Summary: First of a two part sermon that deals with Paul’s testimony/defense before Festus and Agrippa in Acts 25-26
Text: Acts 25:13-26:32, Title: Strange…A God That Can Raise the Dead, Date/Place: NRBC, 8/23/09, AM
A. “…well my plan is to convince people that all they have to do to get to heaven is to be a religious person.”
B. Background to passage: Recap briefly how we here. One of the responsibilities of a new ruler who is sending someone for trial in Rome, was to include an explanation of the charges and proceedings leading up to the trial in Rome. But being new to Judea, and really not understanding the charges or the culture around them, Festus just didn’t know what to write (v. 27). So when Agrippa II and his sister Bernice came to town to greet the new ruler, Festus seized the day for some local input. Agrippa II was the only surviving son of Agrippa I who was struck down in Acts 12 for stealing God’s glory. He was part Jewish and ruled the territory to the north of Judea once give to Philip after the death of Herod the Great. His reputation was one of piety in religion, incestuous sexual immorality, and expertise in Jewish/Roman relations. And he had probably heard of the stir in the region over the Christians, and maybe over Paul, so he wanted to hear him speak. (One of the dangers of being a powerful speaker is that people may hear, and be entertained without believing (this happened between Ben Franklin and George Whitefield.) And since this wasn’t a real trial with attorneys and all the legalities, Paul seized the opportunity to share the gospel
C. Main thought: We are going to take this sermon in two parts, and this morning’s part will be Paul’s convers.
A. Paul’s Pre-Christian Life (v. 4-11)
1. Paul begins not so much with general flattery, I am sure that he is really glad to have someone who has a Jewish background that could make an informed decision. And so Paul begins to share his testimony about this Jesus, who was dead, and now Paul claims to be alive. He tells them about his background as a Pharisee. Explain the depth of their religious commitment. He tells them about his passion for persecution. All of this to say that there was a time when he was not following Christ.
2. Rom 10:3-4, 7:9, Philip 3:4-6, Gal 1:14, Luke 18:14,
3. Illustration: tell about listening to Voddie this week, and him describing about when he deals with prospective suitors for his 19 year old daughter, and how he avoids asking them if they are “Christians” and why, some people would be upset with me when I first came as pastor, and I would ask about their testimony, and they would tell me about joining the church, and I would persist..., Wesley’s experience, One woman who went to church all the time would always say, “I was ALWAYS a Christian.
4. Three major applications about this point. 1) All of us have a time when we were not followers of Christ. I hear the testimony often that people can’t remember a time when they weren’t Christians; that they have just always been a Christian. And I realize that some of you were raised in very Christian homes with very Christian moms and dads, and intellectually you believed in Jesus before you believed in Santa Claus. But the bible speaks about conversion like a birth, and you weren’t always just born. There was a time and place for it. It speaks about conversion as being adopted, and you weren’t always adopted. I realize that you may not know exactly when it happened (time and date), but we should all know in general when it happened. My fear is that many church members have never really been born again. We are all radically separated from God for the first 5-10-15 years of our lives at least. The faith that we have always “believed” must become ours upon genuine conversion.
5. 2) No one can be religious enough to be saved. If anyone could, Paul could have. He was blameless according to the law. That means that he did all 614 commands that the rabbis had catalogued in the Pentateuch, and everything else found in the writings and prophets. You can’t go to church enough, read your bible enough, be baptized enough, give enough, to earn a spot in heaven. It must be only because you have been born from above, because you have repented and put your faith alone in the finished work of Christ on the cross. Christianity is not a “do better” religion, it is a done religion. Tell about the guy in Key West who weekly goes to the sunset park, and give the presentation about the two world religions. So good works cannot get you into heaven, but you will not get into heaven without good works. Not because they earn you a spot, but because they authenticate your conversion. Tell about the host pointing out no spiritual heart monitor.