Paul's Journey to Rome

Global Mission Series  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  23:44
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If you had to could you give a reasoned explanation of your faith and why you do the things you do?
Could you actually defend your faith, provide reasons for your belief before an audience?
In working through this series which we have called Global Mission we have looked primarily at the missionary journeys of the Aposlte Paul and the attitudes that sustained him in his mission to the ancient world of the Roman Empire.
But what about today, how would we answer the demand to give a reason for our beliefs and actions?
There will be times in your life when you have an audience.
It might be around the lunch table at work.
It might be on the job site.
It might be on a stage.
It could be at a BBQ.
It could be before a court or tribunal.
What answer would you give as to why you believe what you believe and how your beliefs determine your actions?
The Aposlte Paul found himslef in this situation.
In Acts 22:1-23 Paul seeks to explain to the angry mob in Jerusalem why he believes that Jesus is the Messiah the first resurrected fromt he dead and the fulfillment of the prophecies.
But the crowd, fuelled by bigotry against the Gentiles and the mob mentality to attack anyone who doesn’t fit in and chant the right slogans reacts when Paul says that he has been sent to take the Good News to the Gentiles.
Again in Acts 23:6 we hear what is at the heart of the issue.
Paul believes in the resurrection of the dead, something which the Jewish religious council was deeply divided on.
Because that belief was founded ont eh fact of the resurrection of Christ Paul’s beliefs were also a threat to their power.
Then in Acts 24:1-26 Paul gives another defence before Felix the Roman Governor.
And you get the impression that Felix was greatly challenged by what Paul had to say.
So much so that he became frightened of the implications for himself.
Then in Acts 25:1-12 there is a change in Governor and Paul appears before Festus and while we are not given details about Paul’s actual testimony we are given more insight into the goings on behind the scenes.
And because Governor Festus wasn’t sure what to do about the case and has no idea what to write to Rome about the charges the Jewish authorities have brought before him he enlists the aid of the local ruler King Agrippa who comes to pay his respects to the new Roman overlord Governor Festus.
We pick the story up in Acts 26:1-32
This is where we can learn how to give an account of our faith
The very core of Paul’s account is his testimony.
Yes the fact that Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies is helpful to some.
And yes logical arguements as to why faith in Christ is reasonable are helpful to some.
And yes the tesimony of experts in science that belief in a creator God is reasonable and makes the best sense of the evidence is useful to some.
And yes philosophical proofs that there must be a God are helpful to some.
But at the end of the day Paul shows us that individual testimony of how God has worked in your life is the best account that you can give.
For this one simple reason.
People can’t argue with your story, it is your story of how you have encountered God.
It may well cause them to think and to wonder if it is true.
This is where the other things such as the prophecies, the logical arguement, the testimony of experts in various fields of science and the philosophical proofs are all helpful.
But unless it is proven in your own experience then it isn’t proven.
Most people need to see that it actually works, then they may need to be shown why.
Paul starts with his background and the core issue that he believes God can raise people from the dead, in a sense he proves his credentials as “one of them” Acts 26::4-8
Here is a lesson for us, Paul identifies with the Jewish people.
He was a Pharisee, a member of the strictest sect of Israel.
His heritage is “correct”
Furthermore he held to and continues to hold to the idea that God can raise people from the dead.
That is his belief is not outside of the beliefs common to his people.
He identifies with them.
As we should with those we are speaking to.
We may have to earn that trust, it may be granted to us because of a shared history.
If we are working across cultural groups we may need to find a common point of identity, such as a shared humanity or being a person of faith.
But as for Paul so for us, there needs to be a connection.
Paul then talks about how a relationship with Jesus changed him; as it should us Acts 26:9-15
Now Paul’s testimony here is one of dramatic change.
For many of you that isn’t the case.
You grew up in church, you have known Jesus as long as you can remember.
That is OK, we don’t all need to be the gutter to riches representative of the Gospel.
What is important is that you can talk about your relationship and how you have grown in different areas, not just the growth of maturity of life but the growth of maturity of relationship and its application.
In essence can you speak of how Christ has and continues to change you?
Beyond being changed, is there power in your life for a purpose? Acts 26:16-18
When Paul speaks of his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus he speaks of an encounter with power and a purpose.
What purpose has Christ called you to?
It may be dramatic, it probalby isn’t but whatever the purpose is it comes with his enabling power to do the work he has called you to.
That was Paul’s experience and I believe it should be the experience of every Christian.
The Lord gifts each of us and calls each of us to his service.
He always enables us to fulfill that calling.
Paul was an obedient man; as we should be to our calling Acts 26:19-20
Paul is very clear in his response to King Aggrippa.
He is in essence saying, God clearly told me to do this, who am I and by implication who are you King Agrippa and Governor Festus to oppose God.
What else can I do but be obedience to the Lord of the universe.
It is a big ask for many believers to be obedient, because for them as for Paul it may mean death.
I haven’t been asked to die for my faith, have you?
We might be one day, but for now it all seems pretty safe.
Throughout history that has often not been the case.
The first Baptists were locked up in the mid 1600s in the Tower of London and were never heard of again.
Paul was sent as the Apostle tot he Gentiles so in verse 20 we see that he gives a brief account, he is saying in obedience to the call of Christ upon my life this is what I have done.
What have you done in obedience to God’s call upon your life?
Each believer needs to be able to say, God has called me to be a ......... and in response I have faithfully served in this area doing these things.
Your calling might be to be a nurse, or a farmer, or a tradesperson, an academic of a professional or a labourer, it is your calling to serve in the community sharing Christ in your vocation and in your social life and within the body of Christ.
We each have a part to play in every aspect of our lives, not just in the church but in our family, our jobs our networks.
Paul was protected by God; we too need to testify to his protection over our lives to do his will Acts 26:22-23
Paul saw that God’s protection wasn’t for his own ends, it was so that he could fulfill God’s desires.
For Paul that was nothing other than preaching Christ

