The Mercy of Bonds & the Grace of Chains: Grace Doesn’t Always Appear As What You Expect

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament scriptural account of the spiritual body of Jesus the Christ which is the church as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke in the book of Acts. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses sixteen through thirty-two of the twenty-sixth chapter. ARE YOU DEFENDING YOURSELF OR ARE YOU DEFENDING CHRIST? WHOSE NAME MEANS MORE TO YOU? WHICH NAME ARE YOU MORE CONCERNED WITH EXALTING? YOUR TAINTED PAST TO DISPLAY THE BEAUTY OF CHRIST! YOUR TESTIMONY POINTS MEN TO CHRIST! DOES YOUR WITNESS DRAW MEN TO CHRIST! WOULD YOU LET YOUR NAME BE DRAGGED THROUGH THE MUD THAT THE NAME OF CHRIST MIGHT BE EXALTED? WOULD YOU DEFEND YOURSELF OVER CHRIST? When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find the apostle Paul standing before one who would now be the third political ruler since being rescued from the hands of the Jews. As you read the words which are found within this passage you will find the apostle Paul making an incredibly powerful statement, for despite the fact that he was kept in bonds, and despite the fact that his liberty and freedom was forfeited, he viewed his chains and shackles as a blessing. If you read the words which the apostle Paul spoke unto Agrippa you will find him describing how he obtained help from the Lord when the Jews of Asia which saw him in the Temple in Jerusalem came upon him and would have beaten him to death. If it weren’t for Lysias the chief captain of the guard coming with an army to the help and rescue of the apostle Paul he might very well have been put to death by the Jews. It’s actually quite unique and astonishing to think about and consider the fact that the apostle Paul would actually view the bonds and chains he found himself in as a sign of the mercy of God, as it was in all reality the sovereign hand of the Lord protecting him. What’s more, is that I would dare say the bonds and chains which the apostle Paul found himself in were actually chains of mercy and bonds of peace as although they perhaps removed certain comforts and conveniences in this life they were used by Jesus the Christ to watch over, to guard and protect him. More often than not and so many times we think that the bonds, the afflictions, the chains, the struggle, and even the conflicts we face in this life are somehow meant to discourage and distract us, and yet we don’t recognize and understand the tremendous reality that it is possible that the chains and the bonds might actually be ordained and appointed by the Lord Jesus the Christ in order to preserve and protect us. It’s truly astonishing and remarkable to think that the bonds and chains which the apostle Paul found himself in were actually meant to preserve him in order that he might stand before political rulers and leaders of that day. What’s more, is that it would almost seem and appear to be that the apostle Paul was rescued and preserved in order that he would and could give testimony concerning Jesus the Christ before political rulers alike—not only in the city of Jerusalem, but also in Caesarea and even Rome itself. RESCUED BY CHAINS! PRESERVED BY BONDS! RESCUED BY CHAINS & PRESERVED BY BONDS!

