The notes today have been supplied by Beth and the passage is Acts 22:1-21
It’s a bit of a tradition in Ebenezer to share your testimony in front of the rest of the church before being baptised. I know lots of people who have been very stressed or nervous about this element of the service but a testimony is such a powerful thing. I seem to cry every time! Many of you will be familiar with the cardboard testimonies done on stage in Hillsongs Church, Australia. It’s a really powerful video which speaks of God’s incredible power and love for his people. A testimony is a powerful thing and here we see Paul share his.
If you haven’t seen the cardboard testimonies, watch the video below. It’s excellent.
Paul must surely be scared here. Despite knowing that he would suffer in Jerusalem, he must have assumed he would be safe in the temple – of all places – but this isn’t so. He is seized and arrested but here speaks to the crowd, the mob, calmly. He is completely composed and seems completely unafraid. Why is this? How is this? I believe there’s so much to learn from Paul’s attitude here.
‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ (Psalm 23:4)
It is so ironic and frustrating that the crowd accuse Paul of defiling the temple, when they seize him within its walls. This is the kind of injustice that would anger me. My family laugh at my ‘principals’. If I feel I have received a bad service from a company, I simply can’t bring myself to use them again – even if they’re the cheapest. I’ve had so many bad experiences with car insurance companies, it’s almost impossible to insure my car! Poor service is really not comparable with being wrongfully arrested and accused and yet, even though the injustice is far more severe, Paul doesn’t seem angry. He speaks calmly and logically and the crowd listen. (Note to self.)
Quite a lot of attention is paid to the fact that Paul speak in Aramaic; it mentions it here and at the end of the previous chapter. It’s important because it is showing the crowd that he’s one of them; he’s just like them. Apparently the language he speaks is the language of the people; it’s the Italian to the Latin. What strikes me and challenges me here is that Paul’s not trying to impress them with his intelligence. He wants them to know that he’s one of them. He’s identifying with them and when he speaks this way, ‘they became very quiet’. This should guide our approach to evangelism. People listen when they can identify. Paul spends a considerable amount of time explaining his Jewish heritage and his previous beliefs. He’s showing them that he understands their attitudes; he was guilty of the same ones. I strongly believe that what the unsaved want to see and hear is that we understand. We’re not perfect; we don’t judge; we’re sinful too but we believe in a Saviour who has saved us from our past and who has shown us a different way to live.
Paul presents a fantastic approach to evangelism here, in the midst of personal suffering. He doesn’t share the gospel point by point, explaining where their beliefs are wrong. He gives his testimony. He tells his story. Sometimes this is the best thing. New Christians – and older ones too – can get themselves stressed about how to share the gospel in five points, all of which need to begin with the same letter and that’s all great is essence but I really believe that what people want to hear is how and why we changed. Sometimes a simple and honest story about your journey and relationship with Christ is enough.
I’ve had questions without answers
I’ve known sorrow, I have known pain
But there’s one thing that I cling to
You are faithful, Jesus You’re true
When hope is lost
I call You Saviour
When pain surrounds
I call You Healer. (I’ve had Questions – Tim Hughes)