Acts 25: Above Reproach

Application

There are any number of things that I would love to comment about in Acts 25. For instance, one could write a scathing piece on political and/or religious corruption pointed at the religious and civil leaders, a commentary on anger management for the conspirators who had plotted against Paul’s life for two years now, or even a documentary about the strengths and weaknesses of the Roman appellate system. But as I read through this chapter, I found myself confronted with a thought that first occurred to me as I was reading Paul’s defense in Acts 24. Here, though, the thought is even more profoundly blatant. Consider with me verse 8.

Here we have Paul’s defense against all of the serious charges which the Jewish leaders had leveled against the apostle. But it’s not the brilliant oratory we’ve come to expect from today’s television court dramas. And it’s not the silver bullet that we all expected when we watched Matlock. Rather, it’s a simple statement: “I have done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.”

Now, at first glance, it seems rather lame. I mean, to be certain, when I ask my young daughter what she did wrong to make her brother cry or some other thing, she’s always quick to say, “Nothing.” But this isn’t just another instance of the “Not Me” ghost. Rather, if we look through the rest of the chapter, we find over and again that it was indeed true: no one could prove that Paul had done anything wrong.

It happens in verse 5, when Festus notes, “if he has done anything wrong.” The implication is that Festus knew that his predecessor Felix and co. were unable to verify that Paul had done anything wrong.

It happens in verse 7, where the Jews leveled “many serious charges against” Paul, but we’re told that “they could not prove” even one.

It happens in verses 16-21, where Festus explains the situation to King Agrippa, noting that he “was at a loss how to investigate such matters” and needed Agrippa’s opinion on the situation.

And it happens again in verses 26-27, when Festus brings Paul before Agrippa and the court and announces, “I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him,” and “I think it is unreasonable to send on a prisoner without specifying the charges against him.”

Clearly, Paul’s defense was far more than just his few words in the eighth verse! His defense was a lifetime of faithfulness, good character, and righteousness. He had lived his life as he had advised the overseers of the churches he had planted to live: above reproach. And now, all those years where he had worked hard and refused to compromise were rallying to his side.

We must live lives that are truly above reproach. It is a mandate which Paul gives leaders in 1 Timothy 3:2, but I would submit that it must be extended to every believer everywhere. Why? Because, as we discovered in Acts 24, life is not fair, and people will challenge our faith and level significant accusations at us when we confront our culture and its way of life. They can’t stand someone that would question the status quo. And the only way to shake off those accusations and allegations on earth or in heaven is to make absolutely certain that they’re not true. Ever. At any point.

Consider the words of Isaiah 51:7-8: “Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have my law in your hearts: Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults. For the moth will eat them up like a garment; the worm will devour them like wool. But my righteousness will last forever, my salvation through all generations.”

If we know what is right and put that in our hearts as the thing that we want to do, resolve to do, and actually do, we will have nothing to fear from the reproach of men. All of their baseless charges and complaints will ultimately fade away, but righteousness – not the cheap imitation of this world’s “good” people, but that of God Himself – will last forever.

Live a life above reproach.

Notes

  • (3) Isn’t it amazing how long anger can last? We know that it has been some two years since Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea, and yet the Jews are preparing an ambush to kill him. I wonder if these are the same men who vowed not to eat or drink until Paul was dead.
  • (8) Amazingly, after two years, the Jews’ accusations have not grown any more legitimate. In fact, they apparently can’t even get their lies straight so that Paul didn’t even feel the need to respond directly to the allegations!
  • (9) Festus’s bias and even corruption are established immediately. There was no reason to transfer Paul back to Jerusalem except to make the Jews happy. I suppose he thought that would smooth relations with the Jews.
  • (10-11) Paul’s appeal to Caesar seems a bit over-the-top at first glance, but Paul has seen clearly that Festus favors the Jews. And he knows full well that the Jews are plotting something.
  • (27) I suspect that Festus knew sending an innocent man on was not only unreasonable, but a waste of the emperor’s time. And I suspect that Festus knew such wastes were not viewed favorably in Rome.
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