To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/X9d2b0EO1wI
Acts 26: How Christians ought to respond when asked about their faith
What are we here for? Penuel Chapel has been around for 200 years. Here in Acts chapter 26, as Luke writes his account and the explosion of the gospel, he writes different accounts of how people speak about Jesus. Paul, in presenting the gospel 2,000 years ago, is no different to presenting the gospel today. We are called today to present the gospel, to tell people. As we look at Acts chapter 26 we see Paul behaves very godly in the way he speaks.
Godly evangelism is patient. Are you a patient person? We live in this culture of everything being fast-paced. We order something today, it arrives tomorrow. Paul had been in prison for two years for preaching the gospel. Felix didn’t know what to do with him, so he left him in prison. Here, two years later, in chapter 26, we have an account of what Paul said when he was given the opportunity to speak to King Agrippa, “So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defence,” (Acts 26:1).
King Agrippa, a Jew has been called because Felix didn’t know what to do with Paul. When Paul is given the opportunity to speak he says, “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defence today against all the accusations of the Jews,” (Acts 26:2).
How would you feel if you had been put in prison for two years for something you hadn’t done, and when you are finally given an opportunity to speak and give a defence for yourself, what would you do? What does Paul do? He starts talking about the gospel. He tells King Agrippa he wants him to listen to him really patiently, that he is fortunate he can present his defence to him. Pauls asks King Agrippa to listen to him patiently. The fruit of the Spirit is patience. God Himself is patient. The New Testament reminds us that God is patient, and with the Lord, “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8). So, this is two days ago. When the first church started, that’s two hours ago!
Paul is patient. He’s been in prison for two years. How patient was God with us? Think of the many times you’ve heard the gospel, of the many times you would come to chapel, to youth club or the times a friend would come and talk to you. How patient is God with us. As Christians, we are to be renewed in the image of God, to reach people with the good news of Jesus. Here Paul takes the opportunity to say to King Agrippa what Jesus had done for him. King Agrippa was a Jew so Paul talks to him in a way he would understand. King Agrippa knows the history. What kind of nation do we live in now? Penuel is celebrating its 200th anniversary year. What kind of nation was Penuel 200 years ago? Nations change. We might have to approach people in a completely different to even 30 years ago, therefore we need to be even more patient.
What does Paul want? His freedom or King Agrippa’s freedom? Even though Agrippa is religious, he needs the forgiveness of sins. Even when Festus says, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind,” (Acts 26:24b), Paul politely responds saying, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.” (Acts 26:5). You see the work of God and the Holy Spirit in Paul’s life. He is patient and understands.
Be ready to go, to be on standby all the time, wherever God has placed you. Be ready to give a reason for the hope we have. As we come week in, week out, being shaped by the Holy Spirit, in the image of our Creator, we are called to be patient, to be gentle, to know what to say in different circumstances. So, when you have an opportunity to speak about your faith, be on standby, be ready to be godly, ready with a reason for the hope we have. My friends, as we come week in and week out, we learn more about God’s Word. We’ve been shaped by the Spirit, we’ve been shaped by God’s Word. We’re being remade in the image of our Creator to be more like Him. Be patient. Be gentle. Know what to say in different circumstances, so that when you’re getting your haircut and you’re having a conversation which may become deep and meaningful, you’re ready and you’re alert. When someone pops round for a cup of coffee, and they are worried about something, they want to talk to you because they trust you because you know you’re going to listen because you’re alert. They know you want an opportunity to speak into their lives and say something of what it means to not be anxious and put your trust in Jesus.
I wonder what Paul was doing for the two years whilst he waited in prison? Godly evangelism is patient.
Godly evangelism is God’s message to all of us. Paul starts telling Agrippa about his conversion on the road to Damascus, when he was ready to persecute Christians, he meets God. This is his story. Godly evangelism starts with us. God came to Paul. God came to save him. Paul was elite, but even he needed to meet Jesus. He followed the law to the letter, but even he needed Jesus. Paul himself was a sinner who needed saving, “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” (Acts 26:9).
Saul was convinced, obsessed as a Pharisee, that he was right and everyone else was wrong. He realised he himself was opposing God. Sometimes, we can give off the wrong impression of what it is to be a Christian. We can sometimes forget what we are living for and saved from. It is God’s message to all of us. As Saul meets Jesus He says, “But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,delivering you 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, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” (Acts 26:16-18).
God’s message is for all of us. Jesus Christ says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 26:14b). Christ says He wants Paul to take the good news of the gospel to the ends of the Earth. He says, ‘I am going to send you so you can go and share this message so that blind eyes can be opened, so people can receive forgiveness of sins. So, Paul was there to tell them God’s message. This was Jesus’ message. This was Paul being an ambassador. This was Paul taking the only message he could have.