I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen—23 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

To often our desire to be protected by God is for us, not for him.
There is a lesson for us here, who are we living for?
Do we live for our own ends or are we living lives that are utterly dedicated to Christ.
Here is the challenge which I find most confronting.
When I am most frustrated, when I am most discouraged or angry or feeling betrayed by God it is because my desire is for my own ends.
That I would be recognised, that I would be praised, that my life would be as easy as some other Pastor’s appears.
That I would be able to take that trip to Israel and Europe like they can.
That God would protect and prosper me so that I can have what I think I should because of the effort I put in.
But for the Apostle Paul we rarely see those frustrations.
He was frustrated about the thorn in the flesh he endured, which was probably a health issue such as declining eyesight.
He was frustrated that people begrudgingly provided funding for him on one occassion especially as he worked to support himself and they freely gave to others.
He was frustrated on another occassion that other Apostles could take along a believing wife but he was criticised for being single.
He was hurt on occassion when others opposed him and sought to overthrow his authority in the church for their own ends.
Every one of these cases was justified and in every case it was the impact on the ministry of the Gospel that concerned him, not fame, fortune or loss.
Paul was polite and concerned for the salvation of all, even the rulers Acts 26:24-32
Notice that even when Governor Festus interrupted him and said he was insane that Paul addressed the Governor respectfully.
His desire was to win this man to the Lord not allienate him.
Again with King Agrippa, Paul appeals to him respectfully, demonstrating that his highest concern is for the King’s eternal state in verses 27 and 29.
Occassionally we see Paul denounce those who openly and agressively oppose the Gospel.
But he always starts from a position of respect, appealing to those who oppose him to see the truth of what he is preaching.
It makes you wonder doesn’t it, are there those who we don’t want to see saved.
Are there those to whom we would be disappointed or even offended if God extended his grace to them.
It doesn’t appear this way with Paul.
Paul’s testimony before these rulers gives us a model that we can use. Identify with those we are speaking to, Relationship with Jesus has changed us, We now have a purpose and God’s enabling to achieve that purpose, We are being obedient to our calling, God has protected us for his purposes, Be polite and genuinely concerned for the salvation of all
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