I have to admit that as I stand here this morning I am completely and utterly captivated with and by the thought the apostle Paul was actually rescued by the bonds which were placed upon him. If and as you study the twenty-first chapter of the book of Acts you will find that after the Jews dragged forth the apostle Paul out of the Temple they immediately shut the doors behind them and began beating him. What’s more, is they would have succeeded in beating him to death if it weren’t for the fact that the chief captain of the guard came within a great army and rescued the apostle Paul from their grip and from their grasp. The account of the apostle Paul at this particular juncture in his life is quite remarkable and quite extraordinary when you take the time to truly think about and consider it, for more often than not we would choose to complain and grumble about bonds and afflictions within our hearts and lives. We have spent a considerable amount of time in our lives thinking and believing that bonds and afflictions are somehow a negative experience and manifestation within our hearts and lives and yet we fail to recognize the mercy that can actually be present within them. THE MERCY IN BONDS! THE GRACE IN AFFLICTIONS! It is quite astonishing to think about and consider the fact that when we think of bonds and afflictions within our lives we tend to think of them in terms of an experience that is somehow meant to destroy us and as a means to bring us to an end. The truth of the matter is that as you read the words which are written in this portion of the book of Acts you will find the apostle Paul literally being beaten and beaten almost to the point of death were it not for the chief captain of the guard who came to the rescue of the apostle and saved him out of the hands of those who would have most certainly killed him. If you take the time to read the account of the apostle Paul I’m this passage of scripture you will find that if it weren’t for the chief captain coming to the aid and rescue of the apostle he would most certainly have been beaten to death by the Jews who so vehemently hated and opposed him. The account of the apostle Paul in this place clearly indicates that the Jews so hated and so vehemently and passionately despised the apostle Paul that if they were permitted to succeed they would have killed him there in the courts of the Temple, or perhaps even outside. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this tremendous and incredible reality, for to do so would be to miss the grace of God and how there are times when the grace of God manifests itself in our lives in ways and manners we neither expect nor imagine or anticipate. Have you ever been there—the place where you were in need of the grace of God and it manifested itself in your life but not in a manner in which you expected?

We are well aware of the words which the apostle Paul recorded in the twelfth chapter of the second epistle written and sent unto the corinthians concerning bonds and afflictions. We are well aware of the thorn in the flesh which the apostle Paul spoke of in this chapter and how he be sought the Lord Jesus that He would remove it from his life and deliver him from it. What’s more is we are aware of how each time the apostle Paul asked and entreated the Lord to remove this thorn from his flesh, the Lord not only responded by declaring that His grace was sufficient for him, but also that His strength was made perfect in his weakness. We read the words which the Lord Jesus spoke unto the apostle Paul and we tend to thin that the grace which He spoke of and the grace which we read of when we read of “the throne of grace” comes exactly as we want and exactly as we expect. The truth of the matter concerning grace is that not only do we have no control over it, but neither do we have any control over how it is manifested within our hearts and lives. When the Lord Jesus appeared unto the apostle Paul and declared unto him that his grace was sufficient for him, He was making an emphatic and bold statement, however, one thing we must understand when it comes to grace is that grace is always manifested according to the divine will and providence of the living God. Despite how many times we would like to dictate, manipulate and somehow control grace within our lives we must recognize and understand that we cannot and will not be able to exercise our will over the grace of God in our lives. What’s more, is that it is the Lord who bestows grace and it is He alone who chooses to bestow it when He desires and always at the appointed time. It has always been said that God is never early, and He is never late, but is always on time. This reality is true concerning the manifestation of grace within our hearts and lives, for the grace of God neither arrives too early, nor does it arrive too late, but always on time. Despite our common misconceptions and misunderstandings concerning grace and how it operates within our hearts and lives, we must come to terms with the awesome and wonderful reality that the grace and mercy of God within our hearts and lives comes at just the right time and always when we need it. When will we begin to understand that we have no control over the grace of God within our lives? When will we begin to recognize that when it comes to the grace of God within our lives the grace we so desperately seek always manifests itself according to the need which is present within our lives and is always at the appointed time and to the degree and measure we need within our lives. Perhaps the question we must ask ourselves is would we dare question and would we dare complain about the grace of God as though it is somehow something we have a right to exercise any type of control over? We read and we speak about the grace of God and we do so in a manner that indicates that we can somehow exercise our will overcome it, and the truth of the matter is that we must accept the grace of God in our lives even when it doesn’t make sense and is not manifested in our lives as we would think of imagine.

