Felix, Festus, Fathoms and Finality

It is good to be back with everyone. I had a great time in East Asia. Quite an experience.

This week we finish up with the missionary journey’s of Paul. The three trips have been marked by great outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit in many places. However while Paul was ministering the Word, the nemeses Judiazers were always just a few steps behind.

We know that Paul was driven by the Spirit to return to Jerusalem, carrying with him the offering for the home church in their time of famine and persecution  {see 1 Cor 16 and 2 Cor 8&9]. Even as Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem against the begging of the disciples, so Paul travels to Jerusalem. Waiting for him are his adversaries. With trumped up charges and inciting riots, they enemies of the Gospel seem to have won the day.

It is interesting that both Jesus and Paul are condemned for doing the will of God; the problem in each case was the Jewish rulers were indicted.  Paul was called a “Pest” [Acts 24:5], interesting characterization to say the least.

The believers were called the sect “the Way” so if you think through that, if you follow Christ, you probably are in the “way” also. The issue is the same for Paul; he is in the way of the religious rulers and must be killed; doesn’t that sound familiar! Paul gets audience with Felix,  but Felix is no slouch, he can see right through the tactics of the Jews. Paul winds up teaching/preaching to Felix and Drusilla for two years; however rather than make a decision, Felix leaves Paul in prison for the new guy Festus [almost sounds like a western movie with names like those!]

Festus, mind you it has been two years, and no decision on Paul, finally a tribunal is held, and the Jews show up in force. Paul gives testimony that he has done no wrong, refusing to go back to Jerusalem, but pleads an audience with Caesar as a Roman citizen. In the meantime King Agrippa and wife Bernice get called into the saga.  It appears that Paul is a hockey puck the way everyone is bouncing him around, without taking a stand of whether is guilty of a crime or not. Acts 25:18-19 spell out the charges against Paul. He was preaching that a dead man was in fact alive; hardly a crime worthy of death.

I was taken by the defense that Paul makes to King Agrippa in Acts 26:6-8; “the hope of the promise.” All that the Jews had hoped to see come, had come about in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. But blinded by their own ideas of what God would do, they missed the Messiah.  Acts 26 is the third time in the book that Paul recounts his conversion.  Paul is a gifted orator, entertaining rulers and kings. Persuasive in his words – King Agrippa says ” Paul in a short time you will persuade me to become a christian.” Paul tells him that’s what I have been called to do, this is why I’m on trial.  Finally, after all the bouncing around and waiting, Paul is found to be innocent of anything. But because he has requested appeal to Rome, that is where he will go.  Paul had wanted to visit Rome, but under completely different circumstances. I was captured by the ship’s voyage that Paul went through in Acts 27; i couldn’t help but think of Romans 8:31-39! Paul really knew that He was safe in the Will of God no matter what was going on around him.

finally, Paul makes it to Rome – he will meet his death there, but not after some two full years under house arrest. When we read the “prison Epistles” we get a glimpse into what Paul did during those two years. I am amazed at the tenacity of Paul, he wouldn’t be silenced even in prison! oh that we would be passionate about the Gospel, and in every circumstance to preach the Word! For while he was in prison many cam to faith in Christ.

Paul in his prison letter to the Philippians, reveals that the Gospel was making  greater progress while he was in prison. He might have been in prison, but the Gospel was not. [Phil 1:12-14, 4:22]

Next week we will be looking at the book of Hebrews. It is highly filled book with the Jewish thought and practices. However whoever the writer, goes on to establish the “superiority of Christ in all things.

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