and turn to God. And THE reason we put off sin is so we can turn to God. You cannot serve two masters. You either serve your sexuality, or your social media status, or your reputation, or you will serve God. Sex, social media, and your work can give you things, but they cannot give you life. Only God can give you life. We turn away from sin and to God so we can receive life from him. Having turned from sin to Christ, you must go out from this church gathering to make disciples by telling them the whole truth. The whole truth means explaining to people how they must turn from sin to God and live life with God.

This means we must teach disciples how to follow Jesus. Verse 20 calls it “performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” This was John the Baptist’s message from the beginning (Lk 3:8). True repentance is displayed not in a short burst of guilt-ridden obedience but in long-term progress moving oftentimes ever so slowly toward Christlikeness. Watching this transformation is often like watching a tree grow. You may not notice much happening day to day or month to month but year to year shows marked progress.

For Paul, performing deeds in keeping with repentance meant continuing to preach Christ, make disciples, and plant churches through almost constant persecution. Performing deeds in keeping with repentance for me looks like turning from wasting time to devoting myself to the word, prayer, and making disciples in my home, on my street, and in this city. What about you? What good deeds follow on the heels of your repentance? Do you know what these good deeds are? Have you turned from sin to God and are you performing deeds keeping with repentance?

Looking at being a faithful witness, when you explain the gospel do you include the call to repent, turn to God, and perform deeds in keeping with repentance? To be faithful with your coworkers or your children all three pieces should be present in your evangelism and discipleship: turn from sin, turn to God, and bear fruit. Because we see Jesus, we turn from our sin to God and keep going after God.

If you are going to be a faithful witness you must be obedient, tell the whole truth and

  • Expect opposition (21)

In verse 21, Paul explains that he was opposed because he was faithful to Jesus’ commands, “For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.”

At first glance, none of this is controversial to a Jewish audience. The Jews were all about repentance, turning to God, and performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. The problem is Paul was preaching these things because of Jesus’ resurrection. Paul was preaching repentance because of the resurrected Christ, turning to God through the resurrected Christ, and living lives of holiness because of the Holy Spirit given by the resurrected Christ. It was Paul’s insistence on doing every bit of life with and for the resurrected Jesus that got him into trouble.

When Paul preached Jesus, he had many people joyfully accept the good news, turn from sin, turn to God, and start following Jesus. We should expect the same. Paul also had many people oppose him and seek to frustrate his plans and even try to kill him. We should expect the same. When you devote yourself to being a faithful witness at school and at work, expect opposition and

  • Expect help (22)

Think with me, why do we not make disciples? Why do we not bear fruit producing 30, 60, or 100 fold (Mk 4:8, 20)? Being a faithful witness and making disciples is hard so we do not try, or we quit too soon. We tell the whole truth, get rejected, and stop trying. But in the Great Commission Jesus made a staggering promise. Jesus said, “I am with you always to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). The reason we can keep making disciples is because King Jesus, the King of the universe, has promised to be with us at all times.

Look at how Paul experienced this in verse 22, “To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great.” Were it not for the help of God, Paul would have washed out a long time ago. God helped him keep going. Remember the night when Jesus appeared in that prison cell and encouraged Paul (23:11).

God helped Paul and Paul consistently prayed to God for help. Paul consistently asked his brothers and sisters for help. We must learn to do the same. We are meant to live lives of dependence upon God. We are meant to live lives together asking for prayer, giving and receiving encouragement.

Expect opposition, expect help, and

  • Keep Christ at the center (22-23)

I’ve already mentioned this, so I won’t spend a great deal of time here. What we need to see is that Paul wasn’t in trouble with the Jews for simply preaching repentance, turning to God, and bearing fruit keeping with repentance. Paul was in trouble with the Jews for preaching all those things because of the crucified and resurrected Messiah who is Jesus the Lord. Paul was relentless in demonstrating how Jesus is the Messiah promised by Moses and the prophets.

The message throughout the ages, verse 23, is that the Christ must suffer and that, being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.

Look at verse 23. Who is proclaiming light to the Jews and the Gentiles? It is Christ who proclaims light. The problem was not just that Jesus had died and rose again. The problem was that Jesus was crucified, raised, and was preaching through Christians. Paul understood that he was an ambassador to his neighbors and Paul understood that God was making his appeal to them through Paul (2 Cor 5:20).

But what is the light Jesus proclaims? I think it is best  to understand light here as truth obviously connected to Jesus. 2+2=4 is truth regardless of who says it or believes it. Billions of people everyday believe 2+2=4 but until that truth is connected to Christ it lacks the light of life. Doing math aware of Jesus, the creator and sustainer of logic and mathematics, becomes doing math as a pathway to light and life.

This is a call to do what you do with a greater awareness of Christ. Remember Christ the creator. Remember Christ the sustainer. Remember Christ the goal of all things. All things are from him, through him, and to him and therefore all things are meant to bring him glory. It is wonderful to know that when Christ is lifted up then men and women are drawn to him. Where is Christ in my preaching and in your listening today? I most preach Christ and him crucified so that you see him and are pushed to trust him. Where is Christ in your work or in your parenting?

