23 May 2015Acts 26:9-25
“After that, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout the countryside of Judea, and also to the Gentiles…” (vv. 19-20)
Psalm: Psalm 16
In this passage we have Paul being charged by the Jews for perverting their religion. In this passage he has to appear before King Agrippa. The nub of the matter is the charge a) that he is preaching about resurrection and of Jesus being resurrected and b) that he is preaching to Gentiles.
So, in front of Agrippa, Paul rehearses his whole life - from the time when he was a Pharisee, an orthodox Jew and a great persecutor of those who followed Jesus, through his experience on the Damascus road and his subsequent mission all around the Mediterranean Sea to bear witness to Jesus and his Way. Paul is at pains to show that he is thoroughly grounded in Jewish thought and practice and that after his 'conversion' experience his faith was still in the same God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The only difference is that he now believes in God's new revelation of himself in Jesus, who lived, died and rose from the dead. Paul emphasised that all his life he had sought to do God's will and that the vision from God on the Damascus road was that he should bear witness to Jesus and go to all nations (verse 20).
The Jewish objection to Gentiles was that they were 'sinners' - a lesser breed of people 'outside the law.' In summary Paul's defence was that he was doing nothing unscriptural, and that he was being faithful to his heavenly vision and especially so with regards to welcoming Gentiles. Paul's claim was that he was fulfilling rather than undermining the traditions of his people.
It is interesting to note that all reformations and revivals in the Church make the same claim as Paul - a return to the tradition of the early Church to fulfil it rather than undermine it.
- If we examine ourselves and our churches closely are there people that we regard, however unconsciously, as being inveterate 'sinners', of a 'lesser breed' and outside the realm of our and God's care or concern? What might that say about us?
- How do we cope with the fact that some newer Christian movements regard us (indigenous British Christians) as ripe for mission and evangelism, and as people who have lost or never really had the true faith?