I am convinced that in order for us to understand the tremendous reality concerning the grace of God and how it manifests itself within our hearts and lives it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we turn and direct our attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the second epistle which was written unto the Corinthian saints. If you take the time to read the words which are found and recorded in these two chapters you will find an incredible amount of language written and contained within it concerning the afflictions, the conflicts, the struggles, the trials, the troubles, the opposition and the suffering the apostle Paul faced and experienced within his life. Throughout this year I have referred to these two chapters of Scripture, and I can’t help but get the strong sense that the words which are found and contained within these two chapters are integral to that which the Spirit desires to speak into my life—and not only my life, but also in the lives of countless other men and women in this generation. The words which the apostle Paul speaks and writes in this passage of Scripture are absolutely and incredible powerful, for not only do they refer to afflictions, trials, troubles, suffering, and the like, but they also deal with and refer to a specific attitude and mindset when it comes to suffering and affliction within our hearts and lives. There is not a doubt in my mind that when we think about and consider the words which are found within these two chapters we must do so while laying our attitudes and our mindsets—not only regarding affliction, opposition, trials and trouble, but also regarding the grace and mercy of the living God—bare and exposed at the throne of and before the living God. It is not enough merely to change and alter our perception and our mindsets toward affliction, opposition, trials, trouble and that which we face within our hearts and lives, for we must also allow our thoughts, our attitudes and our mindsets concerning the grace and mercy of the living God to be radically altered as well. I am completely and absolutely convinced that we must needs allow the Holy Spirit to completely saturate and infiltrate our hearts and our minds in order that He might truly revamp and revitalize our thinking and our perceptions about affliction and bonds, as well as regarding grace and mercy. Before I present you with the words which are written and recorded within these two chapters in the second epistle which was written unto the Corinthian saints I would first like to present you with the words which are found within the epistle that was written unto the Hebrews. If you journey to the end of the fourth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews you will find and discover some incredibly powerful language describing our time of need and where we turn and run to during those times of need. Consider if you will the following words which were written by the author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews beginning with the fourteenth verse of the fourth chapter:

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

With these words the author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews not only references the reality that we have a great high priest which is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, but also instructs us to hold fast our profession. What’s more, is the author of this particular epistle goes on to declare concerning this Jesus the Son of God that He is not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, and yet was without sin. Immediately following the declaration that we do in fact have a high priest who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities the author of this epistle goes on to instruct us to come boldly unto the throne of grace that we might obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Oh please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for within these verses we find the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews we find the author both speaking of mercy which is available in time of need, as well as grace which is also available in time of need. This reality is expressed in a great degree and measure in the defense which the apostle Paul gave before Agrippa while still bound and in custody in Caesarea. If and as you read the words which are found within the twenty-sixth chapter of the book of Acts you will find the apostle Paul speaking about the bonds and afflictions which he found in Jerusalem, and also concerning the grace and mercy of God which manifested itself in the midst of affliction, and was demonstrated through bonds and chains. If you begin reading with and from the nineteenth verse of the twenty-sixth chapter you will find the following words which were written concerning the apostle Paul as he stood before King Agrippa and gave his defense to the charges and accusations which were laid against him. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul spoke unto King Agrippa, as well as in the company of Festus who was also present there in Caesarea, and perhaps those accusers who were still standing round about the apostle Paul. Beginning with the nineteenth verse you will find the following words which the apostle Paul spoke on this particular occasion as he gave his defense before his accusers and those who would hear and listen to his defense of his actions, as well as his defense before his accusers:

“Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: but shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:19-23).

