AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH September 9, 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
I The Call of Sanctified Corruption - Acts 26:1-11
a) Refinements of Corruption 4-5
Early life outside Christ can be a complete waste of time, but so great is the God of all comfort, that He can even use it, adapt and fulfil it aright, as we go on to see.
b) Application 7-11
Theme: We see useless zeal in
itself, but its vastly useful application
when the truth is made known, the householder bringing from his treasures,
things old and new (Matthew 13:52).
2 The Heavenly Vision - Acts 26:6-18
a) Its Prelude
Paul journeying to Damascus to prosecute the saints, is met by their Lord and Saviour.
b) Its Power and Commission from Christ Himself –
There is a vast likeness to the power and procedure of the striking down of Paul from his horse to a blindness, which required that he be led like a little child, as the Lord spoke in reproof to him, and followed this with his calling and then commission for divinely directed service, on the one hand, and the case of Daniel as shown in Daniel 10, on the other.
In the latter, the prophet Daniel heard the Speaker, and indeed saw a vision of Him also, and just as those with Saul (as he was at first called) heard the voice but seemingly did not clearly discern the content, this being personal to Paul, those with Daniel in his day, fled in terror, hiding themselves while the Lord spoke to the prophet. Each of them had an epochal commission given by the Lord. Paul on the ground, was apprehended by God (Acts 26:15-18); Daniel was in a deep sleep, his face to the ground.
Daniel was then used in God's sovereign call, to present from the mouth of God, a vast prophetic coverage of coming history in staggering detail, to the first coming of Christ to be set at nought, and to His second coming in Daniel 12 (read with Daniel 7:9-28). Daniel had earlier been shown (Daniel 9) the coming of the Prince of Life and His death date, some 600 years before it happened. The immense coverage of world history provided such a scope that it is still being fulfilled today (Daniel 12).
Paul, for his part, was led like a child, to receive back his eyesight and to be filled with the Spirit of God, through a prophet, Ananias, who had a vision evidently a little after Paul did.
Amazingly, he was told of this, as that Paul was then praying, and he was directed to speak to him. Paul, the Lord told Ananias, had a vision of your coming and laying on hands so that he might receive his sight. Ananias was troubled by Paul's reputation as a persecutor. Go! the Lord assured him, for this man is an appointed vessel to bear the name of the Lord before kings, Israel and the Gentiles.
Here is a delightful interweaving of divine action and communication!
There is also a contrast. Daniel was greatly beloved, serving the Lord already with distinction and daring; but Paul, in his case, was arrested from the extreme evil he was doing, and compared to a beast kicking against the goads used to guide him. WHY, asked the Lord, are you persecuting ME! Thus Paul's treatment of Christians, as a Pharisee commissioned by men, was a blight to the people who belonged to Christ, and as these are referred to as the body of Christ (Ephesians 2 and 4, Romans 12), then he was persecuting Christ Himself! This is a message to those many thousands who persecute Christians today, in China, in the Sudan, wherever Islam's oppressive rules and monopolistic use of force prevents church operating, or public prayer, or acts towards the judicial or other murder of sincere Christians.
It is just the same, for in his evil days Saul, as he admitted to King Agrippa, would "shut up in prison, many of the saints, having received authority from the chief priests."
Not only that, "when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them." As if this were not enough, he continued,
"And I punished them often in every synagogue and
compelled them to blaspheme,
and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities."
This reminds your Pastor of one of the Melbourne Presbyterian leaders who seems to have written to Canada to ensure I would be excluded there, as at that time, here also, and that for decisively opposing the false and anti-biblical teaching in Victoria. Slander was an added spice!
Yet God is not mocked and finishes the business He begins. This fact is of great comfort to Christians, who read of this assurance in Philippians 1:6 (cf. II Timothy 1:9-10, Romans 8:30, I Peter 1:1-8, Ephesians 1:11).
