Acts 26:1-32

‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 26:14.

Sermon Transcript:

Good morning, church. It’s so good to be with you all. Uh, my name’s Pastor Joe.

And, uh, I’m really excited to be able to preach the word this morning. Um, you know, one of the things that I’m really, always look forward to about getting a chance to teach or to preach the word is… That it’s always, um, a rule that I get all, I make all these plans as to how I want the passage to be heard.

Uh, how I want it to, to reach people. You know, the applications that I want people to pull away from the Word. And every time, it never quite goes that way. But God’s Word is living and active. And it reaches into the hearts of the people. In ways that I could never have come up with. And it takes root, and it meets people where they are, and it speaks into the brokenness of their stories, and it uplifts them.

It’s a bright, shining light. And I’m always left in awe. The more that I have the opportunity to interact with this, to study this book, to teach and to preach this book, the more that I am left in no doubt of who wrote it, of the mind which is the author of this.

I’m not in any doubt about its accuracy, about its profound and limitless reach, about its enduring relevance to every age. This book is not just some collection of good morals or interesting ancient histories. It’s God’s word, God’s word, church. Have you thought about that recently? I know when I, uh, came to prepare this message, for whatever reason, God had me stop and just think about that for a minute.

We don’t gather here, um, primarily just to hear the band play or to hear some pastor talk. We gather here because here in this book. Are the very words of life, which give life. God’s word to us, his people.

If you listen this morning, if we quiet our minds and limit the buzzing in our thoughts and in our pockets, your God will speak and he will speak through his word. Not through anything that I do, but through his enduring word, which remains the same and yet is always new.

So, I want us to do something before we start and dive into our passage. I want us all to stand up. Don’t worry, I’m not going to make you do like jumping jacks or anything like that. That’s something Pastor Jared would do, but I won’t make you do that. What I’m going to do is, I want us together to read Psalm 119.

Don’t worry, not the whole thing. We’d still be here till the Eagles game if that was the case. But we’re going to read just a few extracts from Psalm 119 all as one. You know, the Psalms were written. Primarily to be enjoyed in the congregation. Not to be enjoyed only in solitude, but together as a church.

So, let’s read this together as a church and let this be our prayer for this morning. Your word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Give us life, O Lord, according to your word, we pray. Amen. Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, you guys can seat, have a seat too. Heavenly Father, Lord, I, I don’t need to ask you to uphold your end of the bargain.

You always do. But, Lord, I ask that we would be able, just for the next 30 or so minutes, to quiet our minds. Lord, I pray against the distractions that crop up in our minds, the shame, the judgment, the confusion. And I ask that its place would be your perfect peace. To receive nothing more or less than what you have for us from your word, Lord.

Lord, it’s your word and you’re the only one who can open it to us through your Holy Spirit. So I pray. Through your spirit, work in our hearts, speak into the different places in our stories and lead us this morning. Lord, I thank you that it’s not my word. And I thank you that I have no pressure to bring my word, but only to bring your word.

I pray all this in your name. Amen. Alright, so, 26.

Which is actually going to take us now very close to the end of the Book of Acts. As we continue our journey through this amazing book. There’s only two more chapters that are going to follow this chapter. And, uh, we’ve been following along in the Book of Acts with, uh, what feels a little bit like a broken record at this point.

Paul before one official or another being tried. And if you would, real quick, what we’re going to do before we open up the passage itself. I’d like to real quick. Um, set the scene for you all. To remind us where we are and why it matters to us in the overall story. So, if you’ll go down memory lane with me, way back in Acts chapter 21, we read of how Paul had just finished his third missionary journey, and decided, you know what, I’m going to go back to Jerusalem for a little bit, uh, and kind of regroup, uh, be able to come back to a place dear to me, worship in the temple, uh, and then maybe plan out my fourth missionary journey.

But what we read is that the Holy Spirit, through different prophets, kept warning Paul not to go, or at least if he did go to Jerusalem, that he would be set in chains. But Paul was a pretty stubborn guy, and he said, no, I’m going to Jerusalem. So Paul gets there, and sure enough, very shortly after arriving, Paul is arrested in the temple and set in chains.

