Daily Reading: Today’s bible reading is Acts 26.
We’re in the home stretch of the book of Acts. Next week we’ll finish up and start Romans! The end of Acts is primarily the powerful story of Paul and his defense before the Jews in the Roman court system. In Acts 26, Paul gives his famous defense before King Agrippa. The crazy thing about Paul’s defense is…well, it isn’t very defensive. In fact, Paul goes on the offense with the good news of the Gospel by sharing his testimony. I want to look at four parts of Paul’s testimony and appeal to King Agrippa and think through what we can learn from his example.
Paul starts by telling who he was before he came to Christ in verses 4-11. For Paul, this was the story of being a faithful, law abiding Jew. In fact, he was so faithful, he persecuted the Christians. Your testimony has a past too doesn’t it? Maybe you were into all kinds of crazy criminal activity and sin. Maybe you were like Paul, a do-gooder who hadn’t met Jesus yet. What is your past? What was life before you came to Christ? Or, on a more micro level, what’s the “before” in your story before the gospel changed something in your life. Maybe you’ve trusted Christ for years but more recently God’s done something in your heart to show you a needed change. We all have a past. It’s an important part of our ability to relate our testimony to people who haven’t met Jesus yet.
In verses 12-18, Paul tells how Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. I’m going to go ahead and throw it out there that most folks reading this probably didn’t meet Jesus personally while traveling to imprison Christians. (Please comment if I’m wrong.) But if you are in Christ, you do have a story of encountering Jesus. Maybe it’s a sermon that shook loose your self dependence and you knew you needed Christ. Maybe a friend talked to you about their testimony and it resonated with you that you needed what they had. Maybe you started hanging out with a Christian community just because you found some nice people and then realized slowly over time that you wanted to be all-in as a Christian. Whatever your story is, just like Paul, Jesus stepped into your life and saved you. Then over and over we have stories as Christians where Jesus shows us something new, calls us to something bigger, convicts of something from our past. These encounters are part of our testimony.
In verses 19-23, Paul tells how his life has changed since he met Jesus. He started preaching the gospel. How has the gospel transformed your life? What’s different about you because you’ve met Jesus? We have the great opportunity as Christians to share how our life has been put on mission though Jesus. I read a book for seminary last year that told preachers to always imagine someone in the back of the room looking you in the eye saying, “So what?” This is your “so what.” The gospel’s work in our lives is not irrelevant. It’s life altering.
Paul doesn’t just tell how the gospel impacted his life, he invites his audience to know Christ too. Acts 26:27-29 says tells the story”
“[Paul said,] King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” (ESV)
Paul is literally in the fight for his life, yet he’s not defending himself. He’s trying to share the gospel with everyone in the courtroom! Of course we know something about Paul’s thinking on his imprisonment and sufferings. In Philippians (one of the letters he wrote from prison), Paul says, “it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”
We have the life giving knowledge of the gospel! Let’s be bold in sharing it and inviting others to it! And let’s share it, not as some foreign thing we heard someone say onetime, but as our story. The story of our past, our encounter with Christ, and the transforming work he has done in our lives.
Grace & Peace.