Acts Series #40
Back to the Beginning: When Church was Church
Listen to My Defense
Acts 21:17-40; 22:30
As we work our way through the book of Acts and the story of the early church and the spread of the gospel throughout the world, we reach a turning point in the story today.
Paul, against the wishes and judgment of other believers, but under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, goes to Jerusalem. This will be a turning point because from this moment on Paul will be in chains for the rest of this book.
This is a lengthy encounter but I want us to read it all and then I want to give you some admonitions regarding sharing your faith, sharing a witness for Jesus Christ.
READ and TELL the Story from Acts 21:17-40; ch 22
Wherever he was, whatever the circumstance, we find one thing about Paul … he is willing to speak up
We get a word here today about HOW to
1. Speak So They Can Understand
When Paul spoke to the Romans, he spoke Greek, when he spoke to the citizens of Jerusalem he spoke Aramaic.
This may seem like a little thing, but there is something that we need to learn and apply here as we share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Share the gospel in a way that people can embrace it with their heart and soul.
When Paul spoke Greek he got the attention of the Roman soldiers, when he spoke Aramaic he gathered the attention of the residents of Palestine.
We have Southern Baptist Missionaries in Central America that are going to tribal people groups. These people speak Spanish but that is NOT their primary language. So our missionaries are learning their HEART language and presenting the gospel to these people who are mostly aural learners and illiterate. So they STORY the gospel to them in THEIR heart language
We can and need to do the same thing.
Do you present the gospel the exact same way to teenagers as to senior adults?
Do you present the gospel the exact same way someone from the inner city as someone from the farmland?
Speak so they understand, in their heart language
But while you adjust your methods to speak so they understand, you still must …
2. Speak the Truth
You need not apologize for, be ashamed of, nor shrink back from the witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, because it is the TRUTH.
Some would say that the Word of God “contains” the Truth. That is an ERROR.
This scripture, 66 books, Genesis to Revelation, IS the Truth. It IS the Word of God, it IS breathed out by God to us, through the apostles and prophets who were led along by the Spirit of God to record exactly what God intended.
You do not have to enlarge upon it, make it say something it doesn’t say, sensationalize it, just proclaim it.
Deut. 32:3b-4 Oh, praise, the greatness of our God! 4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect and all his ways are just. A Faithful God wo does no wrong, upright and just is he.
John 1:17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ
John 1:9 says that Jesus was … the TRUE LIGHT that gives light to every man …
Be not ashamed of it, because it is the POWER of God FOR SALVATION of all who believe.
Proclaim the Word of God, the Promises of Scripture, the consequences of sin
Speak for understanding
Speak the Truth and …
3. Speak with your Life
A. When your voice can’t be or won’t be heard
This is NOT the only way to “speak” – I am NOT giving you an excuse to LIVE and NOT speak, but your life does speak
B. LIVE so your voice CAN be heard
If your actions overshadow your voice you will NOT be heard
Paul could TALK about following God no matter the cost, he could TALK about being committed to the gospel, but he put his actions where his mouth was
He lived a life of love and proclamation of the truth
How this must have challenged and encouraged those who were WITH Paul as they watched him
How it must have challenged those watching this unfold
Perhaps, like Centurion at the cross, there were those in the crowd that said, “surely Paul serves the true and living God.”
Peter wrote in 1 Pe 2:12
Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
4. Speak of your Experience
A. Tell your story
1 John 1:1-3
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim … 3 we proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ
Share how you came to understand your need for God
Tell how you received him
Tell what he has done in your life since
Be sure that they understand the process of embracing Christ so they could do it for themselves
You should be able to share your witness in 3 minutes or less
5. Speak of a Common Need
Paul spoke to people on their level. He connected with them.
As he spoke to the Jews … he stated his case for being in the same boat, the same desire
V3-6 shows how he related to them
He was born a Jew, born in an important city, but raised in the most important city, Jerusalem.
He didn’t just grow up in Jerusalem, he was educated by the greatest teacher of the day and one of the greatest in Jewish History. Gamaliel was not just a Rabbi, “teacher”, he was one of only 7 teachers ever given the title of Rabban, which means “our teacher”. It was to say he was the National Religious authority and leader of Israel.
Paul had been taught right, he knew the ways of the law.