A faithful witness is obedient to Christ, tells the whole truth because of Christ, is opposed because of Christ, and receives help from Christ. We need all this to make disciples. As we come to a close  

II. Aim to make a Christian

Why was Paul talking to Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice? Was he defending himself or trying to get out of jail? Look at verse 29 with me. 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 am—except for these chains.” You and I need to

  • Fuel the desire to see people saved (29)

Where did Paul get this desire? He’s preaching to Festus and pleading with Agrippa. But why? Paul had his eyes fixed on the resurrected King. Having seen Jesus, Paul turned from sin to God, and Paul kept following Jesus. Paul kept his mind set on Christ and it was there, plugged into the source of all life and the display of all glory, that Paul was driven to keep preaching no matter what.

The reason we often do not make disciples in our homes, at work, and on our streets is because we simply do not think Jesus is worth talking about. The second reason we do not make disciples is we do not love our coworkers and neighbors. What do we need? We need more time with Jesus through the word and in prayer and we need more time with our neighbors so that we get to know them and grow to love them. Fuel the desire to see people saved by looking at Jesus and loving your neighbor. When you do,

  • Prepare to be called a fool (24-25)

Look at how Festus responds to Paul in verses 24 and 25. Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” Paul, all this study of Moses and the prophets is making you crazy.

In 1 Corinthians 1:23, Paul said, “we preach Christ crucified…folly to the Greeks.” Romans like Festus did not want the resurrection of the body or salvation through dependence on another. Festus heard Paul’s preaching and said, “you are crazy.” Prepare for this and

  • Prepare for some to stumble over Jesus (26-28)

Remember, Agrippa is a Jew and in 1 Corinthians 1:23, Paul said, “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews.” It was common for Jews to think they were acceptable to God because they were Jews (John 8:31-47). The Jews thought they were children of Abraham and therefore God was their Father. Speaking the whole truth, Jesus told the Jews they were blind and slaves of Satan. When Jesus told the Jews they needed him they were scandalized. They needed no such thing!

Just as Jesus pressed the Jews to believe in him, now Paul presses Agrippa the Jew to believe in Jesus. Agrippa knew what had happened in Jerusalem concerning Jesus and Agrippa knew what the prophets said. The problem is Agrippa did not want to give up his life of luxury with the Romans or his life of sin with his sister. Loving pleasure, Agrippa refused to look at Jesus. To believe in Jesus is to admit you are doing dumb stuff, need to be saved, and cannot save yourself. And once saved you will follow Jesus. For many people, that is just too much Jesus, especially a humiliated, crucified, and resurrected Jesus. No thanks, I’ll give life and death a try on my own. So what of it?

  • Obey the Great Commission

The first way you obey the Great Commission is by turning from your sin to God because of the Jesus you hear me declare today. You then learn to follow Jesus, you bear fruit keeping with repentance by first being baptized then by seeking to live every piece of your life because of him. Repent, believe, and come ask to be baptized.

The second way you obey the Great Commission is by seeking out a more mature Christian who can teach you how to obey Jesus. We all need to be in a church where the people help us keep following Jesus. Seek out a friendship through which a brother (if you are a guy) or a sister (if you are a girl) will help you keep bearing fruit in keeping with repentance.

And finally, the third way you obey the Great Commission is by being a faithful witness who seeks to win souls to Christ. Be an evangelist pointing people to Christ for salvation and make disciples by teaching people to follow Christ because of salvation.

My goal is not to just tell you what Paul did in Acts 26. My goal is to do what Paul did in Acts 26 so that you go and do the same. God help us be disciples who make disciples. When Jesus returns, let us be found faithfully doing what Jesus sent us to do. What are you doing? You are making disciples.

Discuss Acts 26:19-32

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. What was the main point of the sermon?
  3. Are you doing what Jesus sent you to do? How do you know?
  4. Read the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. What principles can we draw from verse 15? Are you expecting too little or too much of your self?
  5. Which of the marks of a faithful witness comes easiest to you? Be obedient, tell the whole truth, expect opposition, expect help, and keep Christ at the center of it all.
  6. Which of the marks of a faithful witness is the most difficult for you? How can you seek help from God and from your church?
  7. What does it look like for you to turn from sin to God through faith in Jesus Christ?
  8. What does it look like for you to bear fruit in keeping with your repentance?
  9. What dangers are there when a Christian leaves out turning from sin, turning to God, or bearing fruit in keeping with repentance?
  10. When has God helped you? How does this encourage you about the future?
  11. When do you most desire the salvation of your neighbors? What can you do to fuel that desire?
  12. Which do you fear more, being seen as a fool for what you preach or causing people to be scandalized by what you preach? Do you have examples of each?
  13. What would it look like for you to obey the Great Commission and go make disciples? What would it look like for your family to obey the Great Commission?

