Thursday, October 28, 2010

Paul Two Years Later

I didn't intend to cover two chapters in this post, but chapters 25 and 26 are inseparable to me. it is.  Andrea's Take.

Acts 25
After two years of imprisonment, Paul's lot was much the same.  The Jews were still plotting to kill him, and he was still being brought before Roman and Jewish authorities to state his case, and he was still saying the same words, over and over again.  The only difference I find is in his appeal to Caesar.  When offered a chance to answer the charges in Jerusalem again, he refused.  "I stand before the Roman authority, where I should be tried.  I have done no wrong to the Jews.  I do not wish to escape punishment for wrongdoing, but if the charges they bring are false, no one can deliver me to them.  I appeal to Caesar."*  It seems to me that he's saying that the Jews have no authority over him.  Since he was a free-born Roman citizen, this could be true.  His claim seems to be that the only real authority he will accept in this case is that of Caesar himself.

When I read this chapter it seemed to me that God used Rome to protect Paul.  If Paul had not been in a Roman prison these last two years, he would constantly have been running for his life, as he had done in the past.  His imprisonment gave him something he'd never had before: an opportunity to minister to his fellow Christians and serve God without the need to look constantly over his shoulder to avoid the danger the Jews posed to him.

*For this quote, I didn't like the wording in any of my versions, so I paraphrased. The verses are Acts 25:10-11.

Acts 26
In this chapter Paul presented his case before the Jewish civil authority, Agrippa.  It seems Festus wanted to share the curiosity of Paul's case with his fellow ruler.  When speaking of his conversion on the Damascus road, Paul quoted Jesus, "I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness.  You are to tell the world what you have seen and what I will show you in the future." (16)+

I think of Paul blinded on that road.  When he made it to Damascus and found Ananias, he told Ananias all that he had seen, and experienced.  After receiving back his sight, Paul told others of his healing.  From the day of his conversion to this day before Festus and Agrippa, Paul had done two things constantly: watch God work and tell the world about that work.  My husband often preaches that we are to be witnesses.  We are not the judge or jury.  We are witnesses who can tell only what we have seen, heard, and experienced ourselves...Just like Paul.

Following the testimony of his conversion Paul offered his defense of his actions.  Verse 22 is powerful, "To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass:"** (emphasis mine)  This is the first time I recall Paul making the argument in just these words. These are the words the priests and scribes never manage to let him say. 

These words are, even today, one of the most powerful weapons in the fight to see Jewish people saved.  I have read different accounts of Jewish people who say, "I can't love Jesus, I'm Jewish."  They don't know that Jesus came and died for them.  When they read their own Scriptures, and compare the prophesies they find there with the facts about Jesus, they are convinced.

I picture Paul's face alight with passion for his Lord, voice breathless with his enthusiasm.  Could this be what Festus saw when he said, "Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad." (24)And when Agrippa claims to be "almost persuaded" (28),* I love Paul's answer, "I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds." (29)* I can hardly read these words without choking up.

Another thing that I noticed reading this is that the Romans Paul dealt with at this time, saw him and Christianity itself as no real threat to their own livelihood.  To them, the only real threat was the constant disturbance the Jews made regarding the followers of the Way. It seems the Roman practice of imprisoning Christians began as nothing more than an attempt to keep the peace.  Later, it became something much worse, to the detriment of Paul, and most of the other Apostles.

That's what I think.  If anyone has other ideas, I'd love to hear them.

+New Living Translation

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