- Sermon Notes
Christ Over the Crowd
Illus. Who defines the line?
Romans 12:2, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
This morning we are going to pick up our study of the book of Acts in chapter 26. It is a situation where Paul gives his case for his life in Christ, but the crowd calls him crazy. They see things differently. And this text is insightful for you and me personally, because when we choose to live our lives for Christ, we must know that there is a crowd who will think differently, even at times call us crazy.
Proverbs 29:25, Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety. (NLT)
In the chapters immediately leading up to chapter 26, all the way back to chapter 21, Paul had come to Jerusalem after preaching the gospel of Jesus to most of the known world. While on his third missionary journey, we understand that the Lord was calling him to Jerusalem, and that he would also be heading to Rome. As the Lord called him to Jerusalem, however, He also revealed to him that chains and afflictions were awaiting him (Acts 20:22-23). And we have been following the story of his arrival to Jerusalem, as well as the chains and afflictions.
He arrives to Jerusalem, heads to the temple, and immediately, afflictions and false accusations. The whole city is provoked, they drag him out of the temple, begin beating him with the intention of killing him, and it was only through Roman intervention that he was removed from the uproar. The Roman commander in Jerusalem begins trying to find out what Paul had done to deserve such treatment, but he could not get a straight answer.
Paul is then put on a trial of sorts before the hostile crowd, next he stands before the Sanhedrin (Jewish supreme court) who become hostile towards him, then the Roman commander attempts to question Paul by beating him but find out that Paul is a Roman citizen which came with certain protections. Paul stands before the Sanhedrin again and they again get stirred up, then they make a plot to kill Paul by asking the Roman commander to bring Paul to them for more questions while another group would ambush him. The Roman commander gets word of it all and moves Paul to Caesarea.
Two weeks ago, we saw Paul standing trial before a governor named Felix. He found Paul to be innocent, he knew there was nothing he had done worth convicting him, but he was unwilling to make a decision regarding Paul’s case due to pressure from those who had come from Jerusalem to accuse him. He would question Paul, and Paul would share the gospel with him. Felix would meet with Paul again and again, he would learn about life in Christ, but would never give his life to Him. At the end of chapter 24, we understand that Felix is removed as governor, but wanting to do the Jews a favor, he leaves Paul imprisoned.
A period of two years takes place between chapters 24 and 25. Taking over for Felix, was a governor named Festus. Acts chapter 25 begins with a new governor, Festus, who is trying to decipher the details of Paul’s case. The details become important because upon becoming governor, Festus traveled to Jerusalem and while there, he was asked by the chief priests and the leading men in Jerusalem to have Paul brought back to Jerusalem. While on his way, the plan was that Paul would be ambushed and killed.
Festus does not comply but tells them they can bring their case before him in Caesarea They end up coming and bring charges against him again but again, they could not prove any of the charges. Wanting to do the Jews a favor, Festus asks Paul if he would be willing to go back to Jerusalem and stand trial before him there. This is where Paul appeals to Caesar, the Emperor of Rome. This was a right he had as a Roman Citizen. Festus says to Paul, “you have appealed to Caesar and to Caesar you shall go!”
One problem, he was not able at this point to attach any legitimate charges to him. This is when a king, Herod Agrippa comes to town. He is curious about Paul’s case and asked to have Paul stand before him.
So, in Acts 26, Paul will do just that, he will stand before King Herod Agrippa II, a woman named Bernice, Festus the governor, and a crowd of prominent people in the city. Again, they will not be able to substantiate any charges, but Paul will point all in the crowd towards Christ, and one of the leaders in the crowd will call Paul crazy!
As Paul stand trial after trial, people are hoping to hear something different from him. Something a little less disagreeable to them. But as Paul stood before them, he continually stated his choice for Christ to them, and while it was crazy, while it was insanity to them Paul continually chose Christ over the crowd.
Both Jesus Christ and the crowd are real factors in our lives. In these verses we gain insights and understanding into how me and you can choose Christ no matter what the crowds of life think, view, or choose to do.
- Keep Christ at the Center of What You Consider
Acts 26:1-2, Now Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.” Then Paul extended his hand and proceeded to make his defense: “Regarding all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate that I am about to make my defense before you today.
- There was much Paul could consider. Let’s look at the crowd before Paul, his conditions, and then at his call from Christ.
- The way you consider something is the way you think about that thing. What you believe about it, what you regard it to be.
- Paul, standing another trial considered himself fortunate to be before Herod that day. But Herod was not the only one on the crowd.
Consideration 1: The crowd
Acts 25:23, So, on the next day when Agrippa and Bernice came amid great pomp and entered the auditorium, accompanied by the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought before them.
