Ready to Witness

MEMORY SELECTION: “Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” —II Timothy 4:2

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Acts 26:1-3, 19-29

ALTHOUGH there had been no infraction of the law on the part of the Apostle Paul, he was, nevertheless, kept prisoner by the Roman authorities for a period of about two years. This occurred during the governorship of Felix, who kept Paul prisoner to maintain his own position of relative favor with the Jews, even though he could find no apparent fault with the apostle.

Paul’s enemies were, of course, those from among his own Jewish people. When Festus was to become the new governor of Judea, the Jews chose that opportunity to entrap Paul and bring him to trial, on trumped-up charges, before their own Sanhedrin. The scheme involved Tertulus, an experienced orator and the one they chose to be their spokesman. Speaking before Felix, he said (Acts 24:5,6): “For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law.”

The case was argued before the Roman tribunal in connection with Paul’s so-called crimes having been along the lines of religious profanity, rather than along political lines. The Jews reasoned, therefore, that they, rather than the Roman government, should be given authority to try Paul.

When the matter was brought before Paul, he was given the choice, as a Roman citizen, whether he should be tried before a Roman court of law or before the Jewish Sanhedrin. Recognizing the situation and the attempted scheme to entrap him by poisoning the mind of the incoming and inexperienced new governor, Paul chose to be tried before a Roman court. He thereby foiled the objective of the Jews who sought to kill him. Meanwhile, too, an assassination plot, which had been formulated in case the first scheme was unsuccessful, failed.

The inauguration of the new governor, Festus, took place in Caesarea, at which time King Agrippa of Galilee was present. Agrippa understood Jewish customs and questions which were among the Jews. Festus believed, therefore, that if Agrippa were to hear the accusations against Paul, he could help him decide what charges were necessary to transport Paul to a Roman court of law. This afforded Paul an opportunity to speak on his own behalf before the king, the new governor, the assembled dignitaries, and the citizens.

Paul was glad for the further chance to preach the message of the kingdom, as well as to defend himself from those of his own countrymen who accused him and sought his life. He said: “Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: but showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”—Acts 26:19-23

It was on this last point—in connection with Jesus having been raised from the dead—that the whole dispute between Paul and the orthodox Jews lay. They could not accept the fact that Jesus had been raised from the dead and to a position of glory and honor at the right hand of God. Paul further explained that he had been given a commission by our Lord to preach both to Jews and to Gentiles these things about the kingdom: repentance, the resurrection of Jesus, and the calling of those who respond to the invitation to follow Jesus’ teachings and example of holiness.

Festus believed Paul was mad (vs. 24), but Agrippa declared (vs. 28), “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Then Paul, rising to the occasion, said, “I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.” (vs. 29) And at this they could find no fault with the apostle.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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