Sunday, August 26, 2012

GOD IS AT WORK BY HIS POWER



Imagine a stage-four cancer patient being healed after the prayers of Christians in a certain church… It is a wonderful evidence of the might hand of God and His power at work. But is that a miracle? Is getting a much-needed job a miracle? What about for a couple to get a baby after being married for 20 years? What about for a rebellious drug addict and a criminal to repent his sins and be saved, is it a miracle? For a long time in the Christian history, there was unity of opinion that these are not miracles. Surely jobs are not miracles, babies are not miracles, cancer illness healings are not miracles and conversions are not miracles. I know we live at a time when everything that happens and defy a natural or rational explanation is called miracle.  But what is the Biblical definition of a miracle? This is the question that we need to ask today.

A miracle is an extra-ordinary, visible, redemptive event, ordained by God to reveal His redemptive purposes to men and arouse their awe and wonder. For example you may see all these elements in Acts 3 of the healing of the lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate. The most significant aspect of miracles is that they in them God attests and confirms His messageas well as those He has sent with the message. This is what John says very clearly when he calls them signs that “are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name” John 20:30, 31.

Undoubtedly, there are many wonderful and astoundingly amazing things that God has been doing in His providence here on His creation to show that He is sovereign and is in control of His creation. It shows that God is actively involved in time and space in His creation in order to bring glory to Himself. We must be careful in calling almost everything miracles. Many people sat that even breathing the air is a miracle! Even waking up is a miracle and the list goes on to show that everything is a miracle. Now that miracles are so common then you defy even the dictionary definition of a miracle. Do you know why people these days call everything a miracle? They are surprised that God is at work because the atheists and anti-God forces have been seeking to show that God is not there.

Looking at the passage before us, we see the mighty hand of God at work in keeping His people from the destruction by evil forces by protecting and providing for their needs so that He may receive all the glory. That is what we saw last week. Today I would us to explore further this passage and be amazed by how God is at work by His power. Last week we saw the chief objective and goal why God is so graciously working among sinful men in keeping them, is for His glory. Today we will discover that He works like that to do good to men and to authenticate His word. But we will also see what else is achieved by this mighty power of God – to draw people to Himself in praise and thanksgiving with boldness and confidence.
1.     God cares for people by His power
So far in the book of Acts, God has shown great care for the church community that He began by giving and receiving the redemption price paid by Himself through the giving of His Son and paid by His Son by offering Himself to be the ransom. The community is therefore an apple of God’s eye and so He has continued to shield the church from the forces of destruction wrought by the devil and his forces. The Jews were united with the Roman authorities to persecute Christians. But God has continued to raise more and more Christians. Paul after His conversion on his way to Damascus, he went to so many places preaching the gospel and now he is on his way to Rome to stand trial before Caesar, but also to testify Jesus as the Christ – the hope of Israel. He has been shipwrecked and the Lord has saved them from the disaster of the sea by His caring Hand.

They are now brought safely through to an island called Malta. Immediately the natives (Luke called them foreigners or barbaroi) of the island show them ‘unusual kindness’ in welcoming them to the island.  The immediately kindled a fire for them because they were wet and it was raining and cold. Who had prepared these Maltese to care for such a crowd of people (276) in number at such inconvenience of rain and cold? It was God who sovereignly works by His power to turn people’s hearts so that they cared for Paula and company.

We see Paul a very practical man taking the leading role to look after firewood to supply the fire with fuel so that they could dry themselves. But there is a deadly viper disguised as sticks! As soon as the warmth of the fire catches on the slimy thing it comes out attacking Paul, and fastening on his hand! They say that there are no longer snakes in this island anymore – God eradicated them! But this attack is not only by the snake but also by the people because they reproachfully evaluated Paul’s predicaments. The conclusion of the polytheistic community was that "No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live" (v.4). What they call ‘Justice’ is a goddess called Nemesis who made sure that justice was meted on criminals according to them. Though he had escaped all the dangers of sea, their own god had caught up on him. But we know that it is not a god that rules this world, but the Living God, who again by His care and providence kept Paul from this disaster! Paul did not swell or fall dead although bitten by such a venomous snake as the Maltese knew it! They waited for a long time but Paul was not like those who had died in the island  - the power of God was at work in him. Therefore, the islanders changed their minds (notice Luke’s humor in this phrase!) to identify yet another god - Paul! As you know polytheist communities are not satisfied with the gods they have, they keep on adding them! So just like the Lystrians, they pronounced Paul a god!

