Defend Your Faith
By Bobby Blakey on February 20, 2022
Defend Your Faith
By Bobby Blakey on February 20, 2022
I invite you to open the Bible and turn with me to the book of Acts, Acts 21, verse17 is where we will begin together this morning. And last night, here at the church, we had a complete disaster in the tech booth, a complete tech failure. I don't know if you ever felt this before, but all of a sudden, our machine isn't working, we're not going to be able to broadcast the way we normally do. And so, one of our faithful tech servants looks at me and says, wow, this service won't be live streamed, it won't be recorded. You can say whatever you want. And I was like, you know, that's not exactly how this works. I don't think we all gathered here today so I can say whatever I want. We gathered here today, because we want to hear what God says. Because he says whatever he wants. That's how this works. And we're going through the book of Acts. This is why we go through books of the Bible. And we just pick it up where we left off last week, so that we get to hear everything that God has to say; we want to get the full counsel of the Word of God. And you know, really, this part of Acts is such an interesting story to me, as we're going along with Paul.
And go back to chapter 19 with me before we get into our text, and chapter 21. Go back to chapter 19 because I really feel like the book of Acts could have ended on a high note right here in Acts 19. I mean, Jesus said, “You'll be my witnesses in Jerusalem.” And we saw that, and then in Judea, and Samaria, we saw that and then to the end of the earth. And we watched with Paul, as we went from city to city, and people got saved, and churches got planted. I mean, we spent a lot of time in the city of Ephesus here in chapter 19. And it said this in verse 17, that “this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, Jews and Gentiles, and fear fell upon them all. And the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.” Like the whole city, they all heard about it, and everybody was like, whoa, at Jesus's name was exalted, lifted high, like, wow, the Gospel has gone out to the ends of the earth. Even verse 20. “So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” That could have been a great ending to the book of Acts. But that's not the ending. In fact, going there from halfway through 19, all the way to 28, we are going to see what it says in verse 21. “Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, ‘After I have been there, I must also see Rome.’” So, we're talking about eight and a half, or nine chapters of the Bible here are all about you and me reading along on this nautical adventure, where Paul's going to sail over to Jerusalem, and what's going to happen to him there. And then he's going to sail to Rome, what's going to happen to him there. And, for some reason, this is something God wants to say to all of us here this morning. So, I think we got to get, why does God have this in here for me? What is this profitable for teaching, for correction, for approved for training in my life? So, this is not just Paul's story, this is a story for all of us to get inspired by and to learn from. So, let's go back to Acts 21:17. Because we were now coming into Jerusalem, and he got resolved in the spirit to go there. He got warned by other people speaking in the Spirit that imprisonment and afflictions awaited him in Jerusalem. If you go to Jerusalem, you are going to suffer. Paul says I'm willing to even die in Jerusalem. So, we know this is not going to be good. Let's pick it up here in Acts 21:17-26:
“When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, ‘You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.’ Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.”
Now, I don't know what you think when you read that, but to me that is just a heartbreaking story right there. Because we've been going around with Paul, and we've seen God do amazing things. Like any town we went into with Paul souls got saved, church got built up, and he comes back now. And we know he brought a whole crew with him. He brought other men from the cities where they had been saved. And we know he collected money, and he came to Jerusalem to give the ultimate praise report. Look at all these places where God has built his church, look at all the money they've given to help the church in Jerusalem. And it says, when he gave the report, they glorified God. And it's like, praise the Lord Paul, but you're a public relations nightmare here in Jerusalem. I mean, that's basically what they say. Like, this should be a whole chapter of epic celebration, like, wow, the Gospel has gone further than we ever could have imagined; more people are getting saved than we ever saw in the time of Jesus. Now, in the time of Acts like, wow, this is spreading over the whole world. I mean, this should be like a week-long celebration of salvation. And you can see there in verse 20: “When they heard it, they glorified God,” and they said to him, and they're, yeah, but the Jews, they all have a bad opinion of you. And they think you're anti the Jews. And they've been told all these things about you. And so, here's what we need you to do. Because right now you come in here is not a praise time. It's a problem for us. And so, we need you to show the Jews you're not against them. Wow. I mean, this is just how it works down here is, hey, I want to get together with all the Christians and let's celebrate our common salvation. And then it's like, no, we got some scandals, some issue that needs to be addressed.
Go with me to the book of Jude and let me just show you how this works. Jude said it very well when he wrote his short letter right before Revelation. And Jude, he wanted to have a celebration of salvation. That's what he says here in the book of Jude, he's a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James. We think Jude was one of the brothers of our Lord Jesus Christ, the brother of James, who is leading the church here in Jerusalem. And then he's writing to all the Christians, to all who are called. Look what he says in verse 3. This is Jude, verse 3. He says, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” See, I feel like that is exactly what is happening in our passage in Acts. This should be a time for us all to celebrate our common salvation, hey, the Jews are getting saved in Jerusalem, the Gentiles are getting saved all the way to Ephesus, let's all praise the Lord. But instead, we got to contend for what it even means to have faith in Jesus Christ.