Illus. Background information on the crowd.
Acts 26:2-3, I consider myself fortunate that I am about to make my defense before you today, especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.
Consideration 2: His conditions.
- Paul considered himself happy, blessed, fortunate to be standing another trial.
Philippians 1:12-14, Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brothers and sisters, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.
- Paul had already been through a great deal. He wrote about it after leaving Corinth, he wrote about how he was beaten too many times to count, often in danger of death, he received 39 lashes from Jews five times, he was beaten with rods three times, he was stoned once, shipwrecked three times, sleepless nights, hunger, hardships, and the list goes on. (2 Corinthians 11)
- Paul experienced great difficulty, but he would use it all for God’s glory.
Consideration 3: His call from Christ.
Acts 9:15-16, He is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer in behalf of My name.
- Paul was able to consider himself fortunate to stand trial again, because Christ was in the center of his consideration.
- He considered what Christ had done, what He would do, and what He had called him to. He was going to bear witness before kings, Jesus had told him so. Here is a king before him!
- Paul could have just rolled his eyes. “Another trial, oh boy, before this wicked king and his wicked sister. Here we go again.”
2 Timothy 2:8-13, Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason, I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.
- Paul considered himself fortunate to share the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to another leader, to a king. Jesus purpose was being fulfilled in his life.
James 1:2-4, Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
- When it comes to how we process situations, seasons, and circumstances in our lives, what we consider, and what is in the center of that consideration will shape our posture in it.
- We have the same considerations as Paul in our lives today. The crowd, our conditions, but also our commitment to Christ.
Illus. Ask me.
Colossians 3:17, Whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
1 Corinthians 2:14, A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
- What Paul does as he continues is important for us to see. In fact, it is something we see him do often, he keeps Christ in the center of his situation, and finds the opportunity to share his testimony in opposition.
- Find the Opportunity in Opposition
Ephesians 5:15-17, Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (NIV)
- The king gives him the floor, and Paul walks through that open door and will share his personal testimony. He is experiencing great opposition, but as he does, he declares why he believes what he believes, why he is doing what he is doing.
- First, he acknowledges that he was once just like those in the crowd:
- From verses 4 to 23, he recounts the story of who he was prior to Christ, tells of his conversion to Christ, and then ties the way he lives his life to Christ.
- In verses 4 and 5 he said that he was a Pharisee, that it what he was since his youth and all the Jews could testify to that as true.
- He is saying that all the people accusing him are aware of his background, they know who he once was.
- In verse 9, he speaks to his former life:
Acts 26:9-11, So I thought to myself that I had to act in strong opposition to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, after receiving authority from the chief priests, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being put to death. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was extremely enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.
- He said, “I was a Pharisee, I thought I had to act in opposition to Jesus…So I did just that.”
- But things changed, and he again recounts the story from Acts 9, the same story that he recounted in Acts 22.
- It is the same story, and he is telling it again. He was in strong opposition to the person, people, and mission of Jesus, he was extremely enraged at them, pursuing them in foreign cities to bring them back to be punished in Jerusalem.
- Paul lays it all out there. “I used to be just like these who are against me. I used to be a Pharisee, from my youth, the people here know about me…But Jesus Christ met me.”
- While he was enraged, in the middle of a day when he was going to persecute Christians, Jesus met him.
- Jesus said, “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” and He continued, “I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and witness of what you have seen from me already, and what I will show you.”
- The Lord continued to tell Paul, “I am sending you to both Jews and Gentiles (all people), to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light, from death to life, so that people can receive forgiveness of sin, and an eternal inheritance through salvation.”
- Paul told his story to King Agrippa, Bernice, Festus, and the crowd. They surrounded him, and he gave them his testimony. He revealed his reason.
- He was once something different, walking in darkness, but Jesus met him, and for that reason, he has gone throughout the known world in obedience to the commission of Christ, and telling all to give their lives to him.
- Paul said, I have lived in obedience to the heavenly vision. And his posture here is seen consistently.
- In Acts 24:14-17 as Paul stood before the previous governor he declared similarly, saying, “I believe everything written in the Scriptures, my hope is built there, with that in view, I do what I do.”
- Paul gives his testimony. He remembers it and reveals it.
- He shares his testimony. His journey to becoming a Christ follower, his conversion story.
- And when it comes to choosing Christ over the crowd in your life, it is important to be ready to reveal your reason to them. Your personal testimony, your reason for living your life in Christ.
1 Peter 3:15, In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
- When Paul was on trial, he remembered, and revealed his reason. Before the crowds, I once was many things, but Jesus met me, this is why I am no longer a pharisee, this is why I believe what I believe, do what I do, and pursue what I pursue.