And what we’ve been reading over the last number of weeks is actually, Paul, as he follows, at least to my eyes, a very similar path to Jesus in that he’s arrested, set in custody, set before the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin, and then set before Roman authorities in the form of Governor Felix of Judea.

And in each case, Paul acquits himself as innocent. There’s not a single charge that’s been levied against him by the Jews that can be substantiated. Paul’s clearly not guilty. And yet something unfortunate happens, Paul becomes a pawn in the ever growing, uh, confusion and fury of the political battles between the Jews and Rome.

And Mark did a really good job last week of giving a larger sort of back story behind sort of the geopolitical context of the time, about the tensions between Rome and the Jews. And he talked even a little bit about Governor Felix and how he wasn’t very good at his job. Governor Felix was desperately trying to cling to his position and to keep the peace between the Jews and the Rome, in which he actually was partly responsible for stoking them up.

And one of the ways he did that was by taking this Paul guy, who he could see was the carrot for the Jews, that they really wanted. And he held him. Sort of in ransom, uh, to placate them. And he kept him in prison for two whole years as an innocent man. It says in the past, in, uh, earlier in Acts chapter 24 that he did it as a favor to the Jews.

But guess what? It didn’t really work and he got fired. And in his place was set a new governor. And his name was Governor Festus. They really like the F names for their governors. I’m probably going to make a mistake and call Felix Festus, in fact, I can’t, I’m going to mess up already. So, anyways, Portius Festus becomes the new governor.

And this is why all this matters, church, to our passage this morning. Because this guy, Portius Festus, steps into a, a whole mess of situation. You know, any time, uh, new management takes over old management, especially when the old management isn’t very good at their job, what tends to happen? Yeah, you inherit all their problems, and you have to fix them.

And so Festus steps into a very complicated situation between the Jews and Rome. And not only that, he’s got this big problem and his name is Paul. And as he steps in, he hears there’s a, there’s a prisoner who’s been under guard for two years in Felix’s prison. And Festus is imagining some madman or some murderer or some insurrectionist.

And then he shows up and he sees a, a middle aged, mild Jewish scholar. And I’m sure he was a bit confused. And I think his confusion only grew when he had Paul come to him and explain and, and under trial and explaining why he was, and what he was accused of. And Festus was more confused than when he started.

The problem was that Paul appealed to Caesar. And so now, as was Paul’s right as a Roman citizen, he must be sent to Rome and to Caesar. But here’s the thing. Governor Festus really wanted to keep his job. And he just got that job, you know, he was really, he was enjoying his shiny new office. But if he sent Paul to Rome, without any clear idea what accusations he was sending him on, uh, with, well, I’m not sure how, how nice Nero would think of that.

And we know Nero was a very benevolent ruler, right? So he did not want to send Paul until he had a clearer idea of what Paul had done. And, uh, at the end of last week, we heard of the emergence of a new character by the name of Agrippa. King Agrippa. And Mark did a good job of explaining who he was, but just for the sake of…

Uh, context, he was the last in the line of the Herodian dynasty. We know they have a very interesting history with Christians, right? His father murdered James. His grandfather murdered, uh, put to death John the Baptist. His great grandfather was the one that chased Jesus and his family into Egypt and put to death all the two year olds in Bethlehem and under.

So not exactly a, uh, a savior for Paul. But nevertheless, this Festus guy thinks, I have an idea. I’m going to get a second opinion. And he’ll tell me, he knows the things about the Jews, he knows how their customs and controversies work. He’ll give me some in, uh, uh, important backstory and maybe even help me understand what exactly this guy is supposed to have done.

Because to me, he seems innocent of everything. So that’s the backstory that we’re stepping into here in Acts chapter 26. And, um, where we left off last week with Mark was How Paul was set in the center of the audience hall and all around him was the many people, the influential, the wealthy, uh, the Jews who were assembled against him, uh, and then these very important Roman officials, Governor Festus and King Agrippa and Bernice, the sister of Agrippa.

And last week, Mark mentioned they came in to the hall with great pomp. That means they came in with a great show of force and power. You know, wearing long, beautiful clothes, uh, military backing behind them, walking into the hall to show their, that they were in control, that they had power. And here you have little Paul.

Paul, the only physical descriptions we have of Paul, there’s not a lot of them, but they’re not flattering. Paul was probably pretty short, uh, balding with a crooked nose. That’s the only account that we have of what he looked like. And here you have little Paul who’s been in prison for two years, probably not eating well.

