In Acts 24, Paul is again granted a rather interesting opportunity to share his faith with Felix. Felix had just been his judge, but after that he called for Paul to explain Christianity to him.
Act 24:24 And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.
Act 24:25 And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.
Act 24:26 He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him.
Verse 26 points out that there very well might have been ulterior motives as to why he wanted to speak with Paul, but it is simultaneously true that he did not need to call Paul. It seems to be the case that at the very least, Felix was interested in the message of Christianity that Paul was spreading.
Paul then spoke about righteousness, temperance and the future judgment. Righteousness seems obvious. Felix was obviously a judge. He would have understood that some things are good, and some things are not. Paul would have talked about the righteousness that can only come from Christ, but it was an area of connection.
In terms of temperance, I do not know a lot about Felix as a historical figure, but as an official and the government, it is quite possible that he had a lifestyle of excess. At the very least, it would have been radically different than the Christian message of exercising self-control.
The future judgment would have been appealing to a judge as well. He would have understood the idea that people need to be judged according to what they have done.
The main point here is that Paul knew his audience. I think that we can sometimes be intimidated by sharing the message of Jesus Christ because it seems to be such a massive task. You all know I am interested in apologetics, and there are plenty of great arguments that can be used to defend the reasonability of a belief in Jesus Christ. However, I don’t need to use them all and memorize them all every time. We need to know our audience, and that will make the more relevant for the person we are talking to.
Paul must’ve been an interesting man. In Acts 22, the story ends with him explaining to the Roman centurion that he was indeed a Roman citizen and therefore could not punished until he was legally condemned. Paul could have said that at the beginning of the conversation. He could have avoided this entirely unpleasant episode, but he did not for some reason. Perhaps he did not because it gave him an opportunity to witness. However, it did not end there for his opportunities.
Act 22:30 On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.
Beyond this one opportunity, he was now going to have an opportunity to speak before a Council to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them. I don’t know about you, but when I think about witnessing opportunities, I generally don’t think about beginning them coming by being arrested.
That is part of what made Paul a remarkable missionary. He did not pass up any chance he got. Particularly in this situation, he had the right to remain silent. Although that was not a right in ancient Rome like it is today, nobody was pressuring him. He could have been arrested, brought to the Roman castle, quietly went inside, explained he was a Roman citizen and then set free. It doesn’t seem that the Romans were that upset about Paul originally. However, he recognized that on the stairway, he had a chance to speak to the people. Then, he ended up going before the Council because he had gone down this path of speaking.
How would be react in this situation? I would like to say that I would be so attentive to potential opportunities that I would take advantage of them in the way that Paul obviously did. God does put us in situations where we can be utilized, and we need to take advantage of those.
I like how Jeremiah had a commitment to preserving his prophecies. In Jeremiah 51, we hear the conclusion of all the judgments that are going to come on Babylon, and here is what Jeremiah did when he finished hearing the word of God.
Jer 51:60 So Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that should come upon Babylon, even all these words that are written against Babylon.
Jer 51:61 And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, When thou comest to Babylon, and shalt see, and shalt read all these words;
Jer 51:62 Then shalt thou say, O LORD, thou hast spoken against this place, to cut it off, that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but that it shall be desolate for ever.
Jer 51:63 And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates:
Jer 51:64 And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah made sure that his friend read all that he had prophesied, but he also obviously wanted to get rid of the incriminating evidence since his friend was going to Babylon. However, the main point is that he wanted to make sure that this word got out to other people. God gave him knowledge, and he wanted people to know.
I kind of think about that with the Bible today. We have knowledge that has come to us from God, so why don’t we have a similar commitment to telling people about that knowledge? Jeremiah clearly did what he could to make sure that his message got out in Babylon even though he was not going to Babylon himself.
I don’t know your personal evangelism style. For me, I like to write this because I am better in print than I am in person. I feel like it is a small piece of what I can do to bring the Bible to people. However, maybe you have a different preferred method. That’s fine as well, but the point is that we ought to have a commitment to trying to do what we can to get the word of God out. The Holy Spirit moves in people, but God does use people to spread the word.
Christianity is a tradition. It is not like you and I are the first Christians to ever walk this earth. We are part of a faith that has been going on for nearly 2000 years, and it has become an international family.
Psalms 78 begins by explaining how important it is for us to keep our spiritual tradition strong and vibrant.
Psa 78:2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:
Psa 78:3 Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
Psa 78:4 We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.
Notice the important part of passing down the tradition. We have heard these things from our fathers, and we will not hide them from the children. In other words, the important message of Christianity is not something that ought to be taken as some type of mystery that other people might happen to stumble upon if they are lucky.
We really ought to be willing to tell people about our faith. If you aren’t very good at speaking in person, write about it like I do. If you are good at talking in person, go for it. If you do better with music, communicate through that medium. The point is that we are a community of believers who have a message.
We have a message that we believe has eternal significance, and if we truly believe that, wouldn’t we want to tell other people about it? I know that is an overused illustration, but it does kind of ring true. If someone is driving towards a cliff and doesn’t realize the car is about to plunge over the edge, you would want to tell him or her that this cliff is coming up awfully quickly. They are heading towards a bad ending.
We learn from the beginning of this Psalm that God is something that we ought to talk about. If you have a message, you aren’t supposed to keep it hidden. If it matters that much, use whatever talent you have to tell other people.
Rom 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
I am 22 years old, and I certainly know more about God and about the world in general than I did when I was 12 years old. However, I don’t know nearly as much as I will when I am 92. That is one thing that stood out to me as I was reading through Psalms 71.
Psa 71:17 O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.
Psa 71:18 Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.
We are talking about a lifetime of faith here. From youth all the way to old age, we can certainly continue proclaiming the greatness of God. In fact, once we get old, we have even more opportunities to show how great God really has been. Think about having 80 years of experience that you can look back on through the benefit of hindsight.