Discuss Acts 26:1-8

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. Why is the resurrection of Jesus of greater significance than the wealth and power of today?
  3. When have you given a defense of your faith? What role did the resurrection of Jesus play in your defense? What role should the resurrection play the next time you explain your faith?
  4. What evidence is there in your life that you are living with resurrection hope? What evidence is there that you have embraced the reality of the resurrection?
  5. How should the resurrection fuel all that you do? Why is God’s making all things new and all things right through Jesus sufficient fuel for your work? family? ministry?
  6. When have you faced the impossible? How did God work in that situation?
  7. Are you facing the impossible now? How does the resurrection give you hope? Tonight, go out and look at the stars and meditate on the great power of God.
  8. What reason do you have to believe in the resurrection?
  9. How would your daily life change if you made the resurrection your overarching life goal?
  10. For more on the importance of the resurrection read John 5 and 6, Romans 4 and 8, 1 Corinthians 15, Galatians 3, Ephesians 1, 2 Timothy 1, and Hebrews 11.

How to Be Content; Acts 25:1-22

Main Point: We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

Text: Acts 25:1-22

Main Point: We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

            My extended family has put some work into tracking down our Duncan family history. A few years ago, my uncle gave me a framed certificate with a copy of a Duncan coat of arms and motto. The motto in Latin is disce pati roughly translated learn to suffer. When I think of a family motto to print on a shield I don’t think “learn to suffer.” When covered in metal armor and wielding a sword or axe I’m thinking mottos like “for glory” or “kill them all” would be a bit more appropriate.

            But the older I get, the more “learn to suffer” is appropriate. At first consideration, learn to suffer is an oxymoron. Suffering is something that happens to you like getting a virus. A person does not have to learn how to get a cold or the flu. Like suffering, sickness happens to us. But the point of the motto is suffering well is a learned skill. We must learn to suffer well. Suffering happens to us all, but we do not all suffer well. We must learn to depend on the Lord as he works all things for good. In biblical terminology, the motto “learn to suffer” would be either “learn to be content” or “learn to wait on the Lord”. Suffering and sovereignty happen; contentment is a learned skill.

            In Acts 25, the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to record the details of one of those waiting periods in the apostle Paul’s life. Remember, he has been transferred from Jerusalem to Caesarea to receive a fair and safe trial before the Romans. The Jews are seeking the death penalty and are committed to murdering Paul at the earliest opportunity. Paul is repeatedly declared innocent but instead of being released, he is used for political purposes and kept in prison for two years. Two years!

            It was over two years ago that Jesus appeared to Paul and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome” (Acts 21:11). It has been over two years and Paul has traveled 60 miles. At the rate Paul is going, counted as the crow flies, it will take Paul 46 years to get to Rome (1387 miles / 60 miles x 2 years). Unless something changes, Paul will die of old age before he gets to preach Christ in Rome.

            Acts 25 is a good opportunity for us to think through the actual details behind Paul’ stunning statement, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:11-13).

            Our plan for today is to work through the details of Acts 25 then go big in the Bible so we also can find contentment as we wait and as we suffer. Read Acts 25:1-12

I. Paul is waiting on God’s will to be done (Acts 25)

After two years

  • Paul is still a wanted man (1-3)

         Festus is the new governor of the region, and he went to Jerusalem to try and smooth over relations with Jews after the dumpster fire that was Felix’s rule. Verse 2 tells us the leaders waste no time bringing up the unfortunate situation of a prisoner named Paul. As a favor, they ask Festus to transport Paul to Jerusalem for a trial. But look at verse 3, they have no intention of taking the case to trial; they plan to ambush and kill Paul while he is being transported.

         Time does not heal all wounds, at least two years haven’t healed the offense the Jews feel over Paul preaching the gospel, making disciples, and planting churches. They want him dead at any cost. Paul is still in Caesarea, and he is still a wanted man. After two years

  • Paul is still a falsely accused man (4-7)

Look at verse 4. Paul is in Caesarea, Festus is going to Caesarea, so the Jewish leaders should go there and make their case. Look at verse 7, “When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove.”

The claims the Jews are making against Paul, namely that he is disturbing Roman peace, and he has defiled the Jewish temple, still cannot be proven. They keep bringing their false accusations and they keep seeking Paul’s death.

I wonder at this point if Paul is growing concerned about how long this is going to take. What are they going to throw at him next? The years drag on. After two years

  • Paul is still making his defense (8)

Look at verse 8, “Paul argued in his defense, ‘Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offence.” Paul has made his case before the Jews, before Lysias, repeatedly before Felix, and now he is making his defense before Festus.

Maybe you can relate to this waiting place where you wonder how many times you are going to have to say the same. Over and over, you uphold the good and the right but get nowhere. The temptation to frustration is real and dangerous. After two years

  • Paul is still appealing to his rights (9-12)

The danger is that Paul would grow sinfully angry as he waits on God’s will and the danger is that Paul would be killed before fulfilling God’s will. Verse 9, “But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, ‘Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?’” Maybe Festus knows the plot of the Jews to kill Paul, probably not. It is reasonable that Festus wants to win the Jews to his side, and he sees the opportunity to score some points with them while upholding justice as he oversees the trial in Jerusalem. But Paul isn’t going for it.