Sitting there, chained at the center of the audience hall, surrounded by this great crowd of witnesses. And, and the, the, the text is careful to point out that there’s, there’s a lot of influential people and wealthy people there. And there’s also, obviously, very influential and wealthy people in Agrippa and Festus.

Okay, now I’ve set the scene for you. Enough with the history lesson, I promise. Now we’re gonna get to the passage itself. I’ve learned a really valuable lesson as a dad, with my oldest daughter in particular. She’s about to turn four, and, um, I used to just set the whole dinner portion in front of Elena, uh, and say, uh, bon appétit, go ahead.

Uh, some of you who’ve had little kids might know where I’m going with this, but Elena, almost every time, would push the plate away and say, too big, and she wouldn’t eat it. And so, first I was just like, you’re gonna eat it, if you don’t eat it, you’re gonna, and that didn’t work. And then I tried, you know, like, afterwards we’ll give you a cookie if you eat it, and that didn’t work, then she just wanted a cookie.

I learned a trick. And some of you are like, yeah, dummy, why didn’t you do that from the start? But I learned a trick. And it’s that, that bigger portion, I would cut it up into tiny pieces, and I would give her one at a time. And then she wouldn’t be overwhelmed. And she would actually usually be able to get all the food in her little belly.

And so my hope, this morning, is to apply a similar, uh, concept. Cause we got 32 verses to get to this morning. And if I just start right now and read all 32 verses for you, you’re gonna glaze over even more than you have already. And I don’t want that. I want to keep our attention. As I mentioned, this is God’s Word, and it deserves our attention.

So, what I want to do is do what I did do with Elena, and I’m going to cut this into pieces. And we’re going to take it in three bites, okay? Uh, and the bites are going to go as follows. It’s going to be up on the screen here, so you can kind of see where we’re headed as a road map. Our first bite’s going to be the first eleven verses.

Okay? And, uh, I just titled these for my own, uh, order, organization in my mind, but the first 11 verses we’re gonna hear of an unadvisable defense. Then in the next 12 verses, 12 through 24, we’re gonna hear an undeniable testimony. And then lastly, in our final bite of the morning, we’re gonna take the last 7 verses of our chapter and hear an unexpected reversal.

So let’s dive in, shall we? Verses 1 through 11. And so, Agrippa Said to Paul, we’re in the great audience hall. And now the ceremony begins, the trial begins, and Agrippa says these words. You have permission to speak for yourself. Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense. I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, that I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews.

Especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore, I beg that you listen to me patiently. My manner of life for my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion, I have lived as a Pharisee.

Now I stand here on trial because of my hope and the promise made by God to our fathers,

to which our tr to our 12 tribes hope to attain as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope, I am accused by the Jews O King. Why is it thought incredible by any of you? That God raises the dead. Okay, I wanna stop there. This isn’t the whole chunk, but I wanna stop there for a minute and say Bravo to Paul.

I mean, he’s just shot out of a cannon. He’s been in that jail cell. He’s been writing down his defense. He’s ready to go, and he just does a great job. I mean, he starts off, he’s appealing, he’s respectful, uh, he’s bold, he’s well spoken. I mean, what, what else do we expect from Paul? And he does first, I want to real quick talk about the, the first bit of this, where he does some pretty cool things.

He, he’s share, he’s sharing, or sorry, rather appealing to the shared understanding that he has with Agrippa. It’s very clear in the first two verses. Paul’s relieved. to be talking to somebody that will understand what he’s talking about. It’s pretty hard to make a defense to someone who doesn’t even know or understand what you’re defending.

And Paul, over the past two years, has been talking to these Roman guys who have no idea what he’s talking about. You know, Mark did a good job last week of talking about the, the background that these guys would have come from, uh, Felix and Festus. They were Romans. They had a Roman conception of religion.

Which means… Many gods, many temples, many different ways of worshiping, very worldly, uh, and then you have the Jews. Could you imagine a more different religion from the Roman religion? And now you have Festus trying to understand all of those subtle differences to him. And now he’s seeing the only difference that he can see is that Paul is saying one guy is alive and they’re saying he’s dead.