In the case of Paul, the Lord commissioned him to present the Gospel of Christ crucified, yes and rather risen in the body from the dead, to the Gentiles, just as Isaiah had predicted in 42:6 and 49:6, that it was not enough that He come for the Jews alone! Paul was the MEANS as a specialist apostle, to do this very thing, at first an amazing change from being a most strict Pharisee, not only a Jew, but an ultimately strict one!
So does God see further, so that Paul could use his great knowledge of the Old Testament not only to speak to Jewish congregations OUTSIDE ISRAEL, but to the Gentiles in those places who were often fascinated or drawn to the Lord (Acts 13:48 cf. 2:39). Thus churches arose not only near to the North of Israel, but across the sea in Greece, spreading through this and other means, swiftly to Rome, and allied parts, including Spain, Cyprus and Ethiopia (Acts 8), then an important kingdom, by evidence we have, one apparently vastly greener than, war torn and bleak, it is now!
In this way, both Europe and Africa received the Gospel centred in Jerusalem, a city still a problem of problems to the civilised world, which is trying as in President Bush, to tame its troubles WITHOUT THE GOSPEL as the basis, which is quite hopeless as a task, since the Truth is the only way to tame anything, and when it is the power of God, it works. He and truth are inseparable, and power ? Power is of God (Psalm 57, Acts 2-4, II Timothy 4:17-18).
Let us hear this last scripture:
the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be
preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear.
And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me
for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!"
The words of the COMMISSION of Paul from CHRIST (Acts 26:15ff.) resemble those concerning the work of the Messiah Himself in Isaiah 61, as also His description in Isaiah 9, so that He through agents such as Paul, sent out the news of the Gospel which brought them to Him who does these wonderful things.
In fact, right at the first call, Christ told Paul that he would be delivered from the Jews and the Gentiles, but he would be sent to the latter! So he was; and even to the point of being stoned and left as dead, but then with a prayer circle surrounding him, raised up, Paul was indeed delivered until his work was done. This reminds one of a famous lady, Monica Farrell, who used to lecture in Australia, with blessing from a well-known church leader, exposing the follies of Roman Catholicism. She had several relatives priests or nuns.
Once she saw a man draw a revolver in the congregation, and it was clear she could be killed. However, she said, my life is immortal until my work is done. It is then that true immortality proceeds, for "the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall shepherd them, and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." This is the lot of the faithful in Christ, here a group in the last times, for He has brought life and immortality to light (II Timothy 1:10) and promised eternal life from the first (Titus 1:2, I John 5:11-13, John 4:14, Ephesians 1:11): it is for all believers. This was our special field last Sunday.
Remember one thing more from the Lord’s COMMISSION to PAUL: he was told to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles so that “they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” This reminds one of the word of Peter in I Peter 1: “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.”
SANCTIFICATION, or the making holy, separate to God by grace, commissioned, consecrated and dedicated to the Lord, this is ALWAYS in view. This is where life goes for the Christian. Justification, declaration of pardon for Christ’s sake, this gives the eternal place (Romans 8:30), but it is inseparable from sanctification, the state of the person IN the place! With God, if you are WITH HIM, then He is working on you (Philippians 2:12-13), not to make a botched up job, but a thing of beauty (II Corinthians 3:17-18), with a liberty which makes of the whole enterprise, a prize past valuation!
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 it does not fit, sack it! (cf. Romans 16:17).
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).
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.
Here in Acts 26, Paul is narrating his account of things leading to his arrest, in 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). 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." Never forget that Christianity is the ONLY approach to life and its trials and wonders that fits with reason, as my 140 books on the Web show abundantly (cf. I Peter 3:15-16, and that duty, there fulfilled). 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.
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 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 Me in Jerusalem, 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, through faith and 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, 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.”
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 … 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.). No wonder Paul so devoutly wished that there should be no limit. 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 you wander, useless, futile. Never be disobedient to the heavenly vision, the living Saviour, the written word, the will of God.