They took Paul and his company to the First Man of the island called Publius who warmly received them and entertained them (all) hospitably for three days! How much would it cost to feed 276 people for three days? Why did God in His providence take them to Publius? To show His kindness in providing for them even through the hands of foreigners. But it was also because Publius’ Father was sick from a severe fever and dysentery. Here we see Dr. Luke showing his prowess in what he knew best. This passage is so full of medical terms that could only have been written by a man who was an expert in medicine – he knew the viper was venomous, he very ably gave the diagnosis of the sickness as intermittent attacks of gastric fever and dysentery. This was an opportunity for God to show Himself mighty to save. So He guided Paul to pray for this sick old man and he was immediately healed.  The news of this cure spread like fire in a bush so that all the Maltese brought their sick who were healed instantly. This opened a door for the preaching of the gospel in the island as a testimony to the power of God at work in care of men in doing them good in their bodies. This served to authenticate His Word of the good news of salvation in Christ.

When they got to Rome (11-16), the greater and warmer welcome was extended by the brethren in Puteoli (v.13), where they invited them to stay with them for seven days. And then when they were getting near Rome, the brethren from as far places as Forum of Appius and Three Taverns came to meet them! What great hospitality of Christians we see here. They were willing to do everything to receive Paul and they went along way to do it. Imagine you lived in Rome then, do you think you could have gone to welcome them? Very unlikely, we need to consider how hospitable we are to other believers and as they say, there is always a room for improvement.

Although sinners may not see the logic, miracles were there as signs of greater blessings to be found in God for those who will trust in His Son. This is because He who has the power to provide for your physical needs has the power to provide for the spiritual needs as well, He who has the power to heal your diseases has the power to heal your spiritual disease of sin, He who has the power to meet your temporal needs has the power to give your eternal salvation. Those who trust the wisdom in His Word are made wise for salvation, those who trust His Son are made His children, those who go to Him and transferred from the darkness into His marvelous light, those who draw near to Him by faith are made to be in His glory forever!
2.     The power of God should lead us to praise and thanksgiving
In the definition I gave for miracles, we notice that miracles are supposed to arouse awe and wonder in men. This is what happened when Paul was not hurt by the viper, so that people could not help supposing that Paul was a god! Only gods are not hurt by venomous vipers! But there is another conclusion that we can draw that is quiet different from that of the Maltese – only those who are under the care of the true and Living God, are not hurt by vipers! The same thing happened when Publius’ Father was healed – the rest of the Maltese who heard of the news brought their sick! If there was no wonder and awe they could not have taken it so seriously.

The Maltese were so excited by the new found God who has such dear people that they honored Paul and his company (Luke and Aristarchus) with many honors. They honored them greatly by supplying their needs. They found them worthy of double honors (1Tim. 5:17). This where the Bible says that,“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying needs of the saints but also in overflowing with in many thanksgiving to God” (2Cor. 9:11-12). The point here is that this community had found a God that they wanted – the God of Paul was the God they wanted to serve. Their supplying the needs of Paul & Co. was an indication of their thanksgiving to God. Remember that unlike the Lystrians in acts 17, they did not want to worship Paul… they wanted to worship Paul’s God with their substances, through which Paul & co. where done good!
When Paul got to Rome, he “thanked God” (v. 15). He could not help but marvel at the power of God in keeping and caring for him and his companions. He could not help but thank God for keeping His Word to preserve him and all those who were with him. Many times we are not good at being gratefulness. I know that we live during the last days when men will be ungrateful as Paul told Timothy but, why should Christians be like that? Christians are different because Christ has made them to be new creatures the new is gone and they do not follow after the patterns of the world. Do you fall down on your knees in thankfulness to God and praise when you consider what Christ has done for you in saving you? you need to do it more often.

