Paul preaches his farewell message to the people of Troas. Like most evangelical sermons today, it had three main points: the past – Paul’s faithfulness to the Lord and to the Ephesian church (Acts 20:18-21), the present – personal feelings in view of the past and the future (Acts 22:27), and the future – dangers that awaited the church (Acts 20:28-35).
We are a part of that future church, and we need to pay attention to Paul’s warnings.
· False teachers/wolves all around us (Acts 20:29, Matthew 7:15-23, Luke 10:3, 2 Peter 2:1-3)
· Personal ambitions of the people among us (Acts 20:30, 3 John 9-11, 1 John 2:18-19)
· Our personal sins
o Failure to stay alert/forgetting the price others have paid to preserve God’s truth for us (Acts 20:31, Hebrews 13:7)
o Shallowness, lack of prayer and studying the Word of God (Acts 20:32, 1 Samuel 12:23, John 15:7, Acts 6:4)
o Covetousness/idolatry (Acts 20:33, Ephesians 5:5, Colossians 3:5, 1 Timothy 3:3)
o Laziness/unwilling to work for their wages and food (Acts 20:34, Luke 10:7, 1 Timothy 5:18, Proverbs 24:30-34)
o Selfishness (Acts 20:35)
Paul punctuated this sermon by leading the people in prayer. They said a tearful goodbye, and Paul continued toward Jerusalem. How like Jesus he was! Paul knew that this trip might lead to imprisonment, beatings, and even death… yet he pressed on, confident that he was in the will of God.
Paul’s journey took him through Tyre and Caesarea and finally (despite many warnings from his friends) into Jerusalem. He took flack from the legalists in his own church, and then he dealt with the unconverted Jews in the temple. Because Paul was known to be with Gentiles, some people assumed that Paul brought his friends into the temple and past the point they were allowed to go. No one asked Paul – they just jumped to conclusions (and of course neither you nor I have ever done that J ). The crowd was in an uproar, and Paul would have been killed but for the intervention of the Roman guards. When the guards asked the people what the problem was, there was no clear answer. As always, Paul found a way to get his testimony to the people, even as he was in Roman custody.
Paul’s custody was more like a house arrest. His friends could visit and attend to his personal needs. In Acts 5 we saw the people praying fervently for Paul. Here, there is no record that the church took his plight to the Throne.
Paul endured torture, slapping, ridicule, attempted homicide and scorn. He pointed out that the entire problem was his faith in Christ’s resurrection (Acts 24:21; 26:6-8; 28:20). This doctrine was divisive to the two ruling groups – Pharisees and Sadducees. By pointing that out, Paul divided the council and once again had to be rescued.
The Sanhedrin had three opportunities to believe in the Gospel: Jesus Himself stood there to testify; the apostles were there, and now Paul stood as witness. Their hearts were truly hard.
Paul was brought before Felix, the governor. Tertullus, the prosecuting attorney, brought three charges against Paul:
For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him. Acts 24:5-6 (ESV)
Paul was offered an opportunity to defend himself. He reminded Felix that he was in the temple to worship, not lead a disturbance. He had not preached in the temple, the synagogues, or the city. Nothing he said could lead to a charge of rebellion. As to the charge of profaning the temple, he reminded them that he was there to worship and help four people complete their Nazarite vows.
Eventually Paul was brought before the new governor, Porcius Festus. He told the governor that he was innocent of crimes against the temple, the Law, or the Roman government. Paul appealed to Caesar – the right of every Roman citizen.
Paul was brought before King Agrippa (the great-grandson of King Herod who killed all the Bethlehem babies). He was considered to be an expert in Jewish matters, and Paul was probably glad to know that he was going to hear Paul’s charges. Paul used this opportunity to give his testimony. When Paul was finished, he asked the King if he believed in the prophets. The king would have had to face other issues if he had publicly said “yes”, so he decided to accuse Paul of being mad.
Both Festus and Agrippa declared that Paul was not deserving of death (Acts 16:35-40; 18:12-17; 23:29; 25:25). Paul might have been released at this point – but he had appealed to Caesar.
Paul will soon get his wish to travel to Rome. Next week we will finish the book of Acts and read more of Paul’s pastoral letters.
I pray as you continue through your Christmas preparations that you will remember that it’s not your birthday (unless you’re a December baby, of course!). Christmas is the celebration of the free gift of salvation brought into this earth in a lowly manger. Please remember this as you fight through the crowds searching for that “perfect” gift. What better gift for yourself, or for a family member or friend, than accepting the free gift of salvation through Christ Jesus? Along with a physical present, make sure you spread the Gospel during this holiday season.
See you next week! Three more weeks and you will have completed the Bible. Congratulations.