Paul the Apostle – Wayne Barber/Part 21
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1992|
|The doctrine of the sovereignty of God, to me, is the most comforting doctrine in scripture. To know that He is on the throne and to know that He is in control is comforting. We are seeing this in the life of Paul. If we have ever seen it anywhere, we are seeing it in the life of Paul. We are going to take a large portion of Scripture this time.|
Ephesians 1:1; Acts 24 & 25
Paul: The Messenger – Part 10
Turn with me to Acts 24. I was thinking of how the Lord is such a divine artist and the tapestry He paints on this earth for us to enjoy. I also think about His sovereignty and how He is a divine conductor, like an orchestra conductor. He takes the events of our life, those different sounds, and He blends them together and makes them into one marvelous melody that has His message right in the center of it. The doctrine of the sovereignty of God, to me, is the most comforting doctrine in scripture. To know that He is on the throne and to know that He is in control is comforting.
We are seeing this in the life of Paul. If we have ever seen it anywhere, we are seeing it in the life of Paul. We are going to take a large portion of Scripture this time. I don’t like to do that normally. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable in doing it because we cover so much ground. Normally it is verse by verse, word for word. Someone said I am like a soap opera. He can leave our church for six weeks and come back, and I am on the next word. We are looking at a lot of scripture now because we are dealing with a narrative, a story about Paul. It’s true. It happened. Led of the Holy Spirit of God, this was penned by Luke in the book of Acts.
As we go through it I want you to see how God is taking the events of Paul’s life and weaving them into His own message. The Hebrew word for “wait” is the word that means to twist, to take different strands and begin to twist them together. Have you ever thought about that? When things aren’t happening according to your agenda and they are happening according to God’s agenda, when we are willing to trust Him and just wait upon Him, He twists those things together into one marvelous picture of what He is up to in our life.
Well, Paul is a bondservant of Christ Jesus by the will of God. We find that in Ephesians 1:1. We find that Paul does not have his agenda. He has God’s agenda. As a result of that, the religious lost literally are on his trail. They cannot stand it. They are people who love form, who love ritual, who are externally but not internally related to the Lord Jesus Christ. They cannot take it when God’s people are in their midst. Even within the walls of the church you have those who do not live the Christ life, who do not bow daily to His Word, who do not surrender to the Lordship of Christ. For that reason, they come against those who seek to honor Christ in their lives.
Well, the only people who appear to be protecting Paul at this point happen to be the Roman army. Now that’s odd because they don’t even know what is going on. They don’t have a clue. They don’t know who is right and who is wrong. They have been totally confused. The religious people there are in the majority. They think Paul is the bad guy. In fact, Paul is the only good guy in the bunch. There is a lot of confusion. However, God is using them to protect His man.
In Acts 21:32-33, the Roman commander had to come and break up the riot and take Paul away from them. In 22:23-29, the Roman commander again orders Paul to be taken away from the violent crowd. In 23:23 we find Paul being taken away by night to Caesarea. He is escorted by 470 Roman soldiers. He doesn’t even have to walk. He gets to ride a horse. In our day and time, he would have gotten to go in a limousine. God has the army escorting him out of town. So far the only people who are protecting him happen to be the Roman soldiers. Obviously God is sovereignly using them that way.
Well, in chapter 24 we find him in Caesarea. He is appearing before the governor of Judea located there in Caesarea by the name of Felix. He is a Roman governor. This is a Roman court. Now the commander of the army there in Jerusalem sent a letter along with Paul. He told Felix that when the accusers came down they would have to have a trial to find out what Paul had done wrong. Well, you would think Ananais, the wicked high priest of that day, would drop it. It’s a two day journey to Caesarea from Judea. But oh no! He brings his group all the way to Caesarea, and they hire themselves a lawyer by the name of Tertullus. He is a Roman lawyer who is skilled in knowing how to say it just right so they can bend the ear of Felix and get the conviction that they are looking for. That was all in verses 1-9 which we studied in our last study.