In verse 10, Paul affirms that he is right where he needs to be in Caesarea standing before Caesar’s tribunal. Again and again, Paul has proven himself innocent. Notice Paul’s strength in verse 11, “If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

Paul is neither reckless seeking death nor is Paul fearful avoiding death. To live is Christ and therefore important. To die is gain and therefore a good to be embraced. If he’s done something deserving death, then so be it, he is willing to die. But knowing his innocence (he has done nothing wrong), knowing God’s will (he must preach Christ in Rome), and knowing his rights as a Roman citizen (to a fair trial before Caesar), Paul appeals to Caesar. This appeal is Paul’s right. Paul knows his rights to a fair trial. Paul knows his rights to not be beaten without a trial. Paul repeatedly appeals to his rights. It is right to expect a government to uphold justice and govern according to its own just laws (Rom 13:1-7).

After discussing Paul’s claim with his council, Festus agrees to send Paul to Caesar for trial. Ok, here we go to Rome. Not so fast. After more than two years

  • Paul is still innocent (13-22)

and has to stand for another trial before Agrippa and Bernice. The details of the trial come in Acts 26 and Lord willing we will look at those next Sunday. Particular emphasis will be given to claim of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Let’s read Acts 25:13-22

Here are the chief parts, their repetition being important. The leaders of the Jews want Paul dead, but as a Roman citizen he must receive a fair trial. When given a trial, it is discovered that the accusations are surprisingly religious and not criminal. Verse 19, the Jews want Paul dead because he preaches that Jesus is alive. Festus has arrived at the heart of the matter. Paul is not disturbing the peace. Paul did not seek to, or actually, defile the temple. The heart of the matter is Paul is preaching Christ crucified and raised on the third day. Agrippa is all ears. G. Campbell Morgan explains the significance of Agrippa:

“Agrippa the Second was the last of the Herods. His great-grandfather murdered the innocents at the birth of Jesus. His grand-uncle murdered John the Baptist…His father, Agrippa the First, executed James and seeing that it pleased the people, had sought to lay hands on Peter also” (Morgan, Acts, 392). From its beginning, the rule of the Herods has clashed with Jesus and his church.  

Agrippa wants to hear from the apostle Paul and Festus wants help concerning the charges he must write against Paul. Next week we pick up Paul’s defense before Agrippa. For today, it is good for us to ask

II. How can we find contentment as we wait?

Jesus told Paul that he must go to Rome and two years later Paul has gone 60 miles. How do we guard our hearts, strengthen our faith, and experience joy while we wait on the Lord? Here are some biblical truths to practice

  • Remember that we must learn to be content (Phil 4:11)

In Philippians 4:11 Paul writes, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

Content is a difficult word for us because the closest match is the word happy, but we have attached happy to epic experiences of emotional rushes. Instead, content has to do with satisfied; it is enough, and I am pleased. As we consider the lingering, waiting, suffering, and enduring that are much of life, we need to remember that we do not naturally return to a state of contentment. Shake a compass and it will naturally return to pointing north. Shake a Christian and he will naturally complain. We must learn, in our difficulty, to be content. We must learn the joy of being satisfied with Christ and pleased with Christ wherever we are. He is enough and I am pleased. This contentment deals with our circumstances (think physical condition and financial position). Naturally, we will be entitled and unhappy. Let’s learn a better way.   

  • Meditate on Christ’s kingly rule (Col 2:10; Is 45:7; Lam 3:38)

I have given you the references to each of these lessons so you can memorize, meditate on, and work these truths into your heart. To be content, we must meditate on the truth that Jesus is ruling over our circumstances. Colossians 2:10 says, “You have been filled in Christ, who is the head of all rule and authority.” Trace the individual rivers of your circumstances up to their headwater and there you will find Christ ruling over all things.

While the sovereignty of God over all things raises difficult questions when we sin and when we suffer, we must not let this difficulty negate the truth. Just because it is hard to hear that you have cancer does not mean you don’t have cancer. Just because it is hard to hear that Jesus is ruling over your unsatisfactory situation doesn’t mean he is not ruling over you. Instead, consider that if Jesus is ruling over you and your circumstances, then he is capable of meeting you in that circumstance with life, joy, and peace. You can be satisfied in your difficulty precisely because Jesus is ruling over it and not excluded from it.

If you want to be content, meditate on Christ’s kingly rule and commit to doing all things through Christ

  • Do all things through Christ (Phil 4:13; John 15:5)

This is the way to contentment. Paul learned to be content because he learned that Jesus gives strength for every situation. Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Think about this truth from this angle, Christ will give me strength for all things. Christ never looks at a situation in our lives and says, “You’re on your own with this one.” Christ looks at every situation and says, “I will give you strength.” Christ gives us the ability to do God’s will.

