Alan Hall, associational missionary
Mulberry Baptist Association
Paul said in Acts 26:4, “All the Jews know my way of life from my youth…” Paul had a past; we all have a past. As believers in Christ we came to Him at different ages: some as children, some as youth, and some as adults. While all of us were sinners in need of God’s grace our life experiences prior to our salvation have all been different.
When I called to Jesus as a twelve year old boy, my life up to that time had been an ordinary childhood. Those who knew me then would most likely have agreed with that assessment. Though still a sinner in need of forgiveness, my testimony did not include experiences of devastating failure or riotous living and I am thankful, but many people do have those experiences in their past. Our unique life experiences and conversion testimonies are what I refer to as, “the power in the pews.”
Each one, regardless of the degree of drama, is powerful and amazing. Someone will be blessed by hearing your story just as we are by hearing Paul’s story.
Paul’s past shows us that Jesus can transform even the most hostile opponent into a faithful believer. Paul hated Jesus and all who followed him. Hatred can be an all-consuming passion. People can feel so strongly about a person, a set of beliefs, or a way of life that they develop hatred when the object of their devotion is challenged. Hatred can lead people in a passionately wrong direction where the end justifies the means and all violence is justified. Thankfully Jesus sets us free of that, calling and empowering us to a life of love instead.
In the setting for our session passage, Paul has been taken into Roman custody for being in the middle of a riot in the Jerusalem temple complex. For his own safety he was taken to Caesarea, remaining in the custody of Roman governor Felix. After two years, the new governor, Festus, reviews Paul’s case and seeks to send Paul to Jerusalem to be tried by Jewish leaders.
Paul invokes his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar. While Paul was waiting to go to Rome, Festus was visited by the Jewish king Agrippa II. Festus decided to present Paul’s case to the king who was interested to hear Paul speak.
Hatred for Jesus and His followers consumes some people – Acts 26: 9‐11
Paul’s shares his testimony once again where he details the fact he did many things in opposition to Jesus. Looking closely, Paul says, “in opposition to the name of Jesus the Nazarene.”
One thing is sure: there is power in the name Jesus. Mention that name and you will most likely get a response, good or bad. “Jesus” is the name people want removed from public view and conversation. Why? Because, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it” (Acts 4:12).
His name requires a response. Some love it; some hate it. Obviously, many hated it in Paul’s day as they do today. In verse 10 Paul mentions that he had the authority of the chief priests to oppose Jesus and His followers. Those in position of power and influence in the community sanctioned his actions. Followers of Christ were pursued and punished.
Do we see such opposition today?
Jesus calls the opposition to become His disciples – Acts 26: 12‐18
The conversion account of Paul is dramatic. Jesus calls this man who had been consumed with hatred for Him. If there was ever a hostile unbeliever, Paul was it. God is at work in ways we do not see or cannot comprehend. God’s ways and thoughts are higher and greater than ours! This is why we continue to pray for the lost. We pray for those in opposition to us, we pray for the least among us because God is at work!
“It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (v. 14) means that the Lord was working in Paul’s life. He gave Paul a purpose, a commission and we must trust that God can do likewise for the unbelievers we know. A son, daughter, grandchild, friend, co-worker, those in our community who openly oppose Christ – they need amazing grace.
Surrender to Jesus leads to radical transformation – Acts 26: 19‐20
God can turn people from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to the power of God, from sin to forgiveness. God makes a radical transformation in us, setting us apart, sanctifying us when we surrender to Him. Paul testifies to King Agrippa in verses 19-20 that he surrendered. He became obedient, preaching that people should repent and turn to God.
What a great illustration reminding us that God can do radical things! He can redeem us from an unbelieving past. He can change people we never thought could change. Who would ever have thought Saul the Persecutor of Christ would become Paul the Proclaimer of Christ! The truth can set us free!
Live Out the Truth of this Lesson
- How has God redeemed you from your past?
- Who could your story help?
- Is there hatred for Jesus and His followers today?
- How should you respond?
Pray for the radical transformation of hostile opponents.