HAVING THEREFORE OBTAINED HELP OF GOD! I CONTINUE UNTO THIS DAY! Pause for a moment and consider that declaration which the apostle Paul made in the company and presence of King Agrippa, as well as in the company and presence of Festus and those who sought to accuse him. What’s more, is that I invite you to consider the words which the apostle Paul spoke on this occasion, for there is not a doubt in my mind that he made such declarations in the hearing and in the presence of those who actually sought to kill him. Although it’s not indicated within this passage of Scripture, we should consider the fact that as the apostle Paul gave his defense before King Agrippa and Festus, he acknowledged the tremendous reality that it was there in Jerusalem where he was caught and seized by the Jews, and how they went about to kill, were it not for obtaining help from God. What’s more, is the apostle Paul emphatically and boldly declared unto Agrippa, Festus and all those which stood and/or sat before him that despite the fact the Jews which were in Jerusalem sought to kill him, he remained unto this day and was still bearing witness unto the testimony concerning Jesus the Christ. It is absolutely critical that we recognize and understand this, for if we are to truly understand the true purpose for the apostle Paul still standing we must recognize and understand that he was still standing to that day in order that he might bear witness unto the testimony concerning Jesus the Christ. This is actually quite incredible when you think about and consider it, for it helps reveal a tremendous truth concerning our obtaining help in time of need, and how the grace and mercy of God interacts and is made available within our hearts and lives. While standing before Agrippa the king, as well as Festus and others, the apostle Paul made it very clear that despite the fact the Jews went about to kill him in Jerusalem, he remained unto this day, and did so—not only because he obtained help from God, but also that he might continue to bear witness concerning the testimony of Jesus the Christ. In fact, if you read the words which the Lord Jesus Himself spoke unto the apostle Paul while bound and in custody you will find Him declaring unto the apostle Paul that just as he stood witness and gave testimony concerning Him in Jerusalem, so also he must bear witness and give testimony in Rome itself. Despite the fact the Jews sought to kill and put the apostle to death there in Jerusalem, he obtained help from God—albeit in a manner in which he was most likely not expecting. It’s quite astonishing to think about and consider the fact that the apostle Paul emphatically declared and spoke of how he obtained help from God, and yet when you think about the help he obtained from God you must understand that the help which he spoke of were the bonds which he found himself in after the chief captain of the guard came with soldiers and rescued the apostle Paul out of the hands of the Jews. The Jews would have sought to kill and put the apostle Paul to death, and yet the chief captain of the guard came with soldiers and not only rescued the apostle Paul out of their hands, but also bound him with two chains in order that he might understand the matter more clearly and why the Jews were in such a tumultuous uproar against this man.

As I sit here this morning I can’t help but be captivated and gripped by two distinct realities when concerning the life of the apostle Paul and his standing before king Agrippa and Festus on this particular occasion. On the one hand we find within this passage a wonderful and marvelous depiction of the apostle find grace to help in time of need through bonds and chains which were placed upon him by the chief captain of the guard. On the other hand we find the apostle Paul standing before those who would hear and listen to him speak, as well as before his accusers, and the awesome and wonderful reality that the apostle Paul stood before them—not defending himself, nor his name, nor his honor, nor even his own person, but defending the testimony of Jesus the Christ, as well as the name of Jesus the Christ. I will get into the reality and concept of defending the testimony and name of Jesus the Christ in a moment, but before I do it is absolutely critical that we understand this concept of the apostle Paul speaking of the Jews setting about to kill him there in Jerusalem and how he obtained help from God in the midst of their desire to kill him. What’s more, is that if you turn and direct your attention back to chapters twenty-one through twenty-five you will not only find and discover the fact that the Jews did in fact lay hold of and seize him and attempt to kill and put him to death, but once the apostle Paul was rescued out of their hands and from their grasp, they still made attempts against him and upon his life. While it is true the chief captain of the guard rescued the apostle Paul from the Jews who would have killed him had he not intervened, it is also true that the living God provided the apostle Paul help from the threat of danger and from the possibility of violence against him. As you read these chapters—not only will you be confronted with the reality that the apostle Paul was rescued from physical danger which actually touched his person and body, but the apostle Paul was also rescued from the threat of danger as the living God delivered him from the conspiracy to kill and put him to death. It’s absolutely amazing to think about and consider the fact that not only did the apostle Paul find grace to help in the midst of the Jews actually going about to kill him when they had their hands on him, but the apostle Paul also found grace to help from the conspiracy which the Jews plotted against him to kill him secretly and privately. In fact, there are two different occasions when we read of the conspiracy of the Jews to kill and put the apostle to death as there was first the plot of forty Jews who bound themselves under a curse to put the apostle Paul to death which was exposed, and there was a second attempt when the high priest and chief ruler of the Jews who sought to have the apostle Paul brought back to Jerusalem in order that the Jews might put him to death along the way. It is quite unique and wonderful to think about and consider the fact that not only did the living God rescue the apostle Paul from the actual physical danger and threat of the Jews as they actually had their hands on him to kill him, but He also gave him grace to help in the midst of the conspiracy of the Jews to kill and put him to death secretly and privately without others knowing and being aware of it. The grace to help and the mercy which the apostle Paul found at this point in his life was not only in the midst of actual danger and violence which was committed against him, but also against conspired danger and violence which was plotted against him.