The power of God is supposed to arouse not just verbal awe and wonder but praise and thanksgiving that God has been pleased to tremendously reveal Himself to us by such wonderful blessing of salvation. This then should bring us not just to acknowledge Him as God who is there, but God who has revealed Himself to us by His Son, whom He expects everyone to worship now and in all eternity, and so we praise and honor Him by trusting and depending on Him.
3.    The power of God ought to give us confidence
When you read through the books of Acts and look back the last 2000 years of Christ’s power upon the earth through His church, you can be confident about the future of the church. When Paula arrived in Rome he “… thanked God and took courage”(v.15). Paul’s faith was confirmed just as he had said, “… I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told” (27:24, 25). Remember how he had kept this faith and confirmed just as he had told them, “…for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you” (27:34). Clearly after the journey, he could not help but fall down on his knees and thank the Lord and praise Him for His faithfulness.
The confidence of believers is not in their strength but in Christ the One who has all power.Yes, the evil forces have been united against the Lord and His anointed. The devil and his wicked forces have been gathered together against the church of Christ and His people. However, Christ has given him a resounding defeat. Christ has vanquished all the onslaughts of the evil one because ALL POWER IN HEAVEN AND EARTH HAS BEEN GIVEN TO HIM. His power on earth is seen in His church and He will remain victorious and His militant Church victorious. This is the confidence for us even today, now and here.

The power of God is a great encouragement for us in confident hope for the future. There will be false accusations and slander. We will lose family and friends and our property might be plundered. There may be arrests and imprisonments, and all these will be there if we are faithful. Yes – the devil may appear to be making some progress but when can be confidently sure that, “… the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will kill with the breath of His mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of His coming” (2Thess. 2:8).

Our confidence and courage is that we can face the future with an assurance of victory because of Christ – He is the all-powerful God. Nothing can happen except by His divine permission – the devil can do nothing except by His permission and even when it appears that the church is destined to ruin, He will preserve His church with an awesome and amazing manner.
Are you a Christian of courage? Are you full of confidence in your God? Or are you fearful and timid not sure of tomorrow? I assure you that you can face tomorrow with confidence because Christ has taken the greatest obstacle and debt away. You can be confident if you are in Christ the wrath and judgment of God has been in appeased on the account of your Saviour – Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, if you do not trust the Lord Jesus Christ, if you are not saved, you are on your own. You have no one to lean on. You will face the judgment of God and His wrath by yourself because Christ has not born it for you. You have no hope for tomorrow as you are, you do not have confidence to face eternity. The judgment of God is upon you. But why delight in living in such uncertainty in a world so evil and sinful? Instead come to Christ and you will find mercy and forgiveness. Come to the Lord Jesus and you will experience mercy and grace abundantly.
I repeat that the reason has shown His power on earth in giving His Son Jesus is because He cares for the people. Deliverance of those He has set His eyes upon is what drives His deliverance so that people praise and thank Him so that He is glorified. This is how we have confidence for all eternity.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Preserved by God’s Power



Who is our keeper? Who has taken care of you up until now? Is it your parents? Is your effort? Many call themselves, ‘self-made’. Is it because of your education? Or is it fate? Are you a ‘son of fate’? Many think that fate is at work in their lives. Many people do not see the mighty hand of God at work in their lives and so they ascribe their being and success to one thing or another.
Here we see the divine intervention and power of God in accomplishing His purpose for Paul to proclaim the gospel in Rome.The Apostle shared in the perils of his companions in the sea. Through that we see his character in crisis that is so resolute and practical, so that he maintained the sanity of his mind when others were losing it.  We see him in the danger of sea and storm, the danger of being killed by the soldiers, the danger of hunger and the danger of being shipwrecked. But God preserves not only Paul but also even others on his account. He preserved him from death for a purpose. God used the circumstances to show His power in keeping His people because we are kept by His power through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1Peter 1:5).
God’s power in keeping and looking after His people is first of all by keeping them from destruction, by providing for their needs and by using them in the circumstances to show forth His goodness, love and mercy, so that sinners may come to Him.

