“Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.”
“And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven. I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do. Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me. But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen—that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”Acts 26:18-23
I am not intending to add any more to those three important verses, although of course I could. Verse 18 is packed full of deep concepts.
- Forgiveness of sins
- Given a place among God’s people (Ie becoming a child of God)
- Set apart (consecrated) by faith in Me.
I have dealt with all of these concepts before in the Gems so I won’t repeat them all again. If you want to follow up on something you missed then talk to me about it. However, the Bible is always consistent about the big issues.
- The forgiveness of sin,
- being made right with God
- included among the “saints” through a trusting relationship with Jesus
are the big three steps that I have dealt with over and over. In short, you won’t get to heaven or reach the Life of the Age to Come through you own righteousness. Isaiah tells us our righteousness is like filthy rags (the menstrual cloth). No amount of trying to be good will get you there. You have to learn how to receive Christ’s righteousness to be acceptable to God. You are given that when you trust Jesus to save you and nothing else. In order to do that you have to enter into a trusting relationship with Him. I.e. trusting Him, following Him, listening to His voice and responding to His Spirit.
Now Paul addresses his defence directly to Agrippa again. Not that he hasn’t to this point. But now his concluding comments are specifically directed toward Agrippa because Agrippa is the Jew present and the one best able to evaluate Paul’s defence in terms of Jewish culture and Law. Paul makes it clear he was simply obeying what the Risen Jesus told him in “the vision from heaven”. Well how else would you describe such an experience?
So as a result of that encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul first preached in Damascus, the closest city to where he encountered Jesus. Then he went to Jerusalem, through all Judea and from there to the Gentiles (read the ends of the earth). Does that sound familiar? Of course it does! It’s all part of the outworking of Acts 1:8. Paul was merely following God’s plan to reach the world. After doing all of that he explains that he was arrested at the temple in Jerusalem, which became the reason for the charge he was now accused of. But not only did they arrest him, they tried every way they could to kill him. Paul doesn’t spell out the details to Agrippa or Festus. He seems to trust that Felix has briefed them on what Claudius Lysias, the Roman commander, had told him about the Jewish plot hatched by the members of the Sanhedrin to have Paul killed.
That is the one aspect of Paul’s defence that mystifies me. I think if I were Paul, I would have spelled out all the details of my case and not left anything to chance. But Paul has entrusted himself to the system by appealing to Caesar as a Roman citizen. Trusting they would take every step to ensure they have the full facts in this case. But over and above any assurance he might have in the Roman system Paul’s ultimate trust was in God. It is clear that Paul believed God was behind all of these events. Not causing the problems but certainly ensuring that everything works according to His purpose. That is after all what it means to walk in a trusting relationship with Christ. It was part of God’s plan that Paul would testify in Rome. God’s plan went way beyond what Paul had in mind.
Let me give you a first-hand recent example of how that works. This time not in my own life but in the lives of a couple dear to us, Budy and Loudi Karmoy. I used Budy and Loudi as the face of the Palu earthquake and tsunami. I asked you to pray for them and all people affected by the events in Palu. I have heard from Budy and Loudi the latest update of what happened to them in the midst of the Palu tragedy. Many of you have asked what happened to your friends Ian? Are they safe now? Well this seems to be the time to give you the latest update. I have shared a number of reports coming from the Palu quake, including the report of pilot for the Malyasian based airline flight which took off at the moment the quake hit and described the premonition or prompting he had from God to take off early. (If you didn’t get that story simply ask me and I will send it to you.)
I want to focus now on Budy and Loudi. A couple of years ago they wanted to buy a house in Palu to use as a base for their work among a particular people group. They had some money given to use as a deposit for a house and so approached the bank for a loan. Their deposit had already been accepted but the bank inexplicably turned them down. During that time the price on those houses went up and their deposit was no longer enough. They then waited about two years before they could try again. They had a little more by way of deposit but the price of houses had gone up nearly 3 times during that time. It seemed their chance was gone. However, they found another house and approached another bank who accepted their deposit to purchase a cheaper house than those currently available at the time. Budy and Loudi and all of us praying for them were committing their house purchase to God.
One of our concerns on hearing of the earthquake and tsunami in Palu was for not only Budy and Loudi and the children’s lives but also the house they had purchased. Were they now going to be left with a debt on a house that had been destroyed? Loudi has told us of what happened and so I will let her tell the story in her own words. (Well, a translation of her words into English,)
I can’t stop crying every time I tell our story. At the time of the earthquake (which happened at 6.02 pm) it was pitch black and stuff was falling all around us. (Budy was in the village). I tried to get the kids out of the house. But the earthquake jammed the door shut and I couldn’t open it. When the shaking stopped I tried the door again with my little but of strength and was able to open it. When daylight came I checked the kids to see if they had injuries but they didn’t have a scratch on them. I imagined all through the night during the earthquake that Budy would come back to Palu to find the kids and I all dead. We realize that God protected us big time during the EQ especially after we saw the scale of what happened in Palu. Everything is wrecked.
Many people have told us all the houses in the Petobo area were swallowed by mud [because of liquefaction]. That was the area where the first house we wanted to buy and the bank refused our loan was located. We had already paid a deposit but the bank refused the loan and gave us our deposit back. After not being able to get the next place we looked at because of the price [rise] n and our funds were not now enough, in the end those houses ended up being almost 3 times the price of the one we finally bought. We are feel God has had His hand on us and guiding us all through this process to get the house we bought. Ian and Tania, our house is largely undamaged. It just a few small cracks in the walls. The walls of the house next door have fallen but ours stays standing.
I share Loudi’s account of their experience in the earthquake simply to illustrate when we commit our lives to God and seek to honour Him in all we do He takes care of the rest. He works out the details behind the scene for our good. Continue to pray for the Karmoys. Loudi sent me a What’s App message I read before I began writing this Gems asking for prayer. “Please pray for me, this afternoon. My heart feels so sad, like I just want to cry.”
Keep praying for them and all the other survivors of the Palu disaster. The result of world media attention focusing on a particular area is that when the focus moves from Palu on to Miami and Mexico Beach our attention span moves with it. Don’t let that happen. Pray for both situations. Think of those in Palu who have far less help than those in other places. That is why Jesus told us to be His witnesses in Jerusalem AND Judea AND Samaria AND to the outer most parts of the earth. Don’t just focus on one area but allow God to work through you to hold all places in focus. Be a world Christian.
I haven’t forgotten your remaining questions before I move on:
- Who are the “small and great” when it seems all those invited to the hearing were “great”?
- What is the reason for Festus’ outburst?
- Was Paul disrespectful to Festus? After he is the one who will decide in the end not Agrippa.
- Has Paul lost perspective in the midst of his passion and zeal?
- Did Agrippa really believe the prophets? Was this more schmooze?
- Did Agrippa come close to believing?
- Paul’s last statement seems to be very courageous.
- Why didn’t Festus and Agrippa just let Paul go? Everything points to that fact he had done nothing deserving death or IMPRISONMENT! They agreed!
It’s not over till God says it’s over. Circumstances and people don’t have the last word; God does!Bob Gass
If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.Regina Brett
Ignorance might be bliss to you, but it’s agony to everyone around you.Anon
Success is going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.Winston Churchill