We come now to verses 10-27. Paul is going to get the opportunity to defend himself. Bless his heart. He tried it before, and they almost killed him in Jerusalem when he tried to share his testimony. Finally, in a legal Roman court, he gets his opportunity to give his defense. I want us to see how God as a divine conductor is taking all of these events and weaving them into His divine plan. That’s comforting to me to know that God is in control, because His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. Proverbs tells us, “Lean not on your own understanding. Just trust Him in all of your ways.” He knows what He is up to.
There are three things we want to see. There is a lot of scripture, so bear with me. We want to see Paul’s cheerful defense. Now, I am not just making that up for the sake of alliteration. I’m not that good at alliteration. Look at what he says in verse 10. “And when the governor had nodded for him to speak, Paul responded: ‘Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense.’” To understand that we have got to understand the word “cheerful.” The word “cheerful” is a word that means non-threatening. It is a very positive word. It is a very hopeful word. It is not the same word that we would think of when we think of cheerful.
I come in the office all the time, and I have the secretaries literally on pins and needles when I walk in. I’ll say, “Well, glory!” It just seems to catch them at odd times. The receptionist continues to have trouble sleeping at night because I come in that way. They see my truck pull in and immediately they all get ready. I love to wait a while and then sneak in and do it. You would think, “That’s a cheerful person.” That’s not the word “cheerful” that we are talking about here. The word “cheerful” is euthumos. Eu means “good, well or excellent,” thumos means “mind set.” It is really a disposition. It is something that the old Roman governor Felix would not be used to. He was used to these bigoted, pompous, Jewish people coming before him. Of course, in this situation, here is Paul in such contrast to that. His disposition is very positive and very non-threatening. You see, Paul does not have his own agenda. Paul has God’s agenda. All he is doing is simply being honest about what is going on in his life. He is just simply giving an honest defense, but with a lot of confidence and with no threat whatsoever to the people who are there.
The word is used twice in the book of Acts. If you will look over in Acts 27:36, you will find it again. These are the only two times it is used in all of scripture. This verse kind of gives you an idea. This is a situation where the sailors and the soldiers have been in a horrible shipwreck. Paul tried to tell them, but they wouldn’t listen. Now Paul has told them, “Listen, you are going to be all right. Stick with me. I’ve been told by God I am going to Rome. If you will hang on to me nothing is going to hurt you.” They hadn’t eaten in several days and so he says, “Go on and eat.” In verse 35 it says, “And having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all; and he broke it and began to eat.” Verse 36 says, “And all of them were encouraged.” That word “encouraged” is the same word we are looking at over here when it says he gave a cheerful disposition. The word has the idea of encouragement in it. It is the idea of drawing people to a conclusion that is not threatening. It is the idea of boldness or confidence.
You see, when a person is very defensive, that always gives him away that he has his own agenda. When a person is nonthreatening and non-defensive, he could be cheerful in his presentation before Felix. He is just simply being honest.
He says in verse 10, “Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense.” Now, we have got to realize that Felix was governor, but he was also judge. That is hard for us to figure out. We live in the 20th century. We have governors, but they don’t usually judge. They are in other positions of authority. Back in this day, the governor was a procurator. A procurator was in a sense a judge. He was the one who oversaw the Jewish people, the Roman people. It was quite a responsibility. He had to sit in judgment of different cases and make judicial decisions. It was different than the governors we know of today. Therefore, Paul is saying, “Man, I am so glad.” He is not flattering him like Tertullus did in verses 2-4. Oh, no. Paul is saying, “Finally, finally somebody is going to listen to me, and nobody is going to interrupt me. I am so glad you have been a judge for many years. Now I can cheerfully make my defense.” You see, the whole picture here is that finally Paul gets to share what has been on his heart all along.