1.     Preserved from destruction

Paul appealed to Caesar and he was handed over to a centurion of the Imperial guard to be taken to Caesar. This was to be done by sea for a good number of reasons: Paul could be taken together with other prisoners and it is difficult to escape in the sea. The centurion was also in charge of transporting grains and so he could combine the two. It was less tasking than land.Luke records this voyage to Rome in exceptional detail so that in it we have a taste of the maritimetransport in the ancient times. We see skillful navigation of the ship in the circumstances in trying to be away from the violent wind. After the first two weeks they managed to dock at Myra (South of Turkey). They changed ships to the one bound to Italy from Alexandria ferrying grains from Egypt because Rome depended on wheat, barley etc. from Egypt.
This becomes very difficult because of the season – it was now after the fast (the day of atonement), which means it was early October (AD. 59 had the day on 5th October.) They were getting to the winter season known for storms so that the many ports in the Mediterranean were closed from November to January. Paul himself, an experienced sailor warned them from carrying on with the journey but they did not listen to him so that there met storm after another so that they threw away the cargo and even the spare tackle!What destruction faced these 276 because they all sailed in the same ship? Paul’s warning shows a Christian full of faith in the sovereignty of God and yet responsible and prudent in giving them advise although it was not taken. It shows that God was still with him and was concerned for the others because later on God revealed that not one of them would lose even his hair. Let us remember that God, who foreordains whatever comes to pass, also foreordains the means through which His purposes are accomplished. The wise and sane application of human brain and senses is part of the means to achieve the end for which God ordains.
There is no question that from here we learn of the grace of God to preserve His people from disaster and in the process, common grace is extended to the rest of the world on the account of those who are saved. There is no doubt that this account presents us with the power of God to restrain the natural forces for the good of His people.
God by His power has kept us from destruction. It is because of His goodness and mercy that He has told us, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; and I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through riversthey shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you”. (Isa. 43:1b, 2)
God is the one who is our faithful keeper for He has promised “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to a man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1Cor. 10:13).
The encouragement is that, “…all were brought safely to land (v. 44). Therefore we should never give up or be discouraged or lose hope in whatever situation you are in. God is our keeper; He will keep us until the end. He will bring His purpose for us to pass and we should patiently look up to Him for in Him we have our being. At the same time those who are in Him, though enjoy much of His common grace now, it will soon be cut off when you remain as you are. As Paul approached Rome, it was for him to be vindicated but the rest of the prisoners were going to be condemned. What are you waiting for? Does it matter if you escape trials and problems of this life only to face the most severe and permanent problems?