Here we need to learn that all of life is meant to be spent in dependence on Christ. All of life is to be lived with a prayer for help on our lips. Whether I am working on a sermon or working on a car, Christ is there with strength so that I accomplish God’s purposes and find my satisfaction in Christ. This means I must fight to keep my focus on Christ in the situation and not on the outcome of the situation. If I am only content and joyful when the sermons are easy and the cars run smoothly then my contentment is based on circumstances, not on Christ, and that joy will be very weak.

When you grieve a loss, when you grind through seemingly endless yuck, when you have the conversation for the 20th time, when you can’t afford to go to the grocery store, say to yourself, “Christ is here.” Pray for strength and then act in faith obeying Christ’s commands.

If you want to be content, meditate on Christ’s kingly rule, commit to doing all things through Christ, and

  • Do all things as an ambassador of Christ (Col 3:17; 2 Cor 5:20)

Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord.” Here is the call to depend on Christ so that you live like Christ. At first glance, “What would Jesus do?” is somewhat trite and maybe a little cheesy, but WWJD? is helpful and good. As I write the sermon, “What would Jesus do?” As I work on the car, “What would Jesus do?” As I respond to my wife or children, “What would Jesus do?” We were created and redeemed to live in God’s world as his image-bearers. You are where you are so that you will represent Christ to all of creation. So, where you are not representing Christ in the strength Christ provides you will not be content. Maybe you are frustrated precisely because you are going against nature and living for the wrong things. Christ has placed you where he has placed you so that you will represent him.

If you want to be content, meditate on Christ’s kingly rule, commit to doing all things through Christ, commit to do all things as an ambassador for Christ, and commit to do all things for Christ.

  • Do all things for Christ (2 Cor 5:15)

2 Corinthians 5:15 is so simple and yet so difficult. 2 Corinthians 5:15, “Christ died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

Why am I not content? Why do I have more than enough yet I am often frustrated and easily angered? It is because I live for myself. I work for myself, I married for myself, I had children for myself, I bought a house for myself, I write sermons for myself, and I work on cars for myself. And all this selfishness is fundamentally contrary to my new nature as one who lives for Christ.

Jesus is clear on the results of living for self, “You already have your reward” (Mt 6:2). Do your thing for you and you will be seen by others, maybe you will be celebrated, and that will be it; you will be left tired and frustrated laboring for yourself. Do you see that God promises to make the self-centered life of the Christian hard and frustrating (Prov 13:15)? Our God disciplines us when we live for self (Heb 12:6) so that we will turn from our sin and trust in him. God strengthens us when we live for him (Phil 4:13).

But I understand, the last thing you want to do is think about why you are doing something. The last thing our enemy wants us to do is think about why we are doing what we are doing. We want mindless pursuits and instant gratification, but this is not the way you learned Christ. Start your day, everyday read and pray, asking what Jesus wants. Introduce stops throughout your day where you can ask yourself if you are living for Christ or living for self.

If you want to be content, meditate on Christ’s kingly rule, commit to doing all things through Christ, commit to doing all things as an ambassador for Christ, commit to doing all things for Christ, and fight to be thankful.

  • Fight to be thankful (1 Thess 5:18; Col 3:17)

Gratitude and contentment go together. Do you want to be content, satisfied, and pleased? Then work on being thankful. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and 18 say, “pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

When you ask yourself, “What does Jesus want me to do next?” The immediate answer should always be, “Give thanks.” The devil’s scheme is fairly simple, and it is quite effective; the devil wants us to remain empty enough so that we stay busy enough to never stop and be thankful. The busy-ness of our schedules and the distraction of technology keep us going at a pace that undermines thankfulness. We pursue 1,000 things and thank God for none of them. You’ve got to fight for your right to be thankful.

Keep a thankfulness journal at the end of each day, write a prayer of thankfulness each morning, use each meal throughout your day as a call to give thanks, share highs and lows at the dinner table, or use family worship as an opportunity for each member to give thanks.

The call of Acts 25 is to follow Paul’s example of one who kept relying on Christ for strength in difficulty. Let us confess to one another that our hope, our strength, and our future is bound up in Christ. Let’s sing, “In Christ alone, my hope is found. He is my light, my strength, my song.”

Discuss Acts 25

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. What is the difference between suffering and suffering well? When have you merely suffered and when have you suffered well? What made the difference?
  3. Continuing to uphold the good and the right for long periods with no progress can be frustrating. How do you fuel your joy when it looks like you are getting nowhere?
  4. What evidence is there in your life that you are living by the principle to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21)?
  5. Why is resentment or complaining the natural response of the Christian? How important is it to you that you learn to be content?
  6. If Jesus is not ruling over your difficult circumstance than who is? What does this answer say about who is god and who is in control?
  7. Read Philippians 4:13. What things are you meant to do through Jesus’ strength? How do you cultivate an awareness of and a dependence on Jesus’ strength in all things?
  8. Describe a time when you were not content because you refused to represent Christ. How does living for the wrong things and going after the wrong things ruin our joy?
  9. Our God disciplines us when we live for self (Heb 12:6) and our God strengthens us when we live for him (Phil 4:13). How have both of these truths played out in your life?
  10. Why is thankfulness in all circumstances necessary if you want to be content no matter what? What can you do to grow in the discipline of thankfulness?