Now look what he does. He is non-threatening. Please understand this, because I know from raising two children what threatening can be. You know, sometimes when they make a defense, you can see the guilt written all over them. When you give a cheerful defense, you have nothing to hide. It is non-threatening. It is very honest. It is very open. And therefore, everybody understands what is going on.
Well, in verse 11 he says, “since you can take note of the fact that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship.” Paul is saying, “Hey, I’ve only been here twelve days, not quite twelve days. How could I be guilty of all the accusations they are making against me? I came up here only to worship.”
Look at verse 16. He says, “In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.” The word “blameless” means “I don’t stumble over; I don’t trip over; I don’t infringe upon.” Paul is saying simply, “I am just being honest before you. I try to maintain this before my God and before other men. I only came up here. I did not infringe upon him. I did not infringe upon you. I just simply came to worship. That was my purpose, led of the Spirit.” They would not have understood that. He just simply said he came to worship.
Well, in verse 12 he goes on and says, “I am not guilty of going to synagogues and causing dissension, but they are accusing me of this.” He said, “And neither in the temple, nor in the synagogues, nor in the city itself did they find me carrying on a discussion with anyone or causing a riot.” “They didn’t find me doing any of that.”
Look at verses 17 and 18, and he gives a little more commentary on it. He said, “Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation [He was bringing money, offerings. Remember this was an offering taken up by the Gentile churches.] and to present offerings; in which they found me occupied in the temple, having been purified, without any crowd or uproar.” In other words, “I am not doing anything wrong before God. I am not infringing upon Him. I am not infringing upon man. As any Jew would do at the Feast of Pentecost, I came up here simply to worship. I have no other alternative in my mind.”
Verse 13 says, “Nor can they prove to you the charges of which they now accuse me.” Now this is the interesting thing. So far, he has not been charged with anything other than the rumor of the crowd. Look over in verse 18: “in which they found me occupied in the temple, having been purified, without any crowd or uproar. But there were certain Jews from Asia—who ought to have been present before you, and to make accusation, if they should have anything against me.” Paul says, “Listen, even over there they didn’t come forward. Now we are down here in Caesarea, and they still haven’t come forward. There is no accusation anyone can make against me.” You know, that helps me to know that all of us have the right, if you have a clear conscience before God and a clear conscience before man, to share our heart. It will be obvious to the people around you that you have no agenda but to be truthful and honest. That had to be a contrast to old Felix, because he had seen these other people and how they had acted. Here is Paul, no agenda, nonthreatening, very positive, very bold, even enthusiastic in sharing with them the honesty of his life.
In verses 14 and 15, however, he is very honest. He said, “But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law, and that is written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” Now, he doesn’t go on and talk about the Christian faith so much, but he says exactly what he has said. He has made a statement, and he wants them to know the honesty of his heart. He is very forthright, very truthful, on top of the table, nothing hidden whatsoever. He had no other agenda on his mind. That is what it means to give a cheerful defense.
What if you had to give a defense for something in your life. Can you give a cheerful defense? Would it be non-threatening, with nothing to hide, not defensive, just truthful as to the fact that your conscience is clear before God and clear before man? There is a scripture in the New Testament, and where the verse is fails to come to my mind, that says God will always give us the words that we need when we have to speak before those who have put us on the spot. This is the key, folks. This is why we preach this over and over and over again: Live daily dead to self. Let Jesus be Jesus in you. Then when you are accused and you are put on the front line to have to answer for yourself, you can have that cheerful defense, absolutely non-threatening, just totally honest. Everybody around you will notice it.
Alright, now let’s watch. Here is the divine conductor. He steps up. Here is the first event. Paul’s cheerful defense. Now what is he going to do? What’s this divine conductor, our God, going to do in all of His sovereignty? He is in control of the situation. Certainly if I were God, I would say, “Good job, Paul. Dismiss the case. You go on and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Aren’t you glad I’m not God? There are two absolutes in life. You have heard this many times. One is, there is a God. Two is, I am not Him and neither are you. We have to remember that. God works in mysterious ways. God doesn’t dismiss the case. God is going to delay him for over two years on nothing, on nothing. Now wait a minute. That does not make sense. What is God doing? Well, hang in there. Let’s see if we can see.