2.     Preserved by His protection and provision

God made sufficient protection and provisions for Paul from the beginning in that among other things he was a Roman citizen.  He was handed to this particular influential centurion of the Augastan Cohort, i.e “His Imperial Majesty’s”. It was a title of honor and was given to those who served in close proximity to Caesar, and specifically in charge of the grain transportation to Rome, a very important task, given to those greatly trusted by Caesar. His name is given as Julius, which could be a possibility that as a result of his close association with Paul, he came to be a believer. When they landed at Sidon, Luke records of his kindness to Paul so that he allowed Paul to go to his friends to be catered for (v.3). His relationship with Paul became so obviously good that when he refused to heed Paul’s advise not to proceed from Fair Havens, Luke was surprised so that he took it so serious as to record it (v.11). But we see his favor to Paul in that he heeded his advise not to allow some of the ship crew to leave the ship (vv.31, 32) and he did not want to have the prisoners killed on the account of Paul (v. 43). In this account we learn how God uses even the wicked men for the benefit of His people and for the realization of His purposes that cannot be thwarted. You should not give up a situation because you do not know of a Christian to help you. Remember that God is able to use even donkeys to bring good for His people.
God also provided friends to cater for the needs of Paul in the ship (he had Luke the physician and Aristarchus (v.2). He also provided friends in Sidon (v.3), God gave Paul a sound and an intelligent mind throughout the journey as even to give sound advice and he was so responsible and practical. He gave the ability predict exactly what lay ahead of them (vv. 10, 21-26, 31, 33-35) God further sent an angel of God to encourage Paul (v. 23). There was sufficient food up until the last meal they took together before the ship was ultimately destroyed. Here is the faithfulness of God in meeting with our needs exceedingly and abundantly beyond our imagination, even in the midst of a disaster.
In this we see how God is gracious and will prove that God is genuinely concerned about meeting the needs of all His creation. He did not want any to perish. God has said in His Word that He does not delight in the death of a sinner but is patient towards you, not wishing any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2Peter 3:9). This then means that those who perish because of their obstinacy and lack of repentance so that they are overtaken by destruction having worn out the patience of God by counting it as slowness!
About God’s protection Paul said, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies (2Cor. 4:8-10) So that as servants of God, they could commend themselves by “great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger, purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, by truthful speech, and the power of God…” (2Cor. 6:4-7b).
About God’s provision he said, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”(Phil. 4:11-13). Brethren this is a call to strong, mature and abounding faith in this world – a faith that will not shrink, or fail or die.
God has made the ultimate provision for the salvation of people in giving His own Son to come on earth to meet the demands of His justice for sinners, whereby He paid the penalty for their sins. Moreover, He is willing to give His righteousness to all those who come fully trusting in Him. If you have gladly received the physical provision of food, clothing, parents, children etc. how can you reject the most important provision of God Christ who is the solution and answer to all human problems starting with the greatest problem of sin? The argument of Romans 8:32 is that because of God has given us His Son for us all, He will along with Him give us all things, implying that that the most important gift and provision of God in your sustenance is Christ. But on your part, all you want is all things apart from Christ! I beseech you by the mercies of God. You must not continue to reject this Gift of gifts all other gifts in One. Where it not for the giving of Christ, this world would have been destroyed.
For Christians, they have all things in Christ – because He is the richness of God’s glory being before all things, holding all things together… so that in everything He has preeminence, and in Him the all fullness of God dwells. Thus He has made permanent peace for us with God by His blood!  (Col. 1:17-20). So could we get any richer? We are made the heirs of the glory of God and this is why the prevailing situation is nothing for us because we know that we have Christ, the hope of glory!