He was zealous for God
He persecuted Christians
He had the authority of the Sanhedrin
As a Jew of Jews, Paul knew that they knew that he understood their need.
Their need was to fulfill the law, and pray for, long for, the coming of the Messiah.
So, Paul pointed them to the Truth to Jesus Christ
In Athens they worshipped the Unknown god and he pointed out that he HAD a name and it was Jesus.
Czech Republic … I was speaking with the Regional Mayor, kind of like a district governor. I asked him about the needs of his people. He recounted how they had been oppressed and afflicted for 50 years under Communism. How they were poor and needed economic development and so he was too busy to seek God, though he claimed to believe in him. He told me that he was busy seeking the influence of Prague and the national government for his people
I replied that it was interesting, to me, how and to whom Jesus came. I told him, Jesus didn’t come to Rome, or to Athens, or to Alexandria, the great influential cities of the day. No, instead he came to Jerusalem. He was born into a people who were poor, afflicted and under the oppression of an outside government for many years. He went to that kind of people and didn’t tell them to look to Rome, but to look to God, to follow him, to receive Salvation through Christ and Christ alone
Speak of a Common Need … All the world needs Christ, they just have to see and feel, and confess that need
6. Speak with Authority
A. Know your Legal rights
They assumed Paul to be nothing more than a terrorist starting riots by subversively attacking Roman authority.
They figure, this Jewish upstart needs to be beaten and moved on
Well, you can do that to a conquered people like the Jews. They did it to Jesus WITHOUT a finding of guilt. Pilate found no fault in Jesus yet he ordered him flogged, hoping to be done with it. Also many times those flogged didn’t survive the beating. But Jesus survived and then they crucified him
HOWEVER, it was NOT legal to flog a Roman citizen. From reading verse 29 it seems it was even illegal to chain a Roman citizen without due cause.
Paul didn’t put up with it, he knew his rights. And he asked “is this legal …”
Someone says, you can’t discuss your faith in the public school, or at the workplace, or on the internet, you need to know your legal rights.
There is NO separation of church and state clause IN the Constitution. The separation that was intended was for the STATE not to influence the church, NOT for the church / Christians to influence the State.
You have a freedom of religion and a freedom of speech that the government may NOT take from you.
If your school allows clubs to meet with student leadership, then you CAN have a Christian club ON campus
If your job site allows free time and gathering in company space, you CAN have a prayer meeting on Bible study on your own time. You CAN have a Bible on your desk if you are allowed to have personal items in the work place
Know your rights,
if you are unsure seek counsel
B. Know your Spiritual rights
Paul didn’t fear demons and the demons knew him and his authority
You are a representative of the KING
You are an ambassador of Jesus Christ, when you witness, you are HIS witness, you have spiritual authority
You have spiritual armor that will protect you and you need not fear.
C. Be Prepared if your Spiritual mandate supersedes other rights
If the government were to change the civil law and make it illegal to proclaim Christ, illegal to worship publicly, to witness and win converts, THEN we would have to make a choice
Our Spiritual mandate and authority, then may supersede our legal rights and we must be prepared to bear the consequences of fulfilling our Spiritual mandate
Chinese “God’s Contact” <ILLUS>
Speak with Authority
7. Speak with Passion
Benjamin Disraeli said Man is only truly great when he acts from the passions
GWF Hegel (Philosopher) said nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion
Paul made no apologies
Paul told the whole story
Paul told the story forcefully and with Passion because he BELIEVED that the presentation of the gospel partnered with the working of the Spirit of God to draw men, women, boys and girls into salvation
Peter also preached with Passion, why because he was indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit
Before the cross, Peter could not speak timidly to a group of people around a fire
After the cross Peter speaks boldly the gospel before the Sanhedrin and people from all over the world
What was the difference? The cross of Jesus Christ and the Indwelling of the Holy
Take up the cross and follow Christ and you will follow with Passion, you will live with passion and you will speak with passion
8. Speak with Urgency
People need the Lord
Folks people need the Lord MORE than you need a raise
People need the Lord MORE than you need to be honored
People need the Lord MORE than you need to be right
People need the Lord MORE than you need to be SAFE
You wonder where the urgency is here in this story?
Paul is being beaten in accusation for something that is NOT true
Paul is trying to stay alive!