We don’t always understand what we are going through at the time, but when we do go back into our memories, it is easier to see how God was working in certain situations. I have learned that already, and I don’t have nearly that much life experience. However, I can look back and see things from a different perspective than I did at the time.
There is also the implication here that we are supposed to pass this knowledge on. We need to show what God has done for us to future generations. Obviously, we can pass on the testimony of the Bible, but we can also share personal stories. We can explain how God was looking out for us specifically in particular situations over the years. Again, with a lifetime of experience, we should be able to have a plethora of examples that we have a responsibility to share.
If God was good to us, shouldn’t we be interested in telling other people about it? We can do that all throughout our lives. You’re never too old to share your faith.
In Esther 2, king Ahasuerus decided that he needed a new queen since the old one Vashti would not do everything that he demanded. As a result, he basically brought a bunch of women in to decide who would be his next queen, and Esther, our star lady, was one of those women.
The interesting part was that Esther was a Jew, and that surely would not have been a popular thing to say in the court. She never would have had a chance at becoming queen.
Est 2:10 Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew it.
As it turned out, she quickly became the favorite of the king, and it was not very long until he decided that she needed to become his queen. However, the king still had no idea that she was actually Jewish.
Est 2:17 And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.
Est 2:20 Esther had not yet shewed her kindred nor her people; as Mordecai had charged her: for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him.
This is kind of an interesting thought because it makes me wonder if there are ever circumstances where we should hide away some part of our character.
For example, would it ever be right for a Christian to hide part of his or her belief system if it did allow for the ultimate potential for gain for other Christians?
I’m thinking about China hypothetically. Obviously, the house church movement is powerful, but there is also widespread persecution. Identifying with that movement can lead to severe consequences that are potentially lethal.
In that situation, does it make sense for a Christian to not lie about their beliefs (because that is an obvious violation of the 10 Commandments) but rather not disclose them because it could damage some greater mission? Imagine if a Christian official was able to rise into a high position in China like Esther. That person would then have the influence to make life much easier on our brothers and sisters over there. That would be a great thing, but that official might not ever have the opportunity to get into that position of power if he or she had been identified with the house church movement to begin with.
If the question never comes up, is it wrong to simply not mention faith?
As an American Christian, I can say that many of the churches I have heard from are very evangelistic. It is part of our duty as a result of our faith to go out and preach to the entire world. I believe that. If you look at the early church, they were doing that all the time even though many of them did indeed die or at least spent time in prison for what they were saying. They are often times the examples we look up to and use as our justification for doing anything for God. From that perspective, it seems that we really should always be reaching out about Christianity regardless of the consequences.
On the other hand, I have to wonder about someone like Jesus. Until the age of 30, He was not actively engaged in His ministry. In a way, He wasn’t letting people know that part of His identity yet. Again, I’m sure that if somebody came up and asked Him whether or not He was the Messiah, He certainly would not have lied to them, but He simply did not mention that fact until the time was right. On that level then, if this is sort of similar to something that Jesus did Himself, I have a hard time saying that it was wrong for Esther to do.
As you can tell, I certainly have mixed feelings.
What do all of you think? Are there circumstances where omission is okay particularly if there is long-term benefit and no lying (an obvious sin) involved?
I would love to get a little discussion going about this one if people have some opinions to share.
Numbers chapter 19 brought up something interesting that I have been noticing a lot in this book.
Num 19:10 And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever.
I was referring to the second part of that previous verse. Of course, this rule applies to the children of Israel, but it also applies to anyone who happens to be staying with them. The person who might be from another land still has to play by the same rules.
I think that this is interesting because there is a missionary type mindset built in. The Israelites are supposed to make any strangers in the land aware of the law that was set in place.
We have something similar today.
Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Mat 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
We also are supposed to have a missionary mindset. We are supposed to be thinking about other people and making them aware of the sacrifice that Jesus made for all of us approximately 2000 years ago.
If we don’t do that, not only are we somewhat disobeying this commandment, but we are also not helping our friends either. In general, if you know something that is good, you will probably recommend it to your friends.
Having a relationship with God is good. Let’s keep sharing it.
It is rather interesting to read Numbers chapter 10 in hindsight. Near the end of the chapter, Moses is trying to convince his father-in-law to travel with the Israelites toward the Promised Land.
Num 10:29 And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses’ father in law, We are journeying unto the place of which the LORD said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the LORD hath spoken good concerning Israel.
At this point, this entire statement was unknown. Obviously, through faith in God Moses knew that God was leading them to a specific place, but he didn’t know the latitude and longitude so to speak. He knew that God would provide, but he did not know how.
However, he tried to bring people with him. Moses might not have understood every detail at the time, but he understood truth about God had told him, and he wanted other people to come as well. He knew that following God works out well for anyone.
This kind of reminds me of reaching out to nonbelievers.
On the surface, we might be intimidated because we do not know everything about Christianity or everything about God. Of course, no one has ever been everything about God (outside of God). However, we might have this type of nervousness in case some type of question comes up that we are not prepared to handle.
However, if we are indeed Christians, we do have one basic truth.
Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
We know that we have promises from God that will last forever, and we need to be like Moses and try to bring people with us. We might not know everything about what heaven or eternity will be like, but we do know that is where we want to be in eternal fellowship with God.
On top of that, we have the Holy Spirit with us that will guide our words and help us to say what needs to be said.
It seems to be important then that we continue trying to reach out and minister to others. Even the basic promises of God should be enough to make us want people to come with us to heaven. We might not be theologians or understand every little detail of how eternity will work. However, we know that God has promised salvation to as many as believe. That should be enough for us to want to spread the Gospel.