TESTIFY PT 2
Yesterday we talked about the power and purpose of testimony and we continue on with that theme as Paul is now before the hostile crowd and offering up defense for his life. When you live for Christ, there will be others who will discourage you from that walk alongside those will encourage you. The levels of opposition to those who follow Christ can range from slight sarcastic remarks, disbelief in their ability to keep this new change, and at its worst, threats against their life as is the case for Paul today.
Our response in life is to always seek to take the easier route and I don’t blame anyone for having this initial mentality because who would willingly take the harder way to get to a place?!?! Yet if we live with that mentality, we will find that we are not really benefiting from the easy route but if anything in the long run do long term damage to our growth! In school, there are people who work hard, hardly work, and those who cheat their way. I’m not calling anyone out or condemning them but this is the reality that we live in. Now the person who cheats may go through an easier route but to those who work hard and learn how to study in school will have a higher chance of success when they get there. Why? Because there maybe seasons where the easier route may get immediate results no matter how right or wrong it may be but what happens when we choose to always seek the easier route is that we will never have the toughness of mind and spirit to get through moments where there are no easy routes. In the end we unintentionally weaken ourselves when we live a lifestyle of easy.
It is easy to rep Christianity in a service setting but can you rep it in school? It is easy to follow God when things are going well but can you follow God when things aren’t? It is easy to have faith when things are good but is that really faith? Does not faith at times if not majority of times be fully needed and expressed during the difficult times? When following Christ do not seek the easy road. Despite what has been said for the past couple of paragraphs, don’t even seek the hard road! Seek the road that Christ is walking on and whether easy or not, you will always be in His presence and it is always about Jesus in our lives that we will testify to!
NOTES ON THE TEXT
And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?”4 Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God's high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
Sometimes we forget that Paul was a human being like us despite writing majority of the New Testament. As Paul is struck at the order of the high priest, he curses in response. Verse five is a troubling passage to understand because there isn’t that much explanation as to why Paul would not know who the high priest was considering how deep in the Pharisee community he was in before he converted to Christianity. A possible explanation is that in the heat of the moment he forgot who he was talking to and thus stepped out of bounds. This tells us that in the midst of being dishonored, we should not seek to dishonor our attackers. Paul composed himself at the realization of his actions and thus apologizes but still stands firm in his faith.
There will be moments we mess up but repent of it and move on! A tactic of the enemy is to use your failures to stop you from being what you already are in Christ. When we fail, a common response is to stop being Christian or walk away from God’s presence when the solution is to be more of who you are and more in His presence! Paul owned up to his mistake and still kept his character in the process.
6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees' party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.
Paul knew the background of the people in the room. He identifies that despite the apparent unity of his enemies that there are key differences between them; the Pharisees believed in the spirit and resurrection while the Sadducees did not. Paul then tells them that he is proclaim the hope of resurrection and then a fight breaks out amongst the two religious groups where it gets to the point that people from the Pharisees side start defending him! I could only imagine Paul just sitting in that chaos with a trollish grin on his face but the takeaway here is not to cause fights to break out for Christ! Paul displays an understanding of how to testify to people by first knowing how to read a crowd.
When testifying, it helps to know the background of your audience. A lot of times we may have a great revelation from God but if we don’t package it in a way that helps people understand due the upbringing or environment they are in, then the impact of that revelation will be minimal. For instance, the way I will tell a child about the Gospel is going to be radically different to that of an adult because their ability to understand certain vocabulary or concepts is drastically different. To fully live missionally we must seek to understand people for that is what God did by actually becoming a human being through the incarnation. How can we incarnate for Christ? If you like football, then you can incarnate like Christ in that world by playing and learning about football to speak to the football people with their terms so that they can understand God and the Gospel through their “language.” If you like games, then use gaming terms to speak to the gamers about the gospel. Artists? Musicians? Gym bros? However many cultures there are, know where God has placed you with your desires and hobbies so that you can develop a way to understand them to relate to the Gospel that they need to know in their heart.