3.     Preserved for His glory

In this account is a very simple line of thought. God is concerned for the gospel to spread to all the parts of the world, starting from Jerusalem going to the rest of the world. Rome was the universal headquarters, so to speak. The Apostle commissioned to take the gospel there has to go there and bring the gospel to the Emperor himself. The gospel has to get to the household of Caesar and this is what God has continued to confirm to Paul. When the angel of God came to him at night, he told Paul not to be afraid because, “… you must stand before Caesar” (v. 24). Standing before Caesar was not just for the trial, although it includes it. He was to stand before Caesar to expound and testify about the kingdom of God and so try to convince them about Jesus. He had to go to Rome to proclaim the kingdom of God, and teaching about Jesus Christ (28:23, 31)
Why did God undertake all He did for Paul and his companions? What was the motive for all this? Why was it so important for God that Paul goes to Rome? The number one motive and passion for God is His glory. Christians must never forget this truth that God created us for His glory and this we are to find our identity, passion and all the joy and excitement. We are to give little regard for the prevailing situation because when we are taken up by trials and challenges of life, we can very easily forget the glory of God and so lose our focus.
What credit can anyone ascribe to himself in those situations? Luke records that,  “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of being saved was at last abandoned (v. 20). We are talking of people who had nothing to glory of themselves. They were at the end of their tether and for them to starting claiming anything could be ridiculous. Yet God had revealed to Paul to have faith because He had granted to him “… all those who sail with you.”But at this point they have no hope, including Luke! This is what is needed, where you come to the end of yourself in despair so that you can lay no strength to your effort. You have to come to a point where you are completely helpless so that you can depend on Christ only. You have to come to this point and call for help from God. It is my prayer that the situation will not bring you to desperation as to give up on God, but rather that it will push you to come to God who is the present help in times of trouble.
The particular situation I have in mind is the sin. Sinners are saved when they come to a point of desperation and realize that there is no more help remaining as to bring about salvation. You have to stop depending on yourself to look to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. This way everything else in the ship an be thrown overboard for the salvation of the souls. The body itself like the ship can be destroyed to make sure that you see your need for the Lord because this is what God is of first importance concerned about – your soul.
If we were to look at the ship like Christ, Christ, Christ suffered all for your sake and praise be to His Name because He delivered us to a safe place – to the Father. Thankfully Christ was not totally destroyed because for Him, after three days He rose from the dead to bring to us the redemption by His resurrection.
This passage is also a call to make effort in working out your salvation, because the promise of God always comes with the means of realizing and fulfilling the promise. John Calvin said, “God certainly does not commend His power to the faithful in order that they may give themselves up to laziness and inactivity, with contempt for intervening means or rashly rush into danger, when there is a definite reason for taking care.” Surely God’s decree or promises do not mean that you do not engage any activity to extend your hand to receive the promise, rather faith is an expectant effort at receiving the promises of God.
God has provided you with a rational mind so that you may act rationally. In this passage urging men to eat and not to leave the ship because those were the means of their salvation. Those who call themselves Christians and refuse to use the means that God has given are only foolish – like those who refuse to use medicine and yet we know that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. So in this passage we are encouraged to be integrated Christians who combine spirituality with sanity. We are encouraged to be people of faith and of action; of Spirit and common sense so that we may be of earthly use for Christ. This way God is glorified for we see His purposes being fulfilled in our lives in accordance to the means He has provided for us.

Friday, August 17, 2012

SO NEAR YET SO FAR

Acts 25,26

SUMMARY OF THE PASSAGE

Festus succeeded Felix and after three days he went to Jerusalem – the leading city of the region. In Jerusalem he met with theSanhedrin and they immediately grabbed the opportunity to press charges against Paul who was illegally in custody in Caesarea. They requested for Paul to be brought and be tried in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, they had planned an ambush to kill him. Imagine two years later they were still burning with rage against Paul! Festus was anastute governor and so in order to preserve his prerogatives, he refused to bring him to Jerusalem and instead asked them to choose their representatives to Caesarea and then he would listen to them.
The representatives went with Festus and the following day, he took his seat to judge at the tribunal. The Jews brought the same very serious charges (sedition, sacrilege and sedition) against Paul but Luke observes that they were charges without prove. Paul in His defense denied them all saying that he had neither acted contrary to the Law of the Jews nor against the temple nor against Caesar. Festus could see that there was no evidence.Festus, trying to be generous to the Jews to gain his own political mileage, unaware of the murder plans of the Jews, asked Paul if he was willing to be tried in Jerusalem. God gave Paul wisdom so that he immediately reminded the governor that he ought to be tried to in a Roman court since he had already passed from the lower religious courts to stand before the governor himself. Defending his right, he appealed to Caesar since he had the privilege as a Roman citizen.
King Agrippa and his wife Bernice arrive in Caesarea in a courtesy call to welcome the new governor. Festus being perplexed by the intrigues of the Jews immediately related to the king the tricky case that had come to his attention, because he was supposed to write a report to Caesar to explain why it was necessary to send Paulto him. Agrippa also would have liked to hear Paul and his wish was granted the following day. With great pomp Agrippa, Bernice, military officers, prominent leading men of the city gather to hear Paul in the governor's audience hall. Festus introduced him and then explained the circumstances surrounding him. All along, he was gathering information to write to the Caesar in Rome.
Then Paul spoke addressing Agrippa, how he counted himself fortunate to make a defense of himself before Agrippa who was particularly conversant with the customs and intrigues of the Jews. He identified himself as a Jew who came to Jerusalem, who lived as a Pharisee and who was accused of being a believer in the hope of resurrection.He related how he himself opposed the name of Jesus, by oppressing the saints, how he went to many synagogues obtaining authority to have them punished by imprisonment, and even approved their deathsboth in and out of Jerusalem (just like his accusers).
Then he recounted his conversion on the road to Damascus on one of his Christian persecution missions. How the Lord appeared to him in a blinding light and appointed him as His servant and messenger to open the eyes of the gentiles so that they may turn from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Christ. He described how he acted in obedience to this commission and proclaimed the message of salvation to those in Damascus the Jerusalem and throughout Judea and to the nations. The message was that of repentance and turning to God and living godly lives. He then was explained how he was arrested by the Jews, who tried to kill him but God was his help and this was the reason of his continuing to preach the gospel to all – the gospel:“That the Christ must suffer and that by being the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light both to our people and to Gentiles.”
Governor Festus interrupted him accusing him of being mad, something Paul denied and asked the king to affirm the truths of what he had said. Agrippa refused and adjourned the meeting fearing Paul wouldpersuade him to be a Christian in a short time.

SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF PEOPLE SO NEAR YET SO FAR
·        The high priest and the elders were the audiences and witnesses of the gospel and the outworking of the Lord but they continued in their obstinacy and forfeited the wonderful privilege of salvation. They loved sin more than the Saviour and so they were left in unbelief.
·        The Jews and their murdering schemes were almost about to murder Paul but God intervened so that 200-foot soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen transferred him to Caesarea! Then when there was a new governor, they thought that they would secure their plans again but they flopped again when Paul appealed to Caesar.
·        Paul before conversion appeared to be making good progress in the persecution and extermination of the Christian community. He could secure authority from every synagogue so that he could persecute them in Jerusalem and Judea and every place. It is clear that if he had gotten to Damascus he could have captured many and thrown them into prison or killed them. But the Lord came because He knows how to rescue His people (both in Damascus and Paul) brought them all to His rule.
·        Paul was almost being released but he had already appealed to Caesar and justice demanded that he had to go to Caesar. (Remember that even if he could have been released, he could have been killed so it was for the purpose of God that he lost the chance).
·        Governor Felix who is described as having ‘a rather accurate knowledge of the Way’ was so close to salvation.Paul reasoned with him about faith in Christ Jesus and about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment… yes! He heard the gospel, which is God’s power for the salvation,for those who believe.He was convinced and was alarmed and trembled! Almost persuaded, almost convinced, he had tasted God’s power for the salvation to those who believe.Almost there, yet so far because he exchanged eternity with a bribe that he could not get. He kept on ever postponing saying that I will hear you another time that never came so that eternity was gone forever for him.
·        Governor Festus had the same privilege of hearing and acquitting Paul of the criminal charges. Moreover, he had the wonderful opportunity of hearing the gospel which could have made him wise for salvation but he dismissed the messenger of the good news as raving crazy and out of his mind… that way Festus was so near yet so far.
·        King Agrippa who was so familiar with ALL the customs and controversies of the Jews but refused to acknowledge publically he knew the Prophetic Scriptures. He refused to be persuaded of the truths of the Scriptures.He refused to be persuaded to become a Christian.
·        The military tribunes, and the prominent men of the city as well heard the gospel. But not a single one is recorded to have believed in Christ. Not one was recorded to have repented of his sins to come to the knowledge of the living God.
v  This rejection marks a corporate rejection of Christ and of the Gospel by the Jews represented by King Agrippa. These were people persuaded that they would not believe Christ… although so near having heard the truths of the Word of God, yet they were unchanged by the gospel.

