AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH September 23, 2007
A CONTINUATION OF THE THRUST AND BASE OF THE
OF AUSTRALIA ON BIBLICAL LINES …
NOT DISOBEDIENT TO THE HEAVENLY VISION
Divine Dynamics, Apostolic Action and Fearless Faith
We have last time reviewed Paul's upbringing as a Pharisee, his 'call to sanctified corruption' and 'the heavenly vision'. Now we turn to
3 Obedience to the Heavenly Vision - Acts 26:19-30
a) General - travelling and acting to fulfil His call - 19-23
Paul did not let emotion do for action! or play-acting, in unscriptural ways substitute for missionary labour and obedience to God. Beware of what does: examine ALL things, pleasant or not, seemingly useful or not, BY THE WORD OF GOD. If anything does not meet these specifications, does not fit, then sack it! (cf. Romans 16:17). Adding to or disregarding the word of God is not to work with Him as Lord, as He calls (Proverbs 30:6, II Corinthians 11). Instead, it is to call the shots. However, He gives instructions that they be followed. Even computer firms have their ways; how much more does He who makes the minds that make the computers! Therefore follow His word with awe, and seek to fulfil His work not by guesswork, but by faith according to His word. How well Psalm 119 shows this holy zeal and commitment to what God has said.
This makes it easier to DO the will of God (cf. Matthew 7:21-22). God redeems us to serve, saves us to be sent, takes us to be endowed and blesses us in His presence, according to His WORD. His Spirit is not divorced from this, the book of the Lord, the Bible of blessed gift to man (John 17:17, 16:8-15, 17:17, Galatians 1, Revelation 22:18-19, Matthew 5:17-20). The Spirit HONOURS the word, and the Word uses the Spirit whom He sends in His own name (John 15:26, I Corinthians 1:1-3, 14:37, 12-14).
The Spirit does not, as Christ declared, speak on His own authority (John 16:13-16), but as directed, and in accord with what Christ had said, so He speaks (John 14:26, 15:26). So did He work for the apostles as they wrote His word (cf. I Corinthians 2:9-13), and now He illuminates and guides according to it. Indeed, you see Him leading Paul as in Acts 16, with intimate grace and kindly concern.
Paul started his testimony concerning Jesus Christ where he was in Damascus, then he spread it throughout Judea, Jerusalem, to the Gentiles that men should repent, turn to God and do works suitable for those who have repented! (Acts 26:20). In fact, during Paul's missionary journeys, Jews often resisted the Gospel, as they did Christ; but the Gentile mission continued.
Let us now examine what occurred in the Court Case into which Paul was brought after his arrest following assault by an angry mob in the Temple at Jerusalem, where they deemed him an enemy because, following Christ, he was showing the POINT of the temple, which was to communicate Christ, not architecture for its own sake.
Here in Acts 26, Paul is narrating his account of things leading to his arrest, in a formal testimony to King Herod. Jews, he indicated, seized him in the Temple (as in fact, they had seized and stoned to death the beatific Stephen, rich in miracle and faith (Acts 6:8). They even tried then to kill him, yet he had testified precisely what the prophets and Moses foretold of Christ, sin-bearer to rise from the dead in 3 days and proclaim light to Jews and Gentiles.
¨ At this point in Paul's recital, Governor Festus interrupted, thinking Paul's great learning had made him mad. The thing was coming close to himself!
Not at all, retorted the apostle,
but I speak the
"words of truth and reason."
Nothing can stand before them (cf. II Corinthians 10:5), but many fall because of them!
Never forget that Christianity is the ONLY approach to life and its trials and wonders that fits with reason, as extensively shown, for example, in my 140 books on the Web (cf. I Peter 3:15-16, and that duty, outlined by the apostle, is fulfilled). The Lord always has the answer, and indeed it is He who gives to man the mind with which to question, and to receive truth. The Bible, the word of the living God, exposes truth as the sun the earth, a paradise for thought, a joy to the spirit, a balm to the heart. The Lord of that word is the summit of delight. Part of that truth is this, that God is love and in Him is no iniquity at all.
Another part ? God acts when faith calls via the name of His everlasting Word, the One who acts, the Saviour Jesus Christ. But where is faith made bold to expect ? It is when the cry seeks according to His word: after all, it is HIS and HE gave it! Faith does not need to look within, as if power lay inside, but up, because power belongs to God.
Notice too how bold Paul is, as well as courteous. People talk of self-esteem being low, but this is not the real problem. It is fine when someone realises how little he or she really has to offer, except in the power and name and Spirit of the Lord. Indeed, this can be a fine beginning; it is when people swell with self-satisfaction or esteem that they can become like prickly pear! But with the realisation how LITTLE we have, AND that this itself is given, and indeed that what we have contributed to the Lord is our sin in repentance, there comes delight as through HIS acceptance we can serve Him with fidelity and be fearless because to fear any other is near to betrayal!
It is HE whom we esteem; and we conceive this, that His power is most sufficient, His grace entirely adequate and His service is a great privilege. When we speak of Him, it is both with praise and words of truth and reason.
b) His appeal to Caesar
At the end of the case, Herod indicated that if Paul had NOT appealed to Caesar in Rome to give him a fair trial, he could have been released. Why then did he appeal ?