And so Paul is just relieved to be talking to somebody that at least knows what he’s talking about. And then he uses that shared understanding to establish a very important point right off the bat. And that is, Paul is not anti Jewish. Paul is not trying to appear as anti Jewish. Paul is trying very hard to show, listen, this way that we’ve found, this, this following after Jesus thing, is not a departure from the hope of the Jewish people, but rather a continuation of it.

I haven’t rejected the teachings of our fathers. I’m the only one following it. He’s trying to show right off the bat. I’m not against you. I’m for you I’m one of you or rather one of them. So by all accounts, he’s doing a good job And then we come to verses 9 through 11 Did you just read with me verses 9 through 11?

I Myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth and I did so in Jerusalem And not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving the authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And when I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme and enraging fury against them, I persecuted them even unto foreign cities.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Stop, Paul. Stop. You’re doing so good. Why is he suddenly airing all his dirty laundry? This is… In my mind, where I’m thinking, if Paul was my lawyer, I would be going, Yes, yes, no, no, no, no, no, no! Why does Paul shift gears? He started so well, he was making a good defense, saying, I’m no, I, I’m just as Jewish as you are, and this thing that I’m proposing is, you know, he was doing a really good job, and then suddenly Paul starts to tell of his past.

What’s going on here? Why is Paul determined to share the worst parts of his past? It seems like that would ruin the credibility of this movement, that he himself was an enemy. I think the answer actually lies in our next bite, verses 12 through 24. Let’s read it together. In this connection, I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and the commission of the chief priests.

And at midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven brighter than the sun that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me, in the Hebrew language, Saul, Saul, or Shaul, Shaul is what it would be in Hebrew. Why are you persecuting me?

It is hard for you to kick against the goads. And I said, Who are you, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose. To appoint you as a servant. And a witness to the things in which you have seen me, and to those in which I will appear to you.

Delivering you for, from your people, and from the Gentiles to whom I am sending you. To open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. And that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. Therefore, O King, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but I declared, first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem, and then all throughout the regions of Judea and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

For this reason, the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me, and to this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying. Both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass, that the Christ must suffer, and that by being first, the first to rise from the dead, he would be proclaimed light both to our people and to the Gentiles.

And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, you’re out of your mind. Your great learning has driven you out.

Okay, so why did I say that these 12 verses answer the question why Paul suddenly gives an unadvisable defense and starts airing his dirty laundry? I think the answer is that Paul isn’t defending himself.

You would think after two long years, and finally standing before the one man who might actually sort of understand him, that he would be ready to give his own defense. The answer is, I don’t think Paul is primarily concerned with defending himself here. Well, what is he defending then? He’s defending the gospel.

He’s doing it in a very interesting way. We’ve seen Paul defend the gospel in a lot of different ways. We’ve seen him do it through reasoned arguments at the Athenian philosophers. We’ve seen him do it, uh, by showing his mastery over the Hebrew scriptures. And we’ve seen him do it the way he’s doing it here, by telling his story.

But the only way that Paul can tell his story about how he met Jesus on the road to Damascus is to tell them why he was on that road.

To be open and honest with the brokenness of his past. You see, I think at every turn so far in our passage this morning, Paul is attempting not to drive himself further apart from his opponents, but to draw them in.

To show them

this Jesus that he met on the road to Damascus. There’s so much that we could look at in this, this chunk, and I, and trust me when I say I want to, but we don’t have time. But there is one thing that I want to stop on, and it’s a line that Paul includes here in his testimony that he didn’t include in chapter 22 when he told his testimony the other time in Acts.

Does anybody know what that little detail is? Shout it out if you know it. Yeah, goads, you’re mouthing it back there. Kicking against the goats. What’s that all about? Does anybody know what a goat is? Yeah, a cattle prod. It’s a, it’s a sharp stick. And it was used usually for the young, stubborn cows. And those young, stubborn cows, well they had a job to do.

To plow the field. But they didn’t like that yoke. And they kept trying to kick it off. And so, what farmers would do is they would either attach the goat to some part on the yoke, I mean, on the, uh, the, the plow, or they would hold it in their hand and they would basically poke the cow every time he started going against his job.