So, let's get this down for point number one, if you're taking notes: The gospel is always under attack. The gospel is always under attack. We're going to have moments where it feels like, wow, look what God is doing. We should just celebrate the amazing work of God. But that's what heaven is going to be. Down here, there's always going to be another wave of attack against the gospel, another way where they're trying to slander what God is doing and trying to misrepresent. Here's Paul, this is just complete slander what we're going to see for Paul in Jerusalem, this is not even true. I mean, we know this as those of us who've been doing this study of Acts, those of us who've really been paying attention to what Paul says and does, Paul is in no way anti the Jews. This accusation that apparently has spread even among the believing Jews in Jerusalem where they all think Paul's against the Jews. Like that is not true by any stretch of the imagination. He's not telling Jewish people they don't need to get circumcised.
Go back with me to the book of Acts. And let's go to Acts chapter 16. Maybe some of you even remember this when he met Timothy, when he met Timothy, who would become his disciple, his true son in the faith. Timothy that he would train up to be a pastor in Ephesus, that he would write two books of the Bible, two letters to Timothy. Do you remember what happened when he first asked him if he would start traveling with him, and to be a part of His ministry team. It says here in Acts 16:1, “Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” Timothy's mom's a Jew, his dad is a Gentile, he hasn't been circumcised. So, Paul makes Timothy get circumcised to show respect to the Jews. Paul's the one who said in 1 Corinthians 9 to the Jews, I will become a Jew, I'll be all things to all men that by all means, I might, see them get saved. And so, this is the opposite of what Paul did. When we went to many cities with Paul, where he went to the Jewish synagogue, and he preached the gospel to the Jews first, and after they rejected Him is when he took the gospel to the Gentiles, Paul writes, and we're going to get there in Romans 1:16, when he says, “I'm not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation, first to the Jew, then to the Greek.” So yeah, Paul was ready to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, but he was not doing anything to demean the Jews, like he is being accused of here.
Go back to Acts 21 with me now. And you can see this is an attack to undermine the amazing work that God has done in the ministry of the apostle Paul. This is an attack really to undercut the gospel going out to the Gentiles, to anyone who's not a Jew, so that they could be saved. And I don't think what James is saying here, what he asked Paul to do this idea that there's men taking a vow, you can see back in verse 23, hey, we're going to need you to do something that the Jews do, according to their customs, something from the law of Moses. We're going to need you to do something to show everybody. You're a team player and you're not against the Jews. And all that's been said about you is not true. Now, there's a lot of speculation about what exactly is happening here. If you're taking notes, you might want to write down especially next to verse 24, where it says that they may shave their heads, you might want to write down the Nazirite vow of number six, it seems like that's what's going on here because it talks about shaving their heads. And this, this idea of the Nazirite vow, if you've never studied that, and how it kind of goes to Samson and other biblical characters. It's a fascinating study. They're in number six. So, I think that's what Paul and these men are going to do in the temple for purification. So, he's like, yes, I'll take a vow. And we saw he already took a vow in Acts 18:18. So he says, yes, I'll do this. Paul is in no way anti the Jews like he's being accused of. So, he's willing to do this. He goes to the temple and it's in the temple, where it really goes bad. Look at verse 27, when the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia” – so these are the same guys that have been following Paul around now. These guys are troublemakers. They are coming to Jerusalem to stir it up. And it says “the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him.” You ever heard about a couple of guys getting in a fight in an alley? What were you guys doing back there? Well, we laid hands on one another. That's what's happening right here. This is intense, what's about to happen, “crying out, ‘Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.’ For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd were shouting one thing, some another. And as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. And when he came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, for the mob of the people followed, crying out, ‘Away with him!’”
Ever heard that phrase that escalated quickly before. I mean, that's what happens here. So, you have the Jews who've been chasing Paul around for much of the book of Acts. They now stir up the temple. And look at the accusations here. Both of these accusations are completely false. If you go back to verse 28, they say “’Men of Israel, help!’” They're like calling everybody in the temple to rally against Paul. This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere. That's true. He's teaching everyone everywhere. But it looks against the people and the law and this place. Like Paul's messages is anti the Jewish people, anti the law of Moses, anti the temple of God, that's what they're saying. Is he's speaking against those things? And then they're accusing him of bringing a Gentile into the temple to defile the temple and that accusation that the temple has been defiled – all the Jews in the city, there's an uproar. There is a mob that breaks out. I don't know if you've ever seen something like that. There's a frenzy, a mob, and they rush him out of the temple. They close the gates behind them, and they're beaten up like they're going to kill him. And the Roman soldiers come in. If they don't come in and arrest Paul, Paul ends up dead there because of the mob. And it's just not going to be a fair fight when the world comes to attack the gospel. They're not going to do it in a fair way. If we get attacked, we're going to try to speak the truth; we're going to try to say it in loving ways. Even our enemies when they come against us, we will seek to love them. We won't want to reply with evil, but to overcome evil with good. Like the world is going to fight dirty, they're going to take cheap shots, they're not going to care about if it's the right thing or not. They're just going to come to get what they want. And they make accusations against Paul. When you know the heart of Paul, like when you see how much Paul loves the Jews in the book of Romans, and how he says that his heart breaks for his countrymen. And when he sees his countrymen who have a zeal for God, but they don't know Jesus, how he wishes he was the one who would be cursed, that he would be cut off. How he wishes he could trade places with his Jewish brothers so that they could be saved, and he would take their punishment. And now you're going to say this guy is speaking against the Jews? Like they just completely malign his character. It's like everything the man has stood for is torn down in one moment in the temp. So, a couple of things we want to talk about, how the gospel is always under attack.