I can’t help but wonder how many times the living God has come to our rescue, and has given us grace to help in time of need when there have been plots against us to destroy and put us to death. I can’t help but wonder how many times the Lord has watched over and protected us when we haven’t even been aware of His presence, His providence and His protection. What’s more, is that I find myself thinking about how many times the living God has watched over, guarded and protected us from dangers and threats before and all around us, and how we have been none the wiser to what was actually going on before and all around us. There is not a doubt in my mind that there have been countless times when the living God has watched over and protected us in this life, and has protected us in times of trouble we didn’t even know existed and which we weren’t even aware of. UNSEEN PROVIDENCE! UNSEEN PROTECTION! I am absolutely and completely convinced that there have been times in our lives when the presence of the living God has been evident and manifested within our lives—even though we have not and were not even aware of it. I believe with everything inside of me that there have been times within our lives when the Lord has delivered us from plots and schemes against us and we were neither aware of the plots and schemes, nor were we aware of the presence and protection of the living God. TRUSTING IN A GOD WHO IS PRESENT EVEN WHEN WE DON’T FEEL IT! TRUSTING IN A GOD WHOSE PRESENCE IS WITH US EVEN WHEN WE AREN’T AWARE OF IT! I find it absolutely wonderful and amazing that there were essentially two conspiracies of the Jews against the apostle Paul to put him to death, as the first came from forty Jews who bound themselves under a curse to put the apostle Paul to death, and as the second came from the high priest and chief ruler of the Jews who tried having the apostle Paul removed from Caesarea and brought back to Jerusalem in order that he might be killed along the way. What’s more, is that were it not for Paul’s sister’s son being in the right place at the right time and hearing about the conspiracy of the Jews against the apostle Paul they might have succeeded in killing and putting the apostle Paul to death. Were it not for the apostle Paul’s nephew overhearing the plot and conspiracy against him and making the apostle Paul aware of it, the chief captain of the guard might have allowed the apostle Paul to be put in a place where he could have been killed by those who sought to end his life. What’s more, is that there was a second attempt and a second conspiracy of the Jews to put the apostle Paul to death as the high priest and chief ruler of the Jews sought to have the apostle Paul brought to Jerusalem in order that they might have him killed along the way. To my knowledge there is absolutely no indication the apostle Paul was aware of this second conspiracy against him to put him to death, and yet the living God was still watching over and protecting him.

With all of this being said I feel it necessary to present you with the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the second epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Corinth. If you turn and direct your attention to the words the apostle Paul wrote in this epistle you will find him not only glorying and boasting of his bonds and his afflictions, but also boasting of the grace and strength of the Lord Jesus the Christ, and how the grace of the Lord Jesus the Christ sustained him in his moments of need. If you begin reading with and from the twenty-third verse of the eleventh chapter you will find the following words which were written by the apostle Paul concerning the trials, the troubles, the afflictions, the bonds, the suffering and the opposition which he faced and experienced within his life. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto these dear saints in Corinth where he invested a year and a half of his life teaching and preaching them concerning the gospel of Jesus the Christ:

“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in drafts oft. Of the Jews five times received if forty strips save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? IF I MUST NEEDS GLORY, I WILL GLORY OF THE THINGS WHICH CONCERN MINE INFIRMITIES. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands. It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) how that he was caught up in paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 11:23-12:10).

