Commentary

Grace Begets Grace

As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. (We were in all 276 persons in the ship.) And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.

Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to run the ship ashore. So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. But striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf. The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land. Acts 27:33-44.

Paul’s faith, confidence, and kindness toward his captors pays off when the chips are down. The centurion spares not only Paul, but all the other prisoners when it’s common to kill them rather than let them escape. Paul has distinguished himself as a man of God, and when you need to survive a shipwreck, you might want to cling to the friend of God.

We must remember that Rome was an oppressive government that ruled most of the world with an iron fist. We in America bemoan our petty tyrant bureaucrats and our demagogues in elected office, but they are amateurs next to Caesar. Let us find a way to bring grace to our own government now by praying for them, warning them, and even asking God to rescue them from themselves. As Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Not all will turn to Christ, but we will have obeyed our commission. That is all Paul wanted to do, whether he was in chains or free.

Saints Over Tyrants

Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.”

After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.” Acts 25:1-12.

Antonius Felix and Porcius Festus are actual historic figures. They each served as the local governor in Judea. Today, the only reason why any of us knows who they are is who stood before them as a prisoner in chains: Paul, the Apostle. Their temporal power is over and forgotten, but Paul’s influence, animated by the power of God, is still felt today.

Paul deftly wielded his rights as a Roman citizen in order to gain an audience with governors, Kings, and even the Emperor of Rome. Along the way, he was heard by many lesser nobles who were in attendance at his trials. He doubtless influenced many of them, planting new believers in the halls of power. Then he wrote letters from prison to the churches he started that are now in publication around the world in many languages.

We Americans have rights and access to power that Paul could only dream of. The technology of our day can give a window cleaner an international following in just a few years. So what are we doing with it? Most of us stand passively by, wondering what is happening to our country, as if we are helpless. We keep silent while stupidity flows like a river from our institutions of learning, medicine, governance, and the arts. We put on our own chains.

These principalities and powers, spewing accusations of racism, homophobia, transphobia, and whatever newspeak charge they can create, are purveyors of spiritual death. We, however, are ambassadors of God’s kingdom, announcing freedom and forgiveness to all who will believe in the Son of God who took their punishment and rose again to live forever. The truth will set you free. The lies of our present cultural hegemony bring bondage and fear. Oppose them, even from your chains in prison. Win the hearts and minds of your jailers.

Revival Scares People

The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:44-52.

It is one thing for a man to be preaching to a crowd. It’s another thing altogether when the crowds come out to hear him. And then it goes up a level of concern when it starts to change people’s lives. That’s because the status quo usually benefits someone, and that person, or persons, don’t want you rocking their boat.

Throughout history there has been a complacent ruling class. Once Christian religious leaders became part of that ruling class, they didn’t like the status quo being challenged, either. Before the Reformation in the 1500s, the Catholic Church would tamp down heretics that spoke out against the church’s wealth and corruption. When the printing press was invented, and the Bible started being published in various languages, the church did what it could to suppress that. When reformers spoke up and got a large following, the reformers were imprisoned, forced to recant, and/or were executed. And here, in America, we have had our Great Awakenings. And every one of them had opposition from the established churches of most if not all denominations. It will be no different now.

Our preaching and teaching should oppose the status quo. That is because we live in a sin-cursed world that is loathe to acknowledge the God who created us. It’s a world that wants to redefine reality in a way that satisfies its redefined morality. And it wants you to abandon your rights and your religion, and your nuclear family, and your traditions, and your gender roles, and anything that you think is normal. And if you resist it, you will be shamed, depersoned, cancelled, prosecuted, and punished to the full extent of their ever changing laws. So, if were going to stand up to the status quo, we had better win.

Live Not By Lies

Learn about our current “soft totalitarianism” and how you can be a Christian dissident. Woke ideology, also known as social justice, is leading us to a new tyrannical movement where you will be labeled as a racist, bigot, homophobe, or with some other manufactured charge in order to silence your speech or make you back down to bullies. More than ever, we need the true Gospel preached, and subversive lay people to replace sellouts who cave in to the woke mob. Get a copy here.

Paid It Forward

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. Acts 2:36-41.

Peter is telling these people, some of whom were demanding the crucifixion of their Messiah, that they will be forgiven if they repent. And not only that, but they will be given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that this promise is extended far into the future to all their descendants. It is the exact opposite of digging up past sins of yours, and those of your ancestors, and extracting some kind of payback.

The concept of “Pay It Forward” is one where you repay a favor by doing a favor for someone else, and tell them to return that favor to yet someone else. This idea has been written about long before the 2000 movie of the same name, in which a boy launches a movement as part of a class project in which the good deed is to be repaid to three new people. Ben Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and even coach Woody Hayes were proponents of the idea. It’s actually a microcosm of the Gospel. Like when Peter was forgiven by Christ, received the Holy Spirit, and paid it forward to 3000 people on the Day of Pentecost.

During these times of accusation, recrimination, and manipulation, let us remember that we can be free of this bondage by insisting on our freedom in Christ. Then we can pay it forward by telling others that God is not holding their sins against them, and that they are also free.