And, uh, what’s interesting is that what they would find is that with, uh, younger cows, you’d find the dumb, dumb younger cows would be the ones that would kick. Here’s the thing though, uh, a goat doesn’t feel any pain, a cow does. So that, that cow is kicking out against that goat and what’s happening is that thing is poking him every time.

And eventually, that dumb, stubborn cow learns to be a smart, submissive cow. And the field gets plowed. And here, Paul includes this detail, kicking against the goats. And for a minute, just go back with me on memory lane to Acts chapter 9. That was actually a message that I preached on Paul’s conversion.

And when Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, We knew something that we may have forgotten now, and that is that shortly before this, we were first introduced to Paul in this book, at the stoning of Stephen. And Stephen was, uh, a believer, uh, who was causing many Jews to come to saving faith in Jesus.

He was on fire, full of the Holy Spirit. Um, but because of his work in bringing people out of the power of Satan and into the power of God, the Jews decided to stone him. And, uh, he was thrown to the ground, and a whole assembly was set before him, ready to, uh, cast stones until he was dead. And it says in Acts chapter 7 that Paul was there, and that Paul stood there and approved of the stoning of Stephen.

But something happened in Acts chapter 7. Right before the first stone made contact with Stephen, Stephen had a prayer to the Lord. At the end of that prayer, he said these words, Lord, forgive them. And count not their sin against them, for they know not what they do.

And then he died. And then we’re told shortly after that, that Paul is on this rampage. That he’s driving himself hard after every believer. And then, in Acts chapter 9, we see Paul riding hard on the road to Damascus at noonday. In, in 22 and here in 26 we’re told that he was riding at midday. He’s out on the road at midday.

Why is that significant? Yeah, well the bright light. And there’s something that you don’t do in that part of the world. And that’s be out in the sun at midday. If you’re riding on the road, especially out near Damascus, at midday, you’re cooking. And the only reason you would do that is if you are pretty desperate, or you’re driving yourself hard.

See, I think Paul was driving himself hard for a reason. I think he was being goaded in spirit. I think when he watched that man stand before all the accusations of the Jews against him, casting stone after stone until he was dead, and his final words were, Forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Echoing the words of his Savior. I don’t think that settled in Paul very well. And what do we do when we want to drive off and keep thinking far away? We drive ourselves hard. But Paul was kicking against the goats.

And Paul, I think, includes this little detail in his testimony, includes these intimate words between him and Jesus for a purpose.

And that’ll take us, well actually let me, let me talk about a couple other observations. I think one of the reasons why Paul is, feels free here in his two years, after two years of imprisonment, to not defend himself first, but defend the gospel, is I think he had a realization in prison. I can’t prove this.

This is just my opinion. But I mentioned in the beginning. That Paul had just finished his third missionary journey. Most of Paul’s life after being a believer had been spent on the road. Thousands and thousands of miles on foot. Going from city to city, sharing this gospel message. He’d been beaten. He’d been thrown out.

He’d been opposed at every turn. But Paul had spread the gospel in an amazing way. God had used him. To be a servant for this new gospel. As we read here in the passage. But something happened, and most scholars agree that Paul was really getting ready and geared up for another fourth missionary journey.

Maybe, who knows, the biggest and the best yet. But he decided to first go back to Jerusalem, as I mentioned. And we never saw that fourth missionary journey. Or so we thought. You see, I think Paul had a realization in that prison. I think he realized, this is my fourth missionary journey. Because this is exactly the plan and always has been.

Way back in Acts chapter 9, like we’ve talked about, Jesus says in a vision to Ananias, he’s my chosen instrument to go to the Gentiles, to go to the Jews, to share the gospel, and then it says, and to their kings.

It’s always been the plan for Paul to be a witness, uh, before the great and the small. And now he finds himself before kings, not in the way that he expected, I’m sure. But he realized, this is my next missionary journey. At least, that’s how I read it.

Bless you. I want to say one last thing about this section, and that is this. Paul had learned, on his missionary journeys, as he spread the gospel, that opposition was an opportunity. And that trials were a chance for testimony. He had been through a lot. And he had watched Stephen as he stood surrounded by enemies with stones in their hands,

give the greatest testimony. And now, Paul, as he stood surrounded by enemies, the center of the audience hall, a small man with a crooked nose and balding, he was not afraid to give testimony, to see the opposition as an opportunity, and to give. testimony amidst his trial.