A Faithful Gospel Witness; Acts 24:22-27

A Faithful Gospel Witness

Text: Acts 24:22-27

Main Point: Bring the reality of Christ to bear on all who will hear.

In Acts 24 we meet the governor of the region, his name is Felix. Felix was a freedman meaning he had once been a slave, gained his freedom, and reached the esteemed position of governor. According to F.F. Bruce, this climb was mainly due to his brother, Pallas, who served in the court of the Roman Emperor Claudius. The timeframe we are looking at is mid-first century (around 50 AD). Felix likely served as governor from 52 until 58 or 60 AD when he was removed because of the mishandling of Jewish insurrectionists and particularly the sicarii (Bruce, Book of Acts, 436).

Relying on Josephus’s work, a Wikipedia article describes the sicarii as a splinter group of the Jewish Zealots who, in the decades preceding Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, strongly opposed the Roman occupation of Judea and attempted to expel them and their sympathizers from the area. The Sicarii carried sicae, or small daggers, concealed in their cloaks. At public gatherings, they pulled out these daggers to attack Romans and alleged Roman sympathizers alike, blending into the crowd after the deed to escape detection.

The Sicarii are regarded as one of the earliest known organized assassination units of cloak and daggers, predating the Islamic Hashishin and Japanese ninja by centuries. The derived Spanish term sicario is used in contemporary Latin America to describe a hitman. This group was a big problem for Felix, who like the local tribune Claudius Lysias, was responsible for keeping the peace.

Another big problem for Felix is, when we meet him in Acts 24, he is on his third wife. Drusilla was Jewish and the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa. Remember, this is the Herod who because of pride was judged by God and eaten by worms (see Acts 12 for more information). Darrell Bock reports that Drusilla, “born in AD 38, is not yet twenty years old…and this is her second marriage. She left her first husband, whom she had married at age fourteen in a customary, arranged marriage…Josephus notes that she was beautiful and was persuaded by Felix to leave her first husband” (Bock, Acts, 695). So, 50-something Felix woos teenage Drusilla, they divorce their spouses, and marry one another.

This is the situation where we find the apostle Paul in Acts 24. Felix is wrapping up the initial hearing of charges from the Jews against Paul. Felix is going to stall for the moment waiting on Claudius Lysias to arrive from Jerusalem, but Felix will ultimately refuse to act and leave Paul in prison for two years as a favor for the Jews. Let’s pick up the story and Paul’s faithful gospel witness in Acts 24:22-27

I. Felix the fence-rider

To be a fence-rider means you refuse to make a decision on some controversial matter; you are neither for it nor against it, so you ride the fence down the middle. Look back at Acts 24:22-23

  • Felix refuses to adjudicate Paul’s case

I use the word adjudicate because I have firsthand experience. When I was in high school, I received deferred adjudication for a speeding ticket. In exchange, I had to pick up trash in front of the high school for 10 hours; it was wonderfully humiliating. Deferred adjudication is deferred judgment. I did my work, didn’t get another ticket, and the original ticket was removed. Had I broken the law again, then I would have been judged for both the speeding ticket and the new crime. By God’s grace through humiliation that didn’t happen; I wasn’t judged. The judge did not adjudicate.

Back to Felix. Felix already has all the information he needs from Lysias to adjudicate the case. In a letter to Felix, Lysias wrote, “I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment” (Acts 23:29). Lysias is clear that Paul should be set free. Years later, after another trial before the new governor Festus and King Agrippa II, they conclude, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment…This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar” (Acts 26:31-32).

Felix is faced with a difficult decision for a calculating and conniving ruler. He can please the Jews, or he can uphold justice. Felix can gain favor with the Jews he is struggling to rule, or he can do the right thing by a Roman citizen and let Paul go free. Which will it be?

Felix chooses to stall. He is going to wait on Lysias and then make a decision. We don’t know from history or the text if Lysias ever came. What we do know is that Felix continued to stall for another two years before being removed from office and leaving Paul in prison. Felix is a fearful man lacking integrity, and full of himself. Felix wants what is best for Felix.

  • Felix wants a bribe

Alongside the fear of offending the Jews by releasing Paul or breaking the law by condemning Paul, Felix wants a bribe. Look at Acts 24:26, “At the same time Felix hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him.” Having heard that Paul came to Jerusalem with an offering for the poor and the finances to pay for the sacrifices for four men, Felix saw dollar signs. Letting Paul go free is no good, condemning Paul is no good, but if the price is right, then Felix would be willing to suffer the consequences. The only thing that could get Felix off the fence was money; Felix was clear that he could be bought.

