The Gospel in Court

Mission: Far  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  29:18
0 ratings

Thegospel is opposed byboth Wolves and Wolvs masquerading as sheep.

Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →
Some of you may have noticed that I placed flags on the front of the parsonage this Fall. One of the flags is much smaller than the others, so any passerby can readily see that my football loyalties are less than my citizenship.
But Citizenship can become tricky when it involves 2 different cities. A couple of weeks ago I introduced us to the Augustinian work The City of God, where one of the earliest Christian leaders evaluates the interaction between our earthly allegiance and our heavenly citizenship. The tensions this duality creates are significant.
Does one have to be a model citizen of whatever country he or she lives in order to be a good Christian? Can one be a good Christian without being a good citizen? German theologian Deitrich Bonhoffer was imprisoned and hanged for his refusal to submit to the third Reich.
Many believers are distracted by over emphasizing what their country was, is, or should be. Yes, EVERY Christ follower in EVERY country should heed Isa 1:17 & Micah 6:8
Isaiah 1:17 ESV:2016
17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
Micah 6:8 ESV:2016
8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
EVERY Christ follower in EVERY country should pray and pursue what Jesus modeled in prayer…
Matthew 6:10 ESV:2016
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
But notice the order. God’s rule and authority comes first, then it is followed by His will being done. We cannot assert His will until people surrender to the authority of King Jesus. And we cannot confuse economic ideology with godliness or righteousness.
Yes, the opposing parties admit that inflation is harmful to the flourishing of humanity, and both parties have very different ideas of how to mediate inflation, crime and injustice, but my advice for all of us is that the dollar should NOT be our primary issue when going to the polls. As Christian people, our priority must be to identify the candidates who most closely align with God’s sense of justice and God’s will for humanity as we understand it, and to vote with those priorities front and center.
As a Christian pastor I am not directing you to vote red, blue or green. I’m imploring that you vote black – according to the black ink of your Bible.
I intentionally place 2 flagpoles on either side of the garage doors rather than one pole with 2 flags. If you only had 1 pole, which flag would you put on top?
By now some of you are wishing I would move on from politics and others hope I am just warming up. The only reason I bring this up today is because Paul’s citizenship and his loyalty to Christ are paramount to understanding the conflict in these 6 chapters of Acts.
Tomorrow is a holiday that is unrecognized by most Americans. 505 years ago a priest in Germany declared that those who claim to speak for Christianity had gotten some things wrong. He pointed out 95 points of discussion that he wanted religious leaders to consider. Because Dr. Luther realized that power can distort the way one lives out faith, it was time to reform.
Transition: My desire this morning is NOT to motivate you to choose between Judaism, Christianity or Roman citizenship. My intent is that you would realize that true and genuine faith has many enemies. When true faith is examined by others, it is often misunderstood, misrepresented, and maligned.

THE GOSPEL IS TRIED IN THE COURT OF Public Opinion (21:1-22:21)

Paul tried to do something the Apostles thought would quiet unrest. (Acts 21:24 & 26) but it backfired.
Asian Judaizers stirred up the crows (Acts 21:27)
Most conflict in the Court of Public Opinion is due to misunderstanding.
Paul is taken into protective custody to keep the Asian Jews from killing him (21:34)
Paul leverages his education by speaking Greek to the Tribune of the Cohort (21:37), and Hebrew to the mob (22:2).
He begins to tell his story in 22:3 which he retells at each level of the court. Since his story remains unchanged each time he tells it, so I’ll address the chapter 26 version read a few minutes ago.
The Court of Public Opinion is rarely as just as it claims. They often have pre-drawn conclusions that they are unwilling to challenge. They judge us as being judgmental. Opponents of Christianity frequently accuse Christ followers of being “judgy” because of prior (often 2ndhand) accounts of divisive words. When asking, “Can you give me an example of a time that I…?” The response comes back “people like you always/never…” They hypocritically judge all “Christians” as being the same, while denying that Christians have a right (or obligation) to be discerning. Stereotypes are rarely true! Some have the impression that Latinos are lazy; that African Americans are uneducated; or that Middle Easterners have poor hygiene. However, when you take a risk and befriend a person from another part of the world, we quickly learn the stereotypes are often wrong.
The mob is unresponsive to Paul’s testimony because they had already concluded He was trouble.
The court of public opinion had already made up their minds, so they didn’t want to hear the facts.
Transition: To spare Paul from street justice, he is arrested and then…

THE GOSPEL IS TRIED IN THE Municipal COURT (22:22-23:22)

[Tribune & Council] (22:25ff.)