He did so with boldness. What an example. Let’s go to now to our final section. That’s verses 25 through 32. We’re gonna see a pretty unexpected reversal here. But Paul said, I am not out of my mind, O excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. For the king knows And to him now I speak boldly, for I am persuaded that none of these things have escaped his notice.

For this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe. And Agrippa said to Paul, Whoa, in a short time you’d persuade me to be a Christian. And Paul said. Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am, except for these chains.

Then the king rose, and the governor, and Bernice, and all those who were sitting with them. And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, this man is doing nothing to deserve death. And Agrippa said to Festus, this man could have been freed if he had not appealed to Caesar. I don’t know about you guys, but Who has the power in this passage?

It feels like it should be Agrippa, Festus, Bernice, all the wealthy people assembled. And yet, as we read, that short, crooked nosed, balding preacher,

he had all the power. Because it wasn’t his power.

And when he turns it around and starts asking questions, Questioning the questioner.

Well, the questioner has to deflect. And if you notice, the trial ends pretty abruptly after that, doesn’t it? Oh, whoa, you’re trying to persuade me to be a Christian pretty fast here, Paul, huh? You haven’t given me time. And obviously, just a little bit before, we saw Felix. Whoa, you’re crazy, you’re crazy, whoa, you’re so smart, you’re crazy.

Because that makes sense. They’re both deflecting. And if you read earlier in, uh, this account when we heard, uh, Paul giving his testimony to Felix, speaking with him, the same thing happens. It says that Felix grew afraid and dismissed Paul.

The questioner has become the questioned. There’s been a reversal in the room.

That’s because when the testimony of a believer is preached and when the gospel is preached like that,

all the power is in the testimony. All the power lies with Paul here.

I want to put shoes to this passage. That’s what Mark would say, at least. Or, I’ll put the cookies on the bottom shelf. He’s got a lot of those. I need to learn some more of those. Application. I certainly don’t want to steer you in a direction that the Spirit’s not steering you. So, if there’s stuff that is coming out of this that’s speaking directly into your heart, I’m not, I’m not dismissing that.

But the thing that I heard in this passage was Loudly, 1 Peter 3, 15 through 16, and we’re going to have that on the screen. I think I only had 15, oh no, good, they fixed it because they’re always on it like, like that. Um, 1 Peter chapter 3, verse 15 through 16. I think Paul’s modeling for us an amazing example of what Peter is telling us about here in this passage.

But in your hearts, honor Christ, the Lord is holy. Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for the reason, for the hope that you have. Yet do it with gentleness and respect having a good conscience so that when you are slandered Those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame Here’s the thing church if you’ve met Jesus on your Damascus Road If your story is I was once in darkness and now I am in light I was once in the power of Satan and now I am in the power of God if that’s your story Then you, like Paul, are called to be a witness to the things which you have seen.

Every one of you stands in an audience hall, whether you know it or not, and all around you is gathered, the great and the small,

and they’re questioning you and they’re asking you a reason for the hope that you have, even if they haven’t asked it out loud.

You have a high call on your life. You’ve been bought with a price. You’ve been knocked off your horse.

And so that call means not only that you get to enjoy the new life that is in Jesus, but that you get to bring others with you. And that comes only when you do as Paul does. And when you recognize that I don’t have to defend myself,

I’m called to defend the gospel. Because the gospel is what defends me.

Paul wasn’t there. Because Paul had done all these things. Paul wasn’t there because Paul had a change of heart. Paul was there because Jesus conquered him. And Jesus was using him as his instrument to the Jews and the Gentiles and to their kings. And now Paul says, I wish to God that all of you, great and small, short in a short time or in a long time would become as I am from darkness to light.

I think Paul’s example shows us three ways that we can approach walking as Christians, recognizing that our life is an audience hall.

First, Paul gave his answer with gentleness and respect. It’s so easy for us to, maybe we find ourselves in a position where we, we, we want to evangelize, or we want to share the gospel, or someone’s come to us and they’re sharing all these things, and we jump so fast, we’re like, whoa, I got a story for you, you’re a sinner and you need to jump into grace because that’s the only way, and you just go straight into that.