Under that let's write down Accuracy – people are always going to say things about what we believe that are not true. Our faith will be constantly misrepresented. And I don't know if you've experienced this where someone's going off on Christians, and who they're describing as a Christian is not you nor anyone else, you even know who claims to be a Christian. Like they've just made up a straw man, and they are tearing this man down. But you're like, that's not really what we believe. That's not really how we think about it. That's not really the way we even treat people. But they're already going off on something that you can tell is not even real. It's not even accurate to what the Scripture says a real person of faith is. But they're already yelling and tearing it down. And that's what happens here. I mean, this is not fair to the apostle Paul, by any stretch of the imagination. It's not fair that he had the bad reputation among the church, much less what they're saying here in the temple against him. I don't know if you've ever experienced this, if you've ever felt like you were trying to represent Jesus, and then you hear people talking about you. And what they're saying about you is not even true. I've definitely experienced this even preaching right here at our church. I've had people come in and talk to me and I always appreciate it when people come and talk to me about the sermons. It's a lot better when they just shoot off emails about the sermons, right. I love it when people come and talk to me and we'll sit down and they'll say, hey, I really didn't like it when you said this. And I was like, oh, well, what did I say? And they'll say, what I said, and I'll be like, is that really what I said? And we can roll back the tape at least for every service, except for last night. I guess we can roll back the tape. Right. I mean, what's service were you at that weekend. Were you at the Saturday at five or the Sunday at nine? We'll go find exactly what I said. We'll type it out, a transcript, word for word. And many of the times when people come to accuse something, it's not even what was said. It's not even accurate to the claims that the gospel and the Scripture are making here. We are caring so much about the truth and wanting to cut it straight and get it right. And here comes some kind of attack, some kind of like, hey, I don't like this. And it's not even accurate to what has been said. Like he brought, he brought Trophimus to Jerusalem because he wanted to praise the Lord for all the churches in all these different cities and all the souls that are being saved. And they twist it around, like he's trying to bring Trophimus in to defile the temple. He's praising the Lord that Trophimus is now a temple of the Holy Spirit, and they're going after him for some other thing. So, when you get misrepresented, when you get falsely accused, hey, that's what they've been doing to Christians since the beginning. That's just how it goes. And the way that they characterize Paul here, and we know from going through the book of Acts, that's not who Paul was. And look what Paul does about it. Paul keeps his composure. And look, this is amazing how Paul masters this moment, starting in verse 37, “As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, ‘May I say something to you?’ And he said, ‘Do you know Greek? Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?’ Paul replied, ‘I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.’ And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying: ‘Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.’ And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet.”
And then we're going to study his defense of what he actually says, but I’ve got to ask you a question. Because if you got falsely accused of something, and a crowd of people rushed around you, and they dragged you out of where you were, and they started beating you up and, praise the Lord, the authorities come and they arrest you, because getting arrested is better than getting beaten to death. They're in the streets, and now they're starting to carry you away. Would you be like, hey, I got to speak to those people right now. See, I think I would probably be a little shook up and I'd be like, I need to go home and relax for a moment. Or, hey, can you get me a cup of water? Something like, hey, they just tried to kill me. But no, see, Paul? He's like, no, I’ve got to speak to everybody here. I’ve got to say to them the truth, I’ve got to share with them my real story. And can you imagine that if a crowd came after you … the horror of that! And here he is saying, no, I’ve got to speak to them. And I want to just draw everyone's attention to the fact that he speaks to the Roman in Greek and clearly, that impresses this tribune of the cohort. This is a man we're going to get to know in the chapters that follow, we're going to get to know this Roman man who's put in this situation of overseeing Jerusalem, when they're coming after a guy for no good reason, that people want to kill a man. And there's nothing even for him to be really charged with or accused of. And so, we're going to see that this Roman cohort is going to have a hard time really figuring out this case, but the city is in such an uproar that he thinks Paul is some kind of insurrectionist raising up 4000 assassins in the wilderness. That's how confusion is reigning in Jerusalem right now. So, this guy's like, are you like some kind of… what are you? A traitor? What you’ve got is some guys starting a war, a terrorist. Like, what is going on? He can't believe how out of control it is. But notice how Paul can speak to the Roman in the Greek language. And he's like, whoa, you speak Greek. And Paul's able to make this quick request this, this plea to this guy? Hey, you’ve got to let me preach, to speak to everybody here. And then when he speaks to the crowd, I mean, first of all, he raises his hand, and a hush comes. And then he starts speaking in Hebrew, the language of the Jews. And I don't know how you get quieter than a great hush, but that's what it says happens. Right? I mean, when you see with the Romans, like you speak Greek, and the Jews are like, you speak Hebrew, and everybody's ready to listen in the language that they're familiar with.