APPLICATORY REMARKS

1.      The extent of the stubbornness of human nature
Who said that human beings are not obstinate sinners? How stubborn are people in their sins? With all the conviction of the gospel, so many would rather remain with guilty and pricking conscience, plagued by their rejection of Christ. Many want to remain at enmity with God (some unconsciously) but yet that is what they are until when they come to Him in repentance.
It is until the Spirit of God moves into one’s heart and convicts someone of his sinfulness so that one sees the need for salvation.It is the work of the Spirit of regenerating sinners by removing the stony heart and replacing it with a pliable and fallow heart. The Spirit breaks the shackles of sin from a person to give him the freedom to come to Christ. The Spirit of God opens the eyes of sinners to cause them to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The Holy Spirit opens the heart to cause a sinner to pay attention to the word of God that is able to make them wise for salvation.
For those of us who are saved because their trust and confidence is in Christ, thank and praise the Lord forever for His mercies because we nowhave a new heart, we were blind but now we can see, we were dead but now alive in Christ! Hallelujah, what a Saviour!
2.      Head knowledge of Biblical facts is not salvation
We have had an account of many who were well versed with the truths of the Bible, but were not profited by it. We have many who profess to know the Word of God well,but remain in unbelief. They say that they have read the bible from Genesis to Revelation. They have been to church since they were children, they have all the privileges that Christians have and so they conclude that is enough. But may repeat that your theology has to go to the heart and actions for it to be effectively profitable.
What is needed is for you to see how sinful and obstinate you are. You have to see that you need your sins forgiven. You need to have faith in Christ. you need to repent your sins to Christ and to believe and trust in whom there is forgiveness of your sins. It is Christ who has died for your sins; he has paid all the penalty so that you need to pay nothing – because you can’t. You need to turn what you know into a reality by believing and trusting in Christ.
For those of us who have been converted, remember this, what you know is a measure of your judgment. Our knowledge of the Scripture is either an asset to lead us to godliness or a measure that God will use against. Those who have been given much, much will be required. This is what Paul wrote to Timothy about God’s elect who have knowledge of truth which accords to godliness (Tit 1:1). You will be held accountable by God with what He has entrusted on you. Our knowledge is an asset that we have to invest in others. It is not enough that you know – it has to come from your mind to your conscience to your will to your desires and to your actions. This is the reason why the truths of Scriptures have been written to us – so that we do not sin (1John 2:1).

3.      Christians should make use of civil authorities as well as human rights
Paul all along has continued to trust upon the Lord to help him out of the problem he was in. He took that his life background and education, as a Jew and a Pharisee were means God gave him to continue the cause of the gospel.
It appears Paul was prepared to use every civil right afforded to him by the laws of Rome – so he appealed to Caesar. In so doing Paul was within the Biblical parameters because he was challenging the civil authorities to be God’s servant to do good (Rom. 13:4). He used that very well to this end. Even the most interesting was that he used his civil right as a Roman citizen to be allowed to speak to the Jews in the temple in Acts 21. Again he very clearly stated that he was a Roman citizen to the Roman tribune in Acts 22 when they were flogging him for nothing. Again in this passage he used his civil right to appeal to Caesar. Christians are called upon to be wise as a serpent so that we may advance both in grace and knowledge and in being effective servants of God while in the stay here on earth. As we do this may the Lord help us to be wise, and discerning so that we do not bring the Name of the Lord to shame.

4.      You must not remain committed to being uncommitted to the gospel
It is so easy to join a group and remain uncommitted to it. We want to be part of this or the other without a consideration of the commitment that goes with it. If you want to be saved for a month or a year, please know that there is no such a thing. You are either converted for life or you are not. Your commitment to Christ and to His truths and to His church is very necessary. Christ requires absolute submission. You have to completely trust and submit to the Lordship and authority of Christ.
you need to ask yourself where has been your allegiance? Have you given Christ a partial submission? Know for sure that that is not submission at all. If you are a Christian then you are called to live like Christians. You should not be deceived if your faith is not evident to others in your service to Christ, then you should examine yourself in light of the many in Scripture whose commitments were elsewhere.
Therefore, like Paul, we must use the available time to persuade people to faith. When Agrippa asked Paul, in a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian? It shows a man who was very keen in making the best use of the time. Paul told the Colossians to walk in wisdom towards outside outsiders, making the best use of time (4:5).