Secondly, I want you to see Felix’s clever delay. It is very clever. This man knows what he is doing. In verses 22-27 it reads, “But Felix, having a more exact knowledge about the Way, put them off, saying, ‘When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.’ And he gave orders to the centurion for him to be kept in custody and yet have some freedom, and not to prevent any of his friends from ministering to him.” How long did this go on? Verse 27 says, “But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned.” Now hold on. He doesn’t even have a real accusation made against him yet. There are no witnesses whatsoever. Felix knows that he has given his defense in a cheerful manner. He knows the difference in Paul’s life. He knows he is innocent. Now what is going on here? He delays him for two years on nothing.
What happens in your life when you have your agenda and you are walking surrendered to Christ and God just steps in and just messes up your plans? You are not doing anything wrong. You are simply living with a clear conscience before God and a clear conscience before man. All of a sudden something has stepped in, apparently, as far as our minds are concerned. It appears to be evil, and it has caused a delay for whatever reason in our life. We don’t even know what the outcome will be. What’s going on? Is God sovereign or is He not?
I want to make sure you get the gist of this, because I want you to see how evil this man Felix is. Why is he delaying him? It’s a blessing to Paul because it got the Jews off his back. They can’t do anything else. He has put him in jail. He said, “When Lysias comes down.” Now wait a minute. Lysias can’t add anything to this. Lysias wrote a letter back in chapter 23 in which he clearly stated, “I don’t know what is going on. I am sending him to you. Maybe you can find out what’s going on.” Felix knows that. This is just a ploy to get the case dismissed for that period of time and get Paul out of there where he can keep him in prison. Now what’s going on in the whole thing?
Look at verse 26. “At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul.” That rascal! Felix! Remember we talked about how bad he was as far as his character was concerned. He had to be removed by Nero himself. He had the next high priest after Ananias slain by a group of assassins. Here is this man, and he wants to get money because of Paul. I guess he thought of the money back in verse 17 when Paul was giving his defense. Paul said, “I have come to bring alms to my nation.” Perhaps he thought, “Well, this is a good way to rip off one of these servants of the Way. I’ll keep him here. They will have to pay big money to get him from me.”
Now, what kind of God would allow that to take place with a servant who lived with a clear conscience both with God and with man? You’ve got to be real careful here. This is where you really come to that crisis of faith and belief. Do you believe God is in control or not? I love Revelations when the church is in heaven and you see that marvelous praise and celebration time that is going on up there. The first thing John saw when he went up was the Father sitting on the throne. He was in charge of the events of all of mankind. He knows what is going on.
There is a reason this is happening to Paul that we have not yet seen. Felix has a wrong motive. Felix is a sinful Roman governor. For some reason, the Divine Conductor decides to put a new note in the piece. Somehow He is going to make it harmonize before it is all over with. Right now it sounds like it is in a minor key. Right now it sounds like it is a wrong note. Somebody is playing off key.
Oh, no. He knows exactly what He is doing by allowing this clever delay by Felix to take place in Paul’s life. Now, think. Paul has done nothing. He has just honored Jesus. He is just a bondservant of Christ. He trusts in the position of authority. You know that because three months before he had written the book of Romans, and in Romans 13 he talks about authority. He says, “All authority has been appointed by God to minister good to those who do good.” He knows it. He believes that with all of his heart. So therefore, he is wonderfully blessed by being able to give his testimony before Felix. Do you think this discouraged Paul? Do you think this knocked the slats out from under him? Do you think he went back to his cell, or wherever they were keeping him, and said, “I can’t believe this. God, why would you allow this to happen in my life? Why would you let a man who is immoral and a man who is wrong control me this way?”
