We Are Recipients
When the time came, we set sail for Italy. Paul and several other prisoners were placed in the custody of a Roman officer named Julius, a captain of the Imperial Regiment. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was also with us. We left on a ship whose home port was Adramyttium on the northwest coast of the province of Asia; it was scheduled to make several stops at ports along the coast of the province. The next day when we docked at Sidon, Julius was very kind to Paul and let him go ashore to visit with friends so they could provide for his needs. Putting out to sea from there, we encountered strong headwinds that made it difficult to keep the ship on course, so we sailed north of Cyprus between the island and the mainland. Keeping to the open sea, we passed along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, landing at Myra, in the province of Lycia. There the commanding officer found an Egyptian ship from Alexandria that was bound for Italy, and he put us on board. We had several days of slow sailing, and after great difficulty we finally neared Cnidus. But the wind was against us, so we sailed across to Crete and along the sheltered coast of the island, past the cape of Salmone. We struggled along the coast with great difficulty and finally arrived at Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea. We had lost a lot of time. The weather was becoming dangerous for sea travel because it was so late in the fall, and Paul spoke to the ship’s officers about it. “Men,” he said, “I believe there is trouble ahead if we go on—shipwreck, loss of cargo, and danger to our lives as well.” But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship’s captain and the owner than to Paul. And since Fair Havens was an exposed harbor—a poor place to spend the winter—most of the crew wanted to go on to Phoenix, farther up the coast of Crete, and spend the winter there. Phoenix was a good harbor with only a southwest and northwest exposure.
(Acts of the Apostles 27:1-12 NLT)
Neither Felix, Festus, or Agrippa could find lawful reason for Paul's detainment, but, because Paul had appealed to Caesar, they had to forward hm in his journey to Rome where the emperor's palace was. (See Acts 26:30-32). Here in chapter 27, Paul, and other prisoners, were put aboard ship to make the voyage to Rome, Italy. The voyage was on a ship with a Roman Centurion (one who is over 100 soldiers) from Caesars own royal regiment, named Julius. Caesar is a title, not a name. It represents the Roman Emperor. Stops were made along the way and Paul was allowed, by the commander's permission, to freely visit friends and family in Sidon of Syria (now Lebanon). As they voyaged Northwest in the Mediterranean, they passed between the large island of Cyprus and the mainland of Asia Minor (Turkey today). Continuing west, they came to a port at Myra, Lycia (Western Asia Minor). There, the commander found a ship from Alexandria, Egypt that was in Route to Italy. This was a large ship because we read later in the chapter that there were 276 passengers (verse 37). The next stop, as the winds drove them, was on the island named Crete. There they landed in Fair Havens port. This was not, normally, the best place to stop for the winter so the decision was made, against Paul's advice, to go a bit further west to Phoenix, Crete, and there winter.
We will step into the rest of the story tomorrow. The suspense only thickens.
When we understand the tremendous hardship that has been endured for the Gospel, we are left only to cower in humility as we contemplate the price paid. We are recipients of God's great grace, mercy, and wondrous love. I STAND IN AWE!!!
Stand True And Strong
Agrippa said to Paul, "You are permitted to speak for yourself." Then Paul stretched out his hand and proceeded to make his defense: "In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, 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. "So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem; since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion. And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?
(Acts 26:1-8 NASB)
Paul speaks to king Agrippa in front of the gathering. He begins by acknowledging the fact that Agrippa was someone who knew well the Jewish customs. This he said, hoping to properly present the facts before someone who would be able to verify his proclamations as authentic. This entire chapter is given to the testimony Paul gives before them. From A to Z Paul recounts his life as a Pharisee, when he persecuted the faith he now professes, to his conversion to Jesus on his way to Damascus. He didn't compromise the truth and he was unashamed. He spoke freely and boldly. He knew this opportunity to share the gospel with this gathering would only be given once. Knowing the consequences of his testimony, he spoke without a flinch. Festus, the Governor, must have been hit by the truth and convicted by the Holy Spirit. He burst out with the response "You are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad!" (See Acts 26:24). I have heard that when you throw a rock in a pack of dogs, the one that the rock hits is the one that yelps. Festus yelped! King Agrippa chimed in with "In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian!" (See Acts 26:28). Paul responded to them saying he desired that everyone listening would come to know Jesus as their Lord! (See Acts 26:29).
When we are called upon to share our faith, no matter where we are, or who is listening, let us be truthful and faithful. Some will hear us, others will reject. Regardless of results, let's be found standing true and strong. Leave the results to God! God wants us to be respectful and submissive to authority, yet we must never shy away from the truth of the gospel.
Lord Jesus, may we be found faithful to Your name! You are our everything!!! The audience we seek to please is You!
