Summary: Almost choosing to become a Christian doesn't get you into Heaven.
Paul has been traveling allover what is now eastern and central Europe, preaching and teaching people about Jesus Christ. After his third and final missionary journey, Paul returns to Jerusalem. Paul arrives in Jerusalem only to be arrested by his fellow Jews, because they believe that Jesus’ teaching contradicts their own. Paul tells them that he is also a Jew, and tries to explain that his teaching about Jesus is not contradictory to the law, but the fulfillment of the law. Well, needless to say, they didn’t like that very much either. They then take him before the Sanhedrin, which is kind of like a court, but for religious matters in the Jewish law. It’s the same court that Jesus was first brought to when they arrested Him. Well, Paul tells them that he’s a Roman citizen, and they tell him He must go to Rome. So, to make a long story short, the Jewish leaders plot to kill Paul while He’s traveling to Rome. Well, the commander at the prison, where Paul is currently residing, gets wind of this plot, and has two soldiers take him to Caesarea to see the governor, Felix. Paul then has his trial before Felix, and what Paul says makes him nervous, so he decides to postpone the trial—indefinitely. Meanwhile, two years later, Paul is still sitting in prison, when a new governor named Festus takes over. Festus then gives Paul a trial. Festus doesn’t want to make a ruling, so he says that he’s going to be sent to Caesar. The Bible then tells us that a few days later King Agrippa comes to town to see Festus. Somehow, I believe by divine intervention, the subject of Paul arises sometime during their visit together. Festus tells King Agrippa about Paul, and the king becomes very interested in the matter, and says that he’ll hear Paul’s case the next day. So, the next day, Paul appears before Festus and King Agrippa, and begins to tell them about his conversion.I would like to point out to begin with that this is the third time that Luke, the writer of Acts, has recorded the story of Paul’s conversion. Luke only uses repetition in his writing of Luke-Acts when he considers something to be extremely important, and wants the reader to never forget about it. Luke is stressing the fact that Paul, who once persecuted Christians, condoned their killing, and was eagerly hunting down more Christians for punishment, has now been converted to Christianity. Jesus tells Paul, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” I had no idea what a goad was, so I did some research. ‘A goad is a long stick with a sharpened, pointed end. It was used by the keepers of livestock, to prod the animal when it was yoked up to a wagon or some type of farm machinery. This kicking, though, was useless and the animal soon learned it was better to submit to the farmer’s direction rather than to kick against the goad.’ ‘Jesus is trying to tell Paul that it is completely useless for him to fight against Christianity. What God had accomplished with Jesus’ death was now going to be carried out, and proclaimed by His church.’ Luke is concerned with pointing out that Jesus loved Paul, Jesus died for him, and that Paul accepted that love, mercy, and grace, and thus was forgiven of his sins, and became one the greatest people in the cause for Christianity. So, to begin with, everyone here needs to put out of their mind the idea that they are too bad, that they’ve done too much wrong for Jesus to forgive them. Paul killed Christians, yet Jesus had died for him, and when Paul asked for forgiveness, it was given to him along with grace, in abundance.
I said at the beginning that King Agrippa’s encounter with Paul was by divine intervention. By that I meant, God had ordained that Paul would speak before both him and Governor Festus. Now, King Agrippa wouldn’t have seen it this way; since he chooses to go to Caesarea to welcome the new governor. This however is fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy that predicted that His followers would witness before kings in His name. You can bank on it, if Jesus said it would happen, it has happened or is going to happen. Every prophecy that was predicted about the Messiah has been fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Any prophecy that hasn’t yet to come true about Jesus is going to come true! Everything that Jesus said about life, about death, about his followers is either happened, is currently happening, or is going to happen in the near future. One of the greatest prophecies is the one where Jesus said, “I’m coming back!” Jesus said it , you can believe it; one day Jesus is going to step out on a cloud of glory, and He’s going to call us to Himself, and those of us that have done what Paul has outlined here for King Agrippa, are going to spend eternity with the Lord forever! I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to it! But, I pray almost daily, please Lord, not today! I’ve still got more work to do; I’ve still got more people to tell about You. I believe that You still want me to reach the people that You miss the most. This was Paul’s understanding of his call to ministry—to reach the people that Jesus misses that most. Can you imagine how frustrating it must have been for him to have been imprisoned for two years? If I’d been locked up unjustly for two years, just for preaching and teaching about Jesus, I’d be a little upset. I wonder what went through Paul’s mind when he found out that after two years of waiting for a postponed trial to resume, that King Agrippa, of all people, wanted to hear his case! I would have been tempted to say whatever I had to, so that I could be released. But as we’ll see this morning, that wasn’t Paul’s main concern. Paul knew that Jesus would keep His promise, “I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you”. So, Paul continues to do what he’s done since his conversion—tell people that Jesus can do that same thing for them, which He’s done for him. Paul, during his entire ministry, during the writing of every epistle, has done so under the authority of Jesus Christ. Paul, therefore, continues even now before Festus and Agrippa, to act solely under the authority of Jesus Christ. He isn’t afraid about what verdict is going to be returned, he isn’t afraid about embarrassment for talking about Jesus, he isn’t concerned if some people will never talk to him again, he’s concerned only with their souls. And when we get to that point, when no matter what the cost, we tell our friends and family about Jesus, and when we invite them every week until they finally show up to church, we then will be acting, as Paul did, under the authority of Jesus Christ. Jesus has promised that He will also be with Paul during every situation. When we accept Christ, he bestows on us that same guarantee. That no matter what we go through, no matter how dismal the situation may be, no matter if everyone is against us, bad things are happening to us and our family, we’ve lost our job, we’ve lost our home—