Our passage today is Acts 25:23-26:8
“O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command” (1 Kings 18:36)
It’s Elijah’s prayer from Mount Carmel and it was heartfelt. Israel had drifted into Idolatry and the worship of false gods. Elijah had arranged a contest to see which god was real. What interests me is that Elijah wanted everyone to know that the Lord was the only God but also that he was the Lord’s servant. Perhaps it’s a prayer we should echo. We want people to know that there is a God and that they can be reconciled to him but we want them to know where to look for answers and who they should talk to. I’m not talking about competition with other Bible believing Churches; we’re seeking to build the kingdom of God not an empire for ourselves. If you are a Christian, you probably spent time working and talking to people who are not; they probably don’t read the Bible, they read you! Paul’s aim in today’s passage is clear; he wants to share the Gospel but first he has to establish his own credibility – he wants to be a credible witness.
Paul’s credibility was that he was not an outsider come to destroy Judaism, he was an insider. He had been a Pharisee, about as orthodox as a person could be. He had been accused of desecrating the temple but would someone who had lived as a Pharisee do such a thing?
Paul spoke of the Jewish hope in God’s promises. It appears he is referring to the hope of the Messiah. There were countless references in the Old Testament scriptures to the fact that God would send the Messiah. For Paul the Jewish hope and the Christian hope are the same thing and they come together in Jesus. The Jews had hoped in the resurrection and this too is only possible in Jesus.
I started today by talking about our need to be credible. That means the way we live and act has to be in line with representatives of Jesus. But being credible only matters if we are witnesses; being credible and silent is pointless. We have seen throughout Paul’s mission trips that he usually began in the synagogue speaking to Jews. Of course he could have kept speaking in synagogues if he had just avoided the controversial stuff about Jesus; everyone would have been happy. Paul wasn’t interested in keeping people happy, he was interested in preaching truth and that meant telling them about Jesus. That often resulted in him being thrown out of the synagogue but that was a price worth paying. I’ve heard it said that we Christians can preach ‘synagogue sermons’, messages that are inoffensive and harmless but also meaningless. As the evangelist DL Moody once said; ‘the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.’ Paul’s life may have been in danger but he didn’t miss the chance to preach Jesus even if it meant upsetting people.
His only righteousness I show,
His saving grace proclaim;
’Tis all my business here below
To cry “Behold the Lamb!” (Jesus the Name High Over All – Charles Wesley)