- If you are going to choose Christ over the crowd, it is imperative that you can do what Paul did. To stand amongst those who once knew you, or those who know you now, and acknowledge who you once were, the way you once lived, but now the life you live in Christ.
- Paul turned the trial into a testimony. He is being questioned; he finds opportunity during opposition.
- Jesus did this well Himself. He would turn a trial into a testimony, in opposition He found opportunity.
Illus. In John 4 while at a well in Samaria, he spoke to a woman there to draw water. He found the opportunity to speak to her regarding living water, the water He could give. She said that she wanted that water, and it would become an opportunity for Him to give testimony, regarding her beliefs surrounding the Messiah, declaring, “I am He.”
Illus. In John 6, speaking to a crown in Galilee that was hungry. Jesus fed them, then after He crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee they followed Him. Jesus then used the feeding as a opportunity to declare that He is the bread of life that gives life to the world.
- Jesus is often seen looking for an opportunity for testimony. He made the most of every opportunity. This is something consistently seen in Paul and throughout his ministry. This is also an opportunity that we have presently.
- When you choose Christ over the crowd, there will be opposition, but there will also be opportunity.
III. Attach Your Way to What Christ Has to Say
- Paul gave his testimony, before the king, the governor, Bernice, and the crowd that was surrounding him. And regarding what he had to say, the first voice from the crowd comes out…
Acts 26:24, While Paul was stating these things in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you insane.”
- Remember the quote from 1 Corinthians earlier, that the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, they are foolishness to them because they are spiritually appraised.
- As Paul tells his testimony to the crowd, Festus jumps up and then yells at Paul, “You are out of your mind! Your learning is driving you insane!”
- When the governor says “you are out of your mind,” he is literally accusing him of not being right in the mind, being insane, a maniac.
- Festus hears what he was saying, but did not agree with Paul’s choice of Christ. In fact from Acts 25 we know that Festus called Jesus “a dead man, whom Paul asserted to be alive.”
- Festus tells Paul, “You are out of your mind!”
- Paul was known as a brilliant man, a scholar, a rabbi. He would send for books and parchments. The man who trained him, Gamaliel, said his only problem with Paul was that he could not find enough books for him.
- Festus was a good leader, but he was a secular Roman, who believed in the Roman system, and the Roman standard of living. He had a great belief in the human potential, but he did not believe in God.
- No intelligent Roman would believe that a dead man could come back to life.
- Additionally, he had a hard time understanding how Paul, a scholar, could devote his life to Jesus Christ.
- His only conclusion was that Paul was crazy, insane, out of his mind from all his studies.
- And this first voice from the crowd as Paul stood before that crowd almost two thousand years ago, may sound strikingly similar to voices that come from the crowd when we tell of our devotion to Christ in our lives right now.
- Certainly, there are some similarities, between the response of the crowds. When you choose Christ over the crowd, there will be voices from the crowd.
- It happened to Paul, it happened to Jesus, it happened to the Old Testament prophets.
John 15:20, Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.
1 Corinthians 1:18, For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
- Paul responded to the accusation in verses 25-29:
Acts 26:25-29, Paul said, “I am not insane, most excellent Festus; on the contrary, I am speaking out with truthful and rational words. For the king knows about these matters, and I also speak to him with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you believe.” Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you are going to persuade me to make a Christian of myself.” And Paul said, “I would wish to God that even in a short or long time not only you, but also all who hear me this day would become such as I myself am, except for these chains.”
- After Festus accused Paul, Paul took an opportunity to address Agrippa directly.
- Jews believed in resurrection. The king knew about these matters. The claim of Christians regarding Jesus Christ was common knowledge.
- Paul asks Agrippa if he believes the prophets, then makes the statement “I know that you do.”
- Paul said, this Christianity did not take place in a corner, it was public, he knew Agrippa was aware, and it seems that surrounding belief in Jesus as Messiah, Agrippa would almost get there.
- “In a short time, you are going to persuade me to make a Christian of myself.” This is translated elsewhere, “Do you think in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
- We don’t know what his tone was in his response, whether it was harsh, or joking, but we know that he did not respond by choosing Christ.
- Most scholars believe it was likely that Agrippa would not seriously consider believing because the powerful crowd that was surrounding him.
- Paul responded, I wish that you would come to Christ whether in short or a long time, to be just like me, aside from the chains.
Acts 26:30-32, The king stood up and the governor and Bernice, and those who were sitting with them, 31 and when they had gone out, they began talking to one another, saying, “This man is not doing anything deserving death or imprisonment.” And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Illus. What will it be?