Looking at Felix the fence-ridder, it is right and good to issue a call for Christians, possessing integrity and a right sense of justice, to enter law, law-enforcement and government. Students, seek wisdom from your parents and fellow church members and determine if a career in law, law-enforcement, or government would be a good fit for you. We can learn from Felix the fence-rider and from

II. Felix the fearful

We get no word on Lysias showing up, but Felix does have the courtesy to give an innocent man some measure of freedom. Paul is allowed some liberty and his friends can come and bring him food. While Paul is lingering in prison, Felix and Drusilla wanted to hear him speak. Read verses 24-25.

Here we get a good example of a faithful gospel witness

  • Paul spoke about faith in Christ Jesus

Given the chance to address the ruler who determines if you go free, remain in prison, or are handed over to death, what would you speak about? The apostle spoke about faith in Christ Jesus.

Our subject here is faith, personal dependence on a historical person who is the very promise of God. Faith is you personally looking to Jesus for help. Faith is dependence and trust. And the object of your faith is crucial; faith itself saves no one. Put genuine, sincere, and reasoned faith in Jiminy Cricket and you have nothing because Jiminy Cricket is nothing. Put genuine, sincere, and reasoned faith in Jesus Christ and you have everything because Jesus Christ is a real person, the eternal Son of God, the promised Savior, the atoning sacrifice, the resurrected and coming King.

Felix is the governor of the region including the areas where Jesus was born, lived, performed miracles, taught, was crucified, and was raised. Felix did not doubt that Jesus was a real person.

Drusilla was a Jew with the promises of a coming Messiah. Messiah means anointed one. God repeatedly sent prophets who promised the Messiah, the anointed one would come and redeem God’s people. In Jesus the anointed prophet, the anointed priest, and the anointed king come together in one glorious and humble promised Messiah.

Felix, trust Jesus. I know you have heard of him. Drusilla, trust Jesus the Messiah. I know you have heard of him. Paul spoke to them about faith in Christ Jesus. This means he explained who Jesus was AND he explained why Jesus must be trusted. Here are the reasons for faith in Jesus: righteousness, self-control, and coming judgment.

Do you see these three in verse 25? It is these three that cause Felix to fear. Let’s take them one by one.

  • Paul reasoned about righteousness

We’ve seen this word “reasoned” quite a bit lately as the apostle Paul explains, discusses, and gives a defense of the Christian life (Acts 17:2, 17; 18:4, 19; 19:8, 9; 20:7). What this means is that Paul did not merely call Felix out for his unrighteousness or merely point to Jesus for righteousness. Paul explained the necessity of righteousness.

Go back to Acts 17:30, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” God will judge the world in righteousness and the people in his faithfulness (Ps 9:8; 96:13; 98:9). Before I get ahead of myself on the point of judgment, let’s focus on righteousness.

Felix is fearful because he is hearing Paul explain how the righteous God has promised to righteously judge everyone. A person either meets the standard of the righteousness of God and is thereby accepted or a person fails to meet the standard of the righteousness of God and will be rejected. Felix was fearful because he knew he did not meet the standard of the righteousness of God.

God has expectations for his creation and God’s expectations are good, pure, life-giving, and joyful. We are right to call the doing of God’s requirements the doing of that which is righteous. So, as we looked at in our Men’s Bible Study last Thursday morning, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Mt 5:6). Feeling our lack of righteousness (our poverty of spirit), we mourn over our sin (our unrighteousness), and we hunger and thirst for righteousness. That is, we believe in Christ Jesus for righteousness. We put our faith in Jesus for righteousness. He takes our sin, gives us his righteousness, and empowers us to live a righteous live.

Felix the corrupt and barbaric governor is starting to squirm. Paul continues on

  • Paul reasoned about self-control

Now, why did Paul go there? Let me put it this way, why did Paul bring up self-control to a 50-something man who seeks bribes and seduced a beautiful teenager to leave her husband and marry him, making marriage number three? Paul reasoned about self-control because Felix lacked self-control in the areas of money and sex.

Listen, you cannot live a righteous life without self-control. Self-control is the ability to direct or deny your desires. A good definition is “to exercise complete control over one’s desires and actions” (Louw-Nida 88.83). In order to live a righteous life, one must have self-control. A lack of self-control reveals a lack of righteousness, and this leads to a fearful judgment.

Felix would fit right in to 21st century America because he operated by the same misguided principle of our culture. The erroneous principle is a person is defined by his/her desires. We are told in our day, we must not try and control our desires, we must let our desires control us. Self-control is mocked precisely because our culture wants to be sex-controlled. Freud made the argument that we are controlled by the desire for sex. Marx made the argument that we are controlled by the desire for power. Jesus made the argument that Christians are controlled by the desire for righteousness. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be what? For they shall be satisfied.

Here we have two competing ideas. One idea claims that if you will reject all rules and follow whatever desires you have then you will be satisfied. Another idea claims that if you pursue righteousness with self-control then you will be satisfied. The first, a false gospel, encourages pleasure any way you’d like it. The second, the true gospel, promises pleasure according to God’s principles of righteousness.

