1Agrippa told Paul, “You may now speak for yourself.”
Paul stretched out his hand and said:
2King Agrippa, I am glad for this chance to defend myself before you today on all these charges that my own people have brought against me.3You know a lot about our religious customs and the beliefs that divide us. So I ask you to listen patiently to me.
4-5All the Jews have known me since I was a child. They know what kind of life I have lived in my own country and in Jerusalem. And if they were willing, they could tell you that I was a Pharisee, a member of a group that is stricter than any other.6Now I am on trial because I believe the promise God made to our people long ago.
7Day and night our twelve tribes have earnestly served God, waiting for his promised blessings. King Agrippa, because of this hope, the Jewish leaders have brought charges against me.8Why should any of you doubt that God raises the dead to life?
9I once thought that I should do everything I could to oppose Jesus from Nazareth.10I did this first in Jerusalem, and with the authority of the chief priests I put many of God's people in jail. I even voted for them to be killed.11I often had them punished in our meeting places, and I tried to make them give up their faith. In fact, I was so angry with them, that I went looking for them in foreign cities.
12King Agrippa, one day I was on my way to Damascus with the authority and permission of the chief priests.13About midday I saw a light brighter than the sun. It flashed from heaven on me and on everyone travelling with me.14We all fell to the ground. Then I heard a voice say to me in Aramaic, “Saul, Saul, why are you so cruel to me? It's foolish to fight against me!”
15“Who are you?” I asked.
Then the Lord answered, “I am Jesus! I am the one you are so cruel to.16Now stand up. I have appeared to you, because I have chosen you to be my servant. You are to tell others what you have learnt about me and what I will show you later.”
17The Lord also said, “I will protect you from the Jews and from the Gentiles that I am sending you to.18I want you to open their eyes, so that they will turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then their sins will be forgiven, and by faith in me they will become part of God's holy people.”
Contemporary English Version. Copyright © 1995 British & Foreign Bible Society. Used by permission.
Society often places a high value on people being nice. That’s certainly true in Canadian culture. We try hard to get along with one another, be kind, show goodwill, be tolerant, and do good deeds. But when being nice is equated with being liked and being liked is at the expense of not telling others about the need for repentance and forgiveness of sins through Christ and the cross, then the good has become the enemy of the best.
Do we want people’s favour or salvation? In the trial before King Agrippa, Paul didn’t try to ingratiate himself with the authorities. His safety, desire to be released from jail, and need for support were not as important as seeing Agrippa repent of his sins and turn to Christ. He had one goal, one overarching aim that surpassed everything else; that Agrippa and everyone who was listening to his defence, would become just like him (a Christian) but without his chains (v.29).
When an opportunity to be a witness for Christ is presented, we should make the most of it. Paul didn’t shrink back from proclaiming forgiveness of sins and sanctification by faith in Christ alone (v.18). Despite the fact that he stood before the worldly ambitious, morally corrupt great grandson of Herod (who had tried to destroy the infant Jesus), he was not intimidated. With confidence that comes from the Holy Spirit, Paul shared his story. Simply summarized, he was a Pharisee without Christ (vv.4-8) and a zealous persecutor of Christ (vv.9-11) who was converted and commissioned to proclaim Christ (vv.12-18).
Like Paul, every Christian has been converted and commissioned to open people’s eyes “so that they will turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (v.18). And like Paul, we should take every opportunity in every situation to be a witness for Christ so that others might receive forgiveness and “become part of God’s holy people” (v.18).
Lord, help me to want other people’s salvation more than their favour. In the name of Jesus. Amen.