But you haven’t gone in with gentleness and respect. You see. Because Paul went in with gentleness and respect, he also took the shared understanding that he had with King Agrippa and used it.

I think you need to know people a little bit. Or at least, know their, their type, know their, their heart a little bit. Ask God to give you that and to go and to begin with gentleness and respect. If Paul could do that to a man who is from a line of kings and rulers, who had murdered, tortured, and killed many influential and important Christians.

And if Paul could give that man respect,

then we can give others gentleness and respect, even as we give them an answer for the hope that we have. Second, Paul gives us an example by being unafraid to share the darkness of his past, even when on trial for his life.

In order to share, You need to share your testimony. You need to share where Jesus has brought you from. To show the darkness so that you can show the light of Jesus. From the power of Satan to the power of God. But if you’re unwilling

to boldly declare your own weakness, your own past, your own brokenness, how can you expect them to? Paul was showing them in his testimony, I was no different than you. Your angry Jewish Pharisees enraged at me for following Jesus. I was just like you. I was worse than you. I chased them down to foreign cities.

I persecuted them in every place I found them and I approved of their death. Even as you are seeking to murder me, I sought to murder and persecute many. But Jesus,

we have to be willing to share the darkness of our past to demonstrate the light of Jesus in our present and future. Lastly, this Paul never grew tired of sharing his testimony. I don’t exactly know how old Paul was here, but he wasn’t a young man. And it has certainly been many, many years since that moment on the Damascus Road.

But in just eight chapters, an eight chapter span, we’re given twice where Paul gives his testimony. I’m sure he gave it many more times. What’s your story with Jesus? Remember it. Share it often. Proclaim it to those who are without hope and share the hope that you have in Jesus. Your testimony is a powerful weapon to bring people out of darkness and into light.

From the power of Satan to the power of God.

One important caveat that this, this, uh, this passage shows us about sharing our testimony, about giving a reason for the hope that we have is this. You could do everything right and it could still be rejected. It could still be ridiculed. Because, People kick against the goads.

To accept this testimony as true is to give up control. Did you see all these men in this story? All these governors who are clinging to control? Who are desperate to keep their power? The Jews who are jealous of the power that Paul is showing. They’re desperate to keep their influence over the people.

They’re clinging to their own power and control. Is it any wonder that they couldn’t accept this Jesus? Who says, Give up control. Take my yoke upon you. My yoke is easy, my burden is light. Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest from your souls. But first you’ve got to let go.

People reject that all the time. Doesn’t mean we should stop sharing our testimony.

The last thing is this, a simple question. Are you kicking against the goats?

Have you been prodded in your spirit? Maybe just about something. Maybe you’re a believer and the Lord’s prodding you in your spirit and you’re, you’re pushing him off. It’s only hurting you, friend.

It’s not hurting the goat. But at a deeper level, maybe you’re here and you’re not yet saved. Or maybe you don’t even know what that means. Maybe all this stuff about Jesus and you’re kind of trying it out but you don’t understand. But you’re feeling a call to accept this Jesus.

You feel caught in darkness. Like you’re in a power of… you don’t understand and you just want to be free. You just want to see. If that’s you, don’t kick against the goats. Turn your life over to Jesus. It’ll be the best thing you’ve ever done.

And for those of us who have turned our lives over to Jesus, let’s repentance.

Let’s not grow weary in well doing. Let’s not grow tired of telling our stories. Let’s spend time with Jesus. Would you pray with me? Lord, thank you for your word, which is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Lord, thank you that totally independent of My own intentions, your word will speak to people where they are.

Thank you that your word when preached rises above ours and is heard. God, I pray that you would help us to become more like Paul. To become more like Jesus. Like Stephen. And as we look out at a world that has put us on trial. And that puts us through trials that we would not be tempted, Lord, to seek our own defense, but instead bring the gospel in defense.

And watch as you reverse our circumstances, Lord, not in the exterior, but in the heart. Lord, I just pray, give us people in mind now. If we are. Believers, Lord, give us people in our hearts that we can think of that are maybe our audience. People that we can speak life into, that we can share our testimony to.

Not discluding the dark parts of our past so that we can proclaim the righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus and that we are sanctified by nothing else but faith in him. Lord, we thank you and we pray your will in our lives. Amen.