and when the governor had nodded to him to speak, paul replied:
“knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, i cheerfully make my defense. you can verify that it is not more than twelve days since i went up to worship in jerusalem, and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city. neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. but this i confess to you, that according to the way, which they call a sect, i worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law and written in the prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. so i always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. now after several years i came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. while i was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. but some jews from asia— they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when i stood before the council, other than this one thing that i cried out while standing among them: ‘it is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that i am on trial before you this day.’” [acts 24:10-21]
the peace of serving God instead of the self
in the beginning of chapter 24 we see tertullus start his speech with an obvious attempt at flattery, which to the discerning stinks of guilt and deception. paul instead briefly introduces his argument, confident in part because felix has been governor for some time and is familiar with christianity.
when you know you’re guilty, or know you need to deceive someone to protect yourself or your cause, do you know that feeling, that seed of anxiety nudging you to fight and claw for every inch? that anxiety finds its root in a belief that we’re our own God—that the sum of our choices either makes a good life, or a bad one. if we really try to live that way, the only logical way to live is in a constant state of anxiety: how are we to know whether picking up our groceries at schnucks or walmart the next day will introduce us to our ideal spouse, or a dream job opportunnity? look back on the best and most important things to ever happen to you: how many insignificant-seeming things needed to add up in just the right way to make that happen?
if we believe the bible, we don’t have to worry about all those little things, because God’s word says and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. for those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. and those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
[romans 8:28-30]
we can rest secure know that, while we can’t possibly figure out every detail, God already has. and when we rest in trust that God’s plans are sure, we can respond to accusations in humble confidence like paul, because our security is wrapped up in God, not our wise choices.
~ stephen hall