Don't Lose Your Soul
So, on the next day when Agrippa came together with Bernice 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 in. Festus said, "King Agrippa, and all you gentlemen here present with us, you see this man about whom all the people of the Jews appealed to me, both at Jerusalem and here, loudly declaring that he ought not to live any longer. But I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death; and since he himself appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him. Yet I have nothing definite about him to write to my lord. Therefore I have brought him before you all and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the investigation has taken place, I may have something to write. For it seems absurd to me in sending a prisoner, not to indicate also the charges against him."
(Acts 25:23-27 NASB)
The Governor, Festus, and the King, Agrippa, came out with an entourage of sorts. Pomp and circumstance. It was all about the show. What time and effort often goes into political displays. I can imagine Paul shaking his head over this whole ordeal. He was interested in truth and eternity. They were interested in fanfare and immediate gratification. Pleasure seekers. Paul knew this would all come to an end. This life, we now live, is temporary (see 2 Corinthians 4:18). Eternity is forever. Why do we strive so hard for what doesn't last? We ignore the important to fulfill the urgent. Blinded, we are, indeed. Jesus spoke concerning gaining the world and losing our souls in Matthew 16:26. No matter what the current life offers, let's look ahead to eternity. The Day is coming when ALL the governors, kings, presidents, dictators, and/or any other rulers will all bow before the ONE, and ONLY King. He is KING of kings and LORD of lords (Revelation 19:16)! Jesus is His name. Can I hear you shouting Hallelujah?
Take Every Opportunity
Now when several days had elapsed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. While they were spending many days there, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying, "There is a man who was left as a prisoner by Felix; and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. I answered them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over any man before the accused meets his accusers face to face and has an opportunity to make his defense against the charges. So after they had assembled here, I did not delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought before me. When the accusers stood up, they began bringing charges against him not of such crimes as I was expecting, but they simply had some points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserted to be alive. Being at a loss how to investigate such matters, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there stand trial on these matters. But when Paul appealed to be held in custody for the Emperor's decision, I ordered him to be kept in custody until I send him to Caesar." Then Agrippa said to Festus, "I also would like to hear the man myself." "Tomorrow," he said, "you shall hear him." (Acts 25:13-22 NASB)
King Agrippa and his sister Bernice come into the picture. They are involved in an incestuous relationship. She is a year younger than he. This Agrippa is Marcus Julius Agrippa II, son of Agrippa I (seen in Acts 12 as the Herod that has James killed with the sword), and great- grandson of Herod the Great (seen in Matthew 2 as the king who wanted to kill the baby Jesus because of his being called the King of the Jews by the wise men who had travelled from the east).
Agrippa had the authority of Rome to appoint the Jewish high priest, the treasurer of the temple, and to dictate the high priests vestments. He, a Jewish king, had come to welcome Festus to his new post.
Neither Felix, Festus, or Agrippa were Christians that we know of. Obviously, with Agrippa living in an incestuous relationship, we see clearly that he was an ungodly king. Paul took the detainment in prison as an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone who would listen, including dignitaries.
God help us do the same, without apology!
God Is Able
Festus then, having arrived in the province, three days later went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews brought charges against Paul, and they were urging him, requesting a concession against Paul, that he might have him brought to Jerusalem ( at the same time, setting an ambush to kill him on the way). Festus then answered that Paul was being kept in custody at Caesarea and that he himself was about to leave shortly. "Therefore," he said, "let the influential men among you go there with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them prosecute him." After he had spent not more than eight or ten days among them, he went down to Caesarea, and on the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. After Paul arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him which they could not prove, while Paul said in his own defense, "I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar." But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, "Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me on these charges? " But Paul said, "I am standing before Caesar's tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know. If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar." Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, "You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go." (Acts 25:1-12 NASB)
Festus' first ruling act as governor was to call Paul in front of him for hearing the case. This case had already gone on for two years (see Acts 24:27). The charges were frivolous (lacking any serious purpose). It was ridiculous that this circus even continued. Politics often get things twisted into a mess. Statutes and protocols are meant to give due process of law, not to run people through a ringer of entanglements. Then, as now, we see posturing going on in the political, legal, corporate, and social world. Frankly, I am disgusted with the rhetoric that is spewed by those who are supposed to be the persons of character and integrity. Paul was caught in a web of political, religious, and legal nonsense. However, God was using the circumstances to promote His Kingdom and to spread the gospel. Regardless of the mess we are entangled in in our current world of circumstance, we must recognize the sovereignty of Almighty God. He rules above all. His is the power to intervene and determine. Right now, life is spinning seemingly out of control, but I have good news: He's still in control!!! Trust your life in His care (I Peter 5:7). He has the power to work it out. Give it to Him and let Him bring good from it (Romans 8:28). He is able!!! (Ephesians 3:20).
Rev. Curtis Norris