1. Before the local soldiers can “punish first and ask questions later” (examined by flogging), Paul asserts his rights as a Roman citizen.
Side Note: There are times when political rights can be leveraged for God’s purposes. As an American citizen, there are certain rights that I can assert here that I could not presume in other places around the world. The right to peaceful assembly and Congress having no power to enact laws that prohibits the free exercise of my faith, are just 2 rights of citizenship that are not enjoyed in many places around the world. Open Doors is our Mission Partner for this month so that we will remember to pray for brothers and sisters who do not enjoy our religious freedoms.
2. Paul retells his story in 23:1-10) and again the street justice threatens to harm Paul.
3. The Magistrate learns of a plot to execute street justice, so he transfers him out of the local jail to the jurisdiction of the regional Governor.
4. Paul is only in the streets for hours. He is in the Roman barracks for a couple days.
5. The municipal court finds very similar to the trial of Jesus.
Acts 23:29 ESV:2016
29 I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment.
2 Centurions, 200 foot soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen seems a little excessive for a mid-night transfer of 1 prisoner, but Claudius Lysias, is concerned with safe transport, not fiscal responsibility (23:26).
Transition: The wheels of justice are about to screech to a snail’s pace. He spends the next couple of years under the Governor’s authority.

THE GOSPEL IS TRIED IN THE District COURT (23:23-25:12)

[Felix, then Festus]

Acts 24:27 ESV:2016
27 When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.
Festus is never mentioned before 24:27 (the last time Felix is mentioned).
While justice seems to be bogged down, it is here that much of our New Testament letters are written.
The Council’s case is less than weak (24:13), but since we’re all gathered, let me tell you about the Resurrection (24:21) and belief in Jesus (24:24).

Felix tries to leverage the conflict for monetary gain. (24:26)

Festus tries to leverage the opportunity for career advancement. (25:14)

Festus is trying to curry favor by delivering a “win” to Agrippa and he boils down the conflict in 25:19.
Acts 25:19 ESV:2016
19 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.
In 25:25-26 Festus shows his hand. He start by tooting his own horn without any mention of Felix or the local magistrate, then he brings Paul so that the King can examine him, then Festus used we to piggy back and get his own name before the Emperor.
Transition: Mobs are going to mob, Politicians are going to politic, Faithful Christians will continue to proclaim Christ.

THE GOSPEL IS TRIED IN THE COURT of Appeals (25:13-26:32)

[Agrippa & Bernice]

Agrippa II became a “king” at 16 when his father, Agrippa I died. The Bernice mentioned in 25:13 is his sister, not his wife.

Paul’s Testimony

I was born and raised Jewish, so I really don’t know why the Jews are so upset with me (26:4-8)
I USED to be a troublemaker in the name of Judaism (26:9-12)
The resurrected Jesus appeared to me (26:13-16)
My message since that vision has been to unite both Jews and Gentiles within the region that you rule (26:17-23)
King, you’ve heard this before and now is time to make a decision (26:24-29)
Agrippa refuses to repent and believe, but finds Paul innocent of the Council’s charges (26:30-32)
Acts 26:32 ESV:2016
32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
7. Next week we will see that Paul is kept under Roman protection as he goes to Rome and continues to write Scripture and train leaders.


Paul’s message to the mob was about Jesus of Nazareth (22:8)
Paul’s message to the magistrate and Council hinged on the Resurrection (23:6)
Paul’s message to Felix hinged on the resurrection (24:21)
Festus admitted the conflict was about Jesus being raised (25:19)
Paul’s appeal to Agrippa was short and clear—repent and turn to God (26:20), because Jesus did rise from the dead (26:23).
While we will be misunderstood and maligned, our message must never waver: Jesus died for sins and was raised on the 3rd day, so we too may have the hope of resurrection.
Regardless of who is in the Governor’s mansion or who holds majority in the Senate and House, our message must never waver: Jesus died for sins and was raised on the 3rd day, so we too may have the hope of resurrection.
It is this loving act of our Savior that we celebrate at His Table in the manner that He instructed.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more