And so, this is a time for us to make a point that you know another language and you're fluent in that language. And you should ask yourself, am I using the languages that God has given me to spread the gospel in that language, like when you can speak the language that people are familiar with, that can open up opportunities for you to speak that otherwise might not be there if he's not speaking Greek. I don't know if the Roman cohort, the tribune here of the cohort, I don't know if he lets him speak to the crowd. And if he's not speaking Hebrew, I don't know if the crowd listens. And so, I'm so thankful for people at this church who are fluent in other languages and willing to use those skills and abilities that God has given them to spread the gospel in those languages. We've got a man named Yui Pham, here at our church who's faithfully translating these sermons into the Vietnamese language, praise the Lord for that man. At the 11 o'clock service, Jackie Catania will be here, and she'll be translating into Spanish live while we preach the 11 o'clock service. And people are hearing these messages in Spanish in other countries all over, all over the Americas really, the people are hearing it. And so, praise the Lord, if you speak Mandarin, if you speak Japanese, if you speak a language, what kind of doors can that open for you to speak to people. And we're going to see, he's going to share his testimony and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I also want to highlight to you these are the two languages that the Bible is written in, and I want to make sure everybody knows this. What we call it, the Old Testament, and the New Testament, I would prefer to call it the Hebrew Bible and the Greek Bible. Okay? so let's make sure if you don't know that, let's write that down or, or type it in your phone. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew primarily, and the New Testament is written in Greek. And if you really want to study the Bible for the rest of your life, learning one or both of those languages would be a great goal. It'd be a great thing to do. You can see things in their original context, you can get the meaning of words, you can see the things that could possibly be lost in translation. If you can dive into the Greek and Hebrew, there's a lot of software out there. There are even free websites out there where you can look up the Greek and Hebrew words and see where they're used throughout the Hebrew or Greek Bible. And you can do a lot of good Bible study that way.
So just notice how, hey, he can speak Greek to the Romans and Hebrew to the Jews. And that now gives him a way, this is amazing. They tried to kill him. And now he is going to be able to share with him a defense of his faith, he's going to be able to share with them who he really is. And so, this is important. Paul's defense of his faith is clearly something that God wants to say to all of us. So read with me here, starting in verse 3, we're going to go all the way to verse 21, when he gets interrupted, and let's follow along now, with Paul's defense.
“’I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel[a] according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished. As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus. “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the” – who does he say there everybody? “Gentiles”. Oh, wow, I just don't know if I would have said that. You know what I mean? Like, I mean, look what it says in verse 22, the very next verse up to this word, “they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” Don't you think you would have been tempted to just tone down the Gentile rhetoric a little bit at this point? Like, why couldn't you just say, go for I will send you in the name of Jesus, right? Like, why does he go there? Why does he take it all the way? To the Gentiles? I mean, he's flipped the whole scene around. He's got the whole crowd, in a hush quiet, listening to him for 18 verses. I mean, he could have just ended it with wash away your sins, calling on his name. And so, I became a follower of Jesus. And that's what I believe he could have just ended it right there. But he asked to tell the story about Jesus telling him, leave Jerusalem, because I'm sending you to the… why does he go to the Gentiles? He knows how the Jews feel about the Gentiles. He know that's the whole controversy. We already had this whole council back in Acts 15. Do the Gentiles need to get circumcised to be saved? Do we need to come become Jews to be saved? And the answer is, no, we don't. So that he already knows these aren't in Jerusalem, there's already been so much drama about how he's preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles are getting saved, and the Gentiles are just as much saved now as the Jews are. They are the people of God through his Son, Jesus Christ. If you know that is the issue of the day, why do you make it the punchline of your message? Because here's the thing that is always under attack about the gospel.
Let's get this down for our second dash here: Accessibility – who can be saved by the gospel? Is the gospel really accessible to all people? And see, this is why missionaries have been dying throughout the history of the church, because they think everybody should be able to hear the gospel. It should not be limited. It doesn't matter what the color of your skin is. It doesn't matter what your gender is. It doesn't matter if you're a rich person or a poor person. Doesn't matter. If you grew up going to church and you have a whole background and understanding of the Bible, or if this is your first day at church and you know nothing about the scriptures. It doesn't matter who you are. Jesus died for not just our sins, but the sins of the whole world. Can I get an amen from anybody on that? I mean, the whole point of this is we're here to make disciples of all nations; we're here to tell everybody that there is repentance and forgiveness in the name of Jesus. The goal, the mission is worldwide, for every living soul to know Jesus Christ. And he's not just okay with saying he's going to believe in Jesus, or the Jews are going to believe Jesus, he's saying everybody can believe in Jesus. Raise your hand if you're a Gentile here today. Raise your hand right now. Who's glad he was fighting for the Gentiles? Anybody here? We don't even think about this because this man, he fought for us on the steps outside the temple in Jerusalem. See, he said the thing that he knew people didn't want to hear. But he didn't care, because he cared about everyone hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. I wonder if the day comes where they say you can believe whatever you want, you just can't tell other people about it. I wonder how would you roll with that? Would you be like, Great, I'll just live out my days in my happy, holy huddle, praising Jesus, until I go to heaven? Or will you say that's completely unacceptable to me? I will not be muzzled. I will not be silenced. I have been sent on a mission from God and I'm here to tell people about Jesus Christ. This isn't just theory that we're talking about. No, this is what was happening in Paul's day. This is what has been happening throughout history. People are always trying to say, oh well, you can't tell those people the gospel. Don't tell those people the gospel. See, and some people have believed No, it's worth not only dying on the hill of the gospel but dying on the hill that the gospel is for every single living man, woman, and child, wherever they are on the planet, whatever language they speak, whatever background they have. Everyone needs an introduction to Jesus. See, he's not just here to say that Jesus is the righteous one, and that you should get your sins washed away in repentance, and that you should call on the name of Jesus to be saved. He said that he gave the gospel, but he's not just fighting for the gospel of Jesus, and what it is he's fighting for, who can believe in this gospel and receive eternal life? And he's making it clear that Jesus wants everyone to hear the witness of who he is.