There is no other variation, no other gospel under which men and women, boys and girls can be saved. There is no other name under heaven in which there is salvation, “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.” (Acts 26:26). This is transparent. Jesus Christ was put on a cross. It was witnessed. Jesus Christ died. It was witnessed. He really did die. They really did put His body in a tomb. And many saw the risen Jesus – the same Jesus with holes in His hands and feet, His scars. This is truth, an historical account. Paul says to King Agrippa, ‘You can see for yourself.’
Isn’t it wonderful that here, in the year 2022, we are able to pray for people and want to do Godly evangelism? We can invite people to examine the message for themselves. 2,000 years ago, there was no printing press. We have Bibles, the gospel, literature, tracts, all forms of opportunities. There is the internet: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TicTok. There are different opportunities, different means that God has given the Church so that His message can go to the ends of the Earth, not in a corner.
Paul is communicating God’s message that He wants to go out. In Acts 17:1 the Bereans were pouring over Scripture. We need to be more like the Bereans; they were asking questions, looking intently into scripture. We need to be like the Bereans. We need to show that there is absolute trustworthiness in this gospel message, by making sure it is God’s message, not ours. Look at the small details. Go back to basics. When we package the gospel message we can distort it, give a distorted view. We need to be careful that what we present is Jesus Christ and Christ crucified. When we present Him to the world so they can turn from darkness to light, you can never be disappointed with that. For all of us, all of us, have fallen short. All of us have sinned. Godly evangelism is patient. Godly evangelism is for everyone.
Godly evangelism persuades people to follow Jesus. Paul here is trying to persuade King Agrippa, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” (Acts 26:26-28).
Anyone can come to church. Anyone can wear the right clothes. Anyone can say the right things. This is not just information; it is the gospel that transforms. We commit to following Jesus and being obedient and, just like Paul, we want people not just to come to church but to follow Jesus. Imagine you package up the gospel message and the impression that someone gets is that being a Christian, being in heaven is about one really long church service. It isn’t though, is it! It’s about being with God, it’s about being with Jesus.
Paul is trying to persuade Agrippa. When King Agrippa says, ‘If you think you’re going to persuade me in such a short time,’ Paul responds, “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.” (Acts 26:9). Paul says, ‘However long it takes, that you would be persuaded by God to follow Him.’
If you’re not somebody who is a Christian, I can’t convert you. I can give you all this information and I can say that God wants you to follow Him, but I can’t do it. You need God to persuade you. The Bible says if you seek God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, you’ll find Him. He will not turn you away.
For those of you who have got friends or family who are still in the dark, still outside the Kingdom, He wants you to try and persuade them. He wants to work in you and through you. When it is a struggle, you need to pray for them – short or long.
You may say, ‘I’d love to reach people with the gospel. I’d love to be patient. I’d love to share the message of the gospel as God intended. I’d love to persuade people, but I haven’t got any friends. Well, we need to get some friends, to be more friendly.
We could say, ‘Well, I’m not as patient as I’d like to be and sometimes, I can be sharp with my words, and it comes out all wrong. The Bible says we have to be careful about our tongue and pray for self-control.
You may say, ‘I know I should share the gospel but I actually I’m cold in my faith. When I come to church, and I come to weekly meetings I don’t feel that close to the Lord. Pray that God would make our calling and election sure and that we would grow to love him more.
Some of us will say, ‘I’d love to share the gospel but I’m just too busy. Remind yourself that God says, ‘Don’t store for yourself treasure on earth where moth and rust are going to destroy.’ (Matthew 19:21a). Store for yourselves treasure in heaven.
Some might say,’ I struggle to share the gospel because I’ve lost my confidence, you need to remember that Jesus Christ died for you, and He died for us whilst you were still a sinner.
Some will say, ‘Sometimes I feel as if I’m looking around at my friends and the world and I’m convince that actually they’ve got greater problems, that they need friends, or food, or money.’ Praying for common grace is really important, that our friends do have everything they need. We need to pray for common grace that they would be looked after, that they would have shelter, clothes and help. We need to pray for common grace.
But common grace and saving grace are two different things. My friends, we must try and persuade people to follow Jesus. God has promised an eternity for those who follow Him and those for those who don’t. Paul had met with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. He was convinced he needed to be patient with people and to take every opportunity as he ought.
When God says in His Word, one day He will make everything new, God’s people will live with Him and be with Him forever. He calls us now, as Christians, to go into all the world. You don’t have to go far, go into Roch. God calls people to be patient with them and to share God’s message with them, to try and persuade them. Keep praying, whether it’s short or long, that they would come and put their trust and faith in Jesus. Pray that, as verse 18 says, that they would come and find a place amongst those who are sanctified. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your neighbour, your work colleague, your granddaughter, your grandson, your children, parents, might come and put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Despite whatever may happen to them in this life, that they had a place set apart for them and God will make everything new.