It is quite clear from the words which the apostle Paul spoke unto Agrippa the king, as well as the words which he wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth that the grace of God is available to help in time of need. It is obvious when reading the words which are found in the writings and testimony of the apostle Paul that he experienced firsthand the grace of God to help in time of need, as well as obtaining mercy and help from God during those times within his life when he needed it. The truth of the matter which we must come to understand is that the grace of God which the apostle Paul experienced within his life was for a specific reason and for a specific purpose, for the grace of God which the apostle Paul experienced within his life was manifested in order that he might bear witness and give testimony concerning Jesus the Christ—not only in Jerusalem, but also in Rome itself. Ask we read the words which are found within the twenty-sixth chapter of the book of Acts we find the apostle Paul having now stood before Felix the governor in Caesarea, as well as Festus who undoubtedly came from Rome itself unto Judaea. There is really no indication where Festus came from, but we can be sure that the apostle Paul stood before Festus as well and gave testimony concerning Jesus the Christ, and even the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. What’s more, is that we find the apostle Paul now standing before king Agrippa and giving testimony and bearing witness—not only concerning his past life as a Pharisee and one who was zealous for the law, but also as one who vehemently persecuted the church of Jesus the Christ, and did so unto strange cities. I sit here this morning and I can’t help but consider the absolutely incredible truth concerning the apostle Paul his standing before some of the most powerful political rulers and leaders during that time, and how as he stood there in their presence he sought not defend his name, nor his honor, but sought to defend the name of Jesus the Christ. In fact, if you read the words which the apostle Paul spoke unto Agrippa you will find the apostle Paul hiding behind the person of Jesus the Christ and allowing the grace and mercy of Jesus the Christ within his life speaking louder than anything else. It was true the apostle Paul spoke of his former life as a Pharisee and as one who persecuted the Christians, however, his speaking concerning his former life was a testimony of the grace and mercy of Jesus the Christ within his life, and speaking of and defending the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ before the men he stood before. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this reality, for when in bonds and when in custody after having been rescued out of the hands of the Jews, the apostle Paul sought not to defend himself, but rather defending and speaking concerning Jesus the Christ, and exalting and magnifying the name and person of Jesus Christ before those whom he stood accused, and before those whom he stood trial.

Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul spoke before king Agrippa, before Festus, and before all those whom he stood before on this particular occasion. Carefully examine the words which the apostle Paul spoke in their hearing and before them and you will quickly discern and understand the apostle Paul sought not to defend himself, nor defend his own name, nor even defending his own actions, but rather he sought to defend the name of the Lord Jesus the Christ. The apostle Paul references his past and referenced his zealousness for the law and his persecution of the Christians, but only in an attempt to reveal unto those whom he stood before how the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ laid hold of him and apprehended him, and it was because of the testimony of Jesus Christ—the testimony which he once vehemently persecuted—he stood trial and was accused of the Jews. Read the words which the apostle Paul spoke before and unto Agrippa the king and you will find the apostle Paul not defending himself, nor defending his own name, but rather defending the name and person of Jesus the Christ. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister, please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of this, for the single greatest question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are more concerned with our own name, or whether we are concerned with the name of Jesus the Christ. Are we more concerned with our own reputation, or are we concerned with the reputation of Jesus the Christ? Are we concerned with making ourselves great, or are we concerned with making Jesus the Christ great within our lives and in the midst of those whom we stand before? Consider the following words and ask yourself whether you are fighting to defend yourself, or whether you are fighting to defend the person and name of Jesus the Christ. Oh that we would stand before those we encounter and rather than seeking to defend ourselves and rather than seeking to make a name for ourselves, we seek instead to exalt and magnify the name and person of the Lord Jesus the Christ. I leave you with the words which the apostle Paul spoke in the company and presence of the Agrippa the king and Festus and encourage you to examine your own heart and life and truly understand whether or not you are more concerned with your own name and your own reputation, or whether you are concerned with the name and person of Jesus the Christ:

“I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, at midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I hear a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee: delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may received forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:9-18).

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