Paul's Choice

Youth Sunday School Lesson - 11/22/09

We continue on this week with our study of how we should go about making choices in our lives. This will be our last lesson on this topic, because next week is Youth Sunday and thus we will have no group class. You guys will be performing the teaching of the other classes and I hope you will volunteer to do so. Of course, as with all choices, you should take on challenges as the Holy Spirit leads you. With that being said, I’ll also take this opportunity to say that I know that you will each do a good job. You always do.

In the book this week, we examine the choice Paul made at his trial before King Agrippa in Jerusalem. It is never easy and may in fact be the hardest thing to do when we stand before others knowing that chances are we are not going to convince them of what we believe. Paul found himself in this predicament, but he made his choice to do his best and give his testimony anyway. In verse 2 he states, “I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews.” He was happy to give his testimony before the king, and there is a unique background to this story.

King Agrippa’s great-grandfather was the Herod in the Bible that killed all the children when Jesus was born in an attempt to stop the prophecies that were being fulfilled in Bethlehem. His grandfather beheaded John the Baptist. Agrippa’s father was responsible for killing the Apostle James. Knowing Herod’s blood-line, Paul could have easily stayed quiet or denied the charges that had been brought against him.

Instead, Paul begins his defense by acknowledging that Agrippa is an expert in all of the Jewish customs and questions. Paul follows this up by giving his own credentials as a Jew. He reminds Agrippa that he, Paul, at one time was a Pharisee who persecuted Christians both in Jerusalem and in other cities. Paul was present and held the coats of others when Stephen was stoned by the Jewish leaders. With the groundwork for his defense now laid out to Agrippa, Paul then launches into the details of his own conversion to Christ on the road to Damascus. We’ll go over those verses in detail on Sunday, but there is something recorded there that sort of jumps out at me this morning.

Jesus told Paul on the road to Damascus that he had called him “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;” It was a dual-calling, if you caught that. Paul was called first to be a minister. A minister is a servant, and Jesus wanted him to be a servant to the things he had seen as well as the things Jesus would reveal to him later. Our commission as Christians is not to make the message or our testimony serve our own purpose in life; we are called instead to serve the message. I think that’s important because we can easily lose our focus in this area. Secondly, Jesus called Paul to be a witness to the same things he was to be a minister to. We are commissioned as Christians not to create an experience or create the message, but to witness it and experience it for ourselves. This is a tough message to understand and you need to ponder upon it before we meet for class. I believe that churches in general have lost sight of these two callings lately, and we need to return to them before we forget what we stand for.

Paul completes his testimony and Festus proclaims him as mad, which means Festus thought he was crazy. Agrippa responds that Paul had almost convinced him to become a Christian. King Agrippa was clearly under conviction – so what stopped him from accepting Jesus at that moment? I can think of three things that prevented him from doing so.

The first thing I notice is his companion Bernice. She was sitting with him and he was fond of her. But she was sinful and immoral. Agrippa probably knew that if he accepted Jesus, he would lose her and his immoral friends as well. It was a price he was not willing to pay.

The second thing is the other man in the story, Festus. Festus was an important man in the kingdom and a proven leader. He had just pronounced moments earlier that Paul was crazy. If Agrippa accepted Jesus, he knew that Festus would think he was crazy, too. Because the praise of important people was important to him, Agrippa rejected Jesus and salvation.

Finally, there in front of Agrippa stood Paul. He was a Christian man and a good man, but he was in chains. Agrippa knew that if he accepted salvation through Jesus Christ, the chances were going to go up that he himself would be persecuted and maybe end up in chains. Agrippa was the king. He was important. How could he give up power, honor, and prestige and replace it with persecution?

Because of these things surrounding him, Agrippa missed his opportunity for salvation. Although he was almost persuaded to become a Christian, in the end he rejected Jesus and went on with his life. To me, it is one of the saddest stories in the Bible.

I look forward to seeing each of you on Sunday, and I appreciate and never take for granted how important you guys really are to me. Till then, may God bless you and keep you safe in mind, body, and spirit!
A Bunch Of Great Teenagers Of Whom I'm Honored To Teach

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