Read Acts 23 -- 25
When Paul arrived in Jerusalem, the religious leaders stirred up all the people with false accusations: This is the man, that teaches . . . against . . . the Law (Acts 21:27-28). In response, an angry mob seized Paul and tried to kill him, but he was rescued from their violence by Roman soldiers. He was then allowed to speak in his own defense to the Jews. When Paul mentioned his commission by Jesus to go to the Gentiles, they immediately considered him a traitor to their religion, and shouted: Away with such a fellow from the earth (kill him): for it is not fit that he should live (22:22).
When the Sanhedrin authorities failed to convict Paul, the religious zealots decided to take the law into their own hands and murder him (23:12-15). But Paul's sister's son overheard their plan and told the Roman captain, who then had Paul secretly transferred by night to Felix, the Roman Governor of Judea at Caesarea (23:16-24).
Two years passed (24:27), and Nero, Emperor of Rome, replaced Felix with Festus. Taking advantage of this change, the religious zealots in Jerusalem came to Caesarea to present their charges against Paul.
King Herod Agrippa II (25:13) was governor of all the region extending from the east side of the Jordan northward to Damascus. As a matter of courtesy, the king came to visit the new governor. Festus then took advantage of Agrippa's visit to have him hear Paul's defense. His reason was that, after examination . . . I might have somewhat to write. For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner (to Rome), and not . . . to signify the crimes laid against him (25:26-27; see 24:13-27).
During his several years stay in Caesarea, Paul was tried before three powerful rulers of the Roman Empire who listened to what he had to say about his faith in Jesus Christ. He faithfully reasoned about righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come (24:25). Each of his judges had a different reaction as Paul spoke of the judgment to come. His first judge Felix trembled. Later, his second judge Festus exposed his indifference when, in a loud voice he said, Paul, you are beside yourself! And, for whatever he may have meant, his third judge Agrippa said: You almost persuade me to be a Christian (26:24,28). Whether Agrippa's words were sincere, or sarcastic, as some think, is not important -- the outcome was the same. As far as we know, none of these men received Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives, and, consequently, all were eternally lost.
Like Agrippa, countless people are strongly convicted and almost persuaded to be a Christian. But, because of their lust for sinful desires, they are deceived into thinking they will turn from their sins later in life. Without realizing it, they make a choice that tragically ends in eternal hell. There is only one convenient time to repent and receive Christ as Savior and Lord: Behold, now is the day of salvation (II Corinthians 6:2).
Word Studies: 23:3 whited wall means hypocrite; 23:23 third hour of the night means 9 p.m.; 24:14 heresy means a belief that is not the true religion; 24:18 tumult means riot; disorderly disturbance; 24:26 communed means talked things over; 25:16 licence means opportunity.
For Acts 23:5: See Ex. 22:28.
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Memory Verse for the Week: Acts 8:37-39