Saturday, August 05, 2023

2023.08.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 25–26

Read Acts 25–26

Questions from the Scripture text: Where does Festus go in Acts 25:1? Who address him about what (Acts 25:2-3)? Why? But how does he answer (Acts 25:4-5)? How long does he take to go back (Acts 25:6)? How soon does he act? What do the Jews do (Acts 25:7)? What are they unable to do? Who answers for Paul (Acts 25:8)? How? What does Festus request in Acts 25:9? How does Paul’s answer hint at the injustice of what’s going on (Acts 25:10)? What does he do in Acts 25:11, and how does Festus reply (Acts 25:12)? Who else come in Acts 25:13? What does Festus eventually do (Acts 25:14)? Whom does he say has done this (Acts 25:15)? What difficulty does he present (Acts 25:16-21Acts 25:26-27)? What does he imply about himself in Acts 25:20 that he suggests Agrippa can help with? How does Agrippa respond (Acts 25:22)? In what way does he arrive (Acts 25:23)? How does Festus present the case in Acts 25:24-25? Who assumes leadership of the proceeding (Acts 26:1)? How does Paul respond initially (Acts 26:1-3)? How does he describe his early life (Acts 26:4-5)? To what does he skip in Acts 26:6-7? Upon what does he focus from his charges (Acts 26:7-8)? When did the resurrection become not a theory but the most significant reality in his life (Acts 26:8-18)? Whom was Paul obeying, and what was Paul doing (Acts 26:18-20Acts 26:22-23)? And what did the Jews do (Acts 26:21)? What does he emphasize about Christ in Acts 26:22-23? What does Festus think about the first-risen from the dead and light to the nations (Acts 26:24)? So upon whom does he now focus (Acts 26:24-27)? What does he focus upon about Christ in the end of Acts 26:26? To where does Paul point for interpretation of Christ’s suffering and resurrection (Acts 26:27)? How does Agrippa respond (Acts 26:28)? What does Paul desire from Whom, for whom (Acts 26:29)? How do Agrippa, Festus, and Bernice respond to this (Acts 26:30-31)? And what is Agrippa’s concluding counsel (Acts 26:32)? 

What is the most important reality in your life? Acts 25–26 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these fifty-nine verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the most important reality in each one of our lives, whether we embrace or engage it or not, is the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. 

An uncomfortable reality for Paul: the injustice of men. Several times throughout these two chapters, we read that Paul had done nothing to deserve death (Acts 25:11, Acts 16–21, Acts 24–27) or even chains (Acts 26:31–32). And yet, the Jews are still determined either to have him executed by Rome or to trick Festus into transporting Paul so that they could ambush him and kill him. 

People aren’t righteous; they aren’t just; they aren’t fair. This is an uncomfortable reality for all believers.  If we are hoping that we will have, in this life, a situation where people and their kindness or justice don’t let us down, then our false hope will let us down. 

Thankfully, that was not Paul’s hope! It was uncomfortable, or unpleasant, but it was not discouraging. Rather, because his hope was in something that would actually hold up (the resurrected Christ!), he was able to take his circumstances as an opportunity to fulfill his purpose (serve that resurrected Christ!). 

The most important reality for Paul: the resurrected Christ. Whatever Paul had said (during the hearing summarized briefly in Acts 25:7–8) Festus had heard primarily as an affirmation that Jesus is alive (Acts 25:19). Then, when Paul answers for himself before Agrippa, he gives only a one-sentence (!) summary of his upbringing and life as a Pharisee (Acts 26:5). But then, he takes several long sentences to summarize his predicament as “being judged for the hope of the resurrection” (Acts 26:6–8).

How did Paul come to have such a hope for that resurrection, which God had previously promised? He met the resurrected One! He had been diligently (Acts 26:9) and violently (Acts 26:10) and persistently (Acts 26:11) against Him and the testimony of Him. But then the resurrected One had met him (Acts 26:12-15) and enlisted him (Acts 26:16-18).

This resurrected Christ went from being an idea (that Paul was living his life to destroy) to being the King of Light, Whom Paul now lived his life to serve. 

Either we are still kicking against the goads—as Paul had done (Acts 26:14), and now Festus (Acts 26:24) and Agrippa (Acts 26:28Acts 26:30-31) also do—or we have acknowledged that the Creator has become a Redeemer, by living for Him as our resurrected King. 

The most important reality for All: the resurrected Christ that Paul preaches. But what is the King doing? 

This question is answered by the substance of what Paul has been sent to declare (Acts 26:18): 

  • He is turning people of all nations from the darkness of living in ignorance of Him (or opposition to Him) to the light of living in the knowledge of Him. 
  • He is turning people of all nations from being under the power of Satan (believing the lie that they can be independently powered or purposed) to God Himself (dependent upon our Creator not only for all resources but for purpose in life). 
  • He is bringing people out from under guilt and instead into forgiveness. 
  • He is bringing them out from being those who are unable to obtain anything lasting by their own power, into being those who are being given everything in heaven and earth as their inheritance in the Son. 
  • He is bringing people out from being those who are common and impure to those who are consecrated unto God through faith in Christ. 

And all of this, the Lord Jesus does as “the first to rise from the dead” (Acts 26:23). 

He suffered in our place in order to be able to DO all of those things for us. And now, by His servants, the first-Risen DECLARES to us what He has done that we might believe in Him. How your life goes, now and forever, depends entirely upon how you respond to Him:

  • You could be religious without Him, and meet the fate of the Jews. 
  • You could disregard all of this as ungrounded in reality, and meet the fate of Festus. 
  • You could be almost persuaded, and an almost-Christian, whose life is really just business as usual, and meet the fate of Agrippa. 
  • Or, you could meet the Resurrected One in His Word, by His Spirit Who gives you faith to know Him. And you could live in His service, with your whole life being a testimony that your Creator is your Resurrected Redeemer, and He gives your life all of its power and all of its purpose. And not just your life as a testimony, but also giving you opportunities to verbalize this testimony. 

Paul wished that “All” would become like him in this. Won’t you now be like him even in his desire that all would also be like you in the knowledge of Christ? 

Or will you just shrug off another devotional, another sermon, and go back to business as usual in your ordinary (perhaps religiously flavored) life? 

What was the most important thing in your day yesterday? What is the most important thing in your day today? What is the most important thing in this week? What are you most hoping for right now, in this season of your life? What do you spend most of your time doing? What do you see as your purpose in those activities? What do your honest answers to these questions indicate about which side of the last couple paragraphs you are actually on?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You that You have given light in Christ, freedom in Christ, forgiveness in Christ, inheritance in Christ, and consecration in Christ. Grant that, by Your Spirit, Christ would be all of our life, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

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