Paul is on trial. He has been kept in prison, or at least detention, for over two years because he will not bribe the Roman Governor. His passion for truth and righteous behavior exceeds his passion for personal freedom—though doubtless given the opportunity for both, he would have taken them.
Now, Paul is standing trial again for the same things he didn’t do the first time. Think on that reality next time you are answering the same old worn-out attacks on the Faith: if you’re American, you are walking freedom between defenses. Paul has spent the time between Acts 24 and Acts 25 in prison. Simply for the convenience of corrupt governing authorities. That is surely far worse than spending two years fighting stupid IRS paperwork for a year.
(not that I am endorsing just laying down and surrendering to the IRS—just don’t make persecution out of inconvenience.)
As he goes through his trial, he presents why he is on trial. Clearly, he states, his trial is about his adherence to the Gospel. He makes some decisions here that are practical:
1. He refuses to offer the customary bribes. That shows his integrity: when we are faced with a corrupt system, going into the corruption is rarely a good idea. Now, the cross-cultural experts will claim there is a difference in bribes, kickbacks, and a little baksheesh, and there likely is. Here is the dividing line, to me, for a believer in Christ: if you attain justice due to wealth and your fellow believers do not have wealth, and therefore no justice, you should not participate.
2. He refuses to participate in silly shenanigans. The Jewish leaders want him shipped back to Jerusalem to stand trial. Paul recognizes that they will either ambush him on the way or overrun him on the location. After all, did we not meet Paul at a prior case of the Sanhedrin ignoring the Roman rule that they could not execute someone? Paul wisely keeps himself in the hands of a more secular authority. It costs him freedom to roam, but maintains his life and his ability to proclaim the Gospel. After all, it’s his defense: they want me dead because I believe Jesus is the Son of God, crucified, died, risen, and ascended!
3. He refuses to surrender his rights completely. Paul, as a Roman Citizen, has the right to appeal to Caesar. So he does. This keeps him in chains for some time longer, but that was his choice. The plan to dispose of this troublemaker Paul is tied up by his appeal at this point: had Festus and Agrippa set him free, the angry Pharisees would have had their shot at him.
Instead, they slip on his appeal. Paul goes to Rome and proclaims the Gospel. Paul writes letters to encourage churches and church leaders. Paul preaches on Malta. It goes on and on.
Because Paul kept his head and held his ground.
He held his integrity.
He held his defense.
He held his rights.
We need to do the same. Use all that we have for the sake of the Gospel: our integrity, our rights, our lives for Christ.
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