And so, this is really interesting, as many of us are Gentiles here today. Wow, that's so great that we have all heard the gospel, that we have been able to believe that we could be saved. Those of us who are saved here today praise God that the gospel has been ringing out to the Gentiles, and that Paul kind of broke through that frontier and brought the Gospel to us. But see, there's an answer here, where they said, this is what the Gentiles need to do. The Gentiles do not need to become Jews, but they do have a request to the Gentiles. And they said it in our passage today. Go back to chapter 15, when they have that council about the Gentiles. See, I feel like a lot of us raised our hands that we are Gentiles, but we don't know this. I hear people say like, well, do we have to keep the law of Moses today? That question keeps coming up today. It's like an intellectual curiosity. Well, how does the law of Moses relate to us as Christians today? And a lot of Christians today, they just disregard the law of Moses, which is not the right approach, because Jesus Christ says he didn't come to abolish the law of Moses; he came to fulfill the law of Moses. If you study the law of Moses, you see a lot of the things that lead to Jesus Christ. The whole idea of sacrifice and blood and all that Jesus would do for us as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. And so, what are the Gentiles? The Gentiles don't need to become Jews. And we don't need to do all the customs of the Jews. But what should the Gentiles do, considering the fact that we have now been saved? And how are we to interact with the Jewish people, and they had a council about this? And they said, in Acts 15:20, that here's the conclusion of the council, that we are going to write to them, to the Gentiles who turned to God. We're going to write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled and from blood. And so, yeah, we do have some things we want the Gentiles to do. They don't need to become Jews, but we want them to consider the Jews. And in fact, then they send the letter out to the Gentiles, and they read the letter. Go down to verse 28. And here's the reading of the letter that they send out to all the Gentiles who've been saved for it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you greater burden than these requirements that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well, fare well. And when the Gentiles heard this letter that came from Jerusalem to all the other cities and churches, they rejoiced. They were like, wow, they didn't feel the full burden of the law placed on them. They thought these things are very reasonable, praise the Lord.
Now these things were important because the meat that was sacrificed to idols, see that would have been a big problem for the Jews to eat, meat sacrificed to idols. And so, that was out of respect for the Jews. Hey, don't go eating the meat that sacrifice to the idols, meat that still has the blood in it. That was a big deal. According to Leviticus 17, the life is in the blood. So, if it's been strangled, if it still has the blood in it, don't eat meat like that. If you were breaking bread or having a meal, having some meat with a Jew, and you ate meat that was sacrificed to idols, or meat that had blood in it, that would have been very offensive to your Jewish brother or sister. So, they're like, hey, make sure you don't do that. Get away from all the idolatry. And all these cities get away from their practices. Oh, and then there's just one more thing: abstain from sexual immorality. Now that's going to be a problem. That's going to be a problem for everybody here in this room. It's a big problem, because America has completely given up on the idea of abstaining from sexual immorality. And so, if you're going to say that this is where the line is going to be drawn in our day, in our time, and it could be happening right now. There's already been laws made about conversion therapy in Australia, in Canada. There's been possibilities of laws and different places in America where they're going to say there are certain people that you cannot tell them to convert to the gospel of Jesus Christ. What this book teaches is very clear about marriage, that God created them male and female, and that it is good when a male and female are joined together by God in marriage; and they get joined together as one flesh. That's how God designed sex to work. And anything outside of marriage is defined in the Scripture as sexual immorality, which is a sin, a sin that you would call someone to repent of, and to turn to Jesus so that they could be saved and have the righteousness from the Righteous One and receive the gift of eternal life. See, but Americans going to say, don't talk like that. Don't tell people who are living together but aren't married, that they should get married. That's not your business. Don't talk about that Christian. Don't tell people who are who are getting together with the same gender. Don't tell people who want to change their gender. Don't go call those people to repent and convert to your religion. Don't share the gospel with those people. That is what is coming upon all of us. And are you going to just say, okay, I'll tone down my rhetoric about sexual immorality, and how there's a call for all the sexually immoral to come and find cleansing, you have your sins washed away. Call on his name, get baptized here at the church, you could be saved. That sin doesn't have to define your life. Jesus can, hey, we could go spread that good news. Or we could say, oh, they don't want to hear about it, and we could tone it down. What are you going to do? Because we're studying a man, that they wanted us to study, that we're going on this whole adventure with him. And when people try to kill him, he hushes the crowd, and he begins to tell his story. And he goes right back to the point that he knows that whole crowd doesn't like because he wants to make sure that everyone knows they can believe in Jesus and be saved. See, he's willing to die for the fact that the gospel is for everyone. If Paul just toned down the fact that it was for the Gentiles, I bet he could have survived. I bet he maybe could have got away that day. But see, it was the fact that he said it was for the Gentiles. He was ready to fight for the Gospel’s accessibility. Who can believe and be saved? If they tell us we can only share the gospel with certain people what are you going to do about it? This is when Paul I hope inspires you to get everybody to quiet down, so you can tell it to them one more time.
