I WAS NOT DISOBEDIENT TO THE VISION FROM HEAVEN†
Key Verse 26:19
†††††††† ďSo then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.Ē
†††††††† Todayís message is Paulís testimonial witness to King Agrippa.† Paul had already made his defense before Governor Felix and Festus. Both concluded that he was innocent and that there was nothing he had done that was wrong. Paul also had already appealed to Caesar and was ready to go to Rome, the highest court in the world, much like the Supreme Court Of the United States is. So Paul did not need to defend himself because he was going to go to Rome. But Paul did so in order to be Jesusí witness to kingís and governors. In being a witness to King Agrippa, he wanted to show that the gospel of Jesus is not some sort of cult group, as some thought it was, but that it was the great and wonderful act of Godís love coming down from heaven in Jesus Christ. Paulís life testimony shows the liveliness and power of the gospel to change any kind of sinner and make them into a servant of God.
Paulís witness to King Agrippa was out of his shepherd heart for the king. Paul was a prisoner in chains for the gospel as he stood before King Agrippa but Paul was not afraid of him, because he was obeying the vision to him from heaven that the Lord Jesus had given him. When Paul obeyed the vision that the Lord Jesus gave him from heaven, then God could use this one man to be his witness to governors and kings and to the capital of the Gentile world, that is Rome.
†††††††† Through Paulís testimony and witness, we can learn that God can use anyone of us here today to do great things for God when we obey his vision from heaven.
Part 1. Because of the hope in what God has promised our fathers. (1-8)
Letís read verses 1-2, ďThen Agrippa said to Paul, ĎYou have permission to speak for yourself.í So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense: ĎKing Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews.íĒ Just who exactly was this King Agrippa that Paul was witnessing to? This Agrippa was Herod Agrippa II, son of Herod Agrippa I who 16 years before had killed the apostle James (12:2). He was also the grandson of Herod Antipas who had killed John the Baptist and mocked Christ. He was also the great grandson of Herod the Great who had murdered the children of Bethlehem. What a family background he had! The were famous for their cruelty and murder! Now this King Agrippa is also the king over the province on the northeast border of Palestine.
†King Agrippa was well aware of all the Jewish customs and controversies surrounding this case and about the Christian movement through the apostles.† Paul knowing this about the king decided to give his life testimony in order to show him that God was alive and working . In these next few verses we see the early life of Paul before he met Christ and the hope that he and his people had. Look at verses 4-5, ďThe Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee.Ē
Paul began his Pharisee training from a young age, probably from about the time† after his 13th birthday. From that time on he studied hard and memorized big chunks of the Bible, such as the first five books of the Bible. He also memorized all the 613 laws found in the torah. He also fasted and followed strict dietary laws such as no candy and no gum. He also prayed and learned to walk and talk like a Pharisee. ďThe Gentiles are dirty dogs! They are unclean people! We Jews are better than anyone!Ē† Through his training, he became a proud, critical and self-righteous young man. His strictness to the law and devotion in keeping it before the eyes of men became well known around Jerusalem. According to Philippians 3:5 he was an expert in the law and was faultless in keeping it. In other words, Paul tried his hardest to keep the law more than anyone else of his time, but still he needed Jesus, because the law does not save us but only condemns us and shows us the need for Christ.†
Like all the other Pharisees, Paul believed in the resurrection. The Pharisees, however, because they stressed following the law and keeping the law and focused so much on the law, lost the point of the law and the real hope that they should have. In other words, they knew about the resurrection and the coming of the Messiah in their heads, but were so stuck in their desire to keep the law and be strict about it, especially towards other people, that they became spiritually blind and out of their spiritual blindness rejected Christ their Messiah. But Paul, now, speaking in times after his conversion, shows what his real hope was and what a Christianís real hope is. Letís read verse 6, ďAnd now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today.Ē
Paulís hope was in the hope of the resurrection. It was his hope in Jesus who established the kingdom of God through his resurrection from the dead. Letís read verses 7-8, ďThis is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me. Why should any one of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?Ē
Paul had mentioned this hope many times. This hope was the foundation of his life of faith and the reason why he could endure many sufferings and many hardships and still have joy and the peace of God. This is why he could stand on trial as a prisoner in chains even though he had not done anything wrong and patiently witness to the king instead of crying out that he was falsely accused. In all his epistles or letters that he wrote to the churches that he had pioneered, he always mentions the eternal and heavenly hope that God has given to believers. He mentions Christians as heirs of the promise of God and co-heirs with Christ in the kingdom of heaven. With this resurrection hope Paul was able to encourage his fellow Christians in their times of sufferings and hardships.
He wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Can someone please read this with a loud voice. As a Christian we have a sure hope. We have this living hope. Paulís hope before he met the risen Christ was to be recognized as an outstanding Pharisee and as a successful Pharisee. But when he tried to perfect and to live by the law, he became an angry man who hurt others and himself. His hope in the world to live a perfect life only gave him many headaches. This year many people have hope that the Redskins will make it to the playoffs because Joe Gibbs is back coaching. But this is a dead hope because there is no guarantee. Some people study hard and reach great goals and achieve many awards and recognition, but when they reach the top, they despair and still feel empty. Ernest Hemmingway, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century wrote many adventurous books and was recognized as a man of influence on American culture. He even won the Nobel Prize for literature. But after he achieved it all, he committed suicide.†
There also have been many true stories of young men and young women who put their hope in each other and loved each other, and then the other one cheated on them or left them, they despaired or committed suicide. The Apostle Peter had put hope that Jesus would restore the kingdom of God to Israel. He and James and John were very competitive with each other in order to get Jesusí recognition in hope that one of them would secure an important position next to Jesus in his earthly kingdom. But when their hopes were in a worldly Jesus and not in the risen Jesus, they acted in emotion and in fear when Jesus was arrested and led to trial. Peter denied Jesus three times and then wept and cried. But when he met the risen Jesus, he understood that Jesus had not come to restore the kingdom of Israel on earth but to give all who will believe a living hope in the kingdom of God and an inheritance in the kingdom of God,† that can never perish, spoil and fade.
Nothing in this life is sure except death and taxes, so why put hope in a perishing world? When we do the work of God and try to live as Godís holy people, we will be tempted to put hope in material things and physical pleasures. Later we find we felt empty when we tried to enjoy them as our real hope. When we serve God, we seem to have no reward at the time. But if we persevere and like Paul have Godís hope in our hearts, we can endure with great joy because of our reward in heaven will be so great.
Part 2. To open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light. (9-32)
††††††††††† †Look at verses 9-11, ďI too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.Ē Paul now gets into the meat of his life testimony to remind King Agrippa of what kind of a person he was before he met the risen Christ.†† Paul had great zeal for God before he was converted by Jesus. His zeal however was misguided zeal. He put all his energy into opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. He became a full time persecutor instead of being a full time shepherd of Godís people. Whatever he thought was possible, he did in order to cause as much havoc to the new movement of Christianity. As he thought he was serving God, he became obsessed in persecuting Christians. He even went as a missionary to foreign cities to persecute Christians and have them put in prison.† Paul in his obsession forced other Christians to blaspheme the name of Jesus. This means he pushed them to deny that Jesus is Lord. He was like mean prison guard who abused his prisoners. He condemned others to death such as Stephen and approved of his stoning.
††††††††††† Look at verses 12-14, ďOn one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.íĒ† Paulís dramatic change happened on the way to Damascus as he was going to persecute more Christians and put more of them in jail. Even though it was noon, the brightest time of the day, a light brighter than the sun came to shine on Paul. The light was blazing so bright that it actually blinded Paul for three days. It was Jesus. Jesus is the light from heaven. According to John 1:9 Jesus is the true light that gives light to every man.† For Paul, now was the moment of truth for him to know who Jesus was. Now was the time for God to rescue Paul out of his dark life and lead him to the truth that he needed to know.† Jesus in his power could have judged and condemned Paul to death. But Jesus came to him to change his life and use him as a witness.
††††††††††† Jesusí message to Paul was, ďSaul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.Ē By hurting Christians and forcing them to blaspheme the name of Jesus, Paul had been directly opposing Jesus. The goads are sharp instruments that are used to get an animal such as an ox to keep on going and doing its work. As long as the animal does its work it will keep on going, and his owner will reward him. But when it resists, then he will feel the sharp pain of the goad. Paul had been opposing Jesus and resisting Jesus and hurting himself in the process. It was painful for him to do it, but in his ignorance and sin he was destroying himself and others. Paul might have looked strong and in control, but inside his heart he had no peace. This is because God did not make us to hurt others but to love others and care for others. When we kick against the goads, that is, when we oppose Godís will for us and his direction for us, we actually hurt ourselves. It is much more painful to resist the will of God than to do the will of God.
In verse 15, Jesus identified himself to Paul. Then in his great love for Paul, the risen Jesus gave him a mission. Look at verses 16-18,ĒNow get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.Ē
††††††††††† This mission that Jesus gave Paul shows how deep in sin people are without Jesus. People are in darkness living under the power of death. They are slaves of fear and anxiety. Many work hard just to survive to eat three meals a day. They feel condemned and dirty inside because of their sinful lives. Their eyes are closed due to their hard circumstances and darkened eyes due to sin. Many college students study hard, but canít find life meaning in their studying. They are in darkness because they do not know what their life purpose really is.† But with the gospel message through Godís people they can believe and see the kingdom of God. Through our fishing and 1:1 Bible study students can see the kingdom of God and have hope in the kingdom of God. They can come into the light of Jesus and enjoy his life of forgiveness and grace. When Ashley Fox first started studying the Bible she was confused and didnít know what the Bible meant. But as she studied, God began to open her eyes and turn her from the darkness to the light. Now she is learning that she is to live for Godís glory and is committing herself to doing Godís work.
Paulís message was also to turn people from the power of Satan to God. The message of the gospel is the only way to set people from free from the evil one. It has power to free people from demon possession and to make them holy and righteous.
