Acts 26:22-23 Proclaim Light

“To this day I have had help from God, and so I stand here, testifying to both small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place: that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
(Acts 26:22-23)

When I read chapter 26 of Acts I am immediately struck by the eloquence of Paul’s presentation. I don’t know how he was feeling on the inside, but his delivery is filled with calm passion. Calm passion? Yes, I believe passion does not always have to be loud and flashy. We might expect Paul to be arguing for his life, but he had already appealed to Caesar for judgment; so what was he really doing? He was evangelizing. He was confidently and passionately sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He did not downplay his relationship to Jesus; he said it like it was — simple and direct. King Agrippa’s response to Paul’s testimony reveals the power of the Gospel message. “Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.” (Acts 26:28) And Paul’s response to the King “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.” (Acts 26:29) I believe the power of Paul to convince others of the truth came from his complete living in Christ. He was completely converted. For too many years of my life, I was a partially converted Christian. I believed in God, but my life style, my mind, and many of my behaviors were no different than those who did not believe in God. Therefore, how could I evangelize. I lacked the basic ingredient — I wasn’t living in Christ and my lack of testimony proved it.

I pray that some day I will live in Christ in the way that Paul Did. I pray that I can simplify my life so that possessions and worry about the future will not distract me from the most important relationship I will ever have — as brother, friend, and bondservant to Christ Jesus. Lord Jesus, develop in me the gift of evangelism according to the needs of our Father in Heaven. Amen.

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Bearing witness to kings and governors

To this day I have had help from God, and so I stand here, testifying to both small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place: that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:22-23)

The book of Acts tells the story of how the apostle Paul has spent two years in prison in Caesarea after having ignited a violent conflict that threatened his life. He had been sent to the governor, Felix, who listened to Paul and his accusers (including the high priest). Felix was somewhat sympathetic to Paul’s message, although Felix was the one who kept Paul in prison, with some freedoms allowed him.

Felix was eventually succeeded by Porcius Festus. Almost immediately on Festus’s arrival, Paul’s accusers requested that Paul be sent back to Jerusalem for trial, with the hope of killing him on the way. Paul, as a Roman citizen, instead insisted on his right to a trial in Rome, “appealing to Caesar.” Festus replied, with the logic of Roman law: “You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you must go.” Paul’s travels back to Rome provide the backdrop for the rest of the book of Acts.

But before Paul starts on his journey, the local Jewish client king, Agrippa, and his sister Bernice, arrived in Caesarea. Festus told Agrippa about Paul’s case, and Paul is brought before them. Paul gives his life story, describing his rearing as a strict Pharisee and how this led him to persecute the followers of Jesus. Paul recounts how the resurrected Jesus appeared to him, and appointed him to witness to him to Jews and Gentiles alike (Agrippa was a little of both–a Jewish client of a Gentile empire). The verses for today are the climax of Paul’s defense before Agrippa. It is Paul’s elevator speech: the scriptures predicted that Messiah would come, suffer, and be the first to be raised from the dead, thereby “proclaiming light” to Jews and Gentiles alike.

The author of Acts, Luke, reports (in Luke 21:12-13) that Jesus had said of his disciples:

But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.

Paul’s appearances before Felix, Festus and Agrippa are the canonical example of this. May we all bear such composure, and such sure witness, when we are called upon to suffer or defend the reason for our allegiance to Jesus.