And see, these defenses go back to Acts 22:1. Because this is the first of three defense speeches that Paul is going to make. Okay, so when something happens three times, okay, when it comes straight from the department of redundancy, all right – repetition is how you make your point. We weren't putting things in the Hebrew and Greek ancient manuscripts where you don't go bold letters italic, right? Indent spacing emojis, right? We don't do all that stuff. Now, if you want to make a point in the Scripture, how do you make your point? Well, you say it more than once. So why don't we get all three times we get Paul defending his faith in his speech? This is the first one in Acts 22, there in the city of Jerusalem. Then in Acts 24, we're going to get to the governor. And then in Acts 26, we're going to get to the king. And then he's going to appeal to Caesar, the highest authority in the land. And that's why we're going to Rome. And so, we're going to study not once, not twice, but three times, a man defending his faith in Jesus Christ. When it gives it to you three times, it might be trying to make a point to you. In fact, in two of these speeches, we're going to study he's going to share his testimony like he just did here, of how he meets Jesus on the road to Damascus. So, this means that Paul's testimony is shared three times in the book of Acts alone. We all studied the story in Acts chapter 9. Now we're hearing it again in 22. He's going to say it again, even more detail. The best time he ever says it is in 26. So, three times he defends his faith. Three times we read his testimony. I'm pretty sure that Luke, who, when he was writing this under the whole inspiration of the Holy Spirit, knew, hey, Luke, we've already heard this before. And yet it's here again. So, I really think there's a point of emphasis here that we go on this experience with Paul, and we see him defend his faith multiple times. And if you look there at Acts 22:1, where it says brothers and fathers, here is the defense that I now make before you. A Greek word there for defense is apology. So, we know he's speaking in Hebrew. But Luke wrote it down in Greek. Who's ever heard of apologetics before? Anybody ever heard of this? It's the idea of defending the faith. And that's what we see him doing here.
Go over to Acts 24:10 with me. And this is when he's going to end up before the governor. This is going to be at Caesarea. And some of us have been there. And we've studied this passage in like the amphitheater there at Caesarea, where Paul spoke this defense. “And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied: ‘Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense.’” I cheerfully give my apology is what it's saying. This idea of apology – I'm going to defend why I believe what I believe and do what I do; I want to defend my faith in Jesus.
Go over to Acts 26. I can't wait till we get to chapter 26, because he speaks before King Agrippa. And so now we're all the way up to the king. So, Agrippa, the king said to Paul, this is 26:1. “So Agrippa said to Paul, “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, I am going to make my defense.’” So, it's clear three different defenses of Paul. And here, in Acts 26, when he shares his testimony, he adds even more than he ever has shared before. So, I really think it's a powerful telling of his testimony. And it really seems here when he speaks in such a way that he is speaking to them like he wants the people listening to him to be saved. Like he's not just defending his faith. He's trying to tell everybody there, why they should have faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I mean, he is really going for it. Look at verse 23, where he says that “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 the Gentiles.” That is the gospel. I mean, this guy, even on the third time, when it escalates all the way up to the king, he doesn't look for some middle ground answer to find a peaceful way out of this. No, he's still defending his faith. He's preaching the gospel, and this man Festus who is there, he's like, verse 24, he's like, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” Paul, you're trying to get me to believe in the resurrection of a man from the dead as the beginning of a whole new movement and faith. And look what Paul said in verse 25. “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” Wow, you're in front of the king, and you're like you should become a Christian. And look what look at what Agrippa says to him in verse 28. “And Agrippa said to Paul, ‘In a short time would you 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.’” I mean, this guy, not once, not twice, but three times we're going to study him defending his faith, we're going to see him sharing his testimony, or we saw his testimony. And then two times, he shares it in great detail, calling for people to be saved in the same way that he has been saved. Like, is that just Paul? Is that just like, oh, remember the good old stories where Paul defended his faith? Or is this something that is put here as an example, as a type as an inspiration that all of us need to be ready to defend why we believe in Jesus Christ? Are we just reading about somebody else in some faraway place, something that happened only in Bible times? Or are you and I needing to be ready to defend our faith in 2022 in America? Do we need to be ready to give a reason why we believe in Jesus?
So, you go to 1 Peter 3 with me, and I want us to see that this is not just for Paul, and yes, you may not end up with a mob coming after you. I hope you don't. You may not end up in front of the governor or the king. You may not be in front of the president on Presidents Day trying to evangelize him. Now, I hope that doesn't happen to you, but I guarantee you, if you believe in Jesus, you will be asked why. Look what it says here in 1 Peter 3:13. This is for all the believers, not just a Peters and Paul's. It says here in 1 Peter 3:13, we had the privilege of studying this before together as a church: “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. This is the expectation for all believers in Jesus Christ, that you would always be ready to make a defense.”
