Journal Acts 25 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation and notes are mine)
Scripture: Now when some days had passed (after 2 years passed when last interrogated by Felix; c. Acts 24:27), Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted Festus (the new governor).
And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man left prisoner by Felix, and when I was a Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him asking for a sentence of condemnation against (Paul).
I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him.
So, when they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man (Paul) to be brought.
When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed, rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead but whom Paul asserted to be alive.
Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked (Paul) whether he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding (these accusations and questions).
But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.” (Acts 25:13-21)
Observation: A clear and concise report from a manager to his boss.
How would I have reported, and could I have given a clear and concise defense of the Faith as Paul did?
Application: I remember Paul being hauled in front of Felix and his wife, Drusilla. Luke reports that presumably they had an accurate knowledge of the Way. (Acts 24:22-25)
So, perhaps to have an intellectual and philosophical discussion, Felix started talking and asking questions, maybe to get an “I gotcha” moment out of Paul.
Paul spoke about faith in Christ Jesus and reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment. The result? Felix was alarmed and sent Paul away for 2 years until his term as governor was up. (c. Acts 24:24b-25) [Personal note: I can speak a little bit about the Faith, but can I reason about various doctrines in relation to the Gospel?]
So, Felix kicked the can down the road.
Festus shows up and reviews all his predecessor had done, what was left over and finds the file on Paul. “What’s up with this guy and why is he in my prison”?
Let me review the hand:
- Saul is a Pharisee and is totally bought into defending the traditions of the Pharisee, to the point of persecution and murder of the followers of the Way as being heretical to the Jewish tradition.
- Saul is sovereignly chosen by Jesus to carry His name to the Gentiles.
- Saul didn’t know this, but Ananias (a prophet in Damascus) was told (because he complained to Jesus): “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”
- Suffering and affliction was part of the “calling” and selection. Saul will be shown “…how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (Acts 9:15-16)
- Paul was reminded by Jesus, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the FACTS (a significant word that I should firmly remember) about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome).
By this time, Paul has been in custody by the ruling authorities for at least 3-4 years if not longer. From Felix to Festus there were 2 years confirmed by Luke.
Here is my question to the face in the mirror: Would I have been found content and thrivingin the Faith being in captivity, able to answer complex questions about the Faith and be persuasive, or would I have been found just holding on to the bare minimum of being a disciple?
What am I doing now? Some days it feels like the bare minimum. How can I change that?
If these are not the questions I ask the face in the mirror every day, then how do I grow in the Faith? Answer, I can’t.
Prayer: Father, I write to ask myself hard questions. I also write to present hard questions for any readers. Is this my contribution to the ministry of the local church and for disciples anywhere?
Help me grow in clarity of sound doctrine and of persuasiveness, without being contentious.
Ricky Two Shoes