GETTING THE MESSAGE/Christ delights to welcome the fallen

GETTING THE MESSAGE/Christ delights to welcome the fallen


In Acts 25:13-27 Festus, the new governor of Judea, is visited by King Agrippa II and his sister Bernice (verse 13). Festus gives the king details about the dispute between the Jews and Paul. The Jews accused Paul of such crimes that they had asked for a sentence of death (verse 15).

Festus however, didn’t see any charges proved that were worthy of death. Rather, he tells Agrippa, it all seems to be a dispute over religion and a man named Jesus who died, but whom Paul asserted to be alive (verse 19). A theme in Paul’s imprisonment and trials is that he is innocent of what he is accused of.  Another theme is that the Lord uses this injustice to have Paul testify about Christ.

King Agrippa wants to hear Paul speak, so Festus calls for a meeting the next day. In verse 23, we read that the king and his sister entered the audience hall with great pomp. Amazingly, not only the king, but Roman tribunes and all the other dignitaries of the city have also come to hear the apostle Paul. Obviously, the providence of the Lord is the power behind such an audience for Paul.

A sober truth that emerges from the Jews desire for Paul’s death is that men in sin are God’s enemies. It was what Paul declared about Christ that provoked the enmity of the Jews. Jesus also spoke the truth about God and men. The Lord Jesus was not guilty of any crime, yet the crowds shouted for his crucifixion. Paul wrote in Romans seven, “The sinful mind is at enmity with God.”

One reason for this enmity is that sin resists the dominion of God and his rightful reign over men. This is the mind of Satan who was not willing to be in submission to God, so he rebelled against God. So too, sinful man would dethrone God if he was able.  Pharaoh’s words, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?” are echoed in the minds of all fallen men.

It is not good to resist the rightful, good reign of God over us, but except for grace we all do. Men will either worship the true God or some idol. Idols come in a countless forms, and opposition to whatever idols are precious to a soul will provoke anger.  God will not be accepting of idols in the slightest degree.

When Jesus said you cannot serve both God and money, the Jewish leaders ridiculed him. When Jesus showed himself an enemy to their pride, their worship, and their self-justification, they would be satisfied with nothing less than his death. But Jesus was telling them the truth. God will never approve of sin and will never be reconciled to it. 

Therefore the Lord Jesus required men to renounce themselves and come to him as little children, to surrender up their sinful nature. The greatness of God’s salvation is that while we were yet enemies, Christ died for us. And he reconciled us to himself by the work of Christ, not any works of our own. In Christ, we go from being enemies of God to singing, “What a friend we have in Jesus.”

Back to our passage in Acts 25:23, we see a great contrast between the pomp of King Agrippa and the suffering apostle Paul entering the audience hall in chains. Yet Paul is the one who has the best portion in life. He among all the great men in the audience is set apart as God’s vessel of honor.

The world judges by outward appearance. The authorities in the hall were men of power and wealth. Those things are capable of many good uses, but toward salvation they cannot help whatsoever. King Agrippa I, the father of the King in our passage, put to death the apostle James, but soon after died under the judgment of God.

The men in the audience hall were on the same path, but The Lord put a light in their midst in the apostle Paul. They had opportunity to hear the grace of God offered to them.  Blessed are they who hear the good news of Christ Jesus and put their soul in his hands. The soul of man is capable of great joy and happiness, but it is never realized outside of peace with God.

If you told the apostle Paul he could have the combined power and wealth of all those men rather than his chains, he would have blanched. Nothing would dissuade him from the portion he had in Christ. The only immortality worth having is that which is made blessed by redemption and knowing Christ. So make sure of Christ. He delights to welcome fallen men returning to God.

The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.

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