Okay, let's get this down for number two: You need to stay ready to share the reason you believe. Stay ready to share the reason you believe. We're going to study Paul defend his faith three times, we're going to see some repetition in his testimony in the book of Acts. Because we need to be reminded that all of us should always be ready to make a defense, you should have a testimony, you should have a reason you believe in Jesus, and you should be ready to share your testimony any place any time. And when anyone asks you, and you don't have to be a pastor, you don't have to be a bold evangelist, all you have to do these days is just not do the sin that everybody else is into. All you have to do these days is just don't say bad words. That's all you got to do. Don't say bad words when they're cursing in the office. Right? When the when the when the parents waiting to pick up their kids from school are all cursing to one another, and you don't curse with them, people are going to be like, what's your problem? I mean, people are following you on the road. You are driving according to the laws of the road. What's wrong? What's wrong with you, man? Why are you stopping the flow of traffic? I mean, I mean, all you got to do these days is just walk around and have a generally happy disposition. So what was wrong with you? I'll tell you what right now. I mean, why are you always so happy? Why you got to do me like that, you know, I mean, that's where we're at. That is where we're at. As long as you don't go with the flow, I guarantee you, somebody will turn your way. They will look you in the eyes and they will say, why are you like that? Well, I'm glad you asked. Right. That's what we should all be ready to say. I mean, that's the whole context here. Why would it be bad to do what is good? Well, hey, it's becoming that way. So even if you do suffer harm for – notice what it said there in verse 14, “for righteousness’ sake.” Even if you don't go big and bold, and you're telling everybody in your life about Jesus, if you just try to live for Jesus, and obey his commands, and do what is right in God's sight, you will be so different. There will be such a contrast between your light and the darkness between your life and those who are dead in the way of sin, that they will turn and look at you. The blind will even see that there's something different about you. And they will ask you, why are you like that? And you could try to be like, well, or you could say, I'll tell you why I'm like that – because Jesus has changed my life. I mean, let me tell you, I didn't used to be this way. This is who I was before Christ. This is how I met Jesus. And here's who I am now. Are you ready to defend your faith? Because you're going to be asked if you're living out faith in Jesus Christ, it's common to every single one of us. And the command, the expectation is, that you are ready, that if somebody did kind of ask you a question about why you live your way, or why you always go to church on Sunday morning, why are you always reading that Bible? Why? Why are you always telling people about Jesus Christ? Maybe you are sharing with everyone that you believe in Jesus, and you think it's the best thing that ever happened to you, and you wish they would believe in Jesus so their sin could be forgiven, so they could go to heaven when they die, so they could see his glory and worship him and know love and joy and peace. Maybe you're being bold, and people are like, why are you always talking about Jesus? Are you ready in that moment when the question comes to you? And it may not be on the steps in the streets of Jerusalem, and it may not be governors and kings, it could be somebody just a cubicle over. It could be a neighbor talking over the fence. It could be another parent waiting in line to pick up their kid. When they ask you why are you doing what is right? Why are you believing in Jesus? Are you thinking this is my moment? This is my time? This is why I'm here? I'm here on a mission from God. And I'm going to tell them right now this is why I believe in Jesus. This is why I have hope. This is why I have a living hope through his resurrection from the dead. And this is why I believe that the best is yet to come. And this is why when this world's falling apart, it doesn't really destroy my soul, because my hope is not in this world. I wish you could have the same hope that I do. But I didn't used to be this way. This is who I was. This is how I met Jesus. And this is who he made me now. Like, if you can't share that with somebody, I'm here to tell you today, that is unacceptable before God. That is not what God is saying here through the apostle Peter. If you don't have a story, where you met Jesus, and your life radically changed, well, then I certainly don't expect you to give a defense for your faith, if you're not really having faith. But if you have faith, the idea that you would have faith and not be able to share with somebody why you believe in Jesus, or what Jesus has done in your life, that's like, not what the Bible is showing us. And this has been so encouraging for me to see, the growing number of people here in this church who do have a testimony, who are ready to share it, and how God uses people. I mean, people are sharing things with their families, and then we see their families showing up. They're sharing things with their neighbors, their coworkers, and then they start showing up. I mean, we got it. We got a full church here on a Sunday morning. Praise the Lord. You want to know why? Because people are out there defending their faith. Are you one of those people? And this isn't something like why defending my faith when I was a new Christian, and I was on fire. I remember back in the day, I was bold evangelists. Let me tell you some of the conversations I had. Sometimes, people are like, oh, I had this great conversation. I was like, wow, that's powerful conversation. When did that happen? Oh, that was like 15 years ago. It was awesome. It's awesome. It's like the last conversation you've got to tell us about when you share Jesus with somebody is 15 years ago. Right. I think there's a reason we're going on this adventure with Paul. And I think there's a reason we're doing it right now.