Remember, a little later on he is in Rome in prison, and he writes to the Philippians. I love that book. I guess I could study it from now until the Lord comes back and that would be fine with me. I could just keep going over it, one verse at a time. Paul was in prison in Philippians 1, and he says, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” In other words, “My whole life is not built around circumstances, because they are going to fool me. They are going to surprise me. Sometimes they are going to disappoint me. My life is not built on that. My life is Christ. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Then in Philippians 1:12-13 it says, “I have discovered that my imprisonment by these wicked people has worked out for the furtherance of the gospel.” Can you believe this? He writes this to the church at Philippi. They are having a prayer meeting for poor Paul. “He is over there in jail. We need to get him out of jail. He can’t go on and do the things he is called to do.” Paul says, “Will you cool it? This whole thing is working out for the greater progress of the gospel. God is squeezing out the message that He has put within me.”
He says, “Even the praetorian guards know about Christ.” At the very end of the book, he says, “The Christians in Caesar’s palace send you greetings.” Can’t you imagine that Roman soldier getting off work. He has had the night shift, 11:00 to 7:00. He has been chained to Paul for eight solid hours. Can you imagine? Paul could care less whether he is in prison or in a riot. It doesn’t matter to him. Here is that Roman soldier. He gets off work, and he meets the guy coming on for the 7:00 to 3:00 shift. As he is walking down the hall, he says, “Hey, who have you got today?” The guy says, “I’ve got Paul.” He says, “Man, you don’t want to go in there with that man named Paul.” He says, “Oh, come on. He’s a wimp.” Study 2 Corinthians 10. He is a wimp. “He is a bow-legged, hooked nose, bald-headed, Jewish guy. He is just kind of weak, you know. He is just over there in the corner.” The soldier getting off duty says, “I’m telling you. You don’t want to be tied this guy. You don’t want to go in there.”
Well, the guy goes on down. He goes in, shuts the door and locks it. He goes over and sits down beside Paul. He fixes the leg bracelets together, puts the arm bracelets on and when you hear that last little click, Paul comes alive. “Well, glory! Hallelujah! Glad to have you here today. Today we are going to talk about the doctrine of soteriology. Let’s begin with the efficacy of the blood. Now, number one, point one, write this down.” This goes on for eight hours. The guy gets off his shift. He is walking down the hall just like the other guy did. The new guy is coming on. He says, “Who have you got?” He says, “Paul.” “Don’t go in there, man. Don’t go in there.”
You see, Paul didn’t have his own agenda. He is on God’s agenda. God says, “Prison.” Paul says, “Okay with me. What are we going to do next?” This is God’s delay. It is not Felix’s delay. It is really God’s delay. Anytime God delays or allows anything in this world to stop us or slow us down, He has got an eternal redemptive purpose behind it.
The third thing I want you to see is God’s consistent design. You will never find it different. Whenever life throws us a curve, whenever something happens in our life that doesn’t seem to be “fair,” the Divine Conductor steps back. He is not caught off guard. He is the one who is making the orchestration. He’ll bring it into a harmonious melody if you will continue to trust Him. It won’t be long before you will see His purpose right in the middle of it. God has a consistent design.
Verses 24 and 25 to me are just exciting. We don’t know all the events that took place in the two year period of time that he was delayed, but we know one of them. Oh, boy, do we ever. We don’t know when this happened, but it says, “But some days later,” it could have been a year later. It could have been six months later. It is just an event that is thrown in to give us an indication of why he was delayed. “Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul, and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus.”
Let me tell you who Drusilla was. This might help you a little bit. Why has God got Paul delayed? Why does He let Felix do that? God knows what He is doing. Drusilla’s father killed the apostle James. Her great-uncle, Herod Antipas, slew John the Baptist. Her great-grandfather, Herod the Great, murdered the babies in Jerusalem trying to get at the Christ child and was guilty of hundreds more atrocities such as that. This woman came from a family that was quite bad. She was a Jewess. I think, probably, Paul was called in, not at Felix’s request, but at Drusilla’s request, because Drusilla was such a wicked woman to begin with.