The Romans come to arrest him, and thus “rescue” him in the arrest. They chain him in two chains (hands and feet) just as Agabas had prophesied
At one point they have to pick him up because people are still attacking him.
<ILLUS> The story goes that two shoe salesmen were sent to the Jungle in the 19th century. After a short time, one salesmen sends back word, “I’m coming home, these people don’t wear shoes” The other sent back word, “these people don’t wear shoes, send me more shoes!!”
Now, some of us would have thought, this is unfair the whole city is attacking me.
Instead, Evangelist Paul said, “the whole city is hear attacking me … I’ve got to preach.”
Paul always seized the opportunity
When he was in jail in Philippi he sang praises and when the earthquake set them free, he made sure no one left and then led the jailer to faith in Christ
Paul didn’t see a PR Problem here in Jerusalem, he says an Evangelistic Opportunity
Eph. 5:15,16 be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil
Speak with so they can understand
Speak the truth
Speak with your life
Speak of your Experience
Speak of a Common Need
Speak with Authority
Speak with Passion
Speak with Urgency
But you can speak all day and be nothing more than a philosopher or a lunatic unless you
9. Speak about Jesus
2 Peter 1:16 we did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty
2 Cor. 4:5 for we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord …
You are NOT asking people to believe in YOU
You are NOT asking people to become Religious
You are NOT asking people to become Baptists
You are calling people to faith in Jesus Christ
Speak about Jesus
Email about Jesus
Write about Jesus
Sing about Jesus
Live for Jesus
It is ALL about Jesus
The Call that God has for New Life Baptist Church today is take the muzzle off and
What is the common denominator of these 9 admonitions I have given you today?
We are silent too often
We are silent when falsehood speaks loudly
We are silent when injustice rules
We must speak up … NOT for our rights but for the gospel of Jesus Christ
We do not want to stand before Jesus and have him ask why we were silent when we were told to GO and to be a Witness
YES we can witness with our lives, but that is ONLY to give validity to our verbal witness
We are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, …” WHY? “… that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his glorious light.”
What was the message from God that Ananias had for Saul in verse 16? “… what are you waiting for?
New Life … Do not be Silent- v 16 what are you waiting for?
Do not be Passive
Do not Pass through Life with no Impact
Seize and make the most of every opportunity
Be Prepared Be Ready
Bats Out of Hell
Mitsuo Fuchida, commander of the Japanese Air Force, led the squadron of 860 planes that attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
American bomber Jacob DeShazer was eager to strike back, and the following April 18th, he flew his B-25 Bomber, the Bat Out of Hell, on a dangerous raid over Japan. After dropping his bombs on Nagoya, DeShazer lost his way in heavy fog and ejected as his plane ran out of fuel. He was taken prisoner, tortured by the Japanese, and threatened with imminent death. For almost two years, DeShazer suffered hunger, cold, and dysentery.
In May of 1944, he was given a Bible. “You can keep it for three weeks,” said the guard. DeShazer grabbed it, clutched it to his chest, and started reading in Genesis. Scarcely sleeping, he read the Bible through several times, memorizing key passages. On June 8, after reading to Romans 10:9, Jacob prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior.
Immediately Matthew 5:44 became a critical text for DeShazer as he determined to treat his Japanese guards differently. His hostility toward them evaporated, and every morning he greeted them warmly. He prayed for them and sought to witness to them. He noticed their attitude toward him also changed, and they would often slip him food or supplies.
After the war, DeShazer returned to Japan as a missionary. Copies of his testimony, “I Was a Prisoner of the Japanese,” flooded the country, and thousands wanted to see the man who could love and forgive his enemies. DeShazer settled down to establish a church in Nagoya, the city he had bombed.
One man in particular, deeply affected by DeShazer’s testimony, was led to Christ by Glenn Wagner of the Pocket Testament League. Shortly afterward, the man paid a visit to Jacob DeShazer at his home, and the two became dear friends and brothers. It was Mitsuo Fuchida, who had led the Pearl Harbor attack. As DeShazer served as missionary in Japan, Fuchida became a powerful evangelist, preaching throughout Japan and around the world.
2 Tim. 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, encourage – with great patience and careful instruction
1 Peter 3:13-15 13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear ; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (318). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.