The way, the way of righteousness, the way of self-control brings all our appetites under the redeeming power of Christ. Self-control is listed among the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:23. 2 Peter 1:6 tells us that the way to make our faith in Christ fruitful is to supplement our knowledge with self-control and supplement that self-control with steadfastness. We must keep believing in Jesus for self-control. Felix is hearing all this and squirms even more. Paul goes on

  • Paul reasoned about the coming judgment

These three subjects hang together logically. Since Jesus is coming to judge you on the principle of righteousness, have you lived a righteous life? Have you exercised self-control in the areas of money and sexuality? No? You will surely be judged. You need to see here that your Maker is your Judge.

Against those who claim there is no creator therefore there are no rules and no judgment, the Christian worldview claims that since there is a Creator there are rules and there will be judgment. God is not a force but a person. God is a person who sees all that you have done, knows all that you have thought, and has set your judgment day.

Remember Acts 17:30, “The times of ignorance God has overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Jesus is stronger than the grossest deception and the most heinous wrong. The death-conquering King cannot be stopped. Jesus is coming to judge according to righteousness and

  • Felix was fearful

Look at verse 25. Hearing all this about righteousness, self-control, and coming judgment, “Felix was alarmed and said, ‘Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.’”

The word for alarmed means terrified. It is how the disciples felt at the tomb when they saw the angels in Luke 24:5. Alarmed is how Cornelius felt when he saw the angel of the Lord in Acts 10:4. Alarmed is how the people will feel according to Revelation 11:13 after a great earthquake.

Felix was terrified by the thought of coming judgment, so what did he do? Did he put his faith in Christ Jesus? No, Felix silenced Paul and pushed him away. Like unbelieving Paul, Felix is kicking against the goads (Acts 26:14). This is quenching the Spirit. We do not know the end of Felix’s story. We hope that eventually Felix believed. Jesus promised us that all who the Father gives to him will come to him, and whoever comes to him he will never cast out (John 6:37). The reality is that if Felix was given to Jesus by the Father in election, then he eventually came to faith. But looking at the conversion of Paul, and how he resisted, we must not ignore or discount the real struggle that happens in conversion. Repentance and faith are often a great struggle.

This then is the goal of every faithful gospel witness

III. Believe in Jesus

Looking at Felix and Drusilla, what did Paul want? He wanted them to believe what he told them about judgment, self-control, and righteousness so that they gladly believed in Jesus for forgiveness and righteousness. In Acts 26, Paul will plead with Festus and Agrippa to believe in Jesus.

I plead with you now to believe in Jesus. If Jesus is dead in a tomb in Jerusalem, then the whole idea of God is a lie and you and I should become willing slaves to our appetites. If Jesus was not raised, then let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die; nothing but selfish pleasure matters (1 Cor 15:32). If Jesus is dead, take bribes, fight for power, and have as much sex with as many people as you can.

If Jesus has been raised, then there is a purpose and reason and righteous way for all our appetites. Jesus will judge all that we do because all that we do has meaning and purpose. Jesus will judge all that we do because there is good and evil, right and wrong. Our lack of self-control should cause us to fear; we deserve hell. Our lack of self-control should cause us to cry out to Jesus for forgiveness. Cleanse me Jesus, through your death for sins, because I am guilty. Cleanse me Jesus, and redeem me. Take all these desires for power and money and sex and food and sleep and redeem them. Give me the Spirit so I have self-control to work, save, and give. Give me the Spirit so I have self-control to serve, protect, and help. Give me the Spirit so I have self-control to be pure and happy in my marriage. Christianity is so much more than a set of rules that will keep you out of hell. Christianity is a way of living, living by the power of the Spirit, that seeks to walk in the fullness of life and abundance of joy that Jesus promised (John 10:10; 15:11).

So you do well to believe in Christ Jesus. Would you do that today? Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts (Heb 4:7). If the Spirit is convicting you of sin and you are feeling afraid, do not shut him down but follow him. Follow the Spirit as he leads you through sin and judgment to repentance and faith. There is forgiveness and life for you, and it is found only through faith in Christ Jesus. Repent and believe and you will be saved. Then come and let’s talk about baptism.

Discuss Acts 24:22-27

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. When, like Felix, have you been afraid to do the right thing? Why were you afraid? What did you do?
  3. You may not actively seek bribes like Felix, but do you generally make decisions based on what you want or on what is righteous? Are you a self-seeking person or a person who hungers and thirsts for righteousness?
  4. Are you aware of anyone who is imprisoned because of faith in Jesus? How can you help that person and meet his/her needs?
  5. How do you explain or talk about faith in Christ Jesus? What is faith and why must faith be in Christ Jesus?
  6. Explain your righteousness. What is your standard for righteousness and what is the means by which you live up to that standard?
  7. Why is self-control a fruit of the Spirit and not natural to us?
  8. Think back to your own conversion. In what ways did you resist the Spirit as he convicted you of sin, righteousness, and judgment?
  9. What does it look like for you to live a righteous life? How do you trust Jesus everyday to empower righteousness, life, and joy?