Bearing Witness to the Risen Christ (Part 6)
Over the last couple of weeks we examined Acts 22 and Paul’s speech to the hostile crowds in Jerusalem, where he shared his “personal testimony” of how he encountered the risen Christ. This week we look at Acts 24, where Paul stands before Felix, the governor of Caesarea, and defends himself against charges from Jewish leaders.
Whereas in Jerusalem (Acts 22) Paul went into great detail concerning Jesus’ death and resurrection for sinners, in Acts 24 these details are conspicuously absent. Paul’s address to the governor in Caesarea can hardly be called a “gospel presentation.” In fact, the closest he gets to sharing the gospel with Felix is when he says, “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers” (Acts 24:14). “The Way” was the name given to the new movement that believed Jesus Christ was the long-awaited savior foretold in the Jewish Scriptures (which we call the Old Testament). So in other words, by saying that he followed “the Way,” Paul was identifying himself as a follower of Jesus.
And this leads us to a third principle as we seek to tell others about Jesus: Sometimes, we simply have an opportunity to publicly identify ourselves as followers of Jesus. We sometimes think that this is a failure. We know from the Scriptures that “the gospel is the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16) and that no one can be saved apart from hearing the gospel (Rom. 10:14-17), and so we tend to think we have failed as a witness anytime we do not explicitly share the good news of Jesus crucified and risen. But this is not the case. When we publicly identify ourselves as followers of Jesus, we have taken an important step towards future dialogue with people.
When I publicly identify myself as a Christian, I also have the potential to elevate people’s opinions of Jesus (which is extremely important in a culture that is increasingly antagonistic towards Christ and disillusioned with the church). I say that I “have the potential” to do this, because the reality is that I can only elevate people’s opinions of Jesus if my life reflects well upon him.
Let me illustrate this. I am not too terribly fashion-conscious, which means that I am often clueless as to which clothes I can wear together (striped shirt with plaid shorts, anyone?). I frequently ask my wife before I leave the house, “Do these clothes match?” One time she told me, “Well no, not really, but no one’s going to see us together, so it doesn’t really matter.” So apparently, my measuring stick for whether I am well-dressed or not is whether or not my wife is willing to be seen in public with me.
Here’s my point: I want to follow Jesus in such a way that being seen with him in public (i.e., publicly identifying myself as his follower) actually elevates people’s opinions of him. If I am following Jesus in this way, then I should rejoice whenever I am able to identify with him as one of his own.
Next week we will continue our look at Acts 24.