Summary: Preparing to give our witness for Jesus
Stand Up for Jesus
Acts 25:23-27; 26:1-8; 24-29
In the opening chapter of the Book of Acts, Jesus gave this assignment to His disciples, “You shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). He knew that unless they did become witness of the gospel, His life, death and resurrection would be in vain and Christianity would be dead. That is why he also gave them his presence, the Holy Spirit, to help them accomplish their mission. Had they not have been successful, we would not be meeting today.
Today the assignment is still the same and the danger also the same. We who are believers and followers of Christ have an assignment and a powerful ally. We are to be His witnesses and we have His spirit, the Holy Spirit, to guide and empower us. Like the first disciples, the gospel of Jesus is just a generation away from extinction.
Instead the Book of Acts, originally named the Acts of the Apostles, is the story of regular people, out of ordinary lives, whose names are recorded in the best selling, most popular book of all ages, fulfilling that assignment.
In our scripture reading today, the last major event is a dramatic witness to the most powerful two persons in that part of the known world. Before we see how this story unfolds, let’s look at the cast of characters.
a.Festus was the new governor of the area. He has just assumed the position from Felix, perhaps the most selfish and cruel ruler of that country. Felix only held his position because his wife was a daughter of King Agrippa I. Festus was 70 years old and would die soon after this event.
b.King Agrippa II, the last ruler from the family of Herod the Greek, was a Jew. Because of his family’s ruling relationship to Israel, he boasted of being an expert on Jewish affairs, especially to the Romans. He had brought his wife, his half sister Bernice.
c.Paul was to appeal his case in a hearing, not a trial, for he had already appealed for justice to Caesar, ruler of all Rome. For the governor and king, they heard him to determine what they would write to Rome as his charges. For Paul, this was the opportunity God had promised him at his Damascus road conversion, saying he would preach to kings.
From these scriptures, we will examine how we are to be witnesses. Not that one of us will expect to witness to royalty, except that our goal is to help others become a “child of the king.” However, there are some qualities that we can intentionally develop in order to be an effective witness for Jesus.
The first characteristic we must develop is A Prepared Life, an essential part of our witness. How many times have we tried to help people memorize scriptures and learn the right phrase in order for them to be a witness, but it never worked A church was seeking a new pastor and someone asked one of the leaders what kind of preacher they were looking for. He replied, “We are not looking for a person with a prepared sermon but for a prepared person who can preach a sermon.”
The Apostle Paul was a prepared man. He was born in Tarsus, making him a Roman citizen. He was born into a Jewish family, making him a Jew. He was educated by the best teachers, became a noted scholar of the Old Testament, earned the title of Pharisee and expressed his leadership role by hunting down and killing followers of Christ. His conversion was dramatic enough to stop his aggressive spirit and turn his drive into serving Jesus. God had given him the assignment of being the first missionary to the Gentiles, about 99% of the world’s population.
He had spent two years preparing for this witnessing opportunity. From his jail cell he planned the event as a boxer would his next fight. His life’s entire journey was invested in this witnessing appointment. It was for him a “Divine Appointment” and Paul knew that the Holy Spirit, God in the present tense, would be his coach and guide. He was not intimidated, fearful or negative by the event.
Our lives also prepare us to witness to those we meet. We are all different in how we approach the opportunity, and we have different life experiences from which to draw. I usually want to know something about the person and when possible, find a place where we have something in common. This allows me to use what God has taught me in the conversation. We all have places God has prepared in our lives that we can share with others, even when those places are mistakes and transgressions.
Paul began his witness by identifying with his hearers, especially King Agrippa. Paul’s heart always went out to those in his race and tradition. In his missionary visits to new cities, he would always visit the local synagogue. When Festus told him, “You are free to talk,” Paul was ready. He could have condemned King Agrippa for his immoral life, but he did not. He appealed to Agrippa as a Jew from birth, one who knew the scriptures, and one whose family had been involved in Israel’s political life for decades. He also noted that Agrippa saw himself as an expert in Jewish affairs.