Summary: The way Paul stood his ground before the council is how we can take our stand in the world today. Link included to formatted text, handout, and PowerPoint Template.
Confidence in Criticism
23:1 “earnestly” = He’s looking them straight in the eyes, not ashamed, not afraid, and not about to back down. Paul used to be a member of their number…and now they consider him to be a turncoat…a traitor. There’s nothing this group would like more than to execute him. Yet he stands before them cool, calm, and collected.
There is no way to live the Christian life in our modern society today and not be criticized. But we can have confidence in criticism and peace in persecution. How?
I. We have to be morally clean
v. 1 “good conscience”
Conscience is that inner voice which accuses us when we do wrong. It’s an alarm that sounds within warning us ahead of time, too. But be careful, as we said last time, because…
1. It can be defiled
2. It can be seared
3. It can be evil
We cannot avoid persecution and criticism, but we don’t have to be affected by it. I was badmouthed on the radio this morning because of what I said on TV Friday night…but it doesn’t bother me…why not?
Ill.--Sailors have noted that winds can be blowing in one direction, and iceburgs moving in the opposite direction. How does this happen? 9/10th’s of the iceburg is below the surface, so the ocean currents are in control…the little bit above the surface is not affected by the winds.
Our convictions…our roots need to run so deep in our lives that we are steered by the current of absolute truth, God’s Word.
We’ll never amount to much if we allow ourselves to worry so much about what others think.
Ill.—the first steamboat trip from NYC to Albany was a very short trip, but took 32 hours. Most of the people laughed and criticized, but the inventor did not give up or back down, because he knew in his heart he was up to something good.
Automobiles: when they first came out they were usually passed on the streets by horses and buggies.
First electric light bulb: when first demonstrated, they had to have an oil lamp on to see it because it was so dim.
First airplane flight: only stayed in the air for 59 seconds.
That’s what Paul was like. When he got saved, he got forgiven, and got a new outlook…that led to a clean conscience, and he operated on principle, not acc’d to the winds of public opinion. He didn’t take a poll or go w/ the majority…he went w/ the good conscience of being morally clean!
So, make sure you’re right, first…then, don’t be moved by the winds of criticism.
One guy couldn’t get anything done because he was so afraid of criticism:
Making a journey w/ grandson by donkey…only had 1 donkey, but had to go a ways thru 5 villages to get home.
He put the boy on the donkey and walked along beside. The 1st village criticized, saying, “look at that healthy young boy, making that old man walk.”
He couldn’t take the criticism, so he switched places w/ the boy.
2nd village criticized, “look at that…a healthy, grown man makin’ a little boy walk.”
He couldn’t take it, so they both got on the donkey.
3rd village said, “that’s animal abuse…2 of them on that one little donkey”
So, they both started walking.
4th village said, “can you believe it, 2 people walking when they have a perfectly good donkey…you’d think one of them would have sense enough to get on and ride!”
He had enough, so guess what he did.
Came to 5th village, and what did the people see? The boy was walking, the man was walking, and they were carrying the donkey!
Moral: you’re gonna be criticized, so make sure you’re right, and then take your stand!
II. We have to be theologically clear
v. 6 Paul knew w/out doubt that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. You can’t argue w/ that…you can’t convince me Christianity is wrong after that fact!
If a man has walked out of a grave, then He had power over death, and you have to deal w/ that! That cannot be lightly glossed over…and no one can be neutral about it!
If Christ is still in the grave, then Christianity doesn’t really matter, but if He came out of the grave, then nothing else matters!
Only 4 opinions you can have about Christ:
• He was a legend—a myth passed down thru the years. But even the university professors don’t hold onto that one anymore, because there’s simply too much historical evidence today that He lived. And this council Paul stood before didn’t hold this position, because most of them had seen Jesus themselves. They helped put Him to death. They had heard the stories about His miracles and teachings.