It says they heard “about faith in Christ Jesus.” Anytime you see “Christ” before “Jesus,” that’s significant in the New Testament. That is His resurrection name. In other words, Jesus Christ is what everybody would call Him. Christ Jesus is said when you are a believer or you are suspecting that there is something to this. Earlier it said Felix knew more about the Way. He had a more excellent knowledge about the Way. There is something about Felix. He knew about Christianity, and he knew about Paul.
We have a confrontation between Paul and Felix and Drusilla in verse 25. Watch this. Paul had a three point message. God was just beautifully working in this. Those three things represent everything man faces on this earth. Number one, righteousness. What is faith in Christ Jesus? Well, the word “faith” implies obedience. When you obey the Word of God and believe Christ Jesus to be your Lord, to be God’s Son, when you receive Him by surrendering of yourself to Him, what happens? Righteousness; immediately I am made right with God. It is a relationship word. I am not right with God except through the Lord Jesus and because of His shed blood and His dying on the cross. So when I am made right with God, all of my relationships can become on a righteous level, not just any level, but a righteous divine level. Now can you imagine what that is saying to Felix, one of the most immoral governors that they had ever known? He had no relationships that were pure and right. Paul says, “When you trust Jesus Christ, that is one of the results.”
Paul spoke of not only righteousness, but also of self-control. Whew! When you receive the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes into your life. He puts you under His control so that you can be in control of all the fleshly desires and lusts of your flesh. You can walk with self-control. You are not dominated by your senses anymore. You are dominated by the Holy Spirit of God living within you. Can you imagine speaking that to Felix, a man who was totally dominated by his senses, an immoral man?
Then he talked about the judgment to come. He puts the article before it. He says, “and the judgment to come.” He didn’t say “unrighteousness.” He didn’t say “lack of self-control.” If he had said that he would have been indicting them. He just simply talked about faith in Christ Jesus.
Now I want you to notice something. Did they receive it? Well, look at the last part of the verse. It says, “Felix became frightened.” I guess so. That would have scared me too. He said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you.” In other words, “Don’t you call me, I’ll call you. I don’t like what you have been telling me.”
Look at the next verse. This will bless your heart. “At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him.” I can’t help but believe there is a consistent design that God had in this clever delay in Paul’s life. It was not only to speak, but to model what faith in Christ Jesus really was before a wicked governor and before a wife that had a heritage of doing damage and hurt to God’s people.
You can’t make a formula out of this, but we can learn from it. Any time we are in a situation where we cannot figure it out, when life has thrown us a curve, when we are in a delay big time and we don’t know what is next, if God continues to extend it, there are people involved in it that need to see faith spoken and modeled in Christ Jesus. That’s His redemptive and eternal purpose in all that is happening.
I want to tell you something. There are people sitting in churches that, whatever God is up to in their life, He is being redemptive in His purpose, and it is becoming almost as a judgment to all of us. The next time you gripe, ask yourself, “Did God tell you to gripe or is that your old stinking flesh that is doing that?” It will judge us in its very statement. God wants people to model it and to live it and to speak it. It becomes an indictment to those around them who aren’t willing to surrender to the Lordship of Christ. As a matter of fact, they are going to become frightened, and they won’t want to be around you anymore. They may call you back.
God always has a consistent design. Do you see that conductor now? Have you ever heard an orchestra warm up? It sounds like the most unorganized thing you have ever heard in your life. All of a sudden there is a “knock, knock.” Then all those sounds come together and “boom,” they harmonize. That’s the way life is. If you will let the conductor do what He is trying to do. Just trust Him. There is a design, and it is always eternal and redemptive.