Did anybody see the freeway this weekend? Anybody see how much traffic there is out there? People are feeling free. They're feeling safe. They're feeling like they can move about the country again. There's a sense of things opening up. There's a sense of life coming back. There's something happening, like now is the time, now is the moment. Let me tell you what gives me hope in the darkness. Let me tell you what gives me hope when I see bad things happening all around me. I'll tell you a reason that I have hope. His name is Jesus Christ. This is our chance. We're here for such a time as this on a mission from God. Are you a part of that? Are you spreading that word? So, I want to just say, if you are not ready to make this defense. Now let's make this clear what we mean by apologetics because people start getting freaked out when you say the word apologetics. People are like, oh boy, here we go. Like people think we're going to have a quiz, you’ve got to be able to talk educated about every false religion on Planet Earth. You’ve got to be able to destroy atheism in 30 minutes or less. You’ve got to be able to prove creationism scientifically to a doctor who studies evolution. That's what everybody thinks apologetics is like, I don't know all that stuff. You don't have to defend the faith of Christianity throughout all history, throughout all the Bible. You’ve just got to tell us why you believe. What's the reason you have hope? Like we're expecting you to know that one. Some people in here are going to geek out on apologetics and want to study all kinds of things. Maybe we've got somebody in the room this morning who in your life will destroy a false religion. God bless you. All right. That's awesome. Right? But that's not what we're all going to have to do. What we're all going to have to do is we're going to have to give a reason for us. That's what apologetics is. You make your defense; you defend your faith. And people are asking you, people will ask you. And you have those moments where you're like, oh, I should have said something. Yeah, you should have said something. Like, I don't know how it became the fact that we can go to church on Sunday and say we're a Christian, but on Monday when it comes up, whether we're a Christian or not, we are afraid. We are troubled.
Look back here at 1 Peter 3:14, where it says, “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.” I'll tell you what, if people dragged me out of here this morning, and they were to beat me up to try to kill me. And then somebody came in and got me out of that, and they had to carry me out because of the violence of the crowd. And then I turned and looked at the crowd. I think there would be a real temptation to be afraid and to be troubled. And this man he begged for permission to speak. He hushes the crowd, and he goes right back at it for the gospel for the Gentiles. And here we are afraid of what somebody in the next cubicle is going to think. First off, what somebody who lives next door is going to think, what are we afraid of? That they would know we’re Christians, that they would know we're on the right side of history, that we know the Lord of heaven and earth, that we know the righteous one, the resurrected one, the one who's coming back that every eye is going to see history was really his story. Are we afraid that we would be associated with him? So, I just want to encourage you, if you are out there, taking hits, if you are feeling the attack, if you are being falsely accused, and you feel like people are misrepresenting you, I want to encourage you. That's what we're studying right now. This is our path. Be inspired by the example of Paul. Don't stop, brother, sister, don't stop defending your faith. Where do you see God use you to save somebody? Keep going. And if you are not ready to make a defense, I'm asking you this week, prepare your defense. I'm saying when we go to our fellowship groups this week, let's make sure every one of us is ready to share. Hey, here's why I believe, here's why I have hope and Jesus, here's how I was before. Here's how I met him. I can tell you my story. Sure. And see, even in our culture today, even in this moment in America right now, you're still allowed to have your own story, you're still allowed to have your own personal experience. If we're going to self-expression, and everybody can be themselves and everybody who can be what they want, then you can be one of the people of Jesus Christ. And you can share your story with other people. So, this week, I'm excited because I'm going to just make some surprise appearances in some fellowship groups. I'm just going to show up. I'm going to just look at some people. And we'd be like, tell me; give it to me. I mean, if you want I could wear like a costume, like secret police or something and come in, you know, flashlight, who's a Christian in here? Are you a Christian? Are you a Christian? But not share it with anybody else? What are you doing? And then and there you are, right there in your fellowship group. I'll be ready to listen. I'll be ready. Give it to me. Tell me your story. Make your defense. Like this is something we are all expected by our Lord to do. And let me just tell you, what more important thing could you do with your time here on planet Earth? Like, it's not about this life. I feel like it's so easy for us to have one thing we're supposed to do and completely miss that one thing. We are here to make disciples, to tell people the good news of Jesus so that they can be saved, because it doesn't matter what people think about us here. It matters what God thinks about us there. Can I get an Amen from anybody on this? Like, there are Pearly Gates, there are streets of gold, and I want to walk up, I want to walk in with you. I want more people that I know, people that I can meet and talk to. I want us all to go there. That's what really matters. Not what people think about me here right now. But I want people standing there with me then. So, let's pray for us right now.
Father in heaven, we come to you in the name of Jesus, and we pray that you will use us to Lift high the name of Jesus, that it will start in our hearts here together this morning. And that when we are asked, why are you doing what is right, why are you talking about Jesu, that we will be ready in that moment to make a defense for the reason that we have hope in your son, a living hope through his resurrection of the dead. I pray that we will be bold when we have the opportunity. And so, Father, I pray for those who are not ready to give a defense this week, they will get ready. They will think through, they will write it down, they will be like, yeah, here's what I would say. I pray for those who have been making a defense that they would realize this is a great time for us to share the Good News of Jesus. This is a time when people are looking for something to believe in. People are looking for some hope that they could have, and what a glorious hope we can offer them. What good news we have to share with them. That, yeah, things are going terrible all over the world, but there is coming a day, there is a kingdom that is coming, there is one who is coming, and when he reigns, he will establish peace, and he will reign in justice. And when we all get to see King Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that he and he alone is Lord. What great news we've got to share with people, that the Lord of heaven and earth already paid for their sin. That they could be forgiven, that the Lord of heaven and earth came to offer them eternal life, that someday they could wear robes of whiteness in a place of glory, where there would be no sin, no death, no mourning, just you, Father. The people could really experience what they were made for, to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent to feel that wholeness that completeness in our souls, that this is why I'm here is to worship my God. God, please don't let us be afraid of people. But let us defend our faith in Jesus Christ. We ask this in his name, Amen.
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