Acts 23: No Regrets

Application

The apostle Paul had been mobbed, literally, at the temple, and it was only because the Roman contingent rescued him that he was alive. Now, it was time to figure out what all the commotion was about, and so, a day after the veritable riot, the commander of the local garrison convened the ruling council of chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees to hear what they had to say. In moments, the polarizing effect of the gospel would be demonstrated once again as even the Sanhedrin proved volatile enough to transform into a riot. And eventually, a conspiracy among his own people to have Paul killed would compel the commander to forward his case to the governor of the province, Felix. But here and now, it is Paul’s opening statement to the Sanhredin which catches my attention, and for a number of reasons.

First, Paul addressed the council directly and called them, “My brothers.” Rather than acknowledging guilt and their authority over him, he stood confidently – innocently – and called them his equals. When we stand before the authorities in our life, we should be certain that we are in a position where we can do exactly the same. This means that we must live a life which is above reproach. That is, we must live in such a way that, even if accusations are leveled against us, they will ultimately be unfounded. In The Wesleyan Church, we have a word for such a lifestyle: holiness. We must commit ourselves to living lives which are completely separated from all the stuff that we know is not quite right or even completely wrong because even the slightest flaw or imperfection will mean that we will be unable to stand so confidently when our trial comes.

Secondly, Paul declared to the Sanhedrin, “I have fulfilled my duty to God.” At the very root of it, this was the apostle pronouncing that he had done everything God had asked him to do. What a profound declaration! God had asked him to preach and teach; Paul had done it. God had asked him to take the gospel to the world; Paul had done it. God had asked him to proclaim that gospel to the Gentiles; Paul had done it. And now, God had asked him to return to Jerusalem and face whatever trial was coming; and Paul had done it. Along the way, he had been mocked, cursed, beaten, and even left for dead. But Paul had done it. He had done everything God had called him to do, and we must do the same. Whether our trial comes before men or not until the judgment seat of Christ, we must live our lives in such a way that, when God asks us to do something, we get it done.

And finally, perhaps most striking of all, Paul concluded, “I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day” (emphasis mine). I find this emphasized part exceptionally interesting because Paul could have left the statement at “I have fulfilled my duty,” and even if he hadn’t Luke could have truncated the declaration there to conserve expensive paper and ink. But neither did. Rather, they found this seemingly simple elaboration so significant that they had to include it. Why? Because in adding “in all good conscience to this day,” Paul was saying that he had not only done what God had asked of him – that is, the very bare minimum that he could have done – he did it all to the very best of his God-enabled ability. To borrow a phrase from every coach in every sport ever, Paul left it all on the field. Whatever God had called him to do, he had done 100%, leaving nothing in reserve, so that as he stood before the Sanhedrin that day, he could say, in essence, “I have done the very best that I could do and then some. I have absolutely no regrets.” We must be so faithful!

Truly, when we stand before people who are pointing their fingers at us and accusing us of all sorts of things, we must be able to stand tall and proclaim that we have given our very best efforts to all that was asked of us. Because when we stand before God at the end of time, that is certainly what He’ll be expecting us to say.

Notes

  • (1) How many of us can say this? To do so implies that we have done everything to the best of our ability, and we haven’t left anything undone which was ours to do.
  • (3-5) It is interesting to note that Paul did not recognize the chief priest. Apparently, the apostle had been gone quite some time. Then again, maybe he didn’t recognize the chief priest because he behaved in a manner contrary to his position.
  • (6-8) Surely, Paul recognized the inflammatory nature of his comments here. The Sanhedrin was immediately polarized. I have to wonder if this is what Paul intended. Or was his design to show the soldiers that the real issue was in the Jews, rather than himself?
  • (9) It is interesting that, without even hearing the rest of Paul’s testimony, the Pharisees rallied to his defense on the basis of his belief re: resurrection. Why would they rally to that flag, but not to the Good News that Paul preached on its foundation?
  • (11) The angel’s message could be seen as encouraging following the events of the previous day. Then again, they could be seen as exhorting: the angel was saying, “Get yourself together, man, because it’s about to get a whole lot tougher.”
  • (16) Apparently, Paul wasn’t being confined in the strictest sense. His situation could probably be best described as “protective custody.”
  • (19) Clearly, the commander of the guard was a reasonable man.
  • (23-24) The commander’s actions were probably driven more by his fear of reprisal than any real concern for Paul. He didn’t want to be executed for being less than fully diligent in the guarding of his prisoner.
  • (27) The commander’s recollection of the events leading to Paul’s arrest are somewhat interesting. The commander claims to have rescued him “for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen” when, in reality, the soldiers had no idea about Paul’s citizenship until well after he was in their custody.
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