Firstly, in Acts 23:11-18. we see the dramatic murder endeavour of religious Jews, trying to ambush Paul, 40 having vowed not to eat till he died! Paul’s nephew then saw the commander and Paul was whisked away to Caesarea, with an armed escort! This was a warning about the deadly deviousness which might underlie any effort to take Paul on a journey Jerusalem, where the Jewish religious authorities were concerned!
Secondly, and more importantly, the LORD, Paul’s commander (Isaiah 55:4, Luke 6:46), had appeared to him (Act 23:11), after his earlier trial before the Jewish authority, the Sanhedrin, telling Him, in kindly tenderness of concern:
“Be of good cheer, Paul, for a you have testified for
so you must also bear witness at Rome.”
Hence Paul was predisposed to go, and here was the opportunity both for safety from murderers, at least for the present, and making a free testimony at Rome, some expenses paid! What a testimony this is of turning fear into opportunity, and using a set-back to go-forward in the work of the Lord, by TRUSTING in Him and WAITING on Him, who leads His people (Psalm 32, Acts 16), by any means He chooses, as one operates by faith according to His word, as it works according to promise.
“I was not,” declared Paul to Agrippa, after telling of his dramatic call to the Lord and commission, “disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19).
This is the great feature, so to LOVE the Lord Jesus Christ, that you serve, to serve that you follow, to follow that you FULFIL the calling He gives you, waiting continually upon Him, trusting and finding the power that purity enables, as kept clean by His blood, taught by His word and moved by His will through His Spirit, you work for Him with joy.
c) His confrontation with Agrippa personally,
and to the Court which tried him - 26:24-30
I am convinced, Paul added to Festus when challenged concerning the work of Christ and his own call, that these things are known to Herod. All this, said Paul, speaking doubtless of Christ’s own work and then of his service for Him, was not done in a corner! “King Agrippa,” he continued, turning to him and so making this very trial a time of Christian challenge, “do you believe the prophets ? I know that you do believe.”
As at Pentecost when Peter outlined what Christ had done, there was no attempt to deny the facts of Christ's power and goodness. How could there be since the three years past had shown it with intense and just fame!
Herod’s reply is instructive for all time.
“You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”
“I would to God that not only you, but also
all who hear me today,
might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.”
Literally, it reads, In a little you persuade me to become a Christian. Paul’s reply, I would to God that not only in a little but in much … Why ALMOST drive on the right side of the road!
It seems that Herod, deep in the entrails of sin, is both bemused and superficial, attracted by Paul's obvious integrity and knowledge, yet parrying the thrust in this equivocal fashion as have many done before and since.
When the heart is otherwise occupied, then the tongue weaves its tapestries.
Agrippa in fact gradually expanded his kingdom, knowing the rulers in Rome, sought to have the Jews be quiet and not rebel, but in vain. He then fought against them, and with Rome, when the time of judgment came, even being wounded. His relationship with his sister Bernice was occasion for scandal. She had married her Uncle before being so much with her brother, and then Polemo of Cicilia, whom she deserted to return to her brother. Later she was mistress to two Roman Emperors!
Agrippa was honoured in Rome for his putting THEM first, who put him in such continual advancement. He ? give up honour for a Cross ? Alas, not at all.
But how many are like him, cleverly combining some sort of religious sympathy or some aspects of goodness, but on an alien base, like steak wrapped with fly-paper.
In fact, the ALMOST Christian is a hopeless mess of form with desire, or human relationships or culture, without CHRIST ruling; for UNLESS you forsake ALL, you CANNOT be His disciple (Luke 13:27ff.). When you are His, begotten again by His word through His Spirit, then you inhabit a new realm of understanding and life, with Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Andrew Murray once put the positive side like this:
“Do believe that this living, personal God is a friend whose love and company are worth more than all the world and that the apparent difficulty of cultivating and realising the divine friendship will be overcome by Himself in the path of simple obedience and faith. Do what God says in all simplicity and then cultivate a large faith that He is going to act by you in a Godlike way – in a way surpassing all we can think!” (cf. Ephesians 3:17-21).
Correctly he declares this: it is no new Christ or new Christology but Christ in a nearer aspect who is required." Again we see this: Seeking Him, one finds that Christ is "personally communicating, personally maintaining" the saved soul. HOW He does it is His affair, but the promise is sure (cf. Acts 16, John 10:27-28).
No wonder Paul so devoutly wished that there should be no limit, that Herod would not be a partial person but one repentant who received the living God in the salvation of Jesus Christ! THEN he could walk with the Lord, understand and being converted, grow in wisdom.
Imagine if your heart beat in a little, fluttered here and there, shut down and pondered and then did a little more! With Christ, you worship or else you wander, useless, futile. Never be disobedient to the heavenly vision, the living Saviour, the written word, the will of God. TO find His will is privilege, to do it, this is labour not in vain, while to work with Him on the way, it is a creative friendship with the Creator, with the relish of redemption making blessed this permanent association with the God of all comfort, to whom power belongs, and peace.
Ah that thousands in Adelaide might become not only almost but altogether Christians and SHOW by their actions, the absoluteness of their commitment, the fearlessness of their faith and the testimony of truth and reason, as they wait on the Lord continually, desiring His will because of love to Him, and loving much because knowing they are forgiven much, while doing much not as a chore or bore, but in the light of His favour!
You may now care to look up the survey of true and spurious in Christian belief and discipleship, in terms of the Stand-by parable, set in the Airport.