††††††††††† Look at verse 19, ďSo then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.Ē Here Paul tells that he was not disobedient to Godís voice through the risen Jesus. This vision from heaven was from God and it was the beginning of a great work of God when Paul accepted it. Paul mentioned this to King Agrippa in order to help him to recognize his disobedience to God after hearing the voice of Jesus through Godís people and Paul himself. It was as if Paul was saying to Agrippa, ďI heard God speaking to me and I decided to listen and follow because I know it is true. Now what about you?Ē Paul had a shepherd heart for the king. He wanted him to obey God and not live as Godís enemy by being undecided.
We also can have a vision from heaven. How? It is not through dreams or our imagination. It comes through prayerfully reading the Bible and accepting what it says. When we go to a quiet place everyday to pray and to meditate on the word of God, then we can see Godís vision for us coming down from heaven. Sometimes this takes time. It is not one day or two days, like a hit and miss deal. It is everyday, going to the word of God and seeking God in prayer and inquiring of God. This vision is Godís calling to us. It is his mission for us. It is the start of the blessed life that God gives us. This is because God can really bless us when we obey his vision for us.
††††††††††† In the daily bread we learned that if we hear his voice that we should not harden our hearts (Heb.3:7,15) Today is the day God speaks to us through his voice in the Bible. He is waiting to pour out his blessing on us. This blessing is really to be a source of salvation to many people and make an eternal difference in their lives.
††††††††††† God used the prophet Jonah to preach to Ninevah. At first, he did not want to go. He left Godís calling and went far away in order to try and escape from God. But God sent a great whale and the whale swallowed him up. Inside the whale, Jonah repented. God then gave him another opportunity to go to Ninevah. This time, Jonah responded by obeying. He went and preached the message of repentance and everyone in Ninevah fasted, even the animals. All the people fasted and prayed and repented and God spared the city of 120,000 Gentiles instead of destroying them. Jonahís obedience to Godís vision saved 120,000 people. Do you think Jonahís obedience was a small matter since it saved 120,000 people? It was great in Godís eyes. Paulís obedience to Godís vision also saved thousands of lives when he began to preach to the Gentiles. Eventually Paul went to Rome and planted the seed of faith in Rome by preaching to the prison guards who were guarding him.
Our obedience to God might look like a small thing in the eyes of people and in the world. But how great it is to God and how great it is because he uses us when we obey him. Our vision as a ministry is to raise up Bible teachers and missionaries. It is not a glamorous work nor is it something that you might put on your resume. But we are sowing seeds of life and light into the darkness of the world and expanding Godís kingdom. And if we can effect even one person and lead them to salvation, then there is great rejoicing in heaven (Lk.15:7)
†Look at verses 20-21, ďFirst, to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.Ē Paul explained to Agrippa about repentance as the message that he preached. This was the message that Jesus preached.† Jesus said in Mark 1:15,† ďThe time has come the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!Ē
††††††††††† Repentance is to change our ways to Godís ways and do Godís work as a fruit of our belief. Repentance brings rest and salvation to our soul and times of refreshing. Repentance is an action word. Paul said it is to do good deeds. The good deeds we can do to show our repentance is to love others and bring them the gospel message. Being a bible teacher is a way we show that we have repented from living a self-centered, me-centered life and are living for the glory of God.
This past week was my first week in being a teacher. It was exhilarating as well as being exhausting. On some days I came home and ate a lot because I became so hungry.† I told myself I should get used to my new schedule and wait a while to go fishing. But when I prayed on Thursday morning to go fishing, God gave me strength to turn my desire that evening from staying home and to go fishing. Even though I was so tired I was able to stay up late and talk a long time with one student who said no one ever talked to him like I did about the Bible. He was almost ready to study the Bible, but then he chose not to.
††††††††††† Paul continued to witness to King Agrippa testifying to the fact that his messages have come from the Scriptures. Look at verses 22-23. He spoke what the prophets and Moses said would happen, about the Christ, that he would suffer and as the first to rise from the dead would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.† Festus at this time thought Paul was insane because of his words. Paul was simply preaching the gospel to him and Festusí conscience was being disturbed. In verse 24 he interrupted Paulís defense and shouted, ďYou are out of your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane.Ē
Letís read verses 25-28. Paul responded to the king in verse 29 by saying, ďShort time or long---I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.Ē Paul really had a shepherd heart for the king and for all people. He wanted all of them to be what he was. That is, he wanted them all to know the grace of Jesus and have the hope of the resurrection. This is what Paul prayed to God about night and day. Paul was patient, be it short time or long time he prayed for the salvation of the world. Though he was a prisoner in chains for the gospel, Paul was not ashamed. Instead he had confidence in the power of the gospel to change anyone. Short time or long time, the gospel can change anyoneís life when we have confidence alone in the power of the gospel.
††††††††††† In conclusion, God used Paul to bring the gospel to Rome because he had obeyed Godís vision through the risen Christ. Have you obeyed Godís vision through his word and through prayer? May God help you to have the hope of the risen Jesus